May 26, 2013

Where I've Been and a Reminder

I've had this nagging feeling for the past few days that something was missing, and I finally figured out what it is... you guys!

[Insert hugs to all my bloggy friends here!]

I'm normally pretty attached to my laptop, but since leaving Louisiana on Thursday, we've been SO busy catching up with friends and family, that this is honestly the first time I've even pulled it out of my bag. I'm excited to finally catch up on all your posts and re-join the blogging world.

We got in at 1:45 AM Friday morning to two very excited dogs doing this happy butt dance. You know, when their tales wag so furiously that the whole back half of their bodies wiggles along with it. That's the thing I love about dogs, they're never apathetic about your arrival, whether you've been gone for an hour or a year.

It's incredible how delicious an Italian beef tastes when you haven't been to a Portillo's in six months. Hello, foodgasm!

And we've already had great pizza (and I don't even mean Chicago-style) AND a trip to Sweet Tomato for their salad bar... both things we couldn't find in the South.

I finally crashed last night with a terrible double migraine after days of being on Cloud 9. I think we're going to relax at home today and enjoy some steaks on the grill courtesy of my father.

It feels SO good to be home!

Before I go, I wanted to throw out a quick reminder that today is the LAST DAY for my End-of-Year Reflections Linky Party for those that were still wanting to link up.

May 21, 2013

Tried it Tuesday: My First Linky Party


I'm super excited to say that I really branched out for this week's Tried it Tuesday by hosting MY very first linky party!

I love participating in other people's linky parties, but I promised myself earlier this year that I would step out of my comfort zone just a little bit more and host one myself. There are so many re-occurring parties, like Tried it Tuesday, that we all love, so I decided to start small with a one-week party.

I'm not going to lie, I've been super anxious about it because I don't have many followers (though I love the ones I do have dearly) and was afraid no one would link up. Thankfully, I'm not the only one at this party, but I would love to see more of you join in the fun.

The topic for this linky is End-of-Year Reflections, and I've really enjoyed reading about how y'all have grown through the challenges you've faced this year.

There are a lot of themes about patience and inner strength in your responses, which I think is a testimony to how dedicated teachers are to their craft. Kudos to you all for such dedication through adversary.

If you haven't stopped by yet, I'd truly be honored if you want to link up with me!

May 20, 2013

Monday Reading Update

It's Monday, and I have somewhat disappointing news about my reading...

My school implemented a 20-minute DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time this year. I love knowing that everyone, no matter where they are, stops everything to read. This became a great time to pull out our most struggling readers and give them individual attention a couple times a week to help them raise those reading levels.

I was fortunate to have a magnet class as my homeroom, which means I didn't have any students who couldn't read. I did, however, have many students who made poor choices during this time (usually just getting started). The good thing for me, though, was that if my kids didn't read during DEAR, I extended the time into our class. I wanted them to know that one way or another, they were going to give me 20 minutes of reading. It was actually funny to hear them say, "We know... keep reading!" on bad days when the DEAR bell rang.

Well, when the last week of school came, DEAR time kinda fell by the wayside because of graduation announcements and finals. This is relevant because it means that I also wasn't reading for those extra 20 minutes each day. And I seriously slacked at home this week.


Sometimes I like to listen to books on Audible. I have the app on my iPhone, and it's so nice for when I'm doing mindless activities like driving or playing Candy Crush. My ADHD brain won't allow me to focus on the words when there's something else distracting me, but I love to listen to my books when I clean or pack. 

And yes... I've been doing a lot of packing.  

Joel has two job interviews in Chicago next week, so odds are high that we will be moving home. Nothing is certain yet, of course, but I figured I could get a head start on packing now to save us time later.

And when we get in the car on Thursday afternoon, it will be nice to have Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn to entertain me in the car. I started the book on our drive to Florida, so I'm looking forward to spending more quality time with it while I sit bored in the car.

May 19, 2013

End-of-Year Reflection Linky

I'm super excited to be hosting my very first linky party, and I hope you'll join in the fun!

