Tag Archives: books

The Power of Flexible Seating

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Some may have some doubts or concerns when they see a set of ‘bouncy balls’ in a classroom, which is quite understandable.  However, I saw it as a chance to enhance not only the furniture and overall look of the space, but also to further student engagement in all aspects of study during my lessons.

This week, provided my first chance to test this all out.  Along with the colorful, bouncy balls, I also provided area mats, floor pillows, and a small ‘cafe’ table.  Upon entering the library media center, the students’ enthusiasm and excitement were visible instantly.  There was a lot of celebration and questions, and they were all very eager to try out all these new things.  But, there was a catch…

They had to earn it.

I took the opportunity of it being the first days of school to test the waters with all of my classes.  I had them sit on their ‘old,’ regular tables and chairs for the majority of the class.  I explained to them that if their behavior was great during the first half of class, I would allow some free reading time in a seat of their choice.  Most of my classes took the challenge head-on.  They wanted to get to move around and try out new things.  Their maturity and dedication was rewarded, and they were able to choose their seats at the end of class.

As seen in the photo above, the end result was amazing.  It took them a couple minutes to get settled and find balance, but after a quick ‘tutorial’ on how to sit on them without slipping or falling, the students were loving it!  They found the happy medium of light bouncing or rolling while reading their books.  It made my heart smile watching the risk pay off.  Instead of trying to talk, making noise, and interrupting their peers, my students focused their energy into their new seats.

Flexible seating will work.  It just takes some patience.

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The Girl on the Train

9780735212169_GirlontheTrain_MTI_MM.inddThis past weekend I went to go see The Girl on the Train.  I was particularly excited because I ran a book club at my previous position and we had read this novel for one of our meetings.  As most readers know, it is exciting to see the story you played in your mind come to life on the big screen.

And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by what a great job they did at adapting the complex plot and characters for
a film format.  They had to take chunks out of the novel’s story line, but the film did not feel lacking.  As most of you might assume, this tends to be the biggest complaint for page-to-screen movies, but in my opinion, it did not apply here.  I went to the movie theater with a friend who had also read the Paula Hawkins piece and she agreed with me; the movie makers did a fine job at creating this film.

What are some film adaptions of books that you’ve watched?  What were your opinions?  I’d love to see them in the comments below!

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Banned Books Week is coming to a close…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am only a month into my first ever position as an ELEMENTARY educator.  And as most educators know, at least in the literacy realm, this week is Banned Books Week.  I really wanted to make sure I included this “holiday” into at least some of my classes’ curriculum, so I decided to test the waters with my fourth and six graders (about 200 students), and it went wonderfully!  We started off using Mentimeter, which is a wonderful online instant survey tool–I highly recommend it!  I laid out various banned books onto the tables, but did not tell them why they were there and that they were banned.  My Mentimeter question was “What do all of these books have in common?”  Of course, all of them at once gave me and each other puzzled looks because they couldn’t see a connection between a picture book like And Tango Makes Three and a very popular series like Harry Potter.  I encouraged them to discuss with their groups and get creative with their answers.  The end product was interesting to see because they stated things such as “fiction,” “hard cover,” and “illustrations.”

Once we did that I told them their answers were great, but unfortunately none of them was the one answer I was looking for.  And once again, I got puzzled looks across the board.  When I explained to them that the one major commonality of all of these books was that they were banned, the students immediately started calling out questions and groaning.  I loved it!  This meant they were questioning that idea, and were curious to learn more.

We then segued into it being Banned Books Week and the celebration of literacy and the First Amendment.  Some may think that free speech may be too complicated of an issue for children that are only no more than eleven or twelve years old, but it most certainly was not.  Some classes sparked debates about the validity of banning a book, while others wanted to learn the reasoning behind each banning.  It was such a spectacular moment as an educator to witness.  And I truly couldn’t have been more pleased by how the lessons played out!

To wrap up the lesson, I allowed my students to take “mugshots” to celebrate Banned Books Week, and I had more than enough volunteers.  As you can see (below), they got very creative and had a fun time producing their own representation of what banning a book means to them.  It has been a wonderful week, and I plan on spreading the wealth to the third and fifth graders next year!

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Book Club Meets Movie Night

For my final Book Club title of the school year, I had selected Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.  I thought our end-of-May meeting would correspond perfectly with the June release date for the movie.  Not only did this get my “loyal members” a little more excitement than usual for our discussion, but it also had new students gravitate towards the club.  I even have some of them asking if we can all see the movie together!

Some die-hard book lovers argue that the movie almost always ruins the book and completely alters the story.  Now, that may just be the case, however, I say use that movie to your advantage.  Our students, especially teenagers, generally enjoy going to the movies.  So why not use that to propel them to read?  Why not use the new release as a tool to inspire a student to pick up a book and read for leisure?

I am thrilled to see that all of my Book Club members, both old and new, are excited to read the book and then compare it to the movie.  It will be enjoyable for all, and the best part is that it inspires literacy!

