Ring-the-Bell Monday & What Are You Reading Monday?

A new week, a new batch of books–both books finished and being read.  Today is…

Bell-Ringing Monday


Followed by..

[Check out the home of “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading”: Teach Mentor Texts — and the spin-off: Sharpreads]

This week, I am reading:

Deza is a character from Bud, Not Buddy, an earlier Newbery-winning book by Christopher Paul Curtis


Dead End in Norvelt (Mr. Etkin)

Divergent (Mr. Etkin)

Catching Fire

Kiss My Math

It Girl Back Home

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life



Hound Dog True

Tale of Despereaux

My Haunted House

Catching Fire

Capt. Underpants #5

Capt. Underpants #1-3

13 Gifts

Middle School: Worst Years


Wimpy Kid #5

Strange Case of the Origami Yoda

MS: Worst Years

Class B:

Cabin Fever

Daniel X GN

The Reptile Room

The Book for Gamers

The Battle Book

Cabin Fever

The Ask and the Answer

MS: the Worst Years of My Life

Edge Chronicles: Storm Chaser

Amulet #2

Football Double Threat

MS: the Worst Years of My Life

Bone #5

MS: the Worst Years of My Life

Knight for a Day

Sinbad and the Magic Lamp GN

Warriors #1

Class C:

Dripping Fang books: 4-7

The Goblet of Fire


Dog Days

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

The Last Straw

Bigger than a Breadbox

MS: the Worst Years of My Life

The Boy who Saved Baseball

Riley Parks

The Lost Hero

Benjamin Franklin

39 Clues #3

The Westing Game

Catching Fire

MS: the Worst Years of My Life

Who was King Tut

MS: the Worst Years of My Life

Quest for Paradise

Rising Storm

Artemis Fowl #1

A Monster Calls


Book Trailers: Book Talks on STEROIDS

When I go to see a movie, one of my favorite parts about the experience is seeing the trailers at the beginning.  In fact, if I will be too late to see the trailers, I don’t even want to go.  I love how the movie companies tease you just enough so you can’t wait to get back to see your next movie.

One of the new trends the past few years has been the push to make book trailers.

When we started this project a few years ago, book trailers were difficult to find. Now there are whole websites devoted to them.  I describe book trailers as a book talk on steroids.  Students are going to try making these trailers in my classroom over the next few weeks.

We will be using iMovie to create book trailers in order to highlight a book that we love and want to share with our peers.  The process for creating these trailers is fairly involved and requires deeper levels of thinking: choosing the right words, pictures, order, music, and special effects.  We have been very pleased in the past few years with the product that our students have been able to produce, and we know that will continue this year.
These are a great way to continue to build our reading community. When you have a chance at home, please ask your son or daughter about his or her project.  This is truly a student favorite and I have already seen the excitement in my room rise since beginning the early planning stages on Tuesday.
I look forward to updating you on the progress and sharing these with you in the near future.

And the Newbery goes to:

Who knew? While Mr. Peterson and I were conversing about Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, we were discussing the brand new Newbery Award winner. (Listen to our first conversation here; watch our second conversation here.)

I got to watch the announcement live on streaming video Monday morning. I ran down to Mr. Peterson’s room and burst through the door. His class had just seen the announcement as well:  Dead End WON the Newbery.


John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:
“Dead End in Norvelt,” written by Jack Gantos, is the 2012 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

I wonder where they’ll put the sticker… I’m guessing right here:

To learn more about the other award winners and honor books, follow this link. More to come later.

DEAD END in NORVELT conversation #2

Did you know that holding in your farts is the secret to successful deer hunting? Well, that’s what the character Jack thinks in Dead End in Norvelt. (Ask my students about me reading this part aloud in class. I was laughing so hard I could hardly see the page.)

With the next 100 pages read, Mr. Peterson and I reconvened to discuss Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. You might want to listen to our first conversation if you are following along.

FIRST, A DISCLAIMER: I was showing my school spirit by dressing up for Hippie Day. This is not my typical teaching outfit.

For next time, we will read to find out:

What’s going on with the parents’ relationship? Is it loveless?

How is the relationship between Jack and his dad? Dad is not what we expected.

What else is a “Dead End” in Norvelt? What else could that symbolize?

What is Mrs. Volker’s motivation for writing the obituaries and the “history highlights” in the paper?

Bell-Ringing Monday, January 23

How many books can my students read in a week? That is always the challenge and inspiration that is…

Bell-Ringing Monday




Captain Underpants #6 “Booger Boy”

If You Come Softly



Captain Underpants #3

Dear Dumb Diary #7

Artemis Fowl: the Lost Colony

Bigger Than a Breadbox

Alex Rider: Stormbreaker



Warriors #3

Bone #1

Mallory Red, White, and Blue


Wolves in the Wall

Rapunzel’s Revenge

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The last Straw

Trading Faces

Bone #6 & #7

Rapunzel’s Revenge

Amulet #2

Stormbreaker GN

Hardy Boys: Malled GN

John, Paul, George & Ben

Series of Unfortunate Events: Bad Beginning

Endzone Thunder

Kickoff Blitz

Paintball Twin Brothers

Amulet #1

Bone #4 & #5

Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life

Aliya’s Mission



Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Vampire High: Sophomore Year

Forest of Secrets

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Football Hero

MS: Worst Years of my Life

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (Mrs. Ott)

Secrets of Dripping Fang #2

Autobiography of Ke$ha

That Summer

39 Clues #1 & #2

39 Clues #10



And the Newbery and Caldecott cometh….

