Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #1)The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, wow.

This is a book my book buddy told me to read ages ago and I added it to my list on Goodreads, but didn't really put much priority on getting it read. Then I went to a conference on gifted students in Albuquerque last weekend, and the keynote speaker there said it was a must read. I probably wouldn't have picked it up so soon if I hadn't recognized the title as one of Book Buddy's recommendations.

Michael Scott does a beautiful job of putting mytholgies in a modern context. The fact that the book took place in modern times (I have a hard time with historical fiction most of the time) was surprising. Already vaguely familiar with Nicholas Flamel from The Sorcerer's Stone, I expected the novel to be set in the past. What I really loved is how Scott didn't limit himself to one mythology. I recognized the Greek and the Egyptian, but I know I'm going to have to do some research to find out who some of the other characters are. I love learning new things when I read fiction.

A colleague of mine left me a message today saying if I liked The Alchemyst, then I'll love the rest of the series--it gets more intense as it goes along. I'm also curious to see how some of my predictions will turn out--while I was wrong for the moment, there is a chance that I might be right.

I'm hoping my school library has the next book in the series--I don't know when I'm going to have a chance to get to the bookstore.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010


We've been talking a lot about process in my research class so I've been
thinking about it in terms of a lot of things, including the way I come up with mini-units. I thought I'd show my process. This is a picture of my whiteboard right now.

We're going to start talking about heroes next week, getting ready to read The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

In related news, the student (not from my class) who had The Red Pyramid now has The Lost Hero. The school librarian thinks I'm stealing business. Just because I have books that the library doesn't have in.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 25, 2010

What is Reading?

Today, two other colleagues and I were talking about what makes a struggling reader. My response was, "it depends on your definition of reading."

Here's the situation: a colleague's student (we're taking a literacy assessment class and tutoring elementary students) is struggling with oral fluency. Even though he is having issues reading aloud, he has good comprehension. Colleague #2 says that this student is a struggling reader because he struggles with one aspect of reading.

What do you think? Should he be labeled a struggling reader?

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Friday, October 22, 2010


I teach Read180, and this year I feel like there are more restrictions on my time. Read180 was designed for a 90 minute block of time, where our class periods are only 70 minutes long. I've made some modifications to the schedule so that students get time on the computer, time to read, and the full class instruction I'd previously sacrificed so they would have that computer time. It's taken a little over a week to settle into the routine, and as long as I stay on top of the organization of it, it'll be okay.

Here's the difficulty:

Since the beginning of the semester, seven pairs of headphones have been destroyed. These headphones are at least $30 a pair. Two microphones have been taken apart.

So this morning I bought three new microphones--the kind that look like mini-boom mics. They have been taped to the table, and each student is now assigned a specific computer. I hate micromanaging, but $210 in headphones and we're two weeks into the second six-week period? I don't think we can afford that, really.

Students are also now asked to provide their own headphones. I rigged the tables so there is a headphone jack right next to the microphone, eliminating the problem of headphone wires being too short. Some of my students are a little incredulous, but I have provided them with everything else, including their composition notebooks, so I don't see this as such a stretch (they can get headphones in the library for $1).

It has worked out fairly well today, though students have until Monday to have their headphones.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Word Challenges

In our last unit, one of the target vocabulary words was "abandon." In keeping with meaningful use, students were asked the following question:

If you had to evacuate,

  • What would you definitely abandon?
  • What might you abandon?
  • What wouldn't you abandon?

Here are some of the most common answers...


Definitely abandon

  • school
  • cat
  • clothes

Might abandon

  • clothes
  • dog
  • friends
  • make-up

Could never abandon

  • four-wheeler/motorcycle
  • family
  • pets
  • cell phone
  • parents
  • laptop


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1)The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I've wanted to read the Wizard of Oz for years but didn't want to pay the money for the text. Because of Project Gutenberg, I didn't have to, which was cool. My interest in the story came from wondering what the difference was between the text version and the original film version. I was excited to see right away how the filmmakers made the choice to make Kansas black and white and Oz in color. I also think the choice to make Dorothy's entire visit to Oz a dream (in the film) was a way to end the movie without having to turn the other books into films as well.

I also read Gregory Maguire's retelling, Wicked, and became even more curious about the aspects of the story Maguire used from the original stories. Already, the character of Boq showed up (Maguire has interesting treatment of this character). All 14 novels from L. Frank Baum are available on Project Gutenberg, so you'll be seeing my thoughts on them here soon.

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