Summer Reading Recommendation: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

photo by Amazon

If you devoured the twisted ending of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, then you’ve got to read Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. This YA book is a standout because it confronts teen mental illness head-on and without apology. On the exterior, the protagonist, Samantha McAllister, has it all–a reserved seat at the lunch table with the Crazy Eights, her high school’s most popular girls, a slew of potential hunky hookups, a promising collegiate swimming career, and a potentially explosive secret she doesn’t dare share outside of her family–or her weekly counseling session. Samantha has Purely-Obsessional OCD; her overactive mind whirs nonstop with poisonous thoughts.

     Thankfully, serendipity intervenes, and Sam meets Caroline, a devil-may-care outsider who knows exactly what the popular girl most longs for–real connections. Caroline leads Sam to the underground Poet’s Corner, a secret meeting spot for a group of outsiders bound together by their passion for poetry. Sam struggles mightily to find her balance: Can she join the poetry crowd and still maintain her Crazy Eights public facade? Will AJ, the shy, guitar-playing poet, ever be able to accept Sam into his world?

     I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. I especially applaud Stone for her determination to shed light on a subject that we all need to be talking about–and doing so in an authentic, carefully crafted manner that’s both respectful and thoroughly entertaining. I recommend Every Last Word to mature readers who are at least in the eighth grade. High school and adult readers, too, will find this book is an engaging, thoughtful read that’s generously seasoned with mystery, suspense, romance, and heartbreak. Topics covered include mental health, suicide, depression, bullying, poetry as therapy, and first love. In case it matters, there’s one sex scene similar to Hazel and Gus’s in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

Watch for more book recommendations shortly. I’ve been reading like crazy. I simply need to spend the time to write the reviews! 🙂

Keep on reading!

Mrs. Rombach


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

photo credit:

     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

photo credit:

photo credit:


     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!

photo credit:

                       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!


Poetry Emotion – Teachers Write 7/13/15 (I’m late!)

Teachers Write!


Author Liz Garton Scanlon photocredit:


photo credit:

photo credit:










Last night, I joined my daughter and one of her best friends for the sold-out Taylor Swift concert at Nationals Park Stadium in DC. Loved every minute of this 25-year-old’s extraordinary performance.

Now, I’m sitting down (ever so briefly) to post the poem I struggled to complete for Monday’s mini-lesson from Teachers Write! guest author Liz Garton Scanlon. Liz is the author of picture books like All the World and Noodle and Lou as well as a brand new middle grade novel, The Great Good Summer.  Here’s the assignment:

1. Commit to writing a 12-line rhyming poem or story.

2. Use either 6 couplets (aa/bb/cc/etc) or 3 quatrains (abab/cdcd/efef)

3. After you’ve written the first 2-4 lines, count the syllables. Even them out as necessary and then stick with that count as you finish the piece.

4. Read it over. Does it make sense? Did rhyme force you to do anything you didn’t want to do? Adjust as necessary.

5. Wrap it up. Read it aloud. Read it aloud again. You hear that? You did that!

Here’s my result, which, despite being less than thrilled about, makes me realize how important it is to exercise my writing muscles. 🙂 I wrote this after getting some cruddy news that sent my stress level through the roof. Rhyming is challenging! Still, I need to work all of my writing muscles, not just the stronger ones. 🙂 I’ll take the next Teachers Write! challenges one word, one line, one story at a time–and be okay with it taking me a little longer than I’d like. This isn’t a race, it’s a self-focused, self-paced education and exploration–for the writer in me. 🙂


The phone calls come in a hurry.

Breathe deeply. Quell the firing nerves.

Questions explode in a flurry.

Situation no one deserves.


Nubby nails, haphazardly chewed

Chattering heart, wildly racing

Squash this madness,; answers elude

Frustratation soars, mindless pacing


Dozens of phone calls required

Monotone voices do not hear

My fear from all that’s transpired

Listen! Did I make myself clear?




Pearls of Writing Wisdom – Teachers Write! Day #3

Teachers Write!


I am determined to catch up with the Teachers Write! author-generated writing prompts. Yesterday’s challenge came from guest author Melanie Crowder whose debut novel, Parched was one of Bank Street’s Best Books of the Year and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second book, Audacity, has received three starred reviews and is an Editor’s Choice at BookBrowse and a Top Pick from BookPage. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to find inspiration from a published author. 

The assignment:

Pick one character, and one image connected with that character. Either as you rewrite an existing scene, or as you draft a new one, bring that image with you. Use it when you describe your character or when it’s time for a metaphor to reveal your character’s emotion, and hey—if all else fails, throw that object into the scene with them and see what happens.

To get started, if you haven’t already, draw up some sketches for a few of the characters in your story. I don’t mean actual drawings; brief descriptions will do. (What they look like, their hobbies, their habits, their flaws, their nervous tells.

