Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: Most Un Likely to Succeed: The Trials, Travels and Ultimate Triumphs of a Throwaway Kid

Most Un Likely to Succeed: The Trials, Travels and Ultimate Triumphs of a Throwaway Kid Most Un Likely to Succeed: The Trials, Travels and Ultimate Triumphs of a Throwaway Kid by Nelson Lauver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Talk: Nelson Lauver was a normal kid, growing up in a working class town in central PA. He had a great family, good friends, a close-knit community. He loved school and dreamed of becoming a lawyer or a broadcaster. That is until his classmates started outpacing him in reading and writing. Suddenly, the place that once held excitement and hope became a place of fear and dread. Nelson does everything in his power to avoid letting those around him know the truth...he is functionally illiterate.

My Thoughts: I LOVED this book. Lauver is a great storyteller, and I got wrapped up in his story within the first few pages. I loved reading about small town life in the 70s in PA, the characters who made up his daily life, the backdrop of the working class family. Much of his story is very painful to read, as well. There is heart-breaking abuse at the hands of those people he should have been able to trust most. But in the end, Lauver's spirit and character lead him to make great choices that turn his life around.

My Recommendation: 5/5 stars
Grades 9+ (some language, content may be upsetting to younger students)

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Review: Most UnLikely to Succeed

Most UnLikely to Succeed Most UnLikely to Succeed by Nelson Lauver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Talk: Nelson Lauver was a normal kid, growing up in a working class town in central PA. He had a great family, good friends, a close-knit community. He loved school and dreamed of becoming a lawyer or a broadcaster. That is until his classmates started outpacing him in reading and writing. Suddenly, the place that once held excitement and hope became a place of fear and dread. Nelson does everything in his power to avoid letting those around him know the truth...he is functionally illiterate.

My Thoughts: I LOVED this book. Lauver is a great storyteller, and I got wrapped up in his story within the first few pages. I loved reading about small town life in the 70s in PA, the characters who made up his daily life, the backdrop of the working class family. Much of his story is very painful to read, as well. There is heart-breaking abuse at the hands of those people he should have been able to trust most. But in the end, Lauver's spirit and character lead him to make great choices that turn his life around.

My Recommendation: 5/5 stars
Grades 9+ (some language, content may be upsetting to younger students)

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Digital Learning Day 2016 @ Etown

Today is Digital Learning Day 2016. DLD is a time for teachers to share how they are integrating technology into their curriculum. I didn't even know about it until I attended a Twitter chat the other night, and I was so excited to hear how other districts are using this day to collaborate and share successes.

So here are a few things going on in our world at Etown:

In Mr. BPs Tech and Engineering classes, students create model cars in CAD and then use the 3D printer to print their models.



In Ms. Bronson's middle school Spanish class, students use Edupuzzle to create videos.


Mrs. Newton's math classes used Google Classroom to share students a graphing assignment in which they had to use parent functions to create an image and graph it using an online graphing calculator.










Mr. Ivans' business classes used Kahoot! to review a unit.











Mr. Eurich's science classes created lab reports using  images of the lab set up taken with their iPads. The reports were completed using Google Slides along with various Apps (Snitch, BaiBoard) and submitted hrough Schoology.

Madame Crawford's class worked with a class in Paris to create and share Google Slides presentations...sort of a digital pen pal project.

So yeah, we're kind of awesome!




Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk: Lucky is pretty much anything but. He is bullied relentlessly at school. His relationship with his dad is strained at best. His mother avoids confrontation with obsessive exercise. He can't talk to girls. Everything changes when Lucky and his mom go to Arizona. Lucky learns the secret of his grandfather's disappearance in Vietnam, and gains confidence in himself.

My Thoughts: This is a thoughtful, interesting book. It was painful to read about the bullying that Lucky incurred at school, but it was also very real and thought-provoking. I was a little put off by the dream sequences in Vietnam, but I think the author brought it around nicely in the end. All in all, a powerful book.

Recommendation: 4/5 stars
Grades 9+ (language, adult situations)

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review: Side Effects May Vary

Side Effects May Vary Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk: When 16-year old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, she feels like her world is ending. She and Harvey, her childhood best friend and on-again/off-again romantic interest, start working through her bucket list. But when her cancer goes into remission, Alice is forced to re-think the rest of her life.

My Thoughts: I really liked this one. It sort of reminded me of a "bizarro world" Fault in Our Stars. Instead of a lovable and quirky Hazel Grace, we get snarky and kind of UN-lovable Alice. She pretty much does everything we DON'T want her to do, including using her best friend in the worst possible ways. This is a pretty darn good tale about friendship, love, bullying, and sickness.

My Recommendation: 4.5/5 stars
Grades 9+ (adult situations, language)

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Next

Next Next by Michael Crichton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Talk: Your body belongs to you...right? Not anymore, at least according to the lawyers and researchers in Crichton's Next. Transgenic species of apes and parrots are being created that blend animals and people into strange new beings. And how will all of this new technology impact us?

My Thoughts: I generally like Michael Crichton's books. They tend to be interesting and fast reads. This was the opposite, pretty much drudgery. I really really disliked this book. There were so many characters doing way too many things, and those were just the humans. Then add in the half ape, half parrot, and half orangutan, and things get really confusing.

My Recommendation: 2/5 stars
Grades 9+ (language)

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Co-teaching in the Library: Research in US History

Over the past few days, I have been co-teaching with 4 other teachers: 3 social studies and 1 instructional coach. We also worked with several learning support teachers.





Our goal this semester is to embed a series of research skills into the US history curriculum in bite-size chunks. My role is to teach students how to access a variety of online tools, the instructional coach teaches them how to take the information and process it, and then the social studies teachers have the students combine that information into an end product.

For our first lesson, I taught students how to access our Gale database, Student Resources in Context. Here is my lesson plan. My goal was go focus on inquiry...provide some very basic scaffolding and then let them explore the resource to figure out all of the benefits and options.

I figured out about halfway through the first class that students were very overwhelmed by the sheer number of questions on my scavenger hunt. So my first tweak for the next class period was to highlight a few questions in each section.

In my planning, I thought it was a cool idea to let kids pick a "hot topic" to use to explore the database. Then they would take that knowledge and apply it to a specific search on the Civil War.
Instead, kids couldn't make the connection between the "hot topics" research and "real" research (in their minds). They were so mentally tired from the scavenger hunt that there really was nothing left for the Civil War research their teachers wanted them to conduct.

By the last class period of the day, I figured out that future iterations of this lesson need to focus solely on the Civil War. I need to keep everything very clean and specific. I still like the scavenger hunt idea, but it probably needs to be a little more focused. Give them an overview, and then let them explore.

On Day 2, I moved to World Book Encyclopedia. I used the same essential plan, but modified as described above. It went more smoothly, but I know that the next time we do this, each "chunk" needs to include ONE resource. We also have to limit the topics that are being studied. Students got so frustrated by the lack of information on their very specific topics that they gave up. I know that we have to teach persistence, and that research often leads to dead ends. But we also have to be realistic that we have a short amount of time in which to work.