One of the things I love most about being a teacher is the ability to "reset" at the end of each year. It gives me time to reflect on what I've done well and where I hope to improve.

Even though I've been in the habit of requiring my students to complete formal reflection activities for years, I haven't ever been forced to any formal reflection of my own. And I think one of the greatest things in this teaching blog community is our ability to celebrate each others' successes and encourage each other when we need it most.

This linky is all about reflecting on the past school year, both personally and professionally. It's completely up to you how detailed you want to be in your responses, which is why I didn't create a form for you to complete. Instead, I've posed three questions for you to consider and can't wait to read your responses!

End-of-Year Reflection Questions:
  1. What was the biggest professional challenge you faced this year?
  2. What was the biggest personal challenge you faced this year?
  3. How do you think you've grown from your experiences?
My answers?
  1. My biggest professional challenge was adjusting to a struggling charter school environment after years of working in very successful districts. This meant learning to teach students who were several years behind their peers when my previous experience was literally the opposite. I also had to learn how to discipline. I thought I knew this before, but I didn't realize how relative "discipline problems" could be until this job. Finally, I learned how to function with the pressures that come with a charter school fighting to stay alive. I learned how to give my administration what they needed without losing myself in the process. It's all about balance.
  2. My biggest personal challenge was moving 900 away from friends and family. I missed the birth of my friend's children, my grandma's funeral, many birthdays and holidays. I learned how to depend on Joel support in ways I've never depended on anyone but my parents. I've learned who is really important to me and am more appreciative of these people in my life.
  3. The biggest way I think I've grown is that I learned that I am stronger than I ever thought possible. I've stretched myself well beyond my comfort zone, and sometimes that stretching was painful. In the end, though, I feel like I've really grown this year, and for that, I'm grateful. 

May 18, 2013

Budding Blog Linky

Jess over at I {Heart} Recess is hosting a Budding Blogger linky this month for anyone with less than 200 followers. Since I'm well under that limit, I'm adding my blog!

1. Why did you start blogging? My first exposure to the blogging world was through all of my friends from college who were sharing pictures and stories about their children and upcoming weddings. When I started my blog, though, I didn't really have much of a focus and my readers were pretty much limited to my mom and grandmas. It took a while before I started to look for teaching blogs and realized that I could be part of a community of bloggers. Duh!

2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why? I'm an ELA teacher, so that's obviously my favorite subject, but I can break it down even further and say that I love to teach reading. Some of my favorite moments in the classroom have been when my most reluctant readers proclaim, "That was a great story!" 

3. Describe your teaching style. I am a firm believer in teaching students as whole-persons. For me, this means I have spend a lot of time building relationships with my students. I've always been a people-pleaser and am willing to go the extra mile for people I like. I think students are the same way. If they like you as a person, they're willing to work harder for you and show you more respect. Does that mean I have fantastic relationships with all my students? Of course not! But I try to reach as many as possible. 

It's pretty much a given that there are students in my classroom all day long, even during my planning time (we can excuse them from ancillary classes). My coworkers laugh at me when I have a trail of 5 or 6 little ducklings following me down the hall because I need to use the bathroom during one of my preps. It's hilarious!

When it comes to teaching, I use my knowledge of my students as whole persons to make connections between them and the content before they can do it themselves. When I introduce a new concept, I try to make it relatable by giving examples from their lives. 

I believe in a good mix of teacher-directed and student-directed learning. My schedule on a typical day in my classroom is as follows:

Whole Class Mini-Lesson & Guided Practice
3 Rotations of Centers (15-20 minutes each)
Trade & Grade

Sometimes I work with a specific center and other times I float between them all. It really depends on the needs of my students.

4. Give 3 interesting facts about you. 1. If I were rich - like really, really rich - I would spend my life traveling to different places and learning about other cultures. I want to live in their homes, eat their food, wear their clothes, speak their languages, visit their sites. How fun would that be?!

