I am a WINNER!


Have you heard of ARC books?  ARC stands for Advance Reader’s Copy.  I have always wanted to be one of the lucky ones to receive ARC books but finding out how to get your name on the right list can be difficult.  Before today I only had one ARC book on my shelf…this copy of Saving Mr. Terupt (that I got at the local YMCA).

Today my luck has changed!

Today I got an ARC of Christmas Puzzles Minkie Monster Saves Christmas.


The author graciously sent me an ecopy of this text (the 4th in her series) along with links to two other Minkie Monster texts: Minkie Monster and the Birthday Surprise and Under the Sea Puzzles:  Minkie the Monster and the Lost Treasure.

Now, ARC’s do come with strings attached.  You must promise to read the text and provide an honest review on Amazon and any other social media outlet you may belong.  Here is my review for Christmas Puzzles:

When Minkie Monster goes to the North Pole to meet Santa he finds a note that says, “Sometimes we all need some time alone I might even…turn off my phone!!!”  

With the help of a young reader Minkie fills in for Santa and saves Christmas for everyone!  Puzzles in this book become increasingly harder and include tracing, coloring, and dot-to-dot.

The author cleverly provides a link in the book so the text may be downloaded and the puzzles may be completed again and again by your favorite little reader.

Want a sneak peek of the Minkie?  Visit the author’s website MinkieMonster.com to get a free children’s e-book.  Disclosure:  I received a free ecopy of this text from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.

Want to get your own ARC?  Here’s how I did it:


Go to: https://www.librarything.com/er/list

To request books: Click “Request it!” next to the books you’re interested in reviewing. At the end of the giveaway period, you will receive a comment on your profile page letting you know whether you’ve won a book or not.

Questions? Try the Help page or the rules

Each month a new batch of books is available for you to volunteer to review.

Here is another way to get FREE books:


Go to: https://www.librarything.com/er/list?program=giveaway

To get books: Click “Request it!” next to the books you’re interested in. At the end of the indicated giveaway period, winners will be randomly selected. You will receive a comment on your profile page letting you know whether you’ve won a book or not. The flag icons indicate which countries the book can be shipped to. Authors may request that you review the book, so look for “Recipient is asked to provide a review in exchange for this book.” at the top of the book description.

To give away books: Instructions on how to give away your books are here.

Questions? Try the Help page or the rules.

Good luck in getting your requests fulfilled!

If you know of another way to get ARC books let me know!


Where Has The Summer Gone?

IMG_0652When I last blogged I was packing my bags for a week in Florida.  I was able to spend time with my family and finally conquer my fear of the TOWER OF TERROR!  I hadn’t been on this ride since it was changed from one drop to multiple drops way back in 1996.  That is me in wearing the black shirt in the front row.  I learned that my 20 year fear of this ride was unwarranted and it just held me back from some good times.  Isn’t that usually the lesson we learn when we finally get the nerve to conquer our fears?

So here is how the reading went on this trip:


This book continues to be the buzz on Twitter and other literacy blogs and it continues to get glowing reviews.  There are many parts of the book that are great…and then there are two parts that make me hesitate recommending this book to elementary children.

The first chapter of this book is amazing.  It is fast paced and funny.  I LOVED the explanation of the six types of teachers in the world.  The story moves quickly into the boys quest to give their beloved teacher the good-bye party she deserves.  Here are the two things about this book that I wish I would have known before I read it:

  • On p. 107 Brand tells of the mascot his family made up for April Fool’s Day: “The April Fool’s Jackass, a magical donkey who would sneak through your windows on March 31st and dump a basket of goodies in your bed.”  The word Jackass is then sprinkled through the next couple of pages.  Funny?  Yes.  Appropriate?  I don’t think so.
  • On p. 157 the tooth fairy is not written upon in a positive way to children: “Adults are always telling you you can be whatever you want when you grow up, but they don’t mean it.  They don’t believe it.  They just want you to believe it.  It’s like a fairy tale.  Like the tooth fairy…”  I will let you read the rest on your own.   I personally believe in the magic of the tooth fairy and would not want children who are not ready to read on.

