Reading Rocks at D.R. Hill Middle School

Where we read to succeed……

Legend by Marie Lu

Posted by ssymborski on August 15, 2012

   4 Stars

Some would say 15 year old June lived a privileged life.   Though her parents had passed away, she and her brother Metias had done well for themselves. They were both selected as members of the Republic’s prestigious military faction. Though June frequently got in trouble for being rebellious at her exclusive, private school, it was often overlooked – she was gifted, a prodigy, and her invaluable gifts destined June for great success and wealth. When her brother Metias is suddenly killed, however, June finds herself alone and frightened for the first time in her life. Her best friend, the one she could count on, and her only family was suddenly ripped away from her. There was only one person to blame – the vigilante outcast named Day.

 

Day had ruthlessly murdered her brother. Before, June had found this dissenter’s antics slightly amusing. Angry and in shock, June makes it her personal mission to hunt Day, find him, and see that justice was served for Day’s crime. The Republic agreed. June has permission to disguise herself and to track Day until she can find and capture him. Ironically, it is Day that finds June. June, while hunting Day, becomes seriously injured in a fight with one of the locals. Imagine June’s shock when it is Day, her arch enemy, who saves her life. Suddenly, June finds herself very close to Day, spending time with him while she reuperated from her injuries. June finds herself learning about Day as a man – his habits and his thoughts and begins fighting her growing attraction to him. Instead of being elated that she has captured the man who took away her brother, June finds herself captured by Day. Though Metias’s death must be avenged, June begins to wonder if Day was actually capable of murdering another person.

What if the Republic was wrong? June finds herself asking questions. The Republic doesn’t like to be questioned. If June doesn’t turn over the man she has begun falling in love with soon, she will be the one hunted, captured, and executed.

Posted in Top Tiger Books 2012-2013 | No Comments »

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Posted by ssymborski on August 15, 2012

 

 

 

4 Stars


A Long Walk to Water tells the true story of a young girl named Nya and a young boy named Salva, one of the lost boys of Sudan. The reader learns about life in war-torn Sudan – the fear, famine and dehydration, the desperation of the Sudanese as they are forced to flee their homes and walk thousands of miles through the hot desert in order to locate one the the refugee camps – where living conditions were also deplorable.


With the belief that his family has been killed, Salva is left alone and must fend for himself.  Though he walks with the others, he is not shown much mercy by the adults.  Silva loses his one friend to a lion who drags the young boy away at night.  Silva knows no matter how difficult things become, he must keep walking or die.  Despite his never-ending thirst, the blistering sand underneath his bare feet, and the gnawing, deep hunger which never goes away, Salva is determined to survive.


Eventually, Salva is chosen by American missionaries to come to America and be sponsored by an American family.  Salva is amazed by the luxuries America can afford him and decides he must return to Sudan in order to share his good fortune and to help his people.  It is during his first trip home where Salva learns his family is still alive, and his life intersects with the young Nya.     

Posted in Top Tiger Books 2012-2013 | No Comments »

Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks

Posted by ssymborski on August 13, 2008

Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks

  3.5 Stars – A book that needed to be written

Jamie’s life has been turned upside down.  His father left his family with barely a word goodbye.  He left the home he loved to live in a run-down, singlewide trailer with an aunt whom needs constant supervision due to a head injury.  To make matters worse, he was liked and accepted at his last school.  Now he’s the target of the school bully. 

Jamie wants nothing more than to forget his life, his past, and even his current situation at home and school.  The last person on earth he ever expected to help him was Audrey Krouch.  Audrey – a girl who wears weird clothes and  glasses on her face with no lens.  What Audrey uncovers is a deeply hidden, dark secret- one that Jamie has kept to himself for over a year.   Only until the secret is revealed,  is Jamie finally able to move forward.

I like the author of this novel – Sarah Weeks.  The novel she wrote on last year’s SCJBA list, So B. It was not one of my favorites.  Jumping the Scratch is also not one of my favorite novels on this list, either.  So, what do I like about her?  Her novels often center on conflicts that are uncommon, and ones that teens deal with BUT NOONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT.    She handles it in a sensitive manner – but also does not downplay the impact these problems have on a young person’s life.  Sarah Weeks makes you want to turn the pages and keep reading.  Another bonus about her writing is that it gets to the point.  The plot moves along quickly, and   she   does   not   drag   things   out.  So, if you find that long novels lose your interest, and/or you are in a place in your life that’s not so great (as everyone is at times), give Jumping the Scratch a try.