2. I once broke my big toe by tripping UP the stairs (both my sister and I have a terrible time with stairs) trying to get to my phone as it rang. It was bad. Not only did I stub my toe incredibly hard, but I also landed on my kneecap on the stair. I screamed so loud, my dad was convinced I broke my knee and needed an ambulance. My mom, however, knows I can be a drama queen and told him to get me some ice. I couldn't wear high heels for like 2 years without excruciating pain.  

3. I actually went to college with the goal of becoming the next Oprah. Part of the reason I chose my school was the location in the city where I planned to intern at Harpo Studios. My plan was to become Oprah's favorite employee so she would just turn everything over to me when she retired. Not too lofty, huh?

5. Do you have a TPT store? I do. There's not much in there, but it's all free. One of my summer goals is to get more posted, so you may want to follow me!

The Big Reveal

Yippee! The school year is officially over!

This year has been challenging in ways I couldn't even imagine, and I feel super relieved to say that it's done because it means I survived. And trust me... there were days I didn't think it would be possible.

Yesterday was the day our 8th graders came back to pick up their LEAP scores and final grades. With this information, we were also able to tell them if they qualified to participate in our first ever graduation ceremony this coming Tuesday. There were a lot of tears, mostly from those who passed the LEAP. It's seriously that stressful for them.

I don't have raw scores for my kids yet, but I do have overall standings. In our state, the expectation is that students score a Basic to pass (which, ironically, amounts to a failing grade on our grading scale but whatever). The scale for mainstream kids (my lowest SPED kids take another version) is as follows:

Approaching Basic

All but three students in my magnet class (I've mentioned before that magnet classes at my school aren't really magnet classes, right?) scored Basic on last year's test. This year, though, I can't say the same. Some of them got complacent (as "magnet" students sometimes do) and they actually scored lower this year. There are two magnet classes in 8th grade, and my class was the lower half of those kids. What this means is that many of my kids who scored Basic last year, did so by the skin of their teeth. I didn't expect many of them to move up to Mastery, but I didn't expect so many to drop. Obviously, this is disappointing.


My the students in my inclusion class made huge progress. Almost every student who scored an Unsatisfactory last year (the vast majority of the class) progressed to Approaching Basic this year. I have one student who even umped from a low Unsatisfactory to Basic. This group made me proud!

The funny thing, though, as that none of the Approaching Basic students count for the school. There is a new system in place for the state that gives ZERO credit for student growth unless they score at least a Basic. Obviously, for our students, this is a huge disadvantage.

I did some calculations yesterday and found that I have exactly the same number of dropped scores as increased scores. I have to wait for the raw scores to assess those who stayed in the same bracket. The other ELA teachers I spoke to had similar results.

For now, I'm holding on to the words of my students after the test when they told me that it was soooo easy. I'm holding on to the confirmation from nearly all of them that there were no surprises on the test, that it was exactly like what we did in class.

Next year, with our school shifting to Common Core, I think we will better be able to focus on closing the gap in their reading levels. As I've said all year, it doesn't matter if they know how to find the author's purpose if they can't even understand the text.

Sparking Student Motivation with Apps

And since it's Saturday, I'm going to link up with Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Sparking Student Motivation linky.

I'm actually linking to my new Classroom Management Apps plan, which I posted as part of my Tuesday Teacher Tip series. I've received a lot of great feedback about this, and I'm super excited to try it in next year's classroom!

May 15, 2013

Where Have You Been?

My students took their final exam for ELA today, which was really just my end-of-unit test for Emmett Till. I'm super excited to report that only one student failed my 60-question test. ONE!


After school today, I was talking to our music teacher at our end-of-year staff party. She mentioned that she administered the test to one of our small groups and literally had the following conversation with one of my students this morning:

So, you know how I had OSS (Out of School Suspension) last week?


Well, I don't think I can take this test.

Why not? I know you were given work to do while you were gone.

Because I don't know this stuff. Was Emmett Till black?


