Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Horrible Harry and the Ant Invasion

Horrible Harry doesn't always mean to be horrible

When Harry is named ant monitor in 2B, everyone knows it could be trouble, and of course, it is. The thing is, Harry is great at turning things around and, managed to salvage his big mistake while the class is observing the ants. However, when Harry is possibly responsible for the fish debacle, it's questionable if Miss Mackle will ever forgive Harry. What Miss Mackle and 2B don't know is that this time, it isn't Harry being horrible, it's someone else! Will Harry be able to clear his name? Find out in Suzy Kline's Horrible Harry and the Ant Invasion.

Reading Level: Fountas and Pinnell: L

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you to use this book in your class.

Web Resources

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out: monitor, observe, antics, sashay, responsible, revenge, miffed

Before Reading: Journal: What are some horrible things that could happen in your classroom if you class had an ant farm?

During Reading: Journal: Why do you think Harry liked Song Lee so much?

After Reading: Read Diary of a Worm and have the students write a Diary of an Ant.

Across the Curriculum: If you can, bring an ant farm, fish tank or other class pet into your classroom to observe like Harry and the other students in 2B do in Miss Mackle's class.

Kline, S. (1989). Horrible Harry and the Ant Invasion. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking.

Happy Reading (& Running) =) 

Dark Day in the Deep Sea

A Giant Octopus in the Deep Sea 

Jack and Annie have been recruited to help Merlin get better. He is in a deep state of sadness and it it up to Jack and Annie to find the four secrets of happiness to give to Merlin. When they embark on this mission, the find themselves stranded on an island. When they are picked up by a ship, the crew is in search of something, but it isn't happiness, it's a giant sea creature. Find out what happens in Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House, Dark Day in the Deep Sea

Reading Level: Fountas and Pinnell: M

Teachers: here are some resources to help you teach this book...

Web Resources:
  • Teacher's Guide: Click here to find a teacher's guide for Dark Day in the Deep Sea and the nonfiction companion, Sea Monsters.
  • Lesson Plan: This link will take you to a lesson plan summary for Magic Tree House books #37-40. There are some great activities and printouts.
  • Story Mapping: Click here for a story mapping lesson using Dark Day in the Deep Sea
There are loads of MTH resources for the classroom. Let me know if you have or find any that you particularly liked or found very useful!

Vocabulary: here are some words I picked out: sorrow, shrouded, dune, capsize, harpoon, expedition, specimen, scurvy, salute, unfurl, compassion

Before Reading: Based on the illustration on the cover of this book, make a prediction about what you think is going to happen in this adventure.

During Reading: What do you think would have happened differently if Jack hadn't gotten seasick during the storm?

After Reading: Jack and Annie learned the secret that you can conquer fear through knowledge. Can you think of a time when you were scared of something but then learned about it and were not afraid anymore? Find out something new about a fear of yours, see if it helps you to not be afraid anymore.

Across the Curriculum: Use the Nonfiction companion, Sea Monsters and link into Science in the ocean or animals, etc.

Osborne, M. P. (2008). Dark Day in the Deep Sea. New York: Random House.

Happy Reading (&Running) =)

Nate the Great

The Great Detective

 Nate the Great prides himself on his ability to find things. When the phone rings during his pancake breakfast, he hopes he will be asked to find dismonds or pearls, but it's only Annie who needs help finding a painting she made of her dog. Nate dives into the case, getting all the facts he needs not only to find the painting but to find Super Hex the cat too. Learn about Nate the Great, and his detective skills, in the first of the series, Nate the Great, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.

Reading Level: Fountas and Pinnell: K

Since I just found out I will be teaching second grade, please bare with me while I get up to date on some books closer to second grade level for the time being :)

Teachers...here are some resources to help you teach Nate the Great in your class.

Web Resources:
  • Printables: Free Nate the Great printable activities.
  • Nate the Great, the Play: Here is a classroom guide if your class was lucky enough to go see Nate the Great on the state. It has pre and post show ideas and activities... but here's an even better idea, put on a reader's theater version of Nate the Great and include the pre and post show activities!
  • Graphic Organizer: A mystery graphic organizer from Read Write Think.

Vocabulary: With this book being so short, the only word I felt would be useful if pretaught was: detective

Before Reading: Nate is a detective. What do you know about detectives? Have you ever had to be a detective? Write a journal entry about a time when you were a detective (had to find something) and share it with a friend.

 During Reading: Journal entry: who do you think took the painting? Where do you think Nate will find it?

After Reading: How would you feel if you were Annie and your brother took your painting and painted over it?
What color would the monster have been if Annie's brother had blue paint instead of red?
In groups of 2 have one partner create a drawing or painting and have the other partner make it into something else.

Sharmat, M. W. (1972). Nate the Great. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Ordinary or Extraordinary?

To say I was impressed with R.J. Palacio's Wonder would be a huge understatement. The entire book is filled with such truth and raw emotion that I almost could not put it down because I wanted to know what was going to happen with the main character Auggie and all those surrounding his story. August "Auggie" Pullman is a very unique 5th grader. He was born with a severe facial deformity and has gone through his entire life up to this point getting series of facial surgeries. Even after his surgeries though, Auggie does not look anything like most people do. Up to this point Auggie never went to a real school, his mom had homeschooled him and Auggie was very happy with this arrangement. However, Auggie's family feels it's time for him to go to a real school. As if 5th grade is not a hard enough period of time in a child's life, Auggie will be approaching a 5th grade with no friends, no "real school" experience and a face that people are scared to look at. Palacio takes the reader through a first person narrative in the voice of Auggie, a few of Auggie's classmates and his sister. The shift of narrative perspective opens the reader up to heartbreaking truths that a one narrator story line does not offer. Take the journey with Auggie into 5th grade and meet a not so ordinary, perhaps extraordinary boy by the name of Auggie. This is a journey you should take, a journey you should talk about and a journey you should share. This is one of those no excuses, must read kind of books!