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09 | 7 Comments »

Sand Dollar Summer by Kimberly K. Jones

Posted by ssymborski on June 16, 2008

 

 

3.5 Stars

Lise’s world is turned upside down when her mother is seriously injured in a car accident.  Unable to afford their home or return to work, Lise’s mother decides to move the family back to her childhood home in Maine.  Living on the beach for the summer doesn’t seem so bad at first, but the reality that Lise faces is nothing like what she imagines.  Her mother used to be happy, energetic, and fun.  Now Lise feels as if she has become the parent.  Her mother is quiet and withdrawn – often daydreaming about another time and another world that Lise is not a part of. 

The beach house is a worn down tiny shack that doesn’t even have a TV, and the crystal blue ocean is actually bone-piercing cold and impossible to swim in, even in the hottest weather.  Lise has left her best friends behind and finds that none of the popular, cool kids her age live anywhere close to where they’re staying.

Lise has a hard time accepting her situation but does her best to take care of her little brother, Free (who does not speak) and her injured mother despite her unhappiness.  Just when she begins to feel there is no hope, a stranger enters their lives.  Michael dated her mother in high school and clearly still cares for her.  Will Lise’s mother let him back into their lives – and back into her heart?  Will Lise find the inner happiness she needs to survive her new world?

Sand Dollar Summer shows that even in the face of conflict and hardships, family can pull together and emerge happier and stronger than ever before.

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09 | 1 Comment »

Science and Technology Video

Posted by ssymborski on June 1, 2008

Video was created using Animoto – very cool free tool available for educators!

Science and Technology Day Video

Teachers may register at Animoto and create their own accounts.  Educators are also given a promo code to use that will enable them to use Animoto with full access rights for a year, AND they can let their students create their own accounts for free (after one year, free accounts are still available but with limited picture uploads and video lengths).  Please see me for a generic educator’s code if interested.

Can animoto videos be used for instruction?  Absolutely!  This can be utilized to promote events and highlight student achievement, but they also can be created to review key concepts or to introduce essential information in a unique, appealing visual format. 

You can create powerpoint slides, open them with Microsoft paint, and resave them as jpg files.  These can also be uploaded and created into a video. 

Imagine students creating their own videos for vocabulary review! 

The site is very user-friendly and has a music library ready for users to select the song they want.

Here are a few teachers’ examples from other subject content areas:

Students Created Science Flash Cards 

Student Artwork

Space and Planets

Magnets and Magnetism

Free at Last – Civil Rights

Recycling

Bill of Rights

Simple Machines

Intro to the Roman Empire

Plants

 Plants Too!

Student created video on Hungary

Posted in Web 2.0 | 4 Comments »

Blood on the River: James Town 1607

Posted by ssymborski on May 20, 2008

 

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4redstars.jpg  4 stars – Great book 

I discovered Blood on the River: James Town 1607  by Elisa Carbone two years ago and loved reading this book.  I was very happy to see it on the South Carolina Junior Book Award nominee list for this year.  Though this book is classified as fiction, it contains many true events that occurred during the Jamestown settlement. 

The story focuses on eleven- year- old Samuel Collier, a page to Captain John Smith, who decided to travel to the New World.  An orphan who likes to use his fists, Samuel felt like he had nothing to lose by embarking on this journey.  The adventure he encountered, however, was beyond anything he ever could imagine.  You may be thinking…”Oh great…another book about Jamestown.”  This book is very different, however.  The details give the reader insight into other people who were key to the Jamestown settlement, beyond Captain John Smith.  To me, the best part of this book is the view of  Native American culture and daily life.  The book is suspenseful, interesting, and historically accurate. 

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09 | No Comments »

Good Masters!

Posted by ssymborski on May 19, 2008

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4redstars.jpg  4.5 stars 

Good Masters!  Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village

by Laura Amy Schlitz, Illustrations by Robert Byrd

I rarely use words like “quaint” or “delightful” in book reviews, but both terms seem to apply in this book review.  Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! contains poems written from the point-of-view of various townspeople of very different statures living in the same medieval village.  The poems often connect in plot – giving the reader an insight into how the life and background of the villagers lends them a different perspective on events occurring in their town.

The author often incorporates humor into the poems – Lowdy, the Varlet’s child (Varlet refers to a man who looks after animals) paints a portrait of living in a home full of fleas.  He states:

I love the dogs, but God’s bones!

The house is full of fleas!

