Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Best of the Classroom!

Back on my very old blog I did one of my favorite posts on what I love about Halloween as a teacher. Christmas might be my favorite holiday of all time, but there is seriously something about the month of October within the classroom walls.

So, I bring you the best of Halloween in my classroom...

Pumpkin Math:

Made by yours truly and sold on TPT for $2.50
One of my pride and joys is the first product I made for my Teachers Pay Teachers store...and actually, my first personally created lesson straight out of student teaching.  PUMPKIN MATH!  My students become elated (as do I) over it every single year.  My kids get into their groups and each group gets a pumpkin.  They get to estimate the weight, volume (using cups of guts), and circumference of their pumpkins.  We carve pumpkins using dice and then go back to see how close the estimations were. I invite parents to help us carve and students donate the pumpkins.  Our room stinks of pumpkin the rest of the day, but it is well worth it.  I try to take the seeds home and roast them for the kids to try the next day, since many of them have never had this chance.  

Haunted House Expressive Writing:

Also made by yours truly on TPT for $5.00
Possibly even higher on my favorites list than Pumpkin Math, is the Haunted House Expressive Writing Unit.  I started using it in my classroom several years ago.  I was tired of reading my students lackluster writing and wanted to figure out a way to get them to become more descriptive.  Thus, was born this unit after finding a cool idea online that included sound effects.

They are allowed to make it gory and scary OR funny if they'd like.  I play Halloween movie songs and creepy sound effects to help them get inspired while they are writing.  We play around with the 5-senses to figure out ways to make our audience feel like they are right there with us in that haunted house.  The kids work on trying to use descriptive words for sounds since they can't draw pictures.

Last year, we even had ourselves a writing contest!  I decided to choose the top 10 stories and pass them off to one of the 8th grade classes.  They read and voted for the top 5.  You wouldn't believe how hard the kids worked to make their writing entertaining for those older kids.  They grew leaps and bounds just in those couple weeks.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark:

from Barnes and Noble
You know the variety.  Many of you who are children of the 80s or 90s know these books quite well.  I used to read them cover to cover as a kid and couldn't get enough of them.

When I am done with our regular read-aloud, all during the month of October, I read stories each day from the Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz.  Several years ago I struck gold and found the 3-book treasury from Barnes and Noble.  I especially love to read the stories that give me a chance to jump out at them. It is better if I get them to scream loudly...but these days are sadly gone as my students seem to incredibly desensitized due to being allowed to see all the scary movies in theaters   I'll refrain from getting on a soap box about this one.  

One story in particular (actually there are about 2-3 like it in the books) where the ghost or ghoul is asking for something that the protagonist has stolen and at the end the ghost screams to give it back or something…anyway, I hide a fake bloody finger in the book as I read. Then, when I get to the part where the ghost screams loudly I throw it across the room and scare the living daylights out of the kids. ha ha ha ha It works every time...or at least it used to.

For the next week following Halloween, my kids beg me to continue reading out of it. But I tell them it is an October only special. After that, the kids are found checking this book out of my library time and time again.

House on Hackman's Hill and Wait Till Helen Comes:

Both images are from

Not only do I thoroughly enjoy reading the Scary Stories, but I read one of these two books (I switch back and forth every year) as our daily read-aloud.  Both are tried and true in the classroom to freak out students.  Although, I've noticed they are less and less scared each year....which takes all the fun away for me.  But both stories are still great reads that put us in the mood for the Halloween season.  

House on Hackman's HIll by Joan Lowery Nixon is a fantastically creepy story and I prefer it over the other.  There are several scenes where Anubis, the half man half jackal ancient Egyptian god, jumps out or does something ferociously scary, like scratching and sniffling at a door. These are the parts I love to overdramatize to get the kids riled up.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn is one of those ghost stories where you know something bad is coming.  Even though it has a couple spine-tingling moments, it doesn't really have any of my favorite spots to jump out on.  Meh.  But no bother, it is still worth the creeps it gives some of my students.  

Halloween Picture Books:

I love to pull out my three favorite picture books as well, two of which I discovered as a student teacher and have stuck by since.  I have tried to read others and I always go back to these three.

