Rule Number One: Read The Rule of Three!

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four-stars_0Before reading The Rule of Three, I didn’t have one Eric Walters YA novel on my sixth grade bookshelf. Shame on me! After gulping down the 405 pages of this high velocity book, I’m ready for a refill. Here’s why: Eric Walters knows his audience well. He understands the challenges we middle and high school teachers sometimes have convincing a student to read, much less finding a book that will hold a young man’s attention past the first three chapters. Rest assured, dear teachers, there will be no abandoning The Rule of Three.

Sixteen-year-old Adam Daley is going about a typical high school day–eyeing a pretty girl, ribbing his best friend Todd, and trying to get a little classwork done. Without warning, a catastrophic power outage turns their world dark. Not only is electricity lost, but everything from cell phones to modern-day cars are rendered useless. Everything comes to a standstill in Adam’s hometown, and–as they eventually discover–across the globe.

Humans can survive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Author Walters nimbly goes to work decimating creature comforts. Within hours, looting begins. Within days, widespread panic consumes the region. Riots over food and water erupt. Chaos ensues, but Adam, his police chief Mom, and former CIA agent neighbor design a radical plan to protect the people within their hastily constructed barriers.

What if today, in your neck of the world, the electrical grid went dark, computers died, and communication satellites shut down? What if the only operable vehicles were antique automobiles, gas-powered go-carts, and the occasional private airplane? Eric Walters plants the terrifying seed of possibility in the minds of all his young (and not-so-young) readers. How would we as a nation react? Probably not unlike the citizens of Walters’ fictional world.

I highly recommend The Rule of Three for both middle and high school audiences–particularly young males searching for a high-octane adventure in paperback. The book reads like a video game. Yes, there is violence and death, as to be expected when fighting for survival, but its content is not overly graphic or disturbing. I would say other dystopian novels dip a little deeper into the violence well. As of January 2016, Walters delivered a second and third book in this series. Go get ’em: Rule of Three: Fight for Power and Rule of Three: Will to Survive.



Six Word Memoirs – A New Year with Eighth Graders

Blossom outside of your comfort zone.

We’ve shared a mere week together, and yet I couldn’t be more thrilled to spend the next 175 school days with these extraordinary young people…fresh-from-summer eighth graders who  unanimously–and vocally–lamented their return to school.  School is boring, they jeered. Mmmm.  It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

When we’re going to school, neck deep in as many social crises as homework assignments, we think school stinks.  That changes, of course, when we reach the end of our academic pursuits. Then, it’s work day in and day out. Summer breaks become extinct as T-Rexes. Snow days are a frosty memory.  And BFFs…they scatter across the continent like dandelion seeds lost in the wind. That’s when we realize how school was not only pretty great, but it shaped our future selves.

Right now, as we sail into another jam-packed year, I’ll keep the crystal ball tucked away in my teacher wardrobe. Instead, I’ll focus on treasuring these first few relationship-building weeks.  I hope my students see how much they matter to me–and to one another. I hope we’ll find this classroom a place to let go of fears and courageously step beyond what is comfortable and known. I hope we’ll grow into a thriving community of learners who have each other’s backs, who listen with both ears and hearts, and who choose to notice the goodness, no, the greatness, in every classmate. School is life..and I sure as heck don’t want to ever say I lived–or taught–a boring life.

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So, let the sharing begin today with six-word memoirs/teen...six carefully chosen words that tell a personal story. Here is a sampling of the wisdom, humor, and ingenuity that’s currently taking up residence in room A6.  Nothing boring about these young writers!

Can we just use more words? – Jack

Live your life. No one else’s. – Tyler

I write to escape my reality. – Prenya

The stars will be my guide. – Kaitlyn

Don’t be ordinary. Be extraordinary. – Ann Marie

Always believe in what you do. – Matt

One deed will take you far. – Jacob

Open the doors to your life. – Naeem

My dog is smarter than me. – Michaela

Dancing makes me feel more alive – Kylie

Better looking version of my brother. – Makai

If I’m weird, you’re too normal – Ashley

You will remember me working hard. – Sean

Life isn’t fair, but it’s okay. – Destiny

I’m Gucci down to my socks. – Nick

Don’t be a pretzel. It’s twisted. – Lauren

Hiding behind a book, just watching. – Maddie

Tennis and robotics are my life. – Siddhant

Take it slow; don’t grow up. – Aidan

I dance to tell my story. – Daniella

Our world is changing. What’s next? – Pranav

I am not a morning person. – Malak

Watch me. I make mistakes too. – Kasie



World Refugee Day is Today, June 20, 2016.

