Happy Verse Day, Valentines! ;)

Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Versenovels is hosting another round of verse related posts.

Today’s featured post, by Guest Blogger Tim Sinclair speaks about love-true love. Not the mushy, gushy, over-the-top, fancy dancy, unrealistic love. The real, messy, dirty, hard, and sometimes even angry love that comes from real life. Definitely worth the read!

And, as an additional treat, check out the post over at Marcie’s blog. She is offering up an annotated list of haiku for Valentine’s Day.

2013 Run Down … so far…

I have been reading.

I promise!

But, shortly before Thanksgiving 2012, I fell into the awful habit of starting a book, setting it on my nightside table, going to bed, possibly reading it again the next night, but before long, I would switch books before the first one was finished. I currently have 12 books – all partially finished – sitting on my nightstand.

*sigh*

But, I have FINISHED 3 novels since the start of January. Yay me!

I will be posting reviews, soon, of the following:

1. Zombies vs. Unicorns – or is it Unicorns vs. Zombies??? I always have to check, because I can never remember. And, I still don’t know which side I am on…grrr.

2. Warm Bodies. And, I saw the movie. And, I was not impressed. :(

3. The Racketeer. John Grisham I <3 you…4EVER.

I have just started World War Z and will be slowly finishing the books sitting on my nightstand. Soon. I promise!

Verse Day #6 – Verse at ALA Midwinter

Hey all!

Verse Day #6 is up and running over at versenovels.com

and

I will be writing next week’s verse day post, so be sure to check back next week!

Verse Day #5

Verse Day #5 Post

Here’s a sneak peek (written by Gabby) at this week’s verse novel post.

“This week VerseDay welcomes verse novelist Carolee Dean.

One of my favorite verse novels from last year was Carolee Dean’s FORGET ME NOT. I’ve previously highlighted this book as one of the few verse novels that includes a supernatural element but also as one that deals with the issue of teen suicide. This week Carolee dropped into to answer a few questions about FORGET ME NOT

FTWN: You’ve published young adult books in prose before FORGET ME NOT, what made you decide to write in verse?

CAROLEE DEAN: My previous two novels, Comfort (Houghton Mifflin) and Take Me There (Simon Pulse) both featured boy poets as main characters and contained many original poems. I’ve always wanted to write a novel in verse…”

Verse Day #4

Are you following along with the verse day posts, hosted by versenovels.com and AngelHorn.com? If not, you should be.

What is verse day? It happens once a week and blogging verse lovers have all come together to write posts about/for/and in relation to all things verse-verse novels, poetry, and more.

This week’s verse post is hosted over at AngelHorn.com: Verse Day #4

In this week’s post movies about poets are highlighted. Head on over and check it out!

2013 Here I Come!

Well, what can I say. The end of the year flew at me in a mad rush and I forgot about the blog. Okay, I didn’t forget, but I didn’t force myself to post either. Part of it has to do with me not finishing a book in a long time. I fell horribly behind in my reading and didn’t use Christmas Break to catch up too much either. But, I am reading, albeit a bit slower than I would like. I have several novels started, a few non-fiction I have given up on and a few more ready to go.

I will say I finished several novels with my students, as they were reading. So, all in all, I was reading, just not blogging about it.

However, it is a new year. And, with new years come new opportunities. I will begin posting regularly again. I can’t promise when, how often, or always of what, but it will be more. A few new year opportunities include being part of VerseDay 2013, which means every Thursday bloggers all over will be uniting to spread the good word of verse-in poetry and novel form. Join me in celebrating! I found out about it from Gabrielle Prendergast over at AngelHorn, she also moderates VerseNovels.

I have also decided to increase my time spent scrapbooking, it’s an addiction really, that and office supplies, like notebooks, pens, and Post-It Notes. I used to scrapbook frequently, but then life let me know I had to refocus on other things for a bit. Over Christmas break I was on Pinterest, another sad addiction, and found out about Project Life. I have decided 2013 will be my first attempt at Project Life. While it can be a very structured and rigorous endeavor, it can also be whatever you want to make it. So, mine will be a weekly spread focusing on, well, My Life. :) I already have the week one layout completed. I have a bit of journaling and photo printing to do, then I will (I Hope!) post images of it when finished.

