Summary: Looking for Alaska is the story of Miles “Pudge” Halter, a typical boring kid who leaves Florida to go Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama. Miles is intrigued by the famous last words of Francois Rabelais last words, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” As he goes on trying to figure out what these words mean to him, he befriends Chip Martin and the beautiful Alaska Young. He soon falls in love with Alaska, but learns that she is a bit unstable and self-destructive. As the year goes on, the group of friends play pranks and have some fun, but at the end of it all, comes a shocking twist, but a wise lesson to go with it.
Strengths: Looking for Alaska is set in modern times and is considered Realistic Fiction. The main character Miles is someone a lot of people can relate to. He isn’t super athletic or super smart. He is just average, which makes him as realistic and relatable as anyone. The character of Alaska is realistic as well. She has had some issues in the past and with them, comes a self-destructing nature. A lot of teenagers have similar problems and end up on a difficult path, just like Alaska. The tone throughout the book is humorous at times, but it does not forget to be serious when it needs to be. At the end, there is a moral that came at a high price, which again, a lot of people go through.
Connections to Text: This book won the Michael Printz Award, which exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature, in 2006. When we look at How Adolescents Develop, Miles is going through some of Havighurts stages. He finds peers that he connects to, which include Chip and Alaska. He also has some rivals on campus. It seems that Miles hasn’t truly developed appropriate sex roles, because his attraction to Alaska seems to be more of a lust, rather than truly being in love with her. As the story goes on however, he does actually start to fall for her instead of just lusting after her.
Other Connections: Book Trailer Similar Books Lesson Plans
Green, J. (2005). Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Books.
Summary: Code Name Verity is the story of two spies during World War II. The book starts off with them riding together on a plane on a mission. But then the plane crashes and two girls Julie, or Verity, her code name, and Maddie are separated. Verity is taken in by Nazi spies and Maddie is left for dead. As a captured spy, Verity is being tortured by her captives for information. Meanwhile, Maddie, who survived the crash, joins another group of resistance fighters and tries to save Verity. Soon, both their paths meet again, but will we get a happy reunion, or will their missions intervene?
Strengths: Since the setting of this book is World War II, this book is considered historical fiction. A lot of the places in the story are fictional however, like the town of Ormaie. As I was reading the book, I expected some famous historical figures to show up, but all the characters in the story are fictional. Regardless, the author does a great job with giving you the sense that it is the 1940s. The characters themselves were realistic as well. Though one wouldn’t think there were many female spies back then, the character Verity portrays one quiet well without falling into any of the stereotypes that women fall into, like a needless love triangle.
Connections to Text: When writing this book, the author did a great job with portraying literary elements. For starters, we have well defined protagonists, Julie and Maddie. Then we have the clearly defined antagonists, the Nazi army holding Julie as a hostage. The conflict is clear, and I don’t just mean the conflict of war. I mean the conflict between the characters. Julie is captured and tortured, and Maddie has to make the ultimate choice to defend her country. This is a dark time, and the mood throughout the story reflects that. There is not much humor, but a more serious tone throughout the book.
Other Connections: Book Trailer Similar Books Lesson Plans
Wein, E. (2012). Code name Verity. New York: Hyperion.
Podcasts are a great way to integrate technology in the classroom. An idea that came to me was to use it as a preparation for a debate. What I did was I used the podcast to read the information concerning the topic, and then told students that they must choose a side, create a podcast to voice their argument, and then upload so I can see it. I used Soundcloud to upload it because it seemed the easiest to use out of all the options. All I had to was create my account and I was able to record and upload within minutes.
Podomotic also seemed simple enough to use, but I had to upload from my own computer and not record on the site. The other one, Audioboom, was just not very good. I created an account and clicked on “Get Started” but that took me nowhere. I’ve explored the site many times and still have no clue how to start a podcast on it.
Podcasts are great to use in the classroom. You can use them like I just did as a way of giving instructions and for students to present any work. Another way it can help is if you have a lot of students who have the testing accommodation of having oral administration, you can just record yourself reading the test once, and the students can follow the podcast at their own pace. Of course, you do have to be careful with podcasts. You have to make sure students don’t misuse it or upload anything inappropriate. More importantly, you don’t want them or yourself to start relying just on podcasts and nothing else.
Summary: The island of Thisby is your typical island. Every year on that island, there is an event called the Scorpio Races. In the deadly Scorpio Races, people race using the mythical creature known as the capaill uisce, carnivorous water horses. Nineteen year old Sean Kendrick is the returning champion this year and he feels like he can pull off another victory. That is of course until Puck Connolly, who is doubtful of herself winning comes along. These two end up learning a lot about each other and even spark up a romance, but they know that the ultimate goal is to win.
Strengths: Because of the fantasy creature known as the capail uisce, this story falls under the genre of fantasy. Despite it being under the genre of fantasy, there are really no other fantasy elements that come into the story except for the water horses. Just like a lot of fantasy novels, there are “rules” which in this book consists of the annual Scorpio Races. The island is of course fictional, but what I believe makes this story are the characters. Yes, consistent and believable characters is a criteria for evaluating fantasy novels, but this is where the book truly stands out. The characters were so vivid and believable, it was as if I knew them personally. They were not stereotypes and each had their own agenda throughout the story.
Connections to Text: Both the main characters are still teenagers and yet have developed with different goals in mind. For example, Sean wants to win to prove himself and that he can be good owner to his water horse, Corr. Puck, however has a different mindset. She needs to win for her family. Both may have different ambitions, but it is interesting to see that despite their differences, they must both achieve the same goal of winning the race to achieve their goal.