World Refugee Day is today, Monday, June 20, 2016. According to the most recent figures from the United Nations, there are more than 65 million refugees in the world. That means that  one of every 113 people on Earth has been forcibly displaced from his or her  homeland. If they were a country,  these 65 million refugees would represent the   21st largest country in the world. Sadly, this is  the largest number of refugees since World War II.

The UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR reports that more than half (51%) of the world’s refugees are children, the largest number in 10 years. Where are the world’s refugees fleeing from? The majority of refugees come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.  One in five displaced persons is from Syria.  Astoundingly, 86% of refugees are  hosted by developing countries, not the world’s leading economies.

It’s easy to ignore the  day-to-day horrors that refugees face when we’re   cocooned in the comfort of our American dream homes.   To better understand the  world in which they’re called to be global citizens, my sixth graders researched four different social issue topics and developed Public Service Announcements for each. Today seems like the right time  to  share a few of those videos with you. Perhaps you’ll be  called to support a nonprofit one of my students identified. At the very least, we hope you’ll want to know more about the refugee crisis that covers the globe. We must ask ourselves, “What can we do?” Then, we must go about doing it. For more info, click here.

Pravallika & Rachel –  Refugee Crisis PSA 

Alexa & Kayce – Refugee Crisis PSA 

Sydney & Nethra – Refugee Crisis PSA

Owen & Eric – Life in a Refugee Camp PSA


Make a Connection – Shrink the World


There are 7.4 billion people in the world, and you only know a handful of them. It’s time to do a little globetrotting and meet some of your student peers around the world. Today, your mission is to leave a quality comment on at least one of these blogs. You choose the destination, but your challenge is to ignite a two-way conversation. Be sure to leave the best comment you can. Read the other student blogger’s All About Me page–or a post that rivets your attention. Deliver complimentary comments. Notice the student’s efforts and creativity. Do you have something in common? Make the connection. Invite the student you visited to come see your blog. Then, ensure they can find you by leaving your blog’s URL. Always end with a question so they want to head your way and continue the conversation. Let’s get started with our commenting crusade!

Stop One: California

The One and Only Ruby (Ruby is in my friend Mr. Jewell’s class, and her blog looks amazing.)

Stop Two: Australia

Jack’s Black Board  (Take special notice of Jack’s post on why there should be more P.E. classes. I’m guessing many of you would agree!)

Liam’s Legit Blog (Like many of us, Liam only has a few blog posts, but you’ll notice how he used bold visuals to capture your attention. Sports fans will enjoy a trip to Liam’s Legit Blog.)

Stop Three: New Zealand

Caro’s Creative Creations (This colorful blog is bubbling over with blogposts. If you’re a high-volume blogger, you’ve found a friend in Caro!)

Stop Four: Spain

Candelia’s Blog  (If you like to answer quirky questions, like “If you were stuck on a desert with only your clothes, how would you entertain yourself?”, this is the stop for you.)

Stop Five: Canada

HankOnline (Hank–not his real name–likes acting, drumming, rock-n-roll, and spy movies. He sound like a pretty hip French Canadian to me!)

Final Stop: Scotland

Baeleigh’s Blog (Explore all of the pages she’s created…recipes, quizzes, photos, and more. Maybe she’ll inspire your own blog additions!)

Weekends were made for blogging.

With all the free time you have this weekend, check out these fun image makers. How might you use of of these tools on your blog? Show me. No, show the world!

  1. Image Generators such as
  2. Comic Generators like,  ToonDoo
  3. Photo Editors like Befunkyfd’s Flickr Tools
  4. Tag Cloud Creators such as Wordle



Virginia Born and Bred

     While I haven’t lived in Virginia all of my life, the Old Dominion is where I’ve spent most of my life. Raised in Yorktown, Virginia, where the Revolutionary War was won, I’ve traveled all over this great state, but still have more to explore: waterfalls to stand in awe of, mountainous overlooks to hike, winding country roads to traverse, lazy rivers to float, local eateries to share a meal, and friendly folks to meet all along the way.

     Our state tourism board has it right: Virginia is for lovers…of the outdoors, history, adventure, sports, music and craft festivals, pastoral rural landscapes and bustling city centers. Plus, we enjoy the beauty of all four seasons!