Hallo-Weiner is by Dav Pilkey has a really nice theme to it as well as his hint of humor.  I can't resist doing a funny little German old lady voice for his mom.  The kids laugh and enjoy this one year after year.  

Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini is one of my all-time favorite picture books.  My copy has fallen apart twice and has been glued back together with glue.  My favorite part?  Doing the mean witchy voice, even though it hurts my throat every time.  Oh, and the very last'll have to read it for yourself to see if the witch gets her Piggie Pie.  

The real photographs in Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson are gorgeous, colorful, and so detailed. I love reading this to students before we carve our pumpkins during Pumpkin Math.  It gets oohs and ahhs every time.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure:

You can even get yourself a vintage VHS copy on Amazon!
Even though we aren't allowed to show movies in class anymore, I still wanted to include this one in my Best of Halloween!  Garfield's Halloween Adventure is a favorite of mine from when I was a kid.  It used to scare the bejeesus out of my little brother and I.  The same scene that frightened us always gets my students too.  Can you say pirates rising out of the floor and then scaring Garfield in his hiding spot?...those of you who have seen it know what I mean!

This cartoon is never shown on T.V. any more, so I just love sharing it with them.  Since I can't show it in class this year, I'll just have to watch it at home by myself.  Candy, candy, candy, candy!

So, what are your Best of Halloween picks?  Do you love celebrating this in the classroom more than any other holiday?  

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Highly Recommend Math Misconceptions!

With the roll-out of Common Core in math, teaching and modeling how to recognize the way mistakes made in math can actually strengthen students' (and teachers') learning is very key.  But many of us only know the types of mistakes we see year after year...not necessarily why students make them.  A lot of times, those mistakes are engrained in them before they reach us in the intermediate grades.  So what can we do to tap into those students' mistakes and begin to figure out why they continuously run into walls in their learning?  How can we anticipate those misconceptions as we lesson plan?  Let me tell you!!!...because I am seriously carrying this book around back and forth from school like my own little teaching Bible.

For the first time in my 9 years of teaching, I started to realize why my students have trouble understanding why the denominators do not change when adding or subtracting fractions!  I attest this amazingness to the book I discovered and read this past summer...

This past summer, I was a part of a Math Lab School in which a small group of teachers from all over my district were able to learn about theory and put it directly into practice the following day for 2 weeks.  While reading a text we were assigned to use...I found a recommendation for Math Misconceptions and became extremely I was also studying for my National Boards Assessment Center portion. It is available on Amazon for $40, although I could have sworn I got mine for under $20 this summer. 

That's besides the point.  With a highlighter and plenty of post-it tabs on hand, I dove head first in to Math Misconceptions!  And as you can see, I found quite a bit that I LOVED throughout the entire book.

Math Misconceptions is for PreK-5th grade and it was insanely interesting to read up on things like number sense and beginning addition in the primary grades.  I instantly understood why so many of my students do not have a firm grasp on number sense and place value.  Why can't college math courses in the teaching major make this a required text and class?!

So, not only does this book help educators understand common misconceptions (as identified by NCTM)...but it does it in a way that makes it enlightening and simple to understand.  Why oh why wasn't I told about this book when I first started teaching?!!!

Here's how it is put together:

Each chapter has multiple sections.  For example:  Number and Operations has sections on counting with number words, renaming and regrouping when adding and subtracting, and understanding fractions, etc. The different chapters also cover algebra, geometry, measurement, data analysis and probability, and assessing children's mathematical progress.


At the beginning of each subsection, you can read a classroom vignette in which a teacher is bombarded with student misconception(s) (mostly through the use of story problems).  Aside from the instructional ideas, this is probably my 2nd favorite part since it allows me to peek in on how to use these ideas in my classroom.  AND an "Identifying the Error Pattern" follows each of these vignettes.


One would think the research portion would be super boring!  But because you get reeled in so much by the all too familiar misconception you see year after year, it actually helps the entire "mess" make sense and helps you realize that you weren't imagining things!  Not to mention, it is explained in a user-friendly fashion....none of that scientific mumbo jumbo.  

