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The Top 10 Novels in my Library

16 Jun

The classroom library inventory is complete. Books are still missing, but they continue to trickle in. With no more checking out going on, I’ve taken some time to look over what was checked out. Graphic novels led the way, and my next post will be about the top 10 graphic novels. Today I will announce the top 10 novels in ascending order.

 

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#10 Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin

 

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#9 Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

 

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#8  Half Brother  by Kenneth Oppel

 

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#7  The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

 

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#6 Wonder by R. J. Palacio

 

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#5 Restart by Gordon Korman

 

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#4 I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

 

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#3 The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

 

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#2  Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills

 

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#1 Cinder by Marissa Meyer

 

 

 

 

 

A conversation overheard, then understood

6 Jun

The buzz of conversation filled my classroom as the 5-minute break began. Sixth graders clustered in groups and their energy was palpable. Well, there are only three weeks of school left, I thought as I bustled about the room getting things ready for the second half of our 2-hour block.

I scanned the room, looking for trouble (there was non) and paid vague attention to their conversations, until I heard one that piqued my interest.

“Oh gosh!” exclaimed a popular girl. “I have learned SO much this year.More than I learned in all my years of elementary school.”

WOW!  I thought. These kids really recognize and appreciate how hard their teachers work. I felt really proud of myself and my team. We had taken this group of highly gifted young people and given them the educational challenge they needed. Yeah us!

And then I overheard the rest of the conversation.

“I am the most corrupt person in my family,” she went on, bragging, and I realized that she was not talking about the formal education we’d been providing for the last 8 months. She was talking about the informal learning she’d picked up from her peers about life and how it all works. My heart dropped.

And then I laughed at myself.

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A tough weekend – #SOL17

30 May

I live in Portland, Oregon.

It was a tough weekend.

Bad news Friday night about racist comments and death on the Max.

Sunday, I woke up to the neighborhood next to me cordoned off because of police activity. Residents were to shelter in place and had to be escorted to and from their homes most of the day.

Monday dawned grey and gloomy, but, by late afternoon, the clouds had burned off and the sun was shining giving us perfect Memorial Day weather.

It is as though we hit bottom and were on the way up again.

Over the last few weeks, my team and I have had a series of meeting with a couple of families. One kid in particular had me very worried. He hit bottom about two weeks ago. Fortunately, school and family noticed and we have put some things in place to help him and he has seemed happier.

We’ve been having some troubles at school too, and each grade has had a presentation about empathy. As a follow-up, instead of doing what I’m supposed to do in my Enrichment class, I am teaching lessons from  The Educator Collaborative’s Global Kind Project.

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I will be honest and say that Enrichment is not my favorite part of my week. I teach it every other day and it is a mix of 6th graders from all halls and teams. And yet, doing the activities and reflective practices the project talks about has made it so that I am enjoying this class far more than I have over the last two years. I am now planning how I will use these activities to start Enrichment next year.

 

Both the student and my city have some work to do, but I think we are up to the challenge.

 

 

The Case of the Anonymous Commenter

25 Apr

They don’t teach handwriting analysis or crime scene investigation in teachers college. Those are skills good teachers just pick up along the way.

I had to call on these superpowers last week in The Case of the Anonymous Commenter.

You see, we have a classroom tradition. At the end of a writing unit everyone displays their finished product and students wander the classroom, take a seat and read a person;s paper. When they have finished reading they make a positive comment that acknowledges a move the writer has made. After reading and commenting on one piece, they get to take two cookies.

We like to splurge when we celebrate writing.

The kids know the rules: Sign your actual name. Comment on the moves. No ‘suggestions’ or criticism.

Well, last Tuesday, we celebrated the end of our sci-fi mini unit. The room had a minty scent because I bought mint Oreos. What I really wanted to buy was alien head cookies at a bakery, but, with 600 6th graders in two classes, that was not in the budget. Minty Oreos, green like alien heads, were. In any case, students were milling around absorbed in the creativity of their peers, munching their Oreos. It was good. All too soon, it was time to wrap things up.

“When you finish the story you are reading,” I announced in my best Lt. Uhura voice, “please return to your seat and take a few minutes to look over the comments you have received. When you have finished reading the comment, staple them to you paper, turn it into the basket, and take your break. ”

I looked around the room monitoring student behavior. A quiet girl came up to me, her paper in hand.

