Monthly Archives: January 2010

Beyond Twilight

When Twilight first came out in hardcover, I thought the students were reading the Bible because it was so thick. The thing about it was that kids didn’t seem to care. The Twilight mania, like the Harry Potter mania seemed to take over irregardless of the size of the tome. But what happens when younger kids want to read the same thing as their older siblings? I personally feel that any of the books beyond Twilight are just not appropriate for our 6th grade readers, however, the vampire and other mysterious creatures mania has opened up room for good alternative titles for middle school readers wanting to read the macabre.

Some of my personal picks:

Picture 1 Title: Eighth Grade Bites

Author: Heather Brewer

Genre: Macabre

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 182 pages

Publisher: Scholastic

This book is about the messed up life of Vladimir Tod, 8th grade dork and half vampire in hiding. It’s a good boy-friendly alternative to T. The protagonist, Tod, is a typical 8th grader full of sarcasm and drama. Being a half vampire doesn’t prevent him from being the target for the two school bullies, nor does it make him confident and suave with the girls. Follow this up with 9th Grade Slays, 10th Grade Bleeds and 11th Grade Burns.

Picture 2 Title: My Sister the Vampire: Switched

Author: Sierra Mercer

Genre: Macabre

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Harper Collins (July 24, 2007)

When Olivia Abbott moves to town, she’s excited to join the cheerleading team and make new friends. Then she meets Ivy Vega. At first, Ivy, pale and dressed all in black, looks like Olivia’s opposite. Then the girls look beyond the glittery pink blush and thick black eyeliner to discover they’re identical—identical twins!

Olivia and Ivy are brimming with plans to switch places and pull every twin trick in the book. But Olivia soon discovers that she and Ivy aren’t exactly the same. Ivy’s a vampire. And she’s not the only one in town.

Picture 3 Title: Coraline (Graphic novel format)

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Macabre/graphic novel

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: Harper Collins (May 5, 2009)

Coraline wanders around her new house and discovers a door leading into a mirror place, where she finds her button-eyed “other mother,” who is determined to secure Coraline’s love one way or another. This version is a virtuoso adaptation, streamlining passages that function best in prose and visually highlighting parts that benefit most from the graphic form.

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6 Reading Habits: Part 6 Compare & Contrast

Picture 4Compare and contrast: fit this text into an ongoing dialogue (for those big picture people)

  • At what point in the term does this reading come? Why that point, do you imagine?
  • How does it contribute to the main concept and themes of the course?
  • How does it compare (contrast) to the ideas presented by texts that come before it? Does it continue a trend, shift direction, or expand the focus of the previous readings?
  • How has your thinking been altered by this reading or how has it affected your response to the issues and themes of the course?
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Links to Haiti

Here’s some Haiti resources for your classroom:

CNN has a 360 degree video from Haiti. It’s a really cool concept, but it’s a little jarring for me. Still, the kids will really like it. If you’re an old geezer like me and get motion sickness from today’s video games, then just don’t click the mouse around.

h03_21789845Boston.com, The Big Picture has a photo essay called The Faces of Haiti.

The BBC has an interactive map about how governments and relief agencies have been getting relief supplies to Haiti.

Another interactive map that gives the damage to different areas in Haiti.

6 Reading Habits: Part 5 Contextualize

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Contextualize: After you’ve finished reading, put the reading in perspective

  • When was it writter or where was it published? Do these factors change or affect how you view the piece?
  • View it through the lens of your own experience. Your udnerstanding of the  words on the page and their significance is always shaped by what you have come to know and vlaue from living in a particular time and place.

Part 6: Compare and contrast

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6 Reading Habits Part 3: Outline, Summarize, Analyze

Picture 1Yes, it’s out of order, but I was positive that I wrote this post, just not sure what I did with it. This photo was already in my media folder, so I know I’m not having a senior moment.

Outline, summarize, analyze: take the information apart, look at its parts, and then try to put it back together again in language that is meaningful to you.

Outlining lets you step back from the information and reveal the skelaton of the piece. What the main points are, what the evidence for the points are, and so on.

Summarizing lets you see the skelaton, but in a sentence and paragraph form. It gets to the meat of the piece.

Analyzing goes one step further by adding an evaluation element. It asks you to reflect upon and weigh in on how effectively or how sloppily the argument has been made in the paper.

Questions to ask yourself when deciding what is important:

  • what is the writer saying is true or valid?
  • why should I accept the writer’s claim (or reject the writer’s claim)?
  • what reasons or evidence does the author supply?
  • what is fact and what is opinion?
  • is there anywhere that the reasoning breaks down?
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6 Reading Habits Part 4: Repetitions and Patterns

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By looking for ideas/thoughts that repeat in a piece, or looking for patterns are often ways to key in on what an author considers important and what he expects you to get from the piece. The way language is chosen or used can also alert you to an author’s position, hidden agenda or biases. Be watching for:

  • Images that repeat
  • Repeated words, phrases, types of examples, or illustrations
  • Consistent ways of characterizing people, events, or issues

Part 5: Contextualize – put the reading in perspective

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Gratitude to Old Teachers

When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

Water that once could take no human weight-
We were students then-holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

–Robert Bly

from Eating the Honey of Words, 1999
HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY

Picture 3

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