Archive for July, 2011

July 31, 2011


by stryson

Have I  explicitly mentioned my love of Goodreads yet on this site? I don’t think I have, though a link to my profile has been sitting at the bottom of the page. In any case, is one of my favorite social networking sites – which is not shocking, since it centers around books. The site’s primary focus is helping you keep track of the books you’ve read, are reading, and want to read. They get classified on “shelves” to that effect. You can create further shelves to keep your books organized and to see statistics based on what you read. For example, I have shelves for young adult & children’s lit, fiction, nonfiction, sci-fi & fantasy, historical fiction, etc. You can place books on multiple  shelves, as well. (For example, a sci-fi book would also fit on the fiction shelf.) I love reading and lists with almost equal fervor, so this site makes me incredibly happy.

In addition to these basic functions, Goodreads provides various toys, quizzes, and other widgets relating to books. There are trivia quizzes about books and authors, lists on  which you can vote (i.e. “The best memoirs of the 20th century,”), areas for you to mark your favorite quotes by authors, polls, and so on.

You’ll notice I mentioned the social-networking nature of the site. Of course, you can add your friends to a list, and you can see the updates they post about their current reads, view their shelves, make comments on their posts, send messages, and so on. Goodreads also has virtual book clubs and other groups. I’m part of one called “50 Books a Year.” This is my second year doing this challenge; the last time I did was 2009. (I succeeded, too! 52 books that year. I’m on 29 now for 2011.)

I’m sure there are other features to the Goodreads site that I have not explored thoroughly, but those are the pieces I use. I’d highly recommend checking it out. It’s not particularly  helpful to me at school, but I wonder if it could be utilized in a high school setting.

If you join the site and would like to see my updates or friend me, the link is here.

I’d like to close with a quote from the list of those I’ve “liked” on Goodreads:

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” — Groucho Marx

July 30, 2011

Book Review: The Princess and the Hound

by stryson

The Princess and the Hound – Mette Ivie Harrison

Recommended for: teen

This book was not quite what I was expecting. The title suggests that the book will center around a princess. The back cover suggests that it is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with the Beast as a woman. The story really is neither, though that does not entirely prevent it from being an enjoyable read.

Summary: We open to find ourselves in a land where magic is not only possible, but a specific kind of magic involved in communication with animals is of particular concern. Local people, kings and commoners alike, fear this “animal magic,” and persecute those who possess this power. The first catch we encounter? The queen of the land and her son both have this animal  magic and are forced to hide it.  Indeed, very shortly into the tale, the queen dies as a result of her magic – not from an angry mob, but from the withdrawl effects she suffers while concealing her gift. Left alone with his father, who does not truly understand his son or his son’s gift at this point, the boy grows and becomes educated as a prince would expect to be. Soon he finds himself bethrothed to the princess of a rival kingdom, part of a peace agreement between the two nations. He resolutely insists that he is fine with this situation, as he’s closed off his affections since the death of his mother.  Likewise, the embittered, mistreated princess he is to marry has no illusions of ever being loved. The prince, however, finds himself intrigued by her, particularly because of her close companionship with her hound. Soon we find that she, too, has something to hide…

I’m particularly drawn to fractured fairy tales, retellings of fairy tales, and fantasy in general, so I expected to enjoy this story. It was largely well-written, with well-developed characters, but I would’ve liked a more dramatic climax to the book. It’d be a good book to use to encourage a reluctant reader interested in fantasy, and could easily spur a conversation about mob mentality and prejudice.

If you’re interested in reading this book for yourself, you can purchase a copy here.

July 29, 2011

Synonyms, part 1

by stryson

Uh, oh! There’s ambition in the title – a promise of further synonym posts in the future!

In all seriousness, though, I swung by the school today to pick up a couple of things I needed to do work from home and decided to eat lunch at my computer and do some web-exploring. During the year, I find myself so pressed for time that I don’t always find a broad range of resources…. and then I am disappointed to find them later, when that lesson has passed. Today, I decided to run a search on synonyms and antonyms, and I ended up narrowing my scope just to synonyms for the time being.

I’ve yet to find a good video to go with a synonym/antonym lesson – if anyone can link to a suggested one, please do so in the comments!

I did, however, find some useful games. The first is called Word Frog, and it’s from Arcademic Skill Builders. I like this game for several reasons. First, it’s cute. Secondly, it tracks the player’s progress on a graph. This means that I can check on a student’s progress if they use this game for independent time, and it also means that there’s another chance for a cross-curriculum moment. We can look at these graphs together and discuss briefly what they mean, bringing math into the reading classroom.

I anticipate much excitement about the next game I have to share, at least from my students. Scholastic has a Captain Huggyface synonym game! (For those of you not familiar with Captain Huggyface, he is a character on the PBS Kids show WordGirl.) This game is called Synonym Toast.

Speaking of PBS Kids, they have a game on their site that is also good for practicing synonyms, Synonym Sam’s Lab.

I’m still picking through resources for worksheets & thesaurus resources. I’ll save them for the next post. Until then, have a nice, good, enjoyable, pleasurable, entertaining, amusing time trying out these games.

July 24, 2011

Internal Affairs

by stryson

This post is just a quick check-in to alert whatever regular readers I have of some changes that will be taking place on this site in the next week or so.

The first is the biggest: I’ve signed up for the Amazon Associates Program. This means that any future book reviews I write will include links to Amazon for you to be able to buy the book. If you purchase the book by using one of my links, I get what is essentially a referral commission, since I’m hooking them up with a sale. It seems like a nice program; we’ll see how implementing it goes. Once I finish getting acquainted with the program, you’ll see a new tab at the top, containing the required disclaimers about this situation.

The second is this: I’m planning an overhaul of the way I’ve set up my links pages. I’m not sure how I’m going to organize them, but I’m dissatisfied with their look. When I’ve finished, I’ll make a note in a post, in case it’s of interest to you.

I may also revise the “about” page, but that’ll depend on how industrious I feel this week. I do have a deadline looming on a project for school.

That’s all! Keep your eyes peeled for the positive changes.

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July 22, 2011

Quotes out of the Blue

by stryson

I hadn’t planned on posting today; I’ve been catching up on some work this week. (Even though it’s summer vacation, yes, I have things I need to do for school. I’m actually helping to put together the cards for an award system we have at school… but I digress.) However, I am here in my classroom, and I decided to organize my desktop before continuing what I need to do. (Productive procrastination!) There was a text file sitting there, with the ever-creative name of “New Text Document.” Opening it up, I found a quote from earlier this year that I’d forgotten I typed in. At the time, typing it was faster than grabbing a piece of paper. Now, I shall share it with you.

Courtesy of two sixth grade boys:

Boy 1: “They should make unicorn flavored ice cream. It’d be all sparkly.”

Boy 2: “And hairy.”

Stay cool! We’re still just shy of triple digits, but we’re scheduled to get there today.

July 11, 2011

Another Typing Game

by stryson

I mentioned the need for typing games back in this post. One of the games I mentioned in there was Typer Shark. I found a game that’s similar in concept, with different animals. I find it a bit cuter, probably because it’s easy to tire of Typer Shark after using it with your students for years at a time. Its easy levels are also a bit easier than those of Typer Shark. It’s called Super Hyper Spider Typer. What a tongue twister!

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July 10, 2011

Another oldie but goodie

by stryson

This is an exchange that I particularly love, from the 2008-09 school  year. (I didn’t write a date on this post-it.)

Student: “How many exclamation points should I put?”

Teacher: “3.”

Student: “I’m a little late for 3.”

The class laughs.

Student: “I have……. 40.”

July 9, 2011

Music Games

by stryson

While looking for educational games, I came across a couple of music games that can be useful.

The first, Musical Notes, tests one’s ability to read notes in sheet music. It’s important to note that they give you only one octave of a keyboard – middle c and the c in the middle of the staff are both played on the same key in this game. Be careful in level 3 – they bring in bass clef!

The second game is TRICKY, and I only recommend it to those with some amount of ear training experience and/or a whole lot of patience. The game is called Music Memory. The only gripe I really have with this game is that I wish they’d give an example of “do” before each challenge. I have great relative pitch, but picking out the starting note several challenges in was the hardest part for me.

July 8, 2011

Typing Monster

by stryson

As part of our computer program at school, we require the students to learn typing. We mostly use Type to Learn 3 and Typer Shark, but I like finding games to supplement those.  This one seems quite fun: Typing Monster.

July 7, 2011

Resource: Social Studies

by stryson

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

This site has useful resources for Social Studies classes at all grade levels.  The games are really ideal for the upper grades of elementary school and lower grades of middle school, but the resources throughout the  rest of the page are pretty well adjusted for the grade levels they want to serve. I’m biased, since I have one, but I think this site would be most ideally used on the smart board, working together as a group.  I found out about this website from a girl in my third grade social studies class during the 2010-11 school year. That class became particularly obsessed with the map games on the site, which can be found here.