Author Archives: The Teaching Factor

4 Ways to Personalize Reading for All Learners

This post was written for ISTE’s Blog on 4/17/2018.

To be successful learners, students need to be proficient readers. Our classrooms are filled with a broad spectrum of readers: some are advanced, some struggle, some are English language learners and others are reluctant readers. And there may be other types of readers you can identify in your classroom.

As a result, teaching is not “one size fits most.” We need a variety of approaches — and for a variety of mediums. Teachers must not only address functional literacy, which includes reading of visual, print and digital text, but also encourage students to be critical consumers of information and effectively communicate their thinking about these texts.

Technology has allowed teachers to diversify their teaching and provides leverage for all students to succeed. More important than the technology tools you use, however, is that you create meaningful classroom experiences to promote reading, critical thinking and digital literacy.

Here are four strategies and digital tools to curate personalized learning and reading experiences that expand student knowledge and promote critical thinking, digital citizenship and the literacy skills of proficient readers:

HyperDocs and playlists. Similar to a Google Doc, these digital documents allow you to pull together learning resources in one place. The document contains hyperlinks to all aspects of the inquiry unit — videos, slideshows, images and activities for students to complete and gain understanding. Students have multi-modal opportunities for learning, and there is less teacher lecturing at the front of the class.

HyperDocs allow students to work at their own pace and offer a road map for student learning. Depending on the HyperDoc the teacher makes, differentiated activities and technology-rich assignments can help students learn and show their understanding while completing the activities included on the HyperDoc. Teachers might have students complete only a certain number activities on the HyperDoc or require students to do them all.

Differentiated choice boards. These can range from no-tech to high-tech and are another way to provide students with individualized learning by providing choices or options based on their readiness, interests and learning preferences (think multiple intelligences). As education author Carol Ann Tomlinson explains, differentiation is a way of “tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Differentiation can be based on content, process, products or the learning environment.”

Through differentiation and choice, you can provide alternative ways for students to learn and show what they know. Choice menu boards are a great way to do this and, once again, technology can help.

You can create choice activities for before, during and after reading to highlight reading strategies, content understanding and multiple intelligences. Whether in the form of a Bingo board or a Think-Tac-Toe, choice in the classroom empowers students, while at the same time adheres to learning goals. When students are able to select choices that most appeal to them and that they’re comfortable completing, they can master the activity and move on to more challenging activities.

Quest-based learning adventures (and gamification). This approach to learning connects game mechanics with content objectives to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Through gamification, you can transform literacy instruction into a game with creativity, collaboration and play while still meeting Common Core State Standards and ISTE Standards for Students.

Exactly how you bring games and game playing into the classroom is really a matter of thinking creatively and playfully about what you already do. For example, you could tie assignments to point values and badges that students could then use to unlock privileges, such as a homework pass or preferential seating.

As with choice menus, students would choose which assignments to complete and when, but with the aim of collecting as many points as possible or a “literacy champion” selection of badges. Alternately, you could organize an overarching mission in which assignments are like a sequence of game levels. Students would need to successfully complete each assignment in order to “rank up” to the next and eventually complete all the required material.

Digital reading platforms. Actively Learn and Newsela are just two platforms that offer accessible text that you can use to build comprehension and conversations in the classroom. Both are available free for teachers and students, or you can upgrade to the subscription-based pro versions. In both versions, teachers can embed quizzes, annotations and writing prompts with every reading. The pro edition adds such features as the ability to view individual student progress, track student progress against the Common Core State Standards, and for students and teachers to see each other’s article annotations.

Actively Learn allows teachers to upload their own material to the platform. Customizing assignments with a digital platform leads to more effective and independent instruction that targets students’ strengths and weaknesses by giving support to students who need it, while omitting it for those who don’t. You can use Actively Learn, Newsela and other reading platforms in a variety of ways to support diverse readers and build content knowledge with jigsaws, do nows and flipped learning.

The readers in our classrooms are individuals with unique needs and preferences. Technology allows teachers to offer learning experiences to support these diverse student learners. As Alabama Principal Danny Steele commented on Twitter, “It is good to know content. It is great to know pedagogy. It’s imperative to know the kids.”

Once teachers get to know their students, they can incorporate meaningful and thoughtful learning experiences for all learners.

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What Makes a Great Student Essay?

