Monday, May 28, 2018

Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers by Ruth Ayres

There's a chapter in the middle of Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers by Ruth Ayres titled "Everyone Hates Writing." This chapter has my name all over it. Writing is hard for me and pretty low on my preferred activity list. My bathroom sparkled when I was writing my dissertation. I often found other tasks, including scrubbing soap scum off the shower walls, that just had to be done so I wouldn't have to write. I related to the chapter, but it also reminded me that I am not alone. I have chosen to avoid writing again and again, but so have others, even those who write for their profession. In our classrooms, there are also students who hate writing because it is hard or meaningless or not their preferred activity of choice. They also have a myriad of reasons not to write, whether it's the lack of a pencil or an idea or the desire to share their words with others.

Negative thoughts about writing are not foreign to me. Yet, I write because I know writing changes me. I am influenced by the writing of others. I become a better educator every time I read a blog post, article, or professional book on literacy instruction. I also become a better educator every time I write about my practice as it leads me to understand and reflect. I've connected with and inspired others through my writing. Writing is important and essential. As much of a struggle that writing is for me, I love to teach writing. My belief that there is power in words is one that I want my students to understand and experience. Even when our students hate writing they deserve to be enticed, to become a part of a community of writers who share their stories to bring light to their own lives and the lives of others.

As the title suggests, Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers offers insight into the how and why of enticing those student writers who are struggling and reluctant. In Part I of the book, Ruth guides us to better understand students who have to be enticed. She includes personal stories about her children who have come from hard places and explains how trauma impacts the brain and learning. Part II of the book explores how we can create an environment that supports students who avoid writing or find it a hard or even impossible task. The chapters highlight the importance of writing workshop and being a writing teacher who writes. In Part III, Ruth offers practical suggestions for moves we can make that will support student's confidence in themselves as writers, strengthen their beliefs in the power of their stories, and help them develop their writing skills.

Ruth's book is a professional text, providing ideas for writing instruction that will support all writers including those who have experienced trauma, but it is also the story of an educator whose personal and professional experiences have shaped her beliefs about writing, writing workshop, and teaching students who have lived in dark places, but with time and support can heal. There were parts of the book that moved me as I read Ruth's stories and thought about students I have taught who have also come from hard places. As I read chapter after chapter, I also found myself thinking about how the writing could serve as a mentor for myself as a writer. This book is inspirational and practical, but also relevant as we can all think of students in our classrooms who've needed to be enticed to write.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Summer Professional Reading

Part of the reason I look forward to summer is because I have ample opportunities to read. I'll read a few novels and some children's literature, but I also plan on reading a few professional texts. During the summer months I have more time to read, but also more time to think and reflect and, hopefully, discover new strategies and ideas that I can implement in the new school year. These are a few books that I think are worth reading this summer.

Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning by Ellin Oliver Keene

This book is on my list because I think Ellin Oliver Keene is brilliant. I've pre-ordered it and I may actually read it before summer begins.

Enticing Hard-to-Read Writers by Ruth Ayres

This book has been in my stack for a bit, but I haven't been able to get to reading it. It sounds like a practical and inspirational read.

Even on Your Worst Day, You Can Be a Students Best Hope by Manny Scott

I saw Manny Scott present at the ASCD conference in Boston and he was amazing. He was actually beyond amazing and probably one of the best speakers I've heard. He's also one of the original Freedom Writers. If his book is just a fraction as inspirational as he is in real life, it is bound to be great.

Poems Are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

I love reading and writing poetry with students and I've enjoyed Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's poetry books. Maybe this book will even motivate me to write a few poems of my own.

To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring With Confidence and Joy by Kari Yates and Christina Nosek

Kari and Christina are two educators I've had the pleasure of meeting at professional conferences. I've heard them present on the topic of conferring and have found their ideas practical.

The Writing Teacher's Companion: Embracing Choice, Voice, Purpose, and Play by Ralph Fletcher

If Ralph Fletcher has a book, then I've got to read it. I love everything he writes!

Hopefully, this summer, I will find the time to get through most of these books. I would love to hear the professional titles you plan on reading this summer.

Monday, May 21, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

A Seed is the Start by Melissa Stewart

This is an informative read about the ways that seeds get from one place to another in order to grow. The different ways that seeds travel and the examples the author provides will interest and surprise readers. The photographs are great, too, and will engage readers.

Following Baxter by Barbara Kerley

Jordie has a new neighbor with a laboratory in her basement and a dog who needs a new home. Jordie's plan to take care of the dog lead her to learn more about her neighbors experiments with time travel. With a science fiction element weaved into the story and a charming dog this book is unique and heart-warming.

Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff

Liesl Shurtliff's newest fairy tale retelling is engaging and magical. The story centers on Borlen, a dwarf who struggles with fitting in with the other dwarves and his desire to visit the Surface, where the humans live. This is a fun twist on the classic story.