Here’s my What’s on My Bedside Table List this week: (all links are to Good Reads Link)

  1. Zombies Versus Unicorns - a coworker got it for Christmas and recommended it. I am almost halfway through!
  2. Warm Bodies – my daughter and I saw the preview for the film version over break and I had no idea it had been a book first. But, aforementioned coworker picked this one up over break as well and let me borrow. (Must remember to return both with cookies!)
  3. The Poisoner’s Handbook – I started this one SO LONG AGO. But, I feel I must finish it.
  4. The Resolution for Women – I started this one over Thanksgiving Break, but stopped after chapter one. Kind of because it said you must be ready for the challenges it encourages one to undertake. So, I might be avoiding this one…

I did finish:

  1. Huck Finn- This is an annual read in my classroom. I love it. The end!
  2. Native Son – This was an interesting read. See my review on GoodReads if you feel you must know what I felt.

October 2012 In Review

Books Read:

It is still slow going on this end. School work swallows me whole and by the time I am ready to read, I can’t keep my eyes open! But, I have finished one or two over the last couple of weeks.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (Review below)

Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher (Review below)

Posts Written:

Reviews:

Perfect

Write Like This

And some random posts (some are from Sept, as I forgot to do a rundown of Sept!):

on the thirteenth

And, sadly, that’s it. School has kept me going and running out of steam and energy. :(

But the good news is my students are great, my classes are great, and I am enjoying this year. And, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo starting today, in fact I already have 1758 words! Go me!

Happenings:

School work has included having a class read and act out The Crucible! They thoroughly enjoyed it and they are very excited about our next project, based on the book Native Son. I have decided to combine their required research “paper” into a mock trial of the main character.

I am currently working on the Verse Challenge. And have FINISHED reading Perfect by Ellen Hopkins! I adore Ellen and can’t wait for more from her.

My parents came down for a quick visit, but it was great to see them.

Intriguing Search Terms Pointing to My Blog:

“it’s all about me quotes”

Am I really that self-centered? I hope not!

“visual writing prompts”

This one probably disappointed the seeker. I don’t have any prompts, but I do use the visual ones frequently in my classes. I will need to do a post with links to the sites I use, which have great prompts!

“why did John Steinbeck write the novel Of Mice and Men the way he did”

dang it! This is exactly what I try to encourage my students to avoid. Number 1) please have enough dignity and self respect to at least try to do this on your own. There is no magic answer. The teacher wants you to think and analyze and evaluate Steinbeck’s writing. Because, if you can do that, you have a pretty well-oiled mind and can analyze and evaluate almost anything. Number 2) learn some decent search skills. I hope I am teaching my students better search skills, because anyone who goes to google and types in the EXACT question the teacher has asked, will be disappointed, because he/she will find nothing helpful OR find other students’ work, who also lack the same skills he/she does. *SIGH*

“langston hughes bedtime”

Why is someone seeking this? I am intrigued. I feel a writing activity coming on…

“beautiful things happen in your life when you distance yourself from all the negative things”

So true! Glad it brought you to my doorstep.

What I Learned this month:

TQ Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Title: Perfect
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: 2011

Good Reads Synopsis

This is another Ellen Hopkins YA novel. If I see an Ellen Hopkins book, especially one I haven’t read, I grab it and read it immediately. Ever since I first read Crank, I have been hooked. I love Hopkins’ books because:

  • they are written in verse form
  • they are so poignantly real
  • the characters are fully developed, yet elusive enough for us to fill in with our own background knowledge
  • the themes are ones we all struggle with, or know someone who struggles with it
  • they are thought provoking

I have not yet read all of Hopkins’ novels, but she is one I return to time and time again. My oldest daughter has read them all, since beginning with Crank when it was first published. I read Crank, because she recommended it. And the gritty reality of life with addiction and what it does to those surrounded by it made me yearn for more understanding. I picked up Perfect because it was suggested for a lower level reading student (it’s funny how something with such powerful themes and concepts can be deemed “lower level” because of things like sentence length–which is always short in a verse novel–and how many syllables the words have–but that’s a completely different post!). The student in question did not want to read it, which I think was a good choice, because the themes and concepts written in verse form would have proven difficult for this student. Perfect is a follow up to Conner’s story in Impulse (which I have not yet read, but didn’t seem to get in the way of my reading it).

