Wednesday, June 6, 2012

5 Summer Must Reads

Guest blogger Charity Kinneer teaches high school reading and literature. Normally she comes up with creative ways to entice students to read over the summer. In this blog post, she ponders and shares her favorite summer reads. Read through it yourself and share what your favorite books are.
The question is always inevitable whenever people find out what it is exactly that I teach.  They always ask, “What’s your favorite book?”  It was this very question that got me thinking about my newest blog post.  So I’ve decided to give you a list of my five summer must- reads and why I love them.  I hope that you find at least one in this list that suits your fancy.
  1. 1.) Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.  Okay, who am I kidding???  ANYTHING by this woman will do.  She is by far one of my all time favorite authors and if I ever finish writing a book or get up enough courage to start one, I hope to write like she does.  She is AMAZING!  This book is actually over 20 years old and I originally read it as a teenager.     "Redeeming Love" is set in 1850 during the California Gold Rush.  The story follows Angel (a prostitute) and Michael Hosea (a farmer).  This tale is not a new one and is actually an allegory of the story of Hosea and Gomer in the Bible.

  2. 2.) Matched by Ally Condie.
      I first found this book in my school’s library when I was trying to find something to read because I was bored.   Did I just admit that??  "Matched" is actually the first in a trilogy with the last one due out in November of 2012.  If you enjoy the dystopian books of late, you’ll enjoy this one.  (Think "The Giver")  It is the story of Cassia and her disillusionment with her seemingly perfect society.  In this society officials decide everything about your life, who you marry, your job and even when you die.  Cassia is content to go along with the flow until during her partner matching a ”glitch” in the system is made.   This glitch causes her to question everything about everything she’s always known.

  3. 3.) One for the Money by Janet Evanovich.  If you are looking for a funny, complete escape from reality, this is the book or series for you!  I find it hard to believe that there are still people out there that haven’t heard of Janet Evanovich.  This series has been going and going for years now.  I think "One for the Money" is probably my favorite because most of the books after about the fourth in the series seem to start recycling ideas and quotes.  There is some raunchiness in the series so if you’re not into that, don’t read them.  My favorite character is probably Grandma Mazur.  She reminds me so much of my own grandmother!  Completely hilarious and full of spit and fire!  Gotta love it!

  4. 4.) Ciao, Bella by Ryan M. Phillips.  I stumbled upon this book after a friend gave me a gift card for Barnes and Nobel.  (She knows me well!!)  This is the story of Isabelle Mackenzie, a 30 year old single gal who undergoes a nationally aired makeover campaign at the request of her two best friends.  She decides to take the opportunity to reinvent herself and in the process she realizes that the life she thought she wanted could not compare to the one that she already had.

  5. 5.)  The Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker.  This book will make your head hurt but in a good way.  I consider myself pretty intelligent but when I read ANYTHING by Ted Dekker, I expect to have to reread passages a couple of times just to get them to make sense.  He fully stretches your mind and imagination while reading and it’s a surprisingly enjoyable experience.  This particular story follows Seth, a genius, and Miriam, a Saudi princess as they become fugitives fighting for survival, armed only with Seth’s uncanny ability to see the future in the blink of an eye.
I hope that somewhere in the list you find at least one book that calls to you!  And don't forget to tell me what your favorite books are here!

