Stargirl: A Book Review

Stargirl  by Jerry Spinelli

This story is written from the point of view of  Leo Borlock, who retells the story about a memorable year of high school.  The year that changes everything for Leo and the students at Mica High School.  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Summary (via

Leo Borlock follows the unspoken rule at Mica Area High School: don’t stand out—under any circumstances! Then Stargirl arrives at Mica High and everything changes—for Leo and for the entire school. After 15 years of home schooling, Stargirl bursts into tenth grade in an explosion of color and a clatter of ukulele music, enchanting the Mica student body.

But the delicate scales of popularity suddenly shift, and Stargirl is shunned for everything that makes her different. 

In this story about the perils of popularity, the courage of nonconformity, and the thrill of first love, an eccentric student named Stargirl changes Mica High School forever.  Somewhere in the midst of Stargirl’s arrival and rise and fall, normal Leo Borlock has tumbled into love with her. 

In a celebration of nonconformity, Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the fleeting, cruel nature of popularity—and the thrill and inspiration of first love.


So I’m 12 years behind… did I miss this book?  I absolutely, positively loved it!  In my plans to do a book study with classes in another state I discovered this gem of a book.  I read it while my students were taking our standardized writing test (about 3 hours), and asked my co-workers at least three times if they’d read the book.  I know they rolled their eyes at me each and every time when they said “No”.

This book teaches a wonderful lesson about individuality and putting yourself before others – qualities that are frequently missing these days.  It also gives a verrrry realistic view of peer pressure and “mean girls”.  I don’t want to give the book away – but I was shocked at the behavior of these students, although I really shouldn’t have been.  I kept waiting and waiting for them to turn it around….but they didn’t.

A Favorite Quote:

“Anchovies, ugh,” I said……….”How can you eat them?  Nobody eats anchovies.” I was sort of kidding, but her face was serious.  “Nobody?”……”She pushed my hand away.  She dropped the last anchovy into the glass. “I don’t want to be like nobody.”

I was definitely left with a hole in my heart, I wanted things to work out for Stargirl and Leo (I’m a sucker for a love story with a happy ending) but in all honesty it’s a better picture of what the real world is like.

If you haven’t read it – READ IT!  If you have read it – READ IT AGAIN!  And definitely read it to your students….and talk about tolerance…..and being yourself.  Being ourselves is what makes this world go round.

Until the next time…..

Student Engagement is Just A Click Away!

My students use our ActivExpression devices every single day.  I love them because it provides us instant feedback in any type of format.  Multiple Choice…check!  True/False….check! Likert scale…..check!  It even allows us to text in answers….but the latter take FOREVER!!!  The students love them because they immediately know how they are doing on a particular concept.  They like that they can tell me what skills they need to review or receive additional instruction….but they like the texting feature even less than I do.  We sometimes use Socrative but it doesn’t always allow you to track individual student data.  Plus having a netbook and the device out, working, and programmed is so time consuming.

I’m uber excited about our team getting accepted into the 1:1 iPad project and having the availability of ActivEngage on the iPad will be a big bonus. But, I found another program that might just do the trick as well.  Last week I hit the jackpot with a Technology Tailgate post.  Through their post I found…… The Answer Pad.

The Answer Pad uses the iPad as an interactive answer sheet.  You can use if for T/F, multiple choice, and fill in the blank questions for any type of test or quiz.  As a teacher you can use the web interface to set up your class and it will give you results immediately.  With their latest update students can use their iPad just as we would the ActivExpression devices.  Students can even do a thumbs up or down if they don’t understand AND draw their answer!  How cool is that!?

I think the drawing/typing feature is great, because a student who would normally be confused in silence, can ask me question without feeling embarrassed.  My Math partner was so excited, because she can actually have all students work out a problem and see it pretty much simultaneously.


I’m going to try it out….you should too!  Let me know what you think!


Let Me Just Make It To…..Spring Break…..Linky

from Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life (public library)

D-Day is here!  My students take our standardized writing test tomorrow and Wednesday.  Ummmm….Prozac anyone?  My principal asked me if we were ready…..well, ready or not, it’s coming.  I’m very proud of my students, they’ve worked very hard over the past few weeks with the last push.  This is the first time I’ve ever been teaching a group that has been tested in writing and I am a bit…just a wee little bit….oh let me just come out and say it…..totally and completely nerve-wrecked!

