Book Reviews….Video Style!

We all know this…..if you wanna get better at something you have to practice!  We want our students to be better reader and writers so we try to find ways to make them read and write!  Oh, what cruel and unusual punishment we put upon these children! Ha!

At my previous school, where I had 90 minutes to teach reading and writing, my students read 20 minutes a day in class.  We also used Accelerated Reader to keep track of reading as well as encourage students to read.  At my new school, we have 55-60 minutes a day (so there’s no way we can read 20 minutes a day) AND no AR! 🙁

So students are required to read one fiction and one non-fiction book and then complete a  book review or report on it.  This time, students completed  a Tellagami movie on their non-fiction book report.  Here is an example:

A few students have lost their iPad privileges due to inappropriate usage, so I thought, “Why not put that green screen to use?” Here is an example of  a green screen video:

I’m pretty proud of my kiddos!

Until the next time,

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Back to School Mentor Texts {Linky Party}

Look at us! Here it is not even July yet, and we’re in planning mode! I’m joining up with Collaboration Cuties and their Mentor Text linky party!

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On Friday I linked up with First Grade and Fabulous for her Picture Books Linky Party.  I highlighted the following books their that I use on the First Days of School:  Big Plans, First Day Jitters, and The Teacher From the Black Lagoon.  Click here to read that post and find out more info on these awesome books!

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Don’t forget!  My “Bloglovin’ Giveaway” ends tonight!  Click on the picture below to join in if you haven’t yet!  That $10 Amazon gift card just might have your name on it! 🙂

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Until the next time,

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Picture Books for the First Week of School {Linky Party}

I’m sure I’ve talked about my love for reading. As a student in school, I always got into trouble for reading in class when I should have been doing something else. In high school I would make all of my friends go with me to the library so they could grab enough paperback romance novels to satisfy me for at least a week. As a college student, I would spend traveling time back and forth to school reading….(sometimes even if I was driving….shhhhh). Then came the joy of audiobooks…. 🙂 As a reading teacher, I hope that I have instilled a love of reading in the students I touch year to year. I distinctly remember one of my hard core, all boy boys falling in love with Harry Potter!

Despite the fact that I teach big time middle schoolers, I still love using picture books to teach various skills. That’s why I’m joining up with First Grade and Fabulous for her Picture Books Linky Party. This week’s theme is: Picture Books for The First Days of School.

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During the first days of school I use these picture books as an introduction to rules, procedures, and me!

1. First Day Jitters

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This book is hilarious and has a surprise ending that the kids don’t see coming! A few years ago, I recorded my nephew reading the book and embedded it and the pictures from the book into a flip chart. I always brag to my students that he was in the fifth grade when he narrated it! 🙂 Students then write about what they’re nervous about this upcoming school year.

2. The Teacher from the Black Lagoon

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I use this book to teach procedures and do’s/don’ts. We look at things the children did that upset the monster Mrs. Green to help create our rules for the year.

3. Big Plans

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BN synopsis: “I’ve got big plans, BIG PLANS I say!” A little boy sits in the corner of a classroom, plotting his future. He’s got plans…and have you heard? They’re BIG. With the help of a mynah bird and lucky stinky hat, he’ll find a quarter…boss around some muckety-mucks…become the mayor–or even the president! And while he’s at it…fly to the moon!

After I read this book to the class, I have them create their “Big Plans” for the school year.

These are just a few of my favorites. What are your favorites? Link up with First Grade and Fabulous to find others and share yours!

Until the next time,

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Gregor the Overlander: A Book Review

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

 This book is written from the viewpoint of Gregor, an 11 year old boy who lives in New York City.  His father mysteriously disappeared two years ago and as he is watching his two year old sister, Boots, they fall through an air vent that takes them to Underland – a world where humans and various animals live as  almost equals.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

BN Summary:

In the first novel of the New York Times bestselling series by Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, young Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building and hurtles into the dark Underland. This strange world is on the brink of war, and Gregor’s arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland’s uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it’s the only way to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

When eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister are pulled into a strange underground world, they trigger an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy.

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Oh my goodness!  I could just KICK myself.  My librarian recommended this book to me two years ago and I’ve finally read it!  My family traveled to Maryland this weekend, and I was scouting around for a book to read on the trip.  I definitely hit the jackpot with this one!

I love, love, love The Hunger Games series and this book by Suzanne Collins does not disappoint!  I read the book in one day, in a car, where I usually get carsick if I read for a long period of time!  Today I asked if any of my students had read it – and not a one had!  I couldn’t believe it!  This year I definitely have some voracious readers and this book has been a sleeper!

