Posts By: laurielmorrison

The Value of Failure?

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the value of failure. Sounds counterintuitive, I know.  But last week, I went with the other teachers at my school to the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) conference for a day.  I expected lots of information about how we can set our students up to… Read more »

Going for 1000: Lessons from Rebecca Levenberg

Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And that has become a mantra for Rebecca Levenberg. A little over two years ago, Rebecca was hit by a garbage truck while riding her bike to work.  In the accident, she sustained severe injuries, and one of her legs had to be… Read more »

Embracing Your Strengths, New Challenges, and Those Ever-Present Contraries

Recently, I stumbled upon two engaging, thought-provoking things that really resonated with me even though they seem almost to contradict each other: a blog post by middle grade and young adult author Lindsey Leavitt and a podcast in which young adult author Sara Zarr interviewed another young adult author, Siobhan Vivian. In the blog post… Read more »

Book Binges

I love it when I discover an author a little late in the game, after he or she already has multiple novels out, so that I can finish one and pick up another without having to wait too long.  A couple of years ago, I fell in love with Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury High novels, and… Read more »

Some Realizations from My Time Away from Writing

A little over a month ago, I wrote a blog post about how I hadn’t had time to write, wouldn’t have time for the foreseeable future, and was determined not to feel too guilty.  Now, finally, I’m getting back to my manuscript a little bit at a time, and I’ve realized some things. 1.) Writing… Read more »

Short, Fun Projects to Energize Student (and Adult) Writers

I’m working my way through the first seasons of Dr. Who, and last night I watched an episode called “The Girl in the Fireplace.”  In that episode, the Doctor passes through time windows to 18th century France to protect a young woman being stalked by extremely creepy looking clockwork droids.  For the Doctor, only a… Read more »

No Time to Write and the Skewed Guilt/Happiness Balance

For the past few weeks, I haven’t had time to write creatively.  I pushed through the end of the rough draft of my novel before school started, took a month or so off while a couple of smart and generous writing friends gave me feedback, and then dove into the process of re-envisioning and revising…. Read more »

How Structured Writing Assignments Can Unleash Creativity

In July of 2011, I was beginning the third semester of my MFA program, and I had some very definite goals.  I was going to start a new teaching job, so I knew the first few months of the school year would be especially busy.   To make the beginning of the year more manageable, I… Read more »

Skyping with a True Pro

Last Thursday afternoon, thirty-nine seventh graders crowded into my classroom.  I handed them index cards with the questions they’d prepared ahead of time, signed on to Skype, and set up the projector.  Soon, Kate Messner’s face appeared on the screen, and we began our virtual author visit. The day before, we’d finished Capture the Flag,… Read more »

Drawing to Learn: Visual Projects in the English Classroom

Recently, I got the chance to visit middle school English classes at another school as a professional development opportunity.  It was really helpful to step outside of my day-to-day routine, see what other teachers are doing, and then reflect on my own practices. One teacher gave me some great ideas about independent reading projects. She… Read more »

Getting into Character

When I was in high school and college, I took some drama classes and acted in a bunch of plays.  I always enjoyed being part of a cast and performing on stage, and I liked the exercise of attempting to become a character—figuring out her relationships with other people, her formative experiences, her motivation onstage,… Read more »

Technology and Human Connection: Skyping with Grace Lin

As a middle school teacher, I often feel nervous about how connected everyone is in the age of the Internet and how public everything can be.  I know, I know.  Kind of ironic, worrying about how the Internet lets people connect and publicize their ideas on my blog. The thing is, though, drama already spreads fast… Read more »

8th Grade Dystopian Unit

Teaching middle school English often feels like a juggling act.  It’s hard to make time for everything that falls within the realm of “English” when I only have each group of students for 40-45 minutes most days.  And it’s especially hard to make sure that students are reading independently when we have an ambitious list… Read more »

Tension, and Conflict, and Antagonists–Oh My!

I am starting to revise my novel-in-progress after getting some insightful feedback from two smart and generous first readers.  I’m working on increasing the tension and conflict in the second half of the novel (among other things), so I’m thinking a lot about antagonists. Now if you know me, you probably know that I don’t… Read more »

Reading Levels Don’t Tell You Everything: A Great Book Is a Great Book

This year, the theme for fifth and sixth grade English and social studies at my school is China.  Last winter and spring, I read several China-related novels as I tried to figure out my book list for sixth grade English.  I wanted a range of books that would engage sixth graders, expose them to aspects… Read more »

Celebrating Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week, a time to celebrate the freedom to read!  For the past few years, I’ve talked with my students about book banning at some point in the year, but this is the first time I’ve remembered the official week and commemorated it on time. Yesterday, I introduced Banned Books Week to my… Read more »

My Book of Life by Angel: A Review

Not so long ago, Angel was an ordinary girl.  But after her mother’s death shattered her family, Angel began shoplifting, and a manipulative, sweet-talking man named Call gave her “candy” (a.k.a. crack) for the first time and took her in when her dad kicked her out.   Now, Call is Angel’s pimp, and Angel has to… Read more »

CHAINS and FORGE: Historical Novels that Pass the Student-Interest Test

The English and social studies curricula at my school are integrated, so I end up teaching a lot of historical fiction.  It isn’t always easy to find a book that’s firmly grounded in a historical time and place and well-written and engaging for middle school readers.  But Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains and Forge are all… Read more »

CAPTURE THE FLAG: Another Great Read Aloud

I don’t know how Kate Messner does it.  She just keeps coming out with new books of so many different kinds: realistic middle grade, dystopian middle grade, picture books, chapter books, books for teachers, and now the first mystery in a three-book series. I really enjoyed Messner’s new adventure-mystery Capture the Flag.  She sets up… Read more »

DRAMARAMA: A Review

I’ve decided to write a review of E. Lockhart’s Dramarama for a couple of reasons.  One, because I love it.  I read it last spring, and the story is still churning about in my brain. And two, because I’ve seen a lot of tired, sweaty high school students roaming the halls after preseason practices the… Read more »