Haley's Classroom Reveal-Why not?

I'm just finishing my first three days of school. We have a five day weekend, so I won't see my students again for awhile. I'm going to spend my time rethinking a couple of organizational processes!

Our thoughts are with all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

The Why

My classroom is decidedly not Pinterest-worthy. It's just not in my repertoire. I am, however, insanely jealous of all my colleagues and friends who do have aesthetically pleasing rooms.

I've been in 8 different classrooms in 13 years of teaching, so when I had to move classrooms yet again this summer, I took it in stride. In fact, I was semi-grateful because this was a summer of WHY. And I took this opportunity to rethink how my classroom was set-up. Why I had flexible seating options. Why I organized my classroom library the way I did. Why I asked students to bring in Post-it notes. With each picture, I'll talk about my Why.

Classroom Library

My new classroom is a former artroom, so I have a lot of nooks and crannies. Which means, I had to spread out my classroom library. My books are classified by genre, then authors last name. I do have a separate section for graphic novels, even though it's a format because I've found it's what works best for my students. In this picture you see realistic fiction and fantasy. On the opposite wall are science fiction, poetry, and mystery.

Mentor Texts

I have an office in my classroom that I use as my home base. While I use all sorts of books as mentor texts, these are the ones I use most often. Some, like Nine, Ten and The Honest Truth have been read alouds, while others, like the Book of Awesome and My Ideal Bookshelf, help me get to know the students better via writing. 

Back Office

This is my main work room. I have all of my professional books, important paperwork, my supplies, and some picture books. The picture books in this room are ones that I have on deck-ones that I plan on using in the next few weeks. Becuase I have this space, I don't have a traditional desk. 

Back Library

This is another back room that is currently housing the following genres: adventure, historical fiction, informational text, biography, autobiography. Adventure is a widely read genre, so I put it in the back room because I know it'll get a lot of traffic. After taking this picture I moved those two bean bag chairs into the main classroom. Because, well, bean bag chairs in a back room with middle schoolers. Probably not a good idea!

Book Recommendations

Throughout my classroom library, I have markers placed in books that I'm trying to promote. These are usually books that are going to be at the Scholastic book fair or ones that won't get picked up unless it's displayed. 
I wrote a DonorsChoose grant to get this front-facing bookshelf for student/teacher recommendations. It's nothing fancy-I just keep laminated cards next to the bin, and when students return books, they can place the card in the book!

Supply Bins

 The first three days in my room consist of stations and Breakout EDU. I don't want to spend valuable time collecting supplies or organizing materials.  I simply have the kids place them in the correct spot and then sort everything during my planning period. 

I hope you all have had an easy and fun beginning of the school year! 


IMWAYR 8/28/17

Hello, Reader Friends!

We hope your back to school season is going as smooth as possible and we hope you are able to start the year off with some time to yourself to read! I know achieving that work/life balance is always a goal of mine!

If you are in Texas, we are thinking of you and praying for safety and minimal damage.   


The First Rule of Punk - Blog Tour

From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Pérez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She'll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.


When I think about where I live (south central Texas) and how hard it has been for me to find stories for my students that are mirrors into their lives in multiple ways, it was a struggle the last few years. The First Rule of Punk though BLEW me away. I was thinking about all of my past students and even future students who will relate to this in more ways than just the protagonists storyline. This is a book I immediately preordered multiple copies of.

Malú is a young girl who feels that who she is doesn't meet her moms expectations (every girl age 12&up) solely because she is half Mexican/half white, and because of that her mom is constantly on her about learning her heritage and wanting to be proud that their family came from Mexico to America and the hardships they went through to get here. Her Dad on the other hand is this punk rock, record store owning, creative soul who Malú finds herself clinging to. Then her world crashes upside down when her and her mom have to move to Chicago for a couple of years for her moms career. Malú finds herself unsure she will ever make friends, especially after a few run ins with Selena, who isn't exactly the nice girl to the "weirdos" slash "coconuts" as she calls them. Malú goes through a lot of typical new student challenges, and in the process she realizes that being herself is exactly who she needs to be, even though it may not be a direct reflection of her Mom, she does understand that her Mom has good points and she needs to meet her halfway with learning her culture and appreciating where her family came from. This is an amazing story that encompasses how so many of my students whose families that come from Mexico have discussed with me. They don't know about their culture and what things mean, nor do they speak Spanish, and Celia does an absolutely AMAZING job of weaving in historical points throughout the text that are a lot of Mexican traditions or sayings that get misconstrued by the public.

I'm so thankful for this book in so many ways. I can't wait to share with my students. 




Image result for IMWAYR

The school year is upon us, and my summer TBR stack is dwindling. There are a couple books left that I need to read before school starts-Refugee, Solo and All Faire's in Middle School. What's left in your pile? 


