Mrs. McGriff's Reading Blog

Happy reading!

August 29, 2011
by Mrs. McGriff
9 Comments

Welcome to my blog!

I am organizing my blog to make it easier to find exactly what you need for class. Here’s what you need to do to find your assignments for the week:

  1. Move your mouse over “Class Assignments” on the menu just under the blog title.
  2. Move the mouse over each period (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th) that shows below until you find your class period.
  3. Click on your class period.  That will bring up all the posts for you class on one page.  The most recent assignments will be on top.

If you want to read my book responses or other random thoughts, click on my name.  You can also find your Language Arts Binder and other useful pages on this menu as well.  Click here for more information about blogging and how to join us!

April 16, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
1 Comment

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

imageI was captivated by Willow’s voice from the first page of Counting by 7s (Scholastic 2013) until the very last page.  Willow is not your ordinary girl, and she won’t let you forget it.  First off, she’s brilliant, but not the teacher’s pet.  I suspect her teachers don’t get her.  She loves numbers and is fascinated by plants and medical conditions.  She also picks up other languages such as Vietnamese in her spare time.

She also does not fit in at her new middle school.  When she scores a perfect score on the state standardized test (after showing no aptitude for high ability to her teachers), the principal accuses her of cheating and refers her to Dell Duke, the school psychologist.  Outside of his office, Willow meets Mai, a chance encounter that will change all of their lives.

What do I love about this book?  Let me count the ways.  There’ll be seven since that is Willow’s favorite number.

1.  Connections:  Even when life seems random and cruel, connections bring people together.  Willow has a real talent for bringing people together, especially people who didn’t realize they needed each other.

2.  Voice:  Once you read what Willow has to say, you won’t be able to get her voice out of your heart.  She is true and honest and sees the world a bit differently–more brilliantly–than the rest of the world.

3.  Alternating points of view:  Willow is not the only teller of this story.  A third person narrator fills us in on the rest of the characters from pseudo-psychologist Dell Duke to Vietnamese nail salon owner Patty and generous taxi driver Jairo.

4.  Unforgettable characters:  Even the ones who rub you the wrong way at first–like Dell Duke and the angry Quang-ha–turn out to have a better side.  Mai is a loyal friend from the start, and Pattie opens her arms and home to a little girl.

5 .  Coincidences:  Is life random and cruel?  Is life random and lucky?  Maybe it’s all of these and none of these, but Willow experiences them all.

6.  Passion:  Willow gives everything to her interests.  She has mastered medical textbooks and would be glad to sit down with you to discuss any concerns you have.  She has created a garden oasis out of a desert–not just once, but twice.

7.  Family:  Whether it’s the family she’s lost or the new family she’s found, Willow comes home to people who love her for who she is.  Now if we could all be that lucky.

Holly Goldberg Sloan has crafted a brilliant story of love and loss, passion and friendship, tragedy and miracles.

April 14, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

imageWhen I first heard the buzz about The Lions of Little Rock (Scholastic 2012), I thought it would be set during 1957, the first year of school integration and the story of the Little Rock Nine.  I was wrong.  Instead Kristin Levine weaves a story of friendship that is set during the following year of 1958, when Little Rock closed their high schools in order to prevent further integration of the schools.

When Marlee and Liz becomes friends that year, they never dream that their friendship will test not only their loyalty to each other, but will also take on segregation and put their families in danger when Liz is caught “passing” for white at Marlee’s middle school.  No matter that the world is set against their friendship Liz and Marlee reach out to each other and help each other.

Marlee tells the story of their friendship, which is quite remarkable considering that Marlee is too frightened to talk to most people.  She even freezes up with her own mother.  Liz, however, pushes Marlee to find her voice and to speak up for herself.  Marlee teaches Liz how to be quiet.  Together, they face the tumultuous changes that come.  Marlee misses her big sister Judy, who is sent to live with a grandmother so she can go to school.  Liz finds a bit of romance.  Marlee joins The Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools and the Stop This Outrageous Purge campaigns and learns to talk to her mother.  Together, they learn that “a friend is someone who helps you change for the better” (289).

April 14, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Week at a Glance: April 14 – 18

Monday

Objectives:

  • Read “Welcome to the Future” on pages 21-24 of Scope magazine.

