Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Creepy! That is the only word I would use to describe the five story graphic novel by Emily Carroll. Author and Illustrator Emily Carroll (who is also illustrating the graphic novel version of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson) has created one creepy book through black, white, blue and red illustrations that come to life on the page.


I love graphic novels and when my friend Regan showed me her latest find I knew I had to read it. That was like a couple months ago but I finally found the time to sit down and look at the amazing illustrations and be completely freaked out as I cuddled beneath my blankets and anxiously turned page after page of amazing illustrations (I know I keep saying that but they are so beautiful). The only colors used throughout the book are red, blue, white, black and sometimes grey but it creates this atmosphere throughout the book that only enhances the creepiness and makes me love it all the more.


Starting with a story about three sisters who slowly disappear and ending with little red riding hood, with stories in between about ghosts, dismembered bodies, and (insert yuck face) worms (shudder), Carroll has created a delightful collection of creepy stories that are sure to be a hit with anyone who loves to feel that chill creeping up their spine.



Professional Development Book #1: In Defense of Read Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice by Steven L. Layne

Steven starts his book about asking about the fuss. That was my question too. What is all the fuss about when it comes to read alouds? I loved read alouds in high school, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Monster by Walter Dean Myers were the two I remember vividly from freshman year of high school. I had such a great experience with read alouds so it was to my dismay that I read the first chapter of Steven’s book and he had stories of complaints by parents about his read alouds. These parents claimed that read aloud wasn’t instruction and to someone that loved read alouds in high school that makes me sad. Steven has study after study showing that read aloud is best practice but the stories of these parents are true. Layne explains that we as teachers need to be leaders and experts in their fields. They need to be able to defend read alouds and show the complaining parents and the administration that doesn’t understand that read aloud time is instruction and it keeps kids coming back.

In chapter two Steven talks about setting up a successful reading time. He starts with the seating plan, which is simple as allowing kids to sit where they want. Don’t force them to sit in their desks if they would prefer to sit on the floor but what if your classroom doesn’t support this? Layne suggests making it your own because it all depends on your classroom and the purpose of your read aloud. If your read aloud is just a bell ringer for five minutes then perhaps your students will stay in their seats but it is all about your classroom and what works for you and your students.

Steven also has a do not disturb sign on his door because that is how important read aloud time is. He says interruptions are the worst because read aloud is instruction. Also Steven used to be a teacher so he is hilarious because he knows what it is like to be in the trenches. He brings a lot of humor to his book which is great because in all the craziness of life sometimes you just need to laugh.

He goes on to talk about launching the read aloud, during the read aloud, how to conclude the read aloud and canceling a read aloud. Steven encourages picking a genre because it encourages higher level thinking and he strongly suggests reading the book through and picking strategic stopping points while reading to encourage your students to be thinking. Don’t ever cancel your read aloud and don’t let someone else conclude it for you.

Chapter 3 talks about selecting the appropriate read aloud which includes listening to your students, consider the genre, and read some nonfiction. At the end of every chapter Steven includes letters teachers wrote to him about questions they had about read aloud and one of the teachers mentioned that she couldn’t get her class of sixth grade boys interested in any of her read alouds. She lists several good books but they are all girl protagonists. That isn’t going to interest a group of young boys. That is what is so important about knowing your students and listening to them when choosing a read aloud. The read aloud is instruction but it is personalized instruction which is why it is so important that you know your students.

Chapter 4 talks about the read aloud itself and how to read aloud. Steven gives some really good tips on how to read aloud because let me tell you not everyone has a great read aloud voice.

The last chapter is also ver applicable because it is full of recommendations by teachers, librarians, and presidents of colleges on what books they found successful for read alouds. I loved reading through these selections because some books I read and was like YES! and others I was like I never heard of these but now I need to check them out!

I really enjoyed this book and honestly it felt like reading Book Love by Penny Kittle all over again. It didn’t read like a text book or even a professional development book. It felt like I was growing and I loved it.

I would totally recommend this book especially if you are considering launching a read aloud in your classroom.


#IMWAYR: Everless by Sara Holland


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I got an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of this book while at NCTE so technically it isn’t out yet (release date January 2018) which frustrates me because guess what…it’s part of a series. I tend to not read series for this exact reason. I hate waiting for the sequel or the third book or whatever is next to come out because by the time it does I don’t remember what I read. That being said I really liked Everless, it’s just going to be forever before I read the sequel, if I remember to.


Everless is the story of Jules. Jules is just your average girl if you count being able to stop time, being an orphan, being in love with a prince, and having weird visions as normal. Jules lives in the kingdom of Sempera where time is money and money is time. Time lenders extract time from your blood, mold it into a coin and voila! you have money. It’s actually a really cool process unless you don’t have much time and drain yourself dry and die. It’s not so fun after that.