In addition to our monthly Book Club meetings, I also host a Page-to-Screen monthly movie night in the library.  Since the beginning of the school year, once a month I selected a movie that was based off of a book, and I invited students to purchase a ticket (only $2!).  I would pull out my projector screen, pop in the DVD to my projector, and make some popcorn.  Then we would all sit around and enjoy the film depiction of a beloved book.  This, too, is a form of literacy.  Quite a few times I’ve had a student want to read the book AFTER watching the movie!

Sometimes as educators it is easy to grumble and point fingers at something or someone else for the apathy our students feel towards reading.  But why not DO SOMETHING to fight against it?  Use something that already interests them to inspire them to pick up a book.  Even if only a couple students out of a huge group start to read, it is a victory!

I once saw a cartoon that had the caption, “Why did you become a school librarian?” and the answer read, “To avenge the decline of literacy.”  Even though it gave me a chuckle, I couldn’t agree more–whether you call yourself a librarian, a media specialist, a cybarian, et cetera,  one of your main duties is promoting literacy.  And, I believe you must do anything you can to ensure that.

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All Abuzz for Divergent

In the student book club I run at my job, the students requested that we read Divergent, by Veronica Roth, this month, in time for the movie’s release on the 21st. Even though I obliged, I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive at starting yet ANOTHER dystopian series. Don’t get me wrong–I ADORE young adult literature, but it just seems to become rather redundant with certain themes. But, as I started reading Divergent, I promised to keep an open mind–and I was soon sucked into Roth’s world.
Once again, there is a strong female protagonist who has to find her way in a challenging, futuristic world. It is rather fast-paced (it only took me two days to finish the book entirely) and it envelopes the reader immediately.
I think the major themes are what speak to its millions of readers! The idea of finding oneself, branching away from the ideals of your family, gaining confidence, being an outsider, defending your beliefs, and of course, falling in love, are all things that speak to the adolescent reader (and older readers as well)!
I already started continuing the trilogy, and began reading Insurgent. The second book picks up at the same exact point where Divergent left off, so it is a smooth transition for readers. I am looking forward to seeing how Tris’ story will end. With other similar trilogies/series, I wasn’t always content with the conclusion, so only time will tell how Divergent ends for me.
And, in a couple weeks, I will be able to discuss the movie and book with my students. This is the first time we are going to have a ‘comparison discussion,’ so it will be fun to hear everyone’s opinions. Passionate readers tend to get very defensive about movie versions of books they adore (myself included), so I expect a heated debate in the near future.
What do you think of the series? (No spoilers please!) Are you a fan…?

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March 13, 2014 · 11:23 am

Which book do you loathe?

http://bookriot.com/2013/06/19/the-25-most-hated-books/

BookRiot came out with a list of their top 25 most hated books.  When I first scanned the list, I was rather surprised by the titles.  Many of their books were ones I thoroughly enjoyed, and a couple of them are even some of my favorites.  For example, #11 and #12 on their list, Gone Girl and Eat, Pray, Love, were novels I truly loved reading.  Of course, there probably isn’t any one title that will appeal to everyone, but some of their listed books were international bestsellers.  That has to have some weight in an argument against people who loathe these books.  

With that said, I do agree with some of these books in terms of my hate for them.  The Scarlet Letter and The Pearl, two books which I taught to students when I was a high school English teacher, are absolutely horrible.  These titles are know in the literary canon as iconic and classic, but they don’t have that same resonance with their readers as they may have first had with their audience.

BookRiot does mention that some of these books overlapped with other lists of theirs, such as “Riot Readers’ 50 Favorite Novels” and “Books Riot Readers Keep Meaning to Read.”  So which books do you hate?  Did it make it to the list?  Any titles you disagree with?

Reading is truly a subjective experience, and each reader has a unique opinion of every piece of literature they encounter.  What are some reading experiences that really reverberated with you?

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Keeping It Real

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/11/better-book-titles-kids-books-dan-wilbur_n_3757131.html

Did you ever wish book titles were a bit more transparent?  Well, The Huffington Post posted a funny entry a couple of weeks ago, in which they spoofed classics we all know and love.  Everything from The Velveteen Rabbit to the Harry Potter series has been ‘re-titled.’

Although the post is clearly just for fun, I think they bring up an interesting idea of how and why books are titled a certain way.  The public eye can notice that children’s picture books are named in an innocent, light manner, whereas books geared towards the older reader, create an air of mystery and curiosity.

Let’s remember that the world of literature, especially today’s modern-day version, is a business.  Publishing companies are trying to SELL these books for a PROFIT.  And the cover dictates how much they will make.  Every single minuscule detail is planned, made, and remade until all the ‘bigwigs’ are happy.

The title is most definitely a piece of that industry’s puzzle.  It is a way to lure the possible reader into taking a pause, picking up the book, and possibly even buying it.  Now, one must wonder, if titles were a bit more blunt in nature, and simply stated (clearly) what the book is about, would there be more or less readers participating?

Even though the “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying is a good sentiment, we must be honest with ourselves–most of us do.

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