Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Introduction to Steampunk Novels

I love historical fiction.  Historical fiction is where I began my love affair with books.  I love a book that lets me escape and challenges my imagination.  Honestly, sometimes realistic fiction is my least favorite genre of fiction - sometimes it is too real, hits too close to home.  Later on, I discovered Fantasy novels and fell equally in love.

I am always reading young adult and teen fiction. So, I recently have read a few Steampunk novels.  I may have found a new genre to love.  It's a little bit alternative history, a little bit fantasy, a little bit science fiction, and even often a little bit 19th century Victorian Romance. Here is the definition of Steampunk from Wikipedia.

If you have read a lot of Steampunk, I would love to hear some of your favorites! Here is what I have read recently:

Boneseeker by Brynn Chapman


I reviewed that one in this post.  It was an easy summer, on-the-plane read, but I didn't love it.

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross


This book is the first book in the "Steampunk Chronicles."  It is ranked high on lists of steampunk books. Here is one Steampunk list I found on Goodreads.  I finished this book over the last week. The main character finds out she has special strength and abilities, but is struggling because she has black outs.  She ends up meeting a group of other people who have special abilities.  The story is sort of a mystery meets Xmen meets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It was a fun story, and I'm sure I will read the rest.  However, I'm not sure I would rank it is high as many do on Goodreads. This one I would recommend for 8th grade and up or more mature 7th graders.

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger


I am half way through this now, and I love it!  It is fun and engaging. The plot and the characters are unique.  There is a lot of satire and wit as well, which I always love in a book. The main character is 14 and too tomboyish for her parents.  She is more interested in climbing and inventions than being a lady. So she gets sent to finishing school, except the finishing school secretly trains girls to be assassins and spies. This one to me seems like you could even let 5th and 6th graders read it, especially if they were a little more mature.  This book reminds me a little bit of the Mysterious Benedict Society, primarily because you have a group of kids away at school having their own adventures. It also reminds me of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place because of the wit and humor about the role of girls and women in history.  If you have not read The Scandalous Sisterhood, it is worth reading.

A couple other Steampunk books I read last year were The Clockwork Scarab and The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason.  Both of these are enjoyable reads.  I would highly recommend them. I would probably go 7th grade and up for these two. They are about the female offspring of Stoker and Holmes, and they solve mysteries.

What steampunk books have you read? Any must-reads you recommend? I would love to find some appropriate for 5th and 6th grade as well.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Made It: Paleo Recipes

Well, I haven't linked up with Monday Made It in a long time...  But I thought I would link up with 4th Grade Frolics today even though I haven't really done anything crafty.  I thought I would link up with some Pinterest recipes I have tried.


If you aren't on Instagram, you should be.  It's my favorite social media - so much fun to be inspired by those you follow: books to read, recipes, workouts, teaching ideas, and just life.  Last year I decided I really wanted to try the Paleo diet after seeing everyone's Whole30 Instagram posts.  I did a 30 day strict Paleo diet in January (It was more just Paleo than Whole 30).  I would like to do another 30 days of strict Paleo after school starts, so for now I am making an effort to try some new recipes that would meet Paleo guidelines.  I find it is easier to be successful with a strict diet when I have an arsenal of recipe and food ideas I am already comfortable with.  If every meal is a new recipe, it can be overwhelming.

Summer Squash Taco Boats 

I bought some summer squash at the farmer's market, so I thought I would try this recipe for taco-filled summer squash. The recipe calls for ground turkey, but I used ground beef.



I used SmileSandwich's recipe with the taco seasoning part from Skinny Taste's recipe. If you leave off the shredded cheese, it is easily Paleo.  It was very good.  The hardest part was hollowing out the squash with a small spoon. Here was my picture right before I put it in the oven:
Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I really wanted to find a good recipe for sweet and sour meatballs without soy.  I have made Plaid and Paleo's recipe a couple times, and it is very good. It is one of my new favorite recipes.  I did use the Coconut Aminos and Apple Cider Vinegar alternative they mention in the recipe.


I will be honest though; I made a cheat version.  Instead of making the meatballs from scratch I used frozen turkey meatballs and cooked it in the crockpot with all the seasoning from the recipe and with onion, broccoli, and bell pepper.  We had it with rice, but if I was making it more paleo I would make a cauliflower rice.  Crockpot recipes just make things so much easier.  You also can find gluten free frozen meatballs, so I might do that when I do Paleo. I usually cooked it in the crockpot on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours.

HERE is my Pinterest board for Paleo recipes.  Have you tried any good recipes this summer?

Monday, July 20, 2015

What I have Been Reading - July 20

I love summer!  It is a time for sleeping in and naps and books and Netflix.  Need I say more?

