Thursday, December 24, 2015

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, I Was Reading a Book...

Here is a list of my favorite Christmas classics that never fail to get me in the holiday spirit.  As Christmas inches closer, I wrap myself in my favorite cuddly blanket, pour some hot cocoa (the frothy kind, made with real milk, and bobbing marshmallows), and go back to a time when I, too believed in a jolly man in red...


1) A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

2) The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg

3) How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss

4) "The Gift of the Magi" - O. Henry

5) The Nutcracker - E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrations by Maurice Sendak

6) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson

7) The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans

8) The Night Before Christmas - Jan Brett

9) The Tailor of Gloucester - Beatrix Potter

10) The Father Christmas Letters - J.R.R. Tolkien


Merry Christmas!!!


"God bless us, everyone!"  Tiny Tim, A Christmas Carol  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Books Make the Best Gifts! Support an Indie Author Today...

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Time to put the freak-out on pause because outgoing, boy-crazy Lucy Pringle and shy, studious, bespectacled CeCee Cruz have the goods on how to make middle school the best three years ever!

Lucy and CeCee-the official self-proclaimed Madison Heights Middle School experts on how to deal with haters, hormones, and hot lunch dilemmas-are ready to demystify swirlie urban legends and dish about academic and social topics. They're keeping it real, lacing diary entries with their own daily escapades regarding skater slacker boyfriend crushes, BFF shopping trips to the mall, and BEE (Bitter Eternal Enemies) text wars. The two seventh graders swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . . . so help them Good Fairy of Popularity.

In this handbook, two girls who have already survived boyfriends, sleepovers, nerd crushes, detentions, and runaway pimples share helpful hints and lingo lessons that will help tweens not only survive, but thrive while navigating through all the gory glory of middle school.  

Check out Lucy and CeCee's official blog at http://tweengirlsrule.blogspot.com

Winner of Editor's Choice, Rising Star, Paris Festival of Books, San Francisco Festival of Books, and New York Festival of Books.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Books Make the Best Gifts! Support an Indie Author Today...

Pretty Dolls - Young Readers Picture Book

Pretty eyes and pretty hair, we're the best dolls anywhere.
If you were a pretty doll, you'd be up here standing tall...

Gracie is the purple-eyed, one-armed, spiky-haired doll who has won the snuggly arms and heart of Tasha. Only Emily-Nicole, the prettiest porcelain doll in Tasha's collection, will have none of it. What Tasha doesn't know is that when the lights go out, the doll wars begin....Pretty Dolls is Winner of the Reader Views and Character Building Counts Best Children's Book of the Year and featured on TeachingBooks.net and StoryCub.org.





Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thankful for Books!

Did you know it's American Education Week?  November 16-20 presents all Americans with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference.

...Which got me thinking about books, of course.  Especially the ones I read in school that helped shape my soul and made me the lifelong reader I am today.

Books do so many things.  They engage, entertain, enthrall....But there is that special list everyone has - the ones that spoke directly to your adolescent spirit and stayed with you forever.

Here's my list of "literary soul-shapers."  What's yours?

Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare

Assorted short stories and poems – Edgar Allan Poe

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain



“Books may well be the only true magic.” - Alice Hoffman



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Join Me at Killer Nashville!!



Join me next week at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference where I will be presenting "Thrills and Chills: Teaching Suspense Writing to Kids."



Sunday, November 1, 2015 
Omni Hotel in Nashville, TN

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

East Nashville Book Signing!

What's better than a good book and some ice cream???

I will be signing books this Saturday from 3-5 p.m. at Jeni's Ice Creams in East Nashville.  A fun and free event for families!


Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams 
1892 Eastland Avenue
Nashville, TN 37026







Friday, October 9, 2015

Students Acting Slothy? Teach Them Something Gothy!

The honeymoon is officially over, and it's about this time that students reveal subtle symptoms of slothy sluggishness.  Consequently, around late September/early October, I reach deep in my literacy bag of tricks for my go-to Gothic Literature unit.  Reading spine-tingling excerpts from DraculaFrankenstein, or Edgar Allan Poe are all but guaranteed to reignite enthusiasm from my students and possibly even the most reluctant of readers who have yet to reveal their literary chops.  (My hope is, in keeping with the theme, they are merely keeping me in suspense!)




That said, before plunging into the dark world of castles, chambers, and creepy cloisters, students require background information on Gothic Literature itself.  It is at this time we examine five basic elements of Gothic Literature, which I have classified into the following categories:


5 Elements of Gothic Literature

1) Elements of Superstition
  • Presence of ghosts, vampires, etc.
  • Unexplained sounds, sights, occurrences
  • Eerie atmosphere
  • Mysterious tone adds to building of tension

2) Emotions and Passions
  • Emotion surpasses rationality
  • Spells of hysteria, lust, and anxiety
  • Frequent crying and screaming
  • Detailed sensory description revealing characters’ passions
  • Characters experience terror and hysteria due to miasmic atmosphere


3) Broken Families
  • Families are often broken, incestuous, or murderous
  • Women subject to lustful wrongdoings 
  • Male characters are tyrannical
  • Women depicted as damsels in distress
  • Family unit confining, from which characters must escape

4) Eerie, mysterious setting
  • Claustrophobic, dark venues such as an old castle, mansion, or abbey
  • Places of fear and dread that portray the world as deteriorating
  • Desperate, dark ruined scenery
  • Surrounding area is dismal and rotting, often adding a haunting flavor of impending doom


5) Distinctive Characters
  • Characters are lonely, isolated, and oppressed
  • Presence of a tyrannical villain 
  • Action revolves around an unrequited love, or illicit love affair 
  • A vendetta or vengeance is a prominent theme

After my students are fully inducted into the world of Gothic Literature, it's time for them to write their own stories.  For inspiration, I offer some creepy music, telling them to listen at their own risk.  (Note to Blog Reader: Play at your own risk!)




