Mind Mirror: Alternative Book Report (SDR)



Alternate Book Report: MIND MIRRORS PROJECT

Spring 2014                                                                                                                    Grades: 6-12

OVERVIEW: Imagine demonstrating your knowledge of a book or character to your teacher in a form a little different than the typical book report.

TASK: With a partner choose one of the characters from our book you feel you know very well. Draw a picture of the outline of a head and shoulders. Draw the character’s face by decorating it with the following content:

  1. Two quotes from the character (include pg #s)
  2. Two original statements from you describing the character.
  3. Two images from the book.
  4. Two symbols you feel represent the character.

*Some ways to include these into the drawing is by substituting the eyes for the symbols, ears for the images, etc.   Feel free to decorate and represent the character in your own way.

**You may draw some images or print them from the internet. Use the markers and poster paper provided.


Materials Needed: White Poster Paper, Markers, pencils for tracing and writing the words.


 Samples below:

Untitled9This is a typical Mind Mirrors project with students using the upper body to include the content. Usually the eyes would be substituted for symbols or the mustache for a quote, etc.

 1UntitledThis is a full body character variation of the project.

2UntitledThis is also a full body version. The quality depends on the art skills of the students and time dedicated to the projects.

Common Core Standards:

Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

Y.A. Must Read: Letters My Mother Never Read by Jerri Diane Sueck (SDR)

letters-my-mother-never-read-jerri-diane-sueck-paperback-cover-artLetters My Mother Never Read is a heartbreaking must-read for everyone, but invaluable to adolescents.  In a difficult age range like adolescence, students are pulled by personal drives, peers, family and personal awareness-empathy can sometimes experience a difficult time entering a teen’s world until late teens or early 20’s.  Letters is a personal narrative from female author Jerri Diane Sueck describing her upbringing after her and her siblings lose their mother at a very young age.  The emotions her experiences are sure to arise out of every reader are those only people who have gone through it will receive.  After reading this narrative all readers will come out a different person through a higher level of empathy, connection to humanity and appreciation for what and who they have in their life.  Sueck’s honest description will have the reader feeling we have made a new friend.



Lists of Top YA Books to Target Reluctant Readers (SDR)


Many times we struggle to find the right book for our reluctant readers. The site Goodreads has a great feature called Listopia which allows you to search thousands of lists to find the perfect book for your students. These list are arranged by genre, tags, awards, and a number of other ways. While browsing the site I found quite a few “top lists” for reluctant readers. I will share them below so that you can take a look and see if there are any books that might be of interest to your students.

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers

Books for Reluctant Readers- Targeting Boys

Best Dystopian and Post Apocalyptic Fiction

YA Novels of 2014

Books for Reluctant Teen Readers

Required Reading: Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels_Danielle Binks1

The Year of Secret Assignments Letter Writing Assignment (SDR)


Activity: Symbol and figure identification; Letter writing.

Book: The Year of Secret Assignments (2003) by Jaclyn Moriarty

Materials: Large index cards, looseleaf paper.

  1. Grade Level: 9th grade
  2. ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3b Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters

Unit’s Essential Questions/Enduring Understandings:

What is identity? What shapes who we are?

Placement of this activity within the Unit:

Students will be about a forty percent of the way through the book before they do this activity (pg. 100). By this time in the novel the students will know a little about each character’s interests, experiences and character traits.

Next Steps: Choose one of the characters in the book you feel you know the best.

Write a 200 word letter in their voice-10 years into the future where he/she reconnects with one of his/her friends explaining how their years after high school went for them.

The letter must contain actual facts/details about the character previously learned and about any character they mention. The events or occurrences 10 years post high school must be believable and connect to the character we knew through letters. This will be assigned after students complete the book.

Assessment of the activity:

-Ability to connect various parts and details of the novel and make connections to characters

-The use of letter writing to understand a character’s traits, interests and motivations.

Common Core Learning Standards:


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.


Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.


Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

Lesson Plan                                                                               

EQ: What is identity? How is our identity shaped?

Do Now: – 4-5 minutes.

Side A: Think of someone you identify with in your life.

   In what ways/how do you identify with this person?

Side B: How would you represent this person (or your connection)? Use a symbol, word, or picture to represent this connection. Just one.

-Share your response with a partner.

Mini-lesson: 1-2 minutes

As you saw from the opening activity we have all been lucky and able to find someone we can identify with in life. What we often find is that it is very easy to keep relationships and connections strong when you feel you can identify with someone. Often it is more difficult to form a relationship when you are starting from scratch and might not yet have found common factors through which you can identify with another person.

-Today in class we will be practicing forging connections/exploring how we create connections by writing to someone we don’t identify with, because many times you start at the beginning and must discover ways you identify with a person.

Overview: We are going to do this in letter format because we see that in the book The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty, our main characters are using letters to create connections to three guys at another school- three guys who feel they can’t identify with the girls at all.