Other Connections: Book Trailer Similar Books Lesson Plans
Stiefvater, M. (2011). The Scorpio Races. New York: Scholastic Press.
Summary: Freak Show by James St. James is the story of lovable teenager Billy Bloom. Billy Bloom isn’t your average seventeen year old. What makes him unique is that he is a fabulous drag queen. He lives a pretty nice life in Connecticut, but one day, his mom decides to send him off to his father in Florida. Billy does not like his new school. It is full of bullies and hypocrites. He then meets Flip, a football player who is more than just a dim-witted jock. Billy gets bullied and even ends up in a hospital at one point, but his story is both funny and heartbreaking for everyone.
Strengths: This book is realistic fiction, but to be a bit more specific, it falls into the category of Teen LGBQT Fiction. In realistic fiction, you have to have believable characters and also try to avoid stereotypes. One might think that a book that focuses on a drag queen is going to be full of stereotypes. Though it is true that some of the bullies he encounters are a bit one-dimensional, Billy is not a stereotypical gay person. It’s interesting to see the world through his eyes and see what he has to go through on a daily basis. The same can be said about Flip, a jock who is not such a meathead. The theme itself is relevant and realistic to a lot of teenagers these days are just too afraid to be themselves over the worry of not only what people are going to think of them, but also their actions, as we can see that Billy ended up in the hospital.
Connections to the Text: The main character, Billy is still a teenager and still developing as a human. According to the developmental stages of Havighurst, teenagers are “defining appropriate sex roles.” To me, Billy is past this, knowing full well who he is as a person. That being said, he is trouble going through Maslows hierarchy of needs. As he reaches for love/belonging, and esteem, he is troubled by bullies all around him. He is constantly being knocked down to worry about his safety, hindering his process to self actualization.
Other Connections: Book Trailer Similar Books
The first comic site that I used to create my comic strip was Toondoo. You had to register to use the site, but that was pretty simple to do. Once I actually registered and began, things got a little bit more complicated. The website looks like it was created by someone that wanted to show you everything at once. After adjusting my eyes to deal with the mess of the website, I finally found the link that let me create my toon. Creating the toon was a simple enough experience. All the instructions are pretty clear. But when it came to actually SAVING my toon, I couldn’t find where to save it. And once I did find out where to save it, I didn’t know where it had been saved under “Toons” or “Completoons.” Well, my logic was that my toon was completed, so it had to be under “Completoons.” I was wrong. Overall, the actual creation of the comic was simple, everything else was not.
The next site I used was Pixton. Now this is how a site should look. Simple to navigate and use. It even came with a useful tutorial to guide me in creating my first comic strip. Once I saved my comic, it was easy to find where it was. All I had to do was click on my home page, and there it was. Other sites can take note from this. This was the best easiest site to use.
The last website that I used was MakeBeliefsComic. This site gets bonus points for not having to register to create a comic strip. Everything on the site was pretty straightforward. Although my options were limited when it came to creating characters and their gestures, it was simple to follow. Easy site to use, but there just isn’t much available, but students should be able to use it.
In the article “25 WAYS TO USE MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX.COM IN THE CLASSROOM,” we learn of some pretty awesome ways to use comics in the classroom. A few that really stood out for me was to use it to learn vocabulary words. In social studies, we have a lot of vocabulary words, and using comics in the classroom for vocabulary will help students learn these words. I also think that it is good practice for my English Language Learners. Visuals really help these students learn academic words, and using actual comic strips will make the experience fun and engaging.
The app Tellagami was a fun app to create a 30 second video. Users can create their avatar and record their voice to it. If you were able to record just a bit longer, I can see me using this as a way to present projects or book talks.
MakeBeliefsComix.com, B. B. (n.d.). How to Play with MakeBeliefsComix.com. Retrieved November 02, 2016, from http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/How-to-Play/Educators/
Summary: It is the final year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter. Or at least it should be. Instead of going back to Hogwarts this year, Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione are on the quest to find the remaining Horcruxes to defeat Voldemort once and for all. During his quest, he comes across the story of the Deathly Hallows, three objects that when united makes the owner the master of death. So now Harry is on a quest to not only defeat Voldemort, but he must now figure out the mystery of the Deathly Hallows.
Strengths: This book falls into the realm of being fantasy. Despite the magical setting, the characters and the main story itself is one we can all relate to. The characters are well written and have hardships and all make sacrifices… or behave in selfish ways to defeat everyone, like in the case of Voldemort. The overall story is one that explores universal truths. The death eaters trying to destroy those that are unworthy and not of “pure blood” is an allusion to Nazi Germany and its “cleansing.” In most fantasy novels, there is an aspect of good vs. evil where good eventually triumphs, just like portrayed in this book.
Connections to Text: In this final novel in the Harry Potter series, Harry finally becomes an adult in the wizarding world by reaching the age of 17. He may be fighting the war of his life, but that doesn’t mean that he is not going through teenage developments. He is “defining his appropriate sex role” by showing a growing concern over his future wife, Ginny Weasley. When looking at Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, one could argue that Harry has been stuck between needing love and concern for his safety. In the epilogue, we see that Harry is happily married and with children and a good job. Maslow could say that he finally reached self-actualization at the end. This book was on the list Best Books for Young Adults in 2008.
Other Connections: Similar Books Book Trailer Lesson Plans
Rowling, J. K., & GrandPré, M. (2007). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.