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!