Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Bad Books by Pseudonymous Bosch

Bad Luck
Secret Series Book #2
Book Two in the Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch takes place on a volacnic island. Clay and his friends must solve the mystery of the cave drawings that are attrating the attention of people outside the island. Clay's magical abilities are what will work to save them. The author of this series does it again by providing a series that readers can get excited about. The truth is, I cannot wait for the third book in the series!

At Earth Ranch, things can get a little magical (some might say strange). Intrepid readers will discover a runaway boy, fishy cruise ship, strange cave paintings, dragon-like footprints, and other mysteries that Clay and his friends need to solve. Danger, adventure, mischief, mystery, llamas, and a delightfully irreverent and hilarious narrator make bestselling author Pseudonymous Bosch's anticipated new novel irresistible.

This book, Bad Luck, was the second in the series. A link for the first book can be found below. 
To read a portion of Bad Magic Book One, click here
To read a portion of Bad Luck Book Two, Click here

While I had an audiobook of Bad Luck, I think the book would have been devoured quickly be both me and my children.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Reading Reconsidered

Reading Reconsidered
There is no doubt that the face of reading instruction has changed in the dawn of Common Core state standards, and for many teachers, they were left wondering "what does 'rigorous' reading look like?'" As teachers, we hear terms like lexile, close reading, and increasingly complex text  but are rarely given the training or tools to fully grasp their meaning, and if an explanation is given its message varies among school districts. 
In Reading Reconsidered, the authors want teachers to inspire students to "read like champions". In this book, the teacher is given a guide to practical literacy instruction including close reading, and how to engage students in increasingly complex text. The one proven tool to assist students become more proficient readers is to have them read. Doug Lemov implores teachers to do the same in this book, which made me feel relieved to hear this message. There is no replacement for carving out time in the school day to allow students the freedom to choose a book, and time to read it. With so many other choices at students' disposal, it is critical that teachers say "what can I do to instill a love of learning in my students?" 
This text is a book you would buy for a budding students teacher, or anyone looking to broaden their understanding of reading instruction and its shifts. The practical digital clips allow the teacher the opportunity to "see it live" which is the best sort of professional development. Seeing students utilize the strategies and tools that you read about in the book makes it simpler to say "I can do that!" This book is more expensive than other books that teachers could read for professional development, but growth and improvement is more important than anything. Please read the following synopsis to see if this particular text would be the best suited to your classroom needs.
The world we are preparing our students to succeed in is one bound together by words and phrases. Our students learn their literature, history, math, science, or art via a firm foundation of strong reading skills. When we teach students to read with precision, rigor, and insight, we are truly handing over the key to the kingdom. Of all the subjects we teach reading is first among equals.
Grounded in advice from effective classrooms nationwide, enhanced with more than 40 video clips, "Reading Reconsidered" takes you into the trenches with actionable guidance from real-life educators and instructional champions. The authors address the anxiety-inducing world of Common Core State Standards, distilling from those standards four key ideas that help hone teaching practices both generally and in preparation for assessments. This 'Core of the Core' comprises the first half of the book and instructs educators on how to teach students to: read harder texts, 'closely read' texts rigorously and intentionally, read nonfiction more effectively, and write more effectively in direct response to texts.
The second half of "Reading Reconsidered" reinforces these principles, coupling them with the 'fundamentals' of reading instruction--a host of techniques and subject specific tools to reconsider how teachers approach such essential topics as vocabulary, interactive reading, and student autonomy. "Reading Reconsidered" breaks an overly broad issue into clear, easy-to-implement approaches. Filled with practical tools, including: 44 video clips of exemplar teachers demonstrating the techniques and principles in their classrooms Recommended book lists Downloadable tips and templates on key topics like reading nonfiction, vocabulary instruction, and literary terms and definitions.
"Reading Reconsidered" provides the framework necessary for teachers to ensure that students forge futures as lifelong readers. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

I find it utterly fascinating that there are people in the world who change their identities and lives every so often. To feel the freedom to let yourself become another person time and time again is an unknown dimension. In Lisa Lutz's The Passenger, the main character does just that. Burner phones and cash-only transactions become the M.O. for Tanya who eventually becomes other women throughout the story. She becomes another person to evade the possibility of being discovered for the person she left behind long ago. As the story unfolds, you read letters written from the past, that translate into the current situation and the reader begins to understand why Tanya ran in the first place. Tanya's situation becomes clear, and just as you think you know what will happen, the story takes a turn. You find out just who Tanya really is, and what she is running from but the twist at the end is what is truly wild! This book definitely keeps you at the edge of your seat, and the pages turning like mad. 
Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.
She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.
It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret . . . can she outrun her past?
With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Three Mind Shifts to Start Off Your Teaching Week

Life is full of opposites. There are opposites of positive and negative, sunlight and darkness, up and down like a teeter-totter ride. However, each one of these entities requires energy. I can either use my energy toward positive, or easily let the negativity power my life. This week, let's focus on three things we can do to have a better week.