     Earlier today, my husband asked me where I see myself in 10 or 15 years. Only one place…Virginia!  I love teaching middle school students on the weekdays and taking my Jeep out for a spontaneous “just because” backroads tour on weekends. Today, I’m sharing an Animoto video I created with a few Virginia highlights. Okay, my favorite sixth graders, I challenge you to add an Animoto video to YOUR blog! :)



Our Student Blogs are Open for Visitors…Come On Over!

After giving another blogging platform a go earlier in the year, I’m back to Edublogs. I love Edublogs, and the autonomy that it provides my students delivers a learning experience unparalleled by other blogging formats. So, I’ve reunited with my one love–and set up  blogs for over 70 students  who are eager  to connect with  their peers around the globe. We just started our last quarter of the school year, but when it comes to blogging, my students are pumped up and ready for action.

I’ve asked my students to post a link to their blogs below. If you stop by for a visit, please stay long enough to visit a blog or two and leave a comment. In addition, you’ll find links to their blogs in the right sidebar. For most of my students, you’ll be the first comment they ever receive. Thanks so much for leaving a note of encouragement for any one of my amazing students.

Haiku for Poetry Month

Girl On Old Boat In Vietnam

Trey Ratcliff via Compfight

Summer beckons me

warm breezes, cold water

toes in the Atlantic sea

We wrote haiku poems in class today, and I have to share out a few from the nearly 100 that blaze a colorful patchwork of sticky notes across my bulletin board.

The swishing b-ball

The squeaking of people’s shoes

The cold, hard defense



The trees danced softly

together in the crisp breeze

laughing happily


A fish ate my shoe

then he swam off feeling blue

now I am shoeless


Skateboards, pennyboards

flip tricks and pure speed cruising

skulls and red and blue




Waves dance across the 

blue floor like ballerinas

in the Nutcracker.



Stretch into the splits

air whirling past as I turn

curtsy gracefully



Haikus are trouble

You must count on your fingers

Now my fingers hurt



The willow tree sways

with deep grace and sadness

the makes me love life.



Clouds form in odd shapes

Cats, dogs, hamsters, a bright face

What is up above?



Those furry felines

Twirling tumbling, and playing

They never stop meowing.



The crack of the bat

The smell of grass, sweat, and dirt

The cheers from the crowd.



Sand scatters the beach

Waves crash on the sandy shore

Blue water shimmers



Always Write Never Poems Inspired by Shel Silverstein

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     It’s National Poetry Month, which means my students and I are writing poetry together in class. This past week, we wrote Never poems, inspired by Shel Silverstein’s uproarious poem of the same name. We also sketched out concrete poems.

     This coming week, I’m excited to take full advantage of a middle school poetry packet I found on and purchased on (I love this site!) I think we’ll write haiku, Diamante, and found or blackout poems this week.

     What are you doing in your classroom for National Poetry Month? If you’re willing to share your ideas, leave me a link to your website or blog! There are countless teacher resources, including a Dear Poet letter-writing campaign on  Looks like a fabulous way to engage our students. Check that out here.

     Now, it’s time to celebrate National Poetry Month with a student’s poem. Here’s Rachel’s rendition of Never.


Inspired by Shel Silverstein

By: Rachel P.

I have never escaped a prison cell

Or killed a fly with a gun

I have never thrown a hotel phone

Or reached out far and touched the sun

I have never held a three headed frog

Or worked for a captain as a cook

I have never ridden on a pig

Or cut up an award winning book

I have never held the hand of a mermaid

Or cried tears made of cherry candy

I have never sang to a monkey in a tutu

Or met a spider who says I’ll come in handy

I have never lived a real life version

of a book called Green Eggs and Ham

Or bought a plastic flower vase

filled entirely with jam

I haven’t done most of the things

that I dream to do

But maybe this year I’ll try one . . . or two

Advantage Alexander: Kwame Scores Another Power Shot with BOOKED

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     Through his two best-selling verse novels, The Crossover and Booked, author Kwame Alexander is telling us something very important: Kids connect with poetry.

     As a teacher, I find that my students, with round-the-clock schedules rivaling our President’s and hypnotizing little black hole screens, aren’t reading much outside of the classroom. I’m working overtime to change that, but it all boils down to the book. Does it hook my student? Is it “cantputdownable”? Could it potentially cause Mom or Dad to holler about reading past your bedtime? Will my student open the book to sneak a few sentences when there’s think time in the classroom? For The Crossover and Booked, the answers will always be “yes”.

