Tag Archives: top five

Five Titles I Can’t Wait to Book Talk This Year

With the school year almost upon me, and a lot of free time on my hands (I am sitting in my recliner, recovering from a septoplasty), I am starting to get really excited about all of the great books I have read over the summer. Net Galley has certainly been kind to me.

While I have definitely worn out the new “New Adult” genre this summer (I kinda hate it now), I have also read a ton of great books in my favorite genre- Young Adult. I love reading YA for two reasons- first, the YA authors out there are putting out some really great stuff that isn’t all depressing or pretentious like adult fiction can get. Second, I LOVE being able to bring YA to my middle school readers that is just appropriate for them… that’s the stuff that they really get excited about reading. My eighth grade boys were drooling over titles like World War Z and Rot and Ruin a couple of years ago, and I like to keep it coming.

Without further adieu…

41TzYsSC84L._SY300_Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone. So many sequels fall flat or completely lose the tone of the first book, but this is an awesome sequel to Time Between Us. Since I am Bennett’s age, I love reading from his point of view, too. Going back to 1995, in my hometown (Chicago), is pretty cool- and I love the fact that teachers and librarians can talk to kids about when we grew up without sounding stupid.

51ZhFCzTS9L._SY300_The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. This is another sequel, but I have to say- Maggie Stiefvater is probably the best paranormal writer for teens out there right now. The Shiver series sees a ton of circulation every year, and now the Raven Boys has seen the same kind of popularity. I like the fact that Stiefvater’s heroines aren’t weak and her narrative voice doesn’t make kids sound stupid.

41SzknL9faLKindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman. So many books touch on the insecurities of girls, but not many capture the real emotions that go through boys’ heads these days- and so realistically. I actually felt the dirt under my fingernails as I read this one. The tone of the book is so gritty and the way in which the protagonist interacts with the world will resonate with introverts everywhere- whether down-and-out like this guy, or not.

51xb9EOj5HLThe Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston. I have read a couple of Witness Protection program books lately, and I watched My Name is Earl from start to finish with my son this summer, so I feel like an expert on the genre (insert sarcasm icon here). This one surprised me. I love the fact that this isn’t action- it is a classic mystery. Mystery is a genre that so often gets bogged down by paranormals and sci fi. When I find a good one that is just a good mystery, I hang on to it. I will be hanging on to this one for sure.

51g07mPX-7LBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead. Like number three, this is a “boy book” that isn’t cheesy. Even boys can only handle so many teenage spy books.  I loved this book when I read it a while back, and it stuck with me. Who doesn’t like a good amnesia mystery? The fascinating thing about this book is the fact that it is a mystery and a coming of age story wrapped in one beautiful, lyrical package. When I want boys to read deeper and experience more, I will turn to this one first.

I hope Net Galley keeps em coming, because I get a lot of my best stuff because of them.  I can’t justify buying YA for my middle school library unless I have a chance to read it first, you know?  If you like hearing about YA that is just appropriate for middle schoolers, let me know in the comments or “like” this post and I will keep the suggestions coming.  🙂  Thanks!



The Top Five: iPhone Apps for Middle School ELA Teachers

Pretty specific title, I know. With so many iOS apps out there geared toward education, it is hard to know which ones will be most useful. We end up downloading everything we see only to open it once and then never again. Most apps seem to be geared toward elementary or high school teachers, too. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Oh, just modify it up,” in my elementary district. No! We shouldn’t do that! If anything, we should modify down from high school. But I digress.

Here are my Top 5 (with a bonus) apps:


1. EZ Common Core Language Arts (1.99). There are a few Common Core apps out there now, and they are all pretty good for becoming more familiar with the standards. The free official one is really user-friendly, actually. The reason I find this one worthy of shelling out two bucks is the notes feature. Each standard offers a box where you can add your own notes. I’d use that to jot down lesson ideas as I think of them if it were me. Then, you can email those notes to yourself, if you want.


2. Book Retriever (1.99). I can’t tell you how many crazy interesting ideas I have heard to keep track of a classroom library. I was even guilty of a few of them myself, back in the day. Color-coded index cards, clipboards, stickers, and on and on. None seem to work. Teachers still seem to have a hard time getting students to keep track of the books. The benefits of this little guy are two-fold. First, you can scan every book into the app. About half of the time, the app’s database (which is growing, I’m told) will give you a synopsis, picture, F & P level, Lexile level, and other information. The ones not in the database need to be entered manually, but it is worth it. After all of your books are cataloged, enter your students’ names in the students section of the app. That’s it! Now, when a student wants to check out a book from your classroom library, you have the Lexile and F & P info handy, and you can just check it out to them right on your phone. No more losing your books!

remind 101

3. Remind 101 (FREE). Okay, this is cool. At Parent Night at the beginning of the year, give students and parents your Remind 101 login info, and have them create an account (it takes literally 20 seconds). Then, whenever you have a permission slip due, a big assignment due, whatever- you can send them a text alert to remind them. No one has your personal cell number, and you can send them a text whenever you need to, but they can’t text you back. What I wouldn’t give if my own kids’ teachers used this. It is so hard to keep track of everything they bring home. You would eliminate those uncomfortable parent-teacher conference moments, too. You know the ones. Where the parent says, “Why didn’t I know about this zillion point assignment sooner?!?” And you walk away, annoyed, thinking, “Well, you could have checked the classroom website, or your kid’s assignment notebook, or the online grade book, or…” To which I reply…




4. Evernote (FREE). The entire Evernote suite is a goldmine for the classroom, and I will dedicate a whole post to that sometime soon. Right now, I will focus on the power of the portfolio. I haven’t seen a better way to create student writing portfolios that can handle engaging, visual multimedia that is middle school brain-friendly. Students can drag and drop their writing, audio, photos- really anything they want. Create separate notebooks for separate units, even. They can make their notebooks private, public, or share them just with you. They don’t lose their portfolio if they change schools, districts, or move on to high school. It is so much more authentic than anything else I have seen out there.


5. Twitter (FREE). Excuse my candidness, but if you aren’t using Twitter to improve your teaching yet, you are really, really behind the curve. My Professional Learning Network includes the absolute top names in Ed Tech, Teaching, and Librarianship. I also follow major news outlets, book publishers, and other great sources of short text for teaching and learning. Teachers come to me all the time and say things like, “wow- you seem to know so much.” Twitter is my dirty little secret, really. I think I can attribute at least 75% of the cutting edge stuff I know to Twitter.

So, that’s five. But I need to add one more (you saw this coming)…


6. Pinterest (FREE). Aside from recipes, crafty stuff, and home renovation projects that no one can afford, there is more to Pinterest than you think. I find great classroom printables, engaging visuals to project, and lesson ideas. It is especially good when you are just feeling like everything is getting stale. There is nothing more inspiring that throwing away the script for a couple of days to do something creative and fresh. Pinterest can help with that.

Honestly, I could do a Top 100. Hmm. Maybe later…

Happy Reading!