This book has all of the elements of a fantabulously awesome book – suspense, intrigue, and a good bit of humor.  My favorite line:  Right after Gregor has confirmed the fact that he is “THE OVERLAND WARRIOR”….maybe?

“I am the warrior.  I am he who calls.”  

The bat was still for a moment, then nodded. “It is he.”  She spoke with such certainty that for a second Gregor succeeded in thinking of himself as a warrior.  A bold, brave, powerful warrior that the Underlanders would tell stories about for centuries.  He could almost see himself leading a squadron of bats into battle, stunning the rats, saving the Underland from – 

“Ge-go, I pee!”  announced Boots.

And there he stood, a boy in a goofy hard hat with a beat-up flashlight and a bunch of batteries he hadn’t even tested to see if they still had juice.

The mighty warrior excused himself and change a diaper.

Now, that I have fallen desperately in love with this book, I will be hunting down the second one right after this post…posts! 🙂  And I will hound every single child until they’ve read it too!

Until next time!

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 www.bn.com):

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.

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So I’m 12 years behind…..how 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…..

Best Books for Boys

As I’ve stated many times before, I love to read! And as a middle school teacher I try everyday to instill a love for reading into all of my students. But, as I’m sure you know (and have heard before), boys are tough nuts to crack. Because of this, I’m linking up with Courtney over at Swimming into Second to promote the Best Books for Boys linky party and giveaway.


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Here are books that my middle school boys love:

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The Watsons go to Birmingham 1963 – Christopher Paul Curtis
This book is hilarious! I always read the first chapter aloud and by the time we get to the section where Byron has his lips stuck to the outside rear view mirror, we are all in tears!

Scorpions – Walter Dean Myers
The boys love this one because the main character is a boy. Now, although there are many differences (the setting is in Harlem and we live in a very rural area, for one) we talk about the importance of making good decisions as well as bullying and learning how to say no.

Forged By Fire and Tears of a Tiger – Sharon Draper
There isn’t a Sharon Draper book that I don’t like, but again the boys seem to gravitate toward books where the main character is a male.

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They also love the Bluford series…and…..

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The Baseball Adventure Series by Dan Gutman.

If you’re interested in participating, click on the linky party image that’s at the top of this post to get into Swimming In Second’s initial post. Oh! Before I forget, there’s also a chance that you can win a
$25 Amazon card giveaway…..

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So you get access to great books for our boys and a chance to win? What more can a teacher ask for?

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No Boyz Allowed Book Review

No Boyz Allowed by Ni-Ni Simone

This book is written from the point of view of Gem, a teenage girl who has been in the foster system due to her crack-addicted mother’s inability to take care of her and her little brother.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Summary:

True story: I’m Gem, G-E-M, like a precious jewel, and my life has been nothing like my name. I’ve been on my own since I was nine and now I’m sixteen. But so what. I’m good, and so is my little brother. So why the state won’t let us do our own thing is beyond me. Instead, we’ve been forced to live with a foster family who wants to love us, but I’m not beat—I’m just trying to do me.

To make matters worse, I’ve been checking for this guy, Ny’eem. But my new clique has an unbreakable rule—no boyz allowed to come between our friendship—which is forcing me to keep my relationship with Ny’eem a secret. Though not for long. . .because in high school secrets are always exposed, scandals always rewrite the rules, and friendships are never what they seem. . . .

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My middle school girls love Ni-Ni Simone!  I found her books last year and grabbed all that I could find.  I now have none left…..I was robbed!  These books are pretty realistic (well except for the fact that a sixteen year old wears True Religion jeans and 4 inch heels), and the drama is waaaaay familiar to my girls.  Ni-Ni’s characters are so vivid and full of life, I found myself laughing out loud throughout the entire novel.  I love the McKnight family (Toi, Seven, and Man-Man) and I gain pleasure in being able to reminisce about high school loves and life.

My favorite quote:  Right after the main character breaks up with her boyfriend because she found out he was cheating on her (supposedly)….

“Ny’eem softly turned my face toward his and said, “Keep it gutter with me in my face. Now say it since you loved me yesterday and hate me today. Look me in my eyes and tell me that.” ….and in case you were wondering, yes, I know it is so ghetto, but I have always had a penchant for bad boys (since I didn’t marry one – I love teaching them 🙂 )

The only thing I didn’t quite like was the fact that the book insinuates you should always trust your guy over your kinda sorta maybe friends….and that boys never lie…

All in all, Ni-Ni Simone is still my all time favorite young adult urban author.  I know you’ll love her!  My girls (and some guys)  definitely do! 🙂