“Someone didn’t sign their name,” she said, concern in her voice.” They just put anonymous.”

I looked at the paper. Indeed, someone had signed something other than their name, for written on the line for a name, was  “anonomous”. Interestingly, the comment was actually quite complimentary. It turned out she was not the only recipient of  an anonymous comment.

Break buzzed with the mystery of who the anonymous commenter might be. I overheard a conversation and knew which papers to start with to solve the mystery.

When the students returned from break, they got started on their Social Studies project while I got to work sleuthing. I took the stack of papers from the basket and found the ones with Anonomous’ comments. All in the same handwriting. Then, I looked through the others, paying special attention to the one belonging to the name I’d overheard at break. Sure enough, there was a match. In fact, he used some of the same words in his comments, anonymous and signed. I had him. The funny thing was, all of his comments were kind and supportive. I didn’t really understand why he hadn’t signed his name.

While the class worked, I sauntered over to his table feeling like Miss Marple must, just before cracking a case. I crouched beside the boy and simply asked, “Are you Anonymous?”

He reddened and spluttered, “Yes, but…. I….” and didn’t really know how to excuse his crime. I complimented him on his comments, reminded him that he should always sign his own name, then I slipped him a sticky note.

“By the way, ” I said, a smile on my face. “This is the correct way to spell anonymous.

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The Paper Mountain

15 Mar

I buried myself. It was unintentional, but it was all my fault. One assignment was a longterm project to be done at home. The other was the final project for our information unit, the teen activism book my 6th graders produced, much delayed after 10 snow days this year. And I collected their writer’s notebooks. I was swamped with paper,stressed and worried about getting the work back in a timely manner. Two classes of 30 x all this work due at the same time. Are you feeling my pain?

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Today, though, I finished grading the information books and I feel like I have summited  a mountain. Or maybe crawled out from under one. Maybe, really, I can just see the summit from where I am. Bu this feels like significant progress.

The science teacher on my team has kids turn in everything electronically, but I don’t really find that a good process for me. I was feeling a little behind then times, until a colleague shared this article about the value of hard copies. Vindication.

I still have a bunch of papers to grade, but I am feeling less burdened. If I may mix my metaphors a bit, I might say there is a light at the end of the tunnel I just crawled out of.

Tools of the trade

11 Mar

When I was in teachers college, they told me I would build a toolbox over time. They talked about management and engagement strategies I could add. They talked about books and songs and stories. They never said I needed to add real tools.

For years, I kept an allen wrench in my desk for those occasions when a student’s desk suddenly collapsed on one side, a leg giving out. I had jewelers tools to replace the screws that fell out of glasses and reattached arms.  My 4th graders thought I was a rockstar.

In my new school, my repair work is more mundane. I replaced the latch I’d torn off  the only locking cabinet the day I forgot my keys.

Yesterday, I tackled an annoying problem that has been growing: failing laminate.

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I looked in my teacher toolkit and found just the right tools

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The repair was made in about five minutes. It will sit over the weekend and, when I return to school on Monday, I will remove the tape.

Mission accomplished.

One of the good ones

26 Sep

Today, we begin the 4th week of school. That means my students and I have been together 19 school days. It seems like more. I mean that in a good way, that it seems as though we’ve known each other more than 19 days. The first day of school feels a long time ago. And yet, the last day is so far in the future it is unimaginable.

In John David Anderson’s Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, a trio of sixth grade boys skip school to spend one last day with their teacher who has been hospitalized with cancer.

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Publisher’s Summary: Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard, the ones who stopped trying long ago. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like school is somehow worthwhile. Who recognizes something in you that sometimes you don’t even see in yourself. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind.

Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a risky plan—more of a quest, really—to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand what Ms. Bixby means to each of them—and what the three of them mean to each other.

Ms Bixby is, what the boys call, “one of the good ones”. She makes a difference in a way I think we all wanted to when we decided to join the profession. She inspires and brings things out in these boys that feel real. I am not ashamed to admit that I simultaneously laughed and cried as Steve, begins to sing

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.

I’m thinking that this one might be a read aloud. It will certainly be the subject of a book talk soon.

 

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