Tag Archives: middle school

(Unofficial) Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School

8 Aug

back to school

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of “Back to School” and school-themed kids books. Here are a few of my favorite back to school stories to share with your kids! If you have other titles that you can’t live without, share them in the comments!

  1. Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein
  2. Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist
  3. Pete the Cat: Rocking In My School Shoes by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean
  4. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  5. Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
  6. Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
  7. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
  8. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  9. Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
  10. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Book Review: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade

5 Jul

33931230.jpgI’ve enjoyed a number of Jordan Sonnenblick’s books in the past and he even visited our library for an author visit program, so I had high hopes for The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade, but honestly, this wasn’t my favorite story.

Maverick is starting sixth grade and this year he promises to himself that he’ll stand up to those being bullied, he’ll make the school a better place for everyone and he’ll be a hero just like his dad. Unfortunately, things don’t start off on the right foot and Maverick ends up in the Assistant Principal’s office twice and the nurse’s office once – on the first day of school.  And things just sort of fall apart from there. Maverick’s mom can’t hold down a job and when she gets fired, she starts drinking and on top of that she has an extremely poor taste in boyfriends who end up verbally and sometimes physically abusing her.

Although, domestic abuse is definitely something that should be discussed with kids, this book had one glaring issue that I can’t seem to get around. The bully of sixth grade bothers Maverick over and over again and like most bullies there is a lack of control at home which leads him to causing trouble at school. Maverick sees the bully get picked up by his father after detention one day and sees the father hit the boy.  And this is where my issue with the book comes in, nothing is done about this situation. Maverick doesn’t go to tell someone at school or his mom and the story is resolved for Maverick, but nothing is done about the abuse happening in another child’s home.

I would expect that a book that is being handed to middle grade students should express in some way that kids need to tell adults about suspected child abuse – it’s not something that should be kept secret because you really have no idea how long it’s been going on and how severe it is. I really liked the concept of the story – a kid trying to become a hero and stand up against the bully you know is in every school, but I just couldn’t get past this detail.

Twitter Booktalk (140 characters or less): Maverick is going to be a hero in 6th grade – there’s just one problem, he’s already been to the principal’s office twice – on the first day

Title: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Page Number: 193 pgs.

Middle Grade Gets Real – 25 Titles About Tough Topics

3 Mar

Tough Topics.png

There are arguments that kids shouldn’t read about tough topics – topics that include death, adoption/foster care, childhood illness, substance abuse, disability and more. But, how do kids learn about these topics if they don’t see them in their daily life? Or, how to kids feel less alone if they are dealing with these issues at home? Middle grades authors, for the most part, are very careful when dealing with tough topics when writing for their audience. Not, that they sugar coat these issues, but they provide a close look at a tough topic at an age appropriate level.

I love these types of books because it allows kids to really open up, ask questions and discuss topics that are often seen as taboo. But, how are kids supposed to learn? We’ve used at least a few of these titles during our middle school book discussion and the kids are always very insightful and full of questions which they feel comfortable enough to ask. Many students share their own experiences or discuss what they might do if they were in a certain situation. This open communication fills my heart and makes me so happy to hear because I truly believe that books and discussion can truly help educate young people about tough topics and how to react or what they can do when something happens in their own life.

#MGGetsReal is a collaboration of authors reaching out to kids about tough topics. And although the blog doesn’t look like much is happening, Kerry O’Malley Cerra, middle grade author, has an absolutely amazing list of titles on her website about all different types of tough topics.

Take a look at some of these amazing titles below and search for more online or by asking your local librarian. There are many more titles that I could have included and the only reason I didn’t was to make a prettier graphic, so what other titles would you offer for this booklist?

  1. George by Alex Gino
  2. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
  3. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  4. Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  5. Booked by Kwame Alexander
  6. Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  7. Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar
  8. Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
  9. See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles
  10. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley
  11. Ruby On the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin
  12. One for the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt
  13. Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
  14. The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
  15. Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  16. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer & Matthew Holm
  17. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
  18. Lost In the Sun by Lisa Graff
  19. Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin
  20. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
  21. The Girl In the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers
  22. Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
  23. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
  24. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
  25. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Maker Monday: Coding

28 Jun

Our first Maker Monday was a lot of fun!  Our program is geared toward children entering 3rd – 6th grade in the fall.  We only register 20 kids for the program because we only have 10 iPads and with technology and science programs, less is more.  I’m always a little anxious before starting these types of programs because I honestly don’t know a lot about these topics and fewer kids means we can focus on individual attention as some will need more help than others when trying something brand new, we’re also lucky enough to have 10 iPads in the library which allows for kids to work in pairs when we use the iPads.

I start some, if not all of my programs with a conversation with the kids.  I want the kids to share with the group what they know about whatever topic we’re working on during the program.  I usually have a few questions to pull information from the kids as needed, but the kids usually need very little prompting to share information.  After we share the information, we dove into our coding for the afternoon.

Our first activity involved a grid of paper lying on the floor, I think I was able to fit a grid of 10 x 8 sheets of paper.  We used a plastic gold coin as our “treasure”  One of the kids volunteered to take directions from the group and I explained that you can move volunteer in four directions – forward, backward, left and right.  (Make sure your volunteer faces the same direction throughout the activity)  Then the kids took turns giving directions.  A few times the kids gave bad directions which help showed what happens when your code is incorrect.  After we tried a few times, I removed a few of the papers which created blocks and made the “programming” more difficult.

After we finished working on our large version of the grid, I gave the kids a piece of graph paper to create their own maze or partner with friends to repeat the exercise above by hand.  I like offering these coding activities that don’t require technology because it helps the kids understand how coding works and what happens when the directions are incorrect.

Finally, the kids paired up to use the iPads and got the chance to spend about 20-30 minutes playing with a few coding apps including Daisy the Dinosaur, Hopscotch and Scratch Jr.  I like offering a few options as the kids are at very different levels in their understanding of coding and their experience in coding as well.  The kids did a great job of working together and sharing the iPads, no one wandered off task and started using other apps and I only had one instance where two boys were giggling and clearly up to no good.  I had them delete the project they were working on and gave them a stern talking to and had no other problems.

Overall, I’m really happy with how the program worked out and the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves.  Our next program is going to be a stop motion animation program which I’m pretty nervous about because it’s not something I’ve done before, but that’s part of the fun too.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/30/16

30 May

23203254I’m so proud of myself this week!  I read all three books that were on my list from last week.  Nothing But Trouble by Jacqueline Davies is a fun story about two girls who couldn’t be more opposite and yet become friends and co-conspirators to increase class spirit in a small town with a school falling down around the sixth grade class.  Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance felt a little too long for me – and I was really excited to read it!  Claudia learns that there exists an entire world behind the canvas of her favorite paintings that she must enter in order to save her new friend, Pim.  I really enjoyed Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson.  Benjamin’s golf-loving father died last month and ever since Benjamin has felt a lump in his throat that he’s convinced is a golf ball.  When he begins hearing his father’s voice he knows what he has to do – scatter his father’s ashes in Augusta at the Master’s Tournament.  Benjamin’s journey as he begins to heal is a touching story that I truly enjoyed.

This week might be interesting as far as reading goes – I have off on Monday and Tuesday and although I’d love to spend both days reading, I’ll most likely be trying to get a lot of things done around the house because I never seem to have enough time during the work week!  My mom is also coming to visit this coming weekend which means I’ll be spending my quality time with her and most likely will have little time to read.  Nevertheless, I have a few books, I’d love to read this week, including:

  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  • The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blackemore
  • Marked by Laura Williams McCaffrey


Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

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