Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Writing Workshop Power April 30, 2010

Filed under: writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:02 am

I am so fortunate to be able to witness the power of writing workshop in many buildings, grades, and classrooms over the course of  the last two  years. While I continue to be amazed and impressed by all that I see, nothing has given my heart quite the zing as having my son’s teacher describe his writing as a “Writing Workshop Teacher’s Dream”.

Wow! Those weren’t words that I had ever thought I’d hear about my son. Not that I don’t have high expectations for him, but reluctant writer was how I would have described him last year in first grade. And the beginning of second.

At the beginning of this school year, he was the classic “tough nut” when it came to coming up with ideas for writing Small Moments stories. His teacher ended up giving a topic list to us as homework, as he had given one too many ‘shrugs’ when she tried to help him. She even had ideas to ask him about-She knew his sister, his dogs, grandparents.

Somehow, through persistance, patience, good teaching and mini-lessons galore, my son has emerged as a writer. He writes for fun.

He wrote a non-fiction book, has moved on to haiku and other poems and is internalizing the belief that he is a writer and that he can write with an author’s voice.

Writing Workshop is hard work for the teacher, as well as the students, but it is so worth it!


Reason to Click My Heels Together! April 29, 2010

What event could bring  Franki from A Year of ReadingKaren from Talkworthy, Karen from Literate LivesKatie from Creative Literacy , Stella from My World-Mi Mundo, myself and others under one room tomorrow?

Could it be a sale at Cover to Cover?

The announcement of the Newbery?



Good Guesses but wrong.

We will all be in one room to hear and watch Samantha Bennett , author of That Workshop Book: New Systems and Structures for Classrooms That Read, Write and Think, work in Katie’s second grade class and Karen’s fifth grade class. I am very exciting to have colleagues from three different grade levels that will be attending tomorrow, as well as a student teacher from the building. What a great professional development opportunity that would not be possible without the hard work of the volunteers for The Literacy Connection, including my friend and guru, Carol.

While we won’t all fit in Karen’s and Katie’s classrooms, the rest of us get to watch over close-circuit television, with debriefing sessions in-between.


New Clements book a winner! April 27, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:21 am
Tags: , ,

Book blurb from Clement’s website:
We the Children

Benjamin Pratt’s school is about to become the site of a new amusement park. It sounds like a dream come true! But lately, Ben has been wonder if he’s going to like an amusement park in the middle of his town—with all the buses and traffic and eight dollar slices of pizza. It’s going to change everything. And, Ben is not so big on all the new changes in his life, like how his dad has moved out and started living in the marina on what used to be the “family” sailboat. Maybe it would be nice if the school just stayed as it is. He likes the school. Loves it, actually. It’s over 200 years old and sits right on the harbor. The playground has ocean breezes and the classrooms have million dollar views…MILLION DOLLAR views. And after a chance—and final—run-in with the school janitor, Ben starts to discover that these MILLION DOLLAR views have a lot to do with the deal to sell the school property. But, as much as the town wants to believe it, the school does not belong to the local government. It belongs to the CHILDREN and these children have the right to defend it!
Don’t think Ben, his friend Jill (and the tag-along Robert) can ruin a multimillion dollar real estate deal? Then you don’t know the history and the power of the Keepers of the School. A suspenseful six book series, book one, We the Children, starts the battle on land and on sea. It’s a race to keep the school from turning into a ticket booth and these kids are about to discover just how threatening a little knowledge can be.

Prior to reading the new Clements book, when I saw the cover of The Benjamin Pratt & The Keepers of the School: We the Children, it had me thinking ahead of time that it was going to be a historical fiction book set during the American Revolution-hmmm-I guess it was the sepia tones of the book and the “We the Children” similarity to the “We the people…” I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I loved the new We the Children: Keepers of the School by Andrew Clements. (I know. Big surprise.)
My only complaint? It was too short!

Just about the time you hit that peak, the book ends!  I’ll call it the 39 Clues phenomenon. I’m not quite sure what I think about it in the form of a $14.95 book that is only available in hardback. While this book will be a winner for reluctant readers as well as book lovers, I do worry that the reluctant readers will lose interest before the next one in the series comes out-September 7, 2010(title- Fear Itself). At $14.95 for 160 pages, complete with pictures and a middle grade font, the $90 price tag for the series is a little hefty.

Here’s the cover for Book 2:

I loved this twist on a school story. Benjamin is a great character, as is the janitor who gave him the coin, his friend, Jill, and his “frienemy” Robert. A great combination of suspense and “school story” realistic fiction, you can’t help but want to know how the kids will outwit the bad guys/big corporation.