PearlsCreative Commons License Milica Sekulic via Compfight

Transparent Pearl

Eyes float over my existence

First impressions are impressionless

Despite the bronze badge that states otherwise

I am nameless, faceless, useless — to you

Clattering dishes litter my slow-moving cart

A uniformed, puckered, splotched obstacle in your path

Arthritic knees scream in silent protest

You refuse to meet my grey-blue eyes

Judging my sweat-tinged, curling silver hair

Viewing my pained shuffle as an inconvenience

My sturdy brown Rockports as fashionless

How dare you

I am as priceless as the heirloom pearls

 regally encircling my aging neck

A peacock-proud mother of five grown men

A recent widow of a 47-year love affair

A lifelong churchgoer who knits baby blankets

for infants like the one in your protective arms.

I am an unbreakable string of indelible life experiences

perfectly, delicately, lovingly woven together.


Before I wrote the poem, here’s what I jotted down as my list of potential character details (based on my previous night’s observations at Panera). Obviously, I didn’t use them all. I’ve spent about 45 minutes on this poem, which is all I have today because there’s another writing prompt to conquer. I hope that if you’re reading this, you’re enjoying this writing camp as much as I am! If you’re a middle-school English teacher, let’s connect!

  • middle-aged women, in her early sixties, about five foot two if she didn’t slouch a little
  • works at local chain bakery, cleans up after customers
  • wears cornflower blue short-sleeved golf shirt with bronze name badge on her left chest
  • khaki pants, a little baggy around the waste and bottom
  • brown leather shoes, probably Rockport or another walking-friendly variety
  • short, gray wavy hair that curls up around the edges of the matching cornflower blue visor
  • gray-blue eyes looking downward as she performs her duties
  • simple but class pearl necklace around her neck; single pearl stud earrings
  • more shuffling than walking, seems to be lost in thought
  • no eye contact with any customer; works silently as customers unload their dishes and trash into the marked bins
  • hobby – knitting silently while watching Steve Harvey’s talk show
  • habit – rubbing pearls between thumb and index finger when lost in thoughts, also dipping her right to an unknown beat–a tick she picked up from her mother

The Unseen Sounds of Morning on the Porch


Except to approve comments on student blogs, I haven’t touched my blog since school ended on June 16th. It’s time to reconnect. Today, I’m publishing a poem I penned while sitting out on my newly cleaned screened porch. Ramya, one of my former students, is regularly writing poetry, which I often see in  my Edublogs Reader. Reading all of her poetry inspired me. So, here is my first poem of summer. I’ve also been reading like a madwoman, so I’ll post reviews shortly! To all of my former sixth graders, I hope you’re enjoying every second of this summer! 🙂 

photo credit:

photo credit:

I sit on the porch

facing a sky-high wall of greenery 

shimmering in the early morning sun

some branches so close

they reach out




touching the wire screen that divides us

an orchestra of feathered voices  communicates

in the inimitable rhythm of creation

the absolute stillness of the green towers

belies the true nature of this




invisible creatures, perched high within this verdant canopy

warble, trill, whistle, and twitter

robotic beeps and chirps create a sci-fi soundtrack

a hidden woodpecker knocks its jelly-packed brain

against a dying tree

tap. tap tap. tap. tap tap. tap. tap. tap.

the baritone beat sends a  morse code message

I listen to these ceaseless conversations


sipping coffee

absorbing the unidentifiable voices

a plane rumbles overhead

its engine temporarily deafening the concealed crooners.

once the roar fades, the forest’s songs resuscitate

I sit listening again to the unseen sounds

of a summer morning




— Martha Seals Rombach



Happy 451st Birthday, William Shakespeare!

According to historians, the Bard of Avon, the mastermind behind Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, was born 451 years ago today. In honor of Mr. Shakespeare’s birth, I’ve shared Sonnet 18, undoubtedly among the most famous of his 154 sonnets, Best of all, Mr. Rombach and I worked together to pen our own Shakespearean sonnet. On Friday, after you finish the first of three standardized tests (ugh), I invite you to investigate the man who, according to The European Graduate School, “altered the course of European and World literature.” 

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare 

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 155 by Mr. and Mrs. Rombach (with a little help from the Bard)

Shall I compare thee to a schoolhouse day?
Thou art more lively and more literate:
Loud bells chime to get classes underway,
Mere weeks remain ’til bathing suits must fit:

Sometimes too heavy the sharp pencil weighs,
Multiple choice brings on multiple pains,
The tests they stretch on for too many days
Our brains and our hands, every part complains;

But thy elusive summer shall not fade
Sandy beaches beckon, calling our name
Bags bulge at the zippers, travel plans made,
Come June 16th, our freedom we shall claim

So long, Eagle Ridge, our work here is done
Fare thee well, sixth grade, we’re off to have fun.


