4.06.2018

New Books for Your Classroom Library



I've had more time to catch up on young adult literature over the past several months, so I'm sharing some of my favorites with you--and some that I am highly anticipating--that are essentials for your classroom (or school) library. (Click on the images to purchase via Amazon associates links.)

I wrote about Tomi Adeyemi's book Children of Blood and Bone on my other blog here. It's a different take on police brutality--one that infuses the theme in a fantasy world. (Read my post for more specifics about the plot.) It's also going to be a movie and I guarantee the special effects will be spectacular. Children of Blood and Bone is the first in the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy and you'll definitely want to pre-order the second and third books for your classroom, as well. They are due out in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The novel features three different narrators on the same journey but all with different perspectives. It's definitely my favorite book I've read this year.



In Search of Us by Ava Dellaira is told in third-person limited point-of-view from the perspectives of two characters: Marilyn, a white 17-year-old in the 1990's who falls in love with a black man, is one perspective and Angie, her 17-year-old daughter in the present, is the second perspective. Angie never knew her father, so she leaves home to try to find him. It's a touching mother-daughter story that also deals with racism and coming-of-age. If you liked Dellaira's Love Letters to the Dead, you'll love this novel.




Last year I wrote about reading Angie Thomas's book The Hate U Give here and here. If you haven't added it to your classroom yet, you need to immediately. It's an excellent and relevant novel about a teenager who witnesses her friend brutally shot by a police officer and the aftermath that ensues in the community. It's the perspective we never get to see on the news: that of the victim's friends and family. The movie has wrapped up filming and is in post-production. It will probably be released sometime in 2019.


Her next book, On the Come Up, will be released June 5 of this year. This story is about 16-year-old Bri who aspires to be a rapper. Her father lost his life just before he hit it big and she's determined to make it despite all the odds that are stacked against her. It's sure to be an inspiring story about perseverance your students will appreciate.




Dear Martin by Nic Stone is the story of Justyce, an intelligent, well-rounded teen who finds himself the victim of police profiling and injustice.  He writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in an attempt to deal with his feelings and wonders if things have even changed since Dr. King's death. Dear Martin, like The Hate U Give, gives readers a new perspective on current events, showing the other side of the story the media tends to ignore.



The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is a different take on the fantasy genre; Alice's grandmother, who was the author of cultish dark fairytales, dies then Alice's mother is mysteriously taken by someone claiming to be from Alice's grandmother's fictional world. Alice is just 17 and must befriend her grandmother's superfan to try to find her mother. It's dark, creepy, and mesmerizing--definitely characteristics your students love.



Bear Town by Fredrik Backman (author of A Man Called Ove) is about a struggling small town, its successful hockey team, and a rape scandal that could destroy practically everyone. It's a serious novel that tackles the serious issues and moral dilemmas in an honest and compelling way. This is more appropriate--and a must-read--for high school students.



The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton begins like a normal young adult fantasy novel in which beautiful girls are treated lavishly but turns into so much more. It's deep, thrilling, and tackles tough issues along the way. Because of its cliffhanger ending, this is definitely the first of a series.



Far From the Tree by Robin Benway is another multiple-perspective novel that tells the story of three teenagers (who are siblings) who were separated as infants but find each other and reconnect as a way to deal with the different losses and struggles each has faced. If your students like the tv series "This is Us," they are sure to enjoy this heartfelt novel.



I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez is another book that deals with parent relations. Julia's older sister was the "perfect" daughter, taking care of her parents and doing everything they asked. But when Olga dies in a tragic accident, Julia struggles to deal with not only her loss but the expectations her parents have for her. She learns secrets her sister had that reveal maybe she wasn't so perfect after all. It also gives an inside look at children with immigrant parents and the struggles they face growing up in America.



The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo uses a novel-in-verse style, which flows with emotion. Xiomara is a teen who is caught between following the rules of her church and parents and following her own desires. Teens will relate to the frustrations and passion in this unique coming-of-age novel.



Scythe and Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman (not pictured) are the first two books in this powerful new Arc of a Scythe series. Set in a seemingly perfect world where there are no diseases, no war, no hunger, and no misery, two teens must become Scythe apprentices and learn how to control overpopulation by taking the lives of others. This series opens up so many new questions of ethics and boundaries. It's so hard to put down once you start reading!

 


Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Emily Carroll is a must-have in your library. It's the graphic novel you never realized you needed until after reading it. I loved the book and after hearing it would be a graphic novel, I thought it was an odd choice. But it proved me wrong; it's just as powerful (maybe even more so) as the novel.



Dread Nation by Justina Ireland was just released this week. Set in a reimagined post civil-war America, the North and South must join forces to take on a new enemy: the zombies that rise from the dead to kill them all. Ireland tackles the topics of slavery and racism in such a different way, it sticks with the reader.




NEW SEQUELS TO ADD TO YOUR COLLECTION:

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is the third (and final!) book in The Illuminae Files series and was released last month.



Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray is the sequel to Defy the Stars and was released this week.



Rebound by Kwame Alexander is a companion to his novel The Crossover and was released this week.



The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth (not pictured) is the sequel to Carve the Mark. It will be released next week (April 10th).



A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas is the fourth book in the A Court of Thorn and Roses series and will be released May 1st.



War Storm by Victoria Aveyard is the fourth and final book in the Red Queen series. It will be released May 15th.



Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer and will be released October 2nd.




WHAT ARE YOUR LATEST READS?
Share the books you've been reading or any that are must-adds for your classroom library in the comments below. 


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2.03.2018

Using Building Blocks in the Secondary Classroom

Legos in the classroom


Several years ago a group of boys approached me and asked if they could recreate scenes from the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee using LEGO™building blocks for their culminating project. This option was not on my original list of projects

After determining that they were serious (and not just trying to get out of doing actual work), I caved and let them. And what I observed during the process was unexpected and simply marvelous. While I hoped The boys were constantly referring back to the novel to try to get the details correct. One argument was what color was Atticus's hair. They searched and searched until they found the passage in chapter 15 where Scout contrasts Jem's features with "...Atticus's graying black hair..." (Lee 203). Then they had the problem of not having black or gray hair. One boy suggested to just put a hat on him. "Atticus would never wear a hat!" another argued. I have to admit I enjoyed listening to them argue about these little details, referring back to the text, and deciding how to resolve these problems. (They went with blond for Atticus--see in the image above--making sure to tell me it was supposed to be gray.)

Above, Mr. Avery falling off Miss Maudie's roof in chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird.

What I realized, though, was that this was not only a lesson in finding supporting evidence from the text, but a lesson in negotiating, communicating, and compromising with one another. And let's not forget the creativity involved. A year later when I tried this with small groups, we had the dilemma of having "people" who just didn't seem to work with our novel:


The way the students adapted the figures into the story was priceless:

Student A: Mrs. Orman, where are Spongebob's legs?
Me: I have no idea. Gone, I guess.
Student B: Well, he'll have to be Dill. You know, because he's so short.
Student A: And blond.
Student B: Perfect.

* * *

Student C: Darth Vader is obviously Bob Ewell.
Student D: Obviously.
Student C: So who will Boo be? 
Student D: Are you kidding? Boo is a Ninja. He was always a Ninja. I can't believe we are having this conversation.

* * *

Student E: Why is Tom a Stormtrooper?
Student F: Because his face is black.
Student E: That is so racist.
Student F: How is that racist when it's just a fact?
Student E: Because you are white, Dude. You can't say things like that. And because we have this thing here missing an arm. That's clearly Tom. 
Student F: Now who's being racist?!
Student E: Dude, that's not racist.
Student G (from another group, yelling across the room): There's more to people than just their looks, Guys!  
Student E: Ok, well Stormtroopers are evil and Tom's the innocent one here.
Student F: What about Finn? He's good and he was a Stormtrooper. 
Student E: But Tom didn't start evil and turn good. Tom was always a good man.
Student F: Fine. Tom will be the brown robot with one arm. But what if this thing is just as bad as a Stormtrooper? We know nothing about this robot. 
Student E: He was a caring robot who lived his life helping others. I already created a whole backstory for him...

* * *
I actually prefer using figures who may not fit the mold in order to push students to think more critically and creatively about the characters.

"Boo is a Ninja. He was always a Ninja..."

PREPARING FOR THE ACTIVITY

Before trying this in class, make sure you are prepared with enough building blocks for students (this was the first challenge the group faced). One boy in the group brought in a small box that they thought would be sufficient; unfortunately, the pieces were designed to build vehicles rather than structures. The next day they brought in a five-gallon tub full, which was more than sufficient.

Below is an example of how many blocks it may take to build a simple scene outside a jail cell. Keep in mind that the structures do not have to be complete (only two sides of this jail cell are finished):

  
Here are some other examples requiring a few more blocks:




If your students cannot bring in their own building blocks, they can be purchased at your local superstore. I recommend getting a kit that has windows and doors, as those features seem to work with many scenes from different stories. If you don't want to spend a lot (because they ARE expensive!), you can often find them at garage sales or even on eBay. You can also ask your colleagues if you can borrow some--chances are many of them have some at home. 



IMPLEMENTING THE ACTIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM
You'll want to determine the skills you wish students to practice. The more you ask of them, the longer they will need to practice them. 

GROUP PROJECT
The skills I wanted students to practice with the group project (2-3 class periods) included inferring and interpreting scenes from the novel and creating a visual representation of the inferences. I also wanted them to communicate in writing a summary of the project.
  
I required the group of four boys to show me four different scenes from the book and explain (both orally and in writing) why they chose the scenes, which details they wanted to make sure they included in each, why those details were important, and the problems they encountered and how they resolved them within the group. Each member took on the responsibility for writing about one of the scenes but, for the most part, they all had a hand in building all four scenes. The group had three class periods to complete the project. 

END-OF-THE-CHAPTER or EXIT ACTIVITY: 
For a shorter activity (10-20 minutes), the skills I wanted students to practice were similar: inferring and interpreting scenes from the chapter and creating a visual representation based on the inferences. 

Students split into small groups and each group got a little pile of blocks (enough to build at least one or two walls) and two figures. I asked each group to select a scene to reenact from the chapter we had just completed reading in class. If they wanted more blocks, they had to answer a question from the novel (from any of the previous chapters) to earn more blocks or props. Some students negotiated with students from other groups to trade blocks, which was fine with me. At the end of the period, I did not allow them to save their work because I had to reuse the blocks for the next class period. I recommend taking pictures of them, though, that you can display after every class period/section has completed the exercise.

If you wish to incorporate the writing component, you could use it as a bell-ringer the following day. Ask students to reflect on the previous day's activity and write why they chose the scene, which details they made sure to include, and problems they may have faced and how their group rectified them.

CREATIVE ACTIVITIES FOR ANY BOOK
If you like this idea, I have plenty more in my pack: Creative Activities for ANY Book or Story. They are all aligned with the Common Core State Standards, so you don't have to feel guilty for incorporating more creativity into your classroom.  

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Creative-Activities-for-ANY-Novel-or-Short-Story-with-Handouts-77190


The following pictures are additional examples from To Kill a Mockingbird. Can you identify the scene?

http://www.traceeorman.com/2018/02/using-building-blocks-in-secondary.html

http://www.traceeorman.com/2018/02/using-building-blocks-in-secondary.html

http://www.traceeorman.com/2018/02/using-building-blocks-in-secondary.html


* The scene depicted is from chapter 4 when the children are acting out the "Boo Radley" game. It's a combination of when Miss Maudie sees them--the screwdriver is her hedge clippers--and when the children are acting out "Chapter XXV, Book II of One Man's Family" and Atticus sees them (Lee 53).


Work cited:
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. 1960. Hachette Book Group, 2010.

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I teach high school English in Illinois; enjoy family time, baseball, collecting PEZ dispensers, and talking about anything related to my favorite books. They include The Hunger Games trilogy, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Chaos Walking trilogy, and anything written by Amy Tan.

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