Five Fun and Educational Things to do with Your Children This Summer

Guest blogger Charity Kinneer, a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District, recommends these fun and inexpensive educational activities to try out during summer break.
With school districts slashing budgets the last few years many of our children haven’t had the opportunity to experience the multiple field trips that previous non-limited students enjoyed. The summer is the perfect opportunity to make sure that your child gets to take complete advantage of every fun filled yet educational outing around.
For the next two months I plan on posting a new summer filled blog for you to enjoy bi-weekly. I thought what better way to begin then by posting some inexpensive ideas for your educational summer fun?
Summer Movies for $1!!
Okay, so maybe this first one isn’t quite so educational but it does fit the fun and inexpensive criteria. During the summer several movie theaters around the Atlanta area offer summer movie programs. These movies are kid-friendly and are also priced cheaply. For $1 you can watch two movies on Tuesday and Thursday at participating theaters. You can also purchase kid-sized popcorn and drinks for $1.50 each! Take a look at this listing of movies and the theaters where they are playing.
Kids Bowl Free
Come to think of it, this one isn’t really educational either unless you incorporate some math into the equation…get it??? Equation??? At AMF, kids 15 and under can bowl for free all summer. Register and you get a weekly voucher for two free games per child per day through September 3. Free bowling is available until 8 p.m., seven days a week. AMF summer is May 14 – Sept. 3, 2012.
You can purchase passes for yourself and several adults for 24.95-29.95 depending on the bowling program.
Visit a Park
This one really IS educational and you’ll get in your summer workout! Georgia has over 60 state parks and historic sites. Along with having activities especially geared towards meeting the requirements of the state education standards, the national parks also offer a program called Junior Rangers. Some parks offer day camps during the summer and almost all of them offer Junior Ranger activities in which students can work to meet the requirements on their own or with the help of a parent or other adult. Each of the parks also offer a plethora of educational resources and most have guides that are more than happy to show you around.
Take a look at the Georgia State Parks site.
Camp Out
This one goes along with the last posting. There are many places to camp around Georgia and specifically the Atlanta area. ranks the top 100 places to camp in Georgia. You can also view the best campgrounds by city if so desired. If you are new to camping and are a little afraid of the critters that come out at night (I am!), it may be a good idea to first camp out in your own backyard!
This summer one of the first things on my summer to do list is to allow my boys to set up a tent on our back deck. It’s high off the ground so they can pretend they are in a treehouse and I can open my dining room windows to spy on them.
( Come back throughout the summer for a future blog dedicated to five educational things to do while camping.)

Visit a Museum

There are SOOOO many kid friendly museums in Georgia and guess what?!? Each of them are also very educational! Some of my favorites are: The Fernbank Museum, Imagine It! and the Tellus Science Museum. Each of these museums has programs specifically geared towards children. They also offer educational materials that you can use to have intelligent discussions with your children!

Preventing Summer Reading Lag

Guest blogger Charity Kinneer, a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District, offers these tips on how to keep students reading this summer.
Research consistently shows that struggling readers fall even further behind over the summer months. Each year a wider gap is created between the higher achieving or more proficient and less proficient students, sometimes producing up to a two to three year reading gap. There are several things that we as educators can do to close this reading gap.
  1. Do NOT create a summer reading list!!!!!! I repeat, DO NOT CREATE A SUMMER READING LIST! Repeat this mantra to yourself at least one more time until you no longer feel the need to open a blank Microsoft Word document and compile a list of “assigned” books. Your students will see it for what it is an ASSIGNED list. I recently had a student who loves to read tell me that she had not read her assigned book for a research paper that she had to write. I asked her why she who always has a book in her hands had not completed an assignment that should be such a simple task for her to complete. She responded that when forced to read, she found she just couldn’t start a book much less finish one. If your students see reading as a required chore over the summer, I almost guarantee they will run as fast and as far away from any and all books as possible.
  2. Hold a “book share." At the beginning and end of every school year, my classes hold a book share. I encourage each student to find at least two books that they’ve read over the school year and to share these books with the class. I also bring a couple of my own favorites to the table. Everyone comes with a pencil and paper, writing down titles of books that they might want to look at over the summer. I encourage them to put down the name of the classmate who recommended a book they notice, so that they can ask more questions if they need to.
  3. Throw out the idea that in order for summer reading to count it has to be a BOOK. I keep a wide variety of subscriptions to magazines in my classroom. Scholastic has some great magazines geared specifically towards struggling readers. For each group of ten or more that you order, you also get teacher lesson plans! Another favorite magazine is ZooBooks. I order these for my own children to read during the summer. Caleb gets so excited every time one shows up. At the end of the year I always have a couple of issues that the class hasn’t been given the opportunity to peruse. I send these extra copies home with the students and encourage them to read them on those long car rides to grandma’s house.
  4. Give away older books to students to take home for summer reading. I keep a classroom library and am constantly updating my books. I can normally find one or two novels that have found their way behind my bookshelves during the school year. I figure I didn’t miss them during the school year, I won’t miss them later. If your school purchased the books, get permission first from your administrator. You can also hit up your librarian for used books.
  5. Give books as incentives. I give periodic reading inventories throughout the year to gauge my students’ reading levels. I also set award levels before each test. If a student makes significant gains during a testing period, I like to reward them with various rewards. One of my rewards is often a new book that I’ve picked up either on discount at the local bookstore or on Many retailers also give an educator discount on top of already reduced prices. If it’s not mentioned in writing, ALWAYS ask! You never know until you do!
What you as an educator does the last few weeks of school can significantly increase the likelihood that your students will choose to read over the summer. Make that last month count and watch your students rise to the challenge.
Charity Kinneer lives in northern Cherokee County with her husband Seth who is an area pastor, her oldest son Caleb who possibly reads more than his mommy and her youngest son Elijah who loves all things Mickey.  She is currently a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District.

