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Writing Workshop

For this blog post, I want to talk about writing workshops and some techniques for teaching writing. Since I am student teaching in middle school, this blog post will be focused on a middle school classroom but a lot of techniques can be changed to fit a variety of other grades.

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Image from Srividya Balayogi

From Atwell’s chapter on the writing workshop, I found it interesting where she talks about Jeff. To recap, Jeff was a student who drew pictures in class rather than writing his assignments. Like any teacher, Atwell got on him telling him to “Stop drawing and get to work”. Eventually, Jeff got angry that he was constantly being told to get to work so he and Atwell came to the conclusion that he needs to have enough pieces of writing in his portfolio by the end of the year. We are later given information from an article about how students use drawing as a prewriting activity, much like a graphic organizer to get ideas together. To me, this shows one of the many different ways that students learn. We, as teachers, have stuck to the traditional way of writing. We go through the writing process and form a final draft. I support the writing process because I know it works but that does not mean we can’t add more steps. It can be very beneficial to have a student create an illustration of their writing before they start. This way, they get to thinking about details and setting and what the character is doing.

Something I think is needed in any writing classroom is having a variety of different assignments to complete. This can be different genres, writing on something that is not paper, even trying to write in a made-up language. These are just a couple things that are nice for students because they are allowed breaks from regular essays. They also give students the opportunity to think about things in a different way and think outside the box when they are writing.

In the video, it is great that Atwell allows students to express how they want their writing to sound and look and she is able to give her professional advice. To me, this is how a writing classroom should be.

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Image from Ciaran Dunsdon

Overall, these are my two biggest takeaways from this chapter. Being able to allow students different ways to write not only helps their overall product but it also helps different levels of learners. They are individuals and are performing at their best. With writing, they are only compared to their own work. With different assignment options, we can challenge students by forcing them to work outside their comfort zone as well as assisting them by having different levels of difficulty in assignments.

Reference:

https://online.csc.edu/access/content/group/f15194b1-3620-4ba5-a5f5-8bec8b8da125/Writing%20Workshop/Learning%20How%20to%20Teach%20Writing%20_Atwell_.pdf

 

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Reading Workshop

For next semester, I am going to be student teaching in the 6th grade ELA classroom. I cannot express how excited I am but I wanted to make my last two blog posts about reading and writing workshops to refresh myself for January.

In the post, “Ideas to Strengthen Your Readers Workshop”, Ripp gives a lot of great ideas to include in a reader’s workshop. Something I love is having students keep a thought log they can use while reading or after. I am one of those people who comprehend better when I am writing it down. This needs to be an opinion for students. Right now, I have a student who is the same way and then she is reading, she writes down every single word to make sure she is understanding what the word is. I also really like the parent reading survey because it allows parents to become more involved in their child’s schoolwork. The final thing I want to talk about is the 40 Book Challenge. I love the idea of setting a long term goal and having this sheet is very helpful for students. It allows some easier reads like graphic novels or comics but it also adds challenging books like different genres the students can read.

The infographic on reading at home is something that I have seen before. My other third-grade teacher actually has this on display in their classroom. This graphic is helpful for students to see so they understand the importance of reading at home and do not cut themselves short. For parent-teacher conferences, parents can see the same thing and understand the importance.

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Image from M Tk

From “Learning How to Teach Reading” by Atwell, I have noticed the importance of determining what a reader is and why it is important to be one. By developing these guidelines early in the year that we are all readers and have our reader rights, (skipping pages, not finishing a book, skimming lines) we can get students more excited about reading. It is incredibly important to give students a positive mindset when reading so that they are learning.

Overall, reading workshops are different for every teacher on what they include and what they teach but we need to have students wanting to read and more importantly, we need to give students time to read on their own. The only way they can get better at reading is if they read. If this is not a part of a reading workshop, we are selling studentsshort.

References:

Ideas to Strengthen Your Readers Workshop

https://online.csc.edu/access/content/group/f15194b1-3620-4ba5-a5f5-8bec8b8da125/Teaching%20Reading/Learning%20How%20to%20Teach%20Reading%20_Atwell_.pdf

 

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Restorative Practices

Before I started student teaching, I have heard of restorative practices but did not really understand what it was. Luckily, I was given a book by my principal about restorative practices. It is called The Restorative Practices Handbook. 

First off, it is important to define what restorative practices are. In some of the articles, I will include in this post, it is also called restorative justice. According to “What Teachers Need to Know About Restorative Justice”, restorative justice/practice is a theory that focuses more on meditation and agreement rather than punishment. In restorative practices, it is important that the students take responsibility for their actions and understand how their actions made them feel and the people around them.

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Image from Esther S.

In “Behavior Management: Not Systems, but Relationships”, Miss Night talks about how each student has a choice. While this post is not directly related to restorative practices, I thought it was a good idea to talk about her classroom management strategies and how they can relate to restorative practices. When students are given choices, they are making the call if they are doing right or wrong in terms of their morals. This is something that restorative practices play off of as well. With restorative practices, we make the student see their behavior in the larger scale of things. They need to see how their behavior is a problem for them, their peers, and the teacher/other staff members. In “Behavior Management: Not Systems, but Relationships” and “Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships & Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools”, the authors talk about the importance of relationships when using restorative practices.

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Image from featureset1

There are many ways to go about restorative justice but my favorite is the Circle Process. By having the student hear directly from their peers about how their behavior affected them, they see that they are not just responsible for themselves. These kinds of meetings can open the eyes of students and help them to understand what behavior is appropriate and what is not.

Overall, restorative practices are beneficial in a number of ways. First of all, they help students see how their behavior affects others in a calm and relaxing way. Restorative justices are also a chance for the student to voice their opinion on why they did something wrong. This is different from the traditional ways because we have just labeled students as bad kids but never ask them why they are performing this way.

Resources:

What Teachers Need to Know About Restorative Justice

“Behaviour management”: not systems, but relationships

https://online.csc.edu/access/content/group/f15194b1-3620-4ba5-a5f5-8bec8b8da125/Classroom%20Management/Restorative-practices-guide.pdf

 

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Classroom Management

 

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Image from Jonas Morian

Working through my student teaching, I have learned that classroom management is essential in any classroom. I’ve been teaching since October so I feel like I have some classroom management routines set in place but I am always looking for new ways to add to my classroom management.

In the article, “What I Do When Things Go Awry”, the author talks about her classroom plan. The first thing she talks about is getting to know the students. I think this is incredibly important. During my student teaching, I was able to observe my classroom and build a relationship with students right away. This was incredibly helpful because when I started teaching I was put at an advantage of already knowing what works for my students.

In the article, “Classroom Management… Or Should It Be Mismanagement?”, the author has a classroom management plan that revolves around no posted rules. This interests me because as teachers, we are so dependent on what our students do and learn that we sometimes feel like we need that control. The whole purpose of the classroom with no rules is playing off of the morals of the students and ensuring that they know right from wrong. I could see this working in an older classroom because at that age, the students should know the difference between right and wrong but with younger students, they are still learning exactly what is appropriate and what is not.

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Image from ryann slauson

In the article, “A Kinder, Slower, More Receptive Approach to the Start of School.” Ripp talks about some non-traditional ways to connect with students. I wanted to add this to my classroom management post because I believe that forming positive relationships are essential to successful classroom management. First off, it is important to be yourself. When students see that you are an actual human, they are more receptive to talk to you and be comfortable. It is also important to decorate your room and enjoy the time you have with your class. These are our students but they are also our friends. We spend almost every day together!