The best part of this book?...the Ideas for Instruction portion chalked full of ideas for activities.  All of the activities are very well connected to the philosophy of Common Core.  They allow students to represent, construct, visualize, draw, connect, explain, and describe.  We are able to identify the misconceptions and address them while implementing these activities because it allows for so much exploration and explanation opportunities.  Love this!!

Last but certainly not least...questions that force you to think about what you have possibly seen in your own classroom and how you can work on changing how misconceptions help not hinder your students (and you!).  

Not only will this book create awe and lightbulb moments, but you can also buy an accompanying text that gives black and white reproducibles (also on an included CD) for each section...most of which they mention in the ideas sections.  There are 2 versions for primary and intermediate grades.  While I only own the grades 3-5 book, I'd like to grab the PreK-2 since some of my intervention students could use the primary activities

Here is one of the first activities and documents I implemented in my classroom when I was getting ready to teach adding and subtracting fractions and everything that comes along with it.  I wanted to make sure my students had a solid base understanding of part to whole relationships and equivalent fractions.  

I already have been recommending this to everyone I know, especially my 5th grade team.  But I am now singing from the hilltops like Julie Andrews in Sound of Music because I just finished grading my common assessments.  We were running extremely behind in our fractions unit due to still working with students on their behaviors and expectations.  So, I was not able to get to everything on our assessment.  But for the first time in my 9 years of teaching...I have students who demonstrated mastery of the skills I did not even get to!  This is not because they are my higher math students.

The models and work they provided immediately showed me they have a solid understanding of the basics of fractions!!!!  Can I even begin telling you how ecstatic I was as I sat on my couch correcting test after test?  I had to pick my chin up off the floor.  

These students (not all of them yet) got those unknown skills correct because they applied their knowledge from the meaning of part to whole in improper fractions and unlike denominators or equivalent fractions to adding and subtracting mixed numbers with unlike denominators AND they simplified their answers!!  

From Math Misconceptions:
Fraction... "lessons are too often focused on procedures and memorizing rules rather than on developing conceptual foundations prior to skill building." (pg. 41) "Before students study how to add and subtract fractions, they need to understand the meaning of fractions through various models, as well as how to use the language of fractions."  (pg. 42)

Using the Ideas for Instruction section, I planned accordingly:
  1. We tackled fractions by starting with pattern blocks, something so many students are already familiar with!  When we used those to show part to whole relationships, my students had lightbulbs going off like crazy.  
  2. Then, we used our fraction kits and the whole bar to create number lines.  My students immediately saw how equivalent fractions match up with each other.  But as we added 2 more twelfths pieces to one twelfth, they were already adding fractions without even needing the algorithm.  The buzz in my classroom between partners was insane and their enthusiasm as they continued discovering different equivalent fractions was inspiring.
  3. We then used the triangle activity you see in the picture above in order to figure out why our denominators stay the same when we add or subtract...those of you who have taught intermediate grades know this misconception that haunts us every single year.  Kids keep adding and subtracting those denominators because they were always taught to do so when they are given two numbers and they see + or -.  Not any more!!
I really wish I had some photos to show you of all these activities in my classroom, but I was so deep into watching my students make all these connections I had never seen my kids make before, so I didn't have a chance.

But I do have some photos of the day we were working with greatest common factor to simplify fractions.  This of course went a lot smoother this year due to a stronger base in number sense and factors from the beginning of the year (we spiral it over and over in our calendar math and standard-based homework).

I can honestly say, the results I'm seeing in my classroom are completely connected to the use and my implementation of Math Misconceptions!  The writing is on the wall after receiving my district benchmark testing results and, of course, my own common assessment results.

Run, don't walk over to Amazon to buy your copies!

Have you read this book and/or tried it in your classroom?  What has worked?  Or, how would you like to implement this in your classroom?  

Friday, October 11, 2013

POPSUGAR Must Have {October 2013 Box Review}

It feels like I just got the September box last week!  But my October box arrived in my mailbox yesterday and I was more than happy to pop it open and dig through my must have goodies.  The theme of this month's box is Breast Cancer Awareness and getting back into the kitchen for holiday cooking preparation.  Seems pretty interesting yes?

So first...a couple updates on last month's box:

1)  I'm still loving the scent of the diffuser and it is still keeping our guest bathroom smelling lovely.  Yeah for that!
2)  I haven't used the DIY book and I plan to gift it to a friend soon.  There's just no way I'll be able to sit down long enough and make something.  Maybe my friend will make one of the fun little items for me?!
3)  As for the item I ordered from Shoptiques?  I got it a few days after my post, tried it on, and quickly ripped it off!  It was hideous and the material was so very thin. Not worth the $36 at all...and I just sent the refund package back today.  I don't think I'll be exchanging it for anything as I went to the site today to see what they have and I just can't stand any of their more inexpensive items.  They have simple tops that I could get at my favorite stores like JCPenneys or Kohls for a better price and better fit.  Sorry Shoptiques!  It's just not my digs.

First Look

The Lowdown

Cost:  $35 a month (you get a discount if you subscribe for multiple months at once)...they are raising their price to $39.95 after November's box.  But you can order several months at a time now and get them at the $35 price.  No word on why they are raising the price yet, except that they want to continue giving us the best must have products out there.

Coupon:  Use REFER5 to get $5 off of your first box!

Sign up now to get the November box, which is not sold out quite yet.  But if it is, you can sign up to get on the wait list and wait for December.

The products:  Think lifestyle must have products for women procured by editors and celebrity varies from month to month and usually includes beauty, fashion, home, fitness, health and more.

Definitely add POPSUGAR Must Have to your wishlists or subscription services, because it is a unique box that is a ton of fun to open up.  FYI, my box weighed 3.7 pounds this month!  I love that I get to enjoy items outside of the makeup and beauty realm that I have been getting in my Ipsy.  

The Goods

The Can't Cook Book:  Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified by Jessica Seinfeld - valued at $11.99

The first thing I look for in a cook book (when I do actually buy one...such as The Pioneer Woman) is if it has pictures for the recipes.  I know I know, I sound like a little kid or something.  But I like being able to see what the actual dish looks like so I can decide if it is something I might like.  I'm super weird with textures of foods I eat (AKA can't stand hummus, tapioca pudding, or pulp in my OJ). This cookbook does not disappoint with the pictures! Every single recipe has a photograph or multiple photographs (there are a few pages that have fold-outs...see below picture).  Some recipes or tips have video QR Code links you can scan and that lead you to YouTube to see tutorials.  Heck yes!

While I haven't made anything from the book yet, my husband and I picked one recipe we both thought looked extra tasty to add to our weekly menu this week.  We chose Skillet-Roasted Potatoes & Chicken on pages 68 and 69.  I'll let you know in my November review if it turned out well enough to keep rotating it through out our menu.  

I also really really like the section called, "Quickies" (see below) that include even simpler breakfast, lunch/dinner, and snack type foods.  There are several I've spotted that I want to try, but I bought ingredients to make the English Muffin with Peanut Butter, Banana, & Coconut breakfast.  But I also plan to try Avocado Toast, Tomato & Ricotta on Toast, Rice Cake with Cucumbers & Salsa, and Cottage Cheese-Stuffed Avocado with Hot Sauce.  Mmmmmm, mmmmmm, gooooooood!  

Also included are typical sections like tools needed, preparation, etc.  But what I do really like about this cookbook are the several pages containing "How-to" tips (with photographs!) on how to do certain techniques that a lot of people don't know how to get through the correct way.  This includes how to slice an onion, how to use fresh garlic, how to use herbs, etc.  

So far, I'm pretty darn impressed with this cookbook that I most likely never would have bought or picked up.  I may even buy this for my bestie (Hi Beth!) since I know she feels just like Jessica does on the cover of this book.  

The Wet Brush - valued at $14

First off, it is incredibly nice to know that the brush in my box also allowed for a donation towards the fight against breast cancer!  

Okay, so I have very short hair and the last time I used a hair brush to actually brush my hair was about10 years ago.  No really!!  My hair doesn't get tangled and the conditioner I use keeps it from getting tangled.  But, I was incredibly intrigued by the idea of this.  I used it this morning after washing my hair and it went through it like butter.  It's lightweight as well, so I also know it will be easy to use when I am styling my hair.  This brush works well on all hair styles and is meant for use straight out of the shower.  The bristles are made to eliminate tugging, tearing, pulling, and ripping.  