The black, blue and white illustrations are a great addition to the story and help the plot move right along.


Student created Strategy Posters Reading and Writing April 16, 2010

Filed under: reading workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:09 pm
Tags: , ,

New YA release by Patrick Carman Thirteen Days to Midnight April 12, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:08 am
Tags: , ,

I’m very excited about the new release today of Patrick Carman’s Thirteen Days to Midnight. I loved the advanced review copy I got at NCTE and have been waiting for it to hit print. The 13d website has a great promo that would be sure to grab any reluctant readers.

If you liked his Skeleton Creek, you will like his new series for middle grade readers-Seekers. It is similar to the Skeleton Creek, as it combines multi-media/computer with traditional storytelling.

Here’s his recent article in Publisher’s Weekly:

Soapbox: Reimagining Books

How to reach young readers

by Patrick Carman — Publishers Weekly, 2/8/2010 2:00:00 AM

When I was growing up, there were no books in my house. It was the ’70s, and my dad loved the TV so much that he wouldn’t turn it off, even when no one was home to watch it. I’d often come home from school to an empty house and find Perry Mason arguing a case in my living room or Gilligan drinking out of a coconut. This was the era that gave us Evel Knievel, Stretch Armstrong, Kiss, Asteroids, Star Wars, and Fantasy Island. There were a thousand manufactured worlds, and I fell under the spell of them all. Books were a distant fourth, behind my turntable, the idiot box, and the local movie theater. Against these odds, I still became a reader.

Fast-forward to the present day, and people of all ages are reading less, which is hard for me to imagine, since my parents didn’t read at all (they have both since bucked the trend and improved in this area). There are more distractions for young readers today than there were when I was a kid—and there’s a fundamental difference in the types of distractions kids are faced with now.

Today’s teens and preteens have an overwhelming need to stay connected, and while adults may not appreciate it, we do have to live with it. My wife and I face this reality on a daily basis with our 14- and 12-year-old daughters. We’ve surrounded them with books, read to them endlessly over the years, and encouraged quiet time away from their friends and the consuming force of the computer. Yet it’s a challenge to keep them engaged by the written page. You begin to see the need for a lifeline.

And that, truly, is what I envisioned when I began working on the book-video hybrid series Skeleton Creek three years ago: a lifeline back to books. I imagined millions of disengaged readers finding the biggest carrot I could think of: getting to watch part of the story unfold on video. Read 25 pages, watch an online video, repeat. I would go back and forth with them—me in their world, them in mine—until we reached the end of the story. Meet me halfway and we’ll get through 200 pages together. That was the message.

And it worked. Three hundred thousand copies later, thousands of life-changing e-mails from librarians and teachers eager to tell me about nonreading students finally reading again, and almost two million videos watched have proven what I knew was true: if we meet young readers halfway, they’ll turn the pages we so desperately want them to read. Just this week, I learned about three middle schools reading Skeleton Creek together. In each case it started with just one kid and tore through the entire place, including the kids who never read.

Young readers understand this simple message: we want you, we understand you, and we will create books for you. This scares some people, all of them adults. Pundits may cry over technology as the beginning of the end for books, but I see it as a new beginning. If technology gets kids excited about reading, a book can spread as virally as a cool app. I’ve spoken in auditoriums full of kids at 750 schools across the country, and I’ve watched as a sea change has occurred in the lives of young readers. How we react to these changes as writers, publishers, librarians, and book lovers will set the stage for the next decade of reading and the ultimate fate of books. 

Our reaction requires two things: an open mind and the courage to step into young readers’ worlds. We can see the number of engaged readers skyrocket if we embrace the opportunity to reimagine what a book can be.  

Don’t get me wrong. I love traditional books. I’ve written a dozen of them and plan to keep writing them. But I’m convinced technology is not the enemy of reading. It’s our job—as the adults in the room who love books—to create a strategy that links kids back to books. They want to be connected to stories, and their tool of choice is technology.

I still think 19 out of 20 books for young readers should be traditional, but there is room now in my worldview to include a story that seamlessly blends words, videos, and the Web. I would like to think we’re smart enough to reimagine technology as something that creates millions of excited young readers instead of fearing the opposite.

Author Information
Patrick Carman is a bestselling author of several middle-grade series. Scholastic will release the first in his new book-video hybrid series, Trackers, in May.

