Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Reading

It is officially the beginning of my favorite time of the year! There is nothing better than getting together with your family, eating way more than you need to, and planning your shopping for the next day. My mom and I used to do the whole Black Friday thing, but then we wised up and started shopping from the couch. There were far less casualties! The day after Thanksgiving, we always go to the Merry Christmas Tree Farm to cut down our Christmas tree. We have been going there since I was three years old (so that is 29 years for all of you wondering) and am so happy to share these traditions with my children now!

Tree farm old


My brother, sister and I (back when I was taller than both of them… haha).


tree farm new

Chris and I with the kiddos last year at the tree farm.




But before we go into full on Christmas mode, I wanted to share some of my new favorite Thanksgiving reads from Candlewick Press. My kids and I read these books this week and love them! Make sure to look below for a special treat too!!



Gobble, Gobble, Tucker!

by Leslie McGuirk

When Tucker smells a familiar scent in  the air, he knows his favorite day of the year has come —Thanksgiving! Tucker loves to play with his family, help clean up, and most of all, enjoy a delicious feast. But as the day goes by, Tucker and his doggy cousins haven’t had even a bite. Will they ever get to gobble up any holiday treats?

This cute board book about Tucker the dog, tells what Thanksgiving is like… for the dogs! Tucker and his girl are preparing for Thanksgiving, but when his cousins show up he knows it is time for more fun. I love that Tucker the dog deals with the same things we all do… the wait for the yummy food. I must say, though, that Tucker is far more patient a dog than my sweet bulldog who wouldn’t wait that long for their Thanksgiving meal.


Giving Thanks

by Jonathan London

Thank you, Mother Earth.
Thank you, Father Sky.
Thank you for this day.

How can a young boy ever show his gratitude for all the beauty he sees? He will learn from his father, who thanks the earth and the sky, the frogs and the crickets, the hawk and the deer, even the trees that wave their arms in the breeze. Majestic as the most beautiful autumn day and filled with glimpses of favorite woodland animals, GIVING THANKS is truly a gift to readers from nature-lover Jonathan London and master painter Gregory Manchess.

Sometimes we all need a little reminder that saying “Thanks” is a good habit to have. In this beautifully written and illustrated book, a father teaches his son that though it may seem funny to thank the trees, pumpkins, deer, and other natural elements, it is what will make him a good person. This would be a great book to expand with the Native American traditions and stories as well because they are briefly mentioned in the giving of thanks to Mother Earth and Fathers sky. Loved this beautiful book!


With those and many other wonderful Thanksgiving reads, it is no wonder we have so much fun at the start of this holiday! So what are you thankful for this holiday season? Make sure to leave a comment below and your email address. On Saturday at noon I will pick one winner from the comments to win all of these great reads! Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

The Taking by Kimberly Derting

Hardcover, 357 pages                             Published April 29th 2014 by HarperTeen


A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.
When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

I know we all have those “go-to authors” whom we love. Kimberly Derting is definitely one of mine! She could write about a bug trapped in a paper bag and I would drive to the bookstore the day it came out and buy it. When I heard about this new series of hers that was coming out, I was immediately hooked. It took me a while to get to it, but then it only took me a few hours to read it and fall in love with yet another of her amazing novels. There are many new ideas out there when it comes to Young Adult literature, but it seems like some are just reincarnations of the same plot lines…. except The Taking.
The mystery which surrounds Kyra and her disappearance kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time and I still have so many questions and predictions as to what is going to happen. I loved the dynamic between Tyler and Kyra is very well written (despite the craziness that it is) and I am glad that it was. I have to say that I was a little worried about how this plot would work for fear that it would be either really strange and unbelievable or just flat out cheesy. It was neither. This is one that I have already given to a student because I knew that she would devour it like I did… and she brought it back the next morning. She had it finished in about the same time. I am pretty sure she gave it another student as soon as she walked in my door too! That is the best thing ever!


 Happy reading!



