Almost Home

Written on July 17, 2014 – 6:09 pm | by Mrs. Klein

Almost Home by our middle school Author in April, Nora Raleigh Baskin, focuses on two sixth grade characters: Leah Baer, a girl who is suddenly thrown back into her dad’s household, and Will Hiller, a boy who befriends Leah at her new school. I like the way Will approaches Leah and strikes up a conversation with her. Although I think it would be a rare thing for a sixth grade boy to do that, I can think of a few boys who might initiate a friendship with a girl. Will is a good listener, and he knows when to back off and change the subject when Leah doesn’t want to talk about some aspect of her life. Will acknowledges that he is “different,” but it is hard to determine exactly what makes him different. Leah says, “He didn’t look like anyone I had ever known before, like any boy. So he was different, and he seemed to like it that way” (p. 38). The fact that they are both loners makes them a good fit for each other, and Will has a way of helping Leah have a balanced perspective on her life.

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Books read since April

Written on July 6, 2014 – 10:30 pm | by Mrs. Klein

Since the last time I posted my comments about a book (which was April 21), I have read or listened to eleven books. Some, I would not recommend for middle school, a few are continuations of a series I enjoy, and a couple are Authors in April titles for younger grades. I am still listening to books that I downloaded for free from Sync YA. I highly recommend this service for young adults and adults who like audiobooks.

My two favorite titles are Perfect Scoundrels in the “Heist Society” series and Confessions of a Murder Suspect. It sort of looks like I am leaning toward mysteries, and I didn’t even realize it. The crime in Perfect Scoundrels involves a missing will, so it is pretty “safe.” Obviously, Confessions involves a murder, but there is really only one description of the murder scene. However, that one scene is a bit gruesome, so if you have a vivid imagination that gives you nightmares, you might want to skip this one. The narrator is the daughter of the victims and considers herself an amateur detective. She enlists the help of her siblings to try to gather clues to solve the mystery. As usual, I tend to like books that have strong, likable characters.

The Eoin Colfer book, W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin is full of action, but I would not recommend it for everyone. The Garrett character is pretty nasty, and some of the things he does are rather violent.

Two books that are series installments are The Scorch Trials (“The Maze Runner”) and The Fall of Five (“I Am Number Four”). I did enjoy the second book of “The Maze Runner” series, but there was a point where I was wanting it to move along a little faster. It took some unexpected twists, so that helped. I was a little disappointed that the authors of The Fall of Five chose to add more language from the characters’ mouths. They had Nine use the “f” word, so I will have to get some advice about adding this one to our collection. I certainly will have to give a warning to some who are sensitive to this. In addition, this one has even more graphic battle scenes that may be difficult for some readers to handle. However, this installment had me saying, “I didn’t see that coming,” and I want to know how the series will end.

Some avid readers might enjoy Author in April books that have a wider audience: Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, I Funny, and I Even Funnier. I liked Emmy, which is the first of a series, because I wanted to see what the nanny’s evil plan was. Funny and Funnier were not my cup of tea, but a few of the main character’s jokes were humorous. I kept waiting to see if the school bully was going to change.

I can see that I will have to be more diligent about posting book comments so I can keep the posts short. I am starting on a middle school Author in April book, so I’ll have to pay attention to details in order to give a good synopsis and a clear opinion.

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Respond to a news article

Written on May 11, 2014 – 11:29 pm | by Mrs. Klein

Directions for this assignment are on a Google Drive document that I shared with my students. The following is my teacher sample.

Baetens, Melody. “Metro Detroit’s Jena Irene Asciutto Moves into Top 3 on ‘Idol.’” The Detroit News 9 May 2014: 3A. Print.

On Friday, May 9, The Detroit News reported that a young local woman, Jena Irene Asciutto, is the first Michigan resident to make it to the top three finalists on “American Idol.” During the show, she sang the Elvis Presley song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” which caused judge Jennifer Lopez to get “choked up.” Asciutto will be honored with a parade in her hometown of Farmington Hills.