The One That Started Them All

Guest blogger Charity Kinneer, a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District, shares how to introduce the mega-popular Hunger Games series into the classroom.
The widely anticipated Hunger Games movie hits theaters March 23rd. There hasn’t been this much hype since the Twilight saga and Harry Potter. I personally feel that The Hunger Games has the potential to surpass both by leaps and bounds. Never before has there been a book so intriguing and all-consuming for my students. That is quite the accomplishment considering I teach high school students who struggle to read anything, much less a novel.
I had heard from a countless number of people that The Hunger Games was an amazing read but I’ll admit I was skeptical. I put off reading it until this past Thanksgiving. When I started, I couldn’t quit! I devoured all three novels in less than a week and KNEW that I needed to introduce Katniss and Peeta to my reading class.
I searched high and low for a pre-made lesson plan because let’s face it, why invent the wheel when it spins just fine already? I found an awesome lesson plan on The author, Tracee Orman, put together a plethora of information on all things Hunger Games.
When I first popped my unit cd into my disk drive, I was completely overwhelmed. Thank goodness she very nicely organized everything into folders for teachers, students and tests/quizzes. The cd and the amount of time Ms. Orman put into organizing, researching and fact checking was well worth the $26 dollar cost of obtaining the materials.
Not every novel has a unit or lesson plan already nicely prepared and packaged for you, all ready just for you to simply print and teach. In those cases, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure that you are thoroughly meeting the needs of your students through the teaching of a novel.
1.) First, pick out your novel! It sounds pretty elementary but you’d be surprised how hard this step can truly be. You must find a novel that is universally appealing to your students. In our reality TV crazed nation, The Hunger Games was the perfect combination of reality and fantasy. My students could relate to many of the themes in the novel and because of this, the novel was meaningful to them.
2.) If you haven’t already read the novel, DO IT NOW! How do you know what questions will guide your instruction if you don’t know what actually happens in the novel?
3.) Developing guiding questions should be your third objective. One of the great things that Tracee Orman does in her Hunger Games unit is she allows for students to write their own guiding questions throughout the reading of the novel. The students have the opportunity to write many of their own assessment questions. Ms. Orman even demonstrates how this should be done.Before teaching the novel, you as the teacher should already have identified important vocabulary and anticipatory questions for each chapter.
4.) Next, incorporate other engaging material into your novel unit. The exciting thing again about The Hunger Games is that soon there will be a movie to compare to the novel! In the meantime my students have been able to see glimpses into the making of The Hunger Games by watching trailers and walking through the various websites dedicated to the book. Not every novel is as lucky to have such a strong media spotlight. If the book you are reading to your class does not have readily accessible media attached to it, you can create your own by researching the various novels themes. For example, maybe one of your themes involves choices or forming our own identities through our choices. You may decide to show a video about a student campaigning for the right to choose the lunch selections at their school or maybe allow your class to read an article about the age in which we first begin to exert our own independence.
However you decide to teach your novel and whatever novel you choose, the most important step is to create interest and excitement. If you are not enthusiastic about your subject, why will your students be? When I first started teaching The Hunger Games to my students I prefaced my entire instruction by giving them this disclaimer: “Yes, we all know what a nerd I am and how much I absolutely LOVE to read. BUT, let me tell you about this new series that I found and how everybody who is anybody is snatching it off the shelves just as fast as they are being printed.” I wasn’t lying AND I subjected a bit of peer pressure into the equation. Let me tell you, it totally worked! Remember, these were students that previously abhorred anything paper-bound and suddenly they were begging to stay behind in my class after the bell had sounded signaling class change!
By choosing to teach a novel that generated such engagement for myself and my students, I was able to motivate non-readers to become bookworms! I encourage any adult to try some of the methods that I have described to foster an enjoyable reading experience for their struggling student. You will be amazed at the results!
Charity Kinneer lives in northern Cherokee County with her husband Seth who is an area pastor, her oldest son Caleb who possibly reads more than his mommy and her youngest son Elijah who loves all things Mickey.  She is currently a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District. 

GPB Featured Blogger!

Okay, so many of you know that I've been asked to write a weekly blog for after my first two blog posts for them were viewed each over 3,000 times!  In the process, I have kinda let this blog go and I feel guilty!  So, I thought I would repost all of my GPB blogs here for your viewing pleasure.  BTW- I did decide to only write a bi-weekly for simply because I wanted to enjoy my summer vacation!  :)