where all things literacy come full circle…

Archive for the month “January, 2012”


I am working diligently on my National Boards. If you have taken the plunge already you know all about the PROCESS. If you are working on them now, you are probably like me and are ready for March 31 to come. I am working on Entry 4 which basically talks about you and things that you have done to make yourself better as an educator. One of the things for Entry 4 is to reach out into the community and bring the community into the classroom. Basically a partnership. I knew of a person in the little community where I teach who had written books. So, I called him and asked if he would like to come into my class to talk about the writing process and where he comes up for ideas to his books. He said that he would love to come in and talk to my class.


He came in and talked about the writing process, editing and revising, and how to think creatively in writing stories. He then read a few pages out of his books to really peak the interest of students. And were their interests peaked! I had to randomly call out names because all of my students wanted to read his books!

While at recess, I was walking around monitoring when I looked up and saw four girls standing against the wall. Each had a book in their hands reading. Two girls were reading his books. This made me so happy that I snapped their picture (sorry about the fuzzy faces). This made this teacher a happy one. Mission: Accomplished!


The next day, one student came up and told me that she bought his book, Fields of Heaven, on her Kindle. : )

Check out his books on


The Fault in our Stars


I just finished The Fault in our Stars today…and all I can say is WOW! This is a smart, funny, heartbreaking book. Donalyn Miller, whom I follow and tweet with on Twitter said that this is a book that makes you think after you read it. After I read it, I can agree wholeheartedly with her. I am not going to discuss this book too much because I don’t want to ruin the almost celestial experience in reading about two (extremely real) characters dealing with the effects of cancer.

I have an aunt who is dying from this disease as I write. As I have viewed short videos of her declining in health, I could make real connections with this book. I am going to share this book with her children who are dealing with this disease as well. Previous to this book, I read A Monster Calls. Both are interconnected texts that should be read…and of course you should read a lighter title after. 🙂

I am also going to have to reread it to highlight some of those nuggets of truth from John Green. After reading a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or even a page…it will give you pause to think and ponder what is happening to these character as well as what the author is trying to tell the reader. I love you this book (present tense). *task: see if you can find this last sentence in the book*

You will not want to miss this book!


Choice for a Nerdy Retro Review…

Hey all…

I am excited to inform you that I have a Retro Review on the Nerdy Book Club. I was struggling with which book to review. When I was growing up in the 1980’s, a bunch of great books were written. Because of all these great books, I did have a bit of a struggle. Here are some of the books I was thinking about reviewing…and then I will tell you which one I ended up reviewing for the blog. Now, I may use one of these for a future retro review or even a Back to the Future review. I love original covers (you may notice that on this post). Tell me if you have ever read these books and what you thought of them.


This book, In Trouble Again, Zelda Hammersmith? by Lynn Hall was seriously the funniest book I have read. There were a few sequels to this book, but I haven’t seen it around for awhile. This book is a perfect read-aloud and I wonder if anyone has it or has seen it? If so, read it. It’s a hoot!



These two books, Bummer Summer and Stage Fright were my favorite Ann M. Martin books. She has written recent books, but these two (1980’s books) were my favorite growing up. I also think that Apple publishing had some of the BEST covers. I have these two books in my classroom library.



The two Beverly Cleary books, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Dear Mr. Henshaw were extremely popular! I remember waiting to read these books because they always had a waiting list. Many of her other books were just as popular…always checked out!


Judy Blume has always been a favorite. I love her least known books such as Blubber. The Fudge books are some of her most popular books as well as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing being no exception. This book would be a great book to read aloud for that particular grade level. Again, another extremely popular and FUNNY book!


The Witches by Roald Dahl was a book that scared us all so much that we HAD to read it. This was one of my favorite books when I was younger. It’s a Roald Dahl book that isn’t as popular as his other more well-known books. The book is so much better than the movie.


Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library by Eth Clifford has always been one of my favorites that when I do see the cover (retro cover, of course) it takes me back to my youth! Do any of you have books that do that? This is a great, timeless book. Who ever wanted to be locked in the library when they were younger? I sure did. There have been newer covers to try to make it a more recent title to appeal to kids…but I love the original cover.


This still has to be the creepiest book I have ever read, Wait Till Helen Comes. I do have a few copies of this book in my classroom library and when I do tell students this (that it is the scariest book I have ever read), they are all wanting to read it (just like all of my peers and myself when I was younger). This is a ghost story brilliantly told. When I do read it aloud, it takes me back to my school librarian reading a chapter aloud to us.


