It All Comes Down To This by Karen English

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*Thanks to the @kidlitexchange for a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

It is 1965 in Los Angeles California. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never been good at making friends. Instead, she’s always kept to herself. Ever since her family moved into a new neighborhood, Sophie has had to deal with change. First off, they are the first black family to live in the neighborhood. Her new housekeeper doesn’t seem to like Sophie very much. And even though her neighbor, Jennifer, seems to be a promising friend, others in the neighborhood refuse to accept Sophie. And this is only the beginning.

Wow, this book blew me away. Not at all what I was expecting (even though I do not know what I was expecting). It is the kind of book that wraps around you and will not let you go until you finish. Only to wish it wasn’t done. I picked it up and finished it in one sitting despite its 300+ pages. I appreciated the honest, raw take on family life. No fairy tale, perfect family here! Viewing life through Sophie’s eyes was vivid and real. She will stay with me. Thank you, Karen English! I recommend this book for grades five and up.

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Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel: A Middle- Grade Book Review

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Thank you to the @kidlitexchange for providing a copy for review purposes.

Caleb is a twelve-year-old boy who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Caleb’s mom tends to be a “helicopter mom” hovering over her fragile boy. When Caleb meets Kit, a girl his age, in the forest by his house, Caleb finally has something all to himself. He decides to keep his friendship a secret. But secrets can cause you to do things you otherwise might not do.

I absolutely adored this story. Caleb and Kits friendship was magical, needed, and heartwarming. Beth Vrabel wrote a feel-good story worthy of reading. This must be included in every classroom and school library. If you loved WONDER, you will adore Caleb and Kit.

Questioning, I Need Your Help

  

 How do we go from toddlers and preschoolers asking questions about everything around them, to school-agers who hardly ask questions at all? What is the message being sent to students in the way we view and deliver teaching and learning in the standard classroom?

Our staff is reading articles about questioning and student engagement. When is a child truly engaged? What is our definition of student engagement?

With these question running through my head during Winter Break, I feel torn by what is expected of me as a teacher, and what I believe is best for the whole child in my classroom. Where is the balance? What is best for one child is not necessarily best for another. How do we get children to be engaged for true learning instead of pleasing the teacher and finding the right answer. 

Some of the things I have implemented this year is the focus on effort vs. getting the right answer. The focus on learning vs. the right answer. The focus on effort vs. correct spelling. I have to say this again and again in my classroom. I find students slowly taking more risks and less fix-mindset, negative thinking. But I cannot do this alone. 

How do we change the culture of school? How do we change a classroom into a learning/wonder/investigation studio? 

I do not have the answers. I cannot begin to pretend to know how to make this change. But I know what I believe in my heart, and I am torn. 

I am turning to my PLN, Twitter community to help me begin to find the answers to these questions. Please help me start the conversation. Please help me find the courage to move forward.