They sell the brushes in different colors and purposes as well.  When I visited the site, I saw there is one meant for use with dry shampoo to create shine.  Anyone who has used dry shampoo knows how dull it makes one's hair look.  I actually wish I would have received that version since I use dry shampoo frequently!

Jane Tran Bobby Pins - valued at approximately $19.50

Again, as a short haired gal, I don't necessarily need bobby pins unless I use them in the morning or at night to keep my hair out of my face while I get ready.  

But, I do find the shape and design of these will hold back my hair very very well.  I like the darker colors with the slight sheen they have so if I do decide to use them for a simple updo, they will add some pizazz to my hair instead of the typical brown or black bobby pins I have hiding in a drawer somewhere.  

Not a fan!  These shadows are not very pigmented and need to be put over a white base first.  As I swatched them on my arm, it took me 4-6 swipes to get them to show up and somewhat match the color you see in the palette.  Hmph.  

I am a liquid liner lover...but in a felt tip pen form.  Now, I did use this liner this morning and it wasn't too terribly difficult, but I don't like having to re-dip the brush as I'm working on my eyes.  So, that's a downside.  But, you can see that the brush allows for a thicker or thinner lines as well as a darker brown or a lighter brown.  Since I'm a bit spastic, it will take some practice, but I do love the formula of this one.  When I went to remove it off of my arm, it almost peeled off more than smudged or rubbed off.  I can see that translating into long lasting liner on the lid.  

Julep for POPSUGAR Duo - valued at $32

Julep is a nail-polish brand mostly known for their Maven subscriptions.  I've never wanted their polishes just because of the high price tag.  So, it was quite a lovely treat to find two bottles in my box this month.  Granted, I already have a Butter London navy or sapphire polish, but I'm willing to give this one a go since I've never used a Julep polish.  

We also received a Julep's polymer top coat that dries in 5 minutes.  I'm a big fan of my Out The Door top coat, but I'll give this one a shot and see if the $18 price tag equals an insanely good top coat or not. 

From the site:  100% of proceeds benefit Breast Cancer Awareness. The gorjana Bali Bead Bracelet features braided cord and small Bali beads creating an almost studded appearance. Stack this bracelet with our classic charm bracelets for a more refined combination.

What a sweet item to include!  Not only did the inclusion of the bracelet in my box allow a donation on my part, but the color itself was also chosen to represent breast cancer awareness.  It is a super bright pink that adds a really nice pop of color and I love the way the beads look like studs.

The only downsides?  It is a little small and I don't how it would fit average-sized wrists.  My wrists have always been tiny, so for once it's nice to have a bracelet that isn't too big on me.  I had to get my husband to put it on for me.  The button and loop closure are very hard to maneuver with one hand. But I do quite love the little hanging gg charm and gold button.

StitchFix giftcard - valued at $20

I am way more excited about this than the Shoptiques giftcard!  This is a new site that gives you a style fix.  You complete a style profile (takes about 10 minutes) and personal stylists find 5 items that match your likes and wants.  Next, you schedule a stitch fix for a $20 styling fee and they send you a box of items that you are allowed to try on!  That $20 applies towards anything you keep.  They even send you a style card to show you how to style items you receive.  You have 3 days to decide on what you want to keep or return.  Anything you don't want, you return using a pre-paid mailing bag.  Login to your account to pay for any of the items you want to keep.  If you keep all 5 of your items, you get 25% off the total.  

Here is what part of the style profile quiz looks like:  

I had to select whether I loved or liked all or some of the items or whether I basically hated them.  There were about 6 of these groups of clothing pieces and each one matched a sort of style (preppy, classic, trendy, etc.)
You even get to list how much you are willing to spend on the different clothing items.  For me, I chose to get the most inexpensive in all categories.  This isn't something I want to spend a lot of money on if I choose to do it outside of this one time the gift card paid for.  

But, this is NOT a subscription service.  You can choose when and how often you want to get a Stitch Fix!  I think this could end up being a super neat treat for myself for a birthday or celebration.  I think it would also be very fun to give as a gift to have a stylist choose items for you and try them on in the comfort of your own home!  How cool is this...I mean really?!!!  

I already signed up for my first Stitch Fix for mid-November when they had some openings.  I was able to use my $20 giftcard to pay for the styling fee.  Don't worry...there will be a blog post and pictures of what I am sent, what I end up keeping, and how I liked the service itself.  I can't wait!!

I saw this as soon as I opened my box!  My husband looked at me and wondered what was wrong with me as I screeched at the site of sprinkles.  LOL.

These Crispycakes are handmade and definitely put a smile on my face.  It was like an adult rice crispy treat!

Do you see how HUGE this thing is?!  Look at it in comparison to my hand.  It was seriously almost 2 inches thick too.  I ended up sharing half of it with my husband for dessert last night.  He scarfed his half down while I ended up only eating half of my half.  I wrapped the other part in cellophane and had it for dessert tonight and it was just as fresh and soft as it was yesterday.  

This flavor was so so.  There wasn't much flavor to it, except for the marshmallow and the chocolate sprinkles.  The marshmallow vs. crispies ratio was a little off too.  But.  I am not going to lie.  I want to try some of the other more gourmet varieties they carry.  Some of the other flavors I would order in a heartbeat? chocolate chip, creamy caramel and marshmallow fluff, pretzel surprise, cocoa crispies and chocolate fluff, and cookies and cream.  They also sell gift boxes that come with a couple different flavors all gift-wrapped and pretty.  Could be a fun and unique Valentine's gift or birthday gift for a friend?  I noticed they also have some special varieties for baby showers.

Final Verdict

I paid $35 for the October box and got $165 worth of items from POPSUGAR Must Have!  The bracelet itself paid for the box....that little itty bitty tiny thing!

All in all, I liked 7 out of the 9 items in this box (and we shall see how the Stitch Fix styling goes).  So, the verdict for October is 4 out of 5 stars.  Here's hoping the November box has some really great fall-inspired items.

What do you think of this month's box?  
Which item is your favorite or a must-have?  
Did you get a POPSUGAR Must Have box too...if so, did you schedule your Stitch Fix yet?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What a Relief!!!

Technically our first quarter is over.  I do have one more week before report cards are to be sent home.  Our kids have taken their first quarter round of district benchmark testing.  The aggregated (weighted) scores are in.  I'm blogging this at 10:15 at night because I'm feeling darn good.  Darn good.

Within the last 3 weeks my class finally found their niche, their routine, their compromise to my expectations.  It is as if something clicked in everyone's minds. My troubled student and I had several chats and heart-to-hearts and he is a changed is like night and day and my colleagues can't believe that he is no longer on my radar.  I find him trying to impress me now and working to show me he CAN do it. I love it!!!

I just braved our district's testing site to see if our data was in and...drumroll, stomach butterfly moment, or perhaps a stomach dropping moment later...there it was!  My kids are doing well!  What a relief and a reason to celebrate.  All that work that I felt was not working is.

I only have about 8 kids who are not meeting or exceeding the quarter 1 standards!  While normally, this number is much less in my classroom, this is something to still celebrate...with a difficult group of kids who I have struggled with...I am extremely happy to see these results!

There have been moments where I have been so behind in our lessons that I thought I was completely letting them down.  We had to work so hard on getting transitions down to less than 30 seconds instead of 5 minutes, going over and reviewing our classroom rule and expectations, stopping to address things like, "He took my pencil," "She shortcutted me in line," etc., that I honestly did not think my kids would be able to pass our benchmark tests.  As the gifted cluster class, my students and I are normally ahead of everyone else and we work at a much faster pace, so this was a tough and confusing quarter for me.  I was thrown off my game over and over again.

Did I do a good job this quarter though?  No, I could have done so much better.  Will I be able to do better for my students next quarter...heck yes!  I know exactly what I need to do to help them achieve and become even better learners.  There is still so much work ahead of us, but at least I know they are reacting to my expectations and truly rising to the occasion.