Daily Grammar Practice Week  16 (Monday – parts of speech).  Read “Welcome to the Future on pages 21-24 of Scope magazine.  As you read, take discussion notes.  Write down ideas that you want to talk about from the article.  What surprised or amazed you?  What confused you?  What questions do you have?  Which vocabulary words are confusion or interesting?  What does the article remind you of from the news, other books, other television shows or movies?
Homework:  Read 15-30 minutes in a book of your choice.

Tuesday

Objectives:

  • Discuss “Welcome to the Future.”

Daily Grammar Practice Week 16 (Tuesday – sentence parts).   Use your discussion notes to talk in a small group about the article.  Share your ideas, answer each others’ questions.  By the end of your discussion, everyone in your group should have a deeper understanding of the article.  Then you will take a quiz over the article.  For each question, cross out one or two answer choices that are obviously wrong.  Choose the best answer from the choices that remain.
Homework: Read a book of your choice for 15-30 minutes.

Wednesday

Objectives:

  • Review elements of literature.

Daily Grammar Practice Week 16 (Wednesday – clauses, sentence type and purpose). Read “Electric Summer” in Scope magazine.  We will review the literary elements of character, point of view, setting, tone and mood, and plot.  Complete “Back to Basics,” giving examples from the story.
Homework: Read a book of your choice for 15 -30 minutes.

Thursday

Objectives:

  • Review literary elements.

Daily Grammar Practice Week 16 (Thursday – Correct capitalization and punctuation).  Complete the “Electric Summer” and the review of literary elements.

Friday

Objectives:

  • Set reading goals for the week.

Daily Grammar Practice Week 15 (Friday – Sentence diagramming).    Fill out the reading goal slip with the title and author of your book and write down what page you begin on.  Read for 10 minutes and write down what page you end on.  Subtract the beginning page from the ending page to find out how many pages you read in 10 minutes.  Multiply that number by 6 to discover how many pages you should be able to read in 1 hour.  Double that answer to find out how many pages you should be able to read in 2 hours.  That is your reading goal for the week.  If you finish or switch to a book that has a very different reading rate, you will need to redo your goal and let me know the new one. After you finish your reading, tell your partner what you read today.  If you can’t remember anything you read, you are reading too fast.
Homework:  Read 15-30 minutes in a book of your choice.

April 12, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

I don't have a guitar, but this book might inspire me to pick up my dulcimers again.

I don’t have a guitar, but this book might inspire me to pick up my dulcimers again.

For my students, music is not only the soundtrack of their lives (as it is for mine, too), but music is their lives.  If they could, they would go through their days with music pouring into their ears.  Many of them have music pouring out of them as well, through singing or playing an instrument.

As soon as I saw the cover of Guitar Notes (Scholastic 2012) staring at me from the shelf of the Scholastic Book Fair, I knew I wanted to add it to my classroom library.  Mary Amato did not disappoint me with this witty and heartwarming story.  The premise is clever.  Two students–completely opposite in temperament and musical styles–end up sharing a music practice room on opposite days.  They begin leaving notes for each other–at first insulting, but later revealing.

The point of view switches between Tripp Broody and Lyla Marks, letting us get to know them separately and gradually, just as they get to know each other.  Tripp is desperate to spend time with a guitar–any guitar–now that his mother has taken his away until he pulls up his grades.  Lyla is desperate, too, but desperate for a break from the high expectations her father and friends place on her for perfect grades and perfect cello notes.  Neither Tripp’s mom nor Lyla’s dad are bad parents;  they are just imperfect ones who don’t see what’s right in front of them.

The notes that Tripp and Lyla write are highlights of the book.  They are funny and sarcastic, downright snippy at first.  But soon Tripp and Lyla are looking forward to receiving and writing the notes.  They challenge each other to be honest, and they teach each other what they love about music.  As they come together, they begin writing songs to share together.  As I shared bits of the book with my students, they were sure romance was on the way.  I was glad Amato did not take the obvious path with that part of the plot.  The friendship that grows between Tripp and Lyla is so much more than just a romance, even if it takes a tragedy to reveal the depths of their friendship to their parents and friends.