….Fleas in the bread,

Bloodsucking fleas

In the blankets of our beds,

Nibbling our buttocks,

And the back of our knees,

Biting and delighting

Through the night – those fleas!

(page 60)

The book contains interesting footnotes explaining unknown terms the reader will find in the poems.  The notes also explain various occupations of the townspeople.  The book provides a collective view of what life was like during the Middle Ages. 

Here are a few examples of the “voices” you will hear in Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! read by DR Hill students.  The poems include copyright free music  representing the Middle Ages -

Mariot and Maud are the Glassblower’s daughters.  They discuss Piers, their father’s apprentice, who has been promised the family business if he selects on of them to marry.  Maud clearly finds the idea of marrying Piers repulsive.  Though Mariot claims she feels the same as her sister – her words indicate the contrary:

audio-mp3.png-  Kas Streater and Charrion Morgan

Mogg is the Villein’s daughter.  A villein is a peasant who could be bought and sold like a slave.  His belongings were considered to be the property of the lord who resided over the manor.  Mogg’s father died recently.  She must come up with a plan to save the few resources her family has before they are taken by the greedy landowner.

audio-mp3.png- Charrion Morgan

Thomas is the doctor’s son.  He provides a glimpse into medieval medicine.

audio-mp3.png- John Gillespie

Isobel is The Lord’s Daughter.  In this poem, she expresses her frustration after someone in town threw a dung clod at her dress.  Isabel is upset because she knows that she lives a privileged life as a nobleman’s daughter but her social status was according to God’s will.  Furthermore, Isobel resents this treatment because she has always been charitable and helpful to others less fortunate.

audio-mp3.png- Kas Streater

Highly recommended

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09 | 19 Comments »

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Posted by ssymborski on May 19, 2008

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       fivegold.jpg  Five well-deserved stars

      10-year-old Moon lived a life very different from other people.  He and his father lived in an isolated shelter that was covered with dirt and trees –  virtually impossible for anyone to detect – purposely hidden deep in a seemingly abandoned forest.  They had few traces of modern life – no electricity or running water, no store bought food, medicine, etc.  They survived by living off the land.  Moon never really questioned why they lived this way – he never knew anything different.  He did know that his father said they should never trust the government. 

Moon’s father taught him how to survive on his own, and said Moon should live in Alaska (far away from civilization) if anything ever happened to him.  He wanted him to find a place where other people distrusted the government also and were self-reliant.

Moon’s father held to his beliefs until he died.  His death from a broken leg could have easily been prevented with modern medicine or surgery, but he refused to re-enter society to seek treatment.  Suddenly Moon is all alone and unprepared to function in the modern world.

After Moon buries his father, he’s discovered by a man who has built a home on the same property as Moon and his father’s cave.  Life for Moon is turned upside down when he is sent to a group boy’s home.  

Unable to cope with all the changes and forced rules, Moon decides to escape.  His survival skills enable him to outrun and “whip” up on anybody – no matter their age or size.  Though he has what it takes to live on his own, Moon finds out being alone can actually be very lonely.  And though Moon does not need anyone else to help him live, he wants love, affection, and friendship.

Moon realizes that maybe, just maybe, his Pa was wrong all along.

I could write pages and pages about this incredible story.  Moon is very rough around the edges, but you can’t help but cheer him on throughout the story.  You want him to find happiness and your heart aches for the struggles he has to face when he must live in a world vastly different from his own.  The ending of this book is perfect, and (get ready) may make you shed a tear or two. 

I admire the creativity of this book and the original plot.  This book is the best novel I have read in a long time – truly amazing. 

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09 | 1 Comment »

Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs

Posted by ssymborski on May 15, 2008

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fourstars1.jpg 4 stars – Grabbed my attention start to finish

Author Will Hobbs visited DR Hill in 2004. He is such a down-to-earth, nice guy who clearly has a passion for writing. I read several of his books in preparation of the author visit. My favorite was Jackie’s Wild Seattle. Now my favorite is Crossing the Wire.

Hobbs is an adventurer and a lover of nature – both of these personality traits are reflected in his novels. Some of his books contain lengthy descriptions of the setting – personally I find that tough to follow as a reader. Crossing the Wire, however, is more action-packed and suspenseful.

Victor is only 15 years old. Despite being young, he must grow up quickly and become a man. Now that Victor’s father is deceased, his family depends on him for their survival. In Mexico, there are limited opportunities for children born to poor families. Victor tries to save the family’s corn crop, their sole source of income, but falling prices and outside competitors leave his family penniless and facing starvation.