So, I am relieved to say the least.  I am celebrating!...with some gifs!

as well as

with a little bit of

So, how about you?  What are you celebrating?  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What I Read Wednesday: Murder, Necromancy, and Mean Girls

Sounds like quite the mix doesn't it?  I feel like someone would find this list and think I have attention deficit issues with my reading interests.  But stick with me here.  I have quite a variety on my Goodreads to-read bookshelf and I'm pulling random books off that list over my fall break...enjoying my extra downtime.

A Dark Mind by T.R. Ragan | You may have seen my other WIRW posts in which I reviewed the first two books in the Lizzy Gardner series.  If not, check them out.  Although, you could get away with reading A Dark Mind and not get too lost in the details.

Like thriller or crime movies I love, Dark Mind started out with a scary and heart-thumping scene in a limo driving out to the middle of nowhere. From there it took off with a look into the night when a couple walking back to their car from a date out in Sacramento, in which things take a turn for the worse. This of course was actually the start of the rash of serial killer moments.

Lizzy has a HUGE sense of bravery in this one as she seems to be finally coming to grips with her life with Jared, her crazy people magnet, and killing off her abductor. Hayley returns with an ankle monitor and seemingly has her stuff together (although it's pretty obvious she doesn't and she is putting up a front). Jessica also tries to keep a straight face when she clearly can't seem to handle the build-up of scary events. Jared is tied up with trying to solve the Lovebird Killer case. 

I can't decide if the Spiderman (from 1st book) or the Lovebird Killer grosses me out more. Both gave me the chills and creeps. Frankly, the LK seems way more screwed up and his back-story that you learn about slowly throughout the book is insanely irksome. I did not figure out who the killer was till Lizzy did and while I thought I had figured it out, I was completely wrong! I appreciate Ragan's writing more for that. 

Ragan continues to write books that remind me of all those fantastically scary and thrilling movies I watch over and over. Thank goodness this one didn't have the cheesy Scooby Doo type detective work that Dead Weight did. I look forward to possibly reading a 4th in the series!  And thank goodness T.R. Ragan redeemed herself after the 2nd book.  Thank goodness!

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars || Goodreads Average:  4.05 stars

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBrideWhile this book is completely out of my usual realm of reads...I quite liked it! I only picked this one up after so many of my Goodreads friends raved about it a couple years ago on their shelves and Twitter. Not really knowing what a Necromancer is (like I said, it's not my forte), I added it to my list. Just so everyone else knows, "Necromancy: conjuring the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events."

I can't decide whether this book was a good read because it was funny or because it was scary. I'm going to say funny, since McBride originally wrote this as a short story with a fast food worker being attacked by all sorts of paranormal fiends. 

How could one not like that all the chapters are song titles or lyrics that go perfectly with the events in each?!

Sam makes the mistake of breaking the taillight of a fancy man's silver car. From there, he deals with lots of blood, threats, and confusion as he tries to figure out who he is and why Douglas is after him with a vengeance. For those paranormal lovers, you will get to enjoy weres, witches, dragons, and all sorts of other creatures. Oh and you get to laugh quite a bit throughout as well with a talking head, sculptures that attack, and a waffle-loving harbinger.

I know several of my friends who will love this book, so I hope they try it out too!  

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars || Goodreads Average:  4.02 stars

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers | I was still processing this one hours after I finished reading it.  I had initially given it 3 stars, but quickly changed that to 4...because I know a book that messes with my head hours afterwards deserves more than 3.  

What I wrote up after I first finished:  Trying to wrap my mind around this. 3 stars because I liked it and read it in one day, but that ending, boy that ending. I want to say Summers just proved that girls like those in this book just never quit. They keep bullying, torturing, and hating on others because of their low self-worth and low self-esteem. I'm going to tell myself this is why she wrote the ending this way. Ugh.

It's hard to decide how to feel for Regina. No one deserves the treatment she was given, but then again, she was that so many other people, because she was told to do it. I am of course being very vague, since I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't read Some Girls Are.

Reading this was like watching Mean Girls and reading Speak, or any other Lifetime movie about the evilness of teenage girls and the navigation of high school hallways where no one ever seems to see what is going on.

What I'm thinking hours and hours later:  I'm still annoyed at the ending.  I know Summers ended the book as a way to show that things like this just happen and happen.  But the Goodreads synopsis threw me off making me think something totally different would happen.  Meh.  Read it (the Goodreads synopsis and the book) to see for yourself.  