Reading Level: GLE: 4.8

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you to use this book in your classroom...

Web Resources:
  • Blog: This fantastic blog has links to this teacher's presentation during his read aloud of Wonder. He makes some great observations and asks some awesome questions.
  • This is a very new book, published this year which makes it difficult to find quality web resources, if you found one and would like to share please leave a comment with the resource in it, thanks!

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out... ordinary, extraordinary, anomalies, hindsight, aversion, biracial, phony, sympathetic, inclusion, hypocrite, fluke, taciturn, prude

Before Reading:
Discussion: Auggie has a facial deformity like not many people have ever seen before. What do you think your reaction to him would be? What is the kind of reaction you should have to something or someone that is different from what you are used to? (This type of a discussion can get tough, but is something that students should begin to discuss with each other and understand.)

Journal: Has anyone ever treated you differently based on how you look? If so how did it feel? If not, imagine what it would feel like.

During Reading:
Discussion: Why do you think the author chose to write this book in different points of view? Are there any points of view you feel are missing right now that are important to the story?

Journal: How do you think your life would be different if you were like Auggie?

After Reading:
Discussion: Why do you think Mr. Tushman chose Auggie to receive the Henry Ward Beecher medal?

Journal: Choose a precept from the list at the back of the book. Write about what you think it means. Create your own precept.

Palacio, R. J. (2012). Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever

Stuck with your family all winter break...

Okay, it is completely official that I am in love with Jeff Kinney's work and absolutely love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. As I said back when I read the first in the series, every reader no matter how old (or young) can relate to Greg Heffley's ridiculous antics. We've all been there, we've all seen it, done it but never has anyone written it down in such a hilarious manner. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, did not disappoint at all, and I laughed the whole way through. Cabin Fever is set in the winter months and Greg has a few issues to deal with. For starters, Christmas is coming and Greg has a bad feeling that the only time Santa checks up on him are the "few" times he isn't on his best behavior. On top of trying to please Santa, Greg is trying to keep his Kritterz pet happy, but he's run out of tokens and has to find a way to make money and buy more tokens, and to make matters worse, his mom says he needs to use his own money to buy Christmas presents this year! Greg needs to earn money, fast! Greg's determination to earn money earns Greg the spot as prime suspect when school property is vandalized. Just when Greg thinks his life is over, a blizzard hits and strands his family indoors. Now Greg has to sit and wonder what punishment awaits him when the snow is cleared. Do yourself a favor and enjoy "Christmas in July" and read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever!

Reading Level: AR: 5.8

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you use this book in your class...

Web Resources:
  • Event Kit: In this event kit/launch party, Jeff Kinney came up with some great Wimpy Kid games and activities that relate the Cabin Fever. Use these games to launch this book in your class, or think about throwing a Wimpy Kid party as a classroom reward.
  • Interview: Here you will find a TIME for Kids article that consists of an interview of Jeff Kinney regarding his newest Wimpy Kid book, Cabin Fever.

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out... leverage, legitimate, confiscated, revenge, decoy, anguish, duped, hyperactive, petition, forgery, vandalism, perpetrators, culprits, dignity

Before Reading: Discussion: What does "cabin fever" mean? If you're not sure, use the picture on the cover of the book for a clue. Have you ever felt like you had "cabin fever?" Based on other Wimpy Kid books, predict what kind of trouble you think Greg might get into in this book?

During Reading: Journal/Discussion Questions: Greg is responsible for the vandalism to the school, but he didn't mean for any of it to happen. Do you think it is still Greg's fault? Should he be punished for what he did?
Have you ever done anything without meaning to harm something or someone, but did anyway? What did you do? If you were Greg, would you turn yourself in?

After Reading: In this book, Greg and Rowley create their own newspaper. In small groups, create a newspaper. Decide who should write what sections, what you will write about, who you think will read your paper, etc.

Kinney, J. (2011). Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever. New York: Amulet Books.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The final book of The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins brings us Mockingjay to wrap up the Hunger Games. I couldn't help myself... soon after finishing Catching Fire, I just HAD to know why Katniss had been snatched from the games and who had taken her out of the arena. I greatly enjoyed Mockingjay, but just as I said regarding Catching Fire, the first Hunger Games definitely was Suzanne Collins' best. However, Mockingjay is well worth reading as it is fast paced and exciting and ultimately lets you know where and how Katniss and Peeta end up. Katniss has survived her second time in the arena and eventually wakes up to find she was taken out of the games by the rebels. Gale and her family have escaped District 12. District 13 does exist. A revolution, which had meticulously planned saving Katniss from the games is in full swing. The rebels want Katniss to be the voice of the revolution. Katniss is not sure she trusts the rebels, but as it turns out, she has little choice in whether or not she becomes the rebellion's Mockingjay.

Reading Level: GLE: 5.3
                        Lexile: 800L

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you teach this book...

Web Resources:
  •  Hunger Games: Click here to see symbols, questions, themes and more for each of the three books.
  • Across the Curriculum: Check out this site for some discussion questions that will help you connect this novel to Civics and Social Studies.
  • Mockingjay Game: Here is a link to the "act of goodness" game that aligns with Mockingjay.

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out: enigmatic, indelible, conciliatory, immunity, ultimatum, dissent, spontaneity, incongruous, repudiate, decimate, coup, hijacked, innocuous, furtive, vendetta, censor, absconded, evocative, expedite

Before Reading: Where do you think Katniss has been taken at the end of Catching Fire? Predict where she is and who has taken her.

