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Finding Your Way in the World as the Janitor’s Boy

Finding Your Way in the World as the Janitor’s Boy

The Janitor’s Boy by Andrew Clements takes the normal tween feelings of being embarrassed by their parents to an extended level. It is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies.

All kids are embarrassed by their parents at one time or another and all kids have to deal with various kinds of peer pressure as they try to find where they belong in the world. These normal feelings are multiplied for Jack in our elitist society. Jack has to deal with the guilt of being embarrassed that his father is the school janitor. The journey to a more mature view and acceptance leads Jack to places he never expected to go.

From the Book Jacket:

Unfortunately, it also led to the perfect punishment. When Jack Rankin gets busted for defacing a school desk with a huge wad of disgusting, watermelon bubble gum, the principal sentences him to three weeks of after-school gum cleanup for the chief custodian. The problem is, Jack’s anger at the chief custodian was the reason for his gum project in the first place. The chief custodian happens to be Jack’s dad.
But doing time in the school basement after hours reveals some pretty surprising things: about the school, about Jack’s father, and about Jack himself.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany The Janitor’s Boy for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Mop and bucket

This is a great book for kids who have dealt with feeling inferior to their peers (who hasn’t!) and for kids that have acted out in inappropriate ways trying to deal with their feelings. Many kids will relate to Jack’s inner struggles of acceptance of himself and his father and they will appreciate, as Jack does, that learning about their parent as a person outside of their kids reveals more than they ever imagined.



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

What if you had a second chance to be a better person?

What if you had a second chance to be a better person?

What if you had a second chance to be a better person? That is the singular question in Gordon Korman’s novel, Restart. Chase Ambrose was a classic bully. A bully of the worst kind who terrorized fellow classmates and adults alike and who always seemed to get away with it, until…

Restart is a great novel to use in your classroom to address bullying issues and really help students think about how their actions affect others and ultimately themselves.

Restart was published in 2017 so it is a fresh and modern book that students can easily relate to.

From the book jacket:

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.

Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him. One girl, in particular, is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

I offer a full novel study for Restart that you can use with a whole class, small book groups, or individual students. It is easily adaptable and contains both a printable option and a Google Drive™ option.

Person falling off roof

Restart is a great book that really helps kids think about how their actions affect others and how this affects their reputation for the long haul. It’s a good resource to use for bullying prevention activities that isn’t preachy and will help students see their own character and help them want to “restart” themselves down the right and kind path.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

Exploring Intersectionality with the Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Exploring Intersectionality with the Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

This past summer I attended a seminar presented by Sherri from Literary Sherri, about Intersectionality. This is a newer term that may be unfamiliar to many, but it is meaningful and impactful and is worthy of everyone, especially teachers, educating themselves about. From Merriam-Webster, “Intersectionality refers to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and yes, intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.” You can read in more detail about how it is all intertwined at the Merriam-Webster website.

I am happy to say I already had several novel studies to support intersectionality in the classroom such as Out of My Mind, El Deafo, Fish in a Tree, Freak the Mighty, and Wonder to name a few. These modern novels help students understand the differences and challenges that others face and help build empathy and awareness that lead to a better educated and caring community.

I had heard a lot of chatter in teacher circles about the 2017 novel, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, as a good one to use to help build a stronger, more caring and kind classroom community. The chatter was right! This book is wonderful to help others really see through the eyes of another the challenges that can be faced by differences and disabilities. In addition to the empathy it sparks, it is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud many times at the humor of Aven, the main character. Students will relate to her snarky and modern take on living the life of a thirteen-year-old. I dare say, I may have even liked this book more than Wonder!

From the book jacket:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is just so wonderful to use in the classroom to incorporate intersectionality. You have Aven who lives with a congenital disability, Connor who lives with Tourette Syndrome, Zion who deals with bullying over his weight, add in adoption, divorce, and money struggles told from both a male and female perspective and there’s a lot of areas that intertwine in the intersectionality of life to help build the bridges of understanding and empathy.

I offer a full novel study for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus that you can use with a whole class, small book groups, or individual students. It is easily adaptable and contains both a printable option and a Google Drive™ option.

Desert landscape with the title Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I really, really loved it and I know you and your students will too. Aven’s voice is so funny and she really challenges the readers to open their hearts and minds to the differences of others.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

National Therapy Animal Day is Approaching!

National Therapy Animal Day is Approaching!

 

National Therapy Animal Day is on April 30, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

Therapy animals are used more and more often as we discover how much value they can add to healing and learning for people of all ages. Check here to read current news stories that exhibit the miracles that these animals can bring to us.

I am a huge animal lover and am/have been owned by several pets. Around my son’s 3rd birthday we were concerned about his speech development. He wasn’t much of a talker, but he was an expert at getting his needs met using other methods. He reminded me of the rabbit in the Frosty the Snowman special with all his non-verbal communication. He didn’t see a need to talk! Around that same time we got a new golden retriever puppy, Katy. Katy saw Sam as another puppy playmate and as she was growing she could get a little rambunctious with Sam and sometimes knock him over.