This is what is going to happen to Jules father if she doesn’t return to the palace of Everless where they give out a month coin every week for payment. The one small problem being Jules and her father fled Everless when Jules was a child because of what she witnessed. Will Jules survive returning to Everless or will she bleed herself dry in order to save a friend?


Respecting Your Students

I have been reading a professional development book about helping those students who are struggling emotionally. I haven’t finished it yet so the blog post on that will have to wait but it brought up something I have been thinking about for a long time. Respecting my future students. Last week I went and visited my schools for student teaching and my cooperating teacher for sixth grade sat her students down and had a serious conversation with them about respect. It was a really important conversation but what was more important was that my teacher recognized her students as people. Granted they are only eleven, twelve, years old but they are old enough to be treated like people. She could have told them they are awful little children that need to start respecting their elders more but she chose to have a honest conversation with them about respect. She didn’t demean them in any way and it was really encouraging to see that she treats her students like people and not subordinates that she has to instruct.

Our students are people. They may be younger than us. They may have had a lot less life experiences then us but even as I type that I don’t think it is true. Sometimes educators and non educators overlook the fact that we expect students to be young adults and yet we don’t treat them like they are. When students enter high school as Freshmen in four very short years we are expecting them to enter college and know what they are going to be doing with the rest of their lives. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a teacher and honestly it wasn’t until I was a Freshman in college that I knew teaching is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. However, we expect our students to be thinking about their futures as kindergartners. When I was five I either wanted to be a nurse or an artist. Considering I hate the sight of blood and needles freak me out and I have no real artistic talent I don’t think I was going to grow up to be either of those. My sister-in-law knew she wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten but we cannot expect that of all our students.

If we want our students to walk out of our school in four years mature, young adults ready to tackle college then we need to start preparing them for that in high school. That means that we need to start treating them like the people and young adults they are. Granted they haven’t been through four years of college yet but I guarantee you my future students have dealt with more crap than I will ever deal with. I grew up a pretty sheltered life and I am thankful to my parents for that. They have always loved and supported me but not all students have that kind of support. I was a camp counselor for three years and some of those kids came to me from broken abusive homes and camp was their one highlight out of the entire summer. Students are maturing at a younger age because they are being forced to.

One of my professors today said more than likely we would all be student teaching in rural white middle class communities and as I thought about where I am going to be student teaching I realized that isn’t true. The community where I will be student teaching is about fifty/fifty (Mexican/White). These Hispanic students are not coming from middle class backgrounds. They are poor. I have seen those communities, I have worked with those kids. I may be student teaching in Nebraska but that doesn’t mean my community is predominantly white and middle class. These students lives are rough and many times hearing their stories broke my heart.

These students coming into my classroom are young adults not because that is merely a label they were given but because they are adults in young bodies. They are already grown up and we need to start treating them like that. Yes, they are your students but in four years we are going to expect to start living on their own and start owning their own education. How can we expect that to happen if we don’t start at the high school level?


NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)

Two weeks ago I got on a plane ( I HATE flying, so that was awful) and headed to St. Louis for NCTE! I was pumped and ready to go until we started flying and then I was like can we drive instead…I also only packed three outfits for the four days we were going to be there so I would have plenty of room to pack #allthebooks. I successfully made it home with close to thirty and shipped home 20ish more. I co-shipped a box home with a friend and her package got delayed so I don’t have an official count but it is close to fifty. Fifty free books!! I was in heaven the whole time but I did learn some very important things for the next time

Top 10  Survival Tips for NCTE

  1. Make sure you have plenty of water and snack food. I got a little hangry a few times while at the convention center and that was not good.
  2. Comfortable footwear. You are going to be walking a lot so it is important to have good footwear.
  3. Make sure your book bag is empty at the end of everyday. You don’t want to be lugging around books you got yesterday all day the next day. Also if you can get free totes I recommend it because who doesn’t need sturdy book totes.
  4. Plan for meal times. There will be more sessions then you can ever hope to go to and somewhere in there you will need to eat. Make sure to plan at least an hour and half because the lines at any food place around the convention center will be long
  5. Pick sessions that not only sound interesting but feature authors you have heard of. I went to some sessions that weren’t so good and some that were amazing. It really depended on who was speaking but I wish I had known just to pick sessions by authors I knew.
  6. Don’t be afraid to be a tourist. While we were in St. Louis we went to the art museum where I got to see a painting by my favorite artist and take a picture next to it. It was amazing and life changing. We also went to the City Museum (which is not a museum about the city, look it up) which was incredibly fun, but I would like to go back during the day.
  7. Pack clothes you will be comfortable wearing all day. I packed colored jeans which was good because I was comfortable so it all depends on your comfort level. Also I learned that they won’t kick you out for wearing just regular jeans so I am definitely keeping that in mind for next time.
  8. ARC’s. Advanced Reader Copies. These are books that haven’t officially been published yet and publishing companies are giving away as promotions. These books are free. So if you see any that say ARC on them or advanced readers copy not for sale that means it is free.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for free books. You may have to schmooze a little but honestly we are poor English teachers trying to build classroom libraries and we want books for free. The people at the conference understand that so don’t be afraid to schmooze.
  10. As an introvert I always like to find time for myself so don’t worry about wondering off to a little corner and avoiding the chaos for one minute, or two or twenty. The point of NCTE is to learn, get free books and grow as a teacher. You can’t do that if you are tired and grouchy the whole time. Take the time to take care of yourself and your mental health.

