I know it’s well past the first of the year, and therefore the dust has settled on the hype of newly made resolutions, but it just occurred to me that I hadn’t shared my resolution here where it is likely more relevant than anywhere else!

My mother is an abide reader and reads many more books in a year than I could dream in conquering, and I can remember in my childhood opening a small notebook that was filled with book titles, authors, dates, and 1-5 stars. I once quizzed her to see how we’ll she remembered the books by asking her how she rated it and her memory was spot on. I could go on and on about what that says about a great story and the mark a book leaves on the reader but ill get back to my point. Ever since I began reading significantly I had good intentions of logging the books I read as my mother had done. I’ve never succeeded. THIS YEAR, 2013, I will begin logging my books! I’m hoping that if I start now, it won’t be hard to go back and try to remember three, four, and five books back. So wish me luck!

What are your book/ reading resolutions for 2013?

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Books + Reading = ?

November 28, 2012

So often I hear other educators saying “How do I incorporate reading in math class?” or “There aren’t any good books out there about math” and I’m sorry friends, but that’s just not true anymore. Are they few and far between? Well, maybe when you compare their popularity with literary fiction and other genres. but listen, engaging stories that incorporate and use mathematics are out there, you just need to be willing to tap into a few resources before you give up searching.

 

As a caveat, I hope you know that I understand that finding the time to look for books might not be easy, or fun per-say, but it is necessary. That being said, I encourage all you math-minded folks to get connected to some sites that are in-the-know about the latest and greatest books for young readers and find those math books!

 

So, the reason I bring this up, is not because I’m a math lover (for those of you who know I’ve always struggled with math) but because I can across a great new Top 10 List of Fun Math books written for Nery Books Club by Sue VanHattum. The books are listed beginning with those for the youngest readers to adult readers. VanHattum herself says “give it a chance. You’ll be glad you did.” Additionally, she two other resources for you to check out are listed at the bottom of her post. The first is her personal blog Math Mama Writes, and livingmath.net which is a cite that offers lessons, games, articles, and more. So check them out! And share these resources with those math-people you know, the next time they express discouragement.

Reading Binge

November 19, 2012

Recently I went on a little bit of a reading binge. I had a small opening in my schedule a few weeks ago where I had some time to either pick up a book or watch a tv show and I knew exactly which I was going to do. I had two books sitting on my bookshelf that I recently purchased at Ollies (both under $3!) and so I picked up Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann and began reading.  I’m not sure if it was because the book was riveting, because I hadn’t read for pleasure in weeks, or both but I blew through this book. (FYI- this book is appropriate for student in grades 8/9 and up.)

The story takes place in the small town of Cryer’s Cross in the potato farming community of rural Montana. Tragedy strikes Cryer’s Cross when a young freshman disappears from the small town without a trace. Her disappearance goes unsolved and doesn’t particularly affect high school senior and protagonist Kendall Fletcher. The story really takes off when someone near and dear to Kendall goes missing just as quickly and expectantly as Tiffany had. Kendall’s world begins to head in a downward spiral when her OCD is pushed into overdrive by her emotional loss and she starts to think she’s gone crazy when she starts to hear voices, and not just any voices; voices from the missing. Kendall tries to battle her OCD and these voices which begin to sound more and more like her friend when she sees a message scratched into the desk where the missing student used to sit. Kendall tries to unravel the mysteries of Crayer’s Cross while trying to manage her grief, OCD, and desire to let go and move on with her senior year and her plans for college.

This story was really well written. It’s captivating and edgy, and the point of view of a person struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder is a new approach for such a story. It was well done and such a quick read. So quick, in fact, that I picked up another book in two days time.

The second book, Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe, was similar in that the protagonist is a girl who is working to overcome personal struggles while solving the mystery of one young girls disappearance and the connection it has to another girls murder and her beyond wealthy and dysfunctional family. This book is at a higher reading level and most likely more appropriate for someone 16 or 17 and up. It is also a really great story. This one had me reading into the early morning hours because of the amazing cliff hangers and constantly changing suspects and suspicions. Overall it was a good read. So check it out!

You Are What You Read.

October 31, 2012

The saying is true. You are, in part, defined by what you read. Every time you read a book, whether you really enjoyed it or not, you carry some of that book with you, whether in the back of your mind or  on the tip of your tongue. Scholastic, being as great as they are, has a really cool link on their site called “Celebrity Bookprints.” First, let me explain what a book print is.

A bookprint is a list of five books that leave an indelible mark on our lives, shaping who we are and who we become. Therefore, a celebrity bookprint is pretty self explanatory. Scholastic has a list of dozens and dozens of celebrities who have provided their top five books that have left impressions on them. I thought that you all might like to check out the celebrity bookprints, because they’re pretty interesting, and I know I’m not a celebrity, but I thought I’d share mine with you. So here they are, in no particular order.

