• Linda Ulleseit, author

  • NaNoWriMo!

Novel Madness 2015 WINNER

holesNovel Madness has become a spring tradition in my 6th grade classroom. Each year, quite a variey of books are selected to be the class’s top 16. Holes has been on the list ever year, but this is its first win.

2015 Winner: Holes by Louis Sachar

2014 Winner: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2013 Winner: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

2012 Winner: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordon

This year I polled the class after the vote. Half the class has read our winner, Holes, and only about a quarter of the class has read its rivel, The Giver by Lois Lowry. A handful had actually read both, although most of the class had seen at least one of the movies.

Novel Madness 2015 Round Three: Semifinals

book turning pages_animatedYesterday my class narrowed the field to four books vying for the title of 2015 favorite novel of all time. Are you keeping track of your favorites? Listed below are the matchups for today’s Round Three vote. Tomorrow (Thursday, April 2) is the final!

 

Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart vs. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Holes by Louis Sachar vs. BFG by Roald Dahl

 

My students are quite excited by this Novel Madness process. To read blog posts about their books and their experiences, go to http://kidblog.org/MrsUlleseitsClass/.  Make sure to leave them a comment!

Novel Madness 2015 Round Two

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My sixth grade class in in the midst of choosing their favorite novel of all time. I call this annual event Novel Madness. They started with 16 novels, all brainstormed by the students. To see the original list, click here. Pairs of students wrote persuasive essays and presented them. The class voted.

The following books made it through to Round Two and are being pitted against each other. Which of your favorites made it? Which are you surprised to see?

Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo vs. Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Giver by Lois Lowry vs. Ghost Files by Apryl Baker

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli vs.  Holes by Louis Sachar

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling vs. BFG by Roald Dahl

 

Results from Round Two will be posted on Wednesday, April 1.

 

Novel Madness!

It’s that time again. March Madness for basketball, and Novel Madness in my classroom. The students whittled down a long list to come up with their top 16 favorite novels. Students will write persuasive speeches to convince their classmates to vote for their book. By Easter, we’ll have a winner–stay tuned!

Round One:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio vs. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien vs. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan vs. Holes by Louis Sachar

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli vs. Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan vs. BFG by Roald Dahl

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling vs. Diary of a  Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Ghost Files by Apryl Baker vs. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart vs. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 

There are some old favorites here that come up every year, but as usual there are some new ones, too. Which is your favorite? Round One ends Friday and I will post the results of all these matchups then.

Tech Inspiration

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I just returned home after attending the CUE 2015 conference in Palm Springs, California, for Computer Using Educators. Conferences are always inspiring, and this time I picked up a bunch of new ideas I can use immediately! Among the tech coming soon to my classroom:

1. Minecraft.edu  This is an educational version of the popular game. We are already using it to build landmarks in ancient civilizations. Now I can use it in language arts–imagine building a scene from a novel!

2. Google Classroom   Truly on the way to a paperless classroom, this allows students to receive assignments, complete them on Google Docs, and turn them in. They can provide feedback, save them to their own Goodle Drive, and create Google Forms. I can also use Google Forms for online quizzes!

3. Kidblog  A safe way for students to each have their own blog. Teachers monitor content, of course. We’ll also participate in Quadblogging, where four classes share a month. One class blogs for a week while the other three focus on commenting on the blogs. Then the second class blogs for a week, and the others comment, etc. What wonderful feedback!

4. Skype  is a marvelous face-to-face opportunity for students. I envision Skyping with a park ranger next year before visiting Alcatraz, with another class participating in NaNoWriMo, maybe with the NaNoWriMo director or even the vice mayor of San Jose!

Four ways that will challenge me to engage more students and teach them digital citizenship through daily Internet use. Now I just need to hijack the iPad cart…or get one of my own.

On Inspiration

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Waimea, 2015

 

Inspiration is a very personal thing. For me, it means whatever fuels my desire to click away from Facebook games and open my current Work in Progress. No one procrastinates better than a writer. Even though I love to write, my brain is tired from Real Life and it takes a great effort of willpower, or Inspiration, to begin writing for the day. Once I start, I get in the zone and can write uninterrupted for hours.

For my last two books, inspiration has come from the heart. UNDER THE ALMOND TREES follows three women in my family that I have always admired. Their stories rattled around in my head for years before I began the novel. My current piece is titled ALOHA SPIRIT. It is about the life of my husband’s grandmother. I love stories of real women contributed to the events of their times in very real albeit small and unknown ways. Setting  family stories down amid the historical fact makes me feel like I have a personal connection to well-known events.

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Carmen James in front of a plantation cottage, Honolulu, 1920’s

Recently, my husband and I stayed at Waimea Plantation Cottages on Kauai. His grandmother was born on Kauai, scant miles from where we were. Nothing is left of the sugar plantation where her father worked as a dairy man but grassy fields. The plantation cottage we stayed in was built in 1905. It retains the rustic feel of its plantation days. Sitting in the kitchen, I could easily imagine a young girl’s life.

Carmen James lived with her parents and brother on Kauai until her mother passed away in childbirth. Shortly after that, the family moved to Oahu, where Carmen’s father left her in the care of a Hawaiian family. He took his son and went to the mainland to find work. Carmen lived on a sugar plantation near Diamond Head. She spent her entire childhood in a plantation cottage similar to the one where I wrote three chapters of her story.

Even though I am back in California, I can still feel the ambiance of that cottage set between the ocean and the mountains. I am nearly halfway done with the first draft of ALOHA SPIRIT. May the memories continue to inspire me!

The Wolf and the Sorceress

coverThe Wolf and the Sorceress; The King’s Magician by Brian Pemberton

The sorceress, Nemeila, crash landed in the woods as baby–in a spaceship. She is rescued by a wolf. Now if that doesn’t hook your interest right away, I don’t know what will. Nemeila is taken in by a woodsman and his wife and is raised as their daughter. But that’s not the end of the story. We meet Nemeila’s real mother and an evil sorcerer who is her nemesis. Nemeila’s adventure includes traveling to another land to rescue a prince when the sorceror kills his father. In addition to the wolf, the story includes a dragon, an eagle, and a horse. While the animals can’t talk, I enjoy how the author puts their thoughts into words for the reader.

This novel is perfect for middle grade readers and up. The character of Nemeila instantly makes you root for her. Parlan and Tyler, the prince and his friend, are also well developed characters. The conflict is great, plausible with just the right amount of magic.

The very best news of all is that the author is planning five more books in this series. We don’t have to leave Nemeila and her wolf yet!

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