Mind Shift #1: Change the Message You Send Yourself
Most people breathe life into their negative energy, and then are surprised when their lives are overrun by terrible and often just inconvenient events. Every day we are greeted by people during the school day. When someone asks you how you are doing, do you usually say "I am so tired", or "I am so done with Student B"? Bear with me here...this is the invitation. You have addressed an envelope, care of yourself, and invited this very scenario into your life. If you say you're tired, then you ARE tired. If you say you're sick of someone's behavior, their behavior is magnified. You are focusing your energy on the very thing you are trying to avoid. If you're tired of being sick and tired, then change the message! Next time you find yourself saying "I feel anxious", or "I don't want to go to work", you have to change the message. Just a simple shift like that will change a lot of things for you.

Mind Shift #2: Choose to See the Reality
The sun shines all day providing energy to millions of people on the earth, but at night there is still light. Even at the darkest moments, there happens to be light. Choose to see it. Maybe it is shifting your focus away from the one or two things that just eat away at you and finding three things that make you happy. The denominator of joy and kindness will always be greater than the numerator of sadness and sorrow (Daniel Goleman). At the end of each day, write down in your plan book, or calendar, or wherever you have a place 3 things that gave you joy that day. They can be very simple things, but maybe they are big things too! Don't acknowledge in writing the daily sufferings of teaching, but know that they exist. The reality is that the denominator of joy is always greater!

Mind Shift #3: Energy is Contagious-Be Careful What You Spread
I solemnly swear that I am not up on my high horse on this one. I say this with a humble heart, because I have participated in and sat idly by during rant sessions. Every teacher knows the rant session because we secretly loathe them, but we cannot seem to extricate ourselves from the vice grip of its jaws. Maybe you are the ring leader of the rant sessions, and you derive great joy from having others say "yeah, you're right!" or "I know, he/she is horrible!". Truth: your energy is contagious. Be careful what you spread because that is your legacy. It is how people around you, be it students or colleagues, will remember you. It is up to you to set the tone. In your classroom, in the office, and in the lunch room. It is up to you! Please, I beg you, be on the positive uptick of the tone that is set at your school site. We have enough stress as teachers without having to sit during our lunch, or walk into the office hearing about everything that's wrong in our school. This is the teeter-totter effect. When something shifts into negative, teeter-totter a positive. If you say something negative, balance it with a positive to counter-act some of that feeling of hopelessness or frustration, or whatever emotion you are feeling. We can operate our lives with a grateful heart.

Repeat after me:

  • I will change the messages I send to myself and the world. I am shifting my perspective and I will be patient and empathetic with myself when it doesn't go smoothly. I am using my energy in a way that benefits me and my students, not the other way around. 
  • I am going to find three things at the end of each day that brought me joy. I will write them down every day so that I can remember them, and read them back to myself when I have a bad day.
  • I am going to counter-act every negative with a positive, and balance the teeter-totter at my school site. I will consciously be careful of what kind of energy I am spreading because it's contagious like a virus. 
Check in with me via Facebook or Twitter/Instagram @lilmommareader. 

Have a great week! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tender by Belinda McKeon

If you are a fan of audiobooks read in an accent, and a great coming-of-age story, then Tender is the book for you. The narrator's Irish accent often lulled me, and I lost the place I was at in the audio. Perhaps because it was not my normal listening, I was not as engaged as some of my other audios, but the story is a good one. This book may have hit the mark more for me had it been in the physical form, but I'm not too sure. Books have to be hit in the right time in your life.Tender has been receiving lots of attention, and many have added this book on their "to-read" lists for Spring/Summer 2016. So read the synopsis and think about this audio for your summer list.

When they meet in Dublin in the late '90s, Catherine and James become close friends. She is a sheltered college student, he an adventurous, charismatic young artist. In a city brimming with possibilities, he spurs her to take life on with gusto. But as Catherine opens herself to new experiences, James' life becomes a prison, walled off by a truth he feels unable to share. When crisis hits, Catherine finds herself at the mercy of uncontrollable feelings, leading her to jeopardize everything.
By turns exhilarating and devastating, Tender is an exploration of human relationships, of the lies we tell ourselves and others. A high-wire act with psychological insights, this daring novel confirms McKeon as a major voice in Irish fiction, alongside the masterful Edna O'Brien and Anne Enright.
©2016 Belinda McKeon (P)2016 Hachette Audio