NCTE is a great conference where you can meet amazing people and authors. I met Laurie Halse Anderson an author I have admired since seventh grade since reading her novel Speak! I have the opportunity to teach that book next semester during student teaching and I am extremely excited! Also the graphic novel is coming out in February and it is definitely getting preordered. It is a great amazing conference and if you have the opportunity to go I totally recommend it.


Student Teaching (Insert scared face emoji)

Last week was Thanksgiving and I ate a lot of turkey and pie all week long (I went to a friends house for Friendsgiving, ate pies at work, and then went home and had turkey). The week before that I went to NCTE which was a blast and then the day after we got back I got to go visit my schools. It was nerve wracking and not altogether what I expected. I really like my cooperating teachers and they sound like people I will get along with great, but I am not prepared like I was hoping to be. If I am being a hundred percent honest I expected to walk out of their building feeling one hundred percent ready for the spring semester and I feel more overwhelmed then ever. Am I really ready to be a teacher? Will I ever be ready?


I can say with confidence that I am going to love my sixth graders. Middle school was a rough time for me but the kids seem really nice and my cooperating teacher is a great teacher. I wasn’t expecting to like sixth graders so much but I am super excited. The high school intimidates me because it is huge, not at all what I am used to, and even though I keep telling myself high school is where I want to end up high school students intimidate me. I’ve worked as a camp counselor for several years and I love working with high school students but camp is a lot less formal than a high school classroom.

All the same I am still super nervous because eventually I am going to be taking over class, someone else’s class, and actually teaching…(insert scared face emoji again). All the same I have been working for three and half years toward this goal and I don’t want to give up. I want to teach and eventually I am going to have to go into that classroom alone and start teaching.

I hate change and new situations. It takes me a long time to become comfortable around new people and new situations which is probably why student teaching scares me so much. This blog post is starting to sound more and more like a pep talk for myself but I don’t want to have a bad experience and I don’t want to negatively impact the students I am teaching. I had some great teachers and some not so great teachers. I only had one student teacher in my entire school career and looking back he wasn’t my favorite but then again looking back I also think he was given reigns to the classroom the first day and told to do whatever he wanted. I actually learned a lot in that class and it wasn’t a terrible experience but as much as it probably isn’t going to happen I want all my students to like me. I do not want to be that teacher that the students hated and didn’t learn anything from.

There are a lot of big changes happening very shortly, moving back in with my parents, student teaching, getting up at five in the morning (UGH!), and having to learn a whole new routine. It’s going to be tough but honestly every time I have experienced new big changes God has used them for good so I can only hope He knows what he is doing because I don’t.



It’s Monday What Are You Reading?: Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson

I had grand plans over Thanksgiving break to read all the books and I only managed to read one…granted I was extremely busy and got distracted by a puzzle…

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Invisible Emmie could be the graphic novel of my entire middle and high school life. 41A796M85QL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The first few pages introduce us to Emmie. She is quiet, shy, and doesn’t talk a lot. She is the youngest of three and her siblings are much older than her. She finds herself alone a lot and uses that time to draw. Emmie’s story is parallel with the story of Katie, the most popular girl at Lakefront middle school. Katie’s life is everything Emmie’s is not until an embarrassing love poem finds itself in the wrong hands.

Will Emmie’s best friend ever forgive her? Will Tyler Ross break up with Katie and start dating Emmie or is the embarrassing note going to spell doom for Emmie once and for all?

I loved this book so much because it isn’t often you find yourself staring in a mirror. All throughout middle and high school I kept my head down, stuck to my group of friends and was essentially invisible. I moved to a much smaller school my junior year but even then I stayed quiet. It wasn’t until college that I started to come out of my shell but for the longest time I always thought I wasn’t normal because I was so quiet.

Victoria Jameson author of Roller Girl (another amazing graphic novel) wrote some beautiful praise on the front of Invisible Emmie which reads “This funny and heartfelt tale will ring true for anyone who’s ever felt invisible” and that statement has never been more true. This is a delightful story that I connected to instantly and would recommend to anyone who feels invisible at times. It’s hard sometimes to be your true self around people but when you start amazing things start to happen 🙂