Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Resolve to Read

 As an educator, I recognize the importance of reading, not just for myself but for our children.  After all, studies have shown that reading builds both vocabulary and cognitive thinking skills. Also, children who are poor readers when they enter 3rd grade, are more likely to drop out of high school. (read more about that here)

Years ago, I made a resolution, not to make resolutions.  In 2014, I've decided to change that.  It's amazing how easy it is to sit down and share a book with a child, but how often we just can't find the extra few minutes to do it.

This year I ask everyone to take a few minutes to read to a child.

 For those of you who need other avenues to help promote literacy, check out Barbara Bush's Foundation for Family Literacy website.  You can also follow the Foundation's Twitter feed here.

Happy New Year!

The worst of all injustices is to fail to teach kids how to read.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Elf on the Shelf - Lesson Plan Ideas

 So I recently mentioned on Facebook that I wanted to buy my dog Carly an Elf on the Shelf.  I mean, these things didn't exist when I had kids, so now am I too late for the fun?

 Then, I found myself doing what I always do, planning class lessons that surround the Elf idea.  There are so many teachable moments.  For example, teaching voice with the elf would be a blast.  Expository writing from the Elf's point-of-view.  Would the elf be able to write a persuasive paper arguing the best holiday song of all time?   Or even, and this is what I REALLY would love, an online journal, kind of a newspaper-thing, with the elf's exploits as it moves around during the holiday.  The elf becomes a roving reporter using his/her voice to help explain happenings around a school or community.  The elf could interview other elves.  The elvish commentary would be a blast.

Wow possibilities are endless.

Teacher Friends - How many of you use an "Elf" in lesson plans?  The more I think of it, the more I'd love to write a few plans and see them in action.

And for those of you who think that using the elf is only for elementary school, try a research paper on popular cultural happenings that help young children grow their imagination.  What about the evolution of the Christmas Elf.  How Santa get his elves?

What about my math teacher friends - I mean can we develop a holiday shopping list for the elf to purchase gifts.  Have students do a virtual shopping trip.  This would help students learn addition, subtraction and budgeting.  Could the elf bowl with gum drops and peppermint sticks as a way to teach angles?

If students have tablets or Flip cameras, they could teach the Elf math.  (What a great flipped lesson!)

Social Studies - I personally love the history of Santa and his Elves, learning about the customs of other cultures, or how they celebrate is always quite an interesting study.  If I taught Psychology, we would have to look into why children need fantasy.  Have students make lessons that incorporate  Museum Box using the history of Santa and his elves, or even sightings of the elves.  You can track Santa over Norad and look at the route he takes around the world.

I can't help but wonder how Santa and the elves dress depending on the culture.  What a great compare contrast project.

Science - How many jumping jacks does an elf have to do to work off a SMORE?  Build a launch pad for Santa's Sleigh!  Calculate the calories that the average elf eats everyday.

ELA - the writing possibilities astound me.  I'd have an online elf blog for sure.  I'd use the elf to teach voice, mood and tone.  Of course, we could have the elves write about their adventures and tell stories.  Older students could write stories for younger students, and for those kids who don't celebrate Christmas, than they could pick another character and write from their perspective. For example,  if you prefer not to use an elf, many of these ideas would work with Flat Stanley.

If you use the Elf in your lessons, (or something like it) please share it in the comments or on Facebook.  I'm curious how many teachers are grabbing the teachable-moment of The Elf on the Shelf and running with it!

For now, I am off to purchase Carly an Elf.  Purely for professional reasons of course!

Nerdy Book Club:  Check out the Nerdy Book Clubs book finalist list.

I'd be remiss to say Happy Sunday to my fellow Sunday Saloners!  I also want to celebrate the end of hurricane season!  I've got to admit, living on the Gulf Coast makes this time of year a little nerve racking! It is always great to see the end of the hurricane season.

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Books and More Books

Reading Rut Alert!   Have you ever done this to yourself?  I'm an avid reader, and I love reading for pleasure, but at times I realize I've been doing too much work reading and not enough fun reading.  Alas, this is my reading rut!

This week I realized I'd fallen into my reading rut when I check my Goodreads page to find my last 4 reads were all work related.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love my work related reading materials, but it's not the same as getting caught in the world of fiction.

At midnight last night, Neal Shusterman's  book UnSouled came out. I have been super-excited to get this book.  So today I hope to get home from work, grab my Kindle and get to reading just for the fun of it!

Have any of you ever gotten into a reading rut?  If so, how to you get yourself out of it?

Friday, June 28, 2013

What should I read this summer?

Has this ever happened to you?  You read and read, and suddenly you become a picky reader.

I feel like I'm there.  I mean, I want something to read, just can't find anything that sounds appetizing.  

 My must-read for this summer was Dan Brown's Inferno.  I've read it twice now.  I admit it was great the first time, good the second.  I also had some professional reading that I had to take care.  Thankfully, that is now out of the way.  So, what's next?

I'm looking for suggestions, so if you've read something, or know of something coming out soon, please let me know.

Recent Reads:

Ask The Passengers by A.S. King

One of the reasons I knew I'd love this book is because I can relate to wondering about passengers in planes.  There were times when I would lay on my back and watch the planes overhead wondering where they were going.  I'd think about the passengers and make up little stories about where they were going.  

Astrid takes this a step further when she starts asking the passengers questions. Sending them her love and good will, many times the passengers seem to benefit from this unknown gesture.  For Astrid, the need to send her love is strong as she is hiding a secret.  She is gay.

Unable to seek the advice of a Type-A mother or a pot-smoking father, Astrid turns to her own methods to give her love to strangers who can accept it but not control it. 