The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Hardcover, 240 pages

Published March 18th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013). Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

This book is one of those that I had seen on my feeds from a wide variety of my book loving friends and I was so happy when it came into my school library today so that I could grab it… yes, even before the students could!  I have always felt that there is definite beauty in the written word and when it is written in verse it seems to encompass more beauty than we can imagine. I love this book because as I was reading, I was picturing some of my students (and even my husband) who I know are going to love it. There are so many things to love about this book, but I most love the authenticity of it. From the basketball playing, to the twin sibling dynamics, to the dad who is larger-than-life it was all written so magnificently that readers are going to fall in love with Josh and JB and be able to relate to them with great ease. This book will definitely not stay on the shelves long! This book definitely didn’t disappoint!
Happy reading!

Evil Librarian Blog Tour

September 9, 2014

Candlewick Press

Hardcover, 352 pages

#EvilLibrarian He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

I am so excited for the release of this amazing book and honored to be a part of the blog tour! You must go run and pick this one up- NOW! But first stick around and join me in welcoming the author of this great novel, Michelle Knudsen! I love how music is so influential in so many pieces of writing and I am so happy that I get to share with you Michelle’s playlist for this book. So as you are reading this book, here is what Michelle has to say about music and her book, The Evil Librarian!

Today on the blog tour I’m sharing part of my writing playlist for Evil Librarian. I can’t usually listen to music while I work on picture books, but for novels, the right music helps me get into the right head space for the story. It also helps me get quickly into writing mode — I start to associate the songs with the book, and so as soon as I slip my headphones on, my brain is ready to get back into the world of the story. This also helps when I’m trying to work out sticky plot points or think more deeply about characters, motivations, etc. I like to think things out while taking long walks, and listening to the book’s playlist helps keep me focused. Sometimes a particular song will feel right for a given scene or problem, and then I might just listen to that one song on repeat until I figure out whatever it was that was giving me trouble.

For this particular book, since the main character is somewhat obsessed with musical theater, I also listened to a lot of soundtracks from various shows. Especially Sweeney Todd, which is the show they’re putting on for the school’s fall musical in the story. A few of the Sweeney songs made it onto the main playlist, but otherwise I mostly kept my musical theater listening separate.

The full list is 88 songs, which I think would be a little too much to post here, so I’m going to go with a 20-song selection. :)  If you’d like to see the whole thing, I’ll post it on my own blog at the end of the tour.


“Brand New Day”

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog soundtrack



“Villainous Thing”

—Shayfer James

“Vampires Will Never Hurt You”

—My Chemical Romance

“E.T. (Benny Benassi Radio Edit)”

—Katy Perry


Sweeney Todd (Angela Lansbury/Len Cariou Broadway Recording)

 “The Undertaker (Renholder Mix)”




“El Tango de Roxanne”

Moulin Rouge soundtrack


—Alanis Morissette (MTV Unplugged version)

“The Grudge”


“As Heaven Is Wide”


 “Into My Blood”

—Carina Round

“Praying for Time”

—George Michael

“City of Delusion”


“Dance, Dance”

—Fall Out Boy


—Johnny Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails song

“Girl & The Sea”

—The Presets

“Original Sin”

—Meat Loaf

“The Hero’s Return”

—Pink Floyd

Thank you so much Michelle for stopping by! There are many more great posts to come from this tour, so make sure to check out the rest of the tour on these great blogs!

WhoRuBlog (9/9/14)

Books 4 Your Kids (9/11/14)

Green Bean Teen Queen (9/12/14)

Elizabeth O. Dulemba (9/13/14)

Katie’s Book Blog (9/15/14)

Word Spelunking (9/16/14)

Book Chic Club (9/17/14)

Happy reading!!!

Wild Things! Guest post from Betsy Bird

I am so excited to welcome Betsy Bird one of the authors of the amazing new book Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature to the blog today. This book is FANTASTIC! I loved it from start to finish and was so excited when I was asked to participate in the blog tour for the book. Without further adieu… Betsy Bird everyone!


What to Do When Your Hero Is Devoured

By Betsy Bird


There are lots of different trends in works of children’s and YA literature.  Right now we’re seeing a definite uptick in whales in picture books.  Then there were the vampires, angels, and zombies of YA novels past.  Heck, there was one year there when sentient cheese was hip. (I’m not entirely kidding about that one.)

