Thirsty Thursday

In honor of Halloween (my favorite holiday falling during my favorite time of year!) my student writing prompts all week have been pointed a little toward good spook…ok, a funny one!

Monday the prompt was about respect so we’ll skip that one. but Tuesday, ah Tuesday, the kids had to describe a monster…A NASTY HIDEOUS BEAST…who turns out to be nice. Like Frankenstein’s Monster with a gimp and drooling acid who is also the best math tutor in the country and helps kids pass tests for nothing more than a smile and pass from the angry mob chasing him out of town.

Wednesday we discussed why in the world a mob of cats would be stealing all of the candy from the houses already prepared for Halloween night (Cat Burglars…get it?? Only 1 of my 80 kids did.)

Today our Prompt is to write a recipe for the family Halloween party punch. SO far I’ve seen old socks, eyeballs, toe nails, and sherbet put in those recipes. I’m really looking forward to that drink!

Since we’re preparing for NaNoWriMo my students are also learning to count their output and worry more about the LENGTH of their writing; something I’ve been trying to get them to watch out for since the beginning of school. The best part about it is that they have seen and heard how excited I am about writing…and about NaNo…that they have all designed and put away their inner editors and are asking to start early. The bad news is that they’ll really be tired of it by week 2, especially since Ms. Tyree is going for NaNo gold again this year on top of pushing and helping them to reach their personal goals.

What are you doing this week? Are you prepping for NaNo like we are? Did you read something really great that you want to share? Did you read my books ;)? I can’t wait to hear from you all!

Beyond IQ – The Review

*Full Disclosure* I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an HONEST review.

Book: Beyond IQ: Scientific Tools for Training Problem Solving, Intuition, Emotional Intelligence, Creativity and More

Author: Garth Sundem

Review:

My initial reaction to this book was a lot of mixed feelings. As someone who has been labeled as highly intelligent (read…smarty pants) my entire life, I didn’t want to be told that other, non IQ related, parts of my brain could be more ‘real world’ specific. But the more I looked at the book, the more entranced I became.

Creativity, emotions, even that odd thing called ‘intuition’ can be TRAINED and USED to improve real world success. Once I really payed attention, I decided this could work. Mr. Sundem breaks down the areas of the brain (or areas of thinking), explains aspects of each area in question, and then provides a few exercises to train your brain for that particular area of thinking.

The exercises are fun and interesting brain workout while the reading sections intrigue me. I plan on going back to read this selection again soon! I give Beyond IQ 4 out of 5 dragons!

Short Story Sunday…NaNoPrep Style

Sometimes I really wonder if I’m doing the right thing with my life. I could just crawl back into my comfort zone cave, pull on my ratty pajamas, and binge watch cancelled television shows.

 

The thing is, though, that I’m comfortable here too…or I am beginning to be. My own little world in a room with bright posters and mutli-colored pens just beckoning inspiration and the smell of used notebook paper. Sure my writing suffers right now but I am training the next generation of great authors…Well, I’m trying to anyway. I just wish this new manuscript could move along a little more swiftly. I’ve been working on it for over a year now. It is definitely time to get these things flowing and have a storyline!

 

Ms. Charles sighed and put down her glittery ink pen. “I should be writing my novel, not this drivel!”

November is fast approaching,” the niggling voice in her brain taunted, the reminder only serving to worsen her headache. That inner editer, whom she had imagined into being a darkly beautiful and slightly foreign grammar vampire, always became a bit more snippy in the last few weeks before his month long yearly vacation.

“Outline,” Celina Charles murmured to herself, trying to ignore the deep voice, “What should I be outlining today?”

“Lost it, Didn’t you?”

That voice again!!! If only his reservation was for today, instead of next week! His belittling chatter was ruining her concentration! How could she have writer’s block BEFORE even starting National Novel Writer’s Month?

“You know…”

 

“Oh go jump off of a cliff!” Celina spat angrily at the empty classroom as the inner editor cackled in her weary mind.

