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40,000,000 words…

Students: Listen up. Your ability to grow, think, move toward adulthood, enjoy your lives, etc. depends largely on your ability to talk, read, and write. When you were little, you didn’t know how important it was to talk, listen to language, etc. If you feel like you didn’t get the experiences you probably should have when you were little, it’s not too late. It’s never too late.


Research now tells us that kids who are on the high development track have heard 40 million words by 4. Kids who are doomed to the basement of life have heard only 10 million. Kids at the high end have had conversations with their parents. Kids on the low achievement track have received orders.

I don’t believe anyone is “doomed to the basement.” No. Way. No. How. But I do know some of you have to make up for some lost time.

So…when we are having classroom discussions, when we are talking for purposes, such as gaining understanding of new ideas, listening to others’ stories and opinions, and writing for understanding, use that time wisely. Help me help you to get to 40 million words, and more.

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I was an 8th grade zombie…

Okay, I wasn’t really an 8th grade zombie, but sometimes it felt like it. Wondering around, being self-absorbed in my own quest and hunger for human connection, brains, and eternal unrest. Sigh.

It’s no secret I love to read, and I read for a multitude of purposes. One of my main reasons for reading is so I can learn from other teachers and become a better teacher myself. I came across this article, on a blog, and it was pretty darn interesting.

To quote:

There are four important characteristics that distinguish adolescent thinking from more mature thinking:

  • adolescent egocentrism (intense preoccupation with one’s own feelings and lack of connection to feelings of others),
  • imaginary audience (the belief that one is the focus of others’ thinking and attention)
  • personal fable (the belief that no one else can possibly understand one’s feelings and experiences because they are unique), and
  • illusion of invulnerability (the belief that bad things only happen to other people.)

Although it reminded me of things I already know, such as teenagers are self-centered, hyper-critical, self-obsessed, world-revolves-around-me beings, and I am a mature, grounded adult (she wrote rolling her eyes sarcastically), it also helped me remember I need to find the patience and compassion needed to be a good teacher.

All year long students get so many mixed messages: you are told to talk and discuss on topic, stay on task, be kind to each other, take risks, sit down, stand up, don’t shut down, but shut up, listen, talk, listen, talk, stop the drama, read drama, act out drama, but don’t be the drama queen, I’m the queen, don’t be so mean, work hard, be nice, and look out for natural consequences. Make good choices. Do this. Don’t do that. It’s black and white and grey all over. Confused yet?

The “personal fable” and the “invulnerability” are my two favorites, really. No sarcasm. I think we all need to create and appreciate our own personal fables–that’s where writers are born and thrive.

As far as invulnerability goes, the adults can tell you all they want that you are not ‘bullet-proof.’ However, here’s advice you should heed: yes, you do need to learn for yourself, BUT, don’t make it a permanent choice, one that will hurt you, your family, and your chances for success forever–find a way to get back into good graces.

So, future 8th grade students: bring it on. Come to my classroom, ready to cocoon and emerge as young adults. I’ve already met many of you, and I can tell I like you already. Time to eat some brains.

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Books for Boys Who Will Soon Be Men

“Books for Young Men Who Don’t Want Anyone to Know They Read (Or Know How To)”
A list compiled by teacher, cousin, friend, Kelly Love

Warning: Some of these books would be rated PG-13 if they were movies; in some cases rated R. They are tough, honest, and real. They dig deep. They are written in beautiful language, mostly by men, for young adults to be. I wouldn’t hesitate to let my sons read any of these, so take that for what you may.

These are not in any order of preference; these are some of my favorites, and those that some of my guy students have secretly told me they loved. If you want further information, please email me:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Oh, Mr. Gaiman, you are amazing.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. From Death’s perspective – a personification of triumph of the will.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
This story still holds up today – replace Soc’s and Greasers with Crips and Bloods, if you like.

Slam by Nick Hornby. An honest counter-point to the movie Juno, in my opinion. What’s it really like to be a teenage father?

Schooled by Gordon Korman
Talk about a fish out of water story – poor Cap (Capricorn) Anderson must make his way through middle school after being home-schooled by a hippie grandma – yikes. My students (and I) LOVE this book!

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman
What would you do if you were a nice kid in a bad family? A really bad family?

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

Hero Type by Barry Lyga–Kevin did a really brave thing – or did he?

Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper

Monster by Walter Dean Meyers

Inside Out by Terry Trueman
What happens when you are 16 years old, have schizophrenia, and can’t get the help you need?

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Lightening Thief (#1) to the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (series)
The classic “journey of the hero” that all people respond to – archetypes that we all recognize, and the hero struggles, as we all do – this is a fantastic series.

New Found Land by Allan Wolfe: a tale of the Lewis and Clark expedition that made me finally understand why Sacajawea was so important and how a dog thinks.

And always: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: the ultimate teen angst story.

Looks promising:
Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini

On the darkside of fantasy:
Ironside, Tithe, or Valiant, by Holly Black: dark fairy stories, with twists – if you need to cleanse your palette after the Twilight series (it’s a guy thing)

I recommend this book to one and all.
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Hunting Great Books: Desperately Seeking Substance

I’ve been on a treasure hunt, a quest, a  mission, an operation, and a charge to seek out books that will help us all answer our burning questions in life. To boldly use my insomnia (inability to sleep peacefully) to explore the websites’ nooks, crannies, bogs, blogs, under logs, and kissing a few frogs to seek beautiful, bold books for myself, and my students, to read.

To say that there are a plethora of young adult book blogsis an understatement. And, one trend I’ve noticed is many of them promote what I would consider a tendancy toward chick-books: Gothic, romantic, swooning, with plenty of lip gloss and angst. Not that there’s a darn thing wrong with any of those things. However, I’m still on a quest for more choices, better organizations of genre, and targeted searches. I may just have to take control of my own destiny and make this blog work a little harder.

 There are so many ways to choose a good book to read. The question isn’t whether or not you should be reading, of course you should. You must. You read to expand your brain so the world doesn’t take advantage of you, but you can control your world. You read to develop better life skills, a personality, you read to get a life, for goodness sake! Let me know how you find good books to read.