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  • Monthly Archives: August 2012


    Period.8 by Chris Crutcher


    Hardcover, COMING SOON!


    Chris Crutcher has done it again. With his latest novel, Period.8, the “King of the Boy Books” (a title not meant to gender his work but to represent his mass appeal to the male young adult audience) has “turned it up a notch,” going well beyond the type of Crutcher story that we have come to expect and love. As a reading specialist and English teacher for 17 years (working mostly with struggling secondary readers), I use Chris Crutcher as my “go to” author when I am trying to find a book that will “hook” a reluctant reader. Crutcher’s work has it all: believable characters we love, a storyline that keeps us enthralled, and a message that resounds loudly with important life lessons. Period.8 offers all of these elements and more, entrenching readers in a mystery that takes reading the entire book to solve.…

    The Raft

    The Raft by S.A. Bodeen
    240 pages

    S.A. Bodeen’s third young adult novel, The Raft, opens with Robie, the protagonist, visiting her aunt in Hawaii during one of her many breaks from the small island where Robie lives. Hanging out in Honolulu with her aunt is a far cry from Midway Atoll where her scientist parents work. Naturally, Robie wants to do the normal things (go shopping, tan at the beach, get a piercing, dabble in Henna), and when her aunt has to leave early for work on the mainland, Robie takes advantage. However, after a frightening encounter with a stranger, Robie hops on an earlier supply flight without telling anyone, trying to get back to Midway as fast as possible. Little did she know that this would lead her to an even more frightening experience.


    There is significant growth in Robie by the end of her journey. She has to overcome extreme obstacles without any real knowledge on how.…

    Stick Figure Characterization

    Students can visualize each character in a book and note what that character thinks, feels, says,  and loves.   The foot indicates what the character would want to eliminate in his or her life, and the achilles heel and muscle in the arm represent the strengths/weaknesses.


    Code Name Verity

    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

    352 pages

    Publication: May 2012


    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is a suspenseful and moving work of historical fiction about two best friends who find themselves trapped in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Maddie, a civilian pilot, and “Verity,” a special agent, narrate a tale of friendship, despair, and perseverance as they try to accomplish their respective missions or die trying. After their plane crashes, the girls confront numerous challenges along the way, ranging from Nazi torture tactics to the gender limitations in a mostly male combat zone.
    As Wein notes in her “Author’s Debriefing,” Code Name Verity contains an abundance of historical information and gives great insight into life during World War II. The book is divided into two parts; each friend narrates her individual role in the larger story. Although the reading level of the novel is appropriate for high school, the structure of the novel and the use of British colloquialisms add to its complexity.…

    The Last Word

    Kelly Gallagher’s idea of THE LAST WORD is one of the best to get students talking and thinking about their book selections!  When students are reading their CHOICE selections from a particular concept (Struggles and Perseverance, for example), they are asked to find a passage to share. They do not tell the group WHY it was selected.  The group tells the reader WHY THEY THINK it was selected.  Then the reader shares his/her thoughts.    Below is what each student is given.  The magic begins as soon as students start to share.  Immediately, the question of the day is…”James, do you have another one of the books that he/she is reading?”  Thus begins the dealing of books at a face pace!

    The Last Word…..


    The passage I am reading is from _______________________________(give title) and is on page _______________.


    Why I am selecting to read this… (circle one or more)


    • Passages you find beautiful


    • Passages you find interesting


    • Passages that exhibit great writing


    • Passages that anger you


    • Passages that trouble you


    • Passages that perplex you


    • Passages that raise your curiosity


    • Passages you find humorous


    • Passages that challenge you to think differently


    Using Concept Questions to Differentiate

    So, how is it possible for teachers to manage and “control” the class if every student is reading what he or she wants to read?  EASY.  Based on the interests and reading levels of the students, devise  THEMES or CONCEPTS for the year.  The ones I have used are “Friendships,”  “Struggles and Perseverance,”  “Heroes,” “Destiny,” and “Other Worlds.”


    Each student will select from a large quantity of books that fit well with the theme.  Do not forget to ask your media specialist and other teachers for possible titles.


    Each student can discuss his or her book in relation to the CONCEPT QUESTIONS.  Below is an example.  When students start to add their own questions to the list, they are clearly HOOKED!



     Concept Questions Regarding Relationships & Community

    • What are the essentials that build a strong friendship?
    • Do friendships change over time?  If so, in what ways?
    • What influence does family have during different stages of our lives?

    Time and Patience Wins!

    Take Brittney as a prime example of what time and patience can accomplish. This slightly built young lady had scars from “cutting,” a new pastime of students who are disturbed about their lives but have no one and/or no way of expressing this, so they use sharp objects to cut their skin. Her father had been in jail for most of her life, and her mother held a job in the “entertainment” field. The sneer on her face the first day was not unlike most of the other students in the class; our work was cut out for us. Mistake number one: making assumptions about what Brittney would want to read based on her turbulent past.


    The university provided us with a very comprehensive list of books on the students’ level and that appealed to struggling high school readers. I did as I was taught in graduate school: analyzed my students’ data from the state test and informal assessments, determined their reading levels, put together big crates of books based on high interest “concepts” (based on a reading interest inventory), and set off to conquer the world of failing readers.…

    Research-Based Reading Strategies

    Strategies to MODEL and EXPLICITLY TEACH to students.


    Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

    Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

    Hardcover, 307 pages

    Publication: September 13, 2011.2
    St. Martin’s Griffin
    This high-paced novel is the first in Amy Kathleen Ryan’s series, Glow, is the first of a series. Written from the point of view of two protagonists, this is the story of Waverly and Kieran, now ages 16 and 17, who are born and raised on the Empyrean, a space ship. The mission of the crew is to populate the new Earth. Conflict ensues as the females of the ship are captured, and Kieran must uncover the truth about the kidnapping. With lots of action and plenty of talk of relationships, this book will truly enthrall young readers.
    This book touches on many topics that are often not talked about in today’s society, one being a lack of parental supervision. Although set on a spaceship, Ryan’s writing is realistic in terms of teens dealing with relationships and the idea of what makes for a great leader.…