Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Student Book Recommendation

Today Jenny shared Stolen by Lucy Christopher with the seniors. This is a book she read awhile ago, but it has stayed with her and has left her wishing for a sequel!


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Monday, November 17, 2014

It’ Monday, What Are You Reading?

Today we had two student book shares. Sam shared Cormac McCarthy’s The Road with 10th grade and Heather shared Hunger, the second book in Michael Grant’s Gone Series. You can see she is already on to Plague. She is very much enjoying this series! Sam requested I not take his picture.



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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Student Book Share: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Allison highly recommends The 5th Wave and is currently reading the second book, The Infinite Sea. Sure alien invasion has been done, but Yancey writes it in a way that doesn’t feel cliche.


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Friday, August 15, 2014

Gearing Up For a New Year

Just one more week of official summer vacation left. The last week of August we have back to school teacher meetings. Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting in on the Elementary teachers' summer meeting. It was fun to hear about the ways God has been work in their lives over the summer, and to hear their excitement for the coming school year.

Between tutoring and sitting on the back porch with my kitties, I have spent the last few weeks moving into a new classroom. I'm very excited! We got new carpet installed in two of the high school rooms, and I've been moved into the slightly bigger room. My student who is advising me on color schemes (she's hoping to go into interior design) stopped by yesterday, her response was, "It looks so homey!"

For most people, what they first notice is the books. I get comments such as, "you have more books then the school library!" (which is sadly true), and "people will mistake this for the library". I've also been asked, "Is this your office?" No, no. This is my classroom!

Last fall at the NERA conference in Portland, Donalyn Miller asked the audience, "How do people know that books are your brand?" I chuckled. There is no doubt in people's mind that books and reading is "my brand". My classroom, my Facebook feed, my Twitter feed. Books, books, books.

I'm a literacy teacher. Kids need to be exposed to books if they are going to learn to read and write!

In addition to my new learning space, I'm planning to bring some new practices into the school year. We will be using the Whole Novel method of studying literature (see Whole Novels for the Whole Class by Ariel Sacks); we will be using a new vocabulary study website, Membean, and we will be doing 20% Time (also known as Genius Hour).

Here is a brief video tour of my new classroom.

I am excited for this new school year, although I still have a lot to do to get ready!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ARC Blog Tour

I am very excited to announce that I have an ARC of Lynda Mullaly Hunt's Fish in a Tree, due out 2015 from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin! I'm announcing this because I'm excited for this book and thrilled that Lynda & Nancy sent me an ARC. I love One for the Murphys, Lynda's first book. I also had the opportunity to meet Lynda at nErDcampNNE last January. She is a delight!

The real reason I am announcing that I have an ARC is that I'm going to share it! This beautiful book is going to travel about the country! The list is growing, but there is still plenty of room for you! If you would like to be a part of this tour, leave a comment on this post.

Lynda and her publisher have not attached any strings to this tour, therefore, I encourage you to do at least one of the following:
*blog about it
*share your love for it on Twitter & Facebook
*buy the book from your local independent bookseller when it comes out
*post a review on your GoodReads account
*post a review on Amazon (you'll have to wait until we get closer to the publication date for this one)
*tell people about the book
*encourage your local library to buy it

The ARC just arrived at my house today and both my husband and I have to read it before I send it out to the first person on the list. Once the book begins it's journey, I'll put up a post where those who are reading it can link their reviews.
I'm so excited!

Monday, February 17, 2014

I went to the woods

When I was single and living in New Hampshire, I lived for getting into the woods. Every weekend practically, I'd be hiking or skiing. I lived in the perfect area- practically on Lake Winnepasauki, a short drive to North Conway or to the western side of the lake. I could hike the Whites or the Sandwich range. I could ski Gunstock, King Pine, Cranmore, Attatash-Bear Peak, Cannon...there were several friends that I could call up and say, "Let's hit the slopes". And I often went on my own. 

I miss that life. I've become too sedentary. I have a wonderful husband who loves the outdoors as much as I do, yet, we hardly every go to the woods. We have a canoe and live on a wonderful little pond. We're in an area, maybe not quite as perfect as the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, but the Lakes Region of Maine is pretty darn close. We have snow shoes and hiking boots. My husband can't down hill ski anymore due to severe knee injuries when he was younger, but he still hikes and snow shoes. 