Then there’s the picture book trend where the protagonist gets eaten.

No.  Really.  There is.

It’s not a bad thing when you think about it.  Consider that one of the most famous lines in Where the Wild Things Are is “We’ll eat you up, we love you so.”  But parents have sort of a hard time dealing with it.  To their mind it’s a very adult concept.  Being devoured or devouring.  Grown-ups have a way of reading a bit too much into that sort of thing.  Never mind that even Little Red Riding Hood had to go through it.  Of course she came out okay in the end.  Not quite so many picture book heroes can say as much.

I mean Pierre (by Maurice Sendak) did pretty well.  Hard not to love a story where the main character is so blasé about his imminent munchability.  Then there were other books like Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, Beware of the Frog by William Bee, Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis… I could go on.  Even in 2014 I’ve seen books like Pardon Me by Daniel Miyares carrying on this noble tradition.

In Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta, and I consider the stories in children’s books that don’t get a lot of airtime elsewhere.  Often we see perfectly nice adults treating works of children’s literature like it’s all fluffy bunnies and playtime.  To combat this, our book sometimes has to delve into the less than wholly pleasant.  Maybe Polly Dunbar put it best when she said, “Children’s stories need to prepare children for life.  OK, we hope not to get eaten in real life, but everything isn’t soft and cute either.”

No doubt The Gingerbread Man might have something to say about that.



If that doesn’t make you want to go read this book?! You definitely need to. Make sure to visit Betsy at her BLOG and follow her on TWITTER! Thank you so much, Betsy, for the guest post!


Happy reading everyone!!




Your New BFF… Class Dojo!

Class management is something that every teacher struggles with. Some don’t like to admit it, but it is okay… we all struggle and that’s okay! I am going into my 11th year teaching (when did THAT happen) and I can honestly say that classroom management is the weakest link in my chain, therefore it is the one that I have to constantly strengthen to ensure that my chain doesn’t break. 

Last year, I was at wits end. My classes weren’t bad. They just were on the cusp of being a little too big for their britches. Anyone else have a class like that? Okay… put your hands down now. Luckily I have many amazing teacher pals and when I was talking to one of these ladies one afternoon she asked if I had ever tried Class Dojo. At this point, I had heard about Class Dojo but hadn’t really looked into it. 

I went home that night, and I fell in love and knew that this was just what I was looking for!

Class Dojo is an easy, FREE way for you to monitor and boost student engagement in your classroom with just the click of a button! Students can create their own avatars, monitor their behaviors on their phones or devices, and parents can even log in daily to check on how their child was that day! How great is that?! 

The best way I learn is to get in there and play, but before you do that here is a cheat sheet of information for you about Class Dojo. (If you click on the picture it will link you to this sheet so that you can print it.)

So now it is time to create an account and go play! Make up your “fun” class and then play around until you get the hang of it. There are videos on the site as well as forums where other teachers have given their ideas and input for using it in the classroom. Our best resource is each other… so go to your colleagues and see what they are doing! 

Here are some great resources to help you get started with Class Dojo in your classroom, and the best thing is… they are FREE too!! 


          Class Dojo Weekly Behavior Tracker by Jed Dearybury

        Class Dojo Resource Pacy by Mrs. Possum’s Classroom 

There are many different ways to incorporate Class Dojo into your classroom so don’t feel like you have to do it like everyone else! Be creative and make it work for you! Have fun and let the pinging begin!! 

Flipping the Classroom

If you are like me, your time in the classroom gets eaten by a nasty monster everyday. He steals it right out from under me when I’m not even looking! Jerk! Last year I decided that I had had enough. He was not going to steal my time again because I was Flipping My Classroom. And no, that does not mean that I was using a certain finger to point to things on my Promethean Board! (My dad- the minister- had a bad habit of doing that, but luckily we broke him of it… I think!)

So what does Flipping the Classroom mean? This video will give you a GREAT idea of what a flipped classroom is and what it can do for you!