During Reading: Compare and contrast District 12 and District 13. Which would you prefer to live in and why?

After Reading: Write your own epilogue where Katniss and Peeta's lives end up differently after the war.

Across the Curriculum: Check out the 2nd link under web resources for ideas to connect this book and the revolution to Civics/Social Studies.

Collins, S. (2010). Mockingjay. New York: Scholastic Press.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

The List

For these 8 girls, high school is defined by... a list.

Siobhan Vivian brings us the typical high school caste system in The List. On the 4th week of September for as long as anyone remembers, hundreds of copies of "the list" are posted at Mount Washington High School. The list consists of 2 girls from each grade. The Ugliest and the Prettiest. By the end of this book, you'll be asking yourself which label is worse. No matter if it is an honor or a horror to be put on this list, one thing is for sure, these 8 girls become the center of attention as everyone looks to see their reactions. Each of the girls this year have a very different reaction. As you read you will meet each of the 8 girls and see how they have been affected by seeing their name on that list. No one knows who posts the list each year, but a stolen school seal marks that the list is official. How is the seal being passed around? Is it a boy or girl posting the list? Will anyone ever find out? High School captured perfectly.

Helpful Hint: Make sure you read the prologue. It provides you with the list which I found to be a great reference when I first started reading and couldn't keep all 8 of the girls straight.

Reading Level: Ages 12 and up

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you use this book in your classroom.

Web Resources:
  • Writing Prompt: This site is a link to a writing contest (unfortunately the contest ended in April). The prompt for the contest is a great post reading activity. Maybe you can create a contest in your class using this prompt!
  • Being that The List is such a new book, it is difficult to find much more than reviews online. Please comment with any teaching links you find and I will add them to my list!

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out... conspicuousness, contraband, contradict, vindication, humiliation, subjective, innocuous, impromptu, pious, penance, sabotage, languish, rescind, aloof, crass, snafu, caveat, impasse

Before Reading: Journal: Write a journal entry depicting how you would feel and what you would do if you were on a list as "prettiest" (or "most handsome") in your class, then write a journal entry depicting how you would feel and what you would do if you were on a list as "ugliest" in your class.

During Reading: Group Work: As a group, write a character sketch for each of the 8 girls on the list. List at least 3 traits for each girl with at least one example to go along with each trait. Use these character sketches and add to them as you continue to read.

After Reading: Group Work: As a group, compare and contrast the girls at the beginning of the novel and at the end of the novel. Discuss: How did the list change the 8 girls?

Vivian, S. (2012). The List. New York: Scholastic.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Catching Fire

Just when Katniss thought life was back to normal...

Suzanne Collins brings us Catching Fire, the second of the Hunger Games trilogy. I found it extremely exciting throughout, but perhaps not quite as much as the first book. Still very much worth reading and it is hard to put the book down! Even though Katniss and Peeta haven't been talking much since they returned from the games, they are expected to act as the star crossed lovers who left the arena on the Victory Tour. President Snow has personally informed Katniss that she better make him believe the two are in love... or else. Life after the games was supposed to be easier, but it is just getting even harder. As the two go on the Victory Tour word starts to spread that there are rebellions beginning in the districts. The capitol is angry and with the Quarter-Quell games upon them, Katniss and Peeta are ready for anything as they will be mentors for the tributes of District 12. As they are preparing to mentor, the Capitol is insisting Katniss and Peeta will get married in the Capitol for all the districts to watch on television. Katniss isn't so sure she can live up to this lie for the rest of her life and when there is an extreme turn of events when President Snow announces the special rules of the Quarter-Quell, Katniss is not so sure she can survive no matter what. Read Catching Fire to find out what the extreme turn of events is...

Reading Level: GLE: 5.4
                        Lexile: 820L

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you to use this book in your class...

Web Resources:
  • Teaching Guide: This is a fantastic resource filled with comprehension questions, prereading activities and much, much more!
  • Teaching the Hunger Games Catching Fire: Start with this link, explore and then click through the "we recommend" links that take you to other pages on Bright Hub Education. Between all the links this site covers themes, characters, journal ideas and more.
  • Discussion Questions: This site offers discussions questions for each of the 3 Hunger Games books.

Vocabulary: Here are some words I chose... futile, retrospect, exorbitant, sadistic, capricious, duplicitous, clandestine, impotent, catalyst, irrefutable, odious, confidant, mollify, dovetail, plumage

Before Reading: Hunger Games (Book 1) ends with Katniss and Peeta returning home after tricking the game makers into letting both of them survive. Peeta has admitted that he truly is in love with Katniss and was not acting at all. Katniss does not feel the same way about Peeta and has truly hurt his feelings. Catching Fire picks up where the Hunger Games left off. Predict what will happen next in their story. Write a journal entry as Katniss or Peeta. What is their relationship like? How has District 12 responded to their return?

During Reading: Discussion: When the Quarter Quell is announced and former victors are going to back to the arena, how do you think the tributes feel? Do you think President Snow changed the Quarter Quell rule for this year to punish Katniss?

After Reading: Catching Fire ends with Katniss being pulled out from the arena. She does not know who has pulled her out or why they pulled her out or what they want. Write the first chapter (or 1st few pages) of what will come to follow for Katniss. Where is she? Who are these people? Why did they taker her out of the arena before the games were over?

Collins, S. (2009). Catching Fire. New York: Scholastic Press.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pandora Gets Jealous

Greek Mythology in a fun, captivating way!