Assignment: Write a Gothic Story...

The requirements are as follows:
  • Setting must be a large old house or graveyard
  • An unexplainable, scary event occurs in the house or graveyard 
  • Presence of the supernatural, such as a ghost, vampire, or werewolf
  • Unexplained phenomenon, such as doors slamming shut or lights turning on/off by themselves
  • Highly emotional characters who cry and scream
  • Implementation of Gothic symbols, such as a staircase, shadows, or a full moon.  

With a little inspiration from the darker works of the literary canon, students can't help but get their Goth on.  Whether you are a teacher, writer, or simply have a nagging nostalgia for Manic Panic, it's the perfect time to reach inside YOUR creepy bag of tricks and write your own Gothic tale.  



For more literary Goth inspiration, go to Kimberly's product store at:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

Did you know it's Banned Books Week?

According to the American Library Association, here is a listing of ten classic books that are subject to being banned in American schools.  How many have you read?






1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

2. The Catcher in the Rye

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Bridge to Terabithia

5. The Lord of the Flies

6. Of Mice and Men

7. The Color Purple

8. Harry Potter Series

9. Slaughterhouse Five

10. The Bluest Eye


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Happy International Literacy Day!!

Tuesday, September 8th is International Literacy Day!

International Literacy Day celebrates reading and writing around the globe, while raising awareness to those without access to books or education.  Show the world the importance of International Literacy Day by raising awareness or just picking up a book.

In honor of this special day, I am paying homage to the short story, one of my favorite genres to teach.




*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 


I love teaching the short story to my seventh graders.  We read YA classics in their literature anthology, like Langston Hughes’s “Thank You, M’am” and “Charles” by Shirley Jackson.  Of course the culminating highlight is Edgar Allan Poe’s riveting “The Tell Tale Heart.”  My students’ faces at the end of the story are priceless, and the impending class discussion goes something like this:

            “You mean the psycho guy buries the old dude alive?”
            “Yep!”
            “You mean the heart the he hears is his own?”
            “Yep!”
            “That’s tight, Ms. Dana!”
            “Sure is.  They don’t credit Edgar Allan Poe with Master of the Detective Story for nothing.  And did you know he married and fell in love with his thirteen year old cousin?”
            “Ewwwwwwwwww!!!!!”

Never a dull moment when Poe is on the agenda…

As a genre, my students prefer short stories over poetry and the novel.  They appreciate the brevity and are bowled over by the dramatic denouement present in so many.  What I love is their exposure to unique voices, profound characters, and universal themes – all in one class period!

If you have forgotten the thrill of the short story, are between novels, or just in a reading funk – check out or revisit these delightful tales:


“Roman Fever” – Edith Wharton
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” – Ernest Hemingway
“The Necklace” – Guy de Maupassant
“Lamb to the Slaughter” – Roald Dahl
“The Dinner Party” – Mona Gardner
“The Tell-Tale Heart” – Edgar Allan Poe
“The Lottery” – Shirley Jackson
“The Monkey’s Paw” – W. W. Jacobs
“Bernice Bobs Her Hair” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Gift of the Magi” – O. Henry


HAPPY INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY!!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Parent's Guide for Surviving Middle School

Back to school is right around the corner.  Only this time your child is entering middle school – that rite of passage where they will undergo academic, social, and developmental challenges like never before.  While your eager middle schooler is raring to go, you may be secretly asking yourself if you’re truly ready for this auspicious journey.  The answer is Yes!  With today’s challenges, middle school may seem like the new high school, but below are six tips on how to make the transition seamless for both you and your child.  Get your brave on and learn how to survive (and thrive) as a parent of a middle schooler…



6 Steps to Swinging Into Middle School With Ease

Prepare:  Middle school isn’t exactly The Hunger Games – but you will fare much better if you know the rules.  Procure a copy of the school’s handbook and read it, ideally with your child.  Be familiar with the school’s policies.  For instance, does the school have a dress code?  Is there a general class supplies list?  What is the protocol for absences, medications, cell phone usage, etc.?  Make sure to complete all emergency card information with several contacts and up-to-date phone numbers for easy communication.    

Volunteer:  Join the PTA, PTO, or Booster Club.  Introduce yourself to the principal, counselor, and teachers letting them know you are available to assist wherever needed.
With school funding at a premium, some ways parents can help are volunteering in the computer lab, chaperoning field trips, selling concessions, leading a book club, or supervising dances.  If working with students one-on-one, be sure to check the district’s policy on parent volunteer fingerprinting and/or background checks.

Be a Study Buddy:  Check homework once a week or more if your child is struggling. Designate a study time and place free of distractions with adequate supplies, including pencils, paper, dictionary, and calculator.  Calendar long-term projects, and be available for assistance or hire a tutor if needed.  Many schools offer free after-the-bell tutoring programs or intervention services.  Encourage and teach time management and organization skills – before social networking, cell phone, and television time.