The final article I am going to include in this post is “Three Strategies to Jumpstart Classroom Relationships”. Like I said above, relationships with students are incredibly important for the classroom. In this article, the technique McComb is using is writing letters to students. This allows for that first contact to be positive. It can be something that is individualized to the student and it allows the teacher to step out of the “teacher” position and become just another friend.

 

Overall, there are 101 ways to classroom management. In my opinion, the first step is building relationships with students. This is the first stepping stone to a successful classroom. When relationships are built, then we can determine what ways to do about more classroom management.

 

Resources:

https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2015/10/02/classroom-relationships/

https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2013/08/27/ripp_fp.html?tkn=VYLFX6ngqiISj6lrj/1RGa72bnRuzz9tvvgm&cmp=ENL-TU-NEWS1

http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/2013/08/classroom-management-or-should-it-be_30.html

http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/2013/09/what-i-do-when-things-go-awry.html

Uncategorized

Behavior Management- ENG 461

Behavior Management is important in any classroom. Instead of focusing on classroom management as a whole, I am going to be focusing on working with “difficult” students. In my student teaching, I have come across multiple difficult students and if you have not, it is bound to happen. As teachers and past students, we know that it is impossible to learn when placed in a negative setting. It is important to work with these students while maintaining a positive setting for all students.

From the article, “A Mindset Shift to Continue Supporting the Most Frustrating Kids” the author borrows a phrase from Ross Greene. This phrase is “Kids do well if they can”. It is important to remind these kids that they are there to learn and we are there to help them in their path. Outside of school, we do not know what the students are going through at home or in other places. When the author talks about a situation where one of his students said, “You don’t really care about kids, you’re just here for the money.” I was shocked! I could not imagine being in that situation where one of my students think I do not care about them. This is why it is so important to build relationships with students. For some students, teachers are their only guidance.

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Image from kchapman

In the article, “A Process for Responding to Your Most Challenging Students”, the authors list three ways to respond to students. The first way is identifying the student’s strengths. This is important for a variety of reasons. To start, we are all different learners so it is important to provide a variety of ways to teach students to assist in their learning. For individual students, particularly challenging ones, it is important to give them opportunities to shine in the classroom. This will help with motivation and help with their behavior. The next way is skill-building. This is wonderful because it not only keeps the student working towards bettering themselves, it helps build a relationship by showing that we care. The last way is to shift the focus from the student to strategy. This is more of a learning opportunity as a teacher. By focusing on what we can do better as teachers, we are not only helping ourselves but providing better opportunities for our students.

In the article, “Brains in Pain Cannot Learn”, the author talks about three ways to help students calm their stress. The first is movement. By having students move around, they are able to relieve their irritation in a safe and effective way. These can be done through brain breaks after or between lessons. The next way is focused attention practices. This is done by having the student take deep breaths, they are focusing on themselves and can only take a few minutes to do. The final way is understanding the brain. This section explains how we cannot control the student’s emotions but we should focus on teaching them ways to control it themselves. No one likes to be sad or angry so by teaching them strategies to help cope with their emotions, we are able to help them in the classroom and in life.

In the article, “What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong”, the authors talk about negative consequences can cause worse bad behavior. I found this article interesting because negative consequences have been something around in the school system for years and years. This is because it is what we know because we as students had it. We are comfortable with it. It is hard to change what is comfortable but if it is what is best for students, it needs to change. With Will, they found out that he was swinging his belt for a reason. It is important to talk to students and understand why they are performing this behavior rather than just punishing them.

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Image from Dan McCullough

Overall, working with difficult students can be difficult! Hence the name. We need to keep in mind that we are working with someone’s child and more importantly, we are working with a human being. We are teaching them to become an adult. If we just yell and punish them, we are not teaching them anything. We are not teaching them how to cope and if they are in a bad environment, they will not be able to learn.

Resources:

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/brains-in-pain-cannot-learn-lori-desautels

https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/47954/a-mindset-shift-to-continue-supporting-the-most-frustrating-kids

A Process For Responding To Your Most Challenging Students

 

Uncategorized

Classroom Design

For this post, I will be discussing classroom design as well as other things.

