Middle School Teacher in Rural Alaska


You wouldn’t think that adding just two books to your classroom library would change your instruction that much.  Two new books among hundreds of other books shouldn’t be a huge deal. But, when I added Poetry Speaks to Children and Hip Hop Speaks to Children these two books completely changed my poetry instruction and the way students thought about poetry.

This fall, thanks to the wonderful support of DonorsChoose, I added Poetry Speaks to Children and Hip Hop Speaks to Children to my classroom. As the name implies these books are both poetry collections designed for children.  The poems in these books are very kid friendly and are supported by wonderful illustrations.  Yet, the thing that really makes these books stand out is that they come with an audio CD where the poets read the poems aloud!

One day after my students had been reading silently I opened up itunes on my smartboard, put the book under the document camera, and played Charles R. Smith’s “Allow Me To Introduce Myself.” The students loved listening to this and asked me to play it again and again and again. There is something pretty special about listening to the poet read his or her own work.  Listening to a poet read his or her work gives you such a good sense of the mood and tone of the poem. And, it really is just FUN to listen to these poems!

After I discovered that my students loved listening to these poems we listened to one each day as a whole class and then analyzed the poems. The students really enjoyed this time. It has also been a great time to review literary terms, practice close reading skills, and do some great critical thinking.

Coincidentally, the first grade teacher in my building also bought these books over the summer and has been using them with her students as well. While she and I use them in different ways, this is a great book for students of all ages.

The bottom line here is that if you are looking to add more poetry into your classroom you HAVE to get these two books.

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Pre-Newberry Challenge

This fall I found a poster in our school that showed the covers of all the Newberry award winning books from 1922-2011. I laminated it and hung it on my classroom door. Students and I each initialed the books that we had read. Many of my students said, “Wow, I’ve read a bunch of these books!” But as I sat there and looked at the poster I felt pathetic. These are some of the best children’s books in existence and I’ve read so few of them.

Here is my list of the Newberry Award Winning Books that I have read in my lifetime:

Johnny Tremain

The Twenty-One Balloons

King of the Wind

Amos Fortune, Free Man

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Island of the Blue Dolphins

A Wrinkle In Time

From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Julie of the Wolves

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Bridge to Terabithia

Jacob Have I Loved

Sarah Plain and Tall

The Whipping Boy

Number the Stars

Maniac Magee


The Giver

Out of the Dust


The Tale of Despereaux

When You Reach Me

Moon Over Manifest


A grand whopping total of 24 books.  Not much when compared to the 89 Newberry award winning books that are out there. Yet, some of my absolute favorite favorite books from when I was a kid are on this list. I’m hoping that as I undertake the Newberry Challenge this year I will discover many more favorites.

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Which dystopian world would you live in? Which is most realistic?

“Man, this is JUST like the The Giver,” I said to myself as I was reading Matched by Ally Condie tonight.

Well, at least I thought I said it to myself. Turns out that I must have said it out loud because my husband said to me, “What is just like The Giver?”

“Well, in Matched they euthanize the old people just like they do in the Giver. And in this book they also assign jobs to people like they do in the Giver. And didn’t they match spouses in the Giver too?” I remarked, nearly incredulous at the similarities.

“Hmm, I haven’t read Matched yet, but it does sound like there are some similarities,” hubby said, and then went back to his book.

The similarities between Matched and the The Giver got me thinking about all the dystopian books I’ve read in the past year or so.  I started to wonder: which society is most realistic? If I had to pick one society to live in which would it be?

Now, before I begin pontificating, let me list the titles & series that I have read: The Giver by Lois Lowry, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, Ship Breaker by Paulo Baugucipl, The Uglies by Scott Leviathan, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner. With the exception of Matched if the book is part of a series I have read all books in the series.

First, the society that is most realistic… There were a few contenders. The Uglies series came to mind, particularly because remants of our current society exist in the book’s vision of the future. Similarly, the mentions that Matched made about the problems in our current society gave it an element of realism. I also thought that the violence and the reality show aspect of The Hunger Games has a lot of truth to it. But ultimately, Oryx and Crake was the most realistic dystopian society. For those who have not read Oryx and Crake the society it presents is one where wealthy corporations make all the decisions, genetic engineering produces horrific animals, and the divide between the rich and the poor is immense and unbridgeable. Sound like any societies you know? The dystopia of Oryx and Crake is frighteningly close to our own future…

Now, if I had to pick one society to live in which would it be? There’s no way I would live in the world of The Maze Runner, far too dismal. While I wouldn’t mind meeting some of the characters from the Hunger Games, living in that society simply sounds too dangerous. The world of Among the Hidden wouldn’t be too bad, the living conditions for most people in that society aren’t awful. But, after looking at all the options I think I would go live in the world of The Uglies.  For most people in this book life is free of violence. And even though The Pretties have brain damage, they sound like they have a lot of fun at their parties- certainly more fun than the boring scheduled life portrayed in Matched.

All that being said, the Social Studies teacher in me is itching to jump out and give a civics lesson about why people need to understand and participate in government, but I shall save that for another day…