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In Their Words – Part 6

This is the last of these posts…finally!!!!!

I do hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the books that inspired struggling readers.  I promise that if MY students liked them, ANYONE would like them.  Teachers in my department almost have to stand on our heads to cajole our kids to read.

The keys are personal enthusiasm from someone who can vouch, from experience, that a book is good, a great author, short chapters (practical but necessary), and encouragement to stick with a book, even during a boring chapter.

On to the projects!

This was a very short book and an easy read for my student…a gifted football player who was easily distracted by thoughts of college football. The fact that he finished this book and looked for more in this book series made me happy. I have a picture of him working, side-by-side with a young lady, on this project, truly engaged in what he was doing. I love this young man to bits and his amazingly supportive mama, and I cannot wait to see him in the NFL draft one day. I’m also going to be waiting for my shout-out, which he’s promised to give me. 🙂

This is still a popular series with some of my students!! They really enjoy comparing the books to the movies, and we have good discussions about which ones are better!

The third or fourth project I’ve posted for this book. It was so popular, and I enjoyed looking at the projects and the various ways that students interpreted the book!

This is another book that is popular with the young men I teach. I really want to read it too! The gentleman who completed this project HATED to read, bless his heart. He did enjoy this book though.

This series…so popular with my 6th/7th period block…all because of one young MAN who read the first one, talked about it so much, and got nearly all of the girls in that class to read the series. They talked about this series ALL THE TIME, and it even made it onto the original young guy’s Instagram feed. The kids love the drama of it, and it obviously appeals to young men and young ladies (a gal completed the project you see above).

When I see this project, I smile, BIG TIME. The young lady who made it took a lot of time with it. She had eclectic taste in books. Thank heavens I knew this from teaching her the previous year, for I tried to buy books that appealed to her preferences as well. This project makes me smile because I’ll never forget how hard this student worked on EVERYTHING I asked her to do in class.

Had to show you the bonus feature of this project. Because my student didn’t have enough space to include everything on the checklist I was using for grading, she came up with this ingenious way to add them…a flap!!!

In Their Words – Part 5

More book projects that my students completed at the end of the year (there will be one more post after this one, I think).

A popular book with my boys

Hands-down one of the most PROLIFIC and moving books I have ever read. EVERY teenager needs to read this. I can usually get my staunches non-readers all the way through this book because they CANNOT PUT IT DOWN.

When I see this, I think of the young lady who made it. She did not like to read. She was a very slow reader, as evidenced by the lines she made in the book to mark her stopping points (ugh!!!). She completely adored this book and told me constantly that I needed to read it when she finished. I did, and it made her day when she saw it on my desk, bookmark in place. To know that I was reading something SHE had recommended went miles toward healing what had been a strained student-teacher relationship. She came back to see me on her last day (she left for a trip a few days before school was officially over). I will forever love this young lady!

My students cannot put these books down (there’s a set of three), and I always seem to “lose” one or more of them during a school year. They relate to the setting and the characters’ problems. Although I’ve never read these books, I’ve heard that they are raw and very, very real. This young lady redid her project because she didn’t like the first version and didn’t want to show less than her best work when it was placed under the document camera for her presentation.

The student who read this book was one I never quite managed to connect with despite my various attempts…a fact that makes me very sad. He, as you can see, is a gifted artist. He was very, very intelligent and could analyze a book, its characters, and its various themes. He really liked this book. I need to buy it for my classroom.

Another Allison van Diepen book. Her books NEVER sit on my bookshelves. If you’ve never read her, please do. Follow her on Twitter. She is one of the nicest ladies ever and one I’m trying to find a way to have come down here to speak to my students.

Things That Have Kept Me From Blogging

It would seem as though, despite having much more time to blog, I have chosen, instead, to do other things.

A pictorial explanation follows…

Did someone say World Cup?

Shout-out to my main soccer squeeze for helping the U.S. advance to the round of 16!

My OWL (three-month project)…halfway finished…

A return to the gym…

Zombiesrun.com – GREAT way to keep my Zombies Run C25K app synched (that’s the playlist I used one day this week)

Best workout app ever (former iFitness)!!!! Sure beats carrying around a notebook, which I used to do to keep track of my reps!

