New Novels


animal farm book cover

Intrigued by the history and enticed by the opening pages, pre-AP classes are off to a great start with Animal Farm this week.  Many students left class on Friday saying they were looking forward to reading more, and might even finish the book this weekend!

Those who do finish Orwell’s novel before May 5 may want to explore further resources:

This Brain Pickings article highlights the incredible Animal Farm illustrations of Ralph Steadman as well as key quotes from author George Orwell.

The History Channel website has short, interesting biographies of Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin with several related video links. A YouTube search will yield many videos about Nicholas II or any other figure of Russian history you’d like to learn more about.


Students in second and third period enjoyed the first chapters of Freak the Mighty so much they didn’t want to stop reading on Friday.  The popularity of the book is due in part to the wonderful voice of Max, our teenage narrator.  We’ll follow the story of Max and Kevin’s improbable friendship this week and talk about the important lessons these two boys learn from each other.

Students interested in more Kevin and Max might be interested to know there was a movie made of the book.  Author Rodman Philbrick talks about that and other aspects of his popular novel on his official website.  If you love Freak the Mighty, consider reading its sequel, Max the Mighty.




Edmodo for Book Thoughts



Descriptive-narrative sketches,  personal narrative essays, narrative poems–we’ve been talking a lot about narrative writing lately.

Most of us are reading books that tell stories.  We’re enjoying the unfolding of a plot and the development of characters.  We’re sticking with our novels because we want to find out what’s going to happen, and because we’re entertained while we wait:  the author’s style is just right for us.

Whatever genre we are reading, we all have something to share about our books.  We are thinking, wondering, noticing, feeling as we read, and many of us would like a place in which to share our book thoughts.

One virtual space that my classes have used in the past is Edmodo.  We’ll use this secure, safe education tool to create an invitation-only, password-protected Kriese 7th ELA “room” where we can talk about our books (and other stories).  Parents will be invited, too :- )

Students are likely familiar with Edmodo via science classes in earlier grade levels.  I’m excited to use this tool again in English class.

Let’s get the conversations started!



Image credit:  Elements of Literature. Digital image. McDonald Publishing, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.

What Are You Reading Now?


At the beginning of class last Tuesday, students were asked to summarize what was currently happening in the books that they were reading.  They typed their answers into a Google form, with reminders to incorporate the sentence variety and conventions we’ve been working on in class.  I’m especially happy to see the use of appositives in the responses!

Most importantly, I’m happy with the level of engagement I’m seeing with most students and their books.  Spending time in the library and in silent reading has given me insight into students’ reading lives.  I’m learning who is familiar with which authors, who reads reluctantly and who reads willingly, and who throws up big roadblocks to reading…and perhaps why.  Several students and I are now working on finding books that will get them interested again after many, many months of not reading any book at all (true confessions have been one of the benefits of this return to library visits and reading time). 

Some of the many intriguing plot summaries from last week:

Ben on Perfect Season by Tim Green:

“A new kid, Chuku, has just moved in and is a potential star wide receiver. He met Troy, the main character one day at the Jets facility and Troy was impressed. Since Troy has to attend a poor school because his dad ran away with all of his money, he tried to “recruit” Chuku to attend and he did. So now, with a hall of fame player, Seth Halloway, as their coach, they are looking forward to a perfect season.”

Jane on Size 21 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot:

“Heather Wells, a college dorm monitor, has been hearing strange screams going down the elevator shaft and she has been finding people dead at the bottom. She knows these types of people wouldn’t elevator surf  (jump from elevator cars to the next) so she calls the police, and of course they don’t believe her and no one else does either. She starts to investigate and finds the president of the colleges son as a suspect.”

Joseph on Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins:

“Gregor is getting ready to go on a hunt to find the Bane — the biggest baddest rat in the Underland — and kill it. Gregor knows that he has to do this even though the prophecy calls for his death. Him and Ripred, a rat that is on the humans side, are going to do whatever they can to kill the Bane and let Gregor keep his life, but it will be very hard.”

Francesca on The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler:

“The main character, Penny, just arrived at a new school in Hog’s Hollow. She and her mother baked cupcakes for a party and they have just arrived to set up the party room. An embarrassing accident happens and the birthday girl, Charity, now hates Penny. She then ‘welcomes’ Penny to her new school with a locker full of pennies.”

Kevin on The Fourth Stall, Part II by Chris Rylander:

“Earlier in the book, the protagonist Mac and his best friend Vince, along with a few other assistants, conducted a mass cheating operation for the SMARTS test, the book world’s equivalent of STAAR, where they corrected every answer. Unfortunately, everyone failed the test, despite the corrections. As the punishment for a failure on this scale results in the school being closed down, Mac and Vince must find out who is trying to take the school down. If they can’t–it’s the end of the world.”

Dahlia on The Chase by Janet Evanovich:

“FBI agent Kate O’Hare was captured by Carter Grove’s elite private security agency called Black Rhino. Nicholas Fox, her partner and international con-man and thief, is caught, and even though her bosses know what she’s doing, she’s on her own. Kate successfully talks her way out of the tricky situation, finds Nick Fox, and heads back to the states, finds Carter Grove in possession of stolen paintings, and arrests him, with help of a rag-tag crew and her dad, ex-Navy Seal, Jake O’Hare.”