This novel is an ode to the power of music, and it doesn’t stop with the last page. In the back of the book is a copy of the “Thrum Society Songbook,” which has the lyrics and chords for each of the songs that Tripp and Lyla write.  Throughout the book, Tripp and Lyla share pages from their notebooks where they brainstorm and write their lyrics.  You can also visit the Thrum Society website where you can listen to and download the songs for yourself.  Amato provides the tracks and karaoke tracks.  Even though the songs are copyrighted, Amato gives permission for readers to write their own lyrics, perform and record the songs, or create music videos for the songs for noncommercial use.  The website also gives free resources for songwriting–writing notebooks, blank chord charts, links to songwriting videos and more.

April 11, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

More I Survived by Lauren Tarshis

The I Survived series of historical fiction has been extremely popular in my classroom this year.  For students who are not sure about historical fiction, they provide a short (less than 100 pages), quick introduction to the genre.  Lauren Tarshis chooses some of the most exciting, most dangerous times in history to write about–the Battle of Gettysburg, the Japanese tsunami, the Nazi invasion of Europe.  With these dramatic historical events as the background, Tarshis creates a young character who must survive.  Whether an escaped slave or a young American overseas, each character is both believable and relatable for modern readers. I already had six of these titles in my classroom library.  Now I have extra copies of those six plus three new adventures to share.  Here is where–and when–the latest titles will take you.

I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 (Scholastic 2013) imageThomas and his little sister Birdie are slaves on a Virginia plantation.  When they hear that their master wants to sell Thomas, they flee into the woods to search for freedom.  They are lucky enough to meet up with some Union soldiers who take them in.  Corporal Henry Green looks out for Thomas and Birdie as they travel with the army and tells them stories of his home in Vermont.  Soon the army receives orders to march to Gettysburg.  Will Thomas and Birdie survive this bloodiest, deadliest battle of the Civil War?  

I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 (Scholastic 2014) When my students first start reading about the Holocaust, many of them ask why the Jews didn’t fight back.  The answer is that some Jews–along with Resistance fighters from different countries and faiths–did fight back.  Max looks out for his little sister Zena (and she looks out for him, too) while they are trapped in the Jewish ghetto in their town in Poland.  After a daring escape, they encounter Resistance fighters, including one who surprises them.  As they are traveling to the secret camp deep in the forest, German fighter planes drop bombs throughout the forest and German soldiers sweep through the trees with machine guns.  Will Max and Zena survive the explosions and fire and be able to reunite with their family?

I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 (Scholastic 2013) imageBen, his little brother Harry, and their mother are visiting their dad’s hometown in Japan.  The visit brings back painful memories of Ben’s dad, who died a few months earlier in a car crash.  But Ben’s memories of his dad and his dad’s stories from the Air Force give Ben the strength and courage to survive the devastating earthquake and tsunami that swept across Japan.  The roiling waters rip Ben from his family and he must fight to survive all alone.

 

If you want even more about these survival stories, check out the Scholastic I Survived Website.  You can learn more about each of the disasters, see what I Survived book is coming up next, and even take a quiz to test your survival skills.

April 9, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Wolf Storm by Dee Garretson

imageStefan auditioned for a part in the action movie Ice Planet Earth never dreaming that he would actually get the part.  Now he finds himself on location in mountains of Slovakia.  He is trapped with a stuck up costar Raine, annoying costar Jeremy, and supposedly cursed costar Cecil.  Throw in some trained wolves for the movie and wild wolves surrounding the set–a run-down abandoned castle–and a blizzard closing in, and Wolf Storm (Scholastic 2011) has all the ingredients for an action-packed adventure.

Dee Garretson creates a story filled with suspense and danger.  The tension between the young costars soon turns to tension to survive against ever escalating dangers.  A snowstorm turns into a blizzard.  A blizzard turns into an avalanche.  Wild wolves circle closer, hungry.  Now Stefan, Raine, Jeremy, and Cecil have one chance to do whatever it takes to survive.

April 8, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

The Batboy by Mike Lupica

imageMy middle school sports fans love Mike Lupica, and I enjoy his books, too, even though I’m not a big sports fan myself.  Now that baseball season has rolled around once again, it is the perfect time to introduce The Batboy (Scholastic 2010) to my classroom library.