From Goodreads:  Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard—falling from it is even harder.  Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around.  Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge.  If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day.  She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully.  Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author ofCracked Up To Be.

Please feel free to add me on Goodreads or follow my reviews there.  I absolutely love discovering new and interesting books that I may not have found otherwise.  

I'd love to know what you have been reading or have read lately!  Care to share?

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

October Currently

I am seriously ecstatic this time around since it is officially my fall break in only about 15 hours!!! Wooohooooooooo!!!  I can't wait to be able to sleep in for 5 extra mornings and get some major chores done that have been put on the back burner.

Listening:  I just got home from finishing up my looooooooong and tiring fall student/parent conferences and am holed up on the couch watching the latest episode of Project Runway.  Who else is a fan of this show?  My favorite designer got kicked off last week, so I'm a bit sad.  Now I'm trying to decide who I prefer most out of who is left.  Helen is irritating and I'm tired of hearing her whine and cry.

Loving:  While it is still in the 90s around here during the day, it is extremely nice to have cooler evening and morning temps.  I always know the end of a desert summer is in sight when the evenings start cooling down.  But last year when this happened, we still had 90-100 degree days way into November.  I truly hope that does not happen again, because it made me extremely cranky and irritated last year.  It's time to bust out of my favorite boots and sweaters!!

Thinking:  Most people do the whole spring cleaning thing.  Well, I run on a teacher's schedule and I do most of my cleaning whenever we are on a break.  I have only been able to read about one book every 2 weeks, which is truly horrible for me!!!  I have so many books on my to-read list (if you don't believe me, check out my Goodreads list) and I would really enjoy doing some major sitting on my patio with a book and some hot tea in the mornings...this whole upcoming week of fall break.

Wanting:  I haven't had a cold for almost an entire year (for a teacher, this is really good!) and that has a lot to do with the fact that I usually catch them fast enough to get rid of it using many teacher tricks.  But this one snuck up on me out of the blue on Saturday morning.  I went from feeling perfectly fine to having a sore throat.  While I'm fairly certain it started as allergies, it has moved into my sinuses and I'm not happy at all.  I had to go through a whole week of conferences talking like a man and a stuffed up ball of cotton.  Blech!

Needing:  Okay, so like I said, these are more like wanting.  But I can't help it!  This fall season I have 3 things on my to-buy list.  It's high time I get myself a graphic sweater...I'd like one with a super cute fox on it.  But I haven't seen one I like yet....I sort of missed out on the best one last year from Old Navy.  For the past 2 years I have talked myself out of getting the lace up ankle studded boots.  Every time I walk past them in stores, I stop and stare at them.  So, I decided it's time to get a pair this year since I can't seem to stop obsessing.  Now it's a matter of finding the right pair...I tried a pair on at a cheap little store the other day and thankfully they look pretty darn good on me!  The hunt is on.  I also want to replace my large doctor bag purse that I have been coveting the past 2 years.  I'm a bit tired of carrying a large purse around and want to downsize, but not sure if I can make the jump.  I've already tried so many and can't seem to find the right purse.  Sigh.  
Old Navy sweater
The sweater I missed out on from last season

From Target's Phillip Lim collection...the bag I actually want but can't find anywhere!!
Trick or Treat:  In this case, I am sharing a treat!  I don't have a fancy TeachersPayTeachers store because I just don't have the time to take a lot of my creations and pretty them up enough to put them up for sale.  One day maybe.  But the first thing I put up in my store last year is something I truly love and have used every year since I started teaching 9 years ago.  It is my Pumpkin Math activity and it is only $2.50 in my store.  My kids drool over this every year because it is hands-on and chalk full of math, getting their hands dirty, and more.  I drool over it too because I'm still proud of my crazy clip art and design skills on this one. Go get you some!  There's no way an administrator could walk in and accuse you of doing something piddly.  It has all sorts of math weaved in, including estimation.  Enjoy!
See?  I don't know how to or have time to get too fancy with my stuff on TPT.

Page 1 of  Pumpkin Math Activity (there is also a 2nd page)

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