Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Terrifically suspenseful and intriguing...

I was in Columbus for the past two days for the NFTI Science Text Set conference (presented by the Teaching and Learning Collaborative's wonderful staff: Anita, Jodi, and Renee). I've been a NFTI (NonFiction Texts in Inquiry-based Science) facilitator for the past two years and have found a fabulous network of educators, creators, and innovators in these cohorts! We worked through the process of designing a text set these past two days and shared lots of fun activities with other attendees. I just love days like that!

I stayed near the conference and had started a novel the day before I left, so decided to bring it along and get through a few chapters in the evenings. Wowza...I couldn't stop at just a few chapters! This book was so terrifically suspenseful and intriguing, that I had to finish it late last night.

The Perfect Girl is a story that takes place over less than 24 hours and is told from the point of view of several characters. It mostly centers around Zoe, a gifted teenage musical prodigy with a criminal past that haunts her.  In the beginning, we find Zoe just about to perform for the first time in her "Second Chance Life" alongside her new stepbrother, who is also a skilled musician. By the end of the first chapter, however, we learn that Zoe's mother doesn't survive the evening.

"In the aftermath, everyone - police, family, Zoe's former solicitor, and Zoe herself - tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see." 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Might Not Be So Wonderful...

If you are looking for a darker, more twisted take on a classic tale, look no further than Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. The first in a series, Dorothy Must Die centers on Amy Gumm, a troubled teen from Kansas, as she gets swept up in a tornado and brought to Oz to be its new savior. Dorothy, the other girl from Kansas, has returned to Oz and has set up a whole new dynasty of magic and murder. The Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow are also in Oz, but have become demented, torturous creatures who seemingly follow Dorothy's every command. Amy has a mission...

I didn’t ask for any of this.

I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

Check out Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. You'll want to stay with this series!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Capture The Flag= Capture a great adventure!

If you are looking for a fun, adventurous read-aloud for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom, check out CAPTURE THE FLAG by Kate Messner.

Anna, Henry and José may never have met each other if they hadn’t been snowed in overnight at the airport. At first, it seems that they have nothing in common except for the electrical outlet they are arguing over and the snowstorm. But after just a moment of conversation, they realize that all three had been at the same gala event at the Smithsonian Museum the night before. As they get to talking, they find out that they have much more in common than being in the same places at the same times. 

The night before the storm strands Anna, Henry, José and many others at the airport, the Star Spangled Banner, the famous flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what became the national anthem, is stolen. Anna, a budding political journalist and daughter of a senator and television reporter, is ready to investigate and talks the boys into joining her. Henry is sullen and sad at his father’s new marriage and having to move to a new city, and José is a bookworm who prefers reading to action. But with nothing to do and a sense of patriotism and duty, the three begin to poke around the airport on the chance that the flag has been delayed by the storm just like all the travelers. And, as it turns out, all three are children of Silver Jaguars, an elite group of people, all descended from “ancestors who had crafted some of the most stunning artwork and conceived of some of the greatest inventions in history. Relatives who had taken a secret oath made a promise to protect the world’s artifacts and passed that promise down through generations.
Before the snow stops falling, the seventh-graders are chasing an elusive enemy through the airport with an eight-year-old boy and his dog in tow. And as they watch others being falsely accused (including José’s mother) of the conspiracy, they know they have no choice but to solve the mystery, find the real culprits, and save the flag before their planes are finally cleared for take-off. The task is large and dangerous, but working together they just may be able to do it.
(Review by Sarah Rachel Egelman)

Students will love the quick-paced action and the characters in this mystery, capturing their attention on every page!

Thursday, March 30, 2017


My daughter is getting married this summer and has chosen her brother as her "man-of-honor". Yes, he will stand next to her and the other bridesmaids as she says "I do". This mom's heart is just full of love and pride over these two! I had weddings on the brain when I picked up Richard Peck's THE BEST MAN. Oh wow...this author never disappoints!