I am surprise that other educators have not mentioned these two events in their reviews. Am I being too cautious?  Let me know your thoughts.


While Ms. Bixby’s Last Day was fast paced….Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children was S. L. O. W!  I had the audio version of this book and even listening to it on 2x speed didn’t even help.  The main character doesn’t arrive to Miss Peregrine’s house until halfway through the book.  This is Mystery and then Fantasy book complete with time travel.  While it wasn’t my cup of tea I am sure there are plenty of readers out there who cannot wait to see the movie coming out on September 30th.


If you can only buy one Donalyn Miller book, this is the one you should choose!  Why I like this book better than her first book, The Book Whisperer, is because more research is sprinkled throughout the text to support her teaching decisions.  I loved so many of the ideas mentioned such as having book doors, students planning of future reading, and To Be Read lists just to name a few.  I will be looking to get a paper copy of this text soon!


I was able to get my unplayed podcast down to 0 and discover a new Podcast called Found.  In Found they share letters that have been found lying around and try to track down the original authors…sometimes 20 years later!  So fun.  Oh, and today I just subscribed to a few more Podcast after seeing this post.


So, that leaves one text that I packed that I did not get to!  Ah…The Armor of God remains on my To Be Read list.

How is your summer reading going?

Packing My Bags…Again!

For my second trip of the summer I am packing light…just two paper copy of texts:


I CANNOT WAIT to read is Ms. Bixby’s Last Day.  It came in the mail on Monday and I have been saving it for my trip.  What I know about this text is that 3 boys tell the story of their teacher getting very sick and the party they will stop at nothing to have her experience.


The second paper text I am taking is my new Bible Study books The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer.  Many ladies at my church have already started working through this book so I have some catching up to do!

I have two LONG audiobooks to listen to:


I was on a waiting list at my local library for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for  3 months before I finally got this text!  I believe it is so popular because the movie is coming out very soon.  The book hasn’t grabbed me in yet and I am on chapter 5 (of 11) but I am still holding out hope!


In the middle of July I will be at a conference where Donalyn Miller will be speaking.  Reading in the Wild is the second book she has published.  I am interested to hear what new insights she has from her first book which stressed the importance of independent reading.

Finally, I have 10 unplayed podcasts to listen to:

I will write about the texts I finished when I return!  Happy Reading!!!

Phonics and Spelling Worksheets Part 3


The last section of this text describes what research has shown DOES work when it comes to phonics and spelling instruction.  Here is what was suggested:

  • Step ONE:  ASSESS students using a strong diagnostic tool
  • Step TWO:  Create Groups
  • Step THREE:  Maintain a consistent routine
    • Set up:
      • work stations (students move among 4 stations) OR…
      • Daily structured routine (everyone does the same activity with different words)

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!  HA!  What are the recommended activities that support word study?   Here are the activities mentioned in this text:

  • Word Sorts:
    • Open Sort – No headers given (good formative assessment)
    • Closed Sort – Headers and example given (always ask students to explain the sort to you or a classmate)
    • Blind Sort – Students hear the word and try to write it in the correct category
      • allow students to check their spelling
      • add words not previously sorted
    • Speed Sort – students set a personal goal and try to beat it
  • Word Study Notebooks: to record their thinking (Trail of Learning)
  • Poems:  Highlight words that follow pattern
  • Games:  Dominos, Blank Boards, Show Me
  • Anchor Charts Students can add to these as they work and find others words that fit
  • Word Wall (color code words by groups)
  • Interactive Writing: At the end of the day one important thing worth remembering is written in a class journal
  • Independent Writing: students need to write on their own EVERY day…students need to be accountable for applying what they have learned.