“Umm, Ms. Charles?” A hesitant voice wafted through the doorway, “Lunch is over…Can we come in now???”a

Haunted Boneyard

Last week I told you a little about our upcoming lesson plan involving skeletons and an anchor chart of a haunted house. We did those activities at the beginning of this week and I was (and still am!) jazzed by how well it turned out!

Each class activated their prior knowledge, got excited, and created some scenes that will translate amazingly into their short stories next week. I think we might do more of these types of things! Hands on seems to be working best for my guys (and gals).

Here is a peek at what they got done…

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What are YOU Reading??

I have missed a week or two, being so wrapped up in my small ‘family’ of students (82 at the moment) and my daughter (who is 2), but I have been reading the most interesting things! Mostly, I admit, written by 5th graders who could use some more spelling and grammar practice! However, I am excited to announce our first foray into short stories is starting off pretty well!

So this weekend, as I am wallowing in the time that I DON’T have to grade and procrastinating working on my novel (yay for 3 day weekends and carefully planned lessons with no papers to grade!) I will be starting to read a creepy ‘thriller’ written for middle grades by Mary Downing Hahn entitled Deep and Dark and Dangerous. I’ll let you know what I think 😉

Now it’s your turn to tell me what you think! Have you read something lately that just knocked your socks off…or knocked them back on? Did you need three glasses of wine and multiple Netflix breaks to get through the latest novel craze, or were you so entranced that you forgot the first glass?

I look forward to hearing your recommendations and/or adventures for this week. Have a blessed and wonderful rest of your week!

Middle School is WorseThan Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff

Written By: Jennifer L. Holm and Elicia Castaldi

I purchased Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf on a whim at our school’s first book fair this year. I suppose I was just excited to be back in the classroom and wanting to find a few things that could beef up my class library. Meatloaf seemed to fit the bill…and then I read it. This book takes the concept of ‘show, don’t tell’ to a whole new level!

A Year Told Through Stuff is amazingly insightful and I feel as though I really got to understand the core of the main character, Ginny. By seeing notes written between Ginny and her family, friends, and teachers; as well as mini-journal type entries I feel more emotionally connected to the story.

I also feel as though students who dislike reading will be able to build ‘word stamina’ enjoyably since this is laid out to look like a brightly made scrapbook, as opposed to the ‘normal’ look of a novel.

On the whole, I loved this set up almost as much as the story! I give this book 5 out of 5 dragons.

Short Story Sunday

“Anna?” Jane knocked on her friend’s cabin door again. “What’s wrong Anna? You have to come out sometime! OR at least answer your phone!”

“NO! I—I can’t!” Anna stubbornly responded, slamming books around for good measure.

“Why not?”

“Remember Franme’s parting shot?” Anna sighed defeatedly, knowing that Jane would never stop hounding her.

“You mean the light show that FREAK hit you with? Yeah, I remember,” Jane was so frustrated now that she punched her hand like a catcher getting ready for the pitch. Her best friend had gone to take a nap the day before and was now refusing to sen unlock the cabin door. This line of questioning was obviously getting them no where but at least it was a conversation. “Did it make your tummy hurt sweetie? You didn’t grow a tail or fur or anything, right?”

“Well, it definitely did more than we thought.”

SCRAPE! POP! CLICK! CREAK! Anna slowly unlocked and opened the door, preparing to face her nightmare. “I think I know what all that babbling about ‘True Forms’ meant now…”

Jane stood frozen, eyes wide with disbelief and mouth slightly agape. She had gotten exactly what she wanted, her best friend had finally opened the door…too bad it was to show off a brand new pair of glistening, shimmering, butterfly wings!

“I can’t come out Janie,” Anna whispered, “We’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean. There is no where else to hide.” And with a soft click and tumbler, the door was once again in Jane’s baffled face.

ClickLock

The artificial light glinted off of broken ceramic jars and shiny green jellybeans as the gremlin cackled and stuffed his face with jellybeans in the corner, his bumpy head and fuzzy ears almost disappearing in the mound of candy.