I will be the first to admit, mythology is just not my thing. I know plenty of people who think it's all really fun and cool to read about, but honestly, I get everyone's names mixed up and I forget what their powers are or what they are famous for. But... Carolyn Hennesy may have changed my mind after reading Pandora Gets Jealous. Okay, so I don't know much about the story of Pandora except for what everyone knows and that is Pandora's Box. Carolyn Hennesy takes the story of Pandora opening the box but she makes Pandora your typical 13 year old only she is growing up in Ancient Greece. Yes, just as cool as it sounds! Pandora wants to be popular and she wants to be pretty and she of course wants to get the cute boy she has her eye on. She will do just about anything for all this to happen, even if it means bringing in "the box" that her father has forbid her from so much as touching. Well you can imagine what happens when Pandora brings it to school... one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, all the evils of the world are erupting on Athens. Pandora is in big trouble (obviously!) and is summoned to Mount Olympus where she is given the seemingly impossible task of recollecting all the horrors, oh yeah, and she only has 6 months to do it. As she sets off, she ends up with a rag tag team of friends helping her in search of jealousy. I was rooting for Pandora, or Pandy as they call her, the entire time and was left at the end of the book wanting to read the next book (Pandora Gets Vain). So if you like Greek mythology or even if it's just not your thing... I can almost guarantee you will have fun on Pandora's adventure!

Reading Level: GLE: 5.5
                        Lexile: 840L

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you teach this novel...

Web Resources:
  • Teacher's Guide: This site offers discussion questions and project ideas for both Pandora Gets Jealous and Pandora Gets Vain.
  • Pandyinc: Welcome to the world of Pandy. Learn about the author and all the other Pandy books.

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out: insolent, benevolence, vindictive, incongruous, pompous, summoned, beguiling, disposition, inept, ruminating, ambulate, prophecy, despondent, decipher, uncouth, intercede, tenaciously

Above all... use this book (and others in the Pandy series) to help your kiddos get over how hard a mythology unit can be. You're going to have readers who don't warm up to the difficult language in myths or who get confused with all the gods and goddesses or simply don't like mythology... A book like this takes the difficulty out of mythology and eases them into a unit on mythology.

Before Reading: Read Greek Mythology's version of the Pandora's box myth (or a shortened version). Just google Pandora's Box for kids (or something like that) and tons of versions will come up.

During Reading: Journal/Discussion: Pandora's father is very angry with her for opening the box. What is something you have done that has made your parents upset with you?
How do you think Pandora is feeling after the box is opened? Why?

After Reading: Compare/Contrast the Greek myth of Pandora's box to Carolyn Hennesy's version. Which is easier to relate to? Which do you like more?

Hennesy, C. (2008). Pandora Gets Jealous. New York: Bloomsbury Children's Books.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)


The difference between what's "legal" and what's "right"

Carl Hiaasen delivers another Florida, nature based story in Flush. When the story starts, Noah's dad is in jail and refusing bail. Why? He wants to prove a point. He feels no remorse for sinking the boat. He knows that the casino boat Coral Queen has been dumping its... dump... into the ocean making it dangerous for kids swimming in the water and for sea life, especially turtles that lay their eggs in the sand in the local swimming area. The swimming area keeps getting shut down because otherwise everyone would be swimming in a bathroom. Noah's dad is enraged when his sinking proves nothing and instead, the boat is open for business only a few days later. But now Noah and his sister Abbey are determined to prove that their dad is not crazy! With help from an initially scary bartender, Shelley, the three devise a plan to shut the casino boat down for good. Noah also gets some help along the way from a mysterious pirate who not only tries to help him in his plan to ruin the casino boat but also with problems Noah is having with some neighborhood kids. Read to find out if Noah and his small group of allies can stop the Coral Queen once and for all!

Reading Level: Fountas and Pinnell: W
                        Lexile: 830L
                        GLE: 5.8
                        DRA: 60

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you teach this book in your classroom...

Web Resources:
  • Book Talk: This resource is fantastic! It makes your job as a teacher a lot easier with over views of conflict, characters, etc. It also provides across the curriculum ideas (Science). In addition you will find discussion questions, vocabulary and more!
  • Novel Unit: This link will open up a file in Word (It's safe, I promise!). This unit offers journal prompts, quizzes, rubrics, persuasive writing, anticipation guides, project ideas and so much more! Check it out, pick and choose, I'm sure you will find something useful.
  •  Project Ideas: This site offers a "gifted program" layout of a unit plan. For the every day classroom... this link offers tons of project ideas with rubrics to go with each idea, making your job easier!

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out... understatement, cheapskate, martyr, capsize, slander, skeptical, prosecute, cesspool, superstition, omen, incriminate, mirage, indignantly, culprit

Before Reading: This story takes place in the Florida Keys. Do a little research about some of the wildlife and natural resources in the Keys. Write a 1 page paper defending the wildlife and natural resources OR create a brochure telling the reader why he/she should want to protect the Keys and what he/she can do to protect the Keys.

During Reading: Journal/Discussion: Do you think it is okay to break the law if it for a "good cause?" Why or why not? What are some examples of "good causes" someone might break the law for? Make a list of pros and cons.

After Reading: Journal/Discussion: How would you have felt if you were Noah during operation flush?

                     Create a poster to raise awareness about how pollution can affect the environment.

Across the Curriculum: Science
There are numerous connections that you can make between Flush and Science. Take some time to study the plant and animal life in the Florida Keys. Discuss how pollution can affect the environment. As a class, do something to protect the environment where you live.