I have been meaning to link up for #IMWAYR for a couple weeks now.  Earlier this month we went on vacation to California where we went on a bike ride through wine country and went whitewater rafting. I have been slowly returning to the world of productivity since I returned.  What have I read recently?

Adult Audiobooks I recently listened to:


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel



I really enjoyed listening to this book.  It is a dystopian novel about a group of musicians and actors who travel from town to town in a post-civilization, dystopian setting.  It almost reminiscent of a traveling carnival or circus around the Great Depression or early 1900's. Most dystopian novels focus on years or decades after civilization has fallen.  The structure of this novel flashes back and forth between pre-fall and twenty years after a plague has killed most of the planet. It deals with bigger issues of humanity and the meaning of life.  It asks questions like: What is the role of beauty and art in humanity and civilization?  The book was very well written and very unique.  I would highly recommend it.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt



I will first say this book is very long.  It will not be a light, easy read.  The audiobook was 26 discs. The novel is about a teenage boy who loses his mom under tragic circumstances and finds himself on this crazy path of loneliness, stolen art, drugs, and complicated relationships.  The book started slow in my opinion and took awhile for me to get into it, but once I did I was determined to finish. Like many long novels, at times it felt some sub-plots went on for too long.  However, overall I would recommend reading it. It is another novel that deals with greater issues on the role of beauty and love in life.  There is also a romance with the joy to be found in beautiful objects and a respect for the history of things.

Books I read:

Flora and Ulysses by Kate Dicamillo



I have been meaning to read this book for many months, and I am so glad I did.  This was the first book in a very long time to make me repeatedly laugh out loud.  The last book that made me laugh out loud was Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I absolutely love juvenile novels with a great sense of voice and wonderful humor.  Kate Dicamillo did a fabulous job creating fun, unique characters who each have a wonderful sense of voice.  I absolutely intend to use this book as a mentor text next year.  This book alternates between a superhero squirrel's point of view and a little girl who is a self-proclaimed cynic.  It will be such a great text to use to discuss writing about small moments, voice, point of view, imagination, plot, etc. 

Graceling by Kristen Cashore


I borrowed the ebook of this novel from the library and read it on my Kindle app while I was on vacation.  I enjoyed this teen novel.  This is a fantasy novel where some in the land are given graces, which are special abilities.  The main character Katsa has been raised to believe she has the grace of being able to kill others, so her uncle who is a king uses her as an assassin and an enforcer. She meets a love interest in the novel and goes on your typical journey of self-discovery and good versus evil.  It was an easy, fantasy read and overall pretty enjoyable. 

Boneseeker by Brynn Chapman


This book is about a girl who is a scientist and finds herself in the middle of a love story and a mystery.  She is the daughter of Sherlock Holmes.  It was a fun, easy on-the-airplane read.  I do love the idea of heroines solving mysteries in a time period where women had limited roles.  If you are looking for a contemporary spin-off of Sherlock and Holmes with young heroines though, I think The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason is a lot better novel. 

What have you been reading?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Teaching about Archaeology with the Magic School Bus (Quiz and Assignment Freebie)

I will be teaching Ancient Civilizations this year.  I am working on trying to plan out what I will teach next year, and how I will teach it. In so many of the classes I have been taking as a doctoral student, we have discussed the idea that in order for students to engage in deep learning that stimulates creativity, students need opportunities to learn in authentic ways the represents how professionals in those fields think.

For Ancient Civilizations, this means that I want to teach my students to think like historians, archaeologists, linguists, anthropologists, art historians, etc. To introduce what it is to think like an archaeologist, we are going to watch the Magic School Bus "Show and Tell" episode.

I have made a quiz for the video and an assignment.




You can get a copy HERE. Do you have a favorite way to introduce students to the field of archaeology.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Math Weekly Participation Rubric - Freebie

In more and more of my rubrics over the last year, I am trying to emphasize effort.  From the reading I have done on the growth mindset, I think it is important to encourage students to challenge themselves and be self-reflective. I also want students to make the connection between what behaviors and habits lead to certain results.

I have been thinking more about how I want to break down my grading structure for math next year.  I decided I wanted to make a math participation rubric that students could use to evaluate their own habits and effort.  Using the rubric, they will be able to earn up to 20 points per week based on this self-assessment.  I then will also grade their effort and behaviors in math, and we can discuss how my assessment of them compares to their own self-assessment.

This version of the rubric I made for a teacher who is teaching our 3rd and 4th grade students. She will be using Xtramath with her students, so I included that as a component of the rubric.  I will probably change the rubric slightly for myself for next year.  The rubric is a word document, so it is editable.  You can get a copy HERE.



