Monday, December 20, 2010

Guest Book Talker

Mrs. Kennedy was in class today to talk about books related to the theme of "fear and phobias." Here are the books Mrs. Kennedy discussed:
School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari
Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
Rash by Pete Hautman
What Are You Afraid Of? by Donald Gallo, editor
The following books are less directly connected to "fear and phobias," but still come recommended by Mrs. Kennedy:
Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado
The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson
Time Bomb by Nigel Hinton

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recent Reads

I've read two very different books over the last several weeks. The first was Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney. This novel tells the story of one student who gets into serious trouble for trying to complete his science homework. I liked it, especially the setting (post 9/11 New York City). Caroline Cooney also wrote, among many other things, Burning Up, which is a past school wide read selection at SLMS.

Next, I read Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson. This was my favorite of the two books. President Lincoln's assassination is a familiar story, but I learned things from reading this book that I never knew (for example, the broader conspiracy included an assassination attempt against Secretary of State William Seward).

Both of these books are in the SLMS library.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hunger Games is a Hit

Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy is a hit, both with students and faculty at SLMS. The trilogy consists of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay.
Among the faculty members who read the series is Mrs. Beideck. She had this to say:

"I liked the series as a whole. I loved The Hunger Games, thought Catching Fire was as good or better, but was not as fond of Mockingjay. (But I did enjoy it and it kept my interest for sure) It was sort of like with Harry Potter when he got all angry and dark and moody in the later books, I didn't like them as well as the beginning of that series. In Mockingjay, Katniss gets a lot like that and less the vibrant, strong girl she is in the first two. And rightly so as a lot happened to her and she gets beat up pretty badly in Mockingjay also. It has a great message and could spark some good discussions."

If you'd like to learn more, here's the author herself, Suzanne Collins, talking about Mockingjay.

SLMS Faculty Reads

The faculty at the middle school continues to send me titles of books that they've read and liked. Here are some of the latest:

Made in the USA by Billie Letts (Mrs. Hovland)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Mrs. Salamy)
In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth (Mrs. Salamy)
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert (Ms. Varano)
Murder on the Iditarod Trail by Sue Henry (Mrs. Salamy)
Daniel's Walk by Michael Spooner (Mrs. Salamy)
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Mrs. Hovland)
Four Perfect Pebbles by Marion Blumenthaul Lazan (Mrs. Fransen)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Vermont Ghost Story

One of my recent reads was All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn. I was interested in this book because of its setting, a bed and breakfast near Middlebury, Vermont.

Corey and Travis think they're in for a quiet summer at the b. and b. owned by their grandmother. They soon hear stories about the place being haunted, and while they are skeptics, they think that perpetrating a haunted hoax on the inn's guests will be a fun way to spend their vacation in the country. The teens' plans for pulling off a great prank go South when they disturb the spirits of .... you'll have to check out the book to find out!

You can watch a video book trailer of All the Lovely Bad Ones here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recent Writing Lessons

The grade 7 students continue their independent reading at an impressive pace, but they've also been writing.
Recently, we've discussed how to paragraph text and how to craft effective narrative leads. As I mentioned earlier, our grade 7 writing instruction follows a workshop model based on Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for Teaching Writing.
You might ask your student to see her writer's notebook, which should contain some drafts in progress.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Poet Laureates

Last week saw the end of Ms. Susan Stewart's student teaching experience at Saranac Lake Middle School.
She did a great job, and her last unit of instruction focused on poets, specifically Poet Laureates.
Mrs. Kenyon told us that she had the opportunity to meet a Poet Laureate in person, Billy Collins.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Books and the Teachers Who Read Them

To follow up on a previous post, the titles of books that SLMS teachers have read continue to pour in. Here are more recommendations:

Mrs. Beideck: The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Mrs. Salamy: His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina by Danielle Steel and Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks

Mrs. Kenyon: Private by James Patterson, Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson

Ms. Ordonez: Short Carries by Elizabeth Folwell, A Portrait of Healing by Victoria Rhinehart

Mrs. Grant: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Mrs. Fransen: Coming Home by Rosamunde Piltcher, The Geometry of Sisters byLuanne Rice

Mr. Frenette: The River of Doubt by Candace Millard

Friday, October 8, 2010

What SLMS Teachers Read

I asked some teachers at SLMS to tell me which books they've read since school this school year started. Here's a list of titles:

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Framed by Frank Boyce

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

There are many more titles to list, and I will in a later post. Please don't hesitate to ask our teachers for book recommendations; chances are they will be able to suggest something great!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Make the Connection

I've been using Scholastic's Book Wizard to asist students in locating "just right books."