Communicate:  In elementary school, teachers call home if there is an academic issue, but in middle school the report card is often a parent’s first notification that their child is struggling.  To avoid Report Card Shock Syndrome and address problems early on, attend Back-to-School Night and all parent/teacher conferences.  Introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, provide email contact information, and let them know you want to work as a team.  In middle school, each teacher has their own way of posting homework, grading, and communicating with parents.  Ask for a copy of the class syllabus. Communication is key to your child’s success.

Get Social:  Your child’s circle of friends will most likely be at the top of their priority list. This is a good time to rally your own parental BFF’s, if nothing else for moral support.  In short, get to know the parents of your child’s friends.  Arrange a lunch to establish common norms for sleepovers, social networking, etc.  Discuss bullying and implementing appropriate safety precautions.  Talk over the school’s vision and what you can do as parents to make it the best place it can be.

Be a Cheerleader:  As your child enters middle school, he or she will tackle academic, social, and peer related issues.  There will be laughter and there will be tears.  Let your child know that you are their greatest fan and support.  Encourage their strengths and interests with extracurricular activities such as clubs, sports, band, and foreign language. When a problem arises, be there to help but also just to listen.  At the end of the day, sometimes a tween just needs a sympathetic ear.  Middle school is a challenge, but never let your child forget that you are their ultimate BFF and secret cheerleader.




This nostalgic read is both fun and informative in its perspective of middle school existence. The author's use of tweenie vernacular adds to character development and theme relevance.  - Readers Favorite

(Dana) knows her audience well, and has pitched this book to them perfectly, packing useful information into a fun, frothy read....Any sixth grade girl who's facing middle school as if it were a firing squad will find great comfort here.  Both entertaining and useful, How to Survive is a winner.  Starred Review - BlueInk Review 

Lucy and CeCee's guide to middle-school survival is a fast-paced, funny, and insightful book that will serve to clarify typical teen lingo and behavior for adults and give guidelines to tween and teenage kids who are having trouble navigating the middle-school milieu. - Clarion Reviews

But while the girls' teachings are often amusing, what really makes Dana's book exceptional are the girls themselves....Lucy and CeCee's target audience may consist solely of tweens, but this is a book that can educate readers of any age. - Kirkus Reviews

With plenty of humor and adventure, "Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School" is a strongly recommended addition to young adult fiction collections, not to be missed.  - Midwest Book Review


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Join Me at the Local Author Book Fair

Join me at the Brentwood Library's Local Author Book Fair on Sunday, August 23rd from 1-5 p.m where I will be a guest speaker.  A fun and free event for families!


The Brentwood Library 
8109 Concord Rd
Nashville, TN 37027








Friday, July 31, 2015

Lucy and CeCee Snags Paris Book Festival Award

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive and Thrive snagged the Paris Book Festival Award just in time for Back to School!




An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School 

teach• er |ˈtē ch ər|
noun
(official definition) – a person who teaches, esp. in a school; an adult role model who indoctrinates the younger generation intellectually, morally, and socially; one who helps others learn, as by example.

teach• er |ˈtē ch ər|
noun
(middle school student’s definition) – an adultish type person who slugs coffee, wears bad ties, frumpish jumpers, and who decided (due to his/her  own scarred teenage existence) to torture kids by inducing parental groundings through frequent phone calls home to report defective grades and deplorable behavior. Resulting outcome: avoid and ignore efforts; torture whenever possible.


Okay, J.K.!!  Teachers should be respected.  After all, most educators enjoy working with kids and some actually have something to teach us.  They are a guiding force in the molding of us adolescents and essentially our guardians from 8 to 3, Monday through Friday.  However, there ARE exceptions.  And the thing about middle school is you will have several teachers to deal with – not just one like in elementary school.  However, baring a few things in mind, you should adapt just fine.  

The first thing to realize about middle school teachers is there are certain types.  Nice and mean, right?  Actually it’s more complicated than that.  There are as many teacher types as there are personalities.  There are teachers who are nice, friendly, lenient, strict, dumb, smart, scary smart, funny, so-funny-they-should-be-a-comic-funny, boring, so-boring-they-put-you-in-a-coma-boring etc.  We’re going to focus on three basic types you will certainly come across in middle school, the telltale identifiable signs, and tips on how to deal with them to your advantage.


The Taskmaster Control Freak/You-Ain’t-Doin’-Nothin’-in-My-Class/Lecturer
These types of teachers became teachers so they could hear themselves talk. The truth is that they have no interest in you or what you have to say. You’ll know them by the classroom arrangement, which consists of unyielding vertical rows with their bully pulpit lectern front and center. Don’t even think about asking to use the bathroom or going to your locker, as the hall pass is simply an accessory for the Taskmaster (i.e., not to be used). And, don’t get sick in their classrooms because you ain’t leaving! Their stock answer for everything is “No!” They have no sense of humor and no sense of mercy. We advise lying low in their classes, as their tolerance for any kind of adolescent shenanigans is nonexistent. Hand in your homework on time and keep a low profile. Cheating, passing notes, and otherwise acting up are unheard of in the Taskmaster’s classroom.


The Fossil/I-Had-Your-Grandmother-and-Will-Have-Your-
Children’s-Children-and-Never-Ever-Retire Teacher
The Fossil tends to linger in the math and science departments. They are well known throughout the local community—and for good reason. They’ve been around forever, and as a result, they have built a solid reputation. They’ve been around so long that their “Just Say No” antidrug posters from the ’80s have an inch of dust caked to them. They use the same old lesson plans, projects, and activities they’ve had since college. Basically, they do their jobs on cruise control and aren’t apt to press the accelerator anytime soon.


