Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Beauty of a Good Read-aloud

I love to read-aloud to kids. Honestly, it probably goes beyond love...I'm obsessed with it. I adore when I have to cover classes for coaches at the end of the day because it gives me a chance to share a great story with kids. When I find the right read-aloud, I could sit in front of a group of kids and read ALL DAY. So, what a treasure I found in Alan Sitomer's soon-to-be-released book Nerd Girls: Rise of the Dorkasaurus.

My copy of Nerd Girls was given to me by my good friend Linda (@linda704 on twitter-you should follow her. She's even a doctor.) She picked it up for me at the Michigan Reading Conference and had it signed by the author; I positively adore owning books signed by the author. It makes me feel so special. Anyway, soon after I arrived home from the conference, I read Nerd Girls. Oh. My. God. It is so funny. I knew immediately that this was a book I HAD to read aloud. To girls.

Luckily for me, our 6th grade has a split gender reading program. So I went into one of the all-girl classes and asked the teacher if I could use her class. That day, I began reading to the girls. They were enthralled for a couple of reasons. First of all, I showed them that the book was signed by the author. Many of the kids in my middle school have learned to get geeked out by that because I have shared so many of my signed books. Secondly, I explained to them that the book was and ARC, and advanced reader's copy. Once they understood that it didn't mean they had to be "academically gifted" (advanced) to read it, they realized it was pretty awesome that they were getting to experience this book before it ever hit the bookshelves. And thirdly, it is apparent very early on that this book is Funny. That's right, Funny with a capital "F."

It is the characters that make this story. The main character is a cynical, wry outcast. She bands together with two other outcasts to defeat the popular girls (The ThreePees) in the school talent show. It is a great story of friendship, courage, and character. It yields so many different topics to talk about with kids.

After reading the book to the girls, I showed them that many books will have short, often single sentence, reactions from readers and other popular authors. These mini-reviews help people decide if they want to read the book. Because Nerd Girls is not yet out in stores, the girls wrote their own mini-reviews. And because the girls know that I have been sharing their reactions to the book with Alan on twitter, they are pretty excited to know he'll be able to read their reactions here. So without further ado, I give you the girls!

Nerd Girls was awesome; I loved it. The book was funny and sad. Girls can relate their life with this funny spectacular book.                  ~Taylor M.

"Girls will laugh."  ~Jade

A great book that tells the true meaning of friendship, something that not everybody really knows. GO NERD GIRLS!!                     ~Taylor J.

Nerd Girls is funny and the drama from the ThreePees keeps lots of readers on the edge.   ~Lauren

I absolutely loved it! I can't wait to hear the others! I love it because I can relate to the Nerd Girls, I'm just glad I got to read something so interesting and funny! I hope people love this book as much as I do! Once I started reading it I couldn't wait for the next chapter to start. Outstanding!   ~Serena

It was a very very good book. It kept me hanging on the edge of my seat.     ~Breanna

I thought it was great. I hope to hear more and it was funny and I loved the name Nerd Girls. I loved the talent show. It was so interesting to hear what happened, so detailed and funny--that was the best part.               ~Marissa

The book Nerd Girls is a very cool, funny good book. My favorite is the ending.     ~Lauren

Nerd Girls was outstanding and wonderful! You will never want to stop reading it!  ~Trisha

Wow! Nerd Girls was so amazing!       ~Sadie

Nerd Girls rock. Girls can relate to this funny spectacular book. These girls are true dork-a-sauruses. ~Hannah

Girls will love Nerd Girls!   ~Amber

Nerd Girls was really funny. I almost cried at the part....Also is was funny when the ThreePees lost....Nerd Girls put readers on their edge of their chairs because it is so funny.   ~Andria (This entry edited to remove spoilers.  :-D)

Nerd Girls was funny and exciting and they have a very fun adventure.   ~Meagan

Nerd Girls is definitely a book I would consider reading again. It's the best book I have read in a long time and I would encourage people to read it because it was a good book and has so much understanding of girls.  ~Emily

This book is brilliant. It may be by a guy but it is about girls and it is great. So when Nerd Girls is on the shelf, buy it. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat.    ~Jamie

Nerd Girls was amazing and I absolutely loved how it always left you in suspense from one chapter to the next.     ~Morgan

Awesome book. I loved it. It should be a series!              ~Alyssa

Nerd Girls was a really great and inspiring book. I thought it was pretty funny because I've never heard a book where the main character had the same last name as me. My favorite thing about the book is that it shows "Good attitude will get you wherever you want to go."     ~Kylie

Nerd Girls was a great book. It inspired me to never ever let anyone put me down and it taught me that it doesn't matter what you look like, it is what's inside that counts.       ~Alexis