Mrs. Johns, who has been filling in for Mrs. Kennedy in the library, suggested that while Book Wizard does a nice job of suggesting books based on students' interests and reading levels, the MS library might not always have a copy of the book on the shelves.

So... Mrs. Johns advised the following:

1). Use Book Wizard to search.
2).Open a tab with the library's catalog
3). Search for the title suggested by Book Wizard in the library's database

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In The News

The students have begun to work on the Achieve 3000 reading program and over the last several weeks they have been reading non-fiction articles about topics ranging from pizza to ugly rubber sandals (no offense Crocs lovers).

Here are links to some of the AP articles we've read:

Did you know that Pizza Hut turned 50 recently? Funny, it doesn't look a day over 29. (The students didn't laugh when I told that joke in class, either).

I admit it. I own a pair of bright yellow Crocs boat shoes. It seems like Crocs were everywhere at one time, but some have suggested that this fad is over.

Obviously these articles do not contain information that is of Earth shattering importance. It has been good to include some non-fiction in the students' "reading diets," however.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Story Time

We didn't sit on the carpet and it wasn't just before nap time, but we did read a picture book story in class today.

The book was "Night In The Country" by Cynthia Rylant, and it's filled good examples of sensory details.

We talked about how one of the qualities of good personal narratives is that they include true, exact details from the "movies" that we all have in our minds.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flying Cars

When I was in junior high school, I'm pretty sure that someone told me that there would be flying cars by the time I was an adult.

To some degree, technology has let me down. However, in the area of technological support of education and learning, I continue to be really amazed.

SLCS has recently partnered with a company called Achieve 3000. Achieve's literacy intervention products have been widely adopted and proven effective at helping students improve their reading ability.

Our grade 7 ELA classes on Team Whiteface have begun to implement the Achieve 3000 program, and are using it to support a reading and writing workshop model of instruction.

We'll be providing more information for parents and guardians soon, including individual user names and passwords to aid in the monitoring of students' progress.

I'd still rather have a flying car, but in the meantime Achieve 3000 is pretty cool.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two Book Talks and a Read-Aloud

The latest book talks in class have been The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac.

Students who like realistic fiction will probably find The Outsiders a good match, while those who like books a bit on the scary side will go for Skeleton Man.

In two classes, we've started The Strange Case of Origami Yoda as a read -aloud. "Quirky" is the word that comes to mind when I think of this book. It's funny and you don't even have to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sebastian Junger: "True Story Writer"

We'll continue to write true stories (personal narratives) this week. Today I read aloud Sebastian Junger's "Colter's Way" to the 4th period class.

I explained that Junger makes a living writing true stories. Several students told me that they were familiar with The Perfect Storm, the film based on Junger's book of the same name.

As for the man who is mentioned in the title of Junger's piece that I read aloud, there is information about him here:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Writer's Workshop

In ELA 7 today, we began the written component of this year's curriculum. The model we plan to follow is Lucy Calkins' "Units of Study for Teaching Writing". This model is currently in use in various classrooms at Bloomingdale and Petrova Elementary.

You may be interested in the map we'll follow as our writing program develops over the course of the school year.

I am pleased that "Units of Study for Teaching Writing" is alligned with the Commom Core Standards which New York and many other states have recently adopted.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reading Recommendations

We've asked ELA students to find independent reading books and have them in class on Tuesday. Finding the right book can be difficult as not only students' individual interests, but also their reading levels become factors in book selection.

We hope to get better at matching students with "just right books" this school year, but for now here are some sites that might assist students in finding an independent reading book:

This site from the American Library association lists the best books for young adults since 1996.

Scholastic has a page where students share reviews on books they've read. You can search by genre or grade level.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Independent Reading

A large part of what grade 7 students do in our class is read, independently and silently, in class, from books that they choose. It is important that students choose books not only that interest them, but also books that match their reading level. I will spend time over the first couple of weeks of school assessing students' reading levels and offering suggestions of books that might "fit".
As students gather their materials for the new year, they should also look for books. These might be novels, non fiction, or even poetry anthologies. Maybe students could make one last trip to library before school starts!
Here's a good article that discusses the importance of independent reading.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pendragon Theatre

I was a volunteer usher at Pendragon's matinee performance of The Jungle Book on Tuesday. It was a packed house, as kids from the Saranac Lake Youth Program were in attendance.
The show was great, and seeing all those students had me thinking "back to school".
Seventh grade students at Saranac Lake Middle School participate in a project each March called "Page to Stage," in which we enlist the help of the pros at Pendragon in order to introduce middle schoolers to the dramatic arts.