Sam W. on Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr:

“The main character, Connor, has a big baseball game coming up against his biggest rival, Billy Burrell and the Red Sox. Connor runs into Billy at school, where Billy starts to threaten Connor about ‘accidentally’ hitting him during the game. Connor then watches as he walks off and walks right into a locker door, sneding Connor home laughing. Connor then finds the tires on his bike slashed with some jagged glass, which only could have been done by the one and only….. Billy Burrell!”

What are you reading now?  What’s happening in your book?


The Phantom’s Lair

Deep down in the bowels below the opera house. There lives a phantom in these bowels. This is his lair, his lair of despair, of distress, and of desperation.

Down, down, getting deeper, and darker.

You have to put your hand at eye level so a noose doesn’t catch you because he’s a killer. He will take any chance to catch more prey. And when he captures you he will use your blood to make yet another portrait about what he feels about the world, hatred and prosperity. He’ll later use your bones to frame his portrait of revulsion.Your blood will drip from his cold, beat up hands.

If you make it down there alive, you will sorringly have to see the vicious snarl upon his face. He’ll slowly walk toward you as fog seeps through the cracks in the walls making it harder for you to see him, and it makes it easier for him to find you. You’ll try to run, you’ll try to hide, just don’t take too big a step backwards or you might fall in. You might fall into his lake of lonely souls. This is where he traps the souls of his past and most recent prey.

See you weren’t the first to explore this pit of hell. Just ask Johnny’s mom what happened.

The Lair of The Forgotten

The Candle

One lone candle illuminated the vast darkness, the darkness that brings sorrow-not fear. There is no red dripping from the walls, but the Phantom is red with anger and green with envy. “How is it I am the one who is shunned, why must I pay for sins that are not my own?” The Phantom sits alone pondering this very thought, for he has no other distractions, he has no companions. Beyond the empty lake, black with despair. Beyond the throne for a king ruling a land of one. Lies The Phantom’s only consolation:

His organ, where he composes his beautiful creations. Pages and pages, more and more pages, filled with music that has the composers full attention. The phantom can pour his heart into “The Music of The Night,” the music the words of which he believes with all his might.

The Phantom is no angel though. As he paces in his lair he is plotting revenge, revenge so bitter one would rather visit his lair. His lair…

The light is so scarce coming from only one source, one candle, one ruby red candle, the flame flickering, dancing, then suddenly leaping into the air. Shadows move across the room with minds of their own. Follow one and it may lead you out to the lake. The Phantom’s lair is separated from the outside world by the inky unfathomable lake. Dare to cross the lake and you will eventually reach the throne, although it isn’t built on bones there is an aura around the throne that ensures no one gets near.

Take my advice and run, run, run out of the lair while you still can. Run past the shattered mirror, and the collapsed stairs. Run away before The Phantom puts you in a musically administered trance. The Phantom may be alone, but, “the true distortion lies in his soul.”

Photo Credit: Riccardo Cuppini via Compfight

Recommended Apps


 For the Edublogs Student Challenge Week Three, we adapted the sixth activity to write about our favorite apps.   You’ll find some great ideas here for your iPhone or iPad, whether you are looking for entertainment, productivity, or education.

Dillon’s Amazing Apps

When I turn on my iPad, I have a bajillion things I could do, and all of these things come from apps. There are apps for texting, gaming, school, typing, recording, movie-making, emoji 😜, and more! Apps make life easier, entertaining, and better. I love all of my apps, but here are just a few that I use on a daily basis…

Evan’s “Apps That Make Up My World”

We’re going to talk about apps, but not just any apps, we’re going to talk about the apps that I use on a daily basis.

Olivia’s Favorite Apps

These are a few of my most favorite apps! They are not in any kind of order, just listed how I saw them on my phone. If you also use – or try – any of these apps please let me know in the comments, and also tell me how you use them!

Soham’s Favorite Apps

In the modern world, apps (applications) are very important. Apps are self-contained software that can complete certain tasks. Safari on iPad allows you to search the internet. Flappy Bird on iPhone allows you to play an addicting flapping game. The AP Mobile app allows you to stay in touch with the latest AP news. All these apps can modify your phone or tablet to make it what you want.

Steven’s Most-Used Apps

We all have apps we can’t live without. It doesn’t matter whether they’re on your smartphone or your desktop, they are there and you use them every day. I have a few of those. Music, Calculator, Skype, etc., and if I am on my phone, there are 5 apps that I am almost guaranteed to be using.

Some of Ben’s Favorite Apps

What if there were no apps, or even no electronics? I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure our world will crumble as we know it. Well, at least all teenagers…. Ever since electronics have been invented, they’ve been the most needed item on planet earth. Now, there are some of my favorite apps in the App Store.

Isaac’s Top 5 Gaming Apps

The App Store is full of kinds of weird and original games. You have the free to play games and tilt games and tower defense games and all sorts of other genres. Here my top 5 favorites.

What is your favorite or most useful app on your phone or iPad?