Mr./Ms. Good Time/I-Want-to-Be-Liked Teacher
Mr. and Ms. Good Time are usually young and fresh out of college, and their entire educational philosophy is based on being liked. These teachers tend to be easy graders and give less homework (with the exception of a deep fondness for projects) than the others. Their strength is creativity and working outside the textbook (think complete opposite of the Taskmaster). The best thing to do in Mr. and Ms. Good Time’s class is to get them off topic by asking some real-world questions. Also, convince them that a once-a-week party is academically beneficial and aligns perfectly with the standards. Other things to try are having them take you outside, watching teen angst movies, and throwing Game Day because it promotes personal development and self-esteem.

So good luck as you start middle school.  We know you will get "a handle" on those teacher types soon enough, but this should give you the jumpstart needed as you head to that first class.

Until next time...Hearts and Sharpies!
Lucy and CeCee




Saturday, July 18, 2015

How Well Do You Know To Kill a Mockingbird?

With this week's much talked about release of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, I couldn't help but think back on the effect To Kill a Mockingbird had on me as an eighth grader.  Its message still resonates with readers today as it imparts a powerful lesson: empathy.

Scout learns how to empathize with people who are different than her, many of whom are symbolic mockingbirds shunned by society, including Walter Cunningham, Boo Radley, Mayella Ewell, and Tom Robinson.  As Atticus explains to Scout, "“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

I haven't taught To Kill a Mockingbird for several years, but I picked up a copy this weekend and started to read it.  I was of course transfixed and before I knew it, created several projects and activities for my future students.

So when was the last time you read To Kill a Mockingbird?  How well do you remember the book?  Take the quiz below to find out:

To Kill a Mockingbird Recall Quiz


1) What is Dill’s real name?
(A) Jack Harris
(B) William Peter Harris
(C) Charles Baker Harris
(D) Truman Harris

2) What does Jem use to try to deliver a message to Boo Radley?
(A) A fishing pole
(B) A rock
(C) A paper airplane
(D) A slingshot

3) What does Scout dress up as for the Halloween pageant?  
(A) An eggplant
(B) A ham
(C) A werewolf
(D) A mouse

4) The story takes place in 
(A) Atlanta, Georgia
(B) Maycomb, Alabama
(C) Nashville, Tennessee
(D) Maycomb, Georgia

5) What is the name of the mad dog?  
(A) Heck Tate
(B) Tom Johnson
(C) Tim Johnson
(D) Dolphus Raymond

6) Tom Robinson's wife is named
(A) Hannah
(B) Mayella
(C) Maudie
(D) Helen

7) During the trial, Atticus proves - 
(A) Tom Robinson wasn’t even in town the night of Mayella’s alleged rape.
(B) Mayella Ewell is a perpetual liar and needs psychologcial help. 
(C) Tom Robinson is left-handed and therefore, guilty.  
(D) Mayella Ewell was most likely beaten up by a left-handed man.  

8) During the trial, what makes Mayella think Atticus is making fun of her?  
(A) He shakes her hand.
(B) He calls her Miss Mayella.
(C) He sneers when she tells her story.
(D) He laughs at what she’s wearing. 

9) What does Atticus read to Scout the night of Bob Ewell’s attack?
(A) The Bible
(B) The Gray Ghost
(C) The Maycomb Tribune
(D) Robinson Crusoe

10) How does the Sheriff contend Bob Ewell died?  
(A) Heart attack
(B) Boo Radley stabbed him.
(C) Jem Finch stabbed him.
(D) He fell on his own knife.


Answers
1) C,  2) A,  3) B,  4) B,  5) C,  6) D,  7) D,  8) B,  9) B,  10) D





"[Courage] is when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."  Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird


For more TKAM classroom activities and reading support materials, please visit my store at: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/To-Kill-a-Mockingbird-Unit-Bundle-1965242


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Hype About Skype

Should one believe the hype about Skype?  Absolutely, yes!

My most recent Skype author visit was with the phenomenal fourth grade students from Schwarzkopf Elementary School in Lutz, Florida.  While nothing can replace a personal visitation, Skype allowed for an efficient, rewarding experience, bringing the students and me together in a personal and entertaining format.  The precocious tweens had prepared questions in advance and having read Lucy and CeCee’s How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School, they were eager to discuss the book and writing process in general.  In short, it was a glorious morning!

So for us non-techy types, what exactly is Skype?  Skype is an Internet telephone service that allows one to connect with others by video, telephone, or voice messaging.  Once you download the Skype software, setting up an account is relatively easy, and utilizing basic services such as video calls is free, which is economical for schools that are often challenged with limited budgets.

Some Skype Author Tips I share with librarians and teachers to help the presentation go smoothly as possible and maximize our time together include the following:

Download Skype and open an account if your school doesn’t have one already.  (Contact your technology coordinator to make sure you can use the software. Some districts block programs like Skype, and if that’s the case, you’ll want to see if it’s possible to unblock it for your program). Test it out at school to make sure it works.

Contact the author to arrange your virtual visit. Set a date and time and decide which videoconferencing program you’ll use and who will initiate the call.

Plan the presentation. How long will it last?  Will students gather around a computer or will the author be projected on a big screen?  Where will kids stand or sit so they can be seen and heard?  Have kids write questions on index cards in advance to keep the discussion moving.

The day before, set up a “trial call” with the author to make sure everything is working on both ends.

Make sure the kids understand that your connection may be lost temporarily during the chat. It helps to have a plan in place for when that happens.

On the day of the presentation during Q and A, if the kids seem reticent, you might start things off with a question or two to prompt discussion.

