Warm Bodies Part 2

So, I feel really unobservant right now. I was doing some research on the Warm Bodies movie. On the IMDB website, there is this wonderful little bit of trivia.

The film is based loosely on “Romeo and Juliet”. “R” = “Romeo”; “Julia” = “Juliet; “Perry” = “Paris”; “M/Marcus” = “Mercutio”; “Nora” = Juliet’s “Nurse” (the character of Nora is also a nurse).

It makes complete and total sense. I can’t believe that I didn’t see it. I shall have to hang my English teacher hat up for the weekend. I am not worthy of it. Before I hang it up in shame, though, this novel might be a way to get my kids who are obsessed with zombies to like Romeo and Juliet more when I teach it in May. Hmmmm…. the wheels are turning already.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm BodiesWarm Bodies by Isaac Marion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I toyed with the idea of reading this book since I saw the trailer for the movie. I knew that it would be an easy read and I didn’t want to spend the kajillion dollars (okay $10, but still!) to buy it– especially when I knew it would only offer a couple of hours of entertainment.

After reading a review by my friend Amy, I decided that I would read it. I took myself to the library and requested it. I waited. And waited. It arrived for me this morning; I picked it up at 9. It took me about two hours to read.

They were two of the best hours I’ve spent with a book in a long time. That really surprised me. I wasn’t really planning on liking it. In fact, I was completely prepared to hate its guts. I figured it would be just another zombie book in a long line of zombie books.

This one had heart. R, the narrator, is one of the most fully fleshed out (har-dee-har-har) zombies ever written. Because the book is written in first person, we are allowed inside of R’s head and follow his thoughts as he develops through the book. It is this character development that I love. Through his relationships with the Living and the Dead, R becomes whole again. I never thought I’d end up rooting for the zombies.

I am planning on purchasing this book. It is going to stand up to multiple readings. I am sure that there are nuances that I missed the first time around.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Scar Night by Alan Campbell

One of my students recommended this book to me. He is what we call a “reluctant reader” so I was excited to read it. I don’t know how to tell him that I did not really like it much. The fact that it took me ten days to read is a testament to how I had to drag myself through it. He kept on telling me that it would get better, but I never found that the case.

The world of Deepgate is a dark one. I’m all for dystopian societies. Usually they are the settings for my favorite books. The description of the city was detailed to start out. There are chains everywhere, supporting buildings over the Abyss. I never quite figured out what was holding the chains up, but maybe it was because I didn’t read closely enough. I really didn’t care. The problem that I found with the explicit detail is that it felt like a broken record to me. Just as the story started revving up, there was a description of the horrible living environment. It was more distracting than helpful.

Campbell jumps right in to the story without much exposition. Normally I like that, too. However, he also jumped in with a completely different vocabulary with no explanation of what the world-words meant. I guess it is a good exercise in contextual reading. I spent the first few chapters trying to figure out exactly what was going on and why it was going on. Characters were tossed in as if the author expected us to already know who they were. I kept on checking to see if this was a book 2 of a series.

The main characters were superficial. There was no depth to them. Campbell kept hinting at a deeper story, but never told it. I know that this is a method to increase anticipation and interest in a novel. The thing is, you’ve got to stop being a tease and give the information.

The first book in a series should make you want to read the second book. I just let out a sigh of relief when I was done, ready to move on to a more interesting book and forget that I ever read Scar Night.

I gave it 2/5 stars on Goodreads.

BORDERS Closing

As I am sitting here in front of BORDERS, waiting to meet my family, I am struck with a sudden sense of longing. This store has been a part of my life for many years. I’ve bought books I loved and some I hated. I’ve had countless cups of tea while writing in the coffee shop. It has been a refuge for me when I needed to get away from everything.

Now I sit in the empty parking lot. It is humbling to know that things can disappear so completely. In retrospect, I’ve seen it dwindle. First the music left. Next, the video section. It was so gradual, though, I didn’t realize the ramifications of the slow disintegration. A part of me thought it would be there forever.

I was a part of their demise. Buying online is less expensive and more convenient. However, BORDERS did not help themselves by becoming more innovative about the way they interacted with their customers. Their online presence was spotty and difficult to navigate. They didn’t change with the times.

As educators, we are all at risk for “going out of business.” If we don’t stay innovative in our approach, our students will stop paying attention. Meeting the needs of our customers while maintaining high quality product is essential. If we can’t keep up, we’ll fade, just like BORDERS did.

So, farewell, my favorite bookstore. I miss sitting in you and being surrounded by books. I hope I can learn a lesson from your closing.

Teach Like a Champion and Positive Framing

My summer professional development included two book studies. My favorite book out of the two was definitely Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. The book contains techniques that master teachers use on a daily basis to help students succeed. Each technique is broken down into a key idea, rules/methods, and examples. The book not only details the steps for each technique, but it also includes a DVD that shows video of master teachers modeling them in a real classroom. It is a book that you can read in little pieces, something that I really appreciate being a mom.

As I was reading the book, I kept on seeing things that I do without thinking. I realized that the ways I reacted were not the most conducive to encouraging student achievement. The techniques given were fixes that were logical. In fact, Lemov’s suggestions are easy and, if done consistently, become good habits. 
One of the techniques that really stood out to me was number 43 called “Positive Framing.” The key idea behind Positive Framing is: “Make corrections consistently and positively. Narrate the world you want your students to see even while you are relentlessly improving it” (p. 205). The essence of this technique is to live in the now and be positive about what you are asking the students to do. It does not mean that you only talk about the positive things that students do. It means that you focus on interventions for behavior, but you do so in a positive manner. You have the expectation that students will behave a certain way and you use reminders instead of guilt/punishment to maintain the direction that you want the class to go in.

I was really struck by the rule “assume the best” (p. 205). According to Lemov, it is important to not “attribute to ill intention what could be the result of lack of distraction, lack of practice, or genuine misunderstanding.” Now, I feel that I am positive when it comes to my classroom manner. My students enjoy my class and generally feel good about themselves when they leave. However, when I ask my students to do something, I realize that I often frame it negatively.

Lemov, D (2010). Teach like a champion: 49 
techniques that put students on the path to 
college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (p. 109)

For example, when I have a student that isn’t on task, I sometimes say,  “If you don’t get on task, I am going to have to start requiring you to stay after school to make up time.” Lemov points out that, by stating it this way, I am assuming that the student will not stay on task. The solution is to say “Show me your best SLANT” and walk away “as if you couldn’t imagine a world in which (the student) wouldn’t do it” (p. 206). Of course, you may have to go back a couple of times to make sure that the student knows exactly what is expected, but it tells the student EXACTLY what you want him or her to do.

Imagine what it would be like if you started this at the beginning of the year? Off-task behavior would still be there, of course, but I bet it would be much easier to get the whole class back on track if you reacted positively by stating high expectations and standards. The entire book is like that. I kept on having “aha” moments as I worked through it. If are looking for a book that will improve your classroom management almost instantaneously, this is definitely a book to check out!

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Have you read a book this summer that really made you think? Leave me a comment because I’d love to check it out!