Past Posts 2009-2010

June, 2010


Two great surprises and a guest post!


This week has been a little like Christmas in June.  Tuesday afternoon I found a catalog in my mailbox, along with a note from our P.T.A. president, Mrs. Campbell, inviting me to pick out $200.00 worth of books for the literacy collection as a donation from the P.T.A. What a wonderful and generous surprise!  Then this morning I received the “Big Book,”The Traits of Writing from Carol Varsalona. 


The Traits of Writing Big Book is a great teaching tool and goes along with the copies ofThe Traits of Writing professional resources that we already own in the TRC.  Check them out today.


Book donations from Carol really should come as no surprise to me anymore, but I’m just as thrilled every time I find an inter-office envelope, too bulky for my mailbox on the counter downstairs.  Just before we broke for Memorial Day, Carol sent over an autographed copy of By the Sword, by Selena Castrovilla.  This account of the Battle of Long Island is thoroughly researched and annotated, and beautifully illustrated.  Check it out.


Carol’s generosity extends beyond books.  Below, she shares information about LILAC, an organization she encouraged me to join last year.  I knew I wanted to be a part of this group after Sue, Diane and I attended their conference last spring.  (See the May 2009 post.)  Read Carol’s guest post below for important information for all literacy educators.  


Dear JHS 6th Grade Literacy Team,


It is hard to believe that summer is almost her. This year was one for changes - a new commissioner, new ELA standards in draft form, and now the common core standards that are replacing the ELA draft standards, due to the state’s desire to apply for the Race To The Top funds. Besides all of this, there was the budget crisis in Albany and now in West Babylon. But, there are bright spots. The JHS 6th Grade Literacy Team continues to provide optimal learning opportunities for the students and the literacy website design team is now brainstorming ways to transform the eBoard into a teacher-friendly website.


As co-editor of the Long Island Language Arts Council’s Newsletter, New & Views, I would like to share with you information about the LILAC organization before you leave for the summer vacation. LILAC is an organization that supports teachers’ growth as literacyeducators. It is comprised of dedicated literacy professionals who are interested in shaping teaching and learning in our 21st century world. Twice a year we publish a newsletter that keeps the readership aware of changes in literacy in NYS and on Long Island. You may want to visit the LILAC website, to find out additional information. I invite you to join LILAC for 2010-11.  The fee is $30.  In addition, I welcome you to write a column or provide a brief text about a successful program that you are involved in. Perhaps, the grant writing team would like to write about the JHS Reading Garden and how it impacts achievement.


Stay turned for news alerts about ELA and the new literacy websites. Thank you to Christine Brower-Cohen for providing an ongoing literacy blog, Julie Powers for her tech skills, and to all of the 6th grade teachers for what you do best - teach. Enjoy your summer months by reading a good book or two. I know I will.







Happy reading,


May, 2010


“In the merry, merry month of May,

  We are finished with the ELA.”



With the ELA finally behind us, why not trade test prep for real-world prep?  If you are interested in making future students readers and writers for life, not just for standardized tests, why not check out some of the professional development opportunities being offered this summer by Choice Literacy?  Visit their website at www.choiceliteracy.comfor more information on the programs listed below:


Simply Beautiful Classroom Design     July 27, 2010     Wrentham, 



The Literacy Principal in Action          July 28, 2010      Wrentham,



Delight in Words                                  July 28, 2010      Wrentham, 



Nonfiction Snapshots                            July 29, 2010      Wrentham,



Café in the Classroom                          July 29, 2010      Wrentham,



Readers in the Middle                           July 29, 2010      Wrentham,  



Making Assessments Work For You    July 30, 2010      Wrentham,



Mentor Texts                                        July 30, 2010      Wrentham,



Literacy Coach Jumpstart                   July 30, 2010        Wrentham, 




Happy reading,





April, 2010


April Showers!


Carol keeps showering us with new picture books for the collection. Check out the titles she has recently donated:



            Mailing May, by Michael O. Tunnel, is based on the

            surprisingly true story of a little girl who was “mailed” to visit her

grandmother in 1913, shortly after the US Post Office introduced parcel post. My children and I were both surprised and delighted by this story.  I was surprised to learn that there is a National Postal museum where one could go to research little oddities like this.


I Want to be Free, by Joseph Slate, is based upon Rudyard Kipling’s retelling of a sacred Buddhist text.  The setting and events have been changed to make it a story of slavery in the American south.  It is a quick read written in verse, but the message is very powerful.