If your connection is lost, don’t panic. Just call the author back. It may take a few tries before you establish a good connection.

Keep an eye on the clock, and let students know when it’s almost time to wrap up the discussion.


Skype author presentations are a win-win for both authors and schools, who most certainly will integrate them into prevailing Blended Learning curriculum and digital instruction.  They are a time saver for busy authors and a money saver for schools.  Most importantly, Skype author presentations provide an opportunity for an interactive connection among the literary troika of author, student, and text.  Online, interactive school visits are the wave of the future as students, authors, and educators can dialog about the joy of expressing oneself through the written word.

Happy Skyping!

You can use the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Speakers Bureau to find authors who Skype at http://www.scbwi.org/speakers-bureau/






Thirty Sample Student Questions to Ask Authors During Skype Interviews

1. When did you first start writing?

2. What is the hardest part about writing a book?

3. How do you know when a book is finished?

4. How do you keep track of the different characters, events, and places?

5. What time of day do you do your best/ most productive writing?

6. What do you do with random ideas that pop into your head when you can't write them down?

7. What inspired your first book?

8. Do you map out the entire plot? Or just write as it comes to you?

9. What do you do when you get stuck or experience writer’s block?

10. What are your tips/ secrets about writing for any up and coming author who may need help/ encouragement?

11. When you are not writing, what do you like to do for fun?

12. What books do you enjoy reading? (favorite genre, author, book, etc.)

13. How long does it take you to write a book?

14. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

15. How do books get published?

16. Do you edit or proofread your own books?

17. How do you research information or ideas for your books?

18.  What does your family (parents, spouse, kids) think of your writing?

19.  How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

20.  Do you have a favorite character?  Which character would be your best friend?

21.  Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

22.  Are people ever critical of your books?  How does it make you feel?

23.  What audience do you write for?

24.  What do you think makes a good story?

25.  How did you come up with the title?

26.  Is there an overall message or theme in your books that you want readers to grasp?

27.  How much of the book is based on real life or someone you know?

28.  What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

29.  What are your current writing projects?

30.  Who designed the cover(s) of your book(s)?





For more information on Skype Author presentations, please visit my website:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wild About Word Walls!

Teachers are wild about Word Walls for good reason - they work!  Everyone is affected by what they see and Word Walls serve that very purpose.  Students can literally read the room with eye-catching, engaging Word Walls.  Furthermore, Word Walls add to a best practice, print-rich environment that is a critical component of emerging literacy.

What exactly is a Word Wall?

A Word Wall is a collection of related words, which are displayed on a wall or bulletin board for visual reference when reading, writing, or speaking.  The ideal Word Wall is a teacher AND student-created artifact - an interactive, work-in-progress exhibit that is added to weekly or even daily.  There are many types of Word Walls specific to the ELA classroom, such as Sight Word Walls, Literature Based Word Walls, Seasonal Word Walls, Writing Word Walls, Spelling Word Walls, Parts of Speech Word Walls, Phonics/Phonemic Word Walls, Content Area Word Walls, and Unit/Chapter Word Walls.


10 Reasons to be Wild About Word Walls…

Word Walls support the teaching of key words and subject-specific terminology.
Word Walls promote independence in reading and writing by building vocabulary support.
Word Walls are a visual daily reference, as students retain what they see.
Word Walls are a high-yield strategy that can be used across the curriculum.
Word Walls create a classroom that is a print-rich environment.
Word walls encourage student participation and engagement.
Word Walls are an interactive reference tool that can be used daily in reading, writing, and speaking.
Word Walls can easily replace boring, tedious worksheets or packets.
Word Walls can be used for quick progress monitoring and assessment.
Word Walls are extremely effective for English Language Learners.



WORDS of Advice for Effective Word Walls

Print Word Wall Cards on card stock.
Ideally print in color, but grayscale will work too.
If you laminate your Word Wall cards, they will last for years.
Refer to Word Walls in your daily instruction, and encourage students to do so as well when reading, writing, or speaking.
• Word Walls are a work in progress and should be a growing student-created artifact.  Have your students add to the working Working Walls in your classroom on a weekly or even daily basis.


For ELA Word Wall Products, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:


Friday, May 29, 2015

Sensational Teen and Tween Summer Reads

As we all fondly recall, summer vacation is the ultimate!  Staying up late into the night, basking in the golden sun, slurping up frothy ice cream concoctions, and yes - hopefully reading a good book or two or three...or three in one day.  And why not?  It's summer, after all.

Here is a list of twelve of my fave summer reads for tweens and teens.  The list includes some classics and some contemporary, depending on personal choice.  Either way, tweens/teens will have a blast getting their read on!!!



Kimberly's 2015 Summer Reading List for Tweens and Teens


1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

2) Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand

3) The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros

4) The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

5) Monster - Walter Dean Myers

6) Divergent - Veronica Roth

7) The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton

8) The Best of Roald Dahl - Roald Dahl

9) If I Stay - Gayle Forman

10) The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

11) Maximum Ride - James Patterson

12) Girl Online - Zoe Sugg


HAPPY READING!!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Buon Appetito Now Available by Schoolwide

Buon Appetito, a multicultural celebration food book that supports early literacy for the emergent reader, is now available by Schoolwide, Inc.

Synopsis:  Children come from all around the world, and so do foods. Come celebrate a world-traveling feast with the children of Signora Fina's class. As each student presents a type of food from a different country, you'll think about the foods you like to eat–and you may get a bit hungry, too!  Although Buon Appetito is written with the ELL student in mind, its universal message of inclusion and celebration can be enjoyed by any child.





