Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Reading List

I can't remember where this top 100 came from now, but I've seen it more than a few times in my reader and decided to jump on the bandwagon. Besides, I'm always looking for a new reading list...

100. The Egypt Game – Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard – Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe – Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches – Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking – Lindgren (1950)
94. Swallows and Amazons – Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn – Brink (1935)*
92. Ella Enchanted – Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall – MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father – Cleary (1977)

88. The High King – Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday – Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek – Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse – Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief – Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three – Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book – Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family – Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain – Forbes (1943)*
77. The City of Ember – DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust – Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog – Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers – Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain – George (1959)
72. My Father’s Dragon – Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning – Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy – Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society – Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons – Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher – Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins – Cleary (1950) 
65. Ballet Shoes – Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago – Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake – Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock – Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl – Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle – Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart – Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 – Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars – Lowry (1989)

55. The Great Gilly Hopkins – Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG – Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows – Grahame (1908) 

52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays – Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins – O’Dell (1960)*
49. Frindle – Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks – Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy – Curtis (1999)

46. Where the Red Fern Grows – Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass – Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest – Cleary (1968)

42. Little House on the Prairie – Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Baum (1900)*
39. When You Reach Me – Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix – Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It’s Me, Margaret – Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire – Rowling (2000)

34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach – Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – O’Brian (1971)

31. Half Magic – Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh – Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising – Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess – Burnett (1905) 
27. Alice I and II – Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet – Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women – Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods – Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux – DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief – Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda – Dahl (1988)

17. Maniac Magee – Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy – Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie – DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia – Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit – Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game – Raskin (1978)

10. The Phantom Tollbooth – Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables – Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden – Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes – Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Konigsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Lewis (1950)

3. Harry Potter #1 – Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time – L’Engle (1962)

1. Charlotte’s Web – White (1952)*

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook Snags

I did a dry run of the facebook project that I've talked about here and here and that David talks about here, on Monday in my college class. What I learned from the dry run is that editing templates in Google Docs isn't super user-friendly. Needless to say, I was disappointed and needed to go back to the drawing board. So I thought to myself, "Okay. I can post a PowerPoint version of the template, and groups and download/upload their files to Google Docs and we still don't have the 'X has the USB and she's not here today,' problem."

Tried that today and come to find out that files cannot be uploaded to Google Docs through the laptop computers we were using, and they'll only send through Gmail if we're using the older version. So what I've resigned myself to doing is creating a conversation between the class email I set up and myself. They'll download their most recent file from the conversation and email it to me when they're done at the end of the class period.

In the end, teachable moment was about problem solving. An added bonus: most of my students don't have email addresses, so they'll learn how to attach a file before the get to the high school.

Why Getting to Know Your Students Is Important

Once, this semester, my principal told me that I have a student who will work for me and not for anyone else. What's interesting is that I had a few confrontations with this student at the beginning of the semester, that boiled down to me telling him that while I will treat him with respect because I have a job to do, he still has to earn my respect and the privilege to change seats (which was the question at hand). I bring this up because one of his other teachers came into my classroom this morning talking about the student, who happened to be in the room at the time. She went on about how he wouldn't do anything for her and had bad grades across the board, and she's recommending him for summer school. That's all fine and dandy, I like the kid. I'm sure he's not going to be thrilled that he gets to spend another summer with me, but at least I got him to work for me.

How did I do this, you might ask? 

Easy. I listened to what he said to me and found a book that matched his interests and then listened to him when he talked about the book. Therefore, he'll make an effort to learn what I'm trying to teach him. 

I thought about this because I got another student I was trying to reach. He's a self-professed player, who's smooth talking, but really didn't like to do what he was asked. I gave him Homeboyz by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, and he liked it, but lost it. Then I gave him Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena which he skimmed through without reading too much in depth. For book groups, he's reading That Was Then, This Is Now by S. E. Hinton. When he came in today I told him that my favorite line from the book was "If you have two friends in your lifetime, you're lucky. If you have one good friend, you're more than lucky" (49). Before I could finish reading the quote, though, he'd finished it for me. 

Later, he tells me that he's never read a book all the way through. He liked The Outsiders, but never finished it either. Right now he's feeling pretty proud of himself. And I'm feeling pretty proud of him.

Hinton, S.E. (1971). That Was Then, This Is Now. New York: Speak.

