Monday, September 12, 2016

Character Unit Book Club

So excited to be launching my first in class book club tomorrow! I get a lot of questions about book club and you can check out my Book Club Basics post {here}.

A big thing I stress is keeping book clubs authentic. For me, these are not literature circles with a packet and jobs. Could use those roles, sure! But a real book club, doesn't function that way. In real life you read a book independently and then get together with your club to discuss and enjoy the book. In my class, book clubs operate the same way. Students read the books independently and then come together on Fridays to share, discuss, or work on something fun! We also use these books as ways to get in our Reader's Workshop mini-lessons. Since I've read all of the books, its easy to do a comprehension check as well or help striving readers. As always, you need to do what's best for your classroom. I always try and offer lots of choice and once students finish two book club novels within the unit, they are on free choice.

Our first book club of the year focuses on characters. We dig deep and look at how and when characters act out of character. We also begin to analyze how other characters and even settings can impact characters. At the conclusion of this unit, students write a literary essay focusing on their main characters. My teaching partner and I wanted to focus on books that will help build community within our team. Therefore, many of the choices deal with characters that have special needs or are dealing with problems outside of their control like divorce and having a parent in jail.

This unit could work with ANY novel with strong characters but here are few of my favorites... 
If you'd like to book talk any of these novels, click the Book Talks graphic. It will link you to my Google Drive link. You can download my SMARTnotebook file with strong character novels.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

15th Anniversary of 9/11

Books help connect students to history and each other. With this year being the 15th Anniversary of September 11th, I've found so many books to help students understand this time in American history and why this date has impacted everyone that remembers the events of the day. I feel like exposing students to high interest historical fiction and nonfiction help bridge the gap of understanding for students born after September 11th.

Here are few of my favorite reads for middle grade readers:

What are your favorites for sharing and discussing 9/11?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Wish: A Book Review

Love at first sight is something many of us wish for. We’ve all been there. That newly released hardback that you just know you will love the instant you lay eyes the cover. These are books that stir something within our book loving souls and transport us to a new place. Wish by Barbara O’Connor was that book for me. A friend had posted an image in our Voxer chat and it was book love at first sight. I wished I had a copy.

As luck would have it, my wish came true. I entered and won a Twitter ARC giveaway and soon had my own copy to read. Upon its arrival, I stared longingly at the cover. The purple haze and swirls of color pulled me into Barbara’s world without having read a single word. I was developing a major book crush. In my heart, I was there in the twilight with a girl and her dog. I wished to know them.

I started Wish and met Charlie. A young girl who is moving in with her aunt and uncle until her mom is able to “get on her feet” again. She’s leaving her home, friends, and even his sister behind as she’s thrust into a new town filled with strangers. Charlie reminded me of beloved characters like Hollis Woods and Carly Conners. She was smart yet standoffish. And a little bit, okay a lot, feisty. Charlie didn’t need to like this new town or new family because she wasn’t going to be there long. Charlie knew her mom was bound get out of bed and get her feet on the ground in no time. For her sake, I too wished for Charlie’s mom to crawl out of her depression.

Yet, Charlie finds herself chasing after a stray dog and making friends despite her own objections to these “squirrel eating hillbillies.” As Charlie began to settle into her new home among the Blue Ridge Mountains, I too began to feel at home in North Carolina. I was there watching fireflies dance from the porch with a snoring dog at my feet. I was sipping sweet tea and smelling rain soaked tomatoes ripening on the vine. I was immersed completely in Charlie’s world. Like fog off the mountains, Bertha and Gus’ home settled around me and blurred the lines of reality. I wished for Charlie to realize the beauty of the people and place surrounding her. 

Slowly, Charlie discovers what I had seen all along, the magic within the mountains. Howard, her new best friend is insightful and honest beyond his years. Soon Charlie finds loyalty among friends, family, and a dog. She begins to know and love a world that she always wished for. As a reader, how could I not too fall deeper in love with Charlie and her family? As Charlie kept her making her own secret wish, I too began finding ways to make my own wish as well. A soft blow on a dandelion or silent wish on a twinkling star. Would Charlie’s wish come true? Would mine?

I had wished for a book to love and share, and I found that story within Barbara O’Connors’ Wish. This story was a work of the heart. Barbara’s craft and storytelling are nothing short of magical. Wish transports you to summer in the Blue Ridge Mountains and you won’t want to leave. Pieces of Wish are still lingering within my heart. Pulling at the strings and weaving its way into a forever favorite. Sharing Wish with teachers and students has allowed me to live a little longer in the foggy haze between fiction and reality.

Alas, did my wish come true? My secret wish is that my students will find a warm spot on the front porch and allow Wish to settle in their hearts and transport them to a world filled with fireflies and friendship.

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