If you are not familiar with Schoolwide, check out their website at http://www.schoolwide.com/zing where they are opening the door to a world of teaching and learning possibilities with Zing, the new, premier digital library.

Zing opens the door to a world of teaching and learning possibilities by providing access to thousands of fiction and nonfiction eBooks and short digital texts (articles, essays, poems, and primary sources) in English and Spanish.  Additionally, Zing's unmatched selection of authentic texts includes popular award-winning authors and titles from a vast array of publishers.

The future of reading is here!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

It's Teacher Appreciation Week!

We've all seen the bumper sticker: If you can read this, thank a teacher!  The adage may be trite, but there is truth behind it.  

By the time high school graduation rolls around, we've had our share of competent teachers and maybe even a couple bad apples.  But there is always that special teacher who truly did make a difference.  He or she was the one who challenged you, made you see the world a certain way, and in the end changed your soul.  You may have never thanked that special teacher, but you can still show appreciation for the educators who work so tirelessly to make the world a better place.  

Just a simple handwritten note is the most special thing you can do show your gratitude.  I keep all my notes from students and parents over the years in a tattered old file folder that I had started my first year of teaching.  When I'm having a bad day or in need of a speedy attitude adjustment, I read a couple of letters.  The words are so precious and honest; they never fail to reenergize my spirit and remind me of why I do what I do.  

So thank a teacher this week and tell them they are appreciated.  It will mean the world!  

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." - Albert Einstein




In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, please visit my store-wide sale at Teachers Pay Teachers.  



125 × 125

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thank You, Coffee County Middle School

I had a fabulous time last night at Authors' Night at Coffee County Middle School in Manchester, TN.  The students were ebullient and full of questions about how to become a writer.  It was such an inspiration.  Thank you, Coffee County Middle School!




For more information on Kimberly Dana Author Events, please visit my website at http://kimberlydana.com/author_visits_19.html

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Help Them Do Their Best on the Test!

Standardized Testing is:

A) Stressful
B) Necessary
C) Something students can succeed on
D) All of the above

Correct Answer - D!



It's that time of year again!  Standardized testing is just around the corner, meaning the anxiety at most educational institutions is off-the-charts!  Never before has there been so much pressure to perform well, as standardized testing determines school ratings, student funding, and a child's classroom placement.  To offset test-taking anxiety, it is paramount we prepare our students with knowledge, skills, and guaranteed-to-succeed test-taking strategies.


For classroom activities and lessons that use humor and positive reinforcement for maximum buy-in, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Get Your D.E.A.R. On!!!

D.E.A.R. is an educational acronym that stands for Drop Everything and Read.  It’s much frothier than the dated S.S.R. – Silent Sustained Reading, which sounds a bit torturous to even the most avid reader.



April 12th is the official National D.E.A.R Day.  It is the birthday of the beloved author Beverly Cleary who created one of my all-time favorite childhood characters – Ramona Quimby.  On National D.E.A.R. Day, families are encouraged to read together while promoting books as an integral part of daily life.

So how will you be celebrating D.E.A.R. Day?  Fun activities to do with family, friends, or an impassioned book club include making bookmarks, reading favorite passages, and acting out scenes.  Character charades, anyone?  While April 12th is official D.E.A.R. day, every day is a great day to Drop Everything and Read!  So – drop those agonizing bills, take a break from Facebook, and get your read on!

For classroom activities and lessons corresponding to D.E.A.R., visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:


Thursday, April 2, 2015

It's National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world.

Why should we devote an entire month to honor words written in verse?  Because poetry is the language of the soul.  When life drowns us with its dark moments, poetry throws us a raft – a verbal sanctuary of healing and beauty.

So I urge you to release your inner poet and succumb to the sensory language, rhythm, flavor, call and response of poetry.  Feel the human spirit and universality of life's shared stories in a stanza.  Read or write a poem this month.  Restore your spirit.  Restore your soul.





Ten Favorite Poems

  1. “Sick” – Shel Silverstein
  2. “Phenomenal Woman” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Oranges” – Gary Soto
  5. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
  6. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare
  7. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” – Robert Herrick
  8. “The Kiss” – Sara Teasdale
  9. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas 
  10. Fragment 31 – Sappho




April Challenge:  Write a Cinquain

A cinquain is five line poem that follows this lyrical pattern:

1) a word for the title
2) two adjectives
3) three verbs
4) a phrase
5) the title again – or synonym


Example:

Chocolate
Dark or milk
Smooth, silky, sweet
Best thing ever
Yum!


Eyes
Large, mysterious
Watching, rolling, blinking
Tell more than words
Soul-windows


Cinquain
Short, sweet
Five, simple steps
Maybe not so easy…
Voila!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to Have Fun at Lunch (The Most Important Thirty Minutes You'll Ever Have!)

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Lucy: Okay—get your hunger on because lunch is that precious half hour when you can chill and hang with the besties, not to mention fuel up for those afternoon classes.

CeCee: Or a study hall if you have an upcoming quiz or test!

Lucy: Okay, right, C.! Whatev.

Lucy and CeCee: Lunch is a social reprieve that should be savored and enjoyed. To eke out maximum benefits, adhere to the following.



