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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Reading for Understanding by Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz

As a first year, full-time teacher, the Reading Apprenticeship (RA) program, was one of the first programs I heard of. I would have applied, but the acting Principal of the time didn’t believe in my time management abilities and said “NO.” So, I borrowed the books from a past student and have been teaching myself the strategies. I don’t respond well to “NO.”

Reading for Understanding is the core work that focuses and explains RA. It offers up the initial case study, several strategies for helping struggling readers and readers who wish to expand their skills, and gives specific examples of how these strategies are implemented within not only the English curriculum, but also the curriculum of other content areas.

If you’re looking for a fairly easy read that will give a few pointers on how to get students reading more fluently and in-depth in your classroom, I would highly recommend this book.

The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett

This book was surprisingly easy to read. For the most part, I dislike the 11th Doctor. Why? I’m not sure, really. He doesn’t seem to take things as seriously as they should be taken. It’s just part of his personality. I enjoy his lightheartedness most of the time, but occasionally, he gets on my nerve.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. The Ice Warriors are an adversary not commonly encountered. They were an almost new experience for me and the plot was something I’ve thought about, but never fully imagined.

*Spoilers*

The Doctor finds himself, with the Ponds, on a planet that should be Earth, but is not. Instead, he lands on a planet that is being made to resemble and act like Earth. The Morphans colonized the planet when Earth was no longer suitable for them, deciding to call their new territory: Hereafter. They arrived in the midst of a war – a war between the Ice Warriors who want the planet for their own uses, and Transhumans (made to combat the wrong). In the end, it turns out that the enemy is not whom the sides thought and the Morphans, the Doctor, and the Ice Warriors come to a solution that suits everybody.

Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design by Tomlinson and McTighe

For three years, I have been living and breathing McTighe and Wiggins’ Understanding by Design curriculum plan. However, even though I know how to use this plan, I didn’t know the fundamentals. So I set off to read McTighe and Tomlinson’s Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design. I’m happy to report that it’s exactly what I needed.

This book gives a foundation for DI and UbD instruction, explains the theory and gives examples of practice. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on assessing students when in comes to Differentiated Instruction – how to assess everyone equally when they’re not equal at all, and they don’t need to be equal? That’s the great conundrum of teaching, isn’t it?

Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

I was told to read this book by a teacher-colleague of mine. I really can’t remember why I was supposed to read it, but I’m glad I did. Maryanne Wolf’s analysis of the reading brain and the processes utilized during reading was absolutely fascinating.

The fact that we, as a human race, were never meant to read, was an idea new and somewhat crazy to me. While reading the book, I discovered how the practice of reading began and even how the brain can develop in different ways to support different talents – this is why dyslexia is so hard to pinpoint and “fix.”

If you’re interested in how and why we read, this might be a good book to pick up. If you’re also interested in finding out possible implications to a digital society, you should definitely pick this book up.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

It’s been an extremely long time since I stayed up late – after 10:30 PM – to finish reading a book. In fact, it was over two years ago, when I read The Help. This time was different though. I was so lost in the story that I didn’t even realize I was still awake at 12:30 AM.

Midnight in Austenland is the sequel to Shannon Hale’s first Regency-esque novel, Austenland. I read Austenland earlier in the year at the adamant prompting of a past college co-worker. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels; Jane Austen one of my favorite authors. In the past, I’ve read several books that surround Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and the year 1816. Generally, I like them. However, Austenland severely disappointed me. It was not about Elizabeth Bennet, or Mr. Darcy, but about a modern woman who couldn’t find a date, let alone true love, and was sent on a wild adventure by a deceased relative who had hopes that the wild adventure to Bertram Hall in England would produce some romance as well. In fact, it did, but everything was wrong. Wrong, wrong, WRONG!

So why did I pick up Midnight in Austenland you ask? Well…hmm…I’ve been on a P&P kick recently, and I’m in want of 10 short books in order to meet my Goodreads challenge at the end of the year. Midnight in Austenland seemed an okay choice. After reading Austenland, I was prepared to yawn and put the book down frequently. Certainly the story and the characters wouldn’t be a let down this time – I expected the poor character development and cheesy romance.

Perhaps that extremely low expectation was why I was so utterly blown away? Perhaps a second inspection will reveal the same kind of writing found evident in the first novel? I resolve never to read it again so I never have to truly find out.

Midnight in Austenland was everything I’ve been looking for in a good book since September. A grand mystery – first a long-dead murder mystery, then a real, fresh murder mystery. A bit of unexpected romance between two people unscripted for each other. And a juicy Regency-era hunk who *spoiler* turns out to be the murderer. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And not cheesy at all. Well, Mrs. Cordial does seem to be almost killed a lot, but sometimes that happens, right?

 

Keeper of Reign by Emma Right

Keeper of Reign by Emma Right is an interesting tale of mystery, adventure, and has ends with a mountain of a cliffhanger. The story centers on the Blaze children, mainly the eldest boy, Jules, who are Elfies – cursed to live at less than half their size.

Many generations ago, the King sat down to pen five books, using his own blood as ink. When he finished the task, he turned into a star and the books were handed down to his children. Flamethrower’s book was lost and the King’s crown smashed. It is up to the King’s descendants – the current and future Keepers – to reverse the curse and defeat the evil enemy, Gezhurolle, before he kills the Elfies one and all.

The Jules children, after being attacked by black birds and returning home to find it wrecked and their mother gone, embark on a journey from Reign to Handover in search of their lost family and the cure to the curse. Many unusual, and sometimes dodgy, characters are met along the way. Hooks, an old, unhappy fisherman who sets out with Jules to find his friend, Holden, is my favorite.

As Jules treks across Scorpent- and pit-infested land, he comes to find the truth about his family, who the traitor really is, and the answer to end the curse of the Elfies.

This is definitely a book I would recommend to any YA Fantasy reader. I enjoyed the story, but I wanted more from it. It left me with too much of a cliffhanger and the pacing was incredibly fast. In order to get all the information I wanted, I think this book could have been spread across two or three volumes. Keeper of Reign was a fun, light read.

Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell

My goodness, do I love Ten! Just perfect…and Gary Russell does a nearly perfect job of catching Ten’s character as seen alongside Donna Noble.

I loved this book – the plot was interesting, dialogue and characters were spot on, and not only did it include my favorite Doctor and companion, it also included my favorite pseudo-companion: Wilfred Mott. I LOVE Wilfred Mott. He reminds me a lot of my own grandfather before Parkinson’s really devastated him. Wilf, the lovable old man who went through the war, loves his broken family, yearns to be among the stars, and whose eyes fill with tears at the perfect moment. He’s such an extraordinary man who keeps his wits about him, trusts the Doctor, and soldiers on through the good and the bad.

Beautiful Chaos focuses on a Dark Ages enemy, one banished by the Doctor before, but not destroyed. She goes by Mandragora, or Madam Delphi, and attempts to take over the world. The way she chooses to do so was quite clever and very unique. It was such a great book – and was nearly specifically tailored for me – that I read it in just two days. Thank goodness for weekends; I couldn’t put Beautiful Chaos down!

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