A funny, interesting, and disgusting story.     ~Jasmine

Nerd Girls is a funny and awesome book and now I want to buy the book. Nerd Girls is the best book every. I like the part where the Nerd Girls get back at the ThreePees.         ~Summer

Nerd Girls was cool. I can't wait for Nerd Girls number 2!            ~Demona

I loved Nerd Girls. I can't wait for the second book to come out. I couldn't wait for Mrs. M to come back and read a chapter every day. It was the best. I want to read it again.           ~Emily

Wonderful, funny, and creative. Urges readers to keep reading.     ~Zoey

Aydan had two reviews to share:
Alan Sitomer has outdone himself with Nerd Girls. Once you pick it up, you won't want to put it back down.  ~Aydan

Warning: This is a well-executed book with an awesome plot and hilarious characters. It also has dangerously strong powers that suck you in in the most amazing way. Be careful!!      ~Aydan

And Maddie loved it so much she wrote four:
It was funny...hilarious...Nerd Girls rock. With friendship, determination, and a lot of laughs.   ~Maddie

I'm gonna tell my children and grandchildren about this book for ages to come!   ~Maddie

Funny. Probably the best book of all with funny characters everywhere.    ~Maddie

Sitomer is a true genius, a mastermind. I can't wait for the rest of the series to come out!   ~Maddie

So that is what the girls had to say. And really what can I add to that? Not a whole lot. However, if you need further proof that this was a great book, I have one more piece of evidence. I have read many books and stories aloud to students. Many that they have loved and that have caused them to want to read the book on their own. But one thing that had never happened before DID happen at the end of Nerd Girls. When I finished the last chapter, the last page, the last word, and then closed the book....the girls all began to clap. It was the first time one of my read-alouds garnered an ovation. It was so sweet and awesome that it almost made me cry. Thanks, Alan Sitomer, for a great, great book. For the opportunity to share a wonderful, relevant story with some fantastic girls. And thanks girls for being such great nerdy listeners!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why I Hope We Never Stop Teaching Kids to At Least READ Cursive

A wedding present from my Grandma

The story of her wedding day

A book that I am writing to my girls

One of many's almost full.
 I know my daughters can read these, but will my grandchildren be able to? My great-grandchildren? Will precious memories like these be lost one day if, as a society, we give up on cursive?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reading Month 2011 Recap!

It was a very busy month of March in my middle school. We celebrated March is Reading Month with an underwater theme. This theme was the top choice in a school-wide theme creation and voting process. Before March arrived, we had a poster contest so that we could begin to spread the word about Reading Month.
The Artists

Second Place Poster
Third Place Poster

First Place Poster

Fourth Place Poster

During Reading Month, we like to come up with activities that will help brighten up the building while stressing the fun and importance of reading. This year we had a Door Decorating Contest. Students in each homeroom decorated their homeroom door. The doors were judged on adherence to theme, creativity, and originality.
Most Creative-a 5th grade Homeroom

First Place-the 7th Grade Entry

Second Place-the Art teacher's door, decorated by 8th graders

Third Place-a 6th Grade Homeroom

The art teacher is always great about having art students create displays in the halls for Reading Month.

Nonfiction reading is highlighted during Reading Month with Information Scavenger Hunts. This year we had one on the topic of water animals and one on the topic of rivers of the world. Informational articles are hung throughout the building and students have to read to find answers to questions. Winners are drawn from all correct entries and the students received books of their choice.

Looking for all this information is making her crazy!

Some 6th grade boys take a break to pose.
Each Monday morning during the month, a passage is read to the entire building over the intercom system. Students have to guess the genre of the passage. They guess by filling out an entry slip which they must have turned in by the end of their lunch time that same day. Correct entries are put into a drawing. Winners get to select a book that they donate to a teacher and a small prize for themselves. These prizes consist of pencils, bookmarks, small notebooks, and such. The Parent Group sponsors this activity and gives us $500 to spend on the books that help to grow classroom libraries.
Students look over their choices to pick a book to donate to a teacher.

"Found one!"

Of course, our goal during Reading Month is to get kids to read. This year we created, with the painting skills of one of our parapros, an underwater mural on the windows in the cafeteria. We ordered some fish die-cuts from the REMC and cut fish in four colors, one color per grade level 5-8. Teachers had students fill out a fish after they finished a book, adding their name and the title of the book. The fish were hung as part of the mural and it was fun to watch our school of readers grow!

The month was capped off with a "water" themed Mock Rock, which was a complete and total blast! Click here to see the videos of Mock Rock, which include some killer teacher dance moves to Ice, Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice!!

Hope you enjoyed the recap of Reading Month. We are always looking for new ideas to incorporate and to build a love of reading in kids. I encourage you to leave a comment and let us know what you do to celebrate Reading Month in your school!