Looking for Ideas? Blogs that Inspire

New column posted on Language Arts New Mexico. Check it out here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wuthering Heights x 4

Picture from
However any of us may feel about the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer--which I admit, I have read--it is interesting to see how the release of the novel has an effect on what teens are reading. According to an article in the Telegraph (it's been in my inbox for a week and I've just now had time to get to it), sales for Wuthering Heights has quadrupled over the past year because Edward and Bella refer to it in Twilight. These teens are beginning to do what I do, as an avid reader: go read whatever it is characters are referencing so they have a working knowledge of the references. This is the first step to understanding allusions.

Publishers are taking flak for changing the cover of Wuthering Heights to this, which appeals to the vampire romance-loving teens. According to the Albuquerque Examiner article from April 11, 2010, the covers of Romeo & Juliet and Pride and Prejudice have also received a Twilight make-over.
Rachel Harcourt, a buyer at Tesco, which seems to be the Wal-mart or SuperTarget of the UK, says,
The new sleek black gothic-style covers of Wuthering Heights clearly appeal to lovers of vampire romance stories and are helping them to try out a different read. Anything that encourages teenagers to read good books is welcome as there are so many distractions which prevent today’s youngsters from developing reading as a hobby.
I'm inclined to agree. Anything that encourages teens to read at all is fantastic in my book, whether it be the newspaper, or graphic novels, the Twilight Saga, or captions on the television.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More on the Facebook Project

As much technology as I have in my classroom, sometimes logistics get the better of me. I've been struggling with how to manage saving 15 ppt files, 5 per class, when groups are finished working at the end of the class period. I have two personal USB drives, but I'd rather not save student work on my USB drives. Most of my students do not have USB drives, and even if they did, I'm not sure that's a route I'd take either. There are often issues in group work that spans multiple days with students and absence. I had a group today tell me that a member of their group (who was gone for a track meet) took their project with her to finish instead of leaving it in the group's folder, which I keep and hand out at the beginning of each period.

And then I had a "eureka" moment.

I'm toggling between two email addresses: my own, and one I created for my 2nd hour students, so they could use the gmail+ method to create logins for our class ning. And then I realized: a class google login means they have access to Google Docs. If I save versions of the same template with names corresponding to book title and class period, that eliminates the need for USB drives. Additionally, I have access to their project and can monitor progress without having to worry about students shutting down the computer before saving on my flash drive, or losing their own flash drive or not being present in class for either of the work days or the presentation day. Downloading a copy onto my desktop isn't an issue, as a just-in-case precaution. And saving on my flash drive is a last resort. 

I'm feeling better and better about this project all the time.

Connections -- Unwind in Real Life

One of our librarians showed me this article from the Las Cruces Sun-News. She read Unwind by Neal Shusterman a couple of weeks ago and saw a connection between this text, and Unwind, one of the strategies I try to teach my students.

"There is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person, however dear and beloved, but an expansion, an interpretation, of one's self, the very meaning of one's soul."
--Edith Wharton.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Create a Facebook Profile

Back in January, David (@techforschools) over at Tomorrow's tech in today's schools posted about creating Facebook profiles as a way to show understanding of concepts across the curriculum. In his post, he included a PowerPoint template to be used as a starting point for this project. As soon as I saw this, I knew it had to be my final exam for this semester. So my students will be creating two Facebook profiles, one for their novel, and one for their novel's protagonist.

In order to help my students prepare for their final, I created planning handouts that they'll fill out as they go. I've included them here.

Create a Facebook Profile-Novel

Create a Facebook Profile-Character

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On the Tagxedo Bandwagon

I hate to run away from Wordle because I love Wordle, but Tagxedo offers better options for individualizing a word cloud. Then, when using as a project to discuss character, setting, or any of the other literary elements we're asked to discuss, students can also justify why they chose a specific shape for their word. Tagxedo also offers the ability to customize the shape of the cloud.

In playing with the app I took a paper from my RDG 617: Media Literacy class on how the show Boondocks examines stereotypes within the African-American community, uploaded it and a outlined picture of the main character, Huey Freeman. This is what was created, which I think is pretty neat.

Another nice aspect of Tagxedo is that on my slow computer at home, the app runs quickly. I don't have to spend as much time waiting for a render as I do with Wordle. Tagxedo is also set up so word clouds can be saved. If I wanted to save a Wordle, I saved it to the public gallery to come back to later, or I opened it on my Mac, selected "Print" and then clicked the PDF button.