     Over the past two years, I’ve found myself recommending verse novels to all my students–regardless of their reading ability. From kids who just can’t seem to finish a straight-up prose novel to those reading a book a day, verse novels deliver universal appeal. Kwame Alexander gets it. My middle grade students crave the heavier subject matter. Even in sixth grade, they’re already deep thinkers. They just don’t want to start a book that’ll take them 2-3 weeks to finish. In come verse novels, the year-round champions of my classroom bookshelf. The topics are thought-provokingly real. The characters are multi-racial, multi-dimensional kids dealing with the same junk that’s cluttering up the mind of any 12-year-old: fitting in and standing out, school struggles and successes, romance, self esteem, bullying, friendships, and tough family issues like chronic illnesses or divorce. Despite weighty topics, the pages of a verse novel b  r  e  a  t  h  e  with white space. In Alexander’s case, the black words artfully placed on the vanilla page pulse with the rhythm of humanity.  The laughter and tears his stories generate are 100% authentic. Did I fall in love with Booked? Definitely–just like The Crossover!  Yes, I have a book crush on literary fraternal twins. :)

     What’s all the fuss about Booked? Nick, a middle school, travel team soccer standout, has a linguistic anthropologist for a father. Big plays are Nick’s forte, but his professorial pop is obsessed with big words. In fact, he insists that Nick read a dictionary (his Dad’s) every day before he does anything else. That anything else includes soccer or hanging out with his best mate and fellow soccer phenom, Colby. Nick’s daydreaming about the girl of his dreams and an invitation-only soccer tourney in Dallas, but trouble is brewing in paradise. Bullies are on his back, and Mom and Dad’s perfect marriage isn’t storybook after all. Life is messy, and Nick’s is no exception. What is exceptional about this verse novel is that Alexander’s meticulously crafted words magnetize us. I was hooked on Booked from page one. Twenty-four hours later, I ordered another copy for my classroom bookshelf. I know exactly which book I’ll be promoting on Book Talk Tuesday. I plan to have a drawing to see which two lucky students will be the first to read Booked!

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                       I found an NPR interview with Kwame Alexander that I have to share. “How to Get Kids Hooked on Books? Use Poetry!” Check out the transcript by clicking here. Or, simply listen to the audio here!


The Nest by Kenneth Oppel: Worth Buzzing About!


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Springtime is wasp time. I don’t know about your house, but a day doesn’t go by that my kids aren’t hollering, “Mom, there’s a wasp in the house.” Thanks to Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest, I have an entirely new, somewhat menacing, perspective on  these ubiquitous flying insects. My GoodReads review on this  phenomenally engaging book follows.

The obsessive compulsive handwashing has started up again. Steve’s baby brother has arrived, and something’s just not right. While his parents aren’t elaborating on the baby boy’s heart trouble, Steve knows one thing for certain: his once-attentive parents are exhausted from sleepless nights and countless hospital visits. Hushed voices whisper behind closed doors, and Steve feels his normal existence crumbling apart.

After allergic-to-everything Steve is stung by a wasp, the dreams of a black-eyed angel begin. The gossamer-winged creature promises to “fix” everything, and normally nervous Steve is mesmerized by the angel’s rhythmic voice. Every night, the angel appears, at first soothing Steve’s fears. Then, fueling them by feeding into the young boy’s deepest fears. What if the angels could replace Steve’s critically ill baby brother with a perfect model? One little three-letter word is all it takes to unleash a horrific chain of events: y-e-s.

Even though Steve realizes it isn’t an angel that visits his dreams, but rather a wasp queen, he gives into the temptation. Soon, a wasp nest is abuzz outside of his bedroom window. It isn’t long before Steve begins to see a baby forming inside the nest. When the wasps are done, all Steve must do is open his window and let the angels replace his damaged brother (who Oppel brilliantly leaves nameless for most of the book) with a flawless copy, carefully crafted by thousands of yellow-striped workers.

I couldn’t put this thriller of a little book down. The Nest stings the soul. It got me thinking about the potential repercussions and moral tightrope of genetic engineering. In fact, months later, The Nest is still buzzing around my brain. Toss in a little sister whose plastic toy phone receives incoming calls, and a knife sharpening salesman that shows up at only one house on the street: Steve’s, and you’ve got mega middle school creepiness. I so loved this book that I put two hardcovers in my classroom library. After I showed the publisher’s book trailer to my class, a swarm of students raided both my class library and the school library (We need more copies both places!).

The best endorsement: Owen, one of my first student readers, said he couldn’t put down the book. In fact, for the first time ever, his mom actually yelled at him to stop reading and go to sleep. For any author, there’s no greater compliment than a 12-year-old boy who willingly gets scolded just to keep turning pages. :)  Fly out and pick up a copy!