This book is a first step in changing one’s practice away from the traditional Monday to Friday spelling routine.  It does a good job of convincing the reader of WHY this practice should be changed.  HOW to change one’s practice (the hard part) is only lightly touched upon in this text though.  I like that the authors acknowledge the challenge in shifting to a Word Study approach and suggest teachers embrace the challenge and take things slowly.  I will end with a quote from the beginning of the section:

How do you as a teacher use this research regarding effective phonics and spelling instruction?  You’ll change and grow as I did, one step at a time.  Set a goal.  Try one or two of the practices outlined in this section.  When you feel ready, try some more.  Take time to study, think, and experiment (p. 53).

Phonics and Spelling Worksheets Part 2


Part two in any “Not This, But that” book is all about the research.  In this text there are 40 pages of research that supports NOT doing weekly whole class list or phonics worksheets.  In fact, the research proves over and over again that spelling dependent upon memorization does not work.

Here is SOME of the research cited in this chapter:

  • Read (1971) showed that children’s inventive spellings, which were previously thought to be done in random, showed phonetic sensitivity and logic.
  • Beers and Henderson (1977) students’ uncorrected spelling attempts provide a window into their understanding.
  • Henderson (1990) found students acquire specific spelling features in a developmental progression that builds on language concepts related to sound and meaning.
  • Schlagal (2002) found that most classes contain a range of at least 3 developmental spelling levels.
  • Morris et al. (1995) found that whole-group spelling instruction was particularly ineffective for the bottom third of the class, while students who were provided differentiated spelling did better not only on posttests but also on unstudied words.
  • Jean Chall (1983) found that about the 4th grade, words in children’s textbooks change from mostly familiar to more unfamiliar and abstract content-specific or academic meanings that exceed their oral vocabulary knowledge.

The research shows that students’ phonics and spelling knowledge follows a predictable developmental continuum and the authors argue that to teach these topics well teachers must identify where students are and then give them instruction that moves them to the next level of achievement.  Interestingly the book stated that qualitative spelling inventories are similar and listed a variety of assessments for teachers to choose from.

What we need to know about spelling development:

  • Students’ spelling confusions relate to the elements of sound, pattern, and meaning. p. 21
  • Tiers of Orthographic Word Knowledge:
    1. The Alphabetic/Sound Tier p. 22
    2. The Pattern Tier p. 25
    3. The Meaning Tier p. 26
  • It is estimated that as few as 4% of English words are truly irregular. p. 30
  • Linguistic approaches that incorporate reflection and discussion on various aspects of language and orthography are not only superior in teaching students to spell specific words, but linguistic approaches also give students the knowledge to spell new words they had not yet studied. p. 32
  • Ask, don’t tell students how words work. p. 34
  • 10 guiding principals for word study:
    1. Look for what students “use but confuse”
    2. A step backward is the first step forward
    3. Use words students can read
    4. Compare words “that do” with words “that don’t”
    5. Sort words by sound, sight, and meaning
    6. Begin with obvious contrast first
    7. Don’t hide exceptions
    8. Avoid teaching with rules
    9. Work for fluency and flexibility
    10. Link word study to reading and writing
  • The golden rule of word study:  Teaching is not telling p. 48

From reading this second section it is clear that the third section of this text will be focused on how to effectively implement Word Study in the classroom.



Phonics and Spelling Worksheets Part 1


This is the last “Not This, But That” unread text that I own and since they are so quick and easy to read, and I have a crazy busy week, I have decided to tackle this text next.

Section 1 is titled “Worksheets/Workbooks:  The Trap of Repetition Without Transfer.”  It is written by Jennifer Palmer who describes her frustrations as a classroom teacher with using basal reader spelling lists, social studies and science words for spelling, and phonics worksheets…LACK OF TRANSFER!

