Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mint OREO Truffles

What am I reading now?  Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Ally Carter)

And . . . what do I think so far?  This book is fun and light hearted. (And, she speaks parenthetically, so I'm a fan.) I read the first one "I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You" and decided to finish out the rest of the set. The series is about Cammie, who is a sophomore at Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a special private school for girls to train them to be superspies. They know a lot about poisons, surveillance and going undercover--but anything about boys? Anyone? Uh--no. They can speak sixteen languages but they can't speak to a boy. Ha! The next two are on the bedside table waiting their turn, too. "Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover" and "Only the Good Spy Young".

Have I shared anything tasty this month? No? Okay--here's one a friend sent to me. I made it and oooooh loved it. Hid them and ate them slowly.


1 (16 oz) pkg of Oreo Mint Chocolate Sandwich cookies, divided
1 (8 oz) pkg of Phildelphia cream cheese
2 (8 oz) pkgs Bakers Semi-Sweet chocolate chips

1.  Crush 9 cookies in food processor and put in a small bowl to use at the end.

2.  Crush the remaining 36 cookies in food processor and mix with room temperature cream cheese. Roll mixture into small balls and refrigerate for an hour. (This makes them MUCH easier to coat with chocolate.)

3.  Melt chocolate chips in mocrowave for 30 seconds, stir, 20 seconds, stir, 20 more seconds, stir. Let sit to finish melting. Dip balls into chocolate and lift with forks. Set on wax paper, sprinkle iwth reserved cookie crumbs, and refrigerate until firm.

By the way--these are much better the second day than on the first day. But really no one complained on the first day either.
:) Enjoy

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

What am I reading now?  UNBROKEN CONNECTION (Angela Morrison)

And . . . what do I think so far?  I purchased (to read on my phone Kindle ap) TAKEN BY STORM (book 1) on the recommendation of a friend. I liked it so much, I immediately downloaded this title and read it straight through with abandon. Seriously, I'm in love with Leesie and Michael being in love. The writing is beautiful and emotional. The images make me want to learn to scuba dive just to see if it is anything like I imagined during the reading.

Decisions, Decisions
We've been having an ongoing conversation at work this year about the decisions students have to make during learning and the resulting kind of learning they have at the end of the process. Probably the most common question I hear from teachers asks how they can help their students read faster. See that's a trick question. Students usually read at the speed they can process continuous text. So if they read slow, they are probably processing text slowly. 

          I know there are exceptions to this. I've taught a few students who just didn't realize they could read faster and when they tried they found they could. After a couple of weeks of doing some 1-minute timings, their speed increased to an expected rate. Problem solved. I'm really not talking about those students when I say that reading rate might signal a processing problem.

          Other students could be timed to death and see little improvement in reading rate. You might ask why this is a problem. For many children who read slowly all work involving reading becomes slow and laborious. Where most children will finish work in school, slow readers have to take it home to finish. Then top it off with more work assigned as homework (which will also take them longer because they read slower) and we might see a very unmotivated student. 

          If we could peek inside their mind during reading we might hear something like this:

          "These are the same que--ques--questions special (No, that doesn't say special. I should just skip that word. No, my teacher won't let me do that. Okay, look at the first letter again and guess another word. No, my teacher doesn't like when I do that either. I know I'll ask her the word.) Teacher what's that word."
          "You try it."
          (I was afraid she was going to say that. Maybe I could mumble something close and go on.) "sentsn ask when the stay the world."

  Here's the gist:
        Look back. How many decisions did the student make? 8-10, right? Depending how you look at it. Each of those decisions take time. Because this student doesn't know what decisions to make to solve a tricky, unknown word, reading takes a lot of time! And it's painful.
          So, here's what you do. 
  • You ask the child to read a passage that would be a little hard. They should make about 1-2 mistakes every 15 words or so. 
  • Be sure to write down what the child said instead of what they should have said, so you can compare the two. 
  • Then ask yourself: What didn't the child know what to do? Make a list.
  • Finally, highlight those items on the Book Level Traits page (click here to download)

          Now you have a list for what to teach to plug the gaps for that reader. Start with the highlighted skills closest to the top of the page and work your way down. Focus your teaching on what decisions the child will have to make to do that reading skill well. 

I would love to hear from you about your readers.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flat, Mythical or Complex? Oh, and Zombies

What am I reading now?   Infinity, Chronicles of Nick (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  Loved every high-school-jock brain-eating minute of it. Nick is a great hero. Fringe of society, growing up good anyway. Quirky and psycho friends. Sarcastic, street smart, intelligent. Demons. Angels. Not sure even now who is really evil in this book. Hmmm--I'll have to read the next one.  ;-) Rooted for Nick all the way through. Okay, I'll admit it--this is my third zombie book. There was:
• Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan): Not a favorite of mine. Enjoyed the writing but not the story.
• You Are So Undead to Me (Megan Berry): Funny take on the zombie thing. Stop the Homecoming Apocolypse. Haha
• Infinity: In case you missed what I was saying above--fun!
Oh, wait, four zombie books. I also read:
• Undead Much? (Second from Megan Berry): Kiss a zombie? And it's not EWWWWW?

Flat, Mythical or Complex?
This next Thursday, I'm doing an inservice at our English Teachers' Book Club. My topic is using book structures to help readers understand stories better. Even though the ideas in the class are designed for teaching readers, I think there might be some good ideas for writers, too.

The first topic we will talk about is how following the structure of a novel can support student understanding and classroom conversations. Here is a form (Novel Structure) students can use to take notes as the story moves along. I know--it needs to be more complex to adequately follow most novels. But this is meant for students who don't usually contribute to class discussions about novels. They don't have a developed sense of story yet, so we'll start in a simple way on simple text. I'm going to teach this using Calvin & Hobbs cartoon stories.

The second part of the inservice will be looking at character types. Yup, using Calvin & Hobbs again. Here's the summary page of characters (Character Roles) I'm going to use. It includes the typical roles students will encounter in classical and contemporary literature, then they can record info they gather while reading. It's a great tool for students to use to enter novel discussions.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

01-01-11 01:11 am

What am I reading now? The Lost Saint (Bree Despain)
Annnd . . . What do I think so far? Just finished it. I was ready to abandon it for the first 75 pages, then it got good, then it got really good. I was a little surprised by the ending--I thought it was going somewhere else. :)

Yes, I'm posting right now just because I really like this number.

Happy New Year!

I'm also looking forward to 11/11/11 at 11:11 am.