Eager to try your hand at creating a Shakespearean sonnet? Click here for step-by-step instructions.

My apologies to Shakespeare enthusiasts. My dear husband informed me that my original source for Shakespeare’s birth was dead wrong. In 2015, the Bard would be 451 (not 399 as previously posted). 

Quote by William Shakespeare




Mondays are Fun Days!

It’s Monday, and that means I’m not in class with you today. Please be shining stars for my substitute. So, what are you doing today? Let’s take a look:

(1) Vocabuary

You’re adding Week 20 vocabulary words to your spiral notebook. For each word, draw a picture that will help you remember the word’s meaning.



(2) Poetry

First, let’s read aloud Margaret Walker’s poem, Lineage.

Next, you’ll highlight words and phrases that are rich with imagery.

After that, annotate alongside your highlighted sections, jotting down connections, questions, or observations. Remember, imagery is a writer’s use of sensory words and descriptive details to paint a mental picture for the reader.

Subsequently, you’ll brainstorm content for your own poem about an adult who is special to you (parent, relative, teacher,  or coach).

Finally, you’ll write your own free-verse poem. You know we’ll be posting these on our blogs later this week! 🙂

Note: I’ll give a ticket to anyone who leaves a comment here on Monday to tell me which type of text structure I just used to tell you about our poetry workshop.

(3) Independent Reading

Catch up on your book club reading, if needed. If you’re where you need to be for tomorrow’s book clubs, read your own book. After reading, turn and talk to your table partner about what’s currently happening in your books. Ask each other about the changes you’re seeing in the main character’s thoughts and actions.

(4) Comma Rules or Text Structures Review

If you’re in Blocks 2/5 or 4/8, you’ll complete the two-sided comma rules review. If you’re in Block 3/6, you’ll review Text Structures in preparation for tomorrow’s test.

(5) Extra Time is Poetry Time

Here are a few poetry readings I’d like to share with you:


Five-Minute PHOTO Friday!

Happy Last Day of the Quarter!

I’m pleased to present Five-Minute Photo Friday. Here are four photos to light your creative fires. What story could you tell with one of these pictures? Is there a poem, a slice of life narrative, or perhaps a journal entry bubbling inside of you? If not, that’s okay. Just write. Whether you’re silly or serious or somewhere smack in the middle, the most important thing I want you to accomplish today is to keep your fingers moving across the keyboard for a full five minutes.

Giving Credit…Where Credit is Due.

Before you begin, notice that all of my photos give credit (AKA attribution) to their creators. As I’m learning more about following copyright laws for sharing photos and videos, it’s important that I make clear that just because you find an image on Google, doesn’t mean it’s free to use. Writers, photographers, and videographers make a living selling their copyrighted work. It’s essential that we only use photographs that have been approved for use by the person behind the camera. Your best bet for embedding photos on your blog is with the Compfight widget we’ve already installed. However, you know my One Little Word this year is CHOICES--so I’m offering a few more photo resources that I’ve found through the Student Blogging Challenge.

First, say hello to Getty Images, which gives you access to over 50 million photos — including Hollywood celebrities and pro athletes! (Place pointer over an image and click the </> icon.) Getty also sells photos for commercial use (for big $) so only use the link provided. Next is MorgueFile, which serves up a lively body of free photos. 🙂 As always, give credit where credit is due–even if the photo is free to use.

It’s time to tap, tap, tap on the keyboard. Before or after you write, add the photo you used to your blog! 🙂 I can’t wait to read what you’ve written. — Mrs. Rombach

P.S. – Wow! A gaggle of global visitors responded to our country questions.

Click here to read their comments.

Then, visit their blogs to answer the questions they left for us.

Remember to leave your blog URL in every comment!


credit: By: seenicks/MorgueFiles

credit: By: seenicks/MorgueFiles


credit: By JoeysPhotos from

Avatars -Create Your Blog Alter Ego

If you haven’t already done so, today is the perfect time to avatar yourself. Check out these options:

1. Build Your Wild Self – If you adore unique animals.

2. Hero Factory – If superhero powers are calling your name.

3. The Mini-Mizer – If you’d like to be a Lego brickhead.

4. Picasso Head – If abstract art speaks to you.

5. Dude Factory – If you’re too cool for school.

6. DoppelMe – If you’ve always wanted a mini me.

7. BitStrips – If your life is like a comic strip.

8. MyBlueRobot – If you like Mrs. Rombach’s avatar below.

9. Mii – If Wii is your gaming platform, grab a Mii avatar. (Save this for another day; I can’t figure out how to download or embed this yet.)

10. Cuteki – If a bubble-face cutie-pie is you.

Create your own avatar at

Create your own avatar at