My students have been writing essays for their summative assessment after reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Students had a choice between three essay prompts:

  • A dominant theme in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the symbolic importance of the mockingbird. In the story, Atticus tells Jem and Scout “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (pg. 119) In a well written essay, chose TWO Characters in the novel and analyze how the mockingbird is a metaphor for their characters and actions. Use specific examples and direct textual quotes to support your claim.
  • In the novel, those who do not conform to what society expects of them are punished directly or indirectly. Choose TWO characters (other than Boo Radley and Tom Robinson) and discuss how their inability or refusal to  conform to social norms contributes to their status as outsiders and or outcasts. Use specific examples and direct textual quotes to support your claim.
  • As Scout and Jem mature, they notice that people in Maycomb lead hidden lives. Among these characters are Calpurnia, Dill, Mrs. Dubose, and Atticus.  Choose two characters in To Kill a Mockingbird who lead double lives and explain what circumstances cause them to do so. Use specific examples and direct textual quotes to support your claim.

After writing and editing student essays for more than a week, I received a handful of outstanding essays. I wanted to screencast the student exemplars to showcase for all my students the elements that identify the essay as an exemplar. A few of the characteristics include: robust textual evidence, a clear thesis or claim, strong vocabulary, and distinct voice.

By screen casting my read through, I am thinking aloud my annotations of the student’s essay.  Posting the videos online help my students (and parents) see, read, hear, and understand the learning targets we are aiming for in our writing and guide the student writers in my classroom still looking for models and mentors. Check out the two essays I showcase in the videos below.

 

Looking for more students examples and samples of writing to use for professional development or as a teaching tool with your own students? Achieve the Core has a library of student writing samples by grade level and types of writing prompts.

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4 Interactive Tools to Help Learners Build Reading Skills

Classrooms are made up of diverse readers, all with different abilities. As teachers, we need to be aware of our students’ strengths and weaknesses and create interactive lessons that meet the needs of all the learners in our classroom. Through differentiation and scaffolding, teachers can personalize learning while simultaneously building reading skills.

There are dozens of tools out there to help teach literacy skills and show students how to be, as described in the ISTE Standards for Students, Knowledge Constructors and Empowered Learners. The challenge for teachers is finding the right tools to help personalize lessons specific to their grade level and content area, while at the same time supporting the diverse learners in their classrooms.

Here are four of my favorite platforms for creating personalized, interactive reading lessons:

1.  Actively Learn

This digital reading platform offers a catalog of articles and texts suitable for elementary and secondary students. You can assign texts for your students to read as well as embed questions, polls and writing assessments throughout the reading. You can also embed media and hyperlinks in the text to help guide student reading and thinking.

Another benefit of Actively Learn is that it offers not only pre-made reading lessons with questions aligned to cited Common Core State Standards, but also the ability to upload your own text and create customized reading assignments for students. If a student doesn’t know the meaning of a word, right-clicking on the word brings up a menu where the student can choose to see a definition, translate the word or hear the word read aloud.

Because Actively Learn lets students translate the text into different languages or hear it read aloud, ELL students can read in their native languages and struggling students get help with text comprehension.

Customizing assignments with a digital platform like Actively Learn leads to more effective and independent instruction that targets students’ strengths and weaknesses by giving support to students that need it, while omitting it for those who don’t.

2.  Newsela

With a focus on nonfiction articles, this reading platform offers content on an array of subjects (current events, history, science, literature and more) and at multiple Lexile reading levels. Newsela enables you to search thousands of articles and text sets that are collections of articles on a common topic, theme or reading standard. To make it easier for you to share the same article with the variety of learners in your classroom, Newsela adapts its articles to several Lexile levels, so you can assign the same article to your whole class and still offer personalized reading.

No matter what their reading proficiency, students can all work on the same article and be contributing members of the classroom, but each can work at his or her prescribed level without being frustrated or bored. Newsela embeds quizzes, annotations and writing prompts with every reading. The text sets are excellent for jigsaw activities and examining multiple perspectives.

3.  Nearpod

This interactive presentation tool allows teachers to incorporate reading, questioning, viewing, polls, drawing and even virtual reality. It offers a library of interactive lessons on topics across content areas and grade levels. You can use Nearpod as a presentation tool for an entire class or personalize a lesson or strategy session for individual and small groups of students.

Using a platform like Nearpod allows students to work at their own pace and demonstrate their learning and understanding. With the different types of interactive response tools, teachers can support different learning preferences.

