Its Monday! What Are You Reading? Week 15

Once again, I am several days late on my IMWAYR post. I apologize but it simply could not be avoided. I have lived for nearly 31 out of my 38 years of life with Type 1 Diabetes and sometimes I become ill and can’t do much to put it to a quick stop. So, I spent most of my time this week in bed or in the emergency room.

I did manage to read two books last week, which is rather disappointing to me but the holiday was just too busy to get much time in for reading or homework. The first book I read was Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. This book is one that will definitely be on my list of books to teach my future students. Winn Dixie is a very special dog who is found by the main character, Opal, and gets to go home with her. Opal has had a tough life but soon learns that she is not the only person in the world who feels sadness. This book has so many great themes. It is so touching to see the way all of these people are brought together by Opal and her dog and all form wonderful friendships. I highly recommend this book to students in 3rd grade through 6th grade.

Image result for because of winn dixie


The second book I read was Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. I did enjoy this book and found that I wished I could have come across some lost community like this when I was a child. However, I felt like there really wasn’t enough of a conflict in the book or much of a theme. While it was light and easy reading, I don’t believe I would use it in my own classroom to teach as a novel. The story follows Portia and her cousin, Julian, as they discover what was once a community of large homes around a lake. It is now a swamp and the houses are mostly abandoned. They befriend an old woman and her brother who still live in two of the old homes there. I would recommend this book for children in 4th grade or above.

Image result for gone away lake


Its Monday! What Are You Reading? Week 14

This past week, I spent as much time reading as possible. I think altogether I read for around 7 hours. I had hoped to have finished at least four books from the Top 100 Children’s Novels list, but I was only able to finish three.

First, I read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. This book is set in the 1950’s in New York and tells the story of a young girl and her brother. Claudia is tired of the mundane routine at home and convinces her brother, Jamie to runaway with her. Claudia trusts Jamie to do as she asks and to help fund their adventure as he is always saving his money. The children run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the city and quickly learn how to avoid detection as they live in the museum, wash their clothing there and even bathe in the fountain. They soon find themselves trying to solve the mystery of a sculpture and find themselves at the home of the sculpture’s previous owner searching for the answers. I loved this book because it seemed so innocent and reminded me so much of wild schemes I dreamed up as a child. Although it is slightly out of date, I think children today will enjoy it just as much as children of the past. I would recommend this book for students in 3rd grade or above.

Image result for from the mixed up files of mrs basil e frankweiler



Next, I read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. I loved this book just as much as I loved The Mixed Up Files but for different reasons. This book is about a boy named Sam who with his parents’ blessing decides to runaway to his grandfather’s land which has long been unoccupied to live off the wilderness. The Gribley’s land is in the Catskill mountains in New York and there aren’t a lot of inhabitants in the area. Sam builds himself a life in the wilderness and learns how to provide for himself. Sam’s only threat comes from other people who want to tell stories about him in the newspapers and force him to return home to the city. This story was amazing because it is rare to hear of anyone living off of the land completely, especially a child. I loved reading about all the recipes Sam created using the wild plants and animals around him and all of the things he made by his own hands from natural materials. I think children of all ages would love to listen to this story but the reading level would probably be best suited to children in 4th grade or above.

Image result for my side of the mountain



The third book I read this week was far different from either of the first two books as it was not a “fun” read. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved this book and will surely read it again but it was not what I would consider “light reading”. This story is set in Mississippi in the 1930’s when racism is still a huge problem. During these days most black families have to rent farmland from wealthy owners and work the land in order to survive. The Logan family, however, owns their own plot of land, except that half of that land is mortgaged. The family struggles to make ends meet but are much better off than many of the other African American families in the area. The Logan family fights against the wealthy racist white families in the community to try to improve the lives of all African American families there. But, trouble is on the rise and they soon find themselves facing great adversity. This book was carries so many deep messages and emotions. It opens one’s eyes to the horrors and cruelty that many African Americans faced during these dark times in America. Due to the graphic nature of the events in the book, I would not recommend this book for students below 6th grade.


Image result for roll of thunder hear my cry

Using Skype in the Classroom

I have personally used Skype for several years now and have seen the evidence of progression in the quality of picture and sound as well as its other features. Most of my experience with Skype has been using it to video chat with family but I have also recently used it to work on group projects with my assigned partners who live in or around Chadron and physically attend classes there…I myself am a remote-site student; I live four hours away from Chadron. So, the value of Skype has been especially high for me. It has allowed me to communicate ideas with others in a way that would not have been possible when I first started my college career in 2000.