So, I read it instead. It took me the better part of a semester–because I only read it during the Independent Reading time I use in my classroom, so fifteen minutes here and there added up eventually! I finished it and wished there was more.

Four seemingly independent story lines begin to tell the story and struggle each one faces in the search for a perfect version of themselves, which does not exist. Cara, Andre, Sean, and Kendra each have separate lives, but they intertwine through a variety of relationships. These four characters struggle through some very emotional and adult themes and ideas.

The themes and ideas covered include:

  • Perfection
  • Homosexuality
  • Eating Disorders
  • Use of drugs to enhance athletic performance
  • Suicide
  • Identity formation
  • Following one’s dreams when they conflict with others around you
  • Rape (touched on)
  • Drugs and alcohol use as a coping mechanism

What Hopkins does so well is develop the characters and have them tell their stories. These characters quickly take on a persona we can all identify with, or at least can consider identifying with. Her words for these characters flow from poem to poem and instance to instance. Her poems build the story up and interweave to tell, at once, individual and collective stories. I discovered, soon after starting it, that the end of one character’s “chapter” (for lack of a better word) alluded to the beginning of the next character’s “chapter” beginning. After reading the first set of “chapters” for the four characters, I knew I could use Hopkins’ carefully crafted characters as a way to show my students how characters are developed through their actions and interactions with those around them.

Overall, this is another Hopkins winner. She creates perfection driven students and leads them on a journey to self discovery every one of us goes through at some point in our lives.

My Rating

5 stars!

My Recommendations

  • Anyone who loves Ellen Hopkins
  • Anyone who loves novels in verse form
  • Anyone who loves or needs a good book on identity formation
  • Anyone who struggles with the idea of perfection (which doesn’t exist ;)!)

TQ Review: Write Like This

Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts
Kelly Gallagher
Stenhouse Publishers 2011
ISBN 978-1-57110-896-8

“Writing has become foundational to finding meaningful employment across much of the workforce.” pg 3

7 out of 10 students leave school

“…without the necessary skills to actively participate in either civic life or in the global economy” pg 5

Why I Chose to Read this Book

I read Readicide two summers ago, in the midst of a teaching identity crisis and was working to figure out how to get non-readers to read again. When I received an email from Stenhouse Publishers announcing the release of Write Like This, I knew it would be well worth the read, because I have adopted many of Gallagher’s ideas from Readicide into my classroom.

A Brief Summary

In Write Like This, Gallagher argues two basic premises for teaching students to write:

  1. Why students should write (real-world discourse), and
  2. for teachers to step out of their comfort zone and start writing before, in front of, and with their students, as well as find and use mentor texts to help students learn how to write for authentic audiences.

He argues this thesis by providing research based evidence, as well as, anecdotal observations.

He provides explanations of six pairs of authentic discourses, while stating there are many more than he could possibly mention. The six pairs he chose to focus on as part of what should be in any writing teacher’s classroom are:

  1. Express and Reflect
  2. Inform and Explain
  3. Evaluate and Judge
  4. Inquire and Explore
  5. Analyze and Interpret
  6. Take a Stand/Propose a Solution

He also briefly covers editing and revising, explaining how and why the two of these are very different steps in a writer’s process.

My Take Aways

Gallagher offers up so many examples—both of his own writing, mentor texts, and student writing—you can pick up the book and immediately have ideas to use in your own classroom.

I was already a big fan of “I do, we do, you do” in a classroom and Gallagher makes an even better argument in regards to writing instruction. My favorite (already tried—with varying levels of success) activities include:

  • Six Word Memoirs leading to longer Expressive and Reflexive writing
  • A Mistake that Should Last a Lifetime
  • “So What” Paper
  • Congrats Newly Minted _____ (Inform and Explain, great to teach/reinforce satire)
  • Sometimes You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover
  • the many ideas offered up about college and career writing
  • using mentor texts like written book reviews, columns from major publications, and many more
  • how to take this writing with real world applications and use it for literature (as so many of us teach reading and writing together)—I particularly like his use of the rating scale activity he uses for consumer products and transfers to literature like Animal Farm

Persuasive techniques, expository, narrative, and persuasive forms of writing are all covered, but in a way to encourage real world applications of such writing. His method of teaching grammar is also one I am hoping to incorporate into my classroom this year. I am always looking for ways to incorporate grammar into my classes and his method may be more effective than some I have tried.

Overall

I will read anything of Kelly Gallagher’s. He has not disappointed me yet. He includes real life “combat zone” examples and explanations, which are often more meaningful to me than research based data in the form of numbers and letters. He also writes in an easy to read style, with many metaphors and analogies to help make his ideas make sense. For me, this means he acknowledges, as we should as teachers to our students, his readers are as varied in understanding and knowledge and may need things presented in different ways.

Overall, I give this one a 5 star—any writing teacher, language arts teachers, or teacher in general who wants to incorporate MORE writing into their classroom should pick up this book and find some useful strategies.

on the thirteenth…

seems appropriate to not use writing convention rules on the thirteenth, not a Friday the thirteenth, but a thirteenth nonetheless
I am in the midst of the beginning of a new school year.

We are three weeks in (yep, only three weeks!) and the tone has been set.

For my high school classes, the tone is one of learning, discussing, creating, reflecting, and expanding our horizons. My regular kids, as well as my honors kids, are reaching beyond the traditional “is this enough to just get by.” Don’t get me wrong, there are those few who still struggle to just get by, but I know so much more is happening than not, that I sometimes just sit back and marvel in how these kids are quickly becoming adults.

I have always considered the concept of “teenagerhood” a twentieth century concept, even before reading a few studies and books on the idea. And, if I wasn’t feeling rather lazy about doing anything at all tonight, I would go look up some of those references for ya’ll. Anyway, I think too many adults today take for granted the whole – they are teenagers, so there are certain things expected of them – bad decision making, sleeplessness, etc. I do acknowledge the research out there, which points out the teenage brain is still growing and being molded. But, I do believe too many times some adults allow behaviors to slip by unnoticed or unacknowledged because of the simple status as a teenager.

The reason I digress, when I hold my students to appropriate expectations, they rise to meet them. But I know far too many who are willing to lower expectations because of life circumstances being less than perfect for students. Instead of holding them to expectations and giving them the skills to become resilient, persistent, and reflective, I have seen too many adults use excuses, give breaks, and allow students to put forth less effort simply because their circumstances “suck” in teen parlance.

And what I see, on a regular basis, in my own classroom when I get students thinking, learning, and doing are conversations–often unprovoked–about the upcoming election, books they are reading, and conversations about how to complete something I have asked them to complete. They know I expect on task behavior. They know the assignment/project/task requirements. They work. Because I have the expectation they will. And the side conversations are not about parties, drinking, and/or drugs, which is often what classroom conversations can devolve into with a lack of expectations and procedures. We all have those tough classes. And I have out of the ordinary ones this year.

But, when my regular students are “caught” talking about the upcoming election without it being a simple sparring of “Obama’s no good” or “Romney’s no good, because he’s a Mormon.” It’s about who’s ahead in which states, based on recent poll results and suppositions about why one is ahead of the other. It’s a conversation of substance, not simple empty rhetoric, which many teenagers think is adequate “just to get by.”

Did I have a point? I ask, now that I am finished. More stream of conscious, but ideas and thoughts I plan to revisit.

And yes, I am still reading. I have several books almost finished. Look for reviews soon!

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