4. Buncee

While Nearpod offers both teacher-created lessons and the ability for teachers to design their own lessons, Buncee offers templates and blank slides for teachers to customize to design an interactive and engaging lesson. Using the graphics, video, audio and texts, teachers (and even students) can create engaging blended learning experiences. The premium version allows for quizzing in Buncee assignments and 360 images.

This post was written for ISTE’s Blog on 3/30/18 and you can read the complete article here.

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Mash Up March: App Smashing for Effective Feedback

When students are writing, Google Docs is a great tool to help brainstorm, draft, edit, and revise their work. I have been thinking about the most effective ways that I can offer effective feedback on their writing throughout the writing process beyond the Comments feature on Google Docs. Here are a few apps to utilize when giving feedback on student writing.

Flipped Lessons with Exemplar Writing – I often share an exemplar essay from a student from the previous year as a model and mentor for student writing. Using the SMARTBoard or Document Camera I am able to show the writing model and talk through the craft moves the student made that make it an exemplar paper. But, I can also make a recording of this and provide students with easy accessibility to the model essay, annotations highlighting the key writing moves, and explanation why the essay an exemplar. Using Google Slides, Google Drawing, and Screencast-O-Matic, I am able to record this lesson and have it available for students to view any time. Additionally, students can respond to the elements of the exemplar they notice, like, and want to model in their own writing with Padlet. Padlet is a collaborative platform or “board” for students to share feedback, answer questions, respond to a prompt, or brainstorm together.

MultiModal Feedback – Google Comments allow teachers to add comments on Google Docs. This is helpful to address specific concerns and highlights on a student’s essay. Additionally, the extension Checkmarks is an easy commenting tool that has popular pre-made or custom comments. Another possibility is to add vocal feedback with extensions like Read & Write or Talk & Comment. Teachers or peer editors can record their comments on these apps and the writer is able to listen to helpful suggestions to make their essay clear and concise.

App Smashing the Entire Writing Process – Using a semantic map tool like Popplet or Bubbl.us can help students in the beginning stages of writing to jot down ideas what they will write about and gather necessary textual evidence. Then, to help students build an outline, they might demonstrate their thinking using Explain Everything or using a voice recording app like Audacity. When students are writing Google Docs is a trustworthy tool. Then, reading aloud their essay to get peer feedback and check for correct grammar and usage, students can read and respond to each other’s writing on Flipgrid. Students can compile all their work on Thinglink posting links to showcase their writing process.

 

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Mash Up March: To Kill a Mockingbird Alternative Assessment Playlist

This month I have been mashing a few ideas and technology tools to share with you different ways to present information and for students to showcase their learning. I have been playing with hyperdocs and playlists a lot this year and have produced a few as choice menus and game boards to help guide my students through a reading or writing unit. Hyperdocs are digital learning experiences where students use technology to create, communicate, and think critically about learning and understanding. Playlists are synonymous with hyperdocs and offer students the opportunity “to Engage • Explore • Explain • Apply • Share • Reflect • Extend the learning.” 

With these ideas in mind, I decided to offer my students a summative assessment choice for our reading of To Kill A Mockingbird. Students can either write an essay in class about their reading and understanding of the text OR complete the game board with ten smaller assessments to showcase their reading and learning. Below is the hyperdoc that includes students creating videos, writing short responses, making text to text connections. Students are utilizing Google Docs, Google Slides, iMovie, Edpuzzle, and Google Forms.

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So, how are you going to mash up your lessons and assessments so that students are utilizing technology in thoughtful ways to showcase their learning?

 

 

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Mash Up March: Genius, Google Stop Motion Animations, & Screencasts

Kukimbia means running in Swahili. Kukimbia is also the name of a documentary directed by Spencer MacDonald and Eva Verbeek showcasing the dedication and culture of three Kenyan runners:

Paul Koech
Specialty: 3000 meters steeplechase
2004 Olympic bronze medalist
Three-time winner IAAF Diamond League
Personal Best of 7:54.31 minutes – third fastest of all-time

Micah Chemos
Specialty: 3000 meters steeplechase
2013 World Championships gold medalist
Four-time winner IAAF Diamond League

Leonard Komon
Specialty: long-distance road race
10K & 15K World Record Holder
Fastest half marathon debut ever


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/173574639″>KUKIMBIA: A Journey Through Kenyan Running Culture</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/ambedo”>Ambedo</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What’s Your Vision? In the future what do you want to be? These two questions are asked of the runners presented in the documentary, and are also questions posed to viewers. The documentary showcases perseverance and dedication. It juxtaposes the landscape of Africa, animals in the wild, starry night skies, and lush greenery against the villages, people, and daily life for the runners. The colors throughout the films, the types of shots, transitions, symbolic pictures against the voice overs and music help to convey ideas about what makes the Kenyan running culture an international success.