I mean, if that doesn't want to make you pound your head against a wall, I'm not sure what will. We started this unit two and a half weeks ago. And while this student was suspended for part of the unit, I can personally attest to the fact that he read part of the book aloud to my inclusion teacher in the hallway. In fact, I remember three days in a row where this happened because they were the three days I was ready to kill him*, so we put him in the hallway so I could avoid a mental breakdown.

He read the book ALOUD, you guys. She talked to him about it. They filled out an organizer about it.


This student is SO lucky he doesn't come to my class tomorrow, or he would be getting an ear full.

*I just want to throw out the disclaimer that I would never, ever harm any of my students... I only say this so you understand my frustration level.  Also, I think it's kinda funny that I feel the need to add this disclaimer. But some people are crazy!

May 14, 2013

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Classroom Management Apps

Today's Teacher Tip is a comglomeration of some of the incredible ideas I've gotten from linky parties as well as Pinterest boards.

Since my school year is essentially over (we have half days tomorrow and Thursday for finals, and then the students are done!), I'm planning to use this in my classroom next year. But I still wanted to share the idea now for those of you who are looking for a little end-of-the-year management help.

I downloaded this app to my iphone and ipad called Decide Now (99 cents in itunes). It's basically a big Wheel of Fortune style wheel, and when you touch the center button, it spins.

Here's how I plan to use this:

I'm going to use my Name Selector app (free in itunes) to randomly choose a student during a given activity. This can really be done during any activity: note-taking, centers, group/pair work, visiting the library, walking in the hallways, etc. Keep the name of your chosen student a secret, only to be revealed during your next transition.

During the given activity, I will be in super stealth mode, watching my chosen student. If (s)he has followed my expectations for the duration of the activity, (s)he will get to spin my Wheel of Prizes.

As you can see from my photo, I'm planning to use each wedge of my wheel to indicate a reward. The important thing here (so you don't go broke) is to include free and very-inexpensive rewards, but you can keep things interesting by adding some bigger items. I can't remember who originally suggested this, but I think my middle school students would get a kick out of seeing some "whammy" prizes like a paperclip or a single sticky note.

If, during the duration of the given activity, the chosen student is not following my expectations, however, I will simply choose a new student. Of course, I will make a big show of doing this, so all students are reminded that I'm watching.

I think this will be a good way to motivate positive behavior, reward those that make good choices (another solution for the problem I discussed last week), and give a non-verbal cue to those who are off-task (my Name Selector app makes a noise when a name is chosen).

May 12, 2013

Bullet is Healed

For those that have been complaining, "All you ever talk about is school," this is your non-school-related post. Get excited!

My car, named Bullet, is 10 years old this month. I was bored with him after I paid him off in year 3, but I'm far too money-conscious to allow myself to take on another car note when this one has worked perfectly well.

Except, that he hasn't been working all that well recently. About a month ago, just after we replaced the battery, we started noticing that the airbag light was randomly going on and off. And then the emergency break light would pop on unexpectedly. This progressed until the entire dashboard would go off while I was driving, making it impossible to know my speed until it decided to come back.

Joel assured me this was just an electrical issue, probably a fuse that needed to be replaced, and we continued to drive Bullet sans radio for a couple weeks. Until we drove to Florida and noticed a rotten egg smell (which, Joel first attributed to the city of Mobile where we first smelled it... haha). Siri quickly helped me investigate the cause, which was reported as a bad battery. So, we spent the first day of our vacation in a Sam's Club, where they added water to the battery and told us it was fine.

Until it happened again on the way home.

So, back to Sam's we went to replace the battery where the tech gave us the same song and dance as the guy in Florida.

So... we took it to Honda, explained the issues, and asked that they check the alternator.

The next day, Honda called to tell us that they were certain it was a battery issue, prompting us to return to Sam's AGAIN and demand a new battery.

On the way out of the parking lot, though, the lights started coming on again.

Yesterday, we took him back to Honda, and this time, they told us it was the alternator, which was going to cost us $630, including labor, to replace.

"It's pretty labor-intensive," the lady told me on the phone.

