Confessions of a Book Cover Snob–The Giver by Lois Lowry

Okay, I have a dirty little secret. Even though I love books and read voraciously, I am sometimes guilty of being a book cover snob. I’m a big fan of dystopian fiction. I had read The Hunger Games trilogy and loved it. I have read Divergent and Matched and loved them. I’ve even read the entire Shadow Children series…yep loved them too. So why did I hesitate for 2 years to read The Giver by Lois Lowry, an author whom I’ve enjoyed in the past??

Well–the cover. Yes, I said it. The cover looked boring! I know, I know. I’ve thought that before and have always enjoyed the book. So why do I continue to judge based on the cover? (I tried to insert a picture of the cover here but it wouldn’t let me…I HATE dislike that very much.) 

I guess I am just a visual person. But let me tell you how wrong I was. The book was very good! I am really into dystopian fiction now and am fascinated with societies that appear similar but are dangerously different than ours. I had this feeling of dread the whole time I read the book, even though the author wrote it in a very bland and normal way. I know she did this to scare us and make us uneasy and it worked!

I don’t want to go too much into the plot because I think this is a book best enjoyed if you go into it cold, or like with me, thinking you won’t like it. I love it when an author changes my mind! Just a bit of advice for the publishers…change the cover and I bet you will have a whole new generation of students clamoring to read it, instead of passing it by in the library like I did.

Common Core is Coming!

If you are a teacher practically anywhere in the United States, you are keenly aware that the Common Core State Standards are coming within the year (if they haven’t already invaded your school district yet). I freak out don’t deal well with change at first and it takes much reading and research on my part to feel comfortable with something new. Trust me…the Common Core will be a change! I’m sure you’ve heard the buzzwords of increased rigor and accountability, and let me tell you that is exactly what is coming. If you have been told in the last year, “Don’t worry…we’re already doing a lot of what’s in the Common Core…” DON’T BELIEVE IT. Now, there may be some absolutely fabulous teachers out there who already have a handle on these new standards and are already teaching and assessing this way. If so, PLEASE let me come and watch your magic!! :) For the rest of us, though, much of this signals a change in our teaching and assessing.

Perhaps because I am such a nerd, I needed to seek out something to read to help me get my mind wrapped around the Common Core (at least for Reading/Language Arts), and I have found a wonderful resource. I began reading it over Easter Break this year and started highlighting through the entire book! It is not an easy read per se, but if your interests lie in reading/writing and you want to know more about the Common Core, then this is the book for you. It is Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, et. al. , published by Heinemann.

Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating AchievementOur school has already participated in a voluntary book study with the book, and I think it has increased our knowledge of what the Common Core looks like and what it all means. As a classroom teacher, this is very empowering for me! This coming year you should begin to hear much more about text complexity, close analytical reading, and text dependent questions. You will find all of this and more in Pathways to the Common Core. Additionally, if your state is part of the PARCC consortium, I encourage you to check out PARCC’s frameworks for your specific grade level. PARCC is making our assessment, so it might be a good idea to find out what they say we should be doing at our grade level. You can access information about PARCC here: http://www.parcconline.org/classroom. Especially eye opening for me were the writing components.

 

Happy Reading and Investigating! :)

 

 

Life Gets in the Way!!

Wow! I haven’t blogged since January :( But I have been super busy!

I’ve been reading, teaching and reading about teaching, presenting at conferences, and my new passion, getting fit. I won’t go on and on about the fitness thing, but basically I was tired of feeling tired, yucky, out of shape, and hating the way I felt and looked. So, on January 2nd I began a journey in which I will not turn back from! I started P90X (yes, from the infomercial) and stayed committed to it for the entire 90 days, not missing a day. I was so pleased with how I looked and felt, that I continued on with another Beachbody program, Turbo Fire and loved that one! Now I am half way through Insanity…and yes, it is INSANE! But I am in the best shape of my life and look and feel great. I also started training to run a 5K using the Couch to 5K program. I’m so glad I went on this journey…I will certainly need the stress reduction from it when I begin teaching SELF CONTAINED next year.

Yes, I said it. I will be teaching all subjects in 5th grade next year. I am excited and scared to death at the same time. Reading/Writing/Literacy are my things. I don’ know as much or feel as comfortable with math/science. I will have a major learning curve to deal with. I still have nightmares that school has started and I have nothing prepared. I hate those!!