Poetry Unit of Study Reading Lesson 5 Grade 5 April 3, 2010

Filed under: Poetry,reading workshop,units of study — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:32 am
Tags: , ,

Reading Lesson 5: How to Read Poetry Aloud—Paying Attention to Line Breaks and White Space


• Poetry anthologies and copies of poems at a variety of reading levels for independent reading (see Reading Resources in Unit at a Glance)

• Student copies of three short poems they are not familiar with and one of the poems cut into word strips and arranged in pocket chart with wording in order, but different line breaks and white space

Intended Learning

Students hear and read poetry aloud to learn how line breaks and white space determine poems’ meanings, rhythms, and sounds.

Big Ideas

• Understand poetry elements, including word choice, rhythm, rhyme, imagery, metaphor, and visual design.

• Create mental images to understand literary language and deepen comprehension.



Looking at the class chart “What Is Poetry?” point out how students already realize that white space and line breaks are essential poetry elements. Tell them line breaks and white spaces are as basic to poems as paragraphs are to prose. Discuss how many poems are arranged in lines and how poets decide on line lengths.

Today we look deeper at the power of line breaks and white space. Remind students what they learn today will help them become better poetry writers.

Teaching and Active Engagement

With the poem’s words in original order, direct students’ attention to the poem in the pocket chart. Ask volunteers to read the poem aloud, thinking of possible meaning and rhythms they hear. Then, with the poem’s words remaining in original order, ask for student input on rearranging the line breaks.

Ask volunteers to read the poem again with the new arrangement. Discuss how line breaks affect the poem’s meaning. Repeat the process with new line breaks, then read and discuss how the new line breaks affected the poem. Finally, show students the poet’s version of the poem and read aloud. Talk about how poets decide line lengths to influence meaning and sounds.

However, by using appropriate language-level poems and taking time learners to experience the effects of different poetry arrangements, this lesson can be very effective in developing the “ears” of budding poets and poetry readers.


Students experiment with line breaks for at least one of the two other poems you chose. Direct them to first read the poem aloud, softly to themselves, to hear the poem’s sound and rhythm. Next, ask them to rewrite the poem with line breaks and white space that make sense to them.

Independent and Small Group Time

• Students read from poetry books and/or teacher-selected poems.

• Confer with individual students and/or provide small group instruction.


• Group students who worked on the same poems in pairs or small groups.

• Ask them to show and read their poems and explain their thinking about the line breaks and white space.


Poetry UOS-Grade 5-Writing Lesson 5

Filed under: Poetry,units of study,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:21 am
Tags: , ,

Writing Lesson 3: Collecting Seeds—Writing About Important Topics


• Mentor poems about personal experiences or mentor poets who have written about personal experiences or important things in their lives, such as “Mexican Dummy Time,” page 21, “T-Shirt,” page 24, or “The Photograph,” page 19, in My Name Is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River by Jane Medina; “Autumn Thoughts” or “Aunt Sue’s Stories” in The Dream Keeper and Other Poems by Langston Hughes; or “Weeding With Dad,” page 52, or “Faking It,” page 75, in Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash: Poems About Growing Up by Donald Graves

• Overhead of teacher-created poem about interesting or important topic

• Chart paper to create “Where Poets Get Their Ideas” chart

Intended Learning

• Students write poems about important events, people, or places in their lives to gain understanding of where poets get topics for their writing.

Big Ideas

• Develop awareness of sounds of words and rhythm of phrases.



“Look for the poetry that grows under your feet.”

Rainer Marie Rilke

For students to write poems, they need things to write about. Explain that they may be lucky enough to find poem ideas just popping out of their heads—but unfortunately for most of us, it does not work that way.

You could tell students an author you rely on to help you with ideas for teaching students to write is Ralph Fletcher. He advises us to use our memories, reflections, and dreams to spark poems. Tell students you will read a few short poems from authors who did just that.


Select poems from mentor texts about personal experiences or mentor poets who have written about personal experiences or important things in their lives. Read aloud a series of poetry and ask students to think about where authors got their ideas for these poems.

Active Engagement

After each poem, have students talk with their partners about where the author most likely got his or her idea for the poem or why they think the author wrote the poem. Begin charting information on a “Where Poets Get Their Ideas” chart.


Tell students you tried writing a poem about something important or interesting in your life. Share your try-it with students.

Explain students’ work today is to write at least one poem about something from their lives. Tell them if they finish their poems before Independent and Small Group Time is over, they can write another, or they can list ideas in their notebooks for other possible poems.

Independent and Small Group Time

• Students write poems about important events, people, or places in their own lives.


• Students share with partners some poems they wrote in their notebooks.

• Several students share out with the whole group.

• For homework, ask students to use what they learned today to write another poem at home tonight.