This documentary gave me the idea to have my own students choose a visionary they are inspired by: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Coco Chanel, J.K. Rowling, Martin Luther King, Jr., Walt Disney, Taylor Swift, Malala, Gandhi, Shawn White. Once students choose a person they deem a genius and visionary, they will research to find out more about them, their education, their inspiration, telling quotes, and accomplishments.

Based on the information gathered on the biography note-taking organizer, students create a Google stop motion animation movie showcasing this person, this genius. To make animated movies in Google Slides, students make multiple slides and incorporate .gifs on the slides.

The following directions to making a Google Slides stop motion animation are from Eric Curts, Google Innovator and author of the blog Control Alt Achieve.

  1. Create your Google Slideshow as normal.
  2. Insert images, shapes, text, and other items as needed.
  3. To save time, make copies of slides and make small changes to the items on each slide to simulate movement.
  4. To make certain slides last longer, make multiple copies of the slide.
  5. When done, use “Publish to the web” option to get playable link for your slideshow.
  6. Adjust the “Publish to the web” link to shorten the time between the slides to make them appear animated (from 3000 to 2000 or 1000 – depending on which speed which works best).
  7. Share the link with others to view!

After students create their biographical Google Slides stop motion animation, students write a script to add a voice over describing the key quotes and accounts of this visionary. Using a screencasting tool like Screencast-O-Matic, students can blend their stop motion animation with their voice overs and musical interludes. Once the videos are completed post online to share with others.

Based on your content area, grade level, or unit of study, this activity can be adapted and revised to best meet student needs. This is a great activity to use as an introduction to Genius Hour and Passion Projects. Or can be completed for a biography projects for history, science, mathematics, or side quest about great writers. Teachers can create a checklist of items students should include in their video including a key quote, symbolic images, and music to convey the theme. Viewing Kukimbia with students can lead to a discussion how filmmakers use specific craft moves to support their purpose and message before identifying the project requirements.

 

 

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Mash Up March: The Anatomy of a Scene, Booksnaps, Screencasts, and Flipgrid

Each blog post this March I will mash up a few apps and technology tools to with teaching ideas that promote reading and writing. This week I am am blending #Booksnaps, Google Slides, screencasting and Flipgrid for a close reading activity.

The New York Times has a series online, Anatomy of a Scene, where the director of a current film describes and dissects for viewers a scene from his or her movie. A clip from the movie is shown while the a voice over of the director describes the setting, actions, and craft moves. All these elements together convey the story and the director’s purpose. Check out this one Anatomy of a Scene for the Black Panther.

To have the director or writer describe the choices he or she made allows the viewer and reader to learn about craft, structure, and author’s purpose.  Essentially these are videos showcasing a close readings with the director articulating his or her intentions as a storyteller. Similarly, when we ask students to closely read the text, we are asking them to dissect the author’s moves and intentions. Imagine if students were to create their own “anatomy of a scene” from a text like The Great Gatsby or George Orwell’s 1984.

To do this, students first create #BookSnaps – snapshots of reading responses, connections, questions, and reflections using Snapchat or Bitmojis, and Google Drawings. Created by Tara M. Martin, these are great ways for students to synthesize their reading and showcase their thinking while reading. To learn more how to create a #Booksnap, check out Tara’s blog post Snapping for Learning. When my students are creating their #Booksnaps they create a Google Slide Deck to showcase all their snaps documenting their reading.

Then, Tara gave me an awesome idea, what if students Screencast their #BookSnaps and describe highlight’s of their reading using a screen casting tool like Screencast-o-Matic?Check out how Tara uses the Screencast #Booksnaps for Learning in her Flipgrid video. When students are describing their #Booksnaps and close reading they might describe what the scene is about, the setting and the mood, the key characters and symbols. Students can identify the literacy devices, structure and author’s purpose. They might use this Anatomy of a Scene for Harry Potter as a model for their own close reading scenes.

Once the projects are complete students can upload their screencast videos of anatomy of a scene and close reading to Flipgrid for the rest of the class to view and share responses.