Activity: 5 minutes

Write a letter to someone you have not seen or spoken to in a while but would like to. Who do you have in mind? What would you reveal to him/her? What is the purpose? The details are up to you. Have fun with it J   75-100 words.

Share out to the class: 2 mins.

Q&A: 5 mins.

Student worksheet:

Do Now: – 4-5 minutes.

Side A: Think of someone you identify with in your life.

   In what ways/how do you identify with this person?

Side B: How would you represent this person (or your connection)? Use a symbol, word, or picture to represent this connection. Just one. Draw below. Share with a partner.




Overview: We are going to do this in letter format because we see that in the book The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty, our main characters are using letters to create connections to three guys at another school- three guys who feel they can’t identify with the girls at all.

Activity: 5 minutes

Write a letter to someone you have not seen or spoken to in a while but would like to. Who do you have in mind? What would you reveal to him/her? What is the purpose? The details are up to you. Have fun with it J   75-100 words.

Write it on the back of this paper.  

Share out your letter to the class: 2 mins.

Applying Theatre Education into our Curriculums (SDR)


     I recently finished taking a summer course at CUNY City College’s Theatre Education Department as an elective with Professor Sobha Kavanakudiyil. I had an idea as to what the course was going to involve, but had no idea how much I would learn, nor how much it would influence my classroom assessments, learning activities, and increase engagement in the following school year.

             Many times as teachers we aim for direct instruction, reading, writing, reflection-none involving any “get-up and move” activities as forms of students demonstrating/applying learning. As teachers we also fear a disruptive classroom, a loss of control, as well as being questioned by administration and other colleagues as to what meaning our instruction contains. I learned of over a dozen FUN activities that all measure learning, increase engagement, and involve ALL students. The activities assist with student-to-student bonding and teacher-to- student bonding, as well as some life and college-readiness skills like memorization, focus, eye contact, and teamwork.


            I was sold on these skills from the first day of the course. It was a challenge for me as an introverted person to act out freely some of the activities that were practiced in the course. I couldn’t help thinking of the shy students, the English Language Learners (ELL), students with learning disabilities and those with below grade-level academic skills, who would benefit immensely from expressing their content-knowledge through theatre skills. Most of the activities do not require art materials. Many are games requiring one or two objects. As the teacher grows more comfortable applying and understanding the concepts of theatre skills the easier it will be to use more elaborate activities.

            I recommend the book Creative Drama in the Classroom 8th edition (2006) by Nellie McCaslin. This text contains several activities teachers can use in the classroom as well as how to apply them to your subject area, grade, and student learning styles.


Tableau Theatre activity in the classroom (Video)


Theatre Education Benchmarks (Standards)


Resources! (SDR)

books everywhere

One of the most popular questions of rookie and veteran teachers alike, is “Is there anywhere I can get free books/materials?” The answer is YES! THERE IS! There are several established organizations that donate many materials to educators. Unfortunately, the news does not spread as fast as the events come and go. The key to getting free resources is to talk to colleagues and get on email lists as soon as possible, and then visit the websites periodically for upcoming news. Project-Cicero-Logo

One exciting source for free books is Project Cicero. It is exciting  because it is literally a free-for-all book rally for educators.You sign up on their email list, you receive an email notice, sign up for a specific date and time to participate, and you go to the location WITH AS MANY SUITCASES, BOOKBAGS, AND PURSES, as you can carry to your car (or cab or public transportation). Let’s just say my girlfriend and I always leave with a total of three suitcases and two gym bags between us, FULL OF BOOKS (ouch for my car’s leather seats)! The event is usually held at one of the ballrooms in the Hotel Pennsylvania, at 34th Street across from Madison Square Garden. In the ballroom the books are arranged on table by genres and you are able to grab as many as you can, there is a minimum number for popular sets. See you there in 2015!


Another great source for finding books at a firstbookreduces cost is First Book. This organization allows educators to receive books at a low cost and with ability to receive multiple copies of the same book. This is a great site if you’re looking ways to provide your students with free books.




tp_01Many of the classics are available for reduced prices between $1.00-$4.00 a book at Dover Publications and Townsend Press.  Many times our schools do not have enough money to buy several copies of a book, but through searching we find that the school has more than enough to buy a cheaper edition. I once bought 30 copies of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for $15.00 on a special sale.  In an age where one book can cost between $10-$15 to replace, we should be aware of less expensive alternatives that do an equal job of serving our students.


In  order to serve all our students we must also consider their learning styles. Sync YA is an additional source that allows students and teachers to download audiobooks. This program usually starts off towards the end of the school year and pairs classic with new and more current YA books.  Past downloads have included Code Name Verity, Julius Caesar, and Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice among many other great titles.They are free, all you have to do is sign up!