 

Of course, we worked with training Katy, she’s now a proud graduate of the Canine Good Citizenship program, but part of it was also teaching Sam to use the commands of sit, off, and down in a strong voice. Sam very quickly learned that talking and using his voice served a great purpose and he started using it more and more, not just with Katy, but with all of us. There was many a morning I would wake up to find Sam laying next to Katy’s bed chattering away telling her all about his adventures, hopes, and dreams. It was such a touching sight to see.

 

 

Katy is an extremely tolerant dog and she loves anyone and everyone! She would make an ideal therapy dog and in fact, we went through some training to lead to it. Unfortunately, the program we were working with ended their classes and Katy ended up having a series of knee surgeries to correct joint issues in both of her knees and a fight with osteosarcoma which resulted in her front leg needing to be amputated so her career as a therapy dog has never been realized.

 

 

Katy spends hours at home providing us constant unconditional love and “therapy” though. One of the things she loves more than anything is to lay with us and be read to! She’s sat through the entire Harry Potter series twice!

I’ve seen the value that the love and attention of a pet can bring to the mental well-being of the people around them. They really can be miracle workers! I would love to see the use of reading dogs in schools increase!

As part of my Wonder Novel Study, I created a reading informational activity about therapy dogs. I offer it outside of the novel study as a free download in my store. It is a wonderful activity to explore the use and benefits of therapy animals. This is a great activity to celebrate all the animal heroes in our life for National Therapy Animal Day!

Click on the picture to go to the FREE download.

I am sad to report that Katy’s osteosarcoma returned in her lungs and spine. We sadly had to release her from the pain. Katy was such an important member of our family and is the dog of my children’s childhoods. She will be deeply missed and loved always.

Katy 1/24/08-2/5/19

 

 

In honor of Katy, and all the wonderful therapy animals out there, Happy National Therapy Animal Day!


How to Teach Grammar, Spelling, & Punctuation in the Language of Teens

How to Teach Grammar, Spelling, & Punctuation in the Language of Teens

I used the Daily Oral Language sentences for grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice in my classroom for years as bellwork. I saw a solid improvement in students’ everyday writing. The short morning lessons paid off and translated well to the standardized testing that the students would take during the year too. Even though I felt this method was very effective I have to admit it was fairly boring for both me and the students. I figured there had to be a better way!

In my quest I came across an article from the Los Angeles Times, about the effects of texting on the grammar skills in tween/teens:

YSK, teens 2 fluent in TXT

This particular quote caught my eye:
“Basically, kids aren’t able to “code switch” — shift between standard grammar and the abbreviations used in text messages, Sundar said. Those abbreviations have essentially become the words for them.

Adults not raised on text-friendly abbreviations in their formative years are able to shift between formal and informal language, Sundar said. Kids consuming a steady diet of “textual adaptations” aren’t.”

We all know that teens use “text speak” to communicate their ideas in the minimum of characters used. This wreaks havoc on conventional grammar, spelling, and punctuation! It is sometimes painful to read! Sadly teens are allowing this “text speak” to sneak into their everyday writing in the classroom. Students need to learn proper writing conventions for application to the real working world. How can we help our students learn to “code switch” so that they can utilize the convenience of texting but still be able to use the proper conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation?

I decided to combine the DOL type practice with “text speak”. This way students get to do the practice in a way that seems more interesting and practical to them, in their “language” so to speak. At the same time they are learning that even though “text speak” has its place in casual texting conversations, conventional writing rules need to be applied in the school/work world situations. It was the best of both worlds!

The set up is the same that I used for DOL, approximately 2 sentences per day for bellwork. I have a weekly sheet with 10 sentences written in “text talk” that need to be corrected using the proper writing conventions. Each morning as bellwork the student will correct 2 sentences on their own and then as a class, we go over them as part of the morning routine.

For example:
Passage: n Aug he didnt nvr do gud

Answer: He didn’t do well in August.

As you can see it does look like some kind of Alien language! To tweens and teens, it is their language and a challenge to translate into proper English. It is almost like a puzzle to them to use the familiar text speak to get it back to regular English. It also reinforces the idea that their “text speak” is a valid form of communication and really should be acceptable among friends and casual acquaintances via texting but it is not appropriate for regular writing in school or most importantly, in the working world. This helps to clarify the difference between the two.

Try out a free sample here:

If you are looking for a practical, interesting, and dare I say, FUN way to give your middle/high school students some grammar, punctuation, and spelling practice, check out Alien Text Talk. The full product can be purchased by the quarter, the semester, or for an entire year! Each download includes a printable format, an interactive notebook format, or a digital format to use in Google Drive™!