Victor must do the impossible – “Cross the wire” from Mexico to the United States in order to find work. This is his family’s last hope. Victor is determined to come to America – even at the risk of his own life.

Readers will be amazed at the hardship Victor faces on his journey. Hobbs spares no punches on how difficult the voyage is – near starvation, physical exhaustion, failed attempts resulting in deportation, extreme heat/cold, dodging bullets, betrayals, poisonous snakebites (and these are only a few events in the story). What impresses me most about this novel is that it makes the reader think. This is a reminder of how fortunate Americans are – and also gives you a different perspective of why people enter our country illegally.

Highly recommended

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Baboquivari Peak – a landmark in the story. The author’s hiking expedition here inspired him to select this location as one of the novel’s settings

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09 | 13 Comments »

The Brothers’ War: Civil War in Verse

Posted by ssymborski on May 8, 2008

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The Brothers’ War: Civil War in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis

    This book of poems is truly amazing.  J. Patrick Lewis writes eloquently, using emotionally loaded words and imagery, to speak in the voices of various Civl War participants – both real and imagined.  What I found ironic about this text is the juxtaposition of the flowing, beautiful language and the subsequent horror it was detailing.  Some examples of Lewis’s powerful imagery included in The Brothers’ War are the “sickle moon” revealed during the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Seven Pines,  the voice of a hospitalized Confederate soldier – “giving up the ghost To welcome Mr. Death,” a runaway slave describing his “bullwhip-long odds” of making it to freedom - ”a land as alien as space.” 

The Brothers’ War also includes Civil War photographs, adding visual interest to the events of the Civil War and the text.  This book is a useful resource in both Language Arts and Social Studies classes.

Podcasts of letters - written from the point of view of a concerned father and a son.  The son is a Confederate Prisoner of War.  He writes his letter home on his way to a Union prison.

Letter from Home – Father to Son

Recording – Charles Barnett, Language Arts teacher

barnettecivilwar.mp3

Letter Home – Son to Father

Recording by Cody Eldridge, 8th grade student at DR Hill

civiwarcody.mp3

Google Earth Lit Trip – View the event locations included in this book – along with supplementary information about the Civil War:

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*You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view this file.

Viewing – Unzip folder contents AND extract all files.  Then select the .kml document.  This should open automatically in Google Earth.  Under My Places, Temporary Files, you can select the Civil War Lit Trip .kmz file to view the tour.  In order to read the content saved under each location and to view and hear media files, pause the tour and manually click on each underlined placemark.

Posted in Web 2.0, What I'm Reading Now | 1 Comment »

Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen

Posted by ssymborski on April 29, 2008

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fourstars.jpg 4 stars

 Holly’s entire life was filled with conflict and tragedy.  After her dad died, Holly and her mom moved from one ratty apartment to another.  When Holly’s mom got fired for stealing from her workplace, they soon became homeless.  Holly never really cared about that.  Even the old van was home as long as her mother was there with her arms wrapped tightly around her.  That was before her mom met Eddie.

Holly’s mom started staying out late  – often leaving Holly alone all night in the van.  She also started acting funny, and her eyes were always shiny.  Holly soon learned that she would have to take care of herself to survive.  Not long after meeting Eddie, Holly’s mom died from a drug overdose in her arms.  Now Holly truly was all alone.

Don’t be fooled into thinking Holly’s life would become better after her mom was gone.  At least her mom loved her - though she loved heroin more than she ever loved Holly. 

Holly is bounced from one foster home to another.  She doesn’t want to trust another adult.  She feels like she can’t let her guard down again.

Holly reaches her breaking point when she is sent to live with The Benders.  Her foster father wants to be “closer” to Holly.  Holly can tell by the way he stares at her that his thoughts aren’t fatherly.  Her foster mother steals money from her husband, and then blames it on Holly.  Holly spends her nights cold, alone, and hungry – locked in a dark, damp, dirty laundry room with only a journal to keep her company.  At first Holly is angry that her teacher was forcing her to write in a stupid journal.  Soon, however, Holly finds comfort in the journal pages as she begins telling her story. 

The story will haunt you.  The pain Holly feels is achingly evident, and you will find yourself wondering how she continues to survive.

Holly decides to run away – this time for good.  Life on the streets cannot be any worse than the abusive home she lives in now…

All the pain she’s been through… nothing can shock her.  Life alone has to be better than this.

