Math = Love: May 2014 Reads

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

May 2014 Reads

May, with all of its end of year craziness, was not a month for a ton of reading.  I read the least amount of books in a month that I've read all year - 8 books.  And, three of those were audio books that I listened to while driving my car.  Question - how has it taken me so long to think of trying audio books?  I drive to see my parents on a weekly basis, and it's a 75 minute drive each way.  I can knock out two and a half hours of an audio book.

The only problem is that my daily commute is not exactly conducive to listening to audio books.  I live five minutes away from school.  So, I can listen to five minutes of the book during my morning commute.  But, I usually use my afternoon commute as an opportunity to call my mom or sister.  I get TERRIBLE cell phone reception at my house.  Honestly, I'm surprised that people still call me sometimes.  I can have 7-10 dropped calls in a single conversation.  US Cellular informed me that my neighborhood is located in what is known as the drop-off zone.  It's half-way between the cell towers in Tulsa and OKC which means the service is spotty at best.  And, there's nothing they can do to help me.  Once I find reception somewhere in my house, I can't move my head a fraction of an inch in any direction unless I want my call to be dropped.  Usually when I call people back after this happens, they'll say something like, "You moved your head, didn't you?"  I don't think they realize how difficult it is to hold your head perfectly still while talking on the phone!  

So, I haven't been able to finish an entire audio book in my car.  Every single time, I end up bringing the cds in my house so I can finish the story.  I'm the type of person that gets super invested in a book and has to figure out what happens right away!

I'll write about the 3 audio books first, then I'll tackle the 5 physical books I read this month.

(I mentioned the fact that I've been listening to audio books to some of my students while we were fundraising for prom the other day, and they told me that this wasn't something I should admit aloud.  Apparently, audio books are not cool...)

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  After all, I've got to support my office supply addiction somehow...]

Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans

My friendly public librarian recommended The Walk series by Richard Paul Evans to me several months ago.  However, someone had checked out the first book in the series, The Walk, and kept it.  She insisted that I needed to start at the beginning of the series to fully grasp its amazingness.  So, I've been putting off reading this series until I can find a copy of the first book.

But, the other day, I was looking to check out an audio book.  I've been a long-time fan of Richard Paul Evans, so I checked out one of his books to listen to.  Once I had already left the library, I realized that I had just checked out the second book in The Walk series.  You know, the same series that I had put off starting until I could read the second book.  Well, I started the series in the middle, and I am in LOVE.  The book kept me guessing the entire time.  And, I literally found myself sitting in my garage with my car running because I couldn't bear to stop until I got to the end of a chapter!  And, then I simply had to take the cds inside to finish the book.  So good!  I can't wait to read the next book in the series.  At some point, I should probably go back and read the first book, too.  Will he ever make it to Key West?  Who will he meet next in his walking journey across the United States?

Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich

This was my second ever Janet Evanovich novel.  I'm pretty sure the town I live in is obsessed with Janet Evanovich.  The librarian has recommended her books to me at least twice.  My landlord has recommended her books to me.  My principal's wife who runs our school library has recommended I read her novels as well.  I've decided that the Stephanie Plum novels are okay, but they're really just not my cup of tea.  As much as I love audio books, I had a really hard time staying focused on this book.  I was trying to listen and multi-task at the same time, and I kept finding myself so confused with what was happening that I had to keep rewinding the book to figure it out.  As someone who has spent most of their life reading either Christian fiction or classical literature, these novels are a tad bit too much on the trashy side for me.

Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux

Of the three audio books I listened to this month, this was by far my favorite.  I started listening to it on a drive to Tulsa.  After an initial bit of confusion which was completely intentional by the author, I soon found myself sucked into the story.  An elderly neighbor/friend leaves you a house in their will in a town named after them that they've never mentioned.  And, they tell you to move to the town and to marry a certain person that you've never met before.  Hello, I now have a ton of questions that I can't wait to find the answers to!  My mom and sister rode in the car with me the same day that I started this book, and I forced them to listen to the audio book with me.  Having missed the first hour and a half, they were a tad confused.  So many twists and turns.  I loved it!  Apparently, it's the first in a series.  And, I'm excited to see if my library has any more books in the series.  This is my first time reading this author, and I'm definitely impressed!