Happy Listening!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

As it is with many of the stories that I read involving a teacher who has made a difference in the lives of their students, Free Verse will leave an impressionable mark on readers both young and old. Finding your own voice, and your own strength is ultimately the message in this book written for children ages 10 and up. After Sasha finds herself in foster care after her brother dies in a fire, Sasha ends up in the care of an older woman who just happens to be the neighbor of her cousin. Since Sasha has known her fair share of sorrow having grown up with a father who died when she was five, and a mother who ran out on both her and her brother, this girl has had to learn to be a fighter. This is why her and her cousin Mikey seem to get along so well. They know sadness. Growing up in a small little town called Caboose in West Virginia is not for the faint of heart. Coal mining is a tough business, and people die. Families are torn apart, and children lose parents. The socioeconomic of this place are such that success is not easy to come by. It is a small coal mining town, and it seems that everyone is related on this little block that Sasha calls home. Writing poetry is just about the only thing that sets Sasha free. This book is heartwarming, and a quick read for middle grade students. Those budding writers in your class are sure to love Free Verse. 

When her brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left, and nowhere to turn. After her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, he was her last caretaker. They’d always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she’s in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever.
But then Sasha discovers family she didn’t know she had, and she finally has something to hold onto, especially sweet little Mikey, who’s just as broken as she is. Sasha even makes her first friend at school, and is slowly learning to cope with her brother’s death through writing poetry, finding a new way to express herself when spoken words just won’t do. But when tragedy strikes the mine her cousin works in, Sasha fears the worst and takes Mikey and runs, with no plans to return. In this sensitive and poignant portrayal, Sarah Dooley shows us that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend. 


Sarah Dooley has lived in an assortment of small West Virginia towns, each of which she grew to love. Winner of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, she has written two previous novels for middle-grade readers. Sarah is a former special education teacher who now provides treatment to children with autism. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia, where she inadvertently collects cats. She’s a 2006 graduate of Marshall University.
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany

When sisters Natalie and Brooke are given up by their mother at a very young age, they go on to live out two very different lives. Natalie's adoptive parents care for her, and raise her to be poignant, outspoken young woman who goes on to get married, and raise a family in suburbia. Her sister Brooke goes on to live a very different life, one that is much more troubled, and where a group home becomes her residence. When Natalie and Brooke's lives finally collide, it is not without emotion as the trauma of the past quickly comes to the forefront. Can Brooke truly get past the fact that she was abandoned and left behind? Can she forgive her mother for her past mistakes? Can Natalie accept that she was the luckier of the two, and find a way to bridge her past in order to forge a bond between herself and her sister? All of these questions and more will be answered in this brilliant new read from talented author Amy Hatvany. 

This book is part of BookSparks' "My Winter Is Booked" Reading Challenge
To find order a copy of Amy's book, please visit this link

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Teacher Tip Thursday: Analytical Reading Frames for All

Using Analytical Reading Frames in the classroom is a wonderful way to incorporate strategic/close reading strategies as well as complex analytical thinking into one action-packed lesson! I have recently used the frame with a 5th grade classroom using Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens as my mentor text. There can be a great deal of richness found within the pages of a picture book, so don't be afraid to shy away from them when asking students to delve deeper into thinking about a text's meaning at a deeper level.

Read the text Tops and Bottoms

Pass out a copy to each table group of the four questions to below to answer. The question that is closest to the student is the one they answer. You can have the students write in their question, or you can pre-print this sheet to use. I had the students answer the question on a post-it note. Only one questioned is answered by each student in the table group of 4. They then group up according to which question they answered, and share with their group what they came up with. The goal of the group sharing activity is for students to share what they came up with, and assist their group in filling out that particular section of the Analytical Reading Frame.

The questions that belong in each square of the cards are listed below, as are the corresponding CCSS and the GATE icon that you could use for differentiation.

Key Ideas and Details 3.1, 4.1, 5.1
Do the illustrations tell us how Bear feels about work? Use page numbers and explain what it shows. (Proof)
Key Ideas and Details 3.3, 4.3, 5.3
How did Hare's actions contribute to the sequence of events? (Motive)
Integrating Knowledge and Ideas 3.7, 4.7, 5.7
How do the illustrations contribute to the story? What impact does  it have on the reader with regard to the theme or lesson in the story? (Impact)
Key Ideas and Details 3.2, 4.2, 5.2 
What is the message or moral of this story? (Judgment) Summarize the story using a Somebody, Wanted, But, So statement.

Once these questions are answered, and students return to their home group (original table group) they then share their findings and help their group answer that section of the Analytical Reading Frame. Collaboration is a cornerstone of this activity! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! 

You can find a link to the Analytical Reading Frame here Google Doc for Analytical Reading Frame