I cannot wait to share the Close Reading Scenes my students are currently creating.

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Hook ’em First: Best Suggestions for Walk-In or Do Now Activities

I recently sat down with Larry Ferlazzo, Nancy Sulla, and Matthew Homrich-Knieling to discuss the best suggestions for walk in and do-now activities. We are talking about the academic work before the bell rings and the teacher’s mini-lesson.

You can listen to our conversation from Larry’s podcast Classroom Q & A on BAM Radio here.

There is no one do now or hook that works for all teachers and students. Nancy spoke about offering choice activities in the learner active classroom. And choices for teachers and students are important to personalize learning for the diverse students in our classrooms. I tend to change up the hooks in my classroom so no one activity is the same. I also like the idea of putting do-nows on task cards so students can choose to complete or a teacher can have students choose a new task card each day from a set. There is no one correct way to start the class, teachers need to connect with their content and consider the learners in their classroom.

Here are ways that I have my students working before the bell rings:

Poem A Day – Everyday begin with a poem. It can be based on current events, content material, or beautiful language. The teacher can read aloud the poem, post on the SMARTboard, share a paper or digital copy, or show a video of performance poetry for students to read and respond.

Gallery Walk with Text or QR Code Links – During a dystopian unit we look at rebellion, revolt, and revolution. I begin the class with QR Codes around the room linking to videos from the news and popular movies like Hunger Games as well as images throughout history for students to identify as rebellions, revolts, or revolutions. Some of the pictures include Arab Spring, the Boston Tea Party, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Viewing these images help students to create a definition of the three terms and help lead us to a discussion of these concepts and how they play out in the dystopian texts students are reading. You can also do this activity with excerpts from passages of a book students are reading or key quotes that students read and respond to.

Quick Writes and Journaling – Begin with a question or practice what Julia Cameron titled in her book, The Art’s Way (2016), morning pages. “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. – There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page.

Sentence Work – For more formal writing practice I reference these sentence activities in the podcast with Larry Ferlazzo. This is not something my students do everyday, but are grounded in the the reading students engaged in. You can read more about sentence work strategies in my blog post Building Better Sentences. When students were reading the short story Most Dangerous Game, students completed this sentence frame:

Internal &amp; External Conflict

Lastly, Do Nows and Walk in are Hooks. That means they are meant to hook the students into the lesson and excite them about learning in your classroom today. Engagement is key. Taking inspiration from Dave Burgess and his book Teach Like a Pirate, hooks can be  based on music, art, movement, games, play, involve the students, student choice, sensory. So, when thinking about your next lesson, how might you get your students thinking, engaged, and excited for today’s lesson?

Draw – A storyboard, a picture, sketch notes.

Taste – When we are reading about Scout and Jem finding Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum in To Kill a Mockingbird, I gave every student a piece of Wrigley’s Gum as they entered the classroom and we did some detective work in the text who might have left the gum in the Tree Knot.

Games – Take it digital or old school and have students answer questions, play Guess Who? or even design a quick review from yesterday’s lesson with Quizlet Live, QuizZ, or Kahoot.

Get Dramatic – Give small groups of students a scenario or props and they have to create a tableau (a frozen picture) or act out a key scene or potential scenarios presented in a text. Before reading Midsummer Night’s Dream and to introduce the play I give small groups of students different scenarios that take place in the play and students have to improvise a short scene how the situation plays out.

Music and Mozart – Bring in music, teach a song or play a song for students to listen to and make connections with. Have your students write a song or stanza to convey an idea or concept.

Get Crafty – Use legos, play dough, or any craft materials for students to create a 3-D image or representation of a concept, idea, or scene in a book.

 

 

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Are the Common Core Standards Dead? Advanced Literacy & Lifelong Learning

At the start of the semester, one of my graduate students told me, “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declares the Common Core is dead, so why do I need to to include the standards in all of my lesson planning?”

Well, I didn’t expect that question the first day.

And I wanted to be positive and not political.

So, here is how I did respond.

Forty-two states have adopted the Common Core Standards to define literacy and academic success. The Common Core does not tell teachers how to teach or what to teach. Rather the standards were created to be learning targets to prepare students for life long learning. New York State, the state which we live in and teach in, the state which this pre-service teacher is obtaining certification, follow the Common Core Standards and since its adoption in 2011 have revised, added, deleted, and clarified the standards with the goal of developing students to “participate in academic, civic, and professional communities, where knowledge is shared and generated.”