This weekend we got out snow shoeing two days in a row. Sunday we went through our backyard to the pond and today we climbed the ridge across the road from our house. It was spectacular! It felt so good to get out, to be in the woods. I want very much to get back to the woods on a regular basis. Hopefully there will be many more snow shoe treks before this winter is over, and that this spring and summer will find the two of us exploring the woods and trails of western Maine and rediscovering my favorite trails in New Hampshire. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Benefits of a Student-Centered Classroom

Midterms are next week. Over the Christmas break I needed to finalize my exams so I could handout study guides when we returned to school. I was agonizing over it.

Struggling with having to give an English midterm exam to my Ss. Just want to keep working on the things they need to learn, not test them!
12/30/13, 10:42 AM

@nataleestotz Does it HAVE to be a test? Can it be some other assessment of ability?
12/30/13, 11:10 AM

@nataleestotz @Beth139 make the exam a lit analysis paper on passages they've never seen/a theme related to what you're doing.
12/30/13, 7:03 PM

I really didn't want to give an exam for the sake of giving an exam. I wanted it to be meaningful. I decide to have them write a major literary analysis. My seniors would write about the topic of Pilgrimage or Journey as a motif in life and literature. The freshmen and sophomores would write about the Human Experience in literature, and the juniors would have complete choice of their topic. 

And then there is my senior government class. I could have used their chapter tests and create an exam, but what really would that show me? So I asked them to think about how they could best demonstrate to me what they understand from this semester. It's a small class, four students. We discusses ideas and they each settled on a topic and a product. One is writing a paper about privacy and the gaming industry specifically related to a recent incident with an on-line game. One is doing a creative writing piece using the different forms of government. One is writing an essay on the different forms of government. The fourth is creating a series of info graphs that display key words and concepts for each chapter. 

On their way out of class on Thursday, after a very productive block period of work, one of them said to me, "I think is neat how what each person chose reflects their individuality!"

That right there is one of the things I love about a student-centered classroom!

In my English classes, we've spent this week developing thesis statements, drafting, and conferencing. When I assigned the essay, I asked the students to look at the works we read in class (both whole class study and pleasure read alouds) and at what they have read on their own. I have students comparing Arthur Miller's The Crucible with Robison Wells's Variant and Feedback, and students examining how suicide is delt with in Jay Asher's 13 Reason Why. B is writing about the power of words to create and destroy, it's a topic he's been thinking about a lot lately and he recently finished the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. S is writing about revenge after having read Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin series. N is writing about the masks we wear- something he noticed in a memoir he read. A is writing about love stories as she compares Romeo & Juliet with John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. C is looking at how authors in his favorite fantasy books deal with the depravity of man. 

The conversations that are happening as my students work in class on these essays are more valuable in assessing their knowledge then any 50 questions exam I could ever write. As I talked with several of the boys who regularly struggle with English class, helping them to identify a topic and develop a thesis, our conversation revealed the things they had noticed in their reading. They didn't think it was what I was looking for for the essay. When I pressed them to tell me their ideas, I was delighted with their thinking: turns out it was exactly the kind of idea I was looking for and was pretty insightful!

On the second day we were working, one of the boys said, "I'm bad at writing." Another immediately chimed in that he, too, was bad a writing. I responded right away, "No, you're not! I've read your writing. None of you are bad writers. You just don't like to write. There's a difference. Not one of you is a bad writer." The boy who original spoke thought for a moment, then replied, "You're right!"

Later, the same two boys were sitting just looking a their thesis generators- organizers they had filled out after conferencing with me and contained excellent ideas. 

"I don't know what to write." 

I knew they could explain their ideas, but were hung up on the process of getting thought to paper.  "Just think about how you explained it to me. That's where you start. Pretend you're talking to someone. If you're at home, record it. Go into your room and talk to your cat, but record it."

"There's an app that does speech to text!" And they proceed to explain how the app words, even show it to me on an iPad, and laugh about the funny way the app gets things wrong.

"Exactly! Then you go back and edit to fix the words it got wrong. That's much easier than struggling to get your ideas written or typed out." 

The conversation continued as they realized they could use their technology to help them write their papers in a way they never imagined. I swear, angels were singing in that moment.  When I relayed this story to my husband this morning, he quipped, "They say 'find your voice', well this is 'use your voice'!" 

I think these boys are finding their voice and learning to use their voice! These are revelations and learning moments that they would not have had if I had given them a study guide of literary terms and vocabulary words. 

I'm not dreading midterms and end of quarter. It will be a pleasure to read the English papers and see the final products from my government class. I love the ideas these kids are generating and developing.