In the article, 12 Ways to Upgrade Your Classroom Design, Gonzalez has a list of some things teachers can do to make the classroom a better learning environment. I am not going to talk about all twelve ways but I want to highlight somethings. The very first one is “Ask your students”. Having discussions with students about their learning is essential. In the end, it is their classroom too and they are the ones that need to benefit from it the most. The next one I want to talk about is “Reduce your teacher footprint”. This point talks about minimizing or eliminating teacher workspace. I see how this is helpful to students but I think there needs to be some teacher workspace so the students feel related to the teacher. Seeing that a teacher is working on their desk can help set an example for students. The next point I want to talk about is “Creates spaces for creation”. This seems like a great area where students can go to express their own learning styles. This can allow for more hands-on activity as well. The final point I want to talk about is called “Create writable spaces”. In this space, students are able to write down what they think will be beneficial to hang. In my current classroom, we do something similar where we have students write what they notice and wonder about a book. They write this on a large poster paper and we hang it for the entire quarter.

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Image from reneesimone26

The next post I want to discuss is called Classroom Eye Candy 1: A Flexible-Seating Paradise. This classroom is from a high school English teacher. The classroom set up that she has is wonderful and can be a great learning environment for the students. This is because there is flexible seating. With flexible seating, it is incredibly important to have good classroom management. It is important to set standards on what is appropriate and what is not in these seating arrangements. Something that really struck me is that she does not tie different seating as rewards. She talks about the problem of having students stay in the exact same spot all the time so she switches it up by challenging students to not sit in the same spot twice. This is a great idea and the classroom looks wonderful.

Overall, these two articles were very helpful in my thought process for my future classroom. My two biggest takeaways are asking the students their opinions and making the learning environment comfortable. A lot can happen in a classroom but if a student is comfortable and feels safe, they have a better chance of actually learning and retaining the information.

References:

12 Ways to Upgrade Your Classroom Design

Classroom Eye Candy 1: A Flexible-Seating Paradise

ENG 461

Teaching Reading and Writing

For this blog post, I will be referencing “Learning How to Teach Writing” and “Learning How to Teach Reading” by Atwell and “I’m Teaching Writing to the Whole 5th Grade–Now What?!” by Amy Rasmussen.

The first article I will be discussing is “Learning How to Teach Reading”. Right away, Atwell discusses the traditional way of teaching literature. This includes lecturing students about the importance of reading. However, with this strategy, it does not allow for students to explore why reading is important for themselves. It is important to guide students to see the importance but if we just lecture them and tell them to believe us, it is much less effective then having students read for themselves. It can change their life as a reader once they find a book they enjoy and see their eyes light up when they actually get it.

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Image from DJ Bass

Something I think is really important from this article is the idea of a good reader. The stereotype for a “good reader” is someone who is in a book study finishing every book he ever starts. The “good reader” reads every single word on every single page and even looks up words he doesn’t know. While this is what most people think when they hear that someone is a reader, it is not true. Most people I know who enjoy reading do not do this and Atwell agrees. When teaching reading, it is critical that we do not expect students to be the stereotype. Of course, we want students to read and finish their books but they also need to know they have reader rights. They are allowed to skip pages and not finish a book if they do not like it. It is important to allow students to use their reader rights but first, we need to give them time to read in the classroom.

Next, I want to talk about teaching writing in the classroom. For this section, I will be referring to “Learning How to Teach Writing” and “I’m Teaching Writing to the Whole 5th Grade–Now What?!” The first thing I noticed about Atwell’s article is when she talks about learning with the students. To me, this is not specifically talking about reading and writing, but teaching in general. I believe that it is important to show students that teachers are people too and we learn every day based on our students.

When reading about Jeff’s story in Atwell’s article, I had a lot of different feelings. When he