– To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

-Ashes In The Wind by Katherine Woodiwiss

-13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

-Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

-The Holy Bible

http://www.scholastic.com/readeveryday/celeb-bookprints-list.htm (sorry it won’t let me insert the link for some reason)

I hope you’re inspired to create your own!!

I must admit that I am not a huge fan of Halloween. Growing up my family didn’t celebrate it like most families did and to this day I’m neither here nor there on the traditions that come with it. I am, however, the biggest fan of the most legendary writer of Gothic fiction and twisted horror stories, and that man is of course, Edgar Allan Poe.

My love for the works of Poe came during my studies in college as an English literature major. I took a course on Gothic fiction and Poe was one of the focuses of our studies. Ever since I have enjoyed reading and re-reading his works. I feel so passionately about his writing style and his unique ability to thread a story and his use of language. I’ve tried to bring Poe into the classroom whenever I had an appropriate opportunity because I believe that his stories are not only gruesome and totally cool, but that educationally, his works are filled with great learning opportunities. I especially like to use his works to show students examples of imagery and figurative language. I’m sure by now you are wondering why I’m going on and on about Poe, and it’s for two reasons.

1.) Tradition. My tradition. Every year around late October (Halloween) I like to read Poe’s tales. I always find myself going back to my favorites; Ligeia, The Cask of Amontillado, Morella, and my favorite- The Black Cat.

2.) Educational Benefits. Just today, I was in a team ELA meeting in a local Middle school and we were reviewing the sample of this years NYS ELA exam. I was noticing the large amount of high-level and truly difficult vocabulary words in one of the fiction passages. The passage was an older work, and true to its nature, many of the words are not commonly used or known by students today. Poe’s works are ripe with challenging words, however the content is engaging and exciting.

When you combine these two reasons, I think it is easy to see how these opportunities are not ones we can pass up! I feel that when we can bring texts into the classroom for a read aloud or a mini-lesson, and we bring relevance and passion or excitement, the students can easily be engaged, not to mention they are working with a more complex and challenging text for a very specific purpose. When I read Poe’s stories I read the originals, for myself, but I own two AWESOME graphic novel versions of his stories that I love to read and share with students. Check out this book, illustrated by Gris Grimly. There is more than one but this one has The Masque of the Red Death, Hop-Frog, Fall of the House of Usher, and my favorite, The Black Cat!

Brainstorming

October 11, 2012

First, I have to start by doing a little pondering out loud. In the past, or as a student in grade-school I should say, I never thought much about the term “brainstorming.” We all knew the phrase and could complete the task, but it wasn’t until this post that I really thought about it. I find it fascinating that during a storm, debris and wind fly around in an unorganized mess, and that’s kind of how brainstorming goes. Never the less, I have a really cool resource to share with you all regarding brainstorming. Depending on how your brain works; how you think as you are brainstorming, this might be a new brainstorming format for you.

Wikibrains is a free brainstorming tool used online. In Wikibrains, you start by entering a word or phrase to create your brainstorm web. As you would when brainstorming, you continue to add words or phrases that are connected, thus creating a chain or web of ideas. The cool thing about doing this on a web format, is that the webs generate links to information based on the words you entered. Through a Wikibrains account, you can modify the links that connect the ideas to make more specific paths between ideas. You can also search other Wikibrain accounts for similar webs and use theirs as is or you can modify them to fit what you want. How cool is that?! Go check out Wikibrains to learn more about the possibilities and learning opportunities available through web-based brainstorming. Enjoy!

 
This was originally posted on the blog: Free Technology for Teachers. And, if you are not following them, you need to be!

Confession Time

October 8, 2012

A very good day!

I feel like it’s time for a confession. I don’t buy books at full price….ever. This does not mean that I don’t buy new books or current titles. Being a twenty-something with tons of school loans and minimal funds I cannot just walk into Barnes and Noble and shop off the shelves and tables for books at $20 a book. I am a thrifty shopper, in all regards. Clothing, books, home-goods, cosmetics, you name it, I rarely pay full price for it. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy hunting out the best discount stores where I can find great deals on brand new items; books especially.

The above receipt, as you can see, comes from a glorious day shopping at Ollies Bargain Outlet. This is one of my absolute favorite places to shop for books. The store has a large book department filled with everything from children’s books, to spiritual books, cooking, how-to, novels, non-fiction, history, biography, and clearance (as if the rest of the books weren’t cheap already!) I, however, tend to spend 20 minutes in the 8 foot section of Young Adult books. Here, I find all the books that will one day fill my classroom library. After four years in my undergrad studying literature I love going in and looking for authors I know and love, as well as finding titles of new books that have comments and reviews from other trusted authors and sources. This place is the best.

On that particularly wonderful shopping trip, I purchased 11 books at $1.99 and $2.99 a piece! The grand total being $25.73 with tax. As soon as I got in the car I whipped out a calculator (on my phone..) and began figuring out my savings based on the retail value of the books. The sub-total of the 11 books at retail value was $156.89 and the tax on those 11 books would work out to be $12.55 making the grand total $169.44!! Can you imagine?! Like I could afford that! I saved over $140.00. I couldn’t believe my luck. Or so I thought, that it was luck. Ever since this day, I faithfully go in and check out what’s new in the Y.A section at Ollie’s and almost inevitably come home with 4-5 titles.

My latest and greatest single find was a book I was eying on amazon. The Swipe book series by Evan Angler had been on my to-read-immediately list for a few weeks. I had books one and two of the series saved in my amazon wish list and was about to make the purchase any day as I could not stop thinking about the books. Each one was temporarily reduced to $9.99. Not too bad, I thought, until I made a spurr of the moment trip one day to Ollies. There I found Swipe (book one) for $2.99!! I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited! Additionally, I found four other books to purchase and left with (again) 5 new book titles. I’m dissapointed to say that I have not read the book yet. This semester has me going in so many directions there just hasn’t been time, however, I can’t wait to open it, and when I do, I’ll be grinning about my great steal.

As an aside, I also find great book deals at Big Lots! and amazon does run some great deals (you just have to watch for them on specific books.) Also there is a site called which is a good place if you don’t want to go out looking.

Finally, (since I know this is getting winded) check out the book trailer .

The book is out and reviews are extremely mixed. J.K Rowling has written a rather dark story for a new audience which has turned off many of her long-time followers, and at the same time, captured a more mature and life saturated group of readers. I have to say, I’ve become rather intrigued with this book from the buzz that is growing around the new and disruptive qualities that Rowling has explored. The characters of her novel are described as “real” and “raw.” Rowling herself says that not all of them have redeeming qualities.

I listened to Rowling speak about her book on NPR and I find her explanations of the book very refreshing. With magic and fantasy stripped away from the characters, the audience is left to deal with the vulgarity and offensiveness that surrounds the dark nature of real life, and unpleasant human experiences. Rowling taps into her life prior to fame that held her in a lower socioeconomic class and “a life of poverty” as she describes it.
Thanks to Rowling, and many other great authors, I have another book to add to my too-long list of books I MUST read. I’m highly anticipating my own reaction to this novel as I read and listen to the reviews of others. Go ahead and listen to the interview on NPR, it’s well worth it. You can hear the sincerity in her voice as she speaks of how liberated she feels after writing this novel. Especially at the end when she said this: “One of the ways in which I am fortunate is, Harry Potter set me free to write whatever I want to write.” You go girl! I look forward to reading The Casual Vacancy, and the yet to be published, by J.K. Rowling. Author Interview: J.K. Rowling

For me, beginning a blog takes a great deal of courage. I’ve never published anything before and the idea of putting my thoughts out there for the world to see is frankly, quite scary. For anyone that knows me, I am a talker. I’m not often found lost-for-words. I’m hoping this will give me something to work with as I start this blogging journey. Although talking and writing is not difficult for me, I don’t want to just talk (or blog) in vain. My hope is that I can find something valid to say, something that is worth sharing or spreading around.

Before I go any further, I guess I should start by introducing myself. My name is Marissa and I live in a small town in Upstate New York. I’m a Christian, and a huge family person. I have a small family and a small circle of close friends who keep me grounded and sane. I’m an avid reader and very passionate about reading and books. I love to swap books with friends, talk about books and authors, and I have a bad habit of buying dozens of discount books at a time which creates a bit of a storage issue. Secretly, I would love to join or host a book club, but I’m afraid no one would attend. I love food and wine, and chocolate (which is it’s own category for females) and I am trying to turn my desire to be a good cook into actually being a good cook. I’m still a work in progress. I love football, go Giants!, and one day, I want to be in Met Life Stadium watching the GMen play.I have two cats, one is an adopted 14 lb. orange and white whose name is Woody, named by his original owners after Tiger Woods (insert personal opinions about Mr. Woods) and the newest addition is a little grey and white kitten named Finnick, named after the Suzanne Collins character in the Hunger Games trilogy. We call him Finn, Finny, “No!” -for the many things he does that are bad, Superman cat- for the way he launches off the furniture, and “Get!” -which is what my dad is always yelling at him.

I could go on and on about all the things I like and do but I’ll wrap this up by telling you a bit about what it is that I believe I was gifted to do on this planet. Like I said in my “about me” blurb, I am just 8 months away from graduating with my Master’s in Literacy Education (grades 5-12) and I currently have a Bachelor’s in Education (grades 7-12) and English. I love to teach and it is a gift that I am proud to have. I have yet to truly hone my teaching skills and specific gifts within teaching, but the passion that I have for it is alive and thriving. I highly anticipate the day where I receive the call that I have secured a teaching position and begin my teaching career. Hopefully, that call isn’t too far away! So that’s all for now. Hopefully I will return to this blog next with a purpose for writing and it will be much less of me, talking about me.