Photo courtesy of mrmayo. Licensed by CC by 2.0




I found it very interesting that teachers are using Skype not only to do author visits and mystery Skype but to teach students about the technical side of things. Using this app in a coding class is a brilliant way to encourage students to discover new means of global communication, which is exciting! I am not at all surprised to hear that students make faces at themselves during author visits unless teachers provide previous Skype experience for them and share with them some basic guidelines and etiquette when using the app.



Photo courtesy of mrmayo. Licensed by CC by 2.0

The thought of being able to set up author visits through Skype in my own classroom someday is enthralling! I feel that for students to have a desire to be lifelong readers it would be very beneficial if they could have some actual contact with the authors of some of their favorite books. It would almost be like meeting a celebrity. Students could see that although this person has written some very well known books, they are just humans, too, and have most likely faced struggles and maybe even failed a few times before becoming successful. Authors could provide students with some very useful tips on reading and writing and even answer questions students may have about a book that author has written. How many of us have read a book, loved it, but then found themselves asking all kinds of questions about why the author wrote the ending a particular way or why the characters behaved in a certain way? How amazing would it be to actually be able to see that author live on video chat and ask them those burning questions???

I can see many numerous advantages to using Skype author visits in the classroom. The main advantage would be just what I mentioned above. I would also say that the experience with technology would be a great advantage for students. It could help them begin to realize that this kind of technology should not only be reserved for those video chats with Grandma and Grandpa but for academic and professional purposes. They could even use it to connect with an expert on a particular topic they are writing a research paper on. The only real disadvantage I can see would be keeping students focused on the purpose on the Skype visits. I do feel that if students clearly understood the guidelines for using Skype in the classroom and had been offered some experience with it the majority of them would behave appropriately.


JK Rowling

Photo courtesy of Tracy Lee Carroll. Licensed by CC by 2.0

If you pay any attention at all to my IMWAYR posts or my WWW Wednesday posts, you will not be surprised at all to find out that my dream author visit would be with J.K. Rowling. However, this may be somewhat far-fetched as I know she is a rather famous author and probably stays extremely busy! I hope someday to be able to use this wonderful technology in my own classroom for many different purposes.




Learning Project: Literature Circles #1


Circles by is licensed by CC by 2.0


For my 20 hour learning project, I have chosen to learn all about literature circles. This is a topic that I did learn some information about in my Language Arts methods class and I will share some of that information here but I would like to spend more time researching. I would like to break this project into two sections: first, I’ll discuss the information I’ve gathered about literature circles and attempt to provide a clear understanding of what they are and how they work; second, I will use books that I’ve read to specifically explain how educators can use literature circles in their classrooms.

reading round

Reading in the round by Let Ideas Compete is licensed by CC by 2.0

So, let’s jump on in!

You may be asking, “What in the world are literature circles?” or if you are an educator, you probably have a better answer for that question than I. I’ll start by giving you the description that I learned in methods class. Literature circles are small groups of students who are not grouped by ability level in reading but it is not the same as small group reading. These groups or circles work together to discuss literature in a detailed manner.



Storytime at the library by Christchurch City Libraries is licensed by CC by 2.0

Literature circles can be used at any age or grade-level and should be student centered as well as guided by students. Each student within the group is assigned a different role in their group. There are five main roles that can be used in literature circles but this is where they can become more personalized to fit the needs of the students. The roles are:

-Discussion Director

-Word Wizard




I will go over the responsibilities of each of these roles but first, let me say a bit more about how educators can personalize these roles to suit their students. If you are teaching a 5th grade class and you know that your students have all but mastered summarizing literature, you may choose to cut the role of summarizer out. In turn, you can also come up with other roles that aren’t typically used and create catchy names for them. (Of course, you can change the names of the roles even if you don’t take away or add any of the original five).

Discussion Director: The discussion director is responsible for keeping things flowing in their group. They obviously “direct” the discussion among group members but this is not all they do. The discussion director also needs to come up with 3-5 questions about the text their group has read and write it in their journal or wherever the teacher prefers. These should be critical thinking questions appropriate for the students’ grade level. The discussion director will read these questions to his or her group members then have them write 3-5 critical thinking questions of their own.