Hiaasen, C. (2005). Flush. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Things Hoped For

Keeping a Dream Alive

Gwen is a fantastic violinist, so much so that she is living in New York City with her grandfather while attending a music conservatory for high school on full scholarship. When her grandfather disappears leaving her nothing but a message on the answering machine, Gwen has to figure out how to get along as she waits to hear from her grandfather again. With college auditions looming within the week and an apartment building to hold up, not to mention her uncle who she is terrified of dropping by, Gwen is starting to feel hopeless. Gwen then meets Robert who is in town for auditions and things seem to turn around. But before they know it, there is a strange man who breaks into her house and a crime scene right in her grandfather's apartment. Will Gwen find her grandfather? Will she make it to her audition? And is Robert's arrival really as much of a good thing as she thought? Read Andrew Clements' Things Hoped For to find out.

Reading Level: Fountas and Pinnell: V
                        Lexile: 770L
                        DRA: 50
                        GLE: 6.3

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you use Things Hoped For in your class...

Web Resources: I hate to admit this, but after a good hour searching for web resources, to say they are lacking is an understatement. The only really promising web resources is on edhelper, which you have to pay for a membership to view =( ... Hopefully the lack of web resources is made up for in my ideas for activities.
  • Author Info: Links to Andrew Clements' website and interviews with him.

Vocabulary: Here are some vocab words I picked out: narrative, mystified, resurrect, conservatory, flattery, phenomenon, collateral. There are also tons of music related words if you are going to make an across the curriculum connection.

Before Reading: Discussion or Journal: In this story, Gwen has some very specific goals for her future. What are some goals you have? What are the steps you would have to take to reach these goals?

During Reading: Discussion or Journal (continuation from before reading): Now that you know about Gwen's goals for the future, list some steps she has had to take and will have to take to reach these goals.
Create a character sketch for Robert. Include why you think Gwen is so easily trusting of him. Some other ideas: character traits, what do you know about him?, etc. Here are fun online resources you could use to create a character sketch or character "playing card."

After Reading: After reading, would you change anything in your character sketch/playing card? What would you change and why?
Discussion or Journal: The characters speculate why Gwen's grandfather did what he did. What do you think and why?

Across the Curriculum: If you are really into music or have students who are very musically talented:
  • Use this book as a way to start a discussion about music/art conservatories, etc. Even some magnet schools give students with artistic talent to have a special place and outlet for their talents. Maybe some of your students are interested in such a school. Help these students find information about these schools and talk to their parents.
  • On a simpler level, talk about the musical vocabulary Gwen uses. Have students go on a "scavenger hunt" through the book to find as much music vocabulary as they can.

Clements, A. (2006). Things Hoped For. New York: Philomel Books.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

Greg just does not cease to make me laugh out loud!

If you've read my blog before, you know I just can't get enough of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The Ugly Truth is no different... hilarious, witty, relate-able and just pure genius. I apologize to any of you who are not a fan of Greg and his antics, for me, it just doesn't get old... Don't worry though, I promise to give it a rest and post about something very different next time, ha! But back to The Ugly Truth... after a falling out with Rowley, Greg is in search of a new best friend at the beginning of this story. Greg is still wanting desperately to grow up and dreams of his fame and fortune but throughout the story Greg finds reasons why growing up may not be the best thing in the world. Between dealing with boy-girl parties, having to take responsibility for himself while his mom goes back to school and Rowley getting his first zit before Greg, there are certainly some changes taking place in Greg's life. Will Greg figure out what growing up is all about and will he find a new best friend or end up back where he always does, next to Rowley? Find out in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth.

Reading Level: Fountus and Pinnell: S; Lexile: 1000L; DRA: 40; Interest level: Ages 9 and up

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you teach this book...

Web Resources:
  • Resource Pack: This "resource pack" has tons of ideas that would be fun to use in a classroom or at an after school "Wimpy Kid Night"
  • Event Guide: Play some games with your class like Greg does at his "lock in" or host a Wimpy Kid Night Lock In at school and use these games! (You do not need to register to view this page)
  •  Wimpy Kid Wiki: Check out this great Wiki site, learn about the characters, movie, books and more in a fun, kid friendly site.

Vocabulary:As always, the language is pretty easy to understand, but here are a few words I picked out... discriminate, suspicious, responsibility, culprit, paranoid, reliable, domestic, immaculate, posterior

Before Reading: Small Group Discussion: In this story, Greg learns some of the "ugly truths" about growing up. In your group, discuss what some of the "ugly truths" you've learned in the past few years.

During Reading: Journal: Greg and his family are asked to take some more responsibilities when his mom goes back to school. What are some responsibilities you have at your house? What are some responsibilities your other family members have?
Discussion: Is it fair for kids to have certain responsibilities at home?

After Reading: Create a cartoon or "Graphic Novel" to depict your week.

Kinney, J. (2009). Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Last Straw. London: Puffin. 

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Which is worse, speaking up or keeping it in?

Laurie Halse Anderson brings the reader right into the middle of the life of Melinda, a high school outcast. Melinda has a secret and it has destroyed her in every way in her novel Speak. Her friends have turned on her. She has turned on herself. She doesn't speak. Her grades are slipping. Nothing makes sense. This first person narrative delves into what it is to have a secret and what it is to feel left out. As a reader you will feel connected to Melinda, reflecting on all the times you may have felt left out. You will also want Melinda to fix her problems, feel better, to speak up and tell someone. This book is surely a timeless one that will stay with you for a long time and make you question how you've treated people in the past, and will make you wonder what secrets those around you may be keeping.

Reading Level: I would recommend this book to upper middle school students and high school students based on some tough topics.

Teachers... Here are some resources to help you teach this book...