I am trying to keep calm, because I want my students to be calm on tomorrow. It’s that mixture of “Do your best or I’ll kill you” and “Do your best because I know you totally and completely know you can do this”…….I hope that I can pull it off tomorrow…..wish me luck!

Nine 8 1/2 more days until Spring Break so I’m linking up with Brigid’s Daily Lesson Log for her Spring Break Bucket List Linky Party!

I’ve spent 15 years between North and South Carolina and my Spring Break has always been around the Easter holiday.  Not even in 2011 when Easter was at the end of April (which were the longest winter weeks of our life!), did we make any adjustments to that tradition.  How shocking it is to find out that other states (even some that are in the Bible belt) have Spring Break during any other time!!

Last year, baby girl and I had different Spring Breaks (I wasn’t happy….but I was happy), but this year we’ll be together.  I’ve got great things planned for us and hopefully a few days at Nana and Papa’s or Grandma’s house.  🙂  And hopefully my hubby will play hookey with me for a day or two!

Here are my grand plans!!

illustrations courtesy of JWIllustrations


What are your plans??  Click here to link up!

Educents – Get It While It’s Hot!

Educents is a daily deals site featuring the latest educational products at 30% – 90% off.  They will have e-books, software, curriculum, online learning and more.

The site will oficially launch on April 2nd, but if you visit and sign up now, you will receive a $10 Educents gift card.  Click on the pic to visit the site and sign up!

Let’s Get Acquainted Linky Party

Linky parties are so fun!  Tonight I am joining up with Flying Into First with her Let’s Get Acquainted Linky Party!


This week’s theme is:  2 Truths and a Lie

How it Works:
Think of 3 things about yourself or your life.  You should make 2 of them truths and 1 of them a lie.   You can list them on your post in any order.  Do NOT give the answer yet in your post.  People will try  guess your lie in your in the comments of your post.  So remember to be very creative so that it is hard for people to get it right. At the end of the week you can share the answer in your comments from the post or include it in a post you make at the end of the week.  I hope this is understandable.  Mine are below….
1.  I lived in Italy for a year.
2.  My girl group performed at the Apollo Theater when we were in college.
3.  My husband and I only dated for 10 weeks before we got married.
Don’t forget to visit the 2 people that linked up before you and leave them a comment/follow/or just read their post.

Finding Our Voice! and a TBA Friday (Well, Sunday) Freebie!

Six days to the writing test!  And I have the heebie jeebies!  Although this is my 15th year of teaching, this is the first year that my students will have to take a standardized writing test.  I love writing and I love to teach writing….just not in 50 minutes with reading and grammar as well!  *pausing for a panic attack*.

I am lucky that many of these students are already strong writers in most of the writing rubric areas (content/development and organization), and I’m not even going to touch conventions… we are spending the bulk of our time working on voice.

In VOICE, we focus on the following areas:

  • vivid vocabulary
  • varied sentence structure
  • quotes
  • humor
  • figurative language

The students are really blossoming!  It’s funny,  but my Honor students are still very reserved (and I have SIX days to fix that!), while my other students are taking dramatic risks! 🙂  One of my students called his blueberry muffins “awesomeness in a cup”!  Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

And now for the freebie!  I’m linking up with TBA for Freebie Friday (and yes, I know it’s Sunday doggone it!)

Here is a powerpoint that we used to help students beef up their vocabulary.  They did an AWESOME job! I’m attaching the powerpoint and the handout that goes with it.


March Currently!


It’s always exciting to join up with Farley at Oh’ Boy 4th Grade….. for her Currently linky party!

Baby Girl got sick on Thursday and has passed it on down to me! But why isn’t it the same? She was coughing and wheezing. I, on the other hand, am coughing, sneezing, running AND stuffy nose (how does that work?), and aching. I have been in and out of the bed all day (more in than out), and at least got dinner cooked for my family, but that is it! Gonna need some help getting the rest of my stuff together for next week…..sigh

Oh yeah! My team has been selected to participate in the iPad deployment initiative and we are beyond excited! Still trying to wrap my head around it….and Common Core…..and other opportunities that are to come. Gonna stop now, getting overwhelmed…..