Sixteen cans of tomatoes…for about thirty cents each after BOGO and a $1.00 off of four coupon (shout-out to Coupon Queen for sending me extra coupons!!)

Infinity Cowl

Two of my loves…

Southwestern Socks – A quick, five-day project!

Southwestern Socks

Online Shopping…courtesy of shophopes.com

Another shophopes.com dress! Please excuse the hair (freshly washed and, obviously, unfixed) and the background (must invest in a full-length, over-the-door mirror)

Teacher Training

Tweeting with one of my favorite authors…and feeling star-struck when she followed me…

Chatting it up with one of my favorite shows (please note that THEY tagged ME in this conversation!)

What’s kept you busy of late?

In Their Words – Part 4

More book advertisements from my students (click the pictures to embiggen)…

A compelling book by one of my favorite YA writers. The book is deep, let me tell you, but written quite cleverly and with a wit that will make you chuckle throughout. I’m going to do this as a Read Aloud this coming school year. The vocabulary, in places, is advanced, so I’ll tie in lessons as well. This student, as you can see, enjoyed it immensely!

Another popular book with my students. It is written in prose form, which appeals to many teenagers. The book, from what I’ve heard from my students, is gritty and raw.

This is a book that my male students gravitate toward. Two of my students did their book advertisements about it.

This is the second book advertisement for this book. What I love is the picture of the main character, whose hair was vividly described and constantly referred to in the books. The student who created this project flew through the series!

The third book advertisement for this novel. I love how each project depicted different items. Take a look at the oxygen canister…so pivotal in the book!!! This novel never stayed on the bookshelf!

Students rave about this book, even though many have read it by the time they get to high school. I simply must add it to my list!

In Their Words – Part 3

I really must stop procrastinating or else I’ll never finish with these!

Here is another batch of book advertisements created by my students…just in case you’re looking for good books for your classroom or for your child’s personal library.

A topic that any teenager can identify with…

Another Fault in Our Stars…the cigarette represents a poignant conversation

This is the student who nearly cried when he had to part with The Vampire Stalker, by the same author. Snitch is another favorite book in my classroom; it doesn’t sit on a bookshelf for long.

One of the books in the Blueford series and another topic that teenagers can definitely (and sadly) identify with

One of the books in the City of Bones series. I really want to read these books but probably won’t get to until the new school year starts.

One of the most popular books in my classroom. I wish someone wold make a movie based on it!!! Every student needs to read this. The fact that a student, whom I found it nearly impossible to keep interested in a book, read it cover to cover speaks volumes!

Lazy Days and the Hodgepodge

Joyce is back from vacation (go check out her posts…you’ll be as jelly as me), so it’s time, once again, for the Hodgepodge!  Let’s get to the questions!

1.  Since you weren’t Hodgepodging last Wednesday, how did you pass the time?

Let’s see…last Wednesday, I was just beginning to get into a summer routine after finishing up my teaching responsibilities that Monday.  I honestly cannot remember what I did.  I might have started cleaning the house in preparation for Chicky’s arrival the next day.  She brought a friend home, so our house was filled with the laughter of two twenty-something-year-old gals.  It was heaven on earth (even though her room looked like a tornado had run through it after all of their clothing changes!!!)

2.  What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say marriage? Yes, one word. 


3.  Summer officially arrives in the Northern hemisphere later this week. Does it feel like summer where you live? Describe your idea of the perfect summer day.

It’s felt like summer since Spring Break.  That’s just par for the course when you live in Florida!  The perfect summer day involves no work, a light breeze, a cloudless day, and a cozy couch on which to nap.  🙂

This was me…the afternoon I got home after closing up my classroom for the summer.

4.  “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”(Sam Keen) Is laziness ever respectable? Do you have a lazy summer planned, or something semi-ambitious?

I think the word laziness has a negative connotation, unfortunately.  Laziness, however, can be respectable if it’s used to refresh one’s body and soul.  I, myself, have a very lazy summer planned.  For ten months of the year, I live my life in 45-minute segments…bell-to-bell.  I relish unplanned days of summer to recharge my batteries.  I’ll be going on vacation with the hubby, and I’ll be attending three days (one next week and two in July) of training.  Otherwise, I plan on doing whatever I want, when I want.  I want to enjoy being home with my fur babies, sleeping in late, reading, knitting, and just feeling semi-normal for a change.

Molly and me

Selfie with Pele


5.  Past or present, who’s your favorite television dad? Why is he a favorite? Is he anything like your own dad?

I loved Cliff Huxtable.  His sense of humor always seemed to diffuse tense situations.  He showed he loved his children by allowing them to make mistakes…all the while being nearby to help pick up the pieces.  I didn’t get to grow up knowing my dad, and we only had a few short years after I became an adult to reconnect, but he was, like Cliff, a funny guy.  I’d like to think that he would have had a similar parenting style.

6.  June 18th is International Picnic Day…share a favorite picnic memory.

This is going to sound pretty lame, but I think I maybe went on one picnic my entire life.  I got sick after eating the KFC chicken because it was too greasy.  Yeah.  I don’t have a fondness for picnics because of that.

7.  The travel site Trip Advisor lists the top five islands in the world for 2014 as- Ambergris Caye in Belize CayesProvidenciales in Turks and CaicosBora Bora in French Polynesia, Marco Island Florida, and Lewis and Harris in The Outer Hebrides (Scotland). Have you been to any of these? Of those listed (and if price were not a factor) which would you most like to book for a holiday?

I’ve been to the Turks, and it was gorgeous!!!!  If I could travel to any of the others listed above, I think I’d choose Bora Bora.  I’m a sucker for tropical locations!

8.  My Random Thought

Speaking of lazy…I’ve been spending my days, of late, knitting and watching World Cup.  With three games a day, this #soccermomforever is in soccer heaven!

FIFA App on iPhone!

In Their Words – Part 2

This is Part 2 in a series of posts dedicated to the book advertisements my students made as their final project.

This student is a friend’s son. She requested that he be in my class…not a little bit of pressure on me to have him do well. 🙂 He was a joy to teach, and his taste in books was eclectic and spoke of an old soul. He ASKED me to buy the North and the South trilogy. I’d read these books when I was a teenager, so I was happy to oblige. Everything on this poster meant something, as he explained to the class…even the line across the middle of the paper, which symbolized the division that existed between the main characters, best friends, in the book as well as the citizens of the country. He used different colors to represent each side as well. The class adored this student and his quirky humor (his pants actually split during a tornado drill, and he LAUGHED it off instead of getting embarrassed).

Harry Potter made an appearance this year. One of my boys had read his way through half of the series by the time June arrived.

Bone is a graphic novel series that one of my students could not put down the last month of school. I frequently found him reading instead of doing his work. It was a great problem to have!

Legend was a series that was popular with the boys. I recently finished reading it after this young man insisted, for months, that I give it a go. It was similar to the Divergent series but with more likeable characters…softer in nature. The third book proved a satisfying end to the series.

This student read one Jay Asher book and was hooked. This is a favorite of mine simply because of the concept…being able to see into your future (two teenagers install America Online, log in, and are taken to their Facebook profiles…ten years before Facebook is invented). The student was drawn to the question of what you would do if you learned what your future held.

In Their Words – Part 1

Over the course of the next few posts, I will be sharing the book advertisements that my students created.

The final project I assigned them required that they create book advertisements for favorite books they had read during the year.

They had to list the main characters, draw pictures of them and a setting (I did not take points away based on artistic ability), and write summaries, without giving away the ending.

I explained that I would be displaying these around the classroom so other students could use them to make decisions about what to read.

It’s one thing for me to put a book in front of a student who is having a difficult time settling on something to read.  Students quickly caught on to the fact that I love just about every book I read.  Seeing a book being recommended from a peer’s perspective was more up their alley, as I had witnessed first-hand when I saw students in class talking up books that their classmates later read.

The final exam was comprised of presentations of these book advertisements to the class.  We displayed the posters under the document camera, and students talked in front of the Smartboard.  We grilled them afterward.  They were graded according to a presentation rubric.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.  They really do speak of my students’ love for reading, and I feel like a proud Mama showing them off to you!  Please click on each picture to enlarge it.

This student got to attend a book signing with John Green!!! I was completely jealous when I found out!!!

I read this series because of this young lady! We had a debate about the yucky movie of the same title (she liked it, and I did not).

This young lady fell in love with Jennifer Brown’s books after reading Hate List. She had a difficult time deciding which book to do her project on but finally decided on A Thousand Words. She got a few other girls in the class to read it too!

The young lady who read this could not put it down! She had fought silent reading time all year…until she began reading this book. I frequently had to ask her to stop reading it while I was providing instruction to the class. It moved her beyond words, and I ordered the second book for her after she asked. For a non-reader, this was a huge milestone!

Another Jennifer Brown book. The student who read it talked about how she had gotten out of an abusive relationship. This led to a class discussion about teenage dating violence. It was eye-opening for me.


Today, I officially completed my fourth year of teaching.

I’ve been thinking about this day for the last couple of weeks.

I’d been reflecting…trying to put to words what my heart had been feeling.

Locking my door after closing up shop for the summer was bittersweet…

If I were to ascribe one word to each of my first three years of teaching, the list would look like the following:

Year #1 – Overwhelming (five preps and no teaching experience were a tough combination)

Year #2 – Stressful (learning how to teach remedial reading to teenagers dependent on passing the FCAT led to much angst)

Year #3 – Magtical (the pieces started coming together)

That brings me to Year #4.

The word I’d use to describe this past year would be impactful.

As I read my students’ reflections last week, had conversations with parents over the last couple of days, and talked to my mentor, Cinda, I grew to realize that my relationship building skills had grown by leaps and bounds this year.

I’ve often said that you can’t teach if you don’t have a relationship with students.

This never proved more true than this year.

One of my classes was comprised of students who were in double blocks of reading and math, so they spent over half of their day together.

That’s a lot of time for annoyances to creep in…for tempers to flare.

Flare they did, and class could get very “interesting” at times.

I worked very hard to build rapport in this class.

I didn’t always do a good job holding my tongue as frustration set in on particular rough days, but students and I learned to reflect thanks to Cinda’s modeling early in the year.

My students and I learned how to pick apart lessons that had gone awry…procedures that weren’t fitting in with the classroom environment…and changes were made.

I did this with all of my classes.  What worked for one class had to be changed for another to fit that class’s needs.

As students saw me reflecting and taking action, they began to do the same.

This was very impactful, and I witnessed students’ conversations naturally leading to introspection.

It was an amazing process to behold.

Another thing that happened this year was that my students became genuine book lovers.

I have always fought my students when it came to silent reading time.

This year, I purchased many, many books for my classroom library.

If a student found an author he/she liked, I bought all of the books by that writer.

If a student enjoyed the first book in a series, I bought the rest of the books.

Students began having conversations about their books.  I learned that just because students were talking during class did not mean the conversations were about boys/girls or the latest parties they had been to.

Kids were talking about books.

They were showing each other funny parts of the books.

They were borrowing each others’ books.

My class that had the toughest road to travel…well, that class seriously could not stop talking about books.  I’m really not kidding.

Take a look at the letter a student in that class wrote to me.  She gave it to me the last day of school.

Click to embiggen

As you saw in the letters of advice my students wrote to next year’s students, they read…a lot…and they reflected on their reading through the writing exercises that followed.

This was impactful.

The last day I had each class, students talked about how sad they were to leave…how much they were going to miss me.

They had watched the movies I had made for them…slideshows comprised of photos taken throughout the year.

They had laughed and cried as they watched the school year fly by, frame by frame.

Strong bonds were forged this year…student-to-student and student-to-teacher.

I called a parent today to discuss her son’s wonderful progress on FCAT, and we had a lengthy conversation.

She asked if I had been the person who had made the movie, and I said yes.  I had given CDs of that class’s movie to the students after they requested copies.

This mom and her son had watched the movie together at home.  I heard the tears in her voice as she said, “You done something to him with that video.  It changed him.”

He had been impacted by the images…reminders that he had been important to me.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I sat at my desk and cried after I hung up the phone…humbled at the blessings that the Lord has bestowed on me through this marvelous career He led me to.

I have so many stories I could share with you…stories I’ve constantly shared with my mentor.

I do so…not to brag but to share how amazed I am every single time someone tells me thank you.

There are so many difficult days of teaching…times when lesson plans don’t work…students misbehave…decisions get made by asinine state officials who have never stood in front of a classroom.

At the end of the day, what matters most is the impact I’ve had on each child who has crossed my threshold.

This was, by far, my best year of teaching to date.

I got into teaching because I believed in the power of shaping young minds.

I never knew that I’d be shaping their hearts as well.

The picture below shows a happy face…mine…one that is excited to go home and kick off summer vacation with a long nap.

What you don’t see is my heart…enlarged and filled to the brim with an intense love for people who, nine months ago, were strangers…now grafted into my ever-growing family.

These kiddos will always be my children, and I will never forget them nor their impact on my life.

Dear Mrs. AuburnChick’s Future Students

Last week, I gave my students several different writing assignments as bellwork.

One of the assignments was to write letters of advice to my future students.

I told the students that they couldn’t turn their letters into gripe sessions and that they had to be gentle because I would be reading them, and I didn’t want them to hurt my feelings.

Later that day, I read each letter and learned a lot about how students perceive me.

More than one student commented on how sensitive I am.  The letter below (click on all letters to view larger images of them) says that, “…her heart is very delicate.”

Many students noted that I am very strict.  The following student encouraged others to hang in there…that I get better at the end of the year…

The next letter was written by a young lady who despised the dress code.  I had to send her to ISS quite a few times to change.

The next student made me chuckle when he described how boring three days of ISS could be…so don’t go to class late!!!  I love how he also explains that I don’t give half credit for “half work.”

Quite a few students mentioned how sassy I could be when wearing my heels.

The next student gave book suggestions after explaining that students would love my book collection.  He read three of Allison van Diepen’s books (the ones recommended in the letter).  He also mentioned the heels.  When I read the letter, I remembered the day he saw me before school started, took one look at my shoes, and said, “Uh oh…you’ve got your heels on today.”  He then warned other students in the class, so they came in prepared!

The young lady who wrote the letter below is also the gal who penned the sweet email I shared on Friday.  Notice how she calls teaching my “calling.”  She also warns students not to put their heads on their desks.  It is my philosophy that students will go to sleep if they get too comfortable…

Ok…so my anal craziness for all things being organized came out in the following letter.  I never realized how often I must have asked students to put books away properly…alphabetically by last name.  I needed to be able to locate certain books when students asked for them!  I also chuckled when she tells students not to make any annoying sounds.

According to the next letter, I am “high strong,” sensitive, and will drive students crazy.  I’ll also make students read…a lot.  heehee

Another pet peeve of mine was when students weren’t looking up at the board when I was giving instructions. I mean…heck…after spending hours creating those Smartboard files, I wanted students to take advantage of the visual aspect of the lesson.  Just kidding.  It was more about having them give me their undivided attention while I was providing instruction.

The next student quickly learned that I could see everything going on in my room.  Oh yeah…I also didn’t like phones to be out.  It’s not that they never used them…just when instruction allowed for it!

I just love, love, love the next letter.  This young lady and I went a few rounds.  I called her father one day, and he filled me in on some of the details of her life.  My entire approach toward her changed, I pulled her outside of my classroom to apologize, and we proceeded through the rest of the year with a renewed understanding of each other…hence the words at the end of her letter…

The final letter I’m sharing with you sums up quite a few things.  She expressed what many others did…be prepared to work and plan on reading a lot.

These letters were reminders to me of just how observant students are.  They pick up on everything…mood, facial expressions (mine sometimes came across as mean), work ethic, and idiosyncrasies.

Children are sponges.  They are influenced by everything and everyone around them.

When you spend as much time with students as I do (ninety minutes a day for 180 days), these observations can become the foundations for habits in their own lives.

I plan on giving these letters to my new batch of students to read the first few days of school.  It will be interesting to read their letters next June.  I wonder what, if anything, will change.

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