Tuesday, February 27, 2007

African American History

Ms.Austin's students recently researched a notable African-American.  Using the information they learned, students wrote a Bio Poem and an "I Am" poem.  Check out the podcast of everyone reading their poems.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Day Of Tears - a novel in dialogue by Julius Lester

dayoftears1.gif      5 Shining Stars - Easy to read, but not easy to forget



Julius Lester, in Day of Tears, weaves together the haunting story of an actual historical event occuring in Savannah, Georgia - the largest slave auction in American history.  Pierce Butler auctions off the majority of his slaves because of his mounting gambling debts.  The slaves have lived on the Butler plantation with their families for generations.  Through dialogue, Lester effectively relays the horrors of slavery and the tragic aftermath that occurs to all of the people who participated that day.  Lester's writing in this novel may seem simple at first, but it quickly becomes emotionally charged.  The reader will feel as if he is experiencing the emotional losses, the degradation, the sorrow,  and the cruelty as he reads about the experiences of several people attending the slave auction from multiple viewpoints :  the slaveowner, slaveowner's ex-wife, slaveowner's children, slave seller,  several slaves sold at the auctions (young and old), the mother and father of a slave sold, a slave couple desperately in love who are separated, etc.  Lester uses both historical fact and fictitious details to demonstrate how all people were deeply impacted by that fateful rainy day on March 2nd and 3rd, 1859.


This book is highly recommended.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix

doubleidentity.gif     5stars1.gif5stars1.gif5stars1.gif5stars1.gif  Definitely worth checking out 


Bethany always knew her parents were different.  They were older than other parents.  They also were so overprotective - homeschooling Bethany for years, never letting her out of their sight.  Bethany just accepted things for the way they were  - until.......


Bethany's parents, clearly distraught, drive across country to leave her with an aunt she has never met.  Suddenly Bethany realizes that she doesn't know anything about her parents past at all.  Why is everyone in town so shocked when they see her?  Why is she always being compared to "Elizabeth?"  Who is Elizabeth? Some people say that everyone has a twin - someone who looks just like you.  Bethany's life begins to spiral out of control when she learns that she looks just like Elizabeth, her sister who died years earlier.  Not only does she look just alike this sister Bethany never knew existed - they share the same exact DNA.


How is this possible?  What other secrets have her parents been keeping?


Double Identity is a very suspenseful book.  I could not put it down until all of my questions were answered.  My only complaint is that the ending is a bit of a let down after all of the suspense and excitement.  Overall, this is a great book that I believe all students will enjoy reading.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein

finalfour.gif 5stars1.gif5stars1.gif5stars1.gif

8th graders Steven Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson cannot believe their luck.  They won the sports writing contest and now will get to attend the NCAA Final Four with press passes!  The excitement for Steven, though, soon turns to fear.Steven and Susan accidentally overhear a conversation between Chip Garber, Minnesota State's University star player, and a professor from the school.  They learn that Chip is being blackmailed to deliberately lose the game to Duke.

Steven and Susan realize it is up to them to help Chip, no matter what danger is involved.

 This book contains references to actual sportscasters and NCAA basketball coaches.  Sports fans will love the basketball references, and all readers will enjoy the suspense and mystery of this fast-moving novel.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

SCJBA Nominee - Princess Academy

princessacademy1.jpg

5-stars.gif5-stars.gif5-stars.gif5-stars.gif5-stars.gif  Five out of five stars - Hold on tight to this one!When I saw the title, I immediately thought..ewww.....another middle school princess story!  Don't be thrown by the title - this is not the stereotypical chick lit.Princess Academy is a delightful book!  Hale takes the reader away to the poor but proud mining community called Mount Eskel.  Here, it is announced that a prophecy has decreed the royal prince from the wealthy lowlands will soon arrive to select his bride.  The mountain girls chosen will have to attend the Princess Academy in order to learn proper etiquette and to become suitable young women before the prince's grand arrival. Miri finds herself among the chosen.  At first, she is excited about the prospect of living among the wealthy, traveling to exotic places, and being provided with the opportunity to offer her own family a much better life.  When it appears Miri will be chosen, she suddenly feels torn.  She realizes there is no better life than the one she has.  How can she love a prince when she has already given her heart to another?  This beautifully written book contains several unexpected twists and turns that will engage the reader throughout.  I love Hale's simple prose, and the beauty in her words and descriptions. 

 Miri questioned a friend's mother, Doter, on why her father would not let her mine the quarry in the village.  Miri felt it was because she was physically weak.  Since the town depended on the miners who worked in the quarry, Miri always believed she was inferior to everyone else -  a disappointment to her family and to the entire town.  Doter explains that Miri's mother was injured in the quarry when she was pregnant with Miri.  This is what caused her death after childbirth.  She goes on to explain, "Your pa is a house with shutters closed.  There are things going on inside that a person can't see, but you sense he has a wound that won't heal.  Marda takes after your pa, but you, Miri, you are your ma alive again.  How could he bear letting his little girl step foot into the place that took the life of her ma?"  They walked back through the village and Miri kept her eyes on the ground before her.  The whole world had shifted, and she was not sure she could keep her feet.
She was her ma alive again.  (page 176)

I fell in love with this charming story.  You will love Miri and the other girls attending the Princess Academy, the mysterious "quarry-speak" that Miri was finally able to learn and use to save the lives of her friends, and the quaint traditions of this simple, mountain community.  The only negative aspect of this book is that the story had to eventually end.

Digital Portfolio Tools for Education

As a former high school English teacher, then Library Media Specialist, and now Instructional Technology Specialist, I am always on the look...

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