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) =)
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