Tag Archives: middle school

It’s as easy as Pi

8 Oct

I am always hypercritical of books set in school. My biggest pet peeve is referring to a Principal as Principal So-and-so. No one does that in real life. Authors take note: you always call the principal Mr/Mrs./Ms. So-and-so.

I also critique what teachers do in class and think,  A real teacher would never do that.  I often have to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the story.

There is only really one small moment  where I had to suspend my disbelief in The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, and it was a small moment with an English teacher. It doesn’t take away from all the good things about the book, which does a great job telling the story of a Math genius in middle school.

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Publisher’s Summary: Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

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Awkward!

15 Jan

Unlike awesome, awkward is not a cognate of awe (a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder). No, awkward, comes from Middle English awk (backward, perverse, clumsy).  And that is just how the protagonist of Svetlana Chmakova’s graphic novel, Awkward, feels as she begins middle school.

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Publisher’s Summary:

Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don’t get noticed by the mean kids.
Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.
On her first day at her new school, Penelope–Peppi–Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she’s already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the “nerder girlfriend.” How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!
Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can’t help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he’s a member of her own club’s archrivals–the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!
There’s lot to love here: genuine characters, characters of color, multiethnic families, disabled characters, a rip-roaring debate on the merits of Art vs, Science and a boy-girl relationship that isn’t romantic. Perfect for fans of Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl and Raina Telgemeier’s Smile.
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Watching 6th graders grow strong: A Slice of Life Story

15 Sep

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They came in last Tuesday bright-eyed and excited, full of nervous enthusiasm. They learned about their schedule and met all their teachers. We disappointed them by waiting until the next day to give them their lockers, the mark of maturity they’d dreamed about for week.

Then reality hit.

There was a lot of “stuff” to fit into their locker.

Five minutes of passing time suddenly seemed really short.

The A/B day schedule was confusing.

They forgot to bring things they needed and carried things they didn’t.

But slowly, oh so slowly…

Things began to fit in the locker.

They made it to class on time.

They made it to the right place at the right time.

They made new friends.

We are still working out some kinks, but our sixth graders are growing, stepping up to challenges, and taking root.

 

Moving beyond boxes: 6th grade read alouds

3 Sep

The boxes are all unpacked and I have begun really thinking about what will happen in my room this year. I have the luxury of teaching two 2-hour blocks of Humanities. We are committing to Writers’ Workshop for the first half of the block so I know that won’t feel luxurious all the time, but I want to get into the habit of reading aloud to my gifted 6th graders no matter what. I ave a couple of ideas about what I might read to them. And, I might decide to read something different to each class, to keep me sharp. Here are some books I am considering:

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Surviving a plane crash…surviving middle school… there must be some connection!

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Crash by Jerry Spinelli

Middle school…bullying …friends

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Unbroken  by Laura Hillebrand (the YA version)

resillience… a key to succeeding in middle school

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A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

prejudice and friendship, loss and love and female main characters

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The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

This might be old enough that they haven’t read it

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Small as an Elephant  by Jennifer Jacobson

RESILIENCE!!!

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Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

A beautiful story told in beautiful language

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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

27 Aug

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I’ve been thinking over what to say about Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Overall, I liked it.

Publisher’s summary: Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games–or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl–as a friend?
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

Each memorable character navigates the challenges of love and change in this captivating novel.

The story has stuck with me since finishing it, which says something. I enjoyed the three intertwined stories. I even like d the second person narrative of the unnamed girl on Valentine’s Day, which seems to be the sticking point in the unfavorable reviews I read.

For me, the issue is Bridge’s voice, and I will admit that I listened to the audio version in the car, so maybe this exacerbated a minor issue. Bridge only speaks in short sentences. She questions, repeats what people said, and frequently has sentences of one or two words. It sort of annoyed me.  Did the author do this on purpose because Bridge had a brain injury from the accident?  Would I even have noticed this is I had read the book rather than listened to the audiobook?

In spite of my “issue” with t he book, I do recommend it. This is the sort of book perfect for kids who are still to young for YA, but too old for a lot of the chapter books that are out there.

 

Peril and Perseverance

22 Jul

As most of you know, I will be moving to a new school in the Fall, teaching 6th grade in a program for the highly gifted. This is quite a shift from teaching 4th grade at a Title I school, but I am excited about the challenge and adventure this new job presents.

In two weeks, I will go to the first of 3 workshops I need to attend before school begins. Although this will be my first official foray back into middle school  I have been thinking about it. As with any grade change, it is important to know what to expect in terms of curriculum, but also in terms of what kids should be able to do.

A friend of mine has a daughter who was in 6th grade last year at Jackson Middle School.. She told me throughout the year about the longterm Biomes project her daughter was doing in class. It was complex and multifaceted, culminating in fiction and non-fiction writing. Her teacher was so impressed with the student’s results, he got in touch with a local publisher and had his students’ work published. Alive and Well. Mostly. is a collection of the fiction that these 6th graders wrote.

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From the Publisher: Alive and Well. Mostly. Animal Tales of Peril and Perseverance for Young Readers by Young Writers, illustrated by Colin Adams and edited by David A. Wierth is a collection of imaginative short stories about animals in their native biomes. Migrate through the ocean with an adventurous narwhal, defeat a badger army with the king of the owls, befriend a firefly with a vengeful howler monkey, or navigate complex social dynamics with an arctic wolf. Each story is sure to draw you in: friendship, family, predators, betrayal–this book has it all.

As I read the first story, I laughed, because I could picture the writer. And this feeling continued throughout the book. These are excellent stories, written by 11 and 12 year olds. Their stories reflect their age, but they also reflect a lot of research and editing. The result is an excellent volume that I will add to my classroom library once I get around to setting it up.

You can find out a little more about it on the publisher’s website. If you have a young person who loves to write, they might enjoy reading this delightful collection, and it might inspire them to write their own stories.

Questions & Answers

15 Jul

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As soon as I read the jacket blurb, I knew I had to read All the Answers  by Kate Messner.

Jacket blurb:When Ava Anderson finds an old blue pencil , it doesn’t seem like anything special. But then she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, and something very strange happens.  She hears a voice loud and clear – one that nobody else can hear – and it tells her the answer!

With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava sees that having a magic pencil in middles school can be very handy.   But as Ava’s reliance on the pencil grows, the truths it reveals about herself and her family lead Ava on an adventure she never expected to take.

In a story as heartfelt as it is magical, Kate Messner gives readers a glimpse at the biggest fantasy: a magic pencil that helps you through the ups and downs of middle school.

I really liked All the Answers  because it wasn’t quite the book I thought it was going to be. I expected Ava to use the pencil for schoolwork, which she does. But she quickly discovers it knows about things beyond school and asks it questions about family members. Ava is a worrier and the pencil is a comfort to her, until it gives her an answer that causes her to worry more, But it also helps her mature and learn to deal with things beyond her control.

Although Ava is in middle school, the book leans towards a younger demographic. Fourth & fifth graders will love this glimpse into the world of middle school and sixth graders may find some comfort in knowing that they are not alone in worrying. Heck, even this ld teacher, who is returning to middle school in September, found some comfort and wishes she could have a magic pencil to help her navigate a new world.

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