Flipping Physics

When you flip your classroom, your students watch videos of your instruction at home on their own devices prior to coming into your classroom. By doing this, your classroom then becomes the place where your students practice the skills taught in the video and show mastery of the standards. How cool is that?! The goal of your classroom is to be a student centered classroom and when you make the change to a flipped classroom, it will take your students a bit to get used to. They are used to the lecture in class and the practice for homework, and you are flipping it around on them (hence the name). This is here is what it looks like:

Flipped CR

There are tons of blog posts, Youtube videos, and seminars out there with information on how you can flip your classroom and its benefits. IF you are like me and get overwhelmed with so many different things out there, I am going to help you out. Here is a cheat sheet that I created to help you out:



(this is a compilation of information from a variety of sources)

The best piece of advice I can give you is to start small. There are a great number of videos already created, so don’t feel like you have to create videos from scratch. Use what is already out there until you get comfortable creating videos! As you can see on the cheat sheet, I have given you some ways to create videos. If you have Microsoft 8, there is a cool add on for PowerPoint called Office Mix. With Office Mix, you are able to video cast through a PowerPoint presentation. You can also just do the audio if you don’t want to have your face on the screen! Here is an example:

Office Mix Example

Pretty cool, huh? Again, there is a ton of fun stuff out there for you to view. In order to try to help you out just a bit I am going to link some goodies below. Let us know how you see this working in your classroom!

Elementary School:

The Letter “B” (video)

Long Division- 4th Grade (video)

Middle School/High School:

 Independent Clauses, Dependent Clauses, & Fragments (video)

Properties of Parallelograms (video)

Tutorials, etc.:

A Students Take on the Flipped Classroom (video)

H0w to use Powtoon by Jen Jonson (video)

I Flip, You Flip, We All Flip: Setting Up a Flipped Classroom (video)

What A Flipped Classroom Looks Like (video)

Is Flipping Right for You? (Infographic)

Strategies to Ensure Your Students Are Watching Your Videos (video and worksheet)

Tune into Technology Linky: Integrating Technology into Math (website)

Catlin Tucker- Tech Guru (website)

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown

Hardcover, 80 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers

A speck of dust is a tiny thing. In fact, five of them could fit into the period at the end of this sentence.

On a clear, warm Sunday, April 14, 1935, a wild wind whipped up millions upon millions of these specks of dust to form a duster—a savage storm—on America’s high southern plains.

The sky turned black, sand-filled winds scoured the paint off houses and cars, trains derailed, and electricity coursed through the air. Sand and dirt fell like snow—people got lost in the gloom and suffocated . . . and that was just the beginning.

Don Brown brings the Dirty Thirties to life with kinetic, highly saturated, and lively artwork in this graphic novel of one of America’s most catastrophic natural events: the Dust Bowl.

What an amazing graphic novel!!!  Not only were the illustrations fantastic, but the information was presented in such a way that you learned so much without even realizing it. I love learning new things, and this book left me wanting to research more about the Dust Bowl and the impact it had on our country. Definitely a great addition to my classroom library!

Teaching Ideas:

For Science:
This book is a great way to discuss plate tectonics, the environmental impact of the Dust Bowl, and the recent Dust Bowl impact from 2012 and other droughts. Students will be able to learn about the environmental impact from the Dust Bowl on daily life of both humans and animals alike and could do further research on what implications a Dust Bowl of that size could have on today’s society.  

For Social Studies:
This is a great book to discuss life during the Great Depression and what impact the Dust Bowl had in the lives of Americans. This would be a great book to begin a research project on the life during the Depression for the different parts of the United States as well. 

Possible research questions:
Did the Dust Bowl impact all of America? 
What are the major differences between those areas impacted by the Dust Bowl and those who weren’t impacted?

For ELA:

This book would be a fantastic introduction before teaching Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. The background knowledge the students will gain will allow them visualize the events of the novel which is a fantastic novel! 

Happy reading!!

Speed Fishin’ Review Game

I have been blessed through reading Kim Bearden’s amazing book Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me. Currently on my second read through in a few days, I am continuing to find

inspiration for my life and my classroom. There will be a post about it very soon… I am still processing!