Brian Dudley loves baseball, especially his home team of the Detroit Tigers.  Even though his dad was a big league pitcher, Brian knows he is lucky to have a spot on his travel team.  Along with his best friend, Kenny, he plans to make the most of this summer of baseball.  But travel ball is not the only ball in Brian’s summer.  He has his dream job–batboy for the Detroit Tigers.  He gets to see every home game from his post right beside the dugout and wear the Big League uniform.  Brian doesn’t care that being batboy involves lots of work both before and after the games as long as he gets his fill of baseball.

Just like Lupica’s other books, there is plenty of baseball action, but there is much more than sports.  Brian’s dad may have been a great pitcher, but he loved baseball more than he loved his family.  Brian is elated when his baseball hero, Hank Bishop, comes back to play for the Tigers.  Unfortunately, Bishop doesn’t act like much of a hero in the locker room.  Brian’s efforts to deal with the disappointment caused by his heroes provides the heart of this story.

April 8, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
8 Comments

Music City, Here We Come

imageI’m taking part in the weekly Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by  Two Writing Teachers, where teachers write and share each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slicers. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.

Where does music fill the streets and dance across the stages?  Nashville, Tennessee.  And if you travel with a high school orchestra, the weekend will be packed with music.  We loaded up the buses at 7:30 in the morning–instruments in one compartment; suitcases, coolers and breakfast boxes in another compartment; and students and parents with backpacks, blankets and pillows in the seats.

Our first stop was Western Kentucky University, where the orchestra students enjoyed a sight reading workshop with one of the professors from the school of music.  The parents sat back and enjoyed the concert.  We even got a tour of the campus, and learned first hand how the school earned the nickname of Hilltoppers!

This orchestra can sight read!

This orchestra can sight read!

Friday night welcomed the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, with special guests The Midtown Men from Jersey Boys.  I may have not lived through the sixties, but I grew up in the eighties listening to the best music from the sixties.  I had to remind myself not to sing along. If I forgot, my daughter generously elbowed me as a reminder.

Home of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra

Home of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra

Do you know how an album is recorded?  I learned a little bit about the process when we visited Blackbird Studios where some of the biggest acts in music today have recorded albums.  There are separate rooms to record drums, keyboards, strings, and vocals–and that’s just to get down the basics of the songs.  Extra touches to fill out the music are added later in yet another studio room.  Then the last mixing is done to create the perfect sound in another room before being sent off to create the final master.  Each song is the result of thousands of decisions along the way.  (Sounds a lot like a day in the life of a teacher.)

DSC05452

Some of your favorite artists may have sung into this microphone.

We found even more music aboard the General Jackson showboat.  We cruised up and down the Columbia River while eating a delicious lunch and being entertained by a muscial act that gave tribute to some of the greats in country music (along with a few laughs at their expense).

 

We are ready for toe-tapping music and good eating.

We are ready for toe-tapping music and good eating.

We celebrated Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry.   Most (well, really all) of the current starts were on Las Vegas for some reason last weekend, so none of them made a surprise appearance on the circle at the center of the stage, but we did get to hear some of the old time greats of country music and bluegrass, including Little Jimmy Dickens, Bill Anderson, and Restless Heart.  My favorite had to be the Willis clan.  Six of the twelve children–all siblings–played bluegrass until the youngest six children (down to age 3) joined them on stage to kick up their heels.  My daughter came home and has been checking the Opry calendar to see when we can go back and catch her favorite members.  During our backstage tour he next day, we even got to stand on the circle on center stage (taken from the stage at Ryman Auditorium where many of country’s greatest stars stood).  Those orchestra members who played violin even got to play a few measures while getting their picture taken.

The Willis clan throws down some bluegrass and dancing.

The Willis clan throws down some bluegrass and dancing.

 

April 7, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Week at a Glance: April 7 – 11

Monday

Objectives:

  • Finish vocabulary presentations.

Daily Grammar Practice Week  15 (Monday – parts of speech).  Before we head to the library today, we will discuss this question:  How do busy people find time to read?   Brainstorm a list of times and places you had to wait during the past week.  Plan to have a book with you so that you can read a few minutes anytime you have to wait.
Homework:  Read 15-30 minutes in a book of your choice.

Tuesday

Objectives:

  • Review grammar and editing.