Unfortunately for Holly, she’s wrong.  Things can get much worse.

 Reading this book may make the problems you have in your life seem very small in comparison to Holly’s.  Despite the sadness the reader feels while reading about Holly’s experiences, the ending will bring you comfort.  Holly will at last find peace and happiness. 

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09, What I'm Reading Now | No Comments »

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

Posted by ssymborski on April 28, 2008

4.5 stars -  fourstars1.jpg

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by Gennifer Choldenko

This fast-paced, funny book will hold the reader’s interest from start to end. 

Kirsten hates her life.  Her best friend Rory is suddenly popular and hangs out with the beautiful, but mean, Brianna.  Kirsten knows she will never be popular - she’s overweight and feels like an outcast.  Her mom and dad are always fighting now.  It seems like nothing will ever get better for her.

Suddenly there’s a new student named Walk who transfers to Kirsten’s school. 

Kirsten’s life is about to become much more interesting.  

She discovers who her true friends are – and finds out the shocking secret her parents have been keeping – one that brings Kirsten closer to Walk than she ever could have imagined.

  

Posted in Top Tiger Book Award Nominees 2008-09, What I'm Reading Now | No Comments »

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

Posted by ssymborski on April 23, 2008

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

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Review by Sarah Cloonan 

This is a great book and I would recommend it to any student. It’s about an orphan named Hollis Woods who has this idea that she is a mountain of trouble. Until one day when she is brought to a home with an old lady, Josie, who has much in common with Hollis. But as much as Hollis likes staying with Josie, she can’t help but remember the times she had in her last home, the Reagan’s.Just when Hollis Woods is warming up to Josie, though, she is threatened to be taken away and put with another family. Now Hollis is running away with Josie to her old home. Will they get caught? Will they find her old family? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Posted in Summer Reading | No Comments »

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Posted by ssymborski on April 22, 2008

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 Olive’s Ocean is about a girl named Martha Boyle. She is a middle school girl who is going to her grandmother’s for a week. Martha wanted to please everyone one, which later on she figured she couldn’t do. At the end Martha realized that she would rather be at home.   I think students would like this book would because it is about a girl our age, and she is going through typical teen changes, too. I think that some students would also like this because they would know that people have problems out there to help them through any hard times if they don’t have someone to talk to. 

Review by Kas Streater   

Posted in Summer Reading | No Comments »

Bully ‘Zine

Posted by ssymborski on April 22, 2008

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Stop Bullying Magazine  

Helpful Hints

-         Tell someone.

-         Stand up for yourself.

-         Stay in a crowd if you are scared.

-         Don’t start a fight.

-         Tell your friends.

-         Tell the bully you are tired of it!

Dos and Do Nots for Parents:

Don’t ignore your children if they say they are getting bullied.

Be involved in school.

Know who your children’s friends are.

Ask them about school everyday.

Be alert if they are acting different.

  

Advice Column 

  • Don’t bully someone it may cause them to bully back.
  • If you are bullied tell an adult immediately.
  • Stay with a group of friends.
  • If someone else is being bullied help them.
  • Try to tell the bully to stop and why without using violence.

Top Ten Things Bullies Do 

Start a fight

Take money      

Make fun of people       

Pick on kids       

Tease people       

Disrespectful to teachers       

Low grades       

Lower people’s self esteem        

Mental abuse       

Physical abuse      

Letter to the Editor:  

Dear Editor,

      Our class really enjoyed this book. It showed us how people are affected by bullying and how they can solve the problem without fighting. We see how people can stand up for themselves and end bullying. It was great. Thanks.

Mrs. Mathis Tap Group

          

Posted in The Revealers | No Comments »

Final Projects

Posted by ssymborski on April 22, 2008

Tap groups self-selected a project to complete after reading The Revealers. Here are some of their ideas:

Bully Out Plan 

Stand Up!  Stop Bullying!  

 Our ideas: stop_the_bully1.jpg 

  •  Student newspaper monthly or quarterly to express views and opinions of students.
  • Student jury of peers to handle small incidents.
  • Peer Mentoring when a new student comes to school.
  • Consistent punishment with no tolerance policy as with weapon and illegal substances.
  • Anonymous hotlines could get reports of bullying when kids do not want to be a snitch.

Posted in The Revealers | No Comments »

Stand Up! Stop Bullying!

