Well, school starts tomorrow. Until 7:45 tomorrow, I think I’ll still have to convince myself that last year’s group of students have really grown up, that they really won’t be sitting in front of my eager eyed and ready to learn. It is true, they do become your own. You love each one of them. At this moment I have 75 kids. Tomorrow I add another 89.
Guys, I forgot how exhausting the beginning of the school year is; I have literally been in bed by 8:30 every day this week. On top of that, my classroom is still a wreck, and classes start on Monday! With us starting a new school, there are so many things that we all still need to work out, and our team has been working together non stop to hammer out the crucial details, sometimes to ad nauseam. But once Monday comes, it will all be worth it. These 6th grade babies – grown ups – will walk through our doors, and we will get to geek out over books, grammar (yes, I love to geek out over grammar!), writing, and everything else school.
Since I can’t show you my beautiful Reading Rainbow classroom yet because it is still a massive work in progress, I will gift you with my list of excitements for the year.
- Classroom Economy, complete with job chart, classroom store, and specially designed money courtesy of my wonderful hubby
- Book Club – what started out as just another thing on the never ending list of teacher obligations has quickly turned into a fun adventure searching for fun titles to share with my rambunctious group of 6th graders
- Parking Lot to house all of the off topic, irrelevant, or lengthy questions for us to get to later
- “Ketchup Binder” to house daily notes, extra handouts, and announcements for absent students
- Classroom Fridge – because every teacher needs teacher snacks, and even better, it has a separate freezer for popsicles or Ben and Jerry’s!
Y’all, if you have not yet read Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, do yourself a favor and pick it up NOW! This book was on our school’s summer reading list, and many of my boys were excited to see it. This book had everything they were looking for – basketball, girls, family, and poetry (have I mentioned how much my students dig poetry?) The verse in this novel wraps you up and entices you to flip page after page, moving forward to find out what happens to Josh (Filthy McNasty) and JB, whether their dad is sick, and what happens to the Miss Sweet Tea. What I did not expect from this book was the emotional roller coaster it took me through. I naively thought The Crossover was going to be a lighthearted read about a boy and his favorite sport. I knew early on, however, that this was not the case, and the depth of story and characters made it that much better.
My favorite part of the book is the Basketball Rules. These rules are metaphors that serve as life lessons. When taken in the context of the overall story, readers understand the meaning to the characters, but in isolation these Basketball Rules can apply to our daily lives.
Basketball Rule #3
Never let anyone
lower your goals.
of you are determined
by their limitations
The sky is your limit, sons.
for the sun
and you will shine.
I am so looking forward to discussing this book with my students. I also cannot wait to use this book as a model text for figurative languages and poetic devices. There are many great examples of rhythm and rhyme, onomatopoeia, and visual structure.
I hope you enjoy The Crossover as much as I did!
“Great things can happen from little starts.”
Gary and Jim Paulsen’s Road Trip took me mere hours to complete. Not because the book’s lexile is 700, grade level equivalency 4.3, but because the misadventures of Ben, his father, Theo, Gus, Mia, and Atticus the border collie captivated me from the first lines. Gary Paulsen, known for books such as Hatchet, Lawn Boy, and Liar, Liar, has once again spun an adventure perfect for reluctant readers. I found while reading that the content level may be above the lexile, including more mature content such as theft of property, running from cops and prison time, and the threat of violence. The conflicts, however, help unite the mismatched characters, allowing them to team up in the end for a perfectly timed resolution.
This book includes many perfect examples for the ELA classroom including: plot structure and story arc, conflict and conflict types, conflict resolution, and narration and point of view/perspective. The inclusion of Atticus’ point of view allows readers to glimpse into the perspectives of other characters, although Atticus is giving us a 1st person perspective. It is almost as if he is 3rd person omniscient. This perspective would also allow the class to discuss foreshadowing and irony.
All in all, Road Trip was a fun read. This teacher highly recommends it!
‘Maybe I don’t like being different,’ Meg said, ‘but I don’t want to be like everybody else, either.’
I finally finished A Wrinkle in Time, just a short hour ago. Yes, this short, YA novel took me nearly two months to read. While I did enjoy the book’s story, I did not find it as enticing as many other new novels hitting the shelves these days, and perhaps this is why Wrinkle took me so long to complete. What I did find most enjoyable were all of the connections that I made to other fantasy novels. While reading, I was reminded of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Phantom Tollbooth. Perhaps these connections were based solely on the adventure, and the main character, Meg, finding her true purpose through her journey, but isn’t that what reading is all about, making connections? Frankly, it was these connections that kept me plodding through the pages. I imagine that had I read this novel as a child I would have been enthralled with the imaginative story; the whimsy of Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which; and the suspense surrounding Mr Murray and Charles Wallace.
‘Like and equal are two entirely different things.’
I do not plan to read Madeleine L’Engle’s sequels any time soon, but perhaps in the coming months my mind will change. I have a feeling that this is the kind of book that will stick with me, that will be recommended time and time again. I have a feeling that I will mull over Meg’s interaction with IT and just how she was able to overcome. My copious notes on literary devices, symbolism, and important quotations alone have me curious why I did not enjoy the book as intensely as my curiosity has guided me. Perhaps I will not pick up another of L’Engle’s books, but perhaps I will rekindle the friendship with Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin.
I may not have met all of my goals for the summer, but my classroom is ready and that calls for a happy dance! I can officially go look at the new building on Monday, and I could not be more ecstatic. I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the start of the new year. This summer was so relaxing – full of yoga, gardening, trashy tv, kitty snuggles, and the idea of books that I should be reading (in all honesty, I read 2 and a half) – and I wasn’t sure I was ready to give that up until I heard the new school was ready. That sealed the deal.
I have spent the summer pondering classroom setups, classroom themes, classroom jobs, read alouds, the works. Early on I settled on a Reading Rainbow theme (80s babies rejoice!) I am still deciding on whether to go with a board that looks more like this with copies of book covers or if I should make the board interactive. I am leaning toward an interactive board that allows students to post on the rainbow when they finish a book.
Another addition to my room this year will be a word wall. My 6th graders last year had an extremely difficult time with parts of speech. The word wall will allow students to post new words into categories and will serve as a visual reminder when needed. We will do this when learning new vocab words and when discussing specific parts of speech. I introduced a word wall last year with adjectives and adverbs, and it was wildly successful.
Lastly, I plan to include classroom jobs this year. The idea that I keep coming back to is to have “at bat” and “on deck” – but I can’t have two themes in one classroom, can I? The jobs that I know I need are:
- tech support (helps pass out, collect, plug in chromebooks) – 2 students per class
- librarian (straightens books, checks in/out books) – 2 student per class
- white board team (updates agenda, erases board) – 2 students per class
- teacher assistant (collects papers, passes back papers, fills in absentee binder) – 2 students per class
- supply team (passes out materials and collects materials) – 2 students per class
What are you planning for the new year? Any big changes? Anything you’re super excited for? I can’t believe summer’s almost over, but I’m so excited for the year to start!