The kicker will be this: will Tagxedo work at school when Wordle doesn't? (It was unblocked but the computers in my classroom are a little out of date.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Final Thoughts on Skeleton Creek

Skeleton Creek (Skeleton Creek, #1)

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the novel as a whole, especially since my memories of the Blair Witch Project weren't the most pleasant. I am going to have to admit that I did get a little frightened by the story and decided that I'm wasn't going to read any right before bed, even though the story kept me engaged the entire time. This is another one of those titles (along with I, Q: Independence Hall and Quantum Prophecy: The Awakening, that I bought last year at the New Mexico Library Association Conference and just got around to reading).

I thought quite a bit about the difference the videos make to the story, and I came to the conclusion that it was the videos that pushed this novel to the edge of the thriller category. The only other author I've read that has made me feel that much nervous anxiety is Stephen King. I was completely freaked out when I read It.

When I was hunting for the videos, or rather, trying to get the website to work, I stumbled upon a couple other websites that are related to the Skeleton Creek universe. On the companion website, Sarah Fincher's webpage, there's a link to the Skeleton Creek Investigations fan page on Facebook. I was slightly surprised by this, though I shouldn't have been. I'm not an avid Facebook user--there are a few friends I keep track of through this interface, but it's not something I check regularly. Skeleton Creek Investigations has 4,867 fans. This may not seem like a huge number, but think about the viral influence of sites like Facebook and MySpace. 

The character Sarah Fincher has a MySpace page, but it hasn't been active since September 2009, which is near the time Ghost in the Machine was released. Unlike the Facebook group, Sarah Fincher's page only has 55 fans. Makes me wonder if kids are making the move away from MySpace and toward Facebook. Or the production people realized that the MySpace page didn't get many hits and moved their efforts toward Facebook, where there were more followers.

On the Skeleton Creek Is Real website, the author claims that Patrick Carman's book and the events therein really happened. I haven't had the opportunity to read through the blog that goes along with this website, but I plan to. I think the Skeleton Creek following is significantly bigger than the 4,867 people who are following on Facebook. I can't help but wonder if Skeleton Creek will have a following (possibly more short-lived) similar to the MuggleNet fandom for Harry Potter. Comments on Skeleton Creek include links to other sites of interest to fans of the show. One comment links back to the Facebook page, which apparently continues the story by giving clues to fans, and the fans have to figure out a piece to the puzzle. 
Ghost In The Machine (Skeleton Creek, #2)
The final link that I found particularly interesting (and posted on my Twitter feed earlier this week) is Skeleton Creek Analytics. I couldn't find any information about the author of this website, but he took the passwords to the videos and analyzed the choices the author made in the context of the larger picture of the novel. I've read two of the postings thus far (and they're only for the first book so far) and the author makes some interesting connections. The site was only started a month ago, so I'm guessing the author isn't done yet. I'll be interested to see what else he has to say.

Carman did a fantastic job of keeping readers from one novel to the second. There is no resolution at the end of Skeleton Creek. In fact, the characters are left in the most precarious of predicaments that I'm going to get made fun of when my family and I travel to Las Cruces on Monday and I have to pick up the second book so I know what happens. So you'll be hearing about The Ghost in the Machine here soon, dear readers because I am a book addict and cannot help myself.

The final thing I'm interested in is how this book would play out as a read-aloud. Would the integration of video help hold the attention of reluctant readers? Many of mine didn't really care for When You Reach Me, and many of the novels that have recently made my Top 10 list are too long to function as good read alouds.

After Ever After

If you liked My Sister's Keeper, Rules, Marcelo in the Real World, Anything but Typical, or Al Capone Does My Shirts then you'll like After Ever After.

After Ever AfterJeff and Tad are cancer survivors, but the medication used to treat Jeff's leukemia has effected his brain. The state of New Jersey decided that anyone who cannot pass the English and math versions of the state test would be retained in the 8th (or 4th or 11th) grade. Jeff is terrified because he doesn't want to be held back a year due to something he can't help. So Jeff and Tad make a deal that will ensure that Jeff passes the state test and won't leave Tad alone in high school.

New Mexico has passed (last I heard) a law stating that if students dont' pass the 11th grade proficiency test, they can't graduate. Similar situation. Jeff's mom makes an important point about the correlation between test scores and grades - just because someone has a good grade in a class doesn't mean that students will score proficient on a standardized test. Did I mention that the New Mexico test is untimed? And it's supposed to be standardized? Anyone else see the problem?