Okay.  On to the books I actually read myself.

Keep a Little Secret by Dorothy Garlock

Since Drumright's library is so small, they have to come up with creative ways to stretch their limited budget.  One of the ways the librarians do this is to lease a certain number of books instead of buying them.  This is something I didn't even know was possible!  The rack of leased books is placed so you pass it right when you enter the library.  They have special tags to let you know that they are leased books.  This month, I checked out a leased book for the first time.  I've been trying to expand my horizons by checking out new authors.  I was first drawn to this book by it's intriguing title.  Next, I opened up the dust jacket to see that the book was about a teacher in Oklahoma.  Seeing as I am a teacher in Oklahoma, I decided this book was meant to be.  I'd never heard of Dorothy Garlock before, but the cover touted her as the premier writer of Americana romance.

While checking out my books, I told the librarian that I was trying out a new author.  She said that most of her patrons either absolutely love this author's books or absolutely hate them.  She hoped that I would love them.  I really liked the first 75% of this book.  It had mystery.  It had romance.  It was set in my home state.  But, the last quarter of the book left me unsatisfied.  I can't quite put my finger on what I didn't like about it, though.  Unlike some books, I'm not rushing to read the next book in the series.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

So, I finally got around to finishing the Hunger Games trilogy!  I really wish I had read this book right after finishing the second book, but someone had it checked out of the library at the time.  I spent the first 10-15% of the book really confused because I couldn't quite remember how the previous book had ended.  This book made me so mad at times.  Or, maybe I should say that the characters made me so mad.  I would literally have to close the book and go do something else because I was so worried about the decisions they were making!  After calming down, I would return to the book and read on.  This is really a book that you have to read carefully (at least I do) or you can miss important details and end up super confused!  I didn't realize that one of the characters had died until they started mourning them.  Oops...  I'm so thankful that the end of the book left me with a sense of closure unlike some series.  Overall, I really enjoyed this series!

Strength in Numbers: Collaborative Learning in Secondary Mathematics by Ilana Horn 

I was lucky to receive this book for free as part of the Oklahoma Geometry and Algebra Project (OGAP).  This workshop has been the best professional development workshop I've ever attended!  I read the first two chapters right after receiving this book back in February, but the busyness of school meant that this book got laid aside.  The goal of this book is to make you rethink how you structure cooperative learning in your classroom.  Cooperative learning and groupwork is an area that I struggle greatly with!  When I went to #edcampTULSA, I even moderated a session on it to try to learn more from others!

Now that school is out for summer (YAY!), I finally took the time to set down and finish the book.  It was so good that I finished it in a single day.  I couldn't put it down.  My copy is filled with highlighting and notes and underlining.  Based on the information in the book, I've created some sets of posters featuring group work norms, sentence starters, and words I want my students to emphasize in my classroom like please, thank you, and yet.  Hopefully, I'll get a post up sharing these posters and new creations soon!  If I don't post them, bug me until I do!

I'm excited to start the new year with a new approach to collaborative learning.  And, I'm ready to be on the lookout all summer for groupworthy tasks.  I seriously can't recommend this book enough!  

Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement by Steve Leinwand

How can I sum this book up?  I ordered it from Amazon, and I read it within 24 hours of receiving it in the mail.  Some of the shifts seem like common sense at first, but I took away so many ideas that I plan on implementing in my classroom next year.  My students struggle with number sense, and I spend a lot of time complaining about this.  This book showed me that I should stop complaining about it and actually start doing something about it.  Whether it is a standard that I "should" teach or not, I have to decide what is important for my students to know.  And, it's up to me to emphasize those things in my classroom.  I'm also thinking of switching up my bellwork procedure with a procedure from this book on how to start class.  I have so many ideas floating around in my head right now!  I really want to go back through the notes I took while reading this book and reflect on them in a post.  Awesome book!

The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong

This book was first recommended to me by my first education professor in college.  I bought a copy and read it before my first year of teaching.  Then, I bought three or four other books on teaching and classroom management and read them, too.  Every book took a different approach, and they all seemed to contradict one another.  I became so overwhelmed and confused that I entered the classroom without a plan for classroom management.  I thought I'd wing it, and I've been winging it for the past two years.  They haven't been super ugly, but they haven't been pretty either.