The Sandman is written by Ralph Fletcher.  You may be familiar with his professional books, Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8, and Nonfiction Craft Lessons: Teaching Information Writing K-8. (We have two copies of each in the TRC.)   The Sandman shifts from past to present tense, and uses the second person point of view in one spot.  Visit his website



Thanks to Carol’s generosity, you can check out any of these titles in the TRC.  Just sign the book card and place it in your pocket in the chart.


Happy reading,


(For posts from last school year, please click on the resources tab.)




March, 2010




With the money from our NYSEC grant, we were able to order the following titles to enhance character education here at the junior high.  Check them out today!


Your Move                                                      by Eve Bunting

                        Although this picture book deals specifically with gang initiation, it could be used to launch any discussion of peer pressure.  The heart of this story is about finding the courage to stand up for what you believe in.


The Lemonade Club                                        by Patricia Polacco

                        Based on the true story of Patricia Polacco’s daughter, her best friend and their fifth grade teacher, this is a story of friendship, courage and

overcoming cancer.  (Of course, I cried.)


Molly’s Pilgrim                                               by Barbara Cohen

                        This picture book integrates Thanksgiving history with the stories of more modern immigrants to our country.  A great resource for Social Studies, it is also a story about bullying, multiculturalism, and making friends in a

new place.


 Timothy and the Strong Pajamas                   by Viviane Schwarz

                        The brightly colored, simply-lined illustrations of this book may make it appear to be for younger students, but the underlying message is one we could all learn from.  No matter how big and “strong” you think you are,

our real strength comes from our friends; the people you have helped in

the past, who will turn around and help you when you need it.


Happy reading,


(For posts from last school year, click on the Resources tab.)




February, 2010


Literacy Links to Love


As we plow through these frigid February days, why not take some inspiration from these helpful literacy sites?

Much of this site is for paid members only, but you can sign up for Brenda Powers’ free newsletter, The Big Fresh.  Chock full of research, helpful hints and tips you can use in your classroom, this newsletter is written with a warmth and humor that is sure to bring a smile to your face.

This site contains lesson plans and interactive activities categorized by grade level and topic.  You’ll also find links to literacy blogs and information on professional development.

This is the official website of the International Reading Association.  From this site, you can link to the readwritethink website.

I mentioned this site in my October post, as we prepared for the National Day on Writing.  The National Council of Teachers of English is a great resource for all literacy professionals.  From this site, you can also link to the readwritethink website.

This is the website of the American Library Association.  Need I say more about how helpful this site is?


I’d love to hear about other literacy sites that you find most useful.  Email me at our school address, and I’ll update the eboard to include your suggestions.


Happy e-reading,


(View posts from last school year by clicking on the Resources tab.)


January, 2010


Happy New Year!  To launch a new year of literacy learning, check out one of these recently acquired titles:


Just How Long Can a String Be?  by Keith Baker


Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl  by Tonya Bolden


Rebekkah’s Journey   by Ann E. Burg


Some Smug Slug   by Pamela Duncan Edwards


A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever  by Marla Frazee


Julius: Baby of the World  by Kevin Henkes


Kitten’s First Full Moon  by Kevin Henkes


Wings              by Christopher Meyers


Fancy Nancy  by Jane O’Connor


Fancy Nancy’s Favorite Fancy Words  by Jane O’Connor


Nouns and Verbs Have a Field Day  by Robin Pulver


Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver


When I Was Young in the Mountains  by Cynthia Rylant


Math Curse   by Jon Sciezka and Lane Smith


Science Verse  by Jon Sciezka and Lane Smith


Imogene’s Antlers  by David Small


The Gardener  by Sarah Stewart


Eats, Shoots and Leaves  by Lynn  Truss


Twenty Odd Ducks    by Lynn Truss


Frida                         by Jonah Winter


Happy reading,




December, 2009


‘Tis the season to be reading!


This month our colleagues have a few suggestions for holiday reading:


The Poisonwood Bible  by Barbara Kingsolver

                        Set in 1959 in the Belgian Congo, this is the story of a Baptist preacher and his family as they face snakes, jungle animals, humidity, hostile

                        natives and a threat of war.


The Last Lecture   by Randy Pausch

                        This is an inspirational story about a terminally ill college professor who has been asked to write his last lecture.