In the room’s center, kneeling amid the rubble and chaos, the poor shop boy shivered and clutched a small wooden chest on which a broken lock testified to the earlier happenings of the day.

“BOY! I left you in charge for twenty minutes and the shop is ruined! What happened?” Uncle Sal came barreling in the dangling glass door, barely avoiding being hit as the precariously hinged pieces finished separating. “OH MY EYE! I TOLD YOU NOT TO TOUCH THAT THING! Why would you unlock the box??”

“I…I…” Jeremy could do nothing but babble and point to the thing in the corner, still gobbling up green jellybeans and glass together.

“Yes, he’s a Gremlin. Useless boy.” Uncle Sal kicked debris out of his way as he walked over to the offending area, “ClickLock!” He announced to the gremlin (At least that’s what it sounded like to Jeremy) “It is good to see you my old friend!”

“And I you,” The Gremlin (ClickLock?), said in perfect English, “Though I wish that this were not how we met again!”

“No, I suppose we won’t get much time to catch up,” Uncle Sal sighed and glared at Jeremy once again, “I’m sorry, I thought I had explained the importance of that box to my nephew, but he’s a dunderhead.”

“IT WASN’T ME!” Jeremy finally came to himself enough to tire of his uncle’s accusations. “There was a pair of oddly dressed men, one super tall and one very short, that came in here in capes and ball caps. The tall one spun around the room for a minute with a fish locator, pointed at the secret wall, and crowed like raven or something. Then the short one shot a laser at the wall, pulled the box through, popped the lid, and ran off with whatever was inside…then your little scaly friend there (ClickLock? I DON’T KNOW HIS NAME!) Came through and they had a firefight at the door. I don’t remember much after that, someone hit me with the box and I just sort of sat there until now.”

“That’s the most he’s moved in an hour,” ClickLock confided to Sal, “And he’s right, about the firefight at least. But now we have to go find those mooks who took our genie.”

“A GENIE?” Jeremy groaned, “I must be sleeping.”

“Nope,” Uncle Sal grinned, “You’re Driving!”

Friendly Conundrum

Here is the story that should have been posted last Sunday…if I had ever gotten around to remembering that it was typed up and waiting to be posted. We’re at the end of the beginning of week 9 in school, so I’m hoping to actually remember this routine again at some point in the near future! In the meantime, you will have two (YES!) short stories out of me today, last week’s and this week’s, and since Wednesday is the last day of school this week (FALL BREAK!) I should have minimal issues with getting the next one up on time as well. I hope…Well, that’s enough drivel from me. Without further ado, I present last week’s Short:

The Wrong Kind of Blond:

“Short, Blond, and Bubbly; just how I like them,” Jules crowed excitedly to her best friend as the duo eyed a group of less than fresh surfers tumble into the restaurant.

“Julia,” Meghan sighed, in gentle reprimand, “You shouldn’t pigeonhole people like that! You just keep getting disappointed…remember last week when your ‘blond, vapidly stupid hippie’ turned out to be a bad dye job on a PhD who was just bored? Besides, you are a certifiable genius in your area, don’t you want someone to talk to?”

“That’s why I have you Smootzy!” Julia grinned and leaned her almost 6′ frame down to pinch her 5’2″ friend’s rosy cheeks. “Lets go get ’em!”

“I guessss,” Meghan’s voice trailed off and her feet stilled so suddenly that Julia was yanked to a standstill. “Jules, WHO is That?:

:”Who?” Julia peered around the bar are bewilderedly, “The only new guys are that football team and we see them every week…OH!”

There he stood, a tall muscular dark haired man, his piercing green eyes scanning the area as if looking for someone.

“Ew Megs really? HIM? He is EVERYTHING we said we would never look for! Tall, not short, green eyes instead of watery blue, MUSCLES! I mean, come on and snap out of it already! He even looks SMART! UGH!”

“But he’s GORGEOUS,” Meghan sighed appreciatively, “Just because I swore off the flavor doesn’t mean I don’t like to look ever once in a while you know.”