Posted by ssymborski on April 22, 2008

We are so pleased with the success of our new Tiger Advisory Group Program “Stand Up!  Stop Bullying!”  Here are a few comments made by students after completing their reading of The Revealers:

Post reading – Students’ Reactions/Thoughts:                                                      

I think this book has taught me a lot about the affects of bullying. Many people don’t realize how it can affect people’s lives, such as the bullied kids can get physically sick before they go to school because they are so scared to go to school. Also many kids could commit suicide. In fact it has happened so much in the U.S. that it’s called bullyside. These are only some of the affects bullying can have on people.

This book has taught me so much about bullying. It made me realize how much it has happened here at school and everywhere. Not only is it taunting its physical bullying and online. Most people end up getting killed by going home and committing suicide or seriously injured.  Most people bully because they have a low self esteem and want to make themselves feel better. Bullying can be over many things. This is a serious problem that does need to be dealt with.

I learned many things from the book. I learned that bullying can lead to really dangerous things. Bullying can lead to death, broken bones, and suicide. But what people really don’t know is that bullying can affect the people who are doing the bullying. They could be suspended from school, put in jail, and many other things. This is a few things that I have learned from Revealers.

I did not know that bullies get picked on too. Also I did not know that bullies can cause suicide. People do not know how other people feel and how much it can hurt.

This book was an excellent book. It makes you realize what can happen at your school. It shows people how kids feel when you bully them. It also shows you how to resolve problems about bullying. I am so glad I read this book. It helped me to make sure I never bully anyone. This book shows me different ways kids bully. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!

This book shows students how people effected from bullying stand up for themselves. It also shows how bullying can effect kids. It is not right and we should stand up for ourselves and others. The book gave us a great example of everyday problems.

Bulletin boards:

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Posted in The Revealers | No Comments »

English I Honors

Posted by ssymborski on April 18, 2008

Requirements for rising 8th graders enrolled in Honors English I @ D.R. Hill:

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Summer Reading is required for all Honors English classes.  Read the assigned book during the summer.  Written and/or oral assignments/projects will be assigned and completed during the first week of your English course.  
 

Honors English I Selection:

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Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns Description from Titlewave.com:  In 1906, the citizens of the small Georgia town of Cold Sassy are scandalized when Grandpa, the owner of the general store, marries a Yankee many years his junior only three weeks after becoming a widower. 

Posted in Summer Reading | No Comments »

Desperate Journey by Jim Murphy

Posted by ssymborski on April 15, 2008

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summary from Library Media Connection (March 2007):

Twelve-year-old Maggie has begun to think about the possibility of a life away from the Erie Canal. What would it be like to live in a house on dry land where she wouldn’t be called “dirty canal girl” and have rocks thrown at her. After her father and uncle are arrested, Maggie, her ailing mother, and her brother fight a desperate battle to get their cargo to Buffalo in time to collect a bonus and prevent the loss of the cargo-hauling boat that is also their home.

Posted in Summer Reading | No Comments »

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Posted by ssymborski on April 15, 2008

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Gangsters do laundry?

On Alcatraz island they do…

 Book Excerpt: 

capone-1.mp3

Posted in Summer Reading | 2 Comments »

Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

Posted by ssymborski on April 11, 2008

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Jack lives in a Saxon village with a father who is always disappointed in him and a beautiful, slightly obnoxious younger sister who is the family’s favorite.  It seems that Jack will be destined to live his days as a poor farmer, just as his bitter father was once forced to abandon his own dreams and accept a more simple life as a peasant.  Jack’s fate dramatically changes, though, when he is asked to be become an apprentice to the revered Bard…Jack?  Why not the other town boys who seem much brighter and stronger?   Jack does not realize that the Bard foresees great promise in his character, and the Bard believes Jack is the only hope for their town’s survival. 

Jack internship is violently interrupted when the wild r raid his home, capturing both Jack and Lucy and forcing them to leave their home far behind.  Soon Jack finds himself embarking on a mysterious, dangerous journey.  He must fulfill a seemingly impossible quest – and quickly!  If not, his beautiful, beloved sister will be brutally offered as a sacrifice.

This book provides great humor and spine-tingling adventures (dragons, spiders, and vicious trolls – Oh My!).  The greatest aspect to this book are the numerous life themes Nancy Farmer addresses – loyalty, faith, love of family, ambiguity of good and evil, and many more.  Jack emerges from this adventure as a true Bard in his own right.

Nancy Farmer is an amazing writer.  Hopefully the long length will not discourage any readers – once started, you will eventually wish the story had never ended!

Posted in Summer Reading | No Comments »