I about had a heart attack. Our insurance payment is due this month, too, and I'm already stressed about how we're going to pay that. This announcement had me on the verge of tears.

Until my amazingly skilled boyfriend said he'd take a look at it. We brought the car home, and he spent a couple hours tinkering with it in the driveway.

And then...


He was able to get the old alternator out. Yay!


We found a replacement alternator at an auto store for just $139, including all the parts and taxes.

6 hours later, Bullet is running better than ever. Which is great for my pocket book but does nothing to help the fact that I still want a new car!

But seriously, how lucky am I to have a man in my life who can save me $500 in one day?!

I love this man!

May 7, 2013

Giveaway from my Bloggy Twin

Erin, whom I like to call my bloggy twin, over at at I'm Loving Lit,  is having a HUGE giveaway! You already know how much I love her blog, but her TPT products are also awesome. I've purchased a few and have even more in my shopping cart. I'm always really excited about the ideas I've "borrowed" from her, and I know you will be too!

The great thing is that she's offering multiple sets for her giveaway, so no matter what grade level you teach, there's something just right for you. Head over to her blog and enter now!!

Teacher Tip Tuesday - Rewarding Your Stars

Okay, I'm a little late with this week's Teacher Tip, but I swear it's not my fault. I had a great plan, but uploading my videos to YouTube wasn't working right.... so I'll save that post for another day.

So, instead, I want to talk about something that's really been on my mind recently. 

In my current school, more than any other school I've ever seen, the students who are negatively impacting the classroom really monopolize the attention of teachers, administrators, and peers. I'm not talking about the ones who refuse to work or sleep through class. No, I'm talking about the ones who "flash out" (another term I learned from my kiddos) on each other or their teachers. I'm talking about the ones who are constantly distracting others with constant talking, inappropriate noises, disruptive chair manners, etc. 

Have I had these kids in the past? Of course.

But never in the past has it seemed that this is the status quo versus the exception. I shared with one of my classes today that until I came here, I had never (not as a student or a teacher) seen a student "flash out" on a teacher in class. In my previous teaching experience, disrespect meant the kid rolled his eyes. Ha! If only I had known!

Anyway, because these students are so disruptive, we have all sorts of tools in place to help them. We have a mentor program and behavior trackers that allow these students to earn rewards just for improving their behavior (even if it's still not up to par with our overall expectations). And, of course, these kids get more of my time and energy, mostly because they just demand it.

Obviously, I'm not here to argue that this is a bad thing. Clearly, these students need extra attention, and we want to acknowledge their successes. 

But what about the good kids? 

They seem to be so few and far between these days, but I do have kids that never cause problems, behaviorally or academically. I have one student who has not received a single deduction on his paycheck all year. And what have we done to reward him?

We use our school-wide PBIS system, of course, to reward our kiddos for keeping their $80 paycheck averages. But these rewards have quickly lost their power. You can only eat a kids box at Raising Cane's so often, you know? For my kids that have consistently earned these rewards, they have actually stopped claiming them (they have to get a parent signature on their paychecks) because they simply don't need the incentive to do well. 

But still... I don't like the idea that I go above and beyond for my students who make poor choices but settle for the school-wide system for my students who make the best performances.

Today, I pulled aside my top performing student. He doesn't always have the very highest grade in class, but he's consistently in the top 10%. He is a leader in my classroom, always encouraging his peers to do their best. He has the best manners I've ever seen on any student... ever.

I told this boy that he and I are going to go out to celebrate.

"Celebrate what?" he wanted to know.

"To celebrate you! To celebrate how you've proven all year long to be a student with integrity and diligence. To celebrate how you bring a positive attitude to my classroom every day," I told him.

And you should have seen his face light up. He gets shout outs all the time, but I really think this is the first time he's really being praised for consistently being the role-model student. 

I'm so thrilled to be able to show him that his work does not go unnoticed!

After all, everyone wants to feel appreciated!

May 6, 2013

What are you Reading? Monday

Linking up with Jen to share what's on my nightstand right now...

