A Change in Direction

Hello! I haven’t posted in a long time, but I think I might pop on here from time to time to write about teaching.

I’m still running, but that’s become sort of old news and since I rarely race anymore, there isn’t much to talk about. I’m not sure how much you want to hear about my morning runs with my friends, because it would go like this: Tuesday I ran 3.44 miles! Thursday I ran 3.44 miles! On the weekend I ran [something longer] miles! I’ve fallen into a comfortable rhythm of 3 days a week and races almost never. I did one in 2017 so far and I might do 1 more Christmas run, depending on the weather. I have to say, running is a lot more relaxing when you aren’t training for anything. I do always run at 5:45 a.m. now, which is different, but I’ve come to love morning running!

I did go back and delete over 1000 old posts about random things–running, photography, etc. to change the direction of the blog and protect my family’s privacy a bit. It seems odd to have people reading about what we were up to in 2012, you know? I did keep the teaching posts. Since I completely changed my curriculum, I don’t even do most of those things anymore, but maybe someone else will want to.

In teaching news, this year I’m teaching 6th grade English and literature as a block, and I love it. I’ve also switched to standards-based grading, so I am going to start posting about that a bit.

We’ll see how long I keep it up this time!

Young Adult Lit

This summer I am on a quest to read all of the 2015 & 2016 Rebecca Caudill nominee books. This is kind of an Illinois thing, so let me explain (copied and pasted from their website):

The Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award is an annual award given to the author of the book voted most outstanding by students in grades four through eight in participating Illinois schools.

The award is named in honor of Rebecca Caudill who lived and wrote in Urbana, Illinois, for nearly 50 years. The award is given in recognition for her literary talent and the universal appeal of her books which have touched the hearts of many children and young adults.

Any school in Illinois with students enrolled in any of the grades four through eight and agreeing to meet the requirements may participate in the program. Any public library in Illinois serving students in grades four through eight (from schools that are not registered to participate) and agreeing to meet the requirements, may participate in the program.

There is a chance I may teach reading next year, so I want to brush up on my YA literature. This isn’t exactly painful for me as I often prefer young adult books to adult books. I’m not sure exactly what this means about my maturity level but let’s just leave that be.

So far, I have read four. All of the reviews I also post on my classroom Facebook page. Click the titles to see the titles on Amazon and to read a plot summary.

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook


My thoughts: My favorite narratives are those told in a creative way, and this book did not disappoint. Structured around the tales of the family cat, Zook, the story is really about a young girl and her brother trying to make their way in a world without their father. In English class I always say, “Let the reader into your head”, and this author did an excellent job of letting the reader in. Five stars to this book. I read it all in one sitting–I couldn’t put it down.

Navigating Early


My thoughts: I had to read about two thirds of this book before I became really interested in it, but I’m no quitter and I saw it through. The last third was quite spectacular, though, and I’m glad to have experienced it. I also think boys would become interested a lot more quickly than I did. The story is about a young boy who is sent to a boarding school right at the end of World War II. There, he meets another boy who most likely has either autism or Aspberger’s, although it would not have been called such during that time period. The main character follows his new friend on a very unusual and very risky quest, and through this journey he learns to “navigate” his new friend “Early”, and also himself. Like The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, the story is told in a creative way, and you are able to connect the dots, as the author says, at the end.

A Monster Calls


My thoughts: This book is well-written and thought-provoking, but so, so sad. I have a hard time with books that are so very sad. It’s a story about the struggles of a boy whose mom has cancer.

Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin


My thoughts: This was a lighthearted, fun book about a boy unfortunately named “Rump”, who lives in a land where your name is your destiny. Maybe Rumpelstiltskin has just been sorely misrepresented in the traditional fairy tale all along.

Do you like to read YA lit? Have you read any of the Caudill books? Here are the lists: 2015 Caudill Nominees and 2016 Caudill Nominees.

Expository and Argumentative Writing Assignment Sheets

I’ll keep this brief (maybe, you know me), but in the last week I create argumentative and expository assignment sheets for my 7th graders. I wanted to give them a variety of topics to choose from, but I didn’t want to give them freedom of any topic on the internet. I created assignment sheets for 14 different topics, all using 3-5 paired sources. I tried to do a variety of sources–video, websites, articles, podcasts, etc. All are current event topics–things that have been in the news in the last couple of months. Here’s an example:

Some are argumentative and some are expository.

Today I spent a couple of hours making modified assignment sheets of the same assignments for my struggling writers. The modified assignments are the same topics, but I helped them out by giving some tips for an outline and doing the works cited page for them. I also put what the parenthetical citations will be.


I added these to my Teachers Pay Teachers store here: 14 Paired Text Assignment Sheets if you’re interested.

Hope that helps someone! If you try them out, I’d love to hear how it went! I’m always looking for ways to improve/revise.