Monday, May 14, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I've Been Reading...

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

This is a sweet story about a girl who learns that her very long name fits her perfect. The author includes a note at the end explaining how she got her own name. The book highlights family and identity as well as showing that our names tell a story. This will be a useful book in the classroom to start discussions about the stories behind students' names.

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët

Wordless, beautiful book about how one act of kindness can multiple and make a difference in the life of someone who has been treated badly. Simple, yet powerful story that shows the importance of being empathetic and standing up for what's right.

They Didn't Teach THIS in Worm School! by Simone Lia

Marcus, a worm, agrees to fly with Laurence, a chicken, to Kenya so that he doesn't get eaten. Neither Marcus or Laurence knows the way to Kenya and, although they don't travel as far as they hoped, they do have a life-changing adventure. Marcus and Laurence are a funny and heart-warming duo. They learn about acceptance, friendship, and working together to do what would be impossible alone. This book will also appeal to readers because it's illustrated and not too long.

Life According to Og the Frog by Betty G. Birney

Og the Frog is now living in Room 26 right next to Humphrey (of The World According to Humphrey series). Og, both, misses the swamp and enjoys his new home. When the class has to make a decision about whether to keep Og or put him back in the swamp, Og is not sure which he would prefer. The book is told from the perspective of Og, who is a little different from ordinary frogs because of his love of poetry and songs. This book about friendship, community, and caring for wildlife will be of interest to fans of the Humphrey series and those who like books about animals. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy of the book. The book publishes in July.

Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley

Frederick is feeling like he doesn't fit in at his school and is upset with his parents when they cancel a family vacation, when he accidentally ends up at a summer camp for troubled boys. The others at the camp all think Frederick is someone else, a boy with a more interesting past. There is adventure and humor as Frederick learns about himself and friendship. This book publishes in June. Thanks to NetGalley for a digital advanced reader's copy of the book.

Monday, May 7, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow the posts of other bloggers at #imwayr on Twitter.

What I've Been Reading...

Friends Stick Together by Hannah E. Harrison

Rupert is a rhino who is annoyed when Levi, a tickbird, chooses him as a friend. This is a story of unlikely friendship with an ending you'll see coming, but the humor and the endearing characters make it unique. The illustrations are adorable, too. The classic message about friendship is an important one for young readers and I think the characters will become favorites.

The Last (Endling #1) by Katherine Applegate

Byx is a dairne, a species resembling a dog, but walking upright. When it appears there aren't any dairnes left in the world, Byx begins a journey to find others like him. This an action-packed fantasy about bravery, loyalty, and hope.

Everything I Know About You by Barbara Dee

Tally's class is going on a trip to Washington, D.C., but Tally is less than excited when she finds out her roommate is Ava, one of the "clonegirls" she would rather not be friends with. Tally has never fit in which has been fine with her, but then her friends start to change and she is faced with a difficult choice when she notices that something isn't right with Ava. This book deals with a serious topic, anorexia, but the characters are also working through other ups-and-downs of growing up. The characters are true-to-life and middle grade readers will be able to relate to the dilemmas they face as they navigate friendships and try to fit in with peers. This book publishes in June. Thanks to the author for sending my book review group, #bookexcursion, an advanced reader's copy of this book.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Stacy McAnulty, author of picture books and a few chapter book series for younger readers, has written her first middle grade novel. There is a lot to love about this book, including the fact that middle grade readers will be able to relate to the challenges Lucy faces with feeling different and making friends. Read more about my thoughts here.

Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson

Izzy has difficulty focusing on her school work, but she loves acting. Bri is known as the "brain" and her mother is now teaching drama class at her school. The book alternates between each girl's story and their stories tie together in a surprising twist at the end. Graphic novels about school life, such as this one, appeal to many of my middle grade readers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Lucy was struck by lightning when she was eight and, due to the damage to her brain, became a mathematical genius. She has been homeschooled, but her grandmother insists that Lucy go to public school so she can try something new and make a friend. Lucy, who'd rather take college classes and be friends with the others in her virtual math clubs, is less than excited about starting middle school. Although Lucy tries to hide her math talents in an effort to appear as normal as possible, her OCD tendencies cause many of her peers to view her as peculiar. Middle grade readers will be able to relate to challenges that Lucy faces, such as feeling like she doesn't fit in and dealing with classmates who are unkind. Through her middle school journey, Lucy learns the value of friendship and realizes that her math abilities don't define her. Lucy is a unique and endearing character whose story will show readers that it's possible to find your way even when you feel out of place. This story is both sweet and hopeful. There's a charming dog, as well, who readers will be rooting for along with Lucy. This is one of those books I want to put in the hands of middle grade readers because it has the potential to help readers grow their understanding that we are all different and, also, see possibilities when they feel different. Thanks to the author, Stacy McAnulty for providing me with a copy of the book to review.