Friday, March 31, 2006


So, you are on a Little Women kick? What started this? What made you decide to read this book and more about the March family?

Jo March

I finished listening to LITTLE WOMEN yesterday. One of the benefits of audio books in the car is that the reader keeps reading as long as I keep driving. I wouldn't have made it through this sappy, moralistic book otherwise. In fact, after listening to it, I'm pretty sure that in all the times I've tried to read this book, I never made it much past the part where Amy falls through the ice.

I thought of Jo when I got 14" of hair cut off on Monday. She brought home $25 to help out the family in a time of need; I put my hair in the mail to Wigs for Kids to help out a kid in need. She was all emotional after the fact; my greatest emotion was relief.

My next audio "read" will be MARCH, the story of the March family told through the father's point of view. He is almost completely invisible in LITTLE WOMEN, so I'm anxious to see what kind of character Geraldine Brooks creates.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Reading Slump

Well, I knew that it was coming. I was so lucky with all of the great books I found this winter, that I knew it couldn't last. I have been in a bit of a reading slump. None of the books on my bedside stack seemed worth reading right now--I started several and couldn't fall into a book. I did read HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE after Mary Lee's recommendation. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE so I figured this one would be just as good. Well, it wasn't. I loved the concept of the book--the whole time traveling through different world lines. I just didn't think the author developed the character or the lines as well as I would have liked. I guess I read for character and for theme. I have to know and love the characters--really connect with them. I never felt that with this book. Now, I admit, it could have been me and my reading mood lately, but I would not recommend Here, There and Everywhere to friends. I just started a new book called NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro I picked it up at the airport. It is a pretty fascinating read. I guess it would be considered science fiction. I'll keep you posted. I am just happy that I found a book that I like! I was worried there for a while.

On another note, I found the most hysterical children's picture book. I would highly recommend it. It is called SCAREDY SQUIRREL and it is written and illustrated by Melanie Watt. It was recommended to me by friends in Canada and I am soooo happy that I found it. Can't wait to share it with my students. My 6 year old loves it and I am sure my 5th graders will too. Lots of funny adult humor too. Funniest book I've read in a while.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sails shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

by John Masefield

(the picture is actually Lake Erie, but the lake'll do in a pinch when there's a big wind)

Good News

We finished TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo in read aloud last week.

In the hush that follows the last words and the closing of the book, one student blurted out, "I need a literature circle!" In other words, "I need to TALK about this book!"

(Just try measuring THAT authentic response on a standardized test!)

So we had a sort of conversation where everybody gets to talk all at the same time and nobody interrupts anyone: they wrote responses to the open-ended starters, "I liked...", "I didn't like...", and "Besides the tiger, what else in the story was "caged"?"

Here's the good news. Not everyone understood the third prompt, but many students did. They knew that Rob was caged by his sadness, that Sistine was caged by her anger, that Willie Mae was caged by her yukky job.

Did I mention that they wrote these responses on their handhelds and "turned them in" when they were done by beaming them to my handheld?

More good news:

1. I have seven copies of THE WRIGHT 3 (by Blue Balliett) on reserve from the public library for a literature circle that will start right after spring break.

2. There are 6 fourth graders in my room who want to (desperately) and are able to (amply) read this book.

3. These students have had a standing literature circle appointment with each other all year long. They have read and discussed CHASING VERMEER, THE CASTLE IN THE ATTIC, and THE BATTLE FOR THE CASTLE. Even though I am not doing my monthly parent-child book club in the evening this year for the first time in a VERY long time, I get just about the same emotional paycheck by reading with these six. And the kids get to talk more without their parents there. (no offense, parents, I have to make sure I don't take over the conversation, too)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


by Barbara Wersba

"This is the story of a writer and a reader. The writer is a person. The reader is a rat. They share an old house on Long Island, but have never met. Walter, the rat, would love to know Miss Pomeroy, the writer. Miss Pomeroy is an irritable recluse and has no desire to know anyone. How these two lonely creatures discover one another is the essence of this story."

After they meet, and have begun corresponding, "Walter wrote a brief letter to Miss Pomeroy.

Dear Miss Pomeroy, I am saddened by the things I do not know. There are hundreds--thousands--of books in the world and I will never be able to read all of them. I am old.


Miss Pomeroy replied promptly.

Walter: I understand how you feel. But why the self-pity. I am old too, and ignorant, and yet I do my best. It is all a person--or a rat--can do.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Report: Keep focus on reading skills

March 1

Food For Thought...

The folks who give the ACT are recommending that we continue to teach reading all the way through 12th grade. They have found that more students are on track for college-level reading in 8th and 10th grades than in 12th grade, "suggesting that students aren't continuing to develop skills in 11th and 12th grades."

"The report identifies six features that are key to complex texts. They are:

RELATIONSHIPS. Interactions among ideas or characters in the text are
subtle, involved or deeply embedded.

RICHNESS. The text has a sizable amount of highly sophisticated information
conveyed through data or literary devices.

STRUCTURE. The text is organized in ways that are elaborate and sometimes

STYLE. The author's tome and use of language are often intricate.

VOCABULARY. The author's choice of words is demanding and highly context-

PURPOSE. The author's intent in writing the text is sometimes ambiguous."