Jena Irene Asciutto
Is tops on “American Idol.”
   She’s young and she sings,
   Moving J-Lo’s heartstrings,
So she shines as a Michigan hero.

A parade will be held in her honor
And accolades showered upon her.
   Her voice makes her famous,
   And some will be jealous,
Yet today, some will love and adore her.

Folks want to be close to an idol,
Rubbing elbows with fame and a title.
   So whoever you are,
   They’ll call you a star,
Being part of another’s arrival.

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Authors in April

Written on May 8, 2014 – 9:06 pm | by Mrs. Klein

This year, the middle school author was Adrian Fogelin. Our students who attended the writers’ workshop along with Holy Family students diligently followed Ms. Fogelin’s directions for creating a character.

What is your character wearing?

What is your character wearing?

Describe your character's couch.

Describe your character’s couch.

In the course of the story, what will change for your character?

In the course of the story, what will change for your character?

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Written on May 8, 2014 – 8:38 pm | by Mrs. Klein

Here’s another one I never heard before. This video moves too fast for these old eyes. I kept wanting the camera to pull back so I could see more, and the scene flashes from one person to another so quickly that I could not catch enough of their expressions. Regardless of all that, I still like the music.

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Conversation via Blogging

Written on April 24, 2014 – 8:24 pm | by Mrs. Klein

I saw a link to this blog on Twitter, and I thought it would be the perfect example of how a blog post can generate a conversation. Consider how you could add to the conversation. If this was a conversation in a classroom or around a table somewhere, how would you respond?

If you choose to comment on Hossen’s blog post, also consider inviting him to look at your blog. Have you said anything that would be worth reading? What kind of post can you write that could stir up a conversation?

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Let It Go

Written on April 23, 2014 – 8:58 pm | by Mrs. Klein

Everybody is singing this song these days, but this has a little twist in the middle. I haven’t seen the movie, but my granddaughter has listened to it over and over while at our house. This is a bit different from the sweet-Disney-character version.

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13 Little Blue Envelopes

Written on April 21, 2014 – 1:09 pm | by Mrs. Klein

I like the concept of taking on a series of challenges which are revealed after each has been completed. I certainly would not be as adventurous as Ginny, traveling around Europe alone, but following a book character is a safe way to explore “what ifs.” I questioned the wisdom of some of Ginny’s decisions, but I had to remind myself that she is 17 years old. It was satisfying to see that she learned something in each of her challenges, even to the point that sometimes the teacher’s intended lesson totally misses the mark. As a teacher, I could relate to this. The ending left enough uncertainty for me to want to read the sequel.

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The Eye of Minds

Written on April 21, 2014 – 12:50 pm | by Mrs. Klein

As I was listening to this book, I kept thinking of certain students who like video games so much that they choose to blog about them. I found the idea of becoming a character in a video game by lying in a specially made coffin too creepy. Do people crave action so much that they would want to be an active participant in a video game rather than just on the outside manipulating a digital character? There is certainly a lot of action in this book. I would not normally be interested in a story about a video game, but the author kept me attached to the main character. I wanted to see how he completed the challenge.

I thought the ending was quite unexpected. Should I have seen it coming? Shelfari says that this is the first in a series. Does the ending leave you wanting to read more?

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Uncommon Criminals

Written on April 21, 2014 – 12:30 pm | by Mrs. Klein

Since two classes were working on research papers during January and February, I did not allow myself much time to read. However, during our recent spring break, I listened to two audiobooks and read a third. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter is the second in the “Heist Society” series. Besides the entertaining story of a girl from a family of thieves who has chosen to limit her heists to those she deems morally right, there is an important theme of Interdependence. The story opens with Kat successfully stealing a picture in order to return it to its rightful owner. However, she is berated by her friend Hale and her cousin Gaby for going off on her own rather than including those who helped her in the past.

This is soon rectified when Kat is challenged to steal a gem that her more experienced uncle had failed to capture years earlier. Kat learns the importance of depending on others and of showing those close to her that she values their expertise, their ideas, and simply their presence.

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