Sunday, February 27, 2011

My New Book Vlog: The Supplier

Due to parent/teacher conferences, I was unable to attend one of my classes at university last week. Because I had a presentation to make, I decided that it would be a perfect time to try my hand at vlogging. Since I started watching the vlogbrothers, John & Hank, last summer, I've been kind of enthralled with the process and interested in trying it.

So I went through the process of making a video for class, and though it took me half the day to complete, I realized I loved the process. After I finished, I decided I wanted to make vlogging a monthly thing. I figured that with graduate school and teaching full time, once a month--right now I'm looking at the last Sunday of each month--is a pretty good rate of posting.

The idea for this vlog was inspired by the Centurions of 2011, a group I belong to on Facebook. We've pledged to read 111 books before January of 2012, and at the end of each month, we share the titles of the books we've read throughout the month. I think it's a fantastic way to get book recommendations and start the conversations about books that I miss when I'm not taking a YA class at university.

I see it, also, as an opportunity to share what I read with my students. Sometimes we have conversations around the books that I'm reading, and they all know that I read, but because of class sizes and the way I have to structure instruction, they don't get to see me read as often as I'd like. But, if I create the videos, at the beginning of each month, I can give my students a brief recap of what I've read. It's another avenue to share the titles they may have missed.

A little about the title: "The Supplier."

At the beginning of each school year (semester really, but many students know who I am by reputation by then), I take the moniker "The Pusher." I spend a lot of time pushing titles at my reluctant readers trying to convince them that there are good books and that there is something out there that can catch their interest. By the middle of the semester I become "The Supplier." My students have talked to their peers about the books they're reading, and I get not only my students, but students who don't take my class coming to me for titles (especially when they can't find them in the library).

This has even picked up at university. One of my colleagues is taking a class from my graduate advisor. When in need of titles, my advisor sent my colleague to me for advise. Personally, I love sharing my reads with others and I'll promote literacy any way that I can. As I understand it, she actually referred to me as "The Pusher" in her class last week. Definitely a compliment.

I think the first episode of my vlog will be at the end of March. I'll talk about my top reads of the month, and hopefully entice a student or two to write something about a book they've read for a section of student recommendations.

February Reads: The Centurions of 2011

I surprised myself with 14 titles this month, most of which were read at the beginning of the month when I was out of school due to weather. I'd like to get back to the place where I'm reading a book a week, but it seems like the readings for graduate school are becoming more and more demanding.

Here's my list:

Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo (Leven Thumps #1) by Obert Skye
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Into the Gauntlet (39 Clues #10) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Storm Warning (39 Clues #9) by Linda Sue Park 
The Emperor's Code (39 Clues #8) by Gordon Korman
The Viper's Nest (39 Clues #7) by Peter Lerangis
In too Deep (39 Clues #6) by Jude Watson
The Black Circle (39 Clues #5) by Patrick Carman
Beyond the Grave( 39 Clues #4) by Jude Watson
Hot Hand! by Mike Lupica
The Sword Thief (39 Clues #3) by Peter Lerangis
The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl #6)

Matilda by Roald Dahl is one of my all-time favorites. I still have my original copy of the book from when I was a child, and it currently looks like this:


I do have another copy, one with a modern cover. The original cover of this version was yellow. I only took a picture of the front; there's no cover on the back of this edition either. It was very much loved.

I read the majority of the 39 Clues series, partly because I got them from the library, and partly because I wanted to know what happened in the end. It wasn't a bad read and I recommended them to my brother, who likes mysteries.

Going Bovine won the Printz Award, and I like to read award winners. We happened to have it in the library at my school, so I picked it up as well. This is one I've decided needs to be in my classroom library. I'll admit that it was a little trippy. The main character has Mad Cow disease (and now I know what they're asking me when I go to donate blood). As his mind is degenerating from this disease, he sets off on a cross-country trip in order to save the world. It's a story about living life rather than just getting through it, with a main character who has been compared to Holden Caufield (which pushed reading Catcher in the Rye up on my list--probably spring break time ). This novel was probably my favorite this month.

I know I didn't talk about all of the novels, but before I wander away for this month, I do want to mention Identical by Ellen Hopkins (@ellenhopkinsya on Twitter). I've read a few novels in verse before--All the Broken Pieces and Home of the Brave--but I was skeptical going into this one, though I'm not sure why. I tore through the book during a cheerleading competition last weekend. I had to think about it, but decided that Identical is appallingly beautiful. I love how Hopkins uses poem layout to aid in the storytelling.

I was talking about Identical on Twitter last week and compared it to Palahniuk's novel Fight Club.  @yaloveblog chimed in and agreed with my comparison. The subject matter is difficult, but I think it's would be a great read for high schoolers.