The Newbery awards are just around the corner. I know this now. Honestly, it’s the first year that this has been on my radar. I usually find out about the winner eventually and try to read it each year, but this year is different.

This year I’m in the know! Why? Because of my my online community of readers on Twitter and the Blogosphere. There are too many to mention, but thanks to Mr. Schu, Colby Sharp, The Book Whisperer, @trkravtin (who even mailed me a box of books!), Paul Hankins, and the rest of the #nerdybookclub. [If you have a little time, I highly recommend clicking some of those links. Careful–you could get lost in the awesomeness.]

This community kept me current with the great books that were out there for my students. These are books that I now know and can recommend to readers who are hungry for the next great thing. It is because of this community that I’ve actually read the books many consider to be on the Newbery short list.

Check this out:

Yup. Read those.

And I’d like to add this book–one of my favorites this year:

I hope you’re as excited as I am. The winners will be announced on January 23 in Dallas.

The ALA will host a live Webcast from the Dallas Convention Center begining at 7:30 a.m. CT, Jan. 23. Virtual seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Click here for more information.

Battle of the Books (B.O.B.) 2011-2012

The time has come for this year’s BATTLE OF THE BOOKS.

We met in the auditorium on Friday to introduce the ten books that students will read and get quizzed on.  Here is the video introducing the books:

Teams will soon be forming in classes.  Teams should work together to read each of the books. (We usually recommend that each book be read by at least two group members.

Towards the end of the year groups from each of the four sixth-grade teams will face off in class to determine the class winners. Next, the three class winners from each team will face off to determine the four team winners. Finally, in the grand finale, the four team championship groups will compete to see which is the Grand B.O.B. Champ.

Now…..GET READING! And may the best team win.

DEAD END IN NORVELT conversation #1


I’ve been reading the raves for Gantos’ Dead End in Norvelt for months now and have been anxious to find out what all the excitement is about. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. G when he visited our school years ago. (Does he remind anybody else of David Sedaris?) Cool guy with a lot of personality.

The sixth grade teachers with whom I work are also getting ready to introduce book partnerships. We know that the best way to know what skills students will need for any endeavor is to do undertake it ourselves. So, Mr. Peterson and I chose the book, set up a reading schedule, invited Mrs. D and Mrs. R to join us, and got started. It is so much fun to talk around a book. Especially a book with such humor and personality.

This first conversation is based on the first few chapters. We decided we’d like to talk early on to share what we were noticing about the book and to set some purpose for future talks. Here is what came out:

Click here for the first half of conversation.

Click here for the second half.

As if that wasn’t enough, check out this groovy trailer for Dead End.

Stay tuned for the second conversation coming up soon–this time on video.



Every Monday in my class is “Bell-Ringing Monday.” One of the teachers who helps out in my room suggested that when students finish a book, they should get to tell the class what book and ring a bell.

Great idea! Inspiring. Motivating. It makes reading evident–tangible.

The bell sits on the coffee table at the front of my room and students clamor to be the first to share their book and ding it. It’s also affirming to hear students side comments (“Oh yeah, that was awesome!” “I read that!” “Who’s that by?”) and murmurs of assent and approval. Very cool.

Here is today’s list of books that students (and us teachers) have finished in the past week:

Class A:
Hound Dog True (Mr. Etkin)
Sidekicks (GN)
Hunger Games
Dog Walker
Alex Rider: Eagle Strike
The Ugly Truth
Eleven Birthdays
Captain Underpants #3
Monsters of Men (Mrs. Kramer)

Class B:
The Great Pyramid of Giza
Rapunzel’s Revenge (GN)
Shipwreck #1
Bone #7 & #8
Homework Machine
Knights of the Lunch Table: Dodgeball Chronicles
Pickory Sword
Sea of Monsters
Amulet #1
First Day of School Forever
Coming Home Soon
Stormbreaker GN
Cabin Fever
Bone #3
Guardians of Ga’Hoole: the Capture
Bone #3 and #9
Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts (x2)
Daniel X (GN)

Class C:
The Greek Gods
Who Was FDR
Who Was JFK
Who Was Marco Polo
Dork Diaries
Dripping Fang #1
Diana Ross
Trip to Jo’burg
The Majesty’s Request
Who was Neil Armstrong
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Double Digit Club
Vampire High
Ella Enchanted
Don’t Sit on my Lunch
The Absent Author
The Tale of Despereaux
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Eddie and the Jets
Among the Hidden


Remembering MLK

Few men have been as inspiring in their eloquence and drive as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. His words are timelessly powerful.

Revisiting this time period in our history is always shocking–knowing that our free country was once so divided. It is a recent history too; not ancient past. I take the opportunity on MLK DAY to recommit myself to his ideals:

Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Enjoy this brief biography:

This is my favorite picture book about Dr. King–an illustrated I Have a Dream: