Monday, December 27, 2010

Building Up My Young Adult Lit Arsenal

Next semester at TCNJ (my final semester at TCNJ! YIKES!) I will be taking LIT 310. Translation: Lit for Young Readers with Dr. Meixer. Student teaching in a middle school this semester made me realize that I need to quickly expand my arsenal of Young Adult authors and novels so that I can provide reading recommendations to my students. This past semester, the students were the ones recommending most of the books to me! Oh the irony!

Courtesy of my students I have now grown to love Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games trilogy. I even made my very own book trailer for the first novel, The Hunger Games, which I shared with my students. (You can view my book trailer at the following link: Ms. C's Hunger Games Book Trailer.)

Anyway, the 16 books that I will be reading with Dr. Meixner for LIT 310 are (in no particular order):
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block
  • Pedro and Me by Winick (a graphic novel)
  • Poetry Speaks Who I Am by Paschen (poetry anthology)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Thirteen by Howe (short story collection)
  • Getting Away with Murder by Crowe
  • The Misfits by James Howe
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
I've already read a bunch of these novels, but I'm looking forward to reading them from a new perspective: that of a future English teacher. I particularly like how the novels span from elementary level texts to high school level texts.

I'm especially excited to read Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. My former seventh and eighth grade students will be reading that novel in the spring.

It's safe to say I will definitely add to my YA Lit arsenal after taking this class.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Digital Book Trailers

I am so proud of my students for creating incredible digital book trailers for their last Book Talks. Rather than forcing the students to all write a summary of the book to share with the class, I let the students unleash their creativity for this assignment. Click on the following link to view one of my student's incredible book trailers:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mull and Shusterman at NCTE

At the NCTE Convention in Orlando, one of my favorite sessions that I attended was an Author Strand session, featuring Young Adult authors, Brandon Mull and Neal Shusterman. Click on the above video link to watch a clip of Neal Shusterman reading the opening pages from his novel, Bruiser.

Afterwards, I had the pleasure of meeting Brandon Mull and Neal Shusterman, both of whom signed copies of their books for me. I was even lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Mull's newest novel, Beyonders, which isn't scheduled for publication until 2011.

Brandon Mull signing a copy of Beyonders for me.

Neal Shusterman signing a copy of Everlost for me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Countdown to NCTE Orlando

Only three more days until sunny Orlando for four magical days of professional development in the heart of Disney! Now that I have flipped through the nearly 400-page digital convention booklet, I have determined which sessions I most want to attend. Below is what my tentative NCTE Orlando schedule looks like for the first two days of the convention:

NCTE 2010

Orlando (11/18-11/21)

Thursday, November 18th

- Check-in at Disney Caribbean Beach Resort. Take shuttle to Disney Coronado Springs for Convention.

- Universal Studios after 2pm

- Harry Potter movie marathon 6pm-3am

Friday, November 19th


A. 06: Building Teacher Communities Through Social Networking (pg. 55)


B. 25: Author Strand: Brandon Mull and Neal Shusterman (pg. 74)

B. 52: A Look in the Rearview Mirror: What Did and Didn’t Work in a Pre-Service English Education Program (pg. 80)

12:00pm-6pm (ongoing)

Coronado/Veracruz Exhibition Hall


C. 22: Putting Art into Language Arts


E. 34: Beyond Graphic Novelty: Transforming the Hype into Powerful Practice

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Getting Pumped for NCTE Orlando

In five days I will be taking a mini break from student teaching in order to attend a major professional development convention in Orlando, Florida. Last year, one of the most significant choices I made in advancing my professional career was to join NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English. I attended their 2009 Annual Convention in Philadelphia, at which I attended excellent workshops on learning how to teach graphic novels, how to integrate technology in the classroom, and how to use reading strategies to enhance comprehension. Over the past several days, I have been eagerly flipping through the online program, attempting to narrow down my session choices for this year's convention. There are so many seminars I would like to attend, some of which include: Building Teacher Communities Through Social Networking, Author Strand with Brandon Mull and Neal Shusterman, and Putting Art into Language Arts.

One of the greatest resources available to English teachers at this convention, is the Exhibition Hall, in which publishers from companies such as Scholastic and Random House, bring advance copies of Young Adult Literature texts, which they willingly distribute to the teachers. Many times throughout my student teaching experience I have been able to foster a love of reading for my students by loaning them books that I received at last year's convention. Avid readers, they eagerly soak up new materials, constantly asking for more suggestions. Hopefully after this year's convention I will be able to bring back new books and new choices for my students.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Using Technology in the Classroom

I decided to add to my original introductory lesson for The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, by creating my very own video using Windows Movie Maker. I put together clips from the 1960s race riots and social injustice, hoping to construct an idea of the time period with my students. You can view my video at this link: Watsons Introduction.

Luckily, my classroom is equipped with a working projector and computer, so I can integrate technology into my lessons. I try not to let the technology run my lessons; rather, I use technology to enhance my lessons.

For example, when I completed a mini nonfiction unit with my students, I used the computer in my room as a means of projecting nonfiction articles onto the screen, so my students could follow along as we dissected characteristics of nonfiction texts. I will continue to integrate technology into my classroom during my next unit as well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Planning Meaningful Assessments

At this point in the semester, I am eight weeks into my student teaching experience--with a mere seven weeks remaining. Thus far we have read stories by O. Henry and Poe, and we have practiced "Talking to the Text," which reinforces reading strategies the students learned in sixth grade. I cannot help but wonder:
  • Have I made an impact in my students' lives?
  • Will they remember what I've taught them?
  • Will they take information from my class and apply it elsewhere?
One of the best ways to help students retain information is by providing them with meaningful assessments--assessments in which they can create, analyze, and synthesize. Meaningful assessments give students a purpose for completing an assignment. Rather than simply completing the task for a grade, students make the task purposeful.

In my attempts at helping students discover a purpose f
or each unit, I have developed assessments that move beyond basic recall questions. For example, at the end of the O. Henry short story unit the students created their own short stories using similar plot structure. The following units that I will
be completing with the students revolve around the following texts: The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 and To Kill a Mockingbird.

At the end of the Watson Unit, I was thinking of having the students create a journal for one of the characters, in which they describe the various settings, conflicts, and characters of the text, building upon the elements of fiction that we p
reviously discussed during our short story units.

As for the TKAM Unit, I am still unsure as to how I want to assess the students, yet make it meaningful at the same time. Any suggestions?

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Learning Stations

I have found that the most successful activity I have implemented during student teaching thus far have been my Edgar Allan Poe Learning Stations. The following is how I structured my lessons:

1. In their journals, students created a KWL chart about Poe, filling in the "K" column (what they know). Then, as a class, we shared answers and filled in the "W" column (what they want to know). I have a computer and projector in my room so I was able to project this chart onto the board while we added to it.

2. Then, we read a short biography about Poe and filled in parts of the "L" column (what they learned about Poe).

3. Separating the students into six groups, I then presented an overview of each station to the students:
- "The Black Cat" station = theme
- "The Fall of the House of Usher" station = setting
- "The Raven" station = tone and mood
- "The Tell-Tale Heart" station = talking to the text (using reading strategies)
- "The Cask of Amontillado" station = characterization
- "The Pit and the Pendulum" station = plot development

The students would rotate every 25 minutes, and I think they really enjoyed moving around from station to station. This is only my second time experimenting with Learning Stations in the classroom, but the students seem to be responding to it well.

Stay tuned for more to come from the secondary ed English classroom!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Student Teaching Saga Part 1

Photograph courtesy of the South Brunswick School District website.

Earlier this week I began my student teaching experience at Crossroads North Middle School in the South Brunswick School District.

Beyond excited, I made my way down the wide tiled hallways of the school, reflecting on my own experiences as a middle school student. Not surprisingly, it felt weird to stand in the front of the classroom, teacher identification card hanging around my neck, looking out at the place where I sat a mere eight years ago.

The first unit I am teaching is a short story unit, in which I get to teach short stories by great authors--Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, Mark Twain. The material seems difficult for seventh and eighth grade students to handle, but my cooperating teacher assured me that the students are used to learning difficult material. The school itself is a Blue Ribbon School and expects a lot from its students. I'm sure the school expects a lot out of me as well.

Join me as I chronicle my student teaching experience in this ongoing Blog Saga.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Taking the Praxis

Taking the Praxis 2 English exam is one of those wonderful rites of passage. In fact, it's right up there with taking the SAT and AP Exams. Trouble is, I haven't taken a standardized test like that since I last took an AP test back in 2006. The good news, however, is that I absolutely love taking standardized tests! Call me crazy, but I actually think they're quite fun. Maybe it's because I have a history with performing well on standardized tests, but I always looked at them as I would a fun puzzle. Soduko...crossword puzzles...SAT. They're all in the same boat as far as I'm concerned. Now I'm sure you definitely think I'm crazy.

This evening, I pulled my big clunky Praxis 2 review book onto my lap, while sitting on the front porch of my house. A nice breeze was blowing--just enough to cool down the high-80 degree temperatures from this afternoon. The practice book states that you're supposed to simulate "actual" test conditions, but it was so nice out that I couldn't resist.

I raced my way through all 120 questions in 57 minutes. The actual test is 2 hours long, and the practice book kept stressing that I would be pressed for time. Turns out, I didn't need the full 2 hours anyway. I went back into the house, excited to score my test, but was disappointed to discover that the practice book doesn't actual provide a way for me to score my test. I can calculate my raw score, but I have no way of knowing if my performance on the practice test is up to par to pass the NJ state standards, which is an adjusted score of 162.

I tried looking up scoring guidelines online, and apparently if a person manages to get 55-75% of the questions correct, they have a chance at passing. Hopefully this holds true for the actual exam. Wish me luck!

*Update* Passed the Praxis with flying colors!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

NJCH Internship

Doesn't it feel good when you know that all of the hard work you're putting into something is going to pay off and turn into a spectacular final product?

That's kind of what it feels like to have my internship with the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Right now I'm planning their summer Teacher Institute, which is basically five 1-week residential seminars where teachers can earn 45 professional development hours and learn new content to help them in the classroom. You can go to for more information about the program. It seems really worthwhile, and I definitely want to attend a seminar one day now that I've seen all the planning that goes into it.

Thus far, I have contacted publishing companies to order bulk quantities of all the free textbooks and novels that the teachers will receive. Each teacher receives about $80 worth of free materials, which is just amazing, since it only costs each teacher $100 to attend the seminar. I think that contacting the publishing companies has been my favorite activity so far. Right now I'm in the process of assembling other shorter reading packets, as well as planning the individual field trips for each seminar. I'm looking forward to my next project when I go back to work after Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hyphen-Dash--Exclamation Point!

This semester I have experimented with punctuation in my writing. I never thought that at age 20, after more than 15 years of writing, I would be able to change my writing so significantly with such simple moves--punctuation marks! It's amazing how much power can be added to a sentence simply by rearranging the words--or even by adding a dash to off-set a phrase. Now, that's some powerful stuff!

All joking aside, I even incorporated unique punctuation style into my final paper for my LIT 499 class (see previous entry). Hopefully, by experimenting with punctuation--and by trying new punctuating techniques--my writing will sound more sophiscated. Imagine that! More sophiscated writing just by adding a few marks.

After this semester I will be sure to continue to include interesting punctuation into my writing--and you can bet that next semester while I'm student teaching, I will teach minilessons on using punctuation with my middle school students. Who knows what the future will have in store for punctuation in my life???

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I've Got a New Attitude

I have a newfound appreciation for people who can write 15+ pages about a single topic! I just wrote my first 15-page paper for my LIT 499 capstone, and it was a draining, yet rewarding, experience.

For those of you who aren't familiar with LIT 499 capstone classes at TCNJ, the culminating project is usually a 15-page research paper on a topic of our choosing. For all of my previous college courses, the maximum amount of pages I've written for literature papers have been limited to about eight pages--so needless to say, 15 pages was quite a change of pace for me.

My LIT 499 capstone class this semester is an Ecocritical class, with a focus on 19th century British texts. For my final research paper, I decided to read Jane Austen's Emma and connect the setting of Emma with Austen's theme of social class.

The most amazing part of this experience is that the last eleven pages I wrote with a fever, since I've been confined to bed for the past five days. Now that I look back at what I've written, I feel accomplished. Perhaps I have what it takes to be a literary scholar :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

St. Louis

Recipe for an English Honor Society Conference: Mix 1 part Shakespeare with 2 parts Toni Morrison. Add in some Lee Young-Li and Chris Albani. Stir well.

My trip to St. Louis with Sigma Tau Delta was one of the most memorable experiences I've had, since being inducted into the Sigma Tau Delta organization in October 2008. The below picture is the view from our hotel, the Hyatt Regency. This trip constituted a great many firsts for me: first time on a jet, first time in St. Louis, first time seeing the Mississippi River, first time presenting an academic paper.

Below is the picture of the "Mills 4" room, in which I presented my paper, "Beyond Personification: Analyzing 124 Bluestone in Toni Morrison's Beloved." I was intimidated by the amount of chairs set up in the room, but the audience was actually very welcoming and I enjoyed the Question-and-Answer session, because the audience members asked thought-provoking questions that enhanced the discussion of my paper.

After attending two sessions on the first day, a small group of us explored the streets surrounding our hotel. We took scenic pictures, like the one I took below at Citygarden, an outdoor sculpture park. And of course, like the English majors that we are, we found an independent bookstore, and of course made a few purchases. I bought a fictional memoir called, After the Workshop by John McNally. I'll blog a review of that book after I finish reading it.

And lastly, of course, I cannot forget to include a picture of our lovely group with our lovely sponsors, without whom I never would have made it to St. Louis. In my opinion, unless you put your effort and energy into something, you can't expect to gain anything from the experience. The people I went to the conference with made the most of their time in St. Louis, and without them I would not have had as memorable an experience. I hope that our trip to next year's conference in Pittsburgh, PA is going to be even more rewarding.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sigma Tau Delta Inspires

Last week I went to the Sigma Tau Delta annual convention in St. Louis, Missouri. In preparation for the trip, our chapter of Sigma Tau Delta blogged about chapter news, events, things of literary merit, and so forth, hoping we would win best chapter blog--and we did! You can read up on TCNJ's Sigma Tau Delta chapter at the following link:

My chapter of Sigma Tau Delta has inspired me to begin writing my own blog, especially since I will be embarking on that wonderful topsy, turvy journey of student teaching in the fall. I feel as if a blog will be a catharsis after a long day of teaching and lesson plan-making. I'm probably going to look back on this post and laugh at my naivete, because chances are I will have very little free time to actually blog.

In my experience, a person only learns and matures and grows by actually participating in something. Hopefully my blog will be a way to track changes I have made, in regard to both my pedagogical mission and my morals in general.

So here I go! I'm casting my net, jumping out of the plane, diving into the water. Get from this blog what you may...happy reading :)