L&C’s How to Munch at Lunch

The Dreaded Hot-Lunch Line

Time is precious, and negotiating your way through the swarming hot-lunch line takes some skill. The best way to buy hot lunch is to walk purposefully to the end of the line and maintain position. Beware of cutters who may have a ruse, such as acting like they forgot a fork or straw. Usually they are wormy little sixth graders, so don’t be afraid to tell them to buzz off! You may think it best to wait for the line to die down, but don’t! By that time, the food goes from grotesque to downright vomitous. (Just sayin’!)

Not all entrees induce the lunch flu, but be cautious of certain food items. Anything with a catchy name like “Fiesta Fajitas” or “Burger Bangers” should be sized up with suspicion. Also, dodge the mystery meat whenever possible. This is anything containing meat product that can’t easily be identified with the naked eye. It’s usually topped off with some sort of gravy-like sauce so as to conceal its identity. Hence, the name. Also, stay away from the pizza altogether, as it’s riddled with mystery meat droppings and altogether nast.

Where to Sit

Where to sit in the middle school cafeteria is a strategic chess move that can be executed with ease. Just face the fact that cliques are the number-one unspoken rule of the lunchroom. (If you don’t already know, a clique is a self-segregating group that hangs and eats together. They were around when your grandparents went to school, and they’ll be around when your grandchildren go to school. A few common ones throughout the ages are preppies, geeks, punks, emos, oddballs, hipsters, VIP popular kids, and wannabes.)

Now, the good news is you can click outside your clique. You just have to know which ones are flexible and which are not. For example, the trinity of Madison Heights royalty—Kandi, Kassi, and Kalli—is one grub ’n’ snub club that isn’t accepting new members. One can tell this by their guarded body language that screams “Admire—then expire!” when you walk by their reserved VIP table waaaaaay in back of the lunchroom.

On the flip side, most cliques love to meet and talk with new people, so don’t be shy! If you’re new and don’t want to eat your cheese puffs solo, case the caf for a friendly looking group or just take out a book or magazine and chill. If you look confident and comfortable with yourself, someone is bound to join in. (Quick Tip: While you’re sitting there by yourself, feign popularity by pretending to wave at random people. It works!)

The upshot is finding a crowd to chow with definitely gets easier with time. Before you know it, you will have your own little table surrounded by your best besties, eating the mystery meat du jour!

Convo Starters
Don’t know what to gab about while you grub? Try these hot topics:

Can you believe that English project?
Are Uggs really a good look?
Hottiest hotties
Makeup/breakup/shakeup of the week
“I know, right?,” “That’s so random,” “24/7,” Just sayin’,” “It’s all good,” and other phrases that should be banned
Team Edward vs. Team Jacob
The virtues of headbands
Today’s cute math substitute
Yesterday’s scary science substitute
What teachers really talk about in the lunchroom

Beware: Try to avoid food fights. Some fun seekers might try to instigate, but it’s ultra-immature and could ruin your gear.

Helpful Hint: No matter how tempting it is to food bash, always be nice to the “lunch ladies,” and never insult the food while in earshot. They’re the hardworking women who put the mystery in mystery meat and have hairnets, oversized glasses, and large moles. Always be polite, and try to learn their names (usually something like Edith or Joyce). You may just get an extra big helping of mystery meat goulash!


Dear Diary,

The ladies served up some major calamity casserole at lunch today! And the casserole’s name is Josh! I don’t care what Lucy says—that kid is nothing but trouble! It’s so her to fall for the walking jock cliché (i.e., the backward baseball hat, the menacing sports jersey, the cocky strut, and of course, the one-syllable J name). Too bad it’s J for j-e-r-k. How do I know this? Because Ms. Clark summoned me today to discuss tutoring him after school. Apparently, his grades aren’t all that, and he needs “major intervention” because he’s on a behavior permit. (She let it slip that he has a little habit of beating up nerds, and this is his third school.)

So, while I’m telling Lucy her new crush is a swirlie-giving, ear-flipping, towel-snapping bully—or worse—a potential Dark Lord with truly evil intentions (a doppelganger, perhaps?), she just smiles and gushes, not at all bothered by the fact that he’s totally cuddling up to Kandi Klass in back of the lunchroom. I don’t mean to Gandalfenize, but when will she see the truth will set her free? It’s like she’s under some charm spell from an evil wizard or something. Why can’t she just settle for Lyle Whitehurst, who’s had fuzzy feelings for her since kindergarten? Okay, maybe he’s an überdork, but at least he’s a dork with a brain!

Anyway, Lucy seemed relieved when I told her I was way too involved with the Madison Messenger to possibly tutor Josh the Jerk. She then went on and on about her horoscope and Destiny Stars’s prediction for her flourishing love life and how she and Josh are “meant to be.” That’s when I reminded Lucy that her astro-reading habit is merely a minion’s way of claiming false success without claiming failure—which she promptly ignored.

G/G—Ms. Horowitz says pop quiz in two minutes. 
CeCee

PS Help! I can’t find my magical Blistex and feel so unprotected without it. I have such very little armor as it is, and I don’t want my lips to surrender to the spell of chappiness. Fraggy pucker nuts! 








Friday, February 20, 2015

Mood and Tone: A Lesson in Author's Style

Teaching tweens the nuances of mood and tone can be a challenge.  The terms are often interchangeable i.e., misused, and in a middle schooler's mind, they are sort of formless and abstract.  Yet, mood and tone are a very powerful literary concept.  They are literally what give text its "texture."


Enter my go-to visual Mood/Tone guy:




As the little guy above illustrates, the drive-through version of tone is the author's attitude toward the subject, and mood is the feeling of the reader.

