Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's the Holiday Season!

I cannot believe we are halfway through November. I have been a busy little bee trying to get my classroom and home kept up. In addition to all that requires, I have also spent a good bit of time monogramming things for friends and family. If you have a machine, you know how much time and effort go into making just ONE shirt! Even though the jobs can be tedious, I have really enjoyed making special items for people. It's quite nice to be proud of your work!

I have also been reading quite a few books lately. I ordered a few for my classroom and decided to read them before putting them out for my students. I decided on Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage as my first two picks, but I only really liked the latter. TH is probably going to appeal more to 10 to 12-year-old boys than 29-year-old women, and I assume Patterson intended this. The book did have wonderful illustrations though, which made the cheesiness somewhat easier to stomach. TTL was so good I decided to use it for a read-aloud. It starts slow, but picks up speed toward the middle. Turnage creates such lovable characters, and the figurative language included in the novel paints so many pictures in the minds of my students. We have referred to Mo and Dale several times over the course of our current reading unit. I highly recommend this book!

Another thing I have been working on is a Greek and Latin Prefixes/Roots/Suffixes journal. My students are having difficulty with this. Our school uses the Wonders program, and while I don't agree with everything in the book, I will say that this is the one reading program I have seen that truly tests the skills and not the story (looking at you Scott Foresman!).

This isn't complete yet, and my class is giving it a trial run, but I hope to have a few freebies up on my Teacher's Notebook site soon. This Sunday is wet and rainy and COLD. I am not looking forward to getting back out for the evening service, but Acteens calls! I hope you all have a restful afternoon!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Look!

Happy Labor Day Weekend! I hope everyone is having a restful few days at home. I have been busy with the start of school, keeping up the house, etc. As many of you know, I have moved schools. Transition is always hard, and this was no exception. It was difficult to say good-bye to all of my co-workers (I got to keep one of them!!!) and my students. It was also pretty difficult to throw away years of clutter and chaos. I wanted to make a fresh start this year, and that included my overcrowded filing cabinets. So much was chunked before, during, and after the move. Since my last post, my classroom is complete. I plan on making pictures tomorrow when I go in to finish up some work from last week (Teachers have it easy, right?!?). I am so proud of one of my bulletin boards and can't wait to show it off. I've also incorporated my love of reading into a cute directional sign. I have one blank wall that needs a bit of color. How do you decorate your larger walls in the classroom? Do you include a bunch of personal touches? Also, how do you decide what you keep and throw away?

I hope you'll come back to visit tomorrow!

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Working on the Blank Slate

I don't know if you've ever felt rushed. Not like, "Oh, I need to hurry," but "OH MY GOSH I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO AND SO LITTLE TIME TO DO IT INNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!" Because that is me, and yes I have thought it and said it in all caps. Every time I walk into my classroom I have to stare at things for an hour before I can finally make up my mind to do something, and then when I decide to get goin', it doesn't work. For example: my first chalk painting experience. I have two bookshelves in my classroom that totally don't go with my color scheme.

I have heard the wonders of chalk paint, so I made up my mind to try mixing my own, based on a formula from a friend (and she's a pro, so I know the result is not because of the paint!). I read and read and read about chalk paint before trying, and supposedly it sticks to anything. Well, I am here to say that it DOES NOT. I spent two hours painting. TWO HOURS. My butt was tired and my knees ached, but I knew I had to finish. After applying my second coat to the last shelf, I went back to the first shelf (which had already dried) and ran my finger along the inside in admiration. This is what happened:

WHAT. THE. MESS. I was in shock. I called my crafty friends, and they, like me, couldn't believe the paint had peeled. Bless their souls, because they both headed my way ASAP and worked with me to scrape the paint from both cabinets. I tried sealing the paint with wax just to make sure that it wasn't a lost cause, but it was no use. The constant push and pull of books would make a mess in no time, so we gave our arms a good workout, and by 8:15 PM, the bookshelves were semi-clean.

In the spirit of being positive, I will say that the day was not a lost cause. I learned a lot about painting. It's not easy, and it's expensive. If you want something done, you need to fully research before beginning. I also learned about a special primer for hard-to-coat surfaces. Before leaving school that night, I slapped some of the primer on the top of the shelf. I knew that if it wouldn't stick, painting was a complete waste of time. After going back this morning to check, it seems as if the primer will work! Believe me, I scraped with everything that was sharp in that classroom and not a speck of paint flecked off. So, I vouch for this.

Next Monday, I will start the painting process again. I am leaving for the beach on Thursday, and won't be back until the next Saturday, so getting this project completed is a must for me! Despite this setback, I have completed one super cute bulletin board! I used a single tissue paper border on the completed side you see completed, and a double tissue paper border on the side that is unfinished. 

My advice is to staple horizontally on the sides, and staple vertically on the top and bottom. Does that make sense? The staples need to fit inside the folds of your ruffle for them not to show. I have lots of work to do before August 5th! Wish me luck!

What are you working on this week?

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I am running out of time to get things done. When did it become July?!? Seriously, I have so many ideas in my head, and not enough hours to do them. What have I completed?
  • I have finished The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. It reminded me why I love reading and why I love telling students about books. I got so many wonderful ideas from this lady. I definitely recommend the read!
  • I have read Smitten by Coleen Coble, Diann Hunt, Kristin Billerbeck, and Denise Hunter. I am participating in my church's summer reading challenge and this book jumped out at me. It had a pretty cover, and, well, I like pretty covers. The book wasn't the best I've ever read, but it was light, and fun, and I finished it in record time. 
  • I have cleaned out my closet AND all the other closets belonging to people of this household. It was tedious, but I did it. Sigh of relief that that is over.
  • I organized my bathroom cabinets. Boring. 
  • I have washed enough clothes to sink a ship. I hate washing clothes, but do you know what's worse? FOLDING THEM. I know, I should just hang everything up, but as referenced above, we don't have the closet space for t-shirts, so those go in drawers.
  • I took a mini-vacation with the family to Chattanooga. It was awesome. I cannot wait to get back!
  • I have played, and played, and played with my kids. We have been to our local splash pad, restaurants, the zoo, church, and just about everywhere else in this town. We have read all the books on our bookshelves more than once, and I have taken more than enough pictures. More than anything else I accomplished, this was the best thing I did with my summer! Babies get big quick!
As much as I enjoyed most of the activities listed above, one thing I haven't done much of this summer is organize my classroom. Floors needed to be waxed and furniture arranged before I could move in, so I've done what I could around my house first. Tomorrow begins my complete classroom makeover phase. I'm excited, but I'm also daunted. Blank slates can be a bit intimidating.

Along with making over my classroom, I'm also working on some ideas I got from TBW and Pinterest. I am currently participating in the BlogHoppin2014 challenge, and this whole concept made me wonder why I had never thought about a photo scavenger hunt for my kids. First, I set up a classroom Instagram account (#mrsriversroom). Next, I thought about how I could encourage my students to just get their hands on books. In keeping with the scavenger hunt idea, I came up with this challenge:

The number one priority of this challenge is to have my students looking for books that might normally be outside of their typical reading zone. The second priority is to have them get their hands on books. I know I have a few people asking, "What does that even mean?" I simply want my students to touch books. I figure if they sort through enough, they'll eventually find one that might interest them. 

The rules of this challenge are simple:

  1. Follow #mrsriversroom on Instagram for monthly challenges. (2-3 per month)
  2. Take a picture of you completing the challenge, caption it, then add the hashtags #mrsriversroom and #weread1415.
  3. Completing each challenge earns bonus points and homework passes. 

SOOOOO easy! 

I hope you and your classroom will participate too! Obviously, only the teacher needs to follow my account in order to see the challenges and their deadlines. If you haven't created a classroom Instagram, go ahead and do so. Have your students use your classroom hashtag instead of mine, but keep #weread1415. How cool would it be to show your students that kids across this great nation are all reading?!? 

I will post more about this challenge in the next week or so. Would anyone want to start off with just a small challenge for the teachers? 

Hope your Sunday was wonderful, and here's to a great week!

P.S. If you want to follow my classroom Wordpress blog, click here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I have had an incredibly busy two weeks. My little family of four has made two trips to Tennessee, one to say good-by to a beloved family member, and another to enjoy a mini vacation in Chattanooga. The twins have not been to daycare, because I kinda like having them home with me, and so my house is a wreck. I also have not been able to spend time updating my classroom like I had originally planned. Oh well. Summer is for rest and for fun, and we've had plenty of the latter.

While scrolling through my Google+ today, I noticed a giveaway from Whimsy Workshop. Click on this link to enter the giveaway for a $50 graphics gift card! Just think of all the fun stuff you can create with that! Speaking of creating, I am working on a pennant banner for my classroom door. I bought the basic brights pack (see my previous posts) to make a teacher planner with, and I am using the entire collection for so many things! Thanks to this YouTube video, I have successfully created my first 3 triangles for my banner. Slowly, but surely y'all!

For some reason, the exact video I used will not upload, but below is another helpful link that discusses using colors as a background instead of graphics.

Here is what I have so far:

In case you can't read upside down or sideways, that says 5th. Ha! I have done a few things with backgrounds before, so just a few tips:

1. If you do a patterned background, use a solid or fairly solid and THICK font for your letters. Thin lettering and background patterns make my head hurt. 

2. I have absolutely no idea how to check my specific sizing for things, so when I insert a new graphic (my numbers/letters are not a font, but an image) I move the original off the page, and then size up my new letter to match the old one.

3. I did NOT create new triangles each time. I just moved my numbers off, then clicked on File and Place to find and insert my new image. 

4. I used Photoshop Elements. It is a reasonable price on Amazon.

5. In order to have both the working PDF and the one you are copying to open, you need to click on Window, then Images, then Tile. 

Photoshop is fun and handy, but it can also be a pain, so don't be discouraged if you don't get the hang of it right away. In fact, my husband was unsure of me purchasing it last year, but I have used it multiple times, and I even created our Christmas cards last year using the program, so the money we spent has not been wasted. 

What are you creating for your classroom this summer?

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Creating a Teacher Planner (Part 2)

I have already begun work on my teacher planner, and I have had to refresh my memory on how to use Adobe Photoshop. I am LOVING the basic brights bundle I mentioned in my last post. For $20, I got a whole lot of images and clip art to work with. So far, I have created my cover and my lesson plans page. I am not sure exactly what all I will be including, but I know I will have a section for lesson plans, a calendar, student contact information, student health information, grades, and notes.  I would love to make my cover into something hard and durable, I just am not sure how to go about that. I am also not sure where to take my planner to get it bound. Lots of questions, but hopefully someone that is knowledgable will read this post and reply.

So far, I think these look great! Want to know the best part? You can download the lesson plans page for FREE at my TN store! And, as a special for blog readers, the first 75 downloads of my "Student of the Week" chart are free as well! See the links below.

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. It's already the middle of June...can't believe it! I haven't spent a whole lot of time organizing my classroom, so I need to get there ASAP. When will you start getting things ready? Are you an early bird or do you work better under pressure?

Happy Friday! Have an excellent weekend!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Creating a Teacher Planner (Part 1)

I am a sucker for anything office supply related. I love calendars (big or small), planners, pens, markers, decorative paper, etc. I could not believe how many ink pens and Sharpies I had when I recently went through my classroom supplies. It's a bit alarming, actually...but I know I can't be the only one, right?!? RIGHT?!?

Okay, on to the point of this post. I recently decided I must have a good planner for the fall. I have always kept a hard copy of a grade book (I know, so old-fashioned), and a separate copy of lesson plans, and a separate calendar. Last year, I had a binder that did not get opened ONCE. It was super cute, but pretty impractical, because it was too huge to carry around. I found several items that I could buy from Pinterest, but honestly, I can't afford to spend $30-$60 on a glorified notebook. If I had that kind of money, everything Erin Condren made would be owned by moi.

What to do, what. to. do? As stated before in a previous post, my classroom theme this year is candy-related, so I am looking mainly for bright colors, and I'll throw a few pops of candy around the room. I was looking through some favorite blogs of mine, and found a super cute product that had all the colors I wanted on Live. Love. Math. Her post directed me to this TPT store:

Basic Brights Bundle

(From: I teach. What's your super power? Blog link:

I repeat, I DID NOT MAKE THIS BUNDLE! I do not have the time, energy, or know-how. I scrolled through the blog and found some other great stuff, so if you have time, be sure to look through all of her items.

I am going to begin working on my planner, as soon as I get a few other things out of the way, and as soon as I get Microsoft re-uploaded to my computer. Remember that computer crash from April? Yeah, my husband and I have not sat down to install everything again. Maybe this will get me motivated. As I work on my planner, I will upload ideas and photos. I don't know which backgrounds from this mega pack I will be using, but you can be sure there will be quite a few in my planner!

Have you ever created your own planner? How long did it take you?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blank Slate

Ah! The sights, sounds, and smells of a new classroom. I might have mentioned before that my school closed in May. While I totally hate that I will not see my middle schoolers and co-workers in the fall, I am excited that I will be back in 5th grade, and I am even more excited that I get to redecorate a classroom! I know some teachers moan and groan about having to move rooms or redecorate. I rejoice! My husband might tell you that I like spending money (which is probably true), but aside from that, I like seeing what I already have and organizing my things. More importantly, I enjoy revisiting what arrangements and layouts worked best for my students during the school year. I believe if you look at the "redo" process as an opportunity instead of a hassle, it makes things much easier.

This year I will be moving into a classroom that has plenty of storage. Not only do I have a fairly large closet in the back of the room, I also have book shelves under my big window, one large double-door cabinet, multiple smaller cabinets, and built-in shelves. I even have a small closet in the front of my room with built-in shelves that are the perfect size for paper storage! Let me tell ya, after four years of struggling to find space, I am equipped with more than enough this year!

Now, my job is just to turn this blank slate into a masterpiece. Our 4th and 5th grades have decided on a joint candy theme for our hall. My plan is to use bright colors throughout my classroom that can be re-used next year. That way big items like curtains, chair covers, etc., can stay the same, while smaller pieces can be swapped out. I will have candy-ish things on my bulletin boards and doors, but my main colors will be versatile enough to last through theme changes to come. Pinterest has so many ideas that my head and my pin boards are full. I have added a few pictures for you to see the beginning stages. I will be updating throughout on my organization and wall decor, so come back soon!

Do you change themes every year or keep a theme for multiple years? What kind of decorations do you keep in your classroom?

Happy Monday!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars (And Other Books That Got Cut!)

I might get bashed for this, and maybe I should, but I am on the fence as to whether The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was the incredible read it was made out to be. Now, I'm not saying that it wasn't a good read, but it certainly will not end up on my classroom bookshelf. Why? LANGUAGE!!! I am not naive enough to believe that my students have never heard cursing, and I am also not naive enough to believe that they don't let a few (or several) slip now and then. I honestly have no problem with a word drop here or there (Shiloh, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson), and some books (like Maniac Magee and To Kill A Mockingbird) even have racial slurs that are meant to show just how demeaning the English language can be.

No, my problem with this book was that I am meant to believe that the main characters are two very intelligent teenagers, who have such a propensity for language that I even had to look up a word or two, yet resort to cursing (and I'm not talking about h*** or d***) when they are frustrated. I'm sorry, but this doesn't make any sense to me. I also have an issue with being a teacher of vocabulary and placing books on the shelf that use the same four-letter words REPEATEDLY. What am I teaching my students if I put this book in my classroom???

I rarely take books off my shelf, but lately, I've been doing so more and more. What's made the cut? The Mortal Instruments, The Fault in Our Stars, Pretty Little Liars, Witch and Wizard and Legend.
I have read all these books. With the exception of PLL, they are all decent, and most are excellent reads..for me. I'm 29. I teach 5th grade now, so Legend was pulled only for that reason. I wasn't sure if the graphic depiction of a bullet to the head would fly with parents, or my new principal! WW and TMI were pulled because of the utter sexual fascination the main characters have with each other and the demonic/sorcery elements. I can't explain why W&W was different than HP for me, it just was, and I go with my gut! Why was PLL pulled? Complete and total filth. For real. I need some meat to my literature y'all. TFIOS was pulled only for the language. It was otherwise a good book. It made me laugh, then cry, then laugh some more, then question my sanity for ever beginning to read it in the first place.

Before I end this post, I would like to repeat that I read these books. I'm not making fly-by judgements. I honestly really like TMI, TFIOS (apart from the language!!!!) and Legend, and I am on pins and needles to get the next book in the TMI series. In all honestly, I believe that kids need to make their own choices in life, and I know literature is a great way to guide them and teach them about worlds different from their own. Kids who read more have larger vocabulary, make higher scores on standardized testing, and have greater imaginations. They also are never lonely because a book is a friend! I do not want you to read this post and assume that I am out to get books. I assure you, that is the last thing I want to do. I just want you, whether you are a parent or a teacher, to read what you're putting on your shelf. Decide if it feels right to you. If you think it's okay, but you aren't sure, make a section in your classroom library that requires teacher AND parent permission to check out a book. Let parents know what is on your shelf, and let them know what's in the book you are questioning. I've done it before, and the parents are always appreciative.

I know some will read this and say that my fascination with Harry Potter or Percy Jackson tells students that I am a believer in witchcraft or polytheism. They'll say that having a Muslim version of Cinderella promotes a belief in Allah, or that books about cooking and cleaning tell girls that they have no other options that being a homemaker. If that is your opinion, it's perfectly fine. I am allowed to have mine too, right?

Have you ever had to pull a book from your shelf? What was it? Why was it pulled?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Newbery Checklist

If you are anything like me, you like to make goals. While some people make goals for health, or budgeting, etc., I tend to stick to my hobbies. A few weeks ago my 6th grade students and I began reading Shiloh. I noticed it was a Newbery Medal winner, and I started thinking about how many Newbery Medal books I had read. While I can think of a few off the top of my head, others I am not so sure about. I found many lists online, but none that I liked, so I came up with a checklist for my students and myself. You can download it for FREE at my TN store!

Checklist Link

I'm not even sure where one would go about getting some of the older titles, but it's my goal to read as many of these books as I can within the next year. I've already knocked two off the list (Shiloh and Maniac Magee) within the last two weeks!

If you are interested in using this in your classroom, I think it's always neat to look up authors who have won the NM more than once. I also think it's interesting to discuss what exactly makes something "great" literature for students. Caddie Woodlawn supposedly has racial undertones that would not fly today. Maniac Magee looks at racism from multiple perspectives, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry focuses mainly on the injustices a black sharecropper family  faced in the early 1900's. I have not read Caddie, but both Maniac and Roll have made lasting impressions (so much so that I distinctly remember reading them in elementary school, which is at least 18 years ago for me!).

If you don't normally read YA books, I recommend you begin! With the exception of a few books, I have been more challenged to think outside the box when reading a novel meant for teens, than with many of the books for adults I have read. If you would like any further recommendations from me, I will be happy to help where I can. I recently finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and I plan on writing something up for it very soon.

Summer is almost here! Hold on!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Computer Crash

A few weeks ago my two-year-old daughter decided it would be fun to flip the light switch multiple times. My husband and I caught her initially, but she snuck back in for a second go around and totally crashed the computer. I thought we had been backing everything up. I was wrong. I lost EVERYTHING. Baby pictures, Teacher's Notebook creations, grad school assignments, etc. Heartbreaking, right? To make matters worse, my camera was stolen when we had carpet put in, so I literally have no backups of pictures of the twins' birth. Thank goodness for my mother. She has probably 20k pictures (and no, that is not an exaggeration) of the babies' every move since they were born. She also purchased an embroidery machine and I have been spending my computer-less days and nights being creative. So, in short, while I hated being away from my blog, my little hiatus was much needed. My house is cleaner, supper is cooke, toys are picked up, and things are generally getting accomplished. I did create a few things at school that I plan on putting up soon. One is a Newbery Checklist that I am pretty proud of, and another is a Color by Parts of Speech. It's too pretty to be inside, so I'm keeping this brief. Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Break!

The teachers and students at school (but mostly the teachers) are REALLY ready for this week off. Right before we left for Spring Break, my students and I finished up our Tournament of Books. I am proud to announce that the winner was the original Percy Jackson series! (Sorry for the blurry picture!)

I was surprised at how seriously the students took this tournament, especially since there was no reward other than a movie for the book that won. Next year, I would like to add prizes and have students fill out their own bracket. That's something I plan to work more on this summer. Overall, it was a great experience for me, and it encouraged my students to pick up a book that they might not have read before.

Another exciting happening this week was the arrival of our first Scholastic book box. I have been contacting the company since August of 2013, trying to get them to send me catalogs, and my first one didn't arrive until early March. That left us little time to get our book orders in and returned before break, but we made it! My kiddos ending up bringing over $100 to order books, so with those bonus points I picked out some books to put on my classroom shelves. As I have stated before, I really try to preview everything I put on my shelves, and this time was no different. I brought home The Maze Runner, Pegasus: The Flame of Olympus, and The Lunar Chronicles for a little light reading this week.

Pegasus by Kate O'Hearn was the first book I read, and while I liked it, I wasn't blown away. Too many questions and the characters weren't entirely believable. I also really like getting to know each character in the book, and by the end, I felt I only knew 2 of them. Now, to be fair, this is part of a series, so O'Hearn may be adding more in the follow-up, Pegaus: Olympus at War. I recommend this for students who like fantasy and easy-reading. Percy Jackson fans might be a bit disappointed.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner was brilliant. I keep telling myself I have to stop reading apocalyptic books because I get all creeped out, but I continue to do it anyway! Each dystopian novel I have read in the past few years(The Hunger Games, Divergent, Legend) have all been similar in that the world is a crappy place and it's ending because humans have made epic mistakes in how they treat the planet and its people. However, each book makes the story unique in multiple ways. The Maze Runner had me right from the beginning. Dashner's characters are individuals. Each have their on faded memories, talents, weaknesses, etc. Danger literally lurks around every corner and night time is scary, but beautiful. The only issue I had with the book was the lingo used by the boys. Initially, it threw me and I had a hard time concentrating, but by the end, I was ready to move right on into The Scorch Trials. I recommend this book for 7th grade and up. Fans of The Ranger's Apprentice, Divergent, Legend, etc. will probably really enjoy The Maze Runner!

I am only a few chapters into Cinder and I'm a little wishy-washy about the story right now. I'll write more after I finish!

If you are off this week as well, enjoy your break! If not, have fun at school!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Read Across America Week

I have just finished the best school week EVER. First, let me start by telling you about my theme for this year's door decorating contest. As you already know, I am not a huge fan of over-used Dr. Seuss books. While scrolling through Amazon a few weeks ago, I came across a book I had not heard of before called The Shape of Me and Other Things. The rhymes are classic Seuss, but his illustrations are a bit different in that they are all silhouettes. Essentially, the book teaches us to be happy with who we are. Using this idea, I decided to take individual pictures of my students in wild poses. Once they found out no one would see their face, they all willingly complied with my request. Next, I cut out each picture and traced it onto black card stock. I then cut out each silhouette. This didn't take super long, and it was pretty fun to look back at those silhouettes and see who I could pick out immediately.

The young man on the left is saluting and the girl on the right is telling me "Whatever!" I think these turned out great! Next, I made a little sign to go on the door asking other students and teachers to see if they could pick out their friends based on their silhouette. Finally, I decided to use the Cricut to cut out my favorite quote from the book. My mom laminated this for me so that I could keep it after my decorations came down. The final result looks pretty good, if I do say so myself!

Sadly, I came in third place yet again. (More free ice cream and water!) I must compliment the first and second place doors though, because they looked FABULOUS! We have some very talented teachers at my school!

Another bit of excitement this week has been my Tournament of Books. Initially, my students thought this was another one of my crazy ideas, but once I got it up for them to see, they LOVED it! I took inspiration from Sturdy for Common Things and Cathy Jo Nelson. The latter author stated that she used a Google Doc form to let kids vote. Since my I am part of a Technology Think Tank at my school, I decided to give this a try, and let me tell you, it is wonderful! Life is easier because it tabulates everything for me! Thank you Google!!! We have just finished our second week of voting and I don't have a picture of the Final Four, but here is our Elite Eight. 

Sadly, Harry Potter got beat this week by Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Moment of silence, please.........deep breath....and...go. Life must go on I suppose. Our Final Four going into next week will be:

Hunger Games vs. Percy Jackson and the Olympians 
Heroes of Olympus vs. Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I have read all of the above, and if I were a voter, I might have a difficult time. What has encouraged me is that kids run up to the board as soon as I am done writing in a winner. How awesome is that? If you want to encourage your students to read, make it fun! This is the best thing I have done so far, and I appreciate all the inspiration from fellow book-lovers around the world!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dr. Seuss Door

It's almost that time of year again...wait for it...Read Across America! I do love Dr. Seuss, but I often find it hard to incorporate his books into middle school lessons. Yes, yes, they are cute and fun, and many have a deeper meaning, but one can only read The Lorax or The Sneetches so many times. In fact, last year I pulled out the first book I mentioned and my students groaned...audibly. "Can't we just watch the movie instead?" Yep, exactly what I wanted to hear. So, immediately after said incident occurred, I vowed to not use another tired Dr. Seuss book as part of a yearly project EVER AGAIN.

After finally making it home that day, I pulled out my personal favorite, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! and read through it again like a five-year-old. It was fun for a minute, but then it was time to get serious. How could I use my trusty favorite as inspiration for a door decorating contest so I could get a FULL DAY OFF WORK??? That's right folks, one full day, paid leave. It was glorious, so glorious that I set my sights on a little Cat in the Hat bow-tie ensemble for my students to wear, because I was going to take all their pictures...reading a book...with their eyes shut! How awesome was my idea?!? Well, not awesome enough, because my original idea of a plain background and random pictures looked hideous.

So, I pulled out the ol' ELMO and traced that silly cat and his friend, AND then I colored them. My fingers cramped, but I couldn't give up. Next, I bought some blue copy paper (who decided that Dr. Seuss colors would officially be turquoise, red, black, and white, btw?) and hand drew a picture frame for each student's picture. Y'all. I can't even believe I did that. Really? I must have found some free time, because I think that took almost a week. Also, my fingers were stained black from the Sharpie I used to trace the edges of the frames so they would pop (curse you Pinterest!). I added some white stripes to my red door (and also traced the edges of those), then I put everything together with some cutesy Dr. Seuss font I found and.............................

There she is! What a beauty! I just knew I would win the whole thing, but sadly, as you can see by that little yellow ribbon, I came in 3rd place. Which is okay, really. I'm over it (a year later). Also, I ended up with free break for a week, which really just meant lots of mini water bottles and ice cream, but all's well that ends well, I suppose.

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Does your school have a door decorating contest?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

YA Lit: Bella at Midnight

Hello All!
We've been out of school for almost an entire week and I am about to go CRAZY.  I love love love my children, but after 3 days of staying at home, I am ready for them to be with someone else for a while. Since I don't have as much free time as say, single people or the child-less/dog-less, I haven't been able to spend my time doing things I like. (I swear if I have to put together that silly whale puzzle again I will scream.) Once I finally get my kiddos to bed and my dog settled in, I am too tired to keep my eyes open any longer than an hour...because I MUST fit in an episode of Scandal before bed.

I digress. What this post is really about is a little gem I found on my local thrift store shelf titled Bella at Midnight. I'll be honest, I am a huge fan of YA literature. Adult books are often too full of sex and language, and I choose to steer away from that as best I can. I also try to preview books before I put them on my classroom shelf. After reading the back and noting the condition of the book (mint, by the way--hooray thrift store!), I decided to whip out my dolla dolla bill and say goodbye to $0.39.

Much to my surprise, Bella did not disappoint. While it started off rather slowly, I was hooked after a few chapters. The book is divided into three sections. The first two sections follow completely different story-lines, but author Diane Stanley weaves everything together beautifully in the end. Once I finished the book, the first thing that came to mind was the story of Cinderella, but there are enough differences that you don't feel as though you've wasted your time. I was pleased that certain elements of the classic tale remained, but I was also glad that the author added her own twists. No character in this book is married to the original character and several new characters are introduced. Stanley did an excellent job of providing enough background so that, even when you really don't like someone in the book, you do understand the reason for their poor attitude.

Another element of the book that surprised me was the reference to the Christian faith. The story is set in medieval times, so the religious nature of the characters makes sense. It's not so overwhelming that a non-believer would dislike the book, but it is there, and it is out in the open. God, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all mentioned within the pages.

As soon as I finished the book, I knew which students would enjoy reading it. Bella at Midnight isn't a must-read for everyone; however, your lovers of fairy tales and Prince Charmings will certainly enjoy this rendition of Cinderella.

Purchase at Amazon