My house is a mess! My plan was to work on two rooms this weekend, but that didn’t happen. Anyone have a fairy godmother they can lend me?

This month, Farley asked us to use the first letter in our first name to complete the bottom item (which I have to admit I did not do, initially, because I didn’t read completely).

I like Chocolate….a lot. But, it doesn’t love me quite as much….My willpower used to be better, so if someone can find that pesky thing and send it back to me I would greatly appreciate it!

I loooove Chick-fil-A! Did you notice how my top two include food? That missing willpower again…My friend and I carpool together and we have been there at least twice a week in the past three weeks. Hey! Can someone tell me why the Chick-fil-A craving comes strongest on Sunday when it’s not open???

And…….I absolutely hate…..detest….abhor…CONFUSION! But as a middle school teacher, I see it a lot! But, I absolutely love…..adore… smitten with middle school children! You take the good with that bad, right?

Alrighty! Want to link up? Go visit Farley’s blog and follow the linkz instructions. And don’t forget the rule of 3….Comment on the two posts before yours and the one after!

Until next time!


Love ♥


I’m linking up with Moxie for her “Teaching with Moxie” Monthly Photo Challenge!

It’s simple! Link up with a photo of something that fits the monthly theme. For February, the theme is “Love”! The picture can be anything that fits the theme and is teaching-related. Then, write a brief post about the picture, why you chose it, and Link Up! Even better than showcasing your love for teaching will be the fact that you can win a $10 gift certificate to TPT for participating!

Here are my loves (I couldn’t choose just one) 😉


We are lucky enough to have access to a netbook computer cart. Students are able to use the computers at least once a week to create assignments using Web 2.0 tools, blog, and practice ELA concepts.

Students have created Vokis, mini posters using PowerPoint, Wordles, etc.


The ActivExpression devices are mini miracle workers! They get the most off task child involved in a lesson and it gives me immediate feedback on whether students understand what we’re working on. I use them every single day! Our school district follows the EDI (Explicit Direct Instruction) model and the devices are perfect for our “Checking for Understanding” component. I embed questions frequently throughout my lessons and it makes the lessons go so smoothly! Students can answer multiple choice, true or false, sequence, and likert scale questions; they can even text in words and/or phrases!


So here are my loves….what are yours?

Until the next time!


It’s A Party!

I use Class Dojo as a part of my classroom behavior management system. What is Class Dojo you might ask? ClassDojo is an online program that allows you to provide immediate feedback for student behavior (positive and negative). It enables you to easily award and record points, achievements and rewards for behavior and performance in class in real-time, with just one click of your computer, smartphone, or mobile device.


ClassDojo provides instant visual and audible notifications for your students, in addition to allowing you to keep the feedback over a period of time. It also allows you to decide what behaviors you find important and award points that way. And it’s so easy to set up. You can copy and paste your class roster from almost any document – even a PDF!

Since my laptop is continuously hooked to my projector and Promethean board, students can constantly see their progress. And even if the screen is on something else they can hear the ding or dong that comes from points being awarded!

My ClassDojo points are connected to my Jefferson’s Bucks. Having a certain amount of Jefferson’s Bucks allows them entry into “The Jefferson’s Jam!” Every week, students’ individual points turn into money. But, I also added a component that ensures the class works together. At the end of the week, the class percentage allows them to be able to multiply their points for more money. 80-89% class percentage? They can multiply their points by 2. 90-99% class percentage? They can multiply their points by 3. 100% class percentage (which has happened once). They can multiply their points by 4.

We had our second quarter Jefferson’s Jam on Friday and the kids had a blast! Students can order subs or pizza, as well as bring in other treats for the party. It has a zero cost for me – all I have to do is set the date, determine the participants, and order and pick up the food!

Check out our party video here:

We spent a great deal of time outside, and as I looked around I was shocked at the amount of litter out there! So I created an impromptu community service project. We did a trash clean up right on the spot! I made it a competition though, because who wants to pick up trash at a party? Students were put into teams and the team that collected the most trash would get a prize. Needless to say after 3 minutes, the playground yard was immaculate, and every attendee is officially $100 richer in Jefferson’s Bucks! They all did such an awesome job, I couldn’t decide!


Until next time!