I have been reading http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Guide-Reading-Writing-Classroom-Grades/dp/0325028311 by Leslie Blauman and I have so many great ideas I want to try out! I want to be her!!! I also have a math book that I need to start reading to help me get my brain around what is needed for 5th grade math. My goal this week is to pop that bad boy open and get reading. I will certainly be doing a “close” reading of that book!! My head kind of hurts just thinking about it.

Vordak The Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World

Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World

Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Scott Seegert is a book that every teacher of 5th-9th grades should get immediately! I originally bought this because I was looking for comical books for my reluctant  and below grade level readers. Unfortunately, this is not the book for them….yet. The vocabulary load is pretty heavy (Lexile above 1100) and there are many references to superhero/villian relationships that might confuse less able readers. However, ambitious students who have spent countless hours watching cartoons might be able to handle it. (Think a more verbose version of Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb)

The book is more a (hilarious) manual than a story. Vordak the Incomprehensible is an aging super villian and has written this guide to help teach young supervillian wanna be’s how to be almost as awesome as him. (Although he shares that no one can be quite as awesome as he is.) The humor plays out in his comical renderings of his childhood, how to pick the right supervillian name and outfit, finding the right lair, and how to surround yourself with the right people (just to name a few). The humor is also enhanced when the reader clearly discovers that Vordak’s plans are always foiled by the superheros a la Wile E. Coyote style. I found myself giggling aloud throughout the entire book…which is always a plus with me. :) It also made me glad that I had already bought the sequel Vordak the Incomprehensible: Rule the School.

Click on the link below to see a book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oDzMpEgL_E

You can also find out more about the great new book by visiting the website www.vordak.com.

While I think this book will probably appeal mostly to boys, I certainly enjoyed it…the possibilities are limitless!

Out With the Old, In With the New

Since the new year is upon me, I’ve taken stock of many things in my life. I’ve set personal and reading goals and then decided to set a goal for my classroom. My classroom library has been organized the same way for 4 years. I’ve liked it that way. It’s worked for me. However, many of the literacy books I read say that when students help organize the classroom library, they become more invested in using it. So, I decided to step out of my comfort zone today and let my students help me rearrange our classroom library. I have over 700 titles (mostly purchased myself or with Bonus Points from Scholastic) so I knew this might take a while. We discussed the merits of having the library organized by Lexile and by genre. We thought genre was the way to go, so we dug in and started. First we had to get all the bins off the shelf and get all the books out and displayed. We then perused all the books deciding on what would go where. We began to notice a pattern of several books by the same authors. So the students suggested we have some author sets. We also noticed groups like easy readers, early chapter books, etc. So we began to sort and label. (See below)

This was just one table of books.
Another table of books!

As we worked through the afternoon, we had discussions about what Newberry Award books were. We discovered that I already had several in our library. We discussed what historical fiction was, fantasy, and many others. Students were generally interested in knowing the exact components of each genre. I think they may have learned a thing or two. :) I heard several students talking to each other during this project. The comment I heard most often was, “I want to read that book next.” Yeah!! After everything is put back together our bookshelf will be new and improved AND my students will be proud of the part they played in making that happen. And if it helped them add a few books to their “to be read” pile, that’s even better!

New Theme for My Blog and Books

I really loved the theme I had originally chosen for my blog, but after much research, I realized I had basically chosen the only theme on WordPress that did not allow you to view all posts. I assumed when I chose it that all posts would show and after about 2 hours of research, I realized they wouldn’t…no matter what I did. So…I went looking for a new theme. After trying out several, I chose this one. I had tried not to, since I had seen it on other blogs. Now I’m beginning to realize why I’m seeing it on other blogs…it is so easy to work with and displays everything neatly. (I’m a neat freak!) So, hopefully this theme will work out. :)

On another note, I am getting ready to read my 2nd book of the year. It is Vordak The Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World.

Product Details

It looks like a pretty funny middle grade novel/chapter book with lots of illustrations and graphics. Just what many of my reluctant boy and girl readers are looking for. I loved the Big Nate series and that author is plugging the book, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign. I’ll post a review here and at www.goodreads.com when I’m done.

Happy Reading!

 

Dystopian Reading Challenge for 2012

I’m ready to get started on my reading goals for 2012. Since I’m a huge fan of The Hunger Games series and read and loved both Divergent and Matched, I decided to sign up for the Dystopian reading challenge offered at http://bookishardour.com/dystopia/. I’m going to do the “Contagion” level where I read 15 dystopian books. I’m excited to get started. I think my first one will be Crossed, the sequel to Matched. I can’t wait to hear about other titles in this genre.

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