First of all, I want to give y'all an update on Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. My students are a week into this book today, and we are on pace to finish by Friday, which means it was the PERFECT length to finish the year strong.

My students are SUPER invested in the this story. They've asked a TON of really good questions, which have led me to believe this would be a great book to lead into our research unit. So many of the questions my students have asked could turn into research projects, so it might be a great mentor research project.

I'm really glad I decided to teach this book now because it's definitely holding my students' interest, and they are giving me great things to consider for the future. For example, I think I'll share the documentary at the END of the unit next year and only give them a teaser before we crack open the book. Of course, the documentary doesn't give all the details, but I think there's even more investment if they don't know what will happen next.

I think for next year, I'm going to read this book with my kiddos for our non-fiction unit. According to what we read in class today, you can still get partial transcripts from the court proceedings as well as many of the articles that appeared in national magazines and newspapers at the time. I think it will be much more meaningful for my students to study the elements of non-fiction in this context rather than with unrelated or irrelevant articles, which I admit I used this year.

As I put together a more comprehensive unit, I want to put it together for my TPT store. As of now, I only have random handouts and assignments in there, not whole units. I feel like this is the first unit I've created completely on my own because there just aren't many resources available, so I want to make it available for others to use. Keep your eyes on my store! (Okay... I'll let you know when I post it!)


The second book I'm reading was a suggestion from my bloggy twin, Erin, from I'm Loving Lit. I call her my twin because we have the same name, content area, and age group. AND we live in the same state, about an hour away from each other. Crazy, huh? Anyway, she aways has the best reading suggestions, and she talked about this book Out of Easy during a past linky party.

I'm not very far into the book yet, but I love the way Ruta Spetys has described New Orleans, as Erin promised. The story folows Josie in the French Quarters in the 1950s. She has big goals to escape her life, with a neglectful mother who is a prostitute, but apparently there's going to be a big murder that somehow threatens her plans.

I'll let you now what I think when I'm done, but I'm not going to lie... it may take a while! It's a rather large book! :)

May 5, 2013

The Farmer and His Pigs, A Metaphor about Assessments

I have to re-post this teaching metaphor I found on Mandy's blog, Caffeine and Lesson Plans. I love how it demonstrates the insanity related to all the testing our poor kiddos have to endure.

The farmer wants his pigs to be fat. Of course he does. The fatter the better.  
He became concerned when he realized that, even though he fed them all the same, some pigs were fatter than others. The problem, he concluded, was that he wasn't weighing the pigs enough. So he began to weigh the pigs a few times a year. Still, while some of the pigs were getting plenty fat, many of them were still skinny or, at least, not fat enough.  
The farmer decided that the best thing to do to solve the problem would be to weigh them again and again throughout the year. So, the farmer invested a lot of his resources in weighing. He developed new types of scales. He began keeping complicated records of the pigs’ weights. He devised a system where he could compare the weights of the pigs not just individually but between each different pen and also based on what color each pig was. All the while, the pigs weren't getting any fatter. The only thing that seemed to be getting fatter was the wallet of the scale-maker. 
So, the farmer added more weigh-ins. And in the days and weeks leading up to each weigh-in, he held practice weigh-ins for the pigs. One day, the pigs were looking longingly at the food piled up around their pens. “No time to waste sitting around eating,” the farmer said. “I need you to practice weighing. Here are some tips on how to make yourself seem heavier.” The only weigh-in strategy that seemed to help at all was eating a good breakfast.  
But even on the days that one particular group of pigs wasn't weighing-in or practicing weighing-in, the farmer didn't like them to eat. Pigs are noisy eaters, you know. They might disturb the others who are weighing-in or practicing weighing-in. Besides, there was no one to feed them, anyway. All the workers on the farm were overseeing the weighing of the pigs or the practicing of the weighing of the pigs in some of the other pens, so the pigs that weren't being weighed or practicing being weighed were herded over to one particular area and told to sit still, be quiet, and wait.  
After the last weigh-in of the year, everybody relaxed. But the pigs wondered, “Why bother to eat now, if we aren't going to even be weighed anymore?” The farmer told them that the weighing was only to help them get fatter. But the pigs didn't believe him. They knew that the scale was much more important than the food. They knew that it’s the weighing that makes a pig fatter. They had been taught that well.

