Monday, January 30, 2012

The Trouble with May Amelia

We had the amazing opportunity to skype with author, Jennifer Holm, as a teacher book club on Thursday, January 5th.  I (finally) got around to reading The Trouble with May Amelia and re-reading Penny from Heaven and Turtle in Paradise (two of my all time favorites!).  It had been a while since I had read Our Only May Amelia and I'm planning to re-read it as well to refresh my memory, but I didn't remember looooving it.  But...I must have been wrong.  Because I LOVE The Trouble with May Amelia.  The story is so powerful and real.  I would have a hard time relating to present day Washington state, but Jennifer Holm made turn of the century, 1900, Washington State completely relatable.  I felt like I was there, like I could feel the wet all around.  The descriptions of the students coming to their one room schoolhouse by boat in torrential rains made me chilled to the bone.  Holm includes incredible foreshadowing in each of her books and this was no different.  When May Amelia translated for her father and said, "Yes," I cringed a little, knowing it couldn't possibly end well.  I do so hate being right. 

In looking to refresh my memory on another character's name (didn't happen) I stumbled across #Fuse 8's review of the book and I couldn't agree more. #Fuse 8 Production - The Trouble With May Amelia  I follow this blog on my RSS, but my RSS has certainly been getting dusty lately (as has my blog writing) so I must have missed this the first time around. 

What Elizabeth Bird says about the cover reminds me of a few things. 

Penny from Heaven.  Two covers. 
One portrays the times and the characters quite well.  It says a lot about the plot too. 
The second seems...prettier, but her hair is all wrong. 

And that's about all you see.  It's not the terrible perm described in the text, it's glossy and bouncy and perfect.  Not at all Penny.

Turtle In Paradise.  Same story.

Again, it's pretty.  In fact I love it.  But...Turtle NEVER goes to the beach and walks wistfully along with a starfish.  Ever.

And now, The Trouble With May Amelia.  Being Finnish, I would assume May Amelia would be very blonde.  She did wear overalls, but somehow I don't see her mother sewing overalls quite like this and where are the fields of wheat in logging country Washington?  The cover doesn't quite fit.  And it doesn't match Our Only May Amelia, which had a very fitting cover.

But that's not what this blog post is about.  Let me just finish by emphasizing that I LOVE everything (EVERYTHING) that Jenni Holm writes.  If you don't already follow her on twitter, do so NOW.  She is a great writer, with a wonderful sense of humor, and a sense of fun as well!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Tech Tp (Pine Road Edition): SOLO Software

SOLO Software is a suite of applications intended for use by students with learning needs that correspond to having text read out loud, either due to a print disability or to aid in comprehension.  We have SOLO on all the computers in our school and access is not limited to those students who need the programs.  So, as a result, we can all benefit from their uses in the classroom. 

Read Out Loud is an overlay with a web browser and links to accesible ebook texts.  You can utilize ROL with any website by inputting the URL into the browswer with ROL open.  The voices are not as "natural" sounding as one might hope for, but they get the job done.  An outline can be built by highlighting selected pieces of information and adding them to an ongoing outline on the right hand side of the screen.  The screen can be adjusted to hide the outline altogether or show more or less of it as needed.

Write Out Loud is a word processing program that speaks what you type.  You can set up preferences to read individual letters (which in my opinion could be really annoying), individual words, which helps students to stop and think - "was that what I meant when I typed that word?", sentences following a period, which helps students to identify potential run on sentences or spots where they missed a period, and/or paragraphs.  Each of these can be selected individually or in concert.

Co-Writer supplies students with an ongoing word bank as they type.  Think about when you use Google and start to type a word or phrase and Google guesses at the rest and fills in the blanks.  Co-Writer does this too and you can set up a word bank to correspond with specific vocabulary, show a consistent word bank, or let the program run on its own.  When choices pop up, students select the number of the choice they were planning to type.  Once students get the hang of this, the sometimes tedious act of typing can be dramatically shortened.

Draft Builder allows students to utilize graphic organizers and outlines that they have created to construct a first draft of their writing.

Associated tools include a dictionary and (one of my favorites) a bibliographer, streamlining and simplifying tasks across the writing process.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Tech Tip; (Murray Avenue Edition): Web-based Image Editing with

Have kids working on a project where they need to not just use an image, but modify it in some way? 
Want them to develop a storyboard or comic strip?  Design a poster or brochure?  Craft a cover for a report? 
Photoshop is great, but expensive and memory intensive, and it’s not installed on every machine.  What to do?  Oh, what to do?
Have a picnik!    

Here's the original image:

...and here's some of picnik's tools in action:

Get goofy
Adjust colors

Add text and word bubbles
(All Images based on ‘Seashell snail’, courtesy of


Friday Tech Tip (Pine Road Edition): My Learning Plan Notifications

If you aren't getting notifications from My Learning Plan to let you know when new workshops are being offered or when you have one coming up, you should check your settings to do so.  It's as easy as 3 clicks.  Once you are signed on to MLP, click on My User Profile under Account Settings on the far left side near the bottom of the page.  Under email notifications, select Yes for New Activity Notification.  Select Yes for Upcoming Activities Reminder and set it to a reasonable number of days in advance.  For example, when mine was first set up, it was for 14 days.  So EVERY DAY for 2 weeks prior to an upcoming workshop, I would get a reminder.  For me, that wasn't necessary.  I've reset mine to 3 days which is enough of a reminder period to jog my memory if I didn't have the event already in my calendar.  Be certain that the email associated to your MLP settings is accurate and don't forget to SAVE changes at the bottom of the screen.