If I was making a list of my weaknesses as a teacher, classroom management would be at the top of the list.  I can't quiet my class without raising my voice.  Therefore, I spend a lot of time raising my voice.  Afternoon classes will come in and make comments about how they knew my 2nd hour class was terrible today because they could hear me across the hall in their history class.  I don't want this to be the case.  I spend way too much time trying to keep my students on task.  I always thought that I would go to work in a school that had a clear set of rules and consequences.  That isn't the case.  There is no punishment handed out for tardies.  Rarely is truancy even punished.  I've sent a student to the office for stealing my pencil sharpener.  They got suspended.  I've sent a student to the office for pulling out an open pocket knife in my class.  I was told that was not a punishable offense.  They were told to apologize.

I can't rely on my administration to handle discipline.  More often than not, students are simply told to apologize to their teacher.  I need to make a plan of my own.  I need to have a set of clear consequences that I hand out consistently.  I'm also going to take the author's advice and spend the first few days of school working on practicing procedures.  I get so aggravated at my students when they don't act the way I expect them to.  But, what if they truly don't know better?  Next year, they won't have an excuse because we will practice the proper way to do things from the start.  I especially need to work on getting my students to transition between activities quickly and quietly.  I think that if I can achieve this, it will more than make up for the few days we spend practicing at the beginning of the year.

My word for next year is going to be consistent.  I am going to strive to be consistent in all that I do.  My classroom should be a place where students know what to expect.  I think this will make my year and their year much more enjoyable.  Of course, they're going to hate me at first, but I think they'll come around eventually.  The hardest thing will be that my Algebra 2 students will almost all be students that I first had in Algebra 1 two years ago.  So, they've already experienced the first-year teacher version of me.  Things are going to be different, and it's going to be hard for me to not revert back to my old ways because that's what I think my students will expect of me.

As I write this, I realize that I haven't really talked much about the actual book.  I'm assuming that most people reading this blog are familiar with it.  The book focuses on how to start the school year so that students know exactly what you expect of them and exactly how you expect them to behave.  It walks you step-by-step through how to write your own set of class rules and a discipline plan with consequences and rewards.


  1. Looking forward to checking out Accessible Mathematics. I've read both Strength in Numbers and the elementary version. I have training in complex instruction both from Ruth Tsu from Stanford and a group of educators that work through the University of Washington. Class through university of Washington was much better (even though I'm not a UW fan). Check out 5 Practices for Productive Math Discussions if you haven't yet. It's another great read. I used complex instruction and the 5 practices in my masters capstone. Still can't believe I finished my masters degree in one year. 9 more days of school left here. The EOC is next week and then finals right after.

    1. I just ordered 5 Practices last week! I can't wait to read it! Congrats on finishing your masters degree!

  2. 1) I have that same relationship with the Hunger Games books. I don't care for them much but I have to finish them. The last one's on my summer reading list, along with the last Divergent book.

    2) For Christian fiction, have you ever read Karen Kingsbury's books? She's the best! I've been reading her novels since high school and they're just about the only ones I'll commit to buying these days.

    3) When you figure out the whole classroom management thing, please let us know! Even with a great group of kids my room gets out of hand ridiculously fast. We have one teacher at my school who always has a dead silent classroom, and the rest of us can't figure out how she does it. We get those same kids later and they are so much more out of control for the rest of us.

    1. I think I've read one Karen Kingsbury novel, and it was super depressing. I'll have to give her books another try, though. I know our library has a lot of them. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Evonovich is really popular where I live, too. I think it is just the author in general that is so SUPER POPULAR.

  4. At my school this year we are going to be getting Professional Development using Kagan strategies, I have read his materials and am excited to have ongoing PD to help with classroom management and engagement. I have been teaching a long time and have the same issues with some of my classes with noise control.

    1. I'm SO jealous! I've been wanting to go to a Kagan training for over a year now. I bought the books, but I think I need to see the strategies in action to fully grasp the impact they have in the classroom. Please, please, please share what you learn!

  5. What are some example consequences you use? I'm very tired of apologies and written letters of apology that are meaningless in most cases. However, consequences like after school detention and in school are only allowed to be given by administration. Thanks!