Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: The Nameless City

Well done graphic novel. Basic plot allows more focus on character development and setting. Engaging and fast paced.

Set in a fictional city that has been conquered over and over again, two kids hit off an unlikely friendship. A young man trying to impress his father and a young girl full of street smarts discover their assumptions and prejudices may not always be correct.

The first in a series by Faith Erin Hicks, the novel leaves plenty of unexplored places both within the city and within each character's past. I recommend this book for middle school readers, especially those drawn to graphic novels and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raised by humans, Ivan the gorilla has spent years on display at a roadside attraction. He has few friends. This patient and pensive beast has a passion for art that the owner sells in the gift shop.

The tale is told from Ivan's perspective in short paragraphs and even shorter chapters. He relates conversations between his few animal friends living and performing at the mall. And though they are separated by bars, their loyalty to each other remains strong.

Despite being 300 pages, the book reads fast and is suited to upper elementary through middle school. The emotional connection to the plight of animals reminded me of Brighty of the Grand Canyon. Younger readers may find (view spoiler) disturbing but it is handled well.

Based on real animals, Applegate fictionalizes their thoughts in a way that is both engaging and delightful. Readers can read more about the real Ivan on Zoo Atlanta's website. I highly recommend this 2013 Newbery Award winner.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Water Tower Challenge

Students compete to see who can build a water tower from minimal supplies, supporting 500 mL of water using only ten straws, spaghetti sticks and glue.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Breakout a New Challenge


If you are looking for a time killer, but still engage students' problem solving and communication skills, take a look at Breakout EDU Digital version. Based on the same concept as an "Escape the Room" adventure, students must decipher several clues to unlock the Google Form.

I like that the answers cannot be found through a web search but require deeper levels of cognitive reasoning and problem analysis. I also suggest having students play in groups or together as a class with teacher participation. This allows for better intervention when attention flags or conflicts arise.

If you like the idea and want to tailor your own Breakout session for specific content areas, they also offer screenshots and suggestions on how. Be creative and have fun!

Disclosure: It took me almost half an hour to solve the easiest one by myself!