One of the many ideas that I have gained from Kim’s lessons was one that she used in her classroom- SPEED FISHING! She used it to reach one of her students who was reluctant to participate (read the book… I don’t do the story justice!). As I read about this lesson, I thought- “I can totally do that with my Summer School kiddos!” Soooo… I did!

We are learning about the parts of a sentence- subject and predicate- so I adjusted what Kim did for what we were doing. Here’s how it works:


  • Wooden Dowels (as many as you want teams)
  • String or yarn
  • Magnets (for your fishing poles)
  • 100 Washers (or however many you want)
  • Colored paper (for your fish… I would suggest cardstock)
  • An “ocean” (you can use a plastic swimming pool or do like me and use a plastic table cloth)

Lesson Set Up:

1. Cut out enough fish for the number of sentences, problems, etc. you will have for your game.
             * I also laminated them so that I could reuse them.

2. Write, tape, glue or otherwise attach your sentences, problems, etc. to your fish. I taped my strips to the fish so that I could easily get them off for the next game!

3. Attach a washer to the back of each fish. Again, I laminated mine so if you want to do the same that will be your next step!

4. Tie string to the dowels and attach the magnet to the end of the string.
           * I tied it at first, but as the game went on… the magnets went flying! So I ended up temporarily taping the magnets on. I am going to go back and hot glue them later!

5. Put your answers on paper plates. You will need a set for each team that you have.

6. Set up your ocean in the middle of your classroom or a designated area. Place your paper plates on opposing ends of your classroom and if you have multiple teams you can set them up in opposite corners. (If you are lucky enough to have a big hallway or gym at your disposal, you can use that as well. If the weather is nice- GO OUTSIDE!!!)

Lesson Plan: I am going to use what I did for my review game… but change it up for your lesson!

1. When your students come into the classroom, have them break into the correct number of groups and disperse in your classroom.
          * My paper plates were labeled Simple Subject, Complete Subject, Compound Subject, Simple Predicate, Complete Predicate, and Compound Predicate

2. Explain the game to your students!

On each of the fish in our ocean are examples of Simple Subjects, Complete Subjects, Compound Subjects, Simple Predicates, Complete Predicates, and Compound Predicates. Your team can only sent one fisherman at a time out to the pond to catch a fish- otherwise all the fish will scare off and you won’t catch any. After your fisherman comes back with their fish, as a team you must decide on which plate it goes. Make sure you are careful because some can be tricky. If your fish has what looks like a complete predicate but just one word is highlighted, it will be a simple predicate. Same goes for the subjects. Look also to see how many subjects and predicates there are. After you place the fish on the correct plate, your next fisherman can go fishing. Remember…. You have to FISH, not drag! Each correct fish placement is worth one point. The team with the most points wins a prize! Any questions? When you hear our fishin’ music start, you may begin!

3. Play music and let the fun begin! Watch the teams and offer guidance at first, but allow them to work as a team to determine the correct answer. You may want to only allow a certain amount of time and add a timer. I didn’t with my first group at first, but when I added the stress of a timer after seeing that time was dwindling down, that created more intensity! So the next group got a timer and a few rounds so that we could review in between.

Here are some pictures of our fun!

Let me know how you would change it around and how you would use it in your classroom! I can’t wait to hear your ideas!!


Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan

Hardcover, 108 pages

Published April 8th 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

From the Newbery Award–winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall comes a story about one brave girl who saves her family from losing everything.

Everyone in Lucy’s family sings. Opera. Rap. Lullabies. Everyone, except Lucy. Lucy can’t sing; her voice just won’t come out.

Just like singing, helping Aunt Frankie prepare for flooding season is a family tradition—even if Frankie doesn’t want the help. And this year, when the flood arrives, danger finds its way into the heart of Lucy’s family, and Lucy will need to find her voice to save her brother.

 From the author of one of my favorite books, Sarah, Plain and Tall, comes another heart melting book. This book is one of those books that I will definitely be a go to book when it comes to dealing with the feelings of not finding your place. Lucy feels like she can’t really relate to her family because she doesn’t feel as talented as her family members. When the time comes, however, her talents are what she least expects them to be. This is a fantastic book that I can’t wait to share with my students!