How does one measure student success?

How do we develop literate students who are able to communication and navigate the world?

What are the most important practices that teachers can employ to support their students as literacy learners?

Now there are benefits and limitations to the standards, any standards. I choose to see them as a guide to help support our students as life long readers and writers. Do not allow standardized tests to define what the Common Core is and is not. “The New York Education Department remains committed to encouraging teachers and schools to choose the literature and informational texts they use as they detail their ELA curriculum or programs.” What are the lifelong practices of reading and writing that you hope to offer in your classroom? How do the CCSS support these practices and develop a love of reading, help develop strong and effective writers, and build effective speaking and communication skills? Tell me what you uncover.

After this discussion with the graduate student I attended a workshop on the revised New York State Next Generation English Language Arts Learning Standards and the integration of Advanced Literacy.

“Advanced literacies denote a set of skills and competencies that enable communication, spoken and written, in increasingly diverse ways and with increasingly diverse audiences. This requires writing with precision, reading with understanding, and speaking in ways that communicate thinking clearly. Advanced literacies also promote the understanding and use of texts for a variety of purposes” (2017).

So, before we “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” let’s examine what is working with Common Core, 21st Century realities, and guiding principles, continue to revise where there are limitations and gaps in order to support each student in this changing educational landscape.

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Young Adult Literature’s Obsession with Death: 10 YA Titles coping with the loss of a loved one

Death in young adult literature is not a new topic. I have found myself reading a number of ya titles that focus on the loss of siblings. In many cases, the protagonists feel as if they failed their parents some how for being the child who is still alive. Death is a scary topic for some and the idea of living when someone close to you is gone is challenging. Here are ten contemporary young adult titles that deal with moving on after the a sister, brother, friend and loved one passes away suddenly.

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Not Your Perfect Mexican American Daughter (2017) by Erika L. Sánchez is about sixteen year old Julia who is coping with the loss of her older sister, Olga. Olga’s death was sudden and tragic. Julia compares herself to her “perfect” older sister and this causes much tension with her parents. Julia is funny and has high hopes for going to college to become a writer, but that is not what a perfect Mexican American daughter would do. 

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In Love Letters to the Dead (2014) by Ava Dellaira, Laurel is assigned by her English teacher to write a letter to a dead person.  Although she never turns in the assignment. through her letters to Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse Laurel describes the events that led up to her sister’s death. 

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Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go (2014) takes place four years after Francesca’s younger brother, Simon, drowned at the beach. Francesca blames herself for his death and is witness to her family falling apart after the tragedy. This particular summer she meets a young child the same age as her brother was when he died and Francesca believes this could be her brother’s reincarnation.

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Anything by Jason Reynolds is poignant and powerful. His novel written in narrative verse, A Long Way Down (2017) takes place in 60 seconds on an elevator where 15 year old Will decides whether he will murder the guy who killed his brother. As the elevator stops at each floor, he is given time to contemplate his actions.

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Neal Shusterman is a master storyteller and his new series Scythe (2016) will not disappoint. In this world where only Scythes can end a life, there is no hunger, disease, or war. Two teens are selected to be trained in the “art of killing.” Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. They must navigate this new world and new position that brings with it power, corruption for some, and a new way of seeing life. The next installment, Thunder Head was released early this year.

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History is All You Left Me (2017) by Adam Silvera is a love story between Griffin and Theo. When Theo drowns in a freak accident or suicide, Griffin must go on but that seems impossible with his first love gone.

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Jenifer Niven’s All the Bright Places (2015) takes place after Violet’s sister has died. She is obsessed with death and when she meets Finch – who is struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide – their friendship offers hope for both of them. Some times hope is not enough.

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E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (2014) is a puzzle that readers must piece together to understand the tragedy that shook a family and the narrator. A wealthy family, on a private island, teenagers frocking – but what happened in the past and what is the present?

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Death is unexpected in The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (2016). Three friends are close and support systems for each other. This story shows readers that we do not have to turn out like our parents. This moving story shows how friendship sustain young people when family falls short.

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Goodbye Days, also by Jeff Zentner (2017) is about celebrating life after your three best friends are killed in a car accident. When Carver Briggs sent a text message to his friends he did not think that text would kill them and he blames himself for the car accident and their deaths. It is his friend Blakes’s grandmother who helps him to make peace with their loss and his future.

 

 

 

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