As he scanned the bar, Julia tried to shrink into the background while Meghan merely stood transfixed, refusing to be budged in the direction of brain damaged dudes any more.

Laying eyes on the subversive struggle between the friends, the dark haired mystery man  smirked to himself, causing three nearby women to swoon. His Italian leather shoes and almost cat-like grace allowed an almost silent maneuver across the floor as his curiosity took over, so that as Meghan looked back up to sigh sadly at his sudden disappearance, he was already moving into place beside her.

“Hello,” His voice, soft and deep as a cashmere sweater, seemed to surround her, exciting a frustrated groan from Julia. “My name is Joseph. I saw the two of you over here playing tug of war over your beautiful arm and I let my curiosity take over I guess.”

Meghan promptly passed out, causing Julia to awkwardly catch her best friend by the armpits and glare up at the new guy.

“Way to go ROMEO!”

Joseph looked close to tears as he helped set Meghan in a comfortable booth and sank down on the floor beside her before wailing, “WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME?!”

Getting to the “Bones” of Writing

Being home with a sick family today has given me the gift of a little extra time. As both my daughter and father are sleeping at the moment, I’m taking the time to look through my tentative lesson plans and see what interesting ideas pop up and, surprise surprise, I almost immediately had an epiphany.

As we get down to the real meat of writing in the coming nine weeks, my students will need to tap in to prior knowledge in order to really understand how written pieces come together, so that they can write their own (amazing!) pieces. Since we’re in the middle of October, what better way to could there be to start this discussion than to incorporate Science (anatomy), Art, and Writing in a hands on class discussion about the “Bones of a Story”?

Give each student a copy of a paper skeleton pattern (such as this one I found on Pinterest)

Introduce the basics of the skeleton they’re holding, i.e. the arms, legs, skull, spine, etc. and relate it to writing by way of a transition sentence such as “Just as Our Bodies need a Skeleton to build muscles upon, every written piece needs its author to provide similar bones to build words on.”

Then have an ‘open discussion’ (class discussion) about what the ‘bones’ of a good story might be. Tell the students that throughout the discussion they should choose the ‘story bones’ that sound the most important to them, and write them on one of the skeleton’s pieces. At the end of the discussion each student will cut out and assemble their newly formed ‘writer’s skeleton’.

I will be using this in conjunction with an anchor chart of a (Haunted House!) so that all of our thoughts on the bare bones of writing will be recorded, whether or not the students include everything on their skeletons. At the end of the class, we’ll hang their works of art on the back wall with the filled in anchor chart…with 4 classes of 5th graders this should decorate my classroom for Halloween without too much effort!

Though I teach fifth grade, this is a lesson that can be transferred to almost any age group (Even pre-k and kindergarten!) and any subject without too much effort. The best thing about it, in my opinion, is the great opportunity for you, the teacher, to HAVE FUN WITH IT! When you have fun with learning, the students will too. Enthusiasm, much like the cold, is contagious!

I hope that you have fun if you choose to use this idea, and would love to hear how the kids like it!

Have a wonderful weekend!

**My beginning speech to get minds rolling in this activity will be something similar to “Welcome to Ms. Tyree’s House of Horror’ibly Great Writing! Today we will be discussing the basic parts, or BONES, of a good story. Just like our bodies needs the skeletal system to build up into a person, every story needs it’s own basic (skeletal) structure. 

Each of you should have a set of pages in front of you (the jointed skeleton pattern). Turn those over and take a look. See how those will fit together to form an articulated skeleton?    As we discuss the ‘bones’ of a good story today, I want you to choose your favorite options for a writing skeleton, and put each one of them on one of the bones in front of you. (It does not have to be EVERYTHING that we talk about, JUST THE ONES THAT YOU FEEL STRONGEST ABOUT!) 

Any questions? If not, lets go ahead and start with what you think are the basic bones of a story. (At this point I will be opening the floor up for students to begin interacting with me. Depending on the mood, attitude, and behavior in each particular class that day, they may be allowed to come up and write their choices on the board OR I may do all the writing)