Daily Grammar Practice Week 15 (Tuesday – sentence parts).   We are going to look at an example of the grammar and editing section of a past ISTEP.  Working with a partner, look at each question and identify what grammar or editing skill is being tested.  HINT:  look at what changes in each of the answer choices.  Then decide on the correct answer choice.  Be prepared to explain why.
Homework: Read a book of your choice for 15-30 minutes.

Wednesday

Objectives:

  • Analyze symbol and theme in poetry.

Daily Grammar Practice Week 15 (Wednesday – clauses, sentence type and purpose). Read “Two Haiku,” “Fireflies,” and “Fireflies in the Garden.”  For each poem, write down sensory details and what they make you think of when you “see” them.  A symbol is a person, place, object, or activity that stands for something beyond itself.  In the poem “Fireflies in the Garden.”  look at the description of the firefly to analyze what fireflies symbolize.  Then answer, “What theme about life might the author be trying to express?”
Homework: Read a book of your choice for 15 -30 minutes.

Thursday

Objectives:

  • Connect nonfiction text to poetry.

Daily Grammar Practice Week 15 (Thursday – Correct capitalization and punctuation).  Read “Stars with Wings.”  Use the different text features of nonfiction to record facts you learn about fireflies.  Which of the poems that we’ve read is the most factual?

Friday

Objectives:

  • Set reading goals for the week.

Daily Grammar Practice Week 15 (Friday – Sentence diagramming).    Fill out the reading goal slip with the title and author of your book and write down what page you begin on.  Read for 10 minutes and write down what page you end on.  Subtract the beginning page from the ending page to find out how many pages you read in 10 minutes.  Multiply that number by 6 to discover how many pages you should be able to read in 1 hour.  Double that answer to find out how many pages you should be able to read in 2 hours.  That is your reading goal for the week.  If you finish or switch to a book that has a very different reading rate, you will need to redo your goal and let me know the new one. After you finish your reading, tell your partner what you read today.  If you can’t remember anything you read, you are reading too fast.
Homework:  Read 15-30 minutes in a book of your choice.

April 3, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Writing About Reading

1st, 3rd, and 4th Periods:  Moonbird by Phillip Hoose

Each chapter begins with a quote that connects with the information in the book.  Include the quote in your post.  Here are the quotes from the first four chapters:

  1. “To watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years…is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.”  –Rachel Carson
  2. “Human ingenuity may make various inventions, but it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting and nothing is superfluous.”  –Leonardo da Vinci
  3. “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  –John Muir
  4. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” –Shakespeare

Choose one of these quotes to write about.  What does the quote mean?  How does the message of the quote connect with what we are learning about B95 and the rufa red knots?  Give examples and facts from the book to support your ideas.

2nd and 6th Periods:  Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen

So far Dylan, the dog, has brought three notes to Finn.  Include the quote of the note in your post.  These are the first three  notes:

  1. You’re not as ugly as you think.”
  2. You’re wrong about you and girls.
  3. The truth always reveals itself, and usually in mysterious ways.”
  4. “Family is who you find.”

Choose one of these quotes to write about.  How does the quote connect to Finn’s life in the story?  What lesson can Finn learn from the message?  Give examples from the story to support your ideas.

7th Period:  Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Sophie chooses to stay in the Congo in order to protect Otto, the baby bonobo she rescued.   Include the quote in your post.   There are several quotes from the book that explore her choice:

  • “I’d learn to shut all of it out , because you couldn’t travel more than a few miles in Kinshasa without seeing a person dying on the side of the road, and I figured dying humans were more important than dying animals.  But it had always been my mom’s philosophy that the way we treat animals goes hand in hand with the way we treat people, and so she’d dedicated her life to stopping men like this one, bushmeat traders hoping for a sale” (Schrefer 2).
  • My mom’s eyes flashed.  ”He’s very bad, Sophie.  You made a big mistake by giving him money.  I can see you’re starting to understand the gravity of what I’m saying, so I won’t bring it up again.  But you have to be wise about these things.  You have to learn when to ignore suffering so that you’re strong enough to fight it when the time is right” (Schrefer 16).

Choose one of these quotes.  How does it relate to the events of the story?  How do Sophie’s choices and actions show the truth (or falsehood) of the quote?  Support your ideas with examples from the story.

No matter which book you write about, your post should be at least 150 words!