How do you break down your grade in math?  Do you use standards-based grading? Do you grade just based on performance on daily work and tests?  Do you ever give your students opportunities to grade themselves and reflect on their own habits and academic behaviors? How do you try and encourage a growth mindset in math?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Unit Plan and Lesson Plan Templates for Backwards Planning (Understanding by Design) - Freebies

One of things I try to do in the summer besides taking more time to read and enjoy my summer is start doing some planning for the next year.  Especially now that I am in graduate school, I find my time during the school year is always limited.  The more organized and prepared I can be in the summer, the less stressed I feel when school starts.  One of my goals this year is to actually try to incorporate more of the backwards design planning into my unit plans.  I have read and skimmed through Understanding By Design off and on over the last year, but I have yet to really plan a unit this way.

I really like the idea of planning with my objectives and end results in mind and then using that to plan for assessments and learning activities.  I also had read Advancing Differentiation for a class two summers ago and liked the way the author broke down knowledge into conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge, and factual knowledge. This idea of considering what students should know, be able to do, and understand aligns with Understanding by Design but I liked the descriptions of conceptual, procedural, and factual. For me, it helps me to visualize what I want my students to accomplish and learn.

I kept looking for good templates to plan units and lessons plans using this format.  I found some examples, but nothing that really had all the elements I wanted.  So I decided to create my own templates.  For the unit plan template, I basically used similar templates I had found, but I wanted to add more elements to consider how I would pre-assess and differentiate. I also wanted to add something at the bottom where I could break down the unit into the goals of each individual lesson. You can get a copy of the unit plan template HERE.

For the lesson plan template, I wanted to find something that would flow well from the unit plan and include many of the same elements, but also let me incorporate elements of a traditional lesson plan.  Once again, having options to differentiate was important to me.  This template may be overly detailed and not all elements would apply to all lessons/class periods but I wanted to have the elements if I wanted them.  I do not really have to turn in detailed lesson plans very often any more, but I think it is good to still practice and reflect on my own teaching practices on a regular basis. Another part of considering what students should know, be able to do, and understand is giving students opportunities to learn thinking skills.  Direct instruction of different types of thinking skills is something I want to incorporate into each unit I teach this year. This is a word document that be edited, so columns/row can be typed in, deleted, or edited for size.  You could either type directly into the template or edit the boxes to be the size you want and then handwrite into the template. You can get a copy HERE.
Realistically, for lesson planning on a regular basis I really enjoy using www.planbook.com. You can read my review of different online lesson planning websites HERE.  I would only use a template like this when I decided to make a more detailed lesson plan. However, even on Planbook I can create templates for each class/subject so I will probably incorporate elements of this template into my Planbook templates.

I am looking forward to trying them out.  Have you ever planned units using the backwards design process? Did you feel your units were stronger for using this approach?

Monday, June 8, 2015

What I am Reading June 8

It is Monday, so I am linking up again for #IMWAYR.  I already am enjoying summer.  I have much more time to read when my schedule is more relaxed.



This week I read:

1. The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline


I enjoyed this story that linked history to the present.  As a reader, you were able to follow the parallel stories of a foster child and an elderly lady, who had been an orphan from the past who was shipped west on the orphan train. I do think they could have developed Molly's character (the foster child) more.  Molly learns about Vivian's story by helping her clean out her attic and ends up doing an oral history project on her for a school project. This book definitely made me want to incorporate more oral histories into my classroom.  Oral histories could offer a great day to give students opportunities to think like historians.

2. Asylum by Madeleine Roux

I wanted to read this book because I enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  I have been very intrigued with the idea of photo text ever since I read Wright Morris' The Home Place for a class during my Master's degree.  I love the idea of juxtaposing photography with a fictional story to see how the visual and the verbal narratives interact.  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a much more successful photo text than Asylum.  Asylum has an interesting concept for a plot and was an easy read, but the story is very flat with not much development of the characters.   The main character goes away to a summer college prep program for high school students.  The students are housed in an old mental asylum turned dorm.  It turns into a somewhat suspenseful mystery.

3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo



I am almost done listening to Shadow and Bone on audio.  This book I am actually really enjoying.  I generally enjoy plots that are fantasy but use historical settings you recognize.  The setting of this story is a historical Russia that is war-torn but magic plays an important role.  An orphan girl finds out she has a long dormant power and could be the secret to saving the world.  She is swept away to the palace where she finds herself in the middle of politics.  I always enjoy fantasy stories with history, magic, and a little bit of romance. I look forward to reading the next one when I finish this one.

Any good summer reads you recommend?
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