“Reading is Not Optional” Reflections on Walter Dean Myers (SDR)

walter_dean_myers_passes_away_at_at_76_v2     On July 2nd, 2014, Walter Dean Myers, one of the most revered authors of young adult literature passed away. In my 11years as a teacher I have not witnessed another author grab the attention of so many reluctant readers the way Myers did. His vivid description of urban settings, inclusion of common “previously seen” characters, and their too-close-to-home circumstances are instantly appreciated by students going through similar experiences, who see their surrounding and living conditions in the pages.

10517455_627486267350091_6834253226229775009_n   I remember reading Monster during my first year as a teacher with 9th graders and couldn’t help feeling like a high school student again, reflecting on some of my friends who got into similar trouble with the law. I found myself wondering, “Would I also choose to not reveal my role in the incident in order to protective of my reputation like Steve Harmon, the book’s main character?” monsterA few years later I remember previewing some stories from Myers’ 145th Street: Short Stories, with a 16-year old reluctant reader, who I taught and claimed to have never read an entire book. I found myself reading most of the stories for myself. The student read 2 of the 3 stories I had recommended and enjoyed them…to me that was two stories under his belt that he didn’t have two days prior.510SIj542NL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

   According to his biography, Myers took great care of his writing in the sense that he wrote with the purpose of reaching those who grew up in a setting similar to his and he drew inspiration from others in all facets of life. His novels hold equal rank to the classics amongst my students and colleagues.

Sometimes teachers will ask themselves before recommending a book, “What will students read?” Walter Dean Myers’ work should always be considered.

Article on Walter Dean Myers’ Passing

                          walter-dean-myersWalter Dean Myers’ Blog with a variety of journal entries and collections of his writings:

Mr. Myers’ Blog

Lights! Camera! Action! and…Reading? (SDR)

it-crowd-popcorn-goThis summer I am amazed by how many YA book to movie adaptations are in theaters.

Movies Increase Student Learning

Through discussions with my students and my colleagues, I have come to the conclusion that movies are an invaluable tool within our classrooms.Incorporating books with movies into the class allows us to reach a population of students that might be reluctant to read, need extra motivation, or an audio-visual component that will allow them to grasp and better comprehend the plot and its varying elements. Movies can also give students the confidence they need to be more accountable and take ownership in their learning. They provide an excellent opportunity for student led discussions on the plot elements or thematic messages in the movie that connect to their own experiences. We can also use movies to enhance our students’ writing skills. Below are links to writing centered lesson plans that can be incorporated into the curriculum when reading books with movie adaptations.

Writing Movie Reviews: Lights, Camera, Publish!

Cover to Cover: Comparing Books to Movies



Check out some of the movies in theaters this summer!

(Click on the book title for a link to the trailer.)

The Fault in Our Stars

Fault_in_our_starsDespite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.





The Giver

MV5BMTY1MTIxMjg2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjUyNzgwMjE@._V1_SY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.









If I Stay


Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters. If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.


The Maze Runner

the-maze-runner-5“If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.”
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.




If you’re looking for upcoming YA books being adapted into movies, check out the links below.

YA Novels Becoming Movies

YA Book to Movie Adaptations

Banned Books Week 2014

BBW13_CoverArtThanks, SDR, for reminding us of Banned Books Week, coming September 21-27. As ELA teachers, let’s find a way to celebrate this, and reading, with our students.

The American Library Association’s website has many suggestions for ways to participate, as does the NCTE’s website. Remember: few things seem to excite teens to read more than someone telling them a book is so dangerous it must be taken off the shelves.

A challenge to each of you: tell us what dangerous book you’re going to read.



BANNED-2I have recently started to read The Giver by Lois Lowry and while doing some research on the plot I learned that it was once on a banned books list and continues to be in many small districts and counties across the U.S.


thegiver Not only was The Giver on the list, but also some of the most popular books, classics and many recent popular young adult literature-that adolescents today can not put down.  Some of the books on the list were those I currently teach in 11th grade American Literature such as The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and some short stories by Ernest Hemingway.  

Katie Couric Discusses Banned Books Week


The premise behind banning some books offer some valid reasons: age inappropriate, blasphemous dialogue, bashing views of cultures and religions, and unhealthy lifestyle choices by characters.  What we should keep in mind as educators is that every generation has had its ideals and desire to pass them down to the next generation, but instead of censoring books that might prevent from the passing on of previous generations ideology, the previous era’s political, economic, and cultural values should be considered and taught for a deeper understanding and overview of the book.  It is also a great opportunity to do some cross-curriculum  teaching/assignments with the history teacher, or interdisciplinary curriculum units with other teachers.

Here is a list of novels that are sure to surprise you.

This year Banned Books Week is Sept. 21-27, 2014, be sure to check out this site to find out how you and your students can take part!  Banned Books Resources!