Archer Magill, fifth grader, is the main character. He really looks up to his grandpa (who was the architect of practically everything in Archer's hometown), his dad (who loves to customize vintage cars), and Uncle Paul (who is one great guy). Archer wants to be just like these three great men. Along the way he finds a fourth, a teacher. In fact, Mr. McLeod is the first male teacher in the history of the school.

Then comes change. A really big change occurs when he’s the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But even before that, Archer leads us through laughter and a few tears, sharing about the strange world of adults. He's a boy on his way to being the best man he can be.

I'm holding onto those wonderful feelings as we prepare for a very special day for my daughter and her hubby-to-be. Can't wait!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Carrie, over at, is hosting #MustReadin2017. I've made book lists before, but it's always been of what I have read, after I've read it. I've used Smash books to collect a picture of the book cover, snippets of the text, and my reaction to the book/ how I'd use the book in class. This is a different idea, however. This is predicting the books that I WILL read in 2017. Oh, believe me, I have a TBR list that is seemingly never ending!

So determining what I'd like to read is not an's dedicating only a few titles of what I will actually read this year that's the problem. Now I know that I could read more than what I put on this #MustReadin2017 list, but I want to set a reasonable goal and I want to read lots of books too!

I sat down and took a hard look at my TBR list and made some hard decisions. And here are my #MustReadin2017 choices...

I've already finished Snow White by Matt Phelan (a fantastically illustrated graphic novel that is not what you are expecting, but is also what you are expecting) and am halfway through The Best Man by Richard Peck. I'm hoping to be an overachiever with my reading this year. What are your #MustReadin2017 choices?

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Our middle school math teachers are trying something different this year. They are truly using data from pretests (based on mathematical standards and practices) to flexibly group their students and to provide depth and breadth to the curriculum for those who 'test out'. This is a great way to differentiate instruction for those who show mastery, providing structure to stretch their thinking.

Teachers created the pretests using Google Forms, which allows students to take them on-line and which allows the teachers to see immediate data.Within moments, the teachers can group students in accordance to readiness. Those students will then be working on applying their knowledge of the concepts, stretching their thinking through challenge, while the rest of the class can work with the teacher to gain mastery over the standards that are being covered.

What's great about this, is that the students aren't permanently a part of either group. For instance, for the next unit, a student might show readiness of that topic but hadn't for the previous unit. They can now be challenged, instead of going over what they already know. Students in the enrichment group work on applications at their own pace, saving any questions to the 'parking lot' in the back of the room. The teacher, or even the instructional coach (me), can check in with the group at various times to answer questions from the 'parking lot' and ask guiding questions about the students' work.

Students working on the enrichment portion of the unit are enjoying the challenges, knowing that they are performing purposeful tasks. Students working on mastering the unit concepts are enjoying the smaller group instruction and the opportunity to 'test out' of future units. Teachers are enjoying the flexibility in meeting the needs of the various learners in their classrooms. It's a win-win-win situation!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wild Card Wednesday - Weeds

According to Penn State's Extension Office, a weed is: "a plant out of place and not intentionally sown; a plant growing where it is not wanted; a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered".

We have weeded many books from the WMS library in the past month. I can easily relate the three definitions above to the books that we disposed of. Many of these books were out of place, meaning their story lines or focus had become irrelevant over time. Students weren't wanting to read a book published in 1986 about a girl who wanted new roller skates and a boom box for her birthday, nor were they excited about a 1972 edition on the American Cowboy. They were 'growing' or taking up space where they weren't wanted. Most of the weeded books had not been checked out even once in the last five years. Some of the books might meet that last definition and had virtues that no one here had discovered. If that was the case, maybe our idea of selling them would allow someone to discover a gem of a book.

We decided to hold a book sale for our students, selling these weeded books for $0.25 each or 6/ $1.00. Students were excited for this! Some even purchased boxes full of books and had to take them home over the course of several days. Some hauled 3 bags while riding their bikes home. We ended up making $104.00, but really made some students happy campers with a "home library" that they've always wanted. In this case, the weeds were a good thing.