Web Resources:
  • Study Guide: Discussion questions, symbolism, writing prompts and more.
  • Unit: This day by day unit for Speak gives step by step lesson plans (objectives, procedure, assignments, etc.)
  • Wikispace: This wikispace page contains links to both above mentioned web resources and many others to help teach Speak.
 There are TONS of other web resources out there to help you. Don't be afraid to search "Speak Laurie Halse Anderson Lessons" or replace "Lessons" with "Activities." There is nothing wrong with sharing ideas between teachers and there are loads of teachers out there willing to share their ideas, take what you like, invent something of your own, pick and choose, it's all up to you :)

Vocabulary: Here are some words I picked out while reading, some of the sources above had their own lists as well... abstinence, demerit, dyad, errant, pseudo, xenophobic, demure, abysmal, quota, conundrum, symbolism, vespiary, wistful


Before Reading: Journal: Melinda ended the summer on a bad note with her friends and future high school classmates. These "friends" and classmates harass Melinda because of the decision she made. What are some examples of harassment you see within your class and school? What do the people witnessing the harassment do?

During Reading: Journal: Why you think Melinda is choosing to not speak at all? What do you think you would do if you were in the same kind of situation as Melinda? What would you do if a friend came to you and said something like what happened to Melinda happened to them?

After Reading: Journal: What are some differences that you predict for Melinda's second year of high school compared to her first year? Do you think her grades will go up? Will she have friends? Who will her friends be? What about her relationship with her parents?

Anderson, L. H. (1999). Speak. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. 
Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Greg is back... and he wants the perfect summer!

Greg Heffley is back in Jeff Kinney's Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, the 4th book in the Wimpy Kid series. I have decided what I like most about Greg Heffley's stories is how easy they are to relate to. I know students as young as 3rd grade and as old as 8th grade who have greatly enjoyed reading the series. I also know quite a few adults who got a kick out of reading them and remembering some of their childhood in the process. In this book, Greg is on summer vacation and finding himself quite miserable. All he wants to do is shut himself up in his dark room playing video games, but his mother will not have it! Between his family not having enough money for vacation, terrors at the town pool and a falling out with Rowley all Greg wants is the perfect summer. Too bad his mother's idea of a perfect summer might just ruin Greg's summer all together. Will anyone end up with a perfect summer? Read to find out, I bet you'll find yourself laughing a whole lot while you do!

Reading Level: Fountas and Pinnell: T
                        Lexile: 1010L

Teachers... Here are some resources to help you teach this book...

Web Resources:
  • Event Kit: This site was created to help kids have a party for the release of Dog Days. However, there are lots of fun Wimpy Kid games that could be easily used in a classroom.
  • Through the Year:This site offers a variety of Wimpy Kid activities that relate to the first 4 Wimpy Kid books. The activities are meant to be used throughout the year. Click on "Click to read" to enlarge (you do not have to subscribe to read).
  • Teacher's Guide: This is a really great teacher's guide with activities, writing prompts, quizzes, etc. for teaching Dog Days.

Vocabulary: If you need to preteach these will depend on the age level of your students... traumatic, sermon, paranoid, drastic, confiscated, confession, scam, nauseous

Before Reading: In this story Greg and his mom both want to have the perfect summer. What is your idea of a perfect summer?

During Reading: Create a 2 column entry in your journal. As you read, compare Greg's idea of a perfect summer with his mom's idea of a perfect summer.

After Reading: At the end of the book, Greg says: "I guess the person who takes the pictures is the one who gets to tell the story." What do you think Greg means? In partnerships or groups pick a common event, memory, etc. and have each person write a description about that event, day, etc. See how different your descriptions are.

Kinney, J. (2009). Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. New York: Amulet Books.

Happy Reading (&Running) =)

Monday, May 14, 2012


Beautiful voice, but not a beautiful face...

The author of Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine brings us a new story that takes place in the same world where we met Ella... When I think of a fairy tale I think of queens and kings and ball gowns mixed with a little magic, some evil doing and of course a heroine with a love story. Take all those pieces of a love story, add the beautiful voice Aza and you have Gail Carson Levine's Fairest which is an adaptation of the classic, Snow White. Aza has the most beautiful voice in all the land. She can even "throw" her voice to sound like it is coming from just about anywhere. It does not matter that Aza has a wonderful voice however because she is far from what those in the Kingdom of Ayortha consider beautiful. She is used to hiding her face as often as possible but when she becomes lady in waiting to the new queen, she finds herself in the mix of everything and even in danger. In the midst of all the danger, she is finding herself falling in love with a charming prince. Will she be able to avoid the danger... Could a prince ever fall for someone as "ugly" as Aza? Read to find out...

Reading Level: 6.1
                     Fountas and Pinnell: X
                     Lexile 590L

Teachers: Here are some ideas and resources to help you use Fairest in your classroom.

Web Resources:
  • Teacher's Guide: This guide includes 8 discussion questions.
  •  Gail Carson Levine's Website: Here you will find links to each of her novels where she talks a bit about them. There is also a link to her blog and much more to explore.

Vocabulary: This novel uses a lot of words that are not used often in conversational English...
aria, wench, amiss, boisterous, conspicuous, inauspicious, impervious, discordant, querulously, surreptitiously, brevity, chicanery

Before Reading: What makes a fairy tale a fairy tale? Make a list (as a class or in partners)... as you read, give examples of when Fairest shows these characteristics you came up with.

During Reading:
  • Give examples of how Fairest is like the fairy tale you described in the before reading activity.
  • Choose a character other than Aza and write a scene from the story in their perspective. For example, what might the king be thinking when he is injured. If he can hear those at his bedside, what would he say in response if he could.

After Reading:
  • In the epilogue you find out that Aza and Ijori are wed and live a very happy life together. Create an alternate ending/epilogue to this story.
  • Choose a scene from this book and in a group create a "modern" script for it and act it out/take a video of your performance for your class.

Levine, G. C. (2006). Fairest. New York, NY: HarperCollins. 
Happy Reading (&Running) =)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Lemonade Crime

 Who committed the Lemonade Crime?

 The Lemonade War series written by Jacqueline Davies brings back the lovable siblings Evan and Jessie Treski in The Lemonade Crime. Remember when Evan stole Jessie's lemonade stand money only for it to then go missing? Well, Evan and Jessie as well as Evan's friends all think Scott Spencer stole the money. They are even more sure he stole the money when he comes to school saying he just bought an Xbox 20/20 with his own money. Evan and Jessie can't stand Scott and of course Jessie has to find a way to prove Scott is guilty. She becomes so obsessed with the trial that her own rules of fairness seem to be slipping away. She arranged a trial before a judge, witnesses, and a jury of his peers all from Class 4-O. The stakes are high, will Jessie be able to prove that Scott is guilty? Read to find out in The Lemonade Crime.

Reading Level: 630L
Interest Level: Ages 9 and up

Teachers: Here are some resources to help you teach this book...

Web Resources:
  • Teacher Guide: This teacher guide to The Lemonade Crime provides activities to use in the classroom along with the book such as Reader's Theater, character chart and more.
  • The Lemonade War: This website is the home page of the Lemonade War Series. It provides fun activities for students and resources for teachers.

Vocabulary: Many of these words' definitions can be found right at the start of each chapter: fraud, revenge, eyewitness, hearsay, accused, impartial, due diligence, sarcasm, defense, bona fide, jury, perjury, prosecution, plaintiff, defendant, contempt, forfeit, verdict, amends

Before Reading: Preteach the word accused and have a class or small group discussions about a time when you accused someone of something. Connect this idea to Social Studies, have you watched the news lately? Did you hear about anyone being accused of a crime?

During Reading: Write in your journal then discuss as a class, do you think Scott Spencer is guilty? Do you think Jessie is being fair? If she is not being fair, why does this go against her character?

After Reading: At the end of the story, Scott gives Evan his money back. Choose 1: Write a letter in the perspective of Scott where you explain to Evan why you stole the money; Write a letter in Evan's perspective telling Scott how you feel now that you know he took your money; Write a letter in Jessie's perspective to Scott explaining why she lied in court.

Across the Curriculum:
Social Studies: Choose a problem within the classroom (or make one up) and create a court in the way that Jessie did being sure to have people for each role in the court. Have the issue be resolved by the jury.

Davies, J. (2011). The Lemonade Crime. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Hunger Games

May the Odds be in Your Favor

Katniss Everdeen has made the ultimate sacrifice. She will fight to the death in The Hunger Games in the place of her sister. The Capitol holds the Hunger Games live on TV each year. It is their cruel and harsh way to keep each of the 12 Districts from rebelling; forcing not only each district to sacrifice one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18, but forcing the district members to watch the slaughters and even treat it as a holiday. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins takes the reader on the ride of their life. The fast paced, heart stopping novel raises questions of love, life and humanity. Katniss must battle with these questions each day of the hunger games as she fights to find a way to survive and return to her family. Will her innate ability to fight to survive bring her to victory or will the tributes from the other districts force her to give up the ultimate sacrifice, her life.

Reading Level: DRA 70
                          Fountus and Pinnell: Z

Teachers... here are some resources to help you to use this book in your classroom.

Web Resources:
  • Hunger Games Unit: This unit includes many ideas, pre-made worksheets and more. There are also further links with information and more ideas to teach The Hunger Games.
  • The Hunger Games: Games, Videos, messages from the author all make this site fun and useful.
  • Scholastic: Ideas from Scholastic for Hunger Games activities in the classroom.

Vocabulary: tribute, rebellion, barbarism, barter, adversaries, betrayal, unjust, humble, rendezvous, scrupulous, respite, deluge

Before Reading: The Hunger Games takes place in a futuristic North America that is run by the Capitol and surrounded by 12 Districts that supply the materials, food, resources, etc. for the Capitol. What do you think might have happened that made North America turn into such a state?

During Reading: As you read, write a journal in which you take the voice of Katniss or Peeta. What are they feeling that Suzanne Collins doesn't tell us? What would they tell their families if they could?

After Reading: Predict what you think will happen with Katniss and Peeta as they move back to District 12. What will their relationship with their family be like? with each other? How will those around Katniss and Peeta treat them?

Across the Curriculum: Make an economics connection by talking about the responsibilities of each District to the Capitol.

Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Henry Huggins

A Dog Who Changed Everything

A Beverly Cleary classic, Henry Huggins presents a tale of  a boy Henry who feels that nothing exciting ever happens in his life. Such is the case until he finds Ribsy, a stray dog who turns Henry's not so exciting life into a variety of exciting events. Even getting Ribsy home was an adventure, all his money spent, getting kicked off the bus 3 different times and finally being taken home by the police. This day was just a start for all the excitement that would follow thanks to his new canine friend, Ribsy.

Reading Level: DRA 34
                     Flesch-Kincaid 4.8
                     Fountus and Pinnell: O

Teachers... Here are some resources for you to use...

Web Resources
  • BeverlyCleary.com: Meet Henry and all of Beverly Cleary's character's.
  • Unit Plan: Here you will find a very detailed Unit using Henry Huggins. Included are vocab and chapter quizzes, journal pages and much more. Pick and choose what you might want to use with your class.
Vocabulary:  accusingly, vacant, guppy, anxious, coax, mongrel, talcum

Before Reading: Ask students to respond to the following prompt: What do you need to do to take care of a dog?

During Reading: Discuss: What are some ways that Ribsy has changed Henry's life? Would certain events happened without Risby's presence?

After Reading: Ask students to respond to the following prompt: Who do you think should have gotten to keep Ribsy and why? Was it fair how they decided who would keep him?

Cleary, B. (1950). Henry Huggins;. New York: Morrow. 
Happy Reading (& Running) =)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Performing Penguins

In this classic, Newbury Honor book, written by Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper loves everything about the North and South Poles. When a penguin is delivered to his front door he has no idea how his life will change. With his painting business shut down for the winter, and money tight, how will the Poppers support themselves and the penguins? Take this exciting (and quite hilarious) journey with Mr. Popper and his family in Mr. Popper's Penguins. Then, when you're done reading, watch the modern remake of Mr. Popper's Penguins with Jim Carey as Mr. Popper.

Reading Level: Flesch-Kincaid: 6.3

Teachers: Here are some resources for you to use...

Web Resources:
  • Scholastic: This site is listed as a "discussion guide" but I would call it more of a list of really good ideas to go along with reading Mr. Popper's Penguins.
  • Money Management: This site provides a very detailed way to use Mr. Popper's Penguins cross-curricularly by teaching students about using credit.
  • Study Guide: Comprehension questions for each chapter.
  • Reader's Theater: Reader's Theater for Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Vocabulary: Words to discuss: spectacles, heathen, pompous, rotogravure, novelty, ushers, ecstatic, nuisance, expedition

Before Reading: Create a KWL for Penguins. Use this throughout reading to see what Mr. Popper seems to know (or not know) about penguins.

During Reading: Stop and make a prediction: After the first penguin comes to live with the Poppers; after Greta comes to live with the Poppers; after the penguins are born; when the Poppers start to run out of money; when the Poppers are going to have the penguins audition; after they are offered a 10 week tour with the penguins.

After Reading
  • Watch the Mr. Popper's Penguins movie and compare and contrast the two.
  • Create a floor plan of the Popper's house throughout the stages of "penguin life" in their house.

Across the Curriculum
  • Use the money management lesson (or your own version of this lesson) to connect Mr. Popper's Penguins to math.
  • Study penguins as a Science Connection. What kind of penguins are in this book? What other penguins are there? There is much to learn about penguins, did you know: most penguins don't live in the cold?!

Atwater, R., Atwater, F., & Lawson, R. (1938). Mr. Popper's penguins. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.

Happy Reading (&Running) =)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Love, Stargirl

A Sequel in Letters

Stargirl is back, in a different state, and is being homeschooled again. After everything that happened to her in Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl, she can't imagine going back to a real school again, so instead she studies "the essence of nothingness" and writes poems while on "field trips." Her heart is still broken after what Leo did to her but she writes him letters about her experiences that she is not sure she will ever send. Stargirl's letters tell of her new friends Dootsie and Betty Lou. She shares her feelings for Perry and her desperate attempts to help Alvina, a headstrong preteen. Stargirl's journey in this story is about trying to find the happiness she had when she was back in Arizona with Leo. A fantastic sequel that only makes you love the free-spirit that is Stargirl a little bit more than you did after reading Stargirl. Find my blog on Stargirl here.

Reading Level: Flesch-Kincaid 3.0 (Interest level is at a higher grade level)

Teachers: Here are some resources and ideas...

Web Resources:
  • Discussion Questions: This site offers a variety of discussion questions as well as writing activities and "beyond the book" ideas such as staring a "Stargirl Society."
  • Reader's Guide: From randomhouse publisher, a Reader's Guide of discussion and comprehension questions is available here.
  • Sample Unit Plan: Here you can find samplings from a Love, Stargirl unit. There are comprehension questions, poetry connections and many possibilities to help get you thinking when creating your own plan of study with Love, Stargirl. You can also purchase the entire unit plan.

Vocabulary:  To preteach or talk about: stucco, bungalow, vacant, parenthetical, agoraphobic, valiantly, hijacked, meddling, pip, quaint, smitten, oratorical, vintage, nun-chucks, ovation, drab, solstice, daunting, flattery, befuddled, reverence.

Before Reading: What do you remember about Stargirl? Have you ever written a letter you weren't sure if you would send? Write a letter to someone that you probably would never send to them.

During Reading: Follow one part of Stargirl's letter and create some type of representation of the story just focusing on that one aspect. You could create a flow chart, a pictorial representation, a story board, etc. Examples: follow Stargirl's happy pebble wagon, follow Stargirl's feelings towards Leo or Perry, follow the events in Margie's doughnut shop.

After Reading: Stargirl decides at the end of her letters to send them all to Leo. Would you have made the same decision? Do you think her decision will change anything that has happened between Stargirl and Leo?

Spinelli, J. (2007). Love, Stargirl. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 

Happy Reading (&Running) =) 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'm Back!

Hey anyone and everyone who has made it a point to check out my blog in the past... and especially to anyone who has not been too happy with my upkeep of this blog for the past 6 months.

I just finished student teaching in December (1st grade)! Now I am long-term subbing in a kindergarten class. I am happily recently certified in K-6 and in 7-12 English. Needless to say I have had way to much on my plate over the past 6 months.

But this is no excuse, I am back and reading and ready to give you teachers out there more resources to help you in your class. Although being in kindergarten makes me tempted to review books of the "picture book" genre, my first love is good old young adult fiction and early chapter books... so look forward to some blogging from teacherwillrunforbooks in the days to come :)

Currently Reading: Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
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