This is a great book.  While this book is centered around a gay character, the book is more about accepting who you are and realizing how to help others love you unconditionally.  Astrid is a well rounded character with a depth of emotions and thoughts, I really felt like she was a person and not a black and write description on my E-reader.  I related with how Astrid wanted to share her good thoughts and love with strangers because of the fear of the unknown.  This is what makes this book outstanding.

Writing Projects:

Hopefully I can let you guys know soon about my most recent writing project.  Barbi (one of my besties and my cowriter) and I are focusing on getting representation right now.

Have an amazing 4th of July!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bout of Books Read-A-Thon

As the school year winds down, I've come to realize that since January I've read almost entirely work related non-fiction. Not that there isn't validity in reading non-fiction, but sometimes one just needs a little escapism.  When my friends Amanda and Kelly decided to start their Bout of Books read-a-thon, I knew this was just for me!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.

For me, I'm focusing on reading what I love.  I have several new YA novels sitting in my iPad just waiting for a reader.  This week, I'm tossing aside work related reading to focus on reading one YA book and one anticipated novel.  One YA book I've been holding captive in my iPad is  City of Ashes,  the second of the Mortal Instruments books, was written by Casandra Clare.  I've had this book in my "to read" list for years, this week it's getting read!   (she has great educational resources on her site for all of my teacher friends)

My second novel to start this week is Inferno.   I've pre-ordered and it will download into the Kindle App on my iPad at midnight on the 14th.   I love this series and can't wait to read the new installment. I won't finish this new novel by the end of the read-a-thon, but I'm looking forward to committing the time to dive in a start reading!

 Secretly, I would love to be Robert Langdon living out all of these super-cool adventures. 

So those are my reading pleasures for this week.  Do you have any specific books you are going to tackle this week? 


Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Not So Great Gatsby

I have to admit a prejudice. I normally don't like it when a favored book is made into a movie.  I feel the imagination is much more vivid then what can be seen on screen.  I'm admitting this because before you read my review of Buz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby, you should know where I come from. 

 (Spoiler alert - Don't read on if you don't want to know)

You have been warned.

First, Luhrmann has a reputation for taking on great literature and tweaking it to be something new and edgy.  I was torn at how I felt about this upcoming look at Gatsby.  Would it be amazing?  Would he bring in a new interpretation like he did with Romeo and Juliet? Would it be a disaster?   While Moulin Rouge' wasn't great, I really liked the modern interpretation of Romeo.  I walked into the theater hopeful.

 Before I talk about what I didn't like, there were a few high points.  The costumes, while not completely authentic to the time period, were very well thought out.  Here are my sticking points; the use of polyester for some of the hair/clothing pieces ( Polyester was invented in the 40's); while the roaring 20's was a wild time in our history, the truth is that it was tame compared to some of the costumes of the movie; finally, Tiffany and Company Created the jewelry which I liked but I felt it was over the top.  Most costumes were spot on, so overall I thought this was a plus of the movie.

Now, if you know me, don't pass out here.  Leo was pretty good at playing Gatsby.  (GASP)   There I said it.  I don't tend to be a huge Leo fan, but he was less stiff then Redford in the 1974 adaptation and DiCaprio was able to display the intense character that is Gatsby.  There were a couple of places he seemed forced, but I think that was because of his direction and not his acting.  Overall, I felt him as Gatsby.  Maybe he's growing on me, maybe he's a fan of the book, but this is the first time I've actually liked him in a role.  

So - to the not so great parts of the movie.

The cinematography, which I felt had potential to be great, was lacking.  I am not sure why this had to be in 3D.  While there were a couple of places that it might have enhanced the movie, it was more of a distraction then a real effort to add depth.  The party scene was so flashy I found it visually annoying, the words swirling on the screen distracting, the car scenes seemed out of focus and blurry.  There were times when the movie seemed cartoon-like. 

Wile Leo was great as Gatsby, I was disappointed in most of the other actors.  There were scenes early in the movie that felt more like a high school acting troupe then highly paid actors.  I didn't like Carey Mulligan as Daisy.  To me, she didn't have the chemistry that she needed with DiCaprio to really make Daisy work.  If I'm supposed to believe these two people were once madly in love, well she didn't do that for me.  Daisy is also supposed to be a jewel.  Cold but flashy - I just didn't get that from Mulligan.  

While I was not disappointed in his acting, I didn't like the way Nick's character, played by Toby McGuire, was portrayed.  As the narrator, I am supposed to trust Nick's view of the story.  By turning him into an alcoholic, I feel like the character has lost his ability to be a reliable narrator.    

So, if you still want to see the movie - check it out.  My suggestion is, skip it and wait for it to come to the dollar cinema.   


(Look below for reads of the week)

Fun Reading - Just finished Eleanor & Park (review coming later this week)
Work Reading - The Skillful Team Leader
Currently Reading - A Separate Peace

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Today I attended my first board meeting for the Children's Services Board of Galveston County.   I was honored to be asked to serve on this board.  I've spent my life working around children, now I have the ability to help those who don't always have an adult to advocate for them.

  April in National Child Abuse and Prevention Month.  You can learn more about ways to help support our most innocent citizens here.   Today we tied blue ribbons on the trees around the county courthouse.  Our goal is to help promote awareness.  There is much we can do to help those who can't help ourselves, we just need to take a look around and do something.

  If you don't know where to start, check out Pinwheels for Prevention.   This Nationwide organization works to ensure the healthy development of our children.  This organization focuses on advocating for the existence of a national policy framework and strategy for children and families while promoting evidence-based practices that prevent abuse and neglect from ever occurring. 

Currently Reading:  Wonder Boys