This had the longest wait list when I was in school. I had to wait forever, and when it was my turn, I picked the book up and automatically began coveting it. Yes, one of the deadly sins. But, like all book nerds…we do this sometimes. When I would be reading it at my desk…I would see eyes peering at me. They too, wanted this book as well. This book is Hatchet. An adventure story where a boy survives a plane crash in the woods and only has a hatchet to survive. Man, this yells BOY BOOK. But, girls love it too. I do have several copies of this book and it is still popular.

The book I chose and one of my all-time favorites: There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. Read the review at the Nerdy Book Club and tell me what you think.


This was a lot of fun and I look forward to hearing from all of you. Please leave a message!

What are you Reading???


This week I have been focused, or should I say HYPER-FOCUSED, on my boards. I am basically done with Entry 1 (writing) and have finished writing Entry 3 (science and math integration). Sadly, I haven’t had time to focus on my blog. *Note to self…I cannot have this happen.*

I received an ARC on the new and upcoming The Fourth Stall Part II. I am going to get started on this book this week. I am halfway through The Fault of our Stars. This book is amazing so far and I just wonder how John Green is able to write the way that he does. I have been saying this for the past couple of days, there are nuggets of awesomeness on each page. Incredible. The next book I am planning on reading is The Mighty Miss Malone. Because of working on my boards, reading also took a backseat. !BUMMER!


A book I am looking forward to reading because I have heard so many awesome things about it is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It comes out on Tuesday…CANNOT WAIT!





Monday Reading and What I am Looking Towards…

ImageI am really looking forward to this week.  Two books I am looking forward to are The Mighty Miss Malone and The Fault in our Stars. I am a HUGE Christopher Paul Curtis fan! I have written a literature guide for The Watsons’ Go to Birmingham – 1963 that I have used and taught in my own class. I am extremely excited to read The Mighty Miss Malone


I am also excited to read The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I haven’t read much of his work, but did get to read the first chapter and it looks great!  It may be a little similar in A Monster Calls just with the cancer aspect of the plot.


I am still going to complete the Nerdbery Challenge and am going to start with Dr. Dolittle on my Nook. Likewise with LemmeLibrary finding it difficult to find time to read, I too am finding the difficult. I have young kids, work full-time, and have other school responsibilities. On top of all this, I am working on my Boards. I do have Entry 1 basically done!!!  YEAH!! I am now working on Entry 3. It is a lot of work but I hope it is worth it.






Because of Mr. Terupt…

Because of Mr. Terupt…


Author: Rob Buyea

Copyright Date: 2010 


It’s our bad luck to have teachers in this world, but since we’re stuck with them, the best we can do is hope to get a brand-new one instead of a mean old fart.


It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone. (from


I chose to read this book because it’s a Utah Beehive Nominee. Our librarian does a contest of sorts to challenge all third, fourth, and fifth graders to read all the Beehive Nominees. Many of my students are participating, but I also have some that won’t read even one book. So, I am reading this book aloud so that all students will have read (or listened to) just one. At the end of the year, they have a pizza party and discuss the nominees. Each student then gets to take one of the books home to keep! It’s a lot of fun and the kids love it.

I really have enjoyed the characters in this book. It is quite surprising the problems that each character has to deal with. We have bullying, bad boys, bad girls, teenage pregnancy, and students living with grandparents (this is happening a lot nowadays, which students could make some great connections with). This book is told by multiple character’s points-of-view. The author, Rob Buyea, does an excellent job in writing in each character’s voice and being consistent with it. I think when writing in several different voices, getting mixed up or being non-consistent could be easy to do.

The students of the class get a new teacher. He is different, but something tragic happens. It’s through this tragedy that these students realize the true impact that their teacher had on them. Because of this, many students change their lives for the better. 

This is an easy read, short chapters, great for discussion, and an all around great book!


  1. Describe each character in the book. How are each different? Do they have a different way of saying things?
  2. What do you think will happen at the end of the book?
  3. Have you ever had a teacher like Mr. Terupt? What was he/she like? How did they change your life?
  4. Why don’t you think Mr. Terupt has any family or even talks about them?
  5. Who is your favorite character?  Why?

Idea Connection:  

As we were reading this, I told my students to think about how the character writes in each character’s voice and how each character is different. This is a great book to teach voice and point-of-view. Each character has a perspective on the same situation.

You can also do a SKYPE visit with the author. He has a great website (  You can email him for prices.

This is a great mentor text for teaching point-of-view and voice.

A Happy Day for Reading

For the past several months, I made a goal to have my students read MORE books. On Wednesday, I had my students do a quick reading test to see how much they have progressed. I was quite happy to see progress with most of my student! This morning, I put my students in groups according to how well they did on this assessment.

I got book sets from my cabinet and set the books on the counter. All day my students looked at them. They wondered what they were going to do with the books.  The books that I had laying on the counter was: Elijah of Buxton, A Long Way from Chicago, Things Not Seen, Stargirl, Chocolate Fever, and Wringer

Over recess and lunch recess, I was sitting at my desk and heard two girls read the blurbs on the back of the books and say, “Ohhh…I want to read that!” or “Oh, this looks good!”  It was seriously the best moment so far this year. They were so excited to read.  My students are doing book clubs because I want them to read books, not short boring stories. I want them to become friends with the characters. One of my Twitter friends told me today, “it’s all about the characters…have fun!” I want them to LOVE reading.

I did short book talks really talking up a character that they will be meeting when they read the stories. 

They will be meeting in groups with a group leader. They will complete a half sheet with them writing  a question about what they have read or what they have wondered about so far in their reading and something that they would like to discuss with their group. I don’t want them to be bogged down with a ton of questions afterwards.

I am so excited to see what happens with my student’s reading lives.  It’s my job to help spark or relight that love of reading.  I think the spark caught on today!

It’s Monday…What Are You reading???

This is my first “It’s Monday…What Are You Reading?” post! There are two books that I am currently reading.  The first is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I bought this book based on what I have been hearing on Twitter. So far (I am only a few chapters in) so good. Image

The other book I am reading is Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. So far I love this book because I can imagine myself in the story (being from Iowa) and experiencing the snow and the bitter temperatures.  This story is very real…I feel that the author never writes “down” to her audience.  Once I start a chapter I can’t stop…which is a good sign for me! 🙂

I tried looking for book trailers for both of these books and I was not impressed by what I could find. Anyone out there make some great book trailers for these two books.

What are all of you guys reading?


Back to the Future Review: Milkweed



Author: Jerry Spinelli

Copyright Date: 2003


I am running.

That’s the first thing I remember. Running. I carry something, my arm curled around it, hugging it to my chest.  Bread, of course.  Someone is chasing me.  “Stop! Thief!”  I run.  People.  Shoulders.  Shoes.  “Stop! Thief!”



He’s a boy called Jew. Gypsy. Stopthief. Filthy son of Abraham.

He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself, and the other orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels.

He’s a boy who wants to be a Nazi, with tall, shiny jackboots of his own-until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind.

And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.

Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli takes us to one of the most devastating settings imaginable-Nazi-occupied Warsaw during World War II-and tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival through the bright eyes of a young Holocaust orphan. (from


I love this book! This is such a powerful book and not just another Holocaust book (which I think is a flooded genre), but a different take on the historical context (which is World War II). When I was teaching 7th grade in Yuma, Arizona, I would frequent the local Barnes and Noble. My eyes came across this book, I picked it up, read the blurb on the inside jacket cover along with the first sentence of the book…I was hooked. I took it home, read it, and was enthralled. I talked about it to everyone…and bought several boxes of the book one year to give to teacher friends and parents.

Misha grabbed me. His story of being an orphan, having many different names, and his story really seemed real to me. It’s an adventure story. It’s a story of gains and losses because Misha gains friends (other orphans) and a family who adopts him and he looses friends and adopted family members. It’s also a survival story as well. (Put this book under that genre as well)!

You will love reading this book. Jerry Spinelli is one of my favorite authors and I will be writing more about his books that I have read. It’s a sure bet that a book by Jerry Spinelli will be a terrific read!

This is a great book to use in your class to teach flashback as well as using it as a historical novel. If you have students who get lost in books with long chapters, this would be a great book for him/her to read since the chapters are short. Also, this would be a great book to use when teaching students to write with their senses.


“Sirens were screaming.”

“There were thumping noises, like distant thunder.”

“The sirens were screaming like babies.”

“All sorts of other things glittered in the pile. I saw watched and combs and ladies’ lipsticks and eyeglasses.”

Powerful, simple, precise language is used in this book.

Idea Connection: One thing that did was had my students watch the documentary Paperclips. This is a story about a school who collected paperclips (a symbol of solidarity to Jews during the Holocaust) and was able to own a boxcar that carried Jews to their death to house all of the paperclips. We all signed a copy of the book and sent it to the school. 

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