Director by Julien GONG Min is licensed by CC by 2.0

Word Wizard: The word wizard is responsible for locating words within the text that they are not familiar with or do not understand. They will then find definitions for these words and write them down. The teacher may also encourage the word wizard to record especially interesting words such as really good descriptive words, similes, metaphors, etc. Once they have done this they will share their words and definitions with their groups then ask the group members to find and record some of their own words from the text.


Wizard by Neil Tackaberry is licensed by CC by 2.0


Summarizer: The summarizer is responsible for writing a summary of the text their group has read. They will need to include important characters and events without retelling every minute detail. The summarizer will then share their summary with their group and have their group members write their own summaries.


Summary by Ben Terrett is licensed by CC by 2.0


Illustrator: The illustrator’s role is to draw a picture of what they have read in their groups. Once they have drawn their picture they will share with their group then have their group members make their own drawing.


Paddenoverzet + bezoek illustrator stokstaartjes_00114 by leefschool is licensed by CC by 2.0


Connector: The role of the connector is to find connections in the text between the text and themselves, the text and other books, and the text and the world. They will write these down then share with their group members. The group members will then make and record their own connections.

connect 4

Lego Connect 4 by Ayleen Dority is licensed by CC by 2.0


The teacher should always choose the book or text that students read and discuss in literature circles and these books or texts should always be grade-level appropriate.

This segment of the learning project took me approximately 5 hours of research, planning, writing, editing, and adding graphics. In the next segment, I will discuss HOW literature circles work in more detail.


Its Monday! What Are You Reading?? Week 13

This past week (reading wise, anyway) was more like four days because it took me so long the week prior to read the fourth of the Harry Potter series. I don’t currently own the fifth book in the series so at this time, I will not be reading it. I also feel like I need to allow myself some time to focus on other books on my list. So, I listened to The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and read both Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

I really enjoyed being able to listen to the audio book of The Tale of Despereaux while I attended to other activities. This book is so fun and imaginative and I am sure it will capture the hearts and minds of young readers. It follows the story of a young mouse who lives in a castle. Despereaux is not your typical mouse. He has rather large ears, does not scurry like mice should and has what most mice would call an obsession with love. His parents and the rest of the mice in the castle don’t understand Despereaux and do not show him any love or affection but rather shun him. Despereaux finds himself falling in love with the princess and going on an adventure to rescue her. This book contains so many wonderful themes for children such as love, bravery, and being proud of who you are even when you are different. I would recommend this book for children in 4th or 5th grade.


While I listened to Despereaux as I drove in my car or cooked supper, washed dishes, etc., I also spent some of my down time reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. This book was a childhood favorite of mine and although it is not as deep in its messages and themes as some of the other books I’ve read, it is a fun and amusing read and is easy to relate to. Peter is a nine year old boy whose little brother, Fudge, causes him loads of trouble. Peter often feels like everyone pays much more attention to Fudge than they do him. Peter finds that even though Fudge is quite a pain, he does love him. This book offers children a glimpse into the life of a fictional child who most likely experiences some of the same dilemmas as they do. I would recommend this book for children around 3rd or 4th grade.


The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis has long been a favorite of mine. I have read this book numerous times and would read it again at the drop of a hat. I have even written full lesson plans on this book for other classes I’ve taken. This book, which is the first in a series, is a magical tale of four children who are sent to stay at a mysterious old mansion with a lovely professor during the war. The children stumble across an old wardrobe and find that it leads them into a completely different world where an evil witch claims to be queen and has put a spell over the whole land that causes it to always be winter but never allows Christmas to come. The children meet all kinds of creatures here in Narnia who can talk to them. They do their part to help the King of all the land, Aslan, to fight the White Witch so that Narnia may be a peaceful land once more. This book is a classic children’s novel which has been speculated to carry messages of Christianity through its symbolism. I do believe this message can be applied and can personally appreciate that message. However, as a teacher I would not suggest that message to students. The themes that I would point out and teach on are bravery, loyalty, sacrifice, and justice. There are of course many other themes here such as honesty and glory and even selflessness. I would recommend this book for children in 4th grade or higher.


I plan on starting From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg here in a few moments and hope to finish it by this evening or tomorrow after at the latest. I will be sure to give my review of it and any others I am able to read next Monday! Happy Reading!