Specifically, to teach tone, I refer to the anti-phony Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye:

  • "All morons hate it when you call them a moron.
  • “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”
  • “Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”
Holden’s tone is bitterly sarcastic and critical as he ruminates on the nature of things and the hypocrisy of people.  Salinger's tone is achieved through word choice.

Some words used to identify tone could be:
  1. Anxious
  2. Bold
  3. Confrontational
  4. Curious
  5. Dismissive
  6. Encouraging
  7. Hip
  8. Hopeful
  9. Open
  10. Overbearing
  11. Passionate
  12. Sarcastic
  13. Smarmy
  14. Suspicious
  15. Uncouth
  16. Upbeat
  17. Urbane
  18. Wisecracking
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

To teach mood, I present Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken":

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The gloomy, somber mood belies a voice and feeling of regret.  The speaker took the road less traveled, but wishes he could have traveled both.  The reader is left with the grave, somewhat melancholic fact that we only have one life to live, and choice is everything.

Some words used to identify mood could be:
  1. Alarming
  2. Brooding
  3. Buoyant
  4. Comical
  5. Confining
  6. Cool
  7. Dark
  8. Fantastical
  9. Hopeful
  10. Light
  11. Melancholy
  12. Ominous
  13. Oppressive
  14. Relaxed
  15. Sexy
  16. Spooky
  17. Suspenseful
  18. Warm

So forge ahead.  Demystify mood and tone, and teach author's style with aplomb.  Your students will catch on in no time, hopefully eager to hone their own writing style.

For more classroom activities and lessons on mood/tone and other literary concepts, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How to Snag a Hottie in Time for Valentine's Day by Lucy and CeCee

Okay, let's be honest.  No one wants to fly solo on the day that shall be nameless.  But the clock is a ticking.  So if you need a sweetie for the Valentine's Day Dance or just for general appearances (oops, we said it!) - here are some quick tips...  

Find a good candidate starting with someone who likes you for you. Other quality traits to look for in a guy are sweet, funny, and genuine. And let’s face it: cute doesn’t hurt, either. Stay away from boys who ego trip or only think about themselves.




When talking to him the first few times, you may be a little nervous. If so, ask him questions about himself or his classes. Here are some good questions to ask:

§  What are you listening to on your iPod?
§  Do you have (name a teacher)? How is your project coming along?
§  Are you going to the football game on Friday?
§  Do you know what time the bell rings?

Try to be friends first and get to know him in a casual setting. This will make the going-out stuff less awkward.

If you want to ask a guy out, approach him when he’s alone—not when he’s hanging with “the guys” and absolutely not when he’s talking with another girl. If the coast is clear, pop a breath mint, take a deep breath, and go for it!

Do a little recon investigation, and find out what your dude is into. If he likes sports, talk about a local or state team; if he likes music, chat up tunes and bands.

Don’t talk too much about yourself. For most guys, this is a turnoff.

If he makes a joke, laugh. Guys like to think they belong on Comedy Central.

If you’re apt to blush when you gush, don’t fret. Most guys think this is cute.

Make signs that you like him and are interested by smiling, making eye contact, lightly touching his arm, and the like.

It sounds dorky, but practice talking to your crush in the mirror. When the time comes, you’ll be a silver-tongued smoothie.

Helpful Hint #1: Don’t be a psycho-stalker.  Guys are pretty simple to figure out. If they like you, you’ll know it. If they don’t, move on.

Helpful Hint #2: Don’t have a friend tell his friend to tell his friend that you like him. Do your love work yourself! It shows confidence!


 Happy Valentine's Day!!!
 Lucy & CeCee




Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School Featured!!

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School is featured this month in Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids.  Check out this great tween magazine that highlights author interviews, reviews, excerpts, and more.







An Odyssey for the New Year

Every New Year begins a new journey.  An odyssey, if you will, where we aspire to reach a destination of goals, resolutions, and ambitions.  Of course there are always deterrents.  Sometimes monsters as ferociously daunting as Scylla or Charybdis from Homer’s Odyssey obstruct our path.  But we are resolute, steadfastly brave and courageous as we face down our demons, just as Odysseus was in trying to reach his destination of Ithaca - home to his beloved Penelope and Telemachus.

This semester I will be undertaking an odyssey of my own, as I teach Homer’s epic.  After a quick invocation to the literary muse, I review the following epic conventions, pleasantly surprised as my students eagerly take notes and ask clarifying questions.  


  • The Epic Hero
  • Lengthy Narrative
  • Lofty Tone and Style
  • Epic Similes
  • Catalogs/Genealogies
  • Supernatural Involvement
  • Invocation
  • In Medias Res
  • Voyage Across the Sea
  • Trip to the Underworld
  • Epic Battles


At first, I’m bewildered how much they dig Homer’s interminable tome; yet, a quick analysis reveals the striking similarities they have with Odysseus and the epic genre itself.  Just like Odysseus, tweens are heroes of their own story.  Getting through a day of middle school might seem like a trip to the Underworld; they certainly have their own epic battles of drama to fight; and don’t even get me started on their plights of temptation.  But like Odysseus, they persevere (with a little help from the gods of course).  And in the end, they are winning the contest to prove their identity and retake their own throne, hopefully having grown in wisdom, judgment, and self-control.

As adults, the theme of The Odyssey retains its relevance as well.  Maybe we haven’t even reached our own Ithaca yet, but we’re still traveling and battling, island after island.  And that’s okay because as we know by now, life isn’t about the destination - it’s about the journey.  It’s our odyssey – monsters, goddesses, and all.


For classroom activities and lessons on The Odyssey and other classics, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers: