Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm Proud to Announce...Kellee Moye!

It's hard for me to contain the excitement that has been building all week in anticipation of this announcement! I'm thrilled to welcome Kellee Moye as a contributor to Teach Mentor Texts. Kellee and I became friends on Twitter where we have shared countless books that we both love and have exchanged e-mails over the ups and downs of teaching.

When my family was in Orlando in June, I was able to find a little time to finally meet Kellee face to face. We were so excited and chatty that we didn't get a picture of the two of us together, but we did have someone ask us if we were longtime friends who hadn't seen each other in a while and were catching up. We were both amazed because we had only just met in person maybe 20 minutes before.

I have loved being a book blogger. It still amazes me to look back at the authors, publishers, teachers, and other bloggers I have connected with because of starting Teach Mentor Texts. Having Kellee be part of this blog is exciting for me because it means Teach Mentor Texts is going to be bringing you more book reviews and another perspective when it comes to using books as mentor texts and teaching with mentor texts. I am so grateful for all of my readers out there and I hope you welcome and enjoy Kellee as much as I do.

I've asked Kellee to tell us a little bit about herself:

"I have always been a reader. When I was younger, my mom made the mistake of telling me that she would always buy me any book I asked for- it is a wonder she isn’t broke, because I sure took advantage of that promise! My favorite childhood authors were Dr. Seuss, Carolyn Haywood, Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary and Ann M. Martin. I also loved to read Peanuts, Garfield, and Archie comics.
Now I read over 100 books a year (I’m aiming for 175 this year, but am already ahead!). I mostly read juvenile, middle grade or young adult though I throw in some professional books and a few adult books throughout the year. I have a book with me at all times including in the car where I listen to audio books. Now, my favorite YA book is The Giver and my favorite adult book is The Sun Also Rises.
I never ceased loving reading and even went on to get my Bachelors in Literature. After my undergraduate degree, I had to decide how to share my love of reading and decided that teaching was the perfect occupation (and my mom & sister said “I told you so!” since they’d always said I’d be a teacher). I went on to get my Masters in Elementary Education with an ESOL endorsement and a reading certificate.
I have been fortunate enough to teach middle school for the last 5 years. I taught 6th grade ELA (English Language Arts) for 3 years, 7th grade ELA for 2 years and am starting my first year as a 7th grade reading teacher. I have built up my classroom library to over 1600 middle grade and young adult titles (thank goodness I have an understanding husband! Love you Jim!). My goal as a teacher is to help each student find the lifelong love of reading that I have been lucky enough to have. As a teacher now, though, I’ve had to refocus how I read each book- not just for fun, but also as a possible addition to my classroom. I was lucky enough to have Jen offer to let me contribute to her blog regularly so I can share with others the great books and resources I find!"


Can you tell she's really wild about books? She is and that's why I think she's going to be a great addition to Teach Mentor Texts. In the spirit of initiation, I thought it would be fun to do a mini-interview. Here's just a few more questions I have for Kellee:

TMT-Jen: Like you, I read everywhere, too. If there's any downtime I'm ready to break out my book! Can you describe your favorite or ideal reading spot?

Kellee: My favorite spot to read is still sitting on my couch in the corner like the picture of me when I was 2. It is really the most comfortable place to read and I've been doing it all my life. My ideal reading spot would probably be sitting by a lake with a cool breeze coming off of it (well, as long as there were no fire ants and I had a blanket so I could spread out if I wanted to). But really, I will read anywhere.

TMT-Jen: I love that your mom said she would buy you any book you wanted! That's great! As a teacher, what advice do you give parents to encourage them to read with their children at home and to support them in their reading development?

Kellee: One of my pet peeves as a teacher is when parents try too hard to dictate what their child is reading. Telling your child to read books they don't like is not going to make them like reading. Also, I find it frustrating that more parents do not read what their children read (or at least research what they are reading) so that they can have meaningful conversations with their child. By building a reading community in your own house, it really encourages children to read. And, being able to tell your child you will buy them any book they want really does help too!

TMT-Jen: I happen to know you live right next door to Mickey Mouse and I just so happen to love Disney World which means I have to ask you a Disney World question! What is your favorite ride/attraction at Disney World at any of the parks and why?

Kellee: I love Disney too! It was so weird moving here when I was 14 and all of a sudden living by everyone's favorite place that I'd dreamed about going to all my life. As for my favorite attraction, I would have to say the safaris and nature walks at Animal Kingdom are my favorite- I am a big sucker for animals. My favorite ride is the Tower of Terror. It freaks me out every time!

TMT-Jen: Of course, it's not Teach Mentor Texts if I don't ask you to finish this sentence: Reading is...

Kellee: Fundamental. Reading allows access to life long learning (and entertainment)!

Thanks, Kellee! I hope everyone gives a warm welcome to Kellee. You can look for her reviews starting next week. Kellee is also on Twitter and GoodReads if you want to find her there.

and

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain ScienceTitle: Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science
Author: John Fleischman
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 2002
Genre/Format: Nonfiction - Expository/Chapter Book
Summary: The harrowing true story of a man who suffered and survived an unimaginable brain injury and what we learned from his story.
What I Think: I heard Steven Layne talk about this book at a workshop a few months ago and I frantically wrote it down because I was so mesmerized by the story. He did a booktalk for it by simply reading the first chapter. I still have a minor love-hate relationship with non-fiction, but books like these really draw me in because they read so much like a story. Kids seem to like the gory-ness of a story and I think they would be drawn to Phineas' story. There is a lot of technical discussion of how the brain works and how scientists and doctors have learned about how the brain works. This book has a great balance between story and facts that I think middle grade to YA students would devour.
Read Together: 5 - 12
Read Alone: 5 - 12
Read With: Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman
Snatch of Text: "The most unlucky/lucky moment in the life of Phineas Gage is only a minute or two away. It's almost four-thirty in the afternoon on September 13, 1848. Phineas is the foreman of a track construction gang that is in the process of blasting a railroad right-of-way through granite bedrock near the small town of Cavendish, Vermont. Phineas is twenty-six years old, unmarried, and five feet, six inches tall, short for our time but average for his. He is good with his hands and good with his men, 'possessing an iron will as well as an iron frame,' according to his doctor. In a moment, Phineas will have a horrible accident.
It will kill him, but it will take another eleven years, six months, and nineteen days to do so. In the short run, Phineas will make a full recovery, or so it will seem to those who didn't know him before. Old friends and family will know the truth. Phineas will never be his old self again. His 'character' will change. The ways in which he deals with others, conducts himself, and makes plans will change. Long after the accident, his doctor will sum up his case for a medical journal. 'Gage,' his doctor will write, 'was no longer Gage.' Phineas Gage's accident will make him world famous, but fame will do him little good. Yet for many others - psychologists, medical researchers, doctors, and especially those who suffer brain injuries - Phineas Gage will become someone worth knowing." (p. 1-2)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions, Visualizing, Author's Purpose, Using Non-Fiction Text Features
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository
Writing Prompts: Choose a part of the body to research, then create an expository text to present your information to your peers.
Topics Covered: Integration - Science - Brain, Personality, Characteristics, Doctors, History
Translated to Spanish: No

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Knucklehead

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing up ScieszkaTitle: Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing up Scieszka Author: Jon Scieszka
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: 2005, 2008
Genre/Format: Autobiography/Nonfiction/Novel
Summary: Jon Scieszka shares stories from his childhood growing up with his parents and five brothers. Stories range from brotherly antics to Catholic school.
What I Think: All of the stories in this collection were very entertaining - but some were downright hysterical. I read this as my husband and I sipped drinks at a local coffee shop. He was working away on his iPad and I was reading, until I would start laughing so intensely that I had to hand him the book to read while I found a tissue to wipe the tears that were streaming down my face. Even he got a good chuckle out of the stories I showed him.
I think kids, boys especially, are just going to love reading about Jon Scieszka's antics when he was a kiddo. Obviously, he grew up in a different time, but there are some stories about being brothers that stand the test of time. I love the Jon Scieszka is out there writing awesome books for kids and now this book gives some insight into his life growing up and who he is as a person.
Read Together: 3 - 12
Read Alone: 4 - 12
Read With: Boy by Roald Dahl, Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys' Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys and Guys Read: Funny Business by Jon Scieszka and others
Snatch of Text: "For a while to make it easier to keep our clothes straight, my mom also tried color coding us. Jim was blue. Blue shirts, blue pants, blue socks. I was brown.
I really grew to hate brown. Even today, forty years later, I still avoid brown clothes." (p. 21)

"That's what my mom used to tell me and Jim -
'Watch your brothers.'
So we did.
We watched Jeff roll of the couch.
We watched Brian dig in the plants and eat the dirt.
We watched Gregg lift up the lid on the toilet and splash around in water." (p. 35)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Descriptive
Writing Prompts: Write your own short story or personal narrative of a funny story from your childhood. Describe the silliest thing you did when you were little - what were you wearing?, what did you sound like?, what did you look like?, what did you smell like!? Interview your parents or grandparents and ask what fun stories they remember from their childhood, then write the story for them.
Topics Covered: Family, Brothers, Private School, Growing Up, Responsibility, Humor,
Translated to Spanish: No

If you've read Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka, I would love to hear which story was your favorite! Did it have you holding your stomach from all the laughing, or what?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Vacation 2011!

    After school was out in early June, my family left for a week and a half long vacation in Florida.  Crazy as it may seem, we loaded up the car with our four-year-old and our almost one-year-old and made the trek first to Tampa to see relatives few a few days and then to Disney World.

Looking back on it now, it was much more busy than I thought it would be!  I had envisioned relaxing by the pool or on the beach or even sitting in a little cafe with an icy drink while also doing all the fun water and amusement park thrills...but that's not really what happened.  We were on the go a lot!  Even when the kids were napping or swimming it seemed like the adults were cleaning or organizing or making breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner.  I did find some time to read and finished one audiobook (Ally Condie's Matched) on the drive down and back while my husband and the kids were sleeping but otherwise I didn't do that much reading and was fairly disconnected from my computer and my smartphone while on our trip.
Little Bean at the beach
     Since we've gotten home I've had a hard time getting back into updating my blog and being on Twitter as much as I was before.  I'm still participating in my Babysitter's Club chat (#BSCChat) with some great girls and I'm still updating my tweets but I'm definitely still in summer vacation mode and I'm embracing it!  I realized when reading Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us that teachers kind of have it made when it comes to a job that gives us a chance to do our work but then also gives us time to refresh and get reinvigorated about what we do.  He talks about a man who works for a length of time but then takes a year off to travel and experience totally different things so that he can come back and have a whole new outlook on what he does.  Teaching kind of works like that, we teach for nine months and then we get the summer to take a break and come back refreshed.
Peanut fighting Darth Vader
     Our vacation turned out to be exactly what a vacation should be about.  Vacations should be about being away from what you normally do and just focusing on each other and enjoying the moments you are in.  I feel like I'm still taking in all the things we did on vacation.  There is just so much to see at Disney World.  I'm not sure Disney World will ever by synonymous with relaxing for me...but maybe one day when we have lots of time and we make an effort to pick only our absolute favorites things to do.  Fun, I'll give it, Disney World could never ever not be fun for me.  Even in 90-100 degree heat with lines and tired kiddos, Disney World was still fun.  It's a completely magical place for me.
Mickey, Peanut, Chad the Dad, Minnie, Little Bean, me, and Goofy
     I'm still dreaming of Disney and of all the fun things I'm ready to go do all over again or of things I missed and wish I could go do. (Seriously, I cried when we left...it just makes me sad to leave Disney. Mickey, I love you!)  But life does go on, and a wonderful life it is.  Even if I can't be at Disney World every day, I can share the fun reading I've done since I've been back!  Teach Mentor Texts has some fun in store: a new contributer to the blog, an early look at Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu to be released in September, and more nonfiction fun from Owlkids and others!  Thanks for visiting and I hope you check in soon.
    Have any of you ever been on vacations that were exactly the kind of recharge you needed?  Or others that left you sleeping for a few days just to be able to function again?  Where is your favorite vacation spot?  Do you like busy-busy-on-the-go vacations or chill vacations?  I'd love to hear about your favorite vacations!