Book fair starts on March 4th, so I'm hoping that I'll have some great new titles to read next month (btw, yes, I do realize that I'm one of those people who buys more books than can feasibly be read before buying more books. Don't judge.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Worth a Watch

My pedagogy professor showed this TEDTalk to us in class last week. I thought I'd share it with you (or possibly only myself, since I'm not sure how wide my readership is). I see a lot of my students, and even myself in Adichie's discussion of the single story. It's something I know we need to break out of, while realizing that there is fear involved in abandoning that which we've always known in order to embrace something else.


On Building Community

This is more of a "first days of school" type of post, but as my university semester just started again and I'm reading Freire (2005) and Brandt (citation needed), I've been thinking a lot more about what classroom community means and how it is built. This reflection also stems from a conversation I had with Dr. Ann Huddleston, who observed classrooms in my middle school mid-January. She commented on how she could tell there was a community in my classroom that valued reading, both individual and shared. At that time, we'd only been in session for a few weeks.

So I started thinking about how classroom communities are built and came up with two questions:

  • How do ice-breaker activities contribute to the building of a classroom community? and
  • Would it be more beneficial to create a classroom community around a specific content area? Or at least create ice-breaker type activities that are content specific?

I have to admit that I haven't done ice-breaker activities since my first year of teaching. As part of New Teacher Induction, a class all first-year teachers in my district have to take, we were required to have students complete an ice-breaker activity. At the time I thought it was neat. They had my buy in. But my students, most of whom already knew each other, lacked that same buy in. I remember being disillusioned by their apathy, but not having any other experience creating community, I pressed forward. It didn't occur to me that if a student had more than one new teacher, they would be completing the same project in more than one class which in turn would contribute to their negative attitude toward the activity.

As I read John Dewey and Paolo Friere for classes, and try to come to terms with some of the ideas these theorists posit, I am going to come back to these questions. Hopefully I'll have some answers.

With the musings committed to print, now maybe I'll find my path to resolution.



Monday, February 7, 2011

Fake iPhone Text

I got this one from my Twitter feed last week and thought it was intriguing. Using this website,, people can create, well, fake iPhone texts.

Screen shot 2011 02 07 at 9 17 20 AMWhat I learned from trying this a few times is that you have to put the name and a colon before the actual text, otherwise it won't work. I'm currently reading Going Bovine by Libba Bray (@libbabray), so I borrowed a conversation from Chapter Fifteen (p. 120) to try it out.

Screen shot 2011 02 07 at 9 21 42 AM

When you hit "Create," what pops out looks like this:

Screen shot 2011 02 07 at 9 22 05 AM

Rather realistic. Each fake iPhone text is given its own URL, so it can be accessed again later. The link above is the the webpage that holds the image.

Imagine creating a conversation between a stomach and the intestinal tract, or between two of the conspirators of the Boston Tea Party (before or after), or even between two characters of a novel, one of whom didn't appear in the scene in question.

All of our 8th graders read The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I could see creating a text message conversation between the head pearl buyer and one of his subordinates, giving instructions about how to proceed with Kino. Or a conversation between Cameron and Janna (now we're back to Going Bovine) after their incident in the hallway at the beginning of the book.

I could see having individual students posting their text conversations on Edmodo, which would hopefully start a conversation about their books.

Bray, Libba. Going Bovine. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. Steinbeck, John. The Pearl. New York: Penguin, 1973.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

#bookstack for Superbowl Sunday

Superbowl Sunday and no football books.

When I found out we weren't having school on Monday, I picked up a stack of books from the library. With the exception of Going Bovine, I read them all already.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review: The Emperor's Code

The Emperor's Code (39 Clues, #8)The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With this book I have exhausted the 39 Clues selections that I checked out from my school library. I'm not going to give a full review of the book here, my plan is to wait until I've finished the entire series and review it as a whole, but I did want to comment on the code within the novel. I do quite enjoy when novels hide within them secret messages. I planned, at one point, to go back to the Series of Unfortunate Events and see if there were messages hidden within that series too (you know, after the bell or the ding, or something) but I haven't gotten to it yet. Korman embedded a message about the Madrigals within the novel, and I found it fun to keep a running sentence or two on a sticky note as I read. Two more left, and I'll probably pick them up at our local book reseller today.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Reads: The Centurions of 2011

To my own amazement, given that my university semester started recently, I read 14 books in January.

The First Escape (Doppleganger #1) by G. P. Taylor
The Water Wars by Cameron Stratcher
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman**
Shantorian (Trackers #2) by Patrick Carman
Gossamer by Lois Lowry
How We Think by John Dewey
Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Maze of Bones (39 Clues #1) by Rick Riordan
One False Note (39 Clues #2) by Gordon Korman
Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eion Colfer
Literacy and Learning by Deborah Brandt
Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to those who dare teach by Paolo Freire

**Even though I liked 13 Reasons Why better (which no one I talk to seems to agree with me on), If I Stay was probably my favorite read of January.