May 2, 2013

Currently May

It's May 1st, which means I'm linking up with Farley's currently again.

Listening - The Jodi Arias trial is wrapping up this week, and I am glued to the closing arguments. During our careers unit, I started talking about this trial with some of my students (who were interested in law careers), and I now have several students who also tune in daily to HLN to hear the latest news. Of course, we have to talk about it every day, and I secretly LOVE it! My kiddos are also anxiously awaiting the George Zimmerman case to start when this is over because they've decided that Trayvon Martin is the Emmett Till case of their generation. OMG I love my students!

Loving - My beautifully tanned skin (now that my burn has healed and the peeling is finished) from our vaca in Florida. I miss the beach!

Thinking - 11 more days until school is over. Thank the good Lord! Of course, I'm going to miss my 8th graders, but I am also so relieved to have summer break right around the corner. Each day is becoming more of a challenge as the students suffer from 8th grade-itis. One day at a a time...

Wanting - A personal chef. Figuring out what to eat for each meal is mentally exhausting for me, especially when I'm trying to avoid carbs... so many easy options are out. I have this problem, which I have inherited from my mother, where when I'm not hungry, I'm not thinking about what I want for dinner. And then once I'm hungry, I want to eat NOW, not wait to cook something. Joel is awesome about cooking whatever I tell him, but that doesn't relieve me of having to plan something (or the grocery shopping). I just want someone else to do it all for me. :)

Needing - It seems like I'm hemorrhaging money these days. Car problems, registration renewal, doctor bills, my twice-yearly insurance payment. And now that Saturday school is over, I don't have that extra money on my paychecks. Maybe I should just get rid of my car! haha

Summer Bucket List - 1. Visiting friends and family in Chicago. OMG I am so excited for this I can't even stand it! I'm ready to snuggle some babies, laugh with friends, hang out with our families. It's going to be splendid! 2. I need to figure out a plan for next year. Are we staying or going? What will I be teaching? How do I want to teach it? 3. The public pool actually opens this weekend, and I can't wait. I think I was born to be in the water. I just love it. And I love the bronzed glow it gives me! :)

May 1, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Favorite Reading Group Book

I'm linking up with Jess at Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday, and this week's topic is Favorite Reading Group Book. 

For me, the books that work best for my book clubs or literature circles are ones that are high-interest. They have to capture the attention of all students in the group, so they are invested in both the reading and discussion. I've had a lot more success in my classroom with book clubs versus literature circles, the biggest difference being that my book club groups have 100% control over which books they read. 

This year, I think the favorite book for my students has been The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake, who happens to be one of my favorite authors. Her books are so relatable for middle schoolers who are in that stage where peers mean everything and insecurity is rampant. Maleeka, the main character, describes herself as, "the darkest, worse-dressed thing in school. I'm also the tallest, skinniest thing you ever seen."

It's a great book about bullying, peer pressure, body-image... it has it all!

And while I was browsing the Internet for an excerpt to share with you, I found this curriculum guide full of great discussion and writing prompts and other resources for using this book in the classroom. 

And just so you can get a good sense of Maleeka's voice: 

    Up till now, I just took it. The name calling. The pushing and shoving and cheating off me. Then last week something happened. I was walking down the hall in one of Char's dresses, strutting my stuff, looking good. Then Char walked up to me and told me to take off her clothes. There was maybe eight or nine kids around when she said it, too, including Caleb. I thought she was kidding. She wasn't. So I went to the girls' room and put my own stuff back on. That's when I made up my mind. Enough is enough. I deserve better than for people to treat me any old way they want. But saying that is one thing, making it happen is something else.

If this book isn't in your classroom library, I highly recommend you add it. I have four copies myself!