Open If You Dare - Dana Middleton

I was 9-10 years old and riding my bike down to the boat docks. Off to the left hand side of the boat docks was our "island." When we stepped on this island, we felt as though nobody else knew about it. That what my friends and I had discovered was a mystery and that there were so many unanswered questions on this island, buried beneath all of the flooded debris lying around. Every piece of trash we picked up belonged to someone and every piece of debris has its own story.  
As I read Open If You Dare and followed along with Birdie, Ally, and Rose and their adventure to their "island" I couldn't help but feel a connection. When Birdie decides to open the box labeled open if you dare, I was right there, anxious and wondering what in the world this mystery was they were going to have to solve. As I kept turning the pages and following along their lives on their way into middle school, I remembered just how simple life was before I entered 6th grade - the grade where everything changes, especially for females. I could smell the lake rolling in on our island shore, I could feel a box in my hands, and my heart was aching to solve this murder mystery with Birdie and the girls. 

As you dig deeper into the story, you get to know Ally and Rose and their families. Ally's father is no longer in the picture, and she's the best BASEBALL pitcher on the summer league teams. Better than all the boys, her brother included. Ally is going to the other middle school in the fall, away from Birdie.  Rose is from England and is moving back at the end of the summer. Birdie is the only one of the trio staying at the middle school they were all supposed to go to together. The girls are hurting, but on a mission to make this the summer they never forget. You will ride along over a few bumps along the way, but like myself, I truly feel like you will want so badly for the girls lives to continue they way they want and to know the answers to all of the clues for this murder mystery. 

Dana has done an amazing job of grasping what it is like to be a young girl heading into middle school, and to be a parent of a soon-to-be middle school girl. Birdie's parents are fantastic, and her little sister Zora is one that you will want to be your little sister. (I know I did, and I don't have a little sister) There's not only amazing family connections, but she somehow managed to even throw in a boy crush happening. I knew all too well that feeling and how you don't want to be looking at them that way before middle school, but the heart wants what the heart wants ;) ... 
Look for Dana's amazing middle grade story out October 17, 2017. Preorder here! 

Welcome to Teachers Who Read - we are students of Mrs. Thomas's class who have a love of reading and want others to know about our favorite authors! Let's start things off with introductions, what is your name and where are you from? 

I’m Dana Middleton. I grew up in Georgia – first in Atlanta but when I was a teenager, my family moved to the north Georgia mountains. As a grown up, I’ve mostly lived in Los Angeles, California, just down the road from Hollywood.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent book is called Open If You Dare. It’s about three best friends during the summer before middle school who dig up a box that holds clues about a murder back in 1973. As they solve the mystery, their friendships are revealed and tested over their last summer together.

When did you decide you wanted to be an author? 

It took me a long time! I was always surrounded by writers (including my husband) but it took me forever to believe I could actually do it myself. Like the characters I write about, I had to learn to believe in myself. It was a process, bit by bit, that led to the thought: What if I tried to write a book? And when I did it, when I actually finished it, a whole world opened up for me.

What were your middle grade years like? 4th, 5th grade? Did you enjoy reading or writing? 

I was more of a reader than a writer back then. I remember lots of snippets: teachers, friends, school projects, kickball, things like that, but mostly it was that feeling of growing up, of becoming this person with thoughts and feelings of her own that takes me back to 4th and 5th grade. My family lived in a neighborhood in Atlanta and during the summers, we ran free to a large extent and those memories really influenced my writing of Birdie, Ally and Rose during their Open If You Dare summer. It’s such a time of discovery because you’re not a little kid anymore.
What was your favorite book as a child? What's your favorite middle grade book currently (aside from your own)? 

If I have to choose, it would probably be Charlotte’s Web. But I’ve got to say Where the Red Fern Grows is up there, too. Even though I haven’t read that book since childhood, I just remember crying buckets over it so it must have been good! My current favorite book? Impossible!! So, I’ll go with one of Birdie’s favorites—the one in which she hides her secret: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

What connections can students make with your book/books? Why should our teacher put your books in our library? 

What a great question! Because how we learn to make connections as a child influences how we make connections for the rest of our lives. Friendships are connections. Through my characters, I want to encourage kids to make good decisions about friends. It’s important to choose friends who are kind and accept you as you are – and it’s super important to try and be that kind of friend in return. Also, my main characters find deeper connections with themselves by connecting with a mystery or a magical unknown while overcoming real life struggles. I want the students who read my books to come away believing in themselves a little bit more and having the bravery to think bigger about what’s possible in their lives.

If you could recommend any books to us as 4/5th graders, what would it be? 

There are so many but here are some all time favorites: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, and…uh… any Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Recently, I discovered Lou Lou & Pea and the Mural Mystery by Jill Diamond and Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley and definitely recommend those books, too.

Last question, any advice for young readers and writers?

My advice for readers is easy. Just read. Reading is a great pleasure you’ll have your whole life. And if you’re a writer I have that same advice. READ. Reading makes you a better writer. And WRITE. Because the act of writing makes you a better writer. And FINISH. Because when you finish something, it builds confidence, plus once it’s done, you always go back and make it better.

Thank you so much for participating in our author spotlight! 


Amber's July Reads


What I Read: July - Cassie


Haley's July Reads

July was a slow reading month for me. We went on vacation, so those 9 days were mostly spent chasing three kids around the beach. However, the books I finished were some of my favorite of the summer. Instead of summarizing each chapter book, I decided to pair it with a picture book that had a similar topic or theme. 

Look for a full review and giveaway of The Border in just a few weeks!