Here are some great quotes from this first section:

  • Looking back, I see one source of my difficulties.  I was following the “factory model” of spelling and decoding, in which students were the recipients of the “knowledge” I was dumping into their heads. p. 3
  • No one can memorize the spelling of every single word in the English language, yet I taught both decoding and spelling as if this were the one true way to learn to read words and spell. p. 4
  • They were factory workers contributing one small widget to a car whose make and model they didn’t know or care about. p. 4
  • Spelling bees, games, and fun phonics activities fail to motivate students to hold onto their learning (or learn in the first place) because they’re experiences decontextualized from real reading and writing. p. 7
  • The factory model confuses compliance with learning.  A student who completes his phonics or spelling worksheet every night is following directions, but not necessarily doing deep-level thinking or demonstrating independence.  p. 7

Tomorrow I will read and reflect on section 2 of this text which shares the research on how to effectively teach phonics and spelling.



Summer-Reading Loss Part 3


The goal of the last section of No More Summer-Reading Loss is to “offer a variety of practices that instill the habits of avid readers in your students – strong habits that can compete with other influences of summer.”

The authors suggest we:

  1. Foster Habits of Independence During the School Year
    • Build independent reading stamina
    • Teach students strategies of what to do at difficulty
    • Share with students what YOU are reading
    • Expose students to a variety of genres
    • Encourage series reading
    • Encourage students to identify personal knowledge goals
    • Allow choice in what students read
    • Provide time to talk about books they have read
    • Explicitly connect for students school practices to summer reading
  2.   Hold a Spring Time Review
    • Review what has been read in class
    • Help students identify interests
    • Help students find partners with similar interests
    • Help students set summer reading goals
  3. Put Books in Students’ Hands
    • Ask PTA for funds
    • Host a book fair and take advantage of book deals
    • Ask businesses for support (Book drives)
    • Ask professional organizations for support (grant writing)
      • One very interesting project discussed in this chapter was a grant funded program called “You Got Mail.”  It began with a launch party to explain to parents the project and get everyone excited.  Then in July and August students got packages with 3 books in them.  The books were chosen based on student interests.  Handwritten notes and a small journals were placed in the packages too.  In the Fall a family celebration was held and time was provided for students to share the books they read over the summer.
    • Partner with your local library
    • Collect Books from Book Depositories
    • Invite guest readers to share and donate favorite books (former students or senior citizens)
    • Ask for help from the web:
    • E-readers can be uploaded with books and sent home for the summer.
    • iPods can be uploaded with audiobooks and sent home (with a paper copy of text)
    • Theme based book bags can be created with a journal inside to record thoughts
    • Hold a “Books for Breakfast” during the summer
  4. Promote Talking About Books
    • Book Sharing – spend the last day partnering students up with students from another class and giving them time to talk about books
    • Student Blogs – Maintain classroom Blog during the summer.  Teachers are the moderators and can ask questions to help propel the discussion
    • Set up ePals
    • Have students follow Blogs:
    • Set up Book Clubs during the school year
    • Give postcards to students to mail back to the school over the summer with thoughts about books
    • Recommendation Notebooks – students write the title, author, genre, highlights, and recommendations and then post them around the school at the beginning of the school year
    • Write to authors

Here is a final quote to remember from this text:

“If, during the school year, students can learn that reading is joyful, that it can be a tool to express and develop their identity and something that they can get better at, then they’ll keep doing it during the summer.” (p. 47)

I like the message of this book – a teacher’s goal is to help create and foster INDEPENDENT readers and this is done DURING the school year.  Then once this identity is created our students will begin to soar.  I also like that this book did not say the answer to preventing summer-reading loss is to have teachers work during the summer too!

I felt this text supported decisions we have made at my school but did not give me many new ideas to try.  For the past two years the reading teachers at my school have invited students they served to come visit the reading cabin during one of the lasts days of school.  On this day the cabin is piled with beautiful new books.  We separate the books into genres and lay them out in different sections (nonfiction, easy fiction, and chapter books).  We then walk students throughout the cabin and give short little book talks.  Students are allowed to pick and keep 2-4 books our only condition is that they have to really want to read the books if they pick them.  It was nice to see this practice was supported in this text.  In the future I would love to add a postcard component to this practice.

I am going to end with a quote from Albert Einstein that was put at the beginning of this last section: “Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.” Let’s be geniuses in PREVENTING summer-reading loss!