Sundays at Tiffany’s   by James Patterson

                        This is an enjoyable, quick read.



The Lost Symbol   by Dan Brown

                        This is the latest book in the Robert Langdon series of The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons.


The Help          by Kathryn Stockett

                        Publisher’s Weekly says that this debut novel is set during the “civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children, but not to polish the silver.”


The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel      by Yoko Ogawa

                        After a car accident, a professor is left with a short term memory of only 80 minutes.  He makes a connection with his housekeeper’s 10-year-old son.


Born on a Blue Day:  Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant

                                                            by Daniel Tammet

          This is the biography of a high-functioning 27-year-old autistic savant.



Forever      by Pete Hamill

                        This story of a man who has been granted eternal life, as long as he never eaves Manhattan, takes the reader through many historical events from

                        1741- 9/11/2001.


Finally, the West Babylon Junior High book club will be reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford.  The narrative of this book alternates between the 1980’s and the 1940’s, when Japanese-Americans were interned in camps.


Enjoy your holidays, and please remember to think of those less fortunate than you.  If you do any traveling over our holiday break, please consider donating unopened hotel toiletries to a homeless shelter or a shelter for battered women.  If you are not sure where to send these items, please send them to room 207, and I will forward them for you.


Happy HOLIDAY reading,








November, 2009

 “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”

-         H.U. Westermayer

 If during this month of Thanksgiving, you are looking for a great picture book to launch a discussion on gratitude for what is really important in our students’ lives, consider these titles from our 6th grade literacy collection:

Fly Away Home                     by Eve Bunting

All the Places to Love             by Patricia MacLaughlin

Through Grandpa’s Eyes        by Patricia MacLaughlin

This month also brings Veterans’ Day.  Why not honor our veterans by reading The Wall, by Eve Bunting, to your students?  In this poignant picture book, when a father and son locate the grandfather’s name on the Vietnam Wall, the son simply states, “I’d rather have him here.”

With the movie release this month, you might also consider revisiting the classic, Where the Wild Things Are.  In what some consider the quintessential picture book, Maurice Sendak gives us the story of Max, a child facing real childhood emotions of anger and feelings of powerlessness.  After being sent to his room, (feeling angry and powerless), Max imagines a journey to where the wild  things are, where he is made King (feeling empowered).  After the rumpus though, Max longs to return home where his dinner is waiting. 

To check out any of these  titles, simply go to the TRC, sign the card in the back of the book, and place in the pocket chart.  (The Wall is one of my books, so it is in my room if you’d like to borrow it.)

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the National Day on Writing.  To view a brief video of my interview with editor, Kristen Lewis, on the importance of a National Day on Writing, click below.

Happy Reading,


(View posts from last school year by clicking on the Resources tab.)  


October, 2009


This month, our school will be participating in the first National Day on Writing!  On October 20, 2009, students, teachers and other professionals across the nation will be celebrating writing.


Highlighting the day for our own school, will be guest speakers Lucy Lehrer and Kristen       

Lewis.  Editors at Scholastic Scope magazine, Ms. Lehrer and Ms. Lewis will share their literary expertise with our students.


Throughout the day, students will have opportunities to hone their own writing skills through various writing activities and prompts.  They will even be able to submit one piece of writing to an electronic gallery set up by the National Council of Teachers of English.


Capping off the event will be a Literacy Garden Party after school at the high school. 


For more information on this national celebration, log onto


Happy reading AND writing,





September, 2009


“September mornings still can make me feel that way.”


Welcome back to freshly sharpened pencils, brand new hall passes, and all the promise that the blank pages of a new plan book hold. 


Now that we are all rested and refreshed, we have new professional resources to inspire and guide us as we launch another year of literacy and learning.  Thanks to our Suffolk’s Edge Mini Grant and the generosity of Carol Varsalona, we have acquired the following titles:



            Leveled Books K-8                                          by Fountas and Pinnel


            Continuum of Literacy Learning 3-8      by Fountas and Pinnel


            Guiding Readers and Writers                            by Fountas and Pinnel


            Socratic Seminars and Literature

            Circles for Middle and High School

            English                                                  by V. Moeller and M. Moeller


            Using Picture books to Teach Writing

            With the Traits                                      by R. Culham & R. Coutu




            Naming the World:  A Year of Poems

            and Lessons                                          by Nancie Atwell                                                         



Happy reading,