Read Alouds

After reading “Building Read-Along Routine in the 3rd Grade” and Katherine Sokolowski’s blog post on read alouds, I had to look back at my own education and try to remember what books we read aloud and whether they had any impact on me as a student. I can remember Huck Finn, The Canterbury Tales, and a few picture books being used as read alouds and I am sure that these did have some lasting effect on me as a reader. Mark Twain has been one of my favorite authors ever since we read Huck and the way I read aloud now (and even in my head) is almost theatrical due to having to read The Canterbury Tales together in one of my high school language arts classes.


Huck Finn 




Reading aloud can not only provide a time where students can relax and learn to actually ENJOY reading rather than feeling pressured to do so on their own time but can help to provide students with some very helpful lessons and to help them learn how to read in a way that brings a story to life. I felt that the idea of getting to really know the character of your students and learning some of their struggles to help you choose a book for read alouds is a fantastic idea. Choosing the right book for read alouds can be crucial but if done appropriately can yield some impressive results not only in students’ reading skills but also in their values, attitudes, and beliefs.

The following is my top ten list of books that I have finished this semester that I may want to use for read alouds in my own classroom someday. Of course this list is subject to change as I continue to add on to my own list of books that I’ve read.



  1. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  2. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
  3. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  4. Holes by Louis Sachar
  5. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate
  6. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  7. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
  8. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  9. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
  10. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I haven’t really chosen any theme in these books but rather chose them more for the themes they present particularly for students in middle grades.

WWW Wednesday: Week 5

Currently Reading: I just started listening to The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo yesterday and hope to finish it by Sunday evening so that I can try to catch up on my reading challenge a little. So far, I am enjoying what I am hearing in this tale about a tiny mouse with ears that are too big and ideas that are far from normal for a mouse.

Finished Reading: This past week I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling which is the 4th book in the series. This is probably now my favorite book in this series replacing Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine try to get to the bottom of several different mysteries in this extremely engaging and adventurous tale. Someone enters Harry’s name into the Triwizard Tournament and he must face the most dangerous situation to date. As there is some content that could be considered a little more mature than the previous books in the series I would recommend it to students in 6th grade or above.

Reading Next: Since I did not get around to reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing this past week as I had hoped, I will read this next. I suspect it won’t take me more than a day to read it so I plan to continue with my reading once I am done with it. I would like to also read From the Mixed Up of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  by E.L. Konigsburg and then move on to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. If I do, by some unlikely chance, read all of those this week, I would guess that I must have left much of my other homework undone. However, should that be the case I’ll be sure to let you know what I’m reading next!




Its Monday! What Are You Reading? Week 12

So, here it is Thursday evening and I am just now writing my IMWAYR blog post for this week. “Why?”, you may ask. Well, I have spent much of this week preparing to take my Praxis I test and I have good news to report…I passed! This means I can apply for the professional education program at CSC now which also means life will become much busier than it already is very soon!

But, enough about that. I am here to talk about my reading so let’s get down to it. It took me more than a week to read the book I chose off of the Children’s Top 100 Novels list last week but it was something like 745 pages long so I don’t feel too bad about it honestly. It will probably have an effect on my reading challenge, however. I am beginning to have serious doubts about finishing all 100 novels by the end of the semester. I have finally purchased an audio book to listen to, though, which may prove to be helpful.

I chose to read the 4th book in the Harry Potter series this past week, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In this continuation of the series, Harry finds himself competing in a tournament at Hogwarts that is only meant for students who are 17 and older. He is not sure how his name got entered into the tournament or by whom but he knows he must work hard to accomplish the three tasks set before his competitors and himself. While dealing with a pesky news reporter and tensions between himself and his best friend Ron, Harry comes to realize that the Dark Lord is growing stronger and soon finds himself in a very deadly situation. I loved this book just as I have loved all of the previous books in this series and although I thought Prisoner of Azkaban would end up being my favorite, this one has won me over. I recommend this book for 6th grade and up as it does contain some mildly graphic content (e.g., the death of one of the characters).



Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling


Now, I did say I had purchased an audio book and I am currently working on it. I hope to have it finished by the end of this weekend so that I may come back and edit this post with a review of it. Stay posted to see if I can get through it!



The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. I hope to finish listening to the audio book by the end of the weekend. 




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