Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Late Slice (with Blueberries!)

As I read through everyone's slices, coming to the conclusion that I have not a slice about which to write, I look up to see that my fiance is watching Mike Rowe learning how to bake a blueberry pie from two older pie ladies.  On Mike's head is a homemade, blueberry-shaped SLICE of pie! It must be a sign.  The time to write my first Slice is now!

"Dirty Jobs."

Teaching is a Dirty Job.  Sometimes we have to look silly (Mike has a PIE on his head).  Sometimes we have to act silly (Mike just said, "Get your PIEorities straight!"). 

Pies and cheesy jokes and antics aside, teaching requires getting our hands a little dirty sometimes.

Today, I had what Oprah calls an "ah-ha" moment.  My students begin our Language Arts block by writing in our Writer's Notebooks.  Sometimes their warm-up is freewriting, sometimes it's word play challenges,  sometimes it's a quote related to our current read aloud, sometimes we read a poem and write our reflections.  When I picked today's warm-up (I set them up the weekend before), I had no idea that it was just what we needed today. I used a poem called "Watermelon Days" from 100 Quickwrites by Linda Rief that ended with the line "Watch as the watermelon day passes you by. / And love life while you have it." As we reflected on this poem, students shared their writings and thoughts on how this line connects to the main character of our read aloud Life As We Knew It as well as their favorite memories of warm August days from their childhood. Though no one said it, I know we were also thinking about students, students' family members, and even teachers we have lost this past year.  No one needed to say it.  The moment hung in the air, so tangible, we could taste it like the sweet watermelons of summer or the tart blueberries in Mike Rowe's pies.

All of the dirty little aspects of teaching also make up this life that we have, and I wouldn't trade one dirty little moment for another day with my kiddos.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Books of 2011

1. Maze Runner by James Dashner
2. Scorch Trials by James Dashner
3. Hold Still by Nina Lacour
4. Columbine by Dave Cullen
5. Everlost by Neal Shusterman
6. Everwild by Neal Shusterman
7. XVI by Julia Karr
8. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
9. Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos
10. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
11. Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thank you, Darren Shan.

Another one BITES the dust.

Darren Shan has saved another struggling reader with his Cirque du Freak vampire series.  I had the awesome pleasure of hearing a student who receives practically every reading intervention in our building tell me about the plot of Book 3 in the series! It started with A Living Nightmare (Book 1) when this student read for the Battle of the Books.  Now, two books later, I got to sit next to this previously self-proclaimed non-reader and hear him spout off Cirque terms and vocab that only someone deeply into the series would know! Once again, I am so glad that we have this book on our Battle list to introduce as a series to stick with!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Because of our snow day today, I was able to finish the book that some fellow teachers and I decided to read as a book club pick. Columbine by Dave Cullen. One teacher had recommended it because it revealed the truth behind what happened surrounding that tragedy.  The media portrayed a lot of myths and inflated a lot of errors.  The Cassie Bernall martyrdom was proven false.  This was a fascinating read.  Cullen was a reporter from day one (April 20, 1999), and stuck with the case for 10 years gathering research for what would become Columbine. The victims' stories were fascinating.  I couldn't stop reading and usually read past when I should have been going to sleep.  It cast light on an event that cast darkness on many people's (including my own) high school memories.  It forever changed how schools operate, and still has effects on my life today - in how I handle students and am required to perform as a job duty (practicing lockdown drills).  Sad.  The ultimate sadness that reading this book left with me is that the killers got what they wanted.  Not just victims' lives.  But to change the world.  They did.  I'm not usually a consumer of non-fiction literature, but because this subject hits so close to home (I can even recall exactly where I was when I heard about the shooting - in my own school cafeteria, getting ready for musical rehearsal) that I was deeply entrenched in the story.  I look forward to more non-fiction in the future!

2011 Debut Author Challenge!

I just came across the Story Siren blog (which I've heard about before, but finally got to today) and decided to participate in the challenge! 12 YA books from debut authors.  I read a ton of YA books every year, but mostly I try to keep up with the recommendations from my 7th graders or other teachers.  Why not try the newest stuff?!  I will be updating this list, but here are my options for January and February titles:
Julia Karr XVI 1/6/2011 Speak YA

Chris Rylander The Fourth Stall 2/8/2011 Walden Pond Press

Laurenn DeStefano Wither 3/22/11
Kirsten Hubbard Like Mandarin 3/8/11
Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Grey 3/22/11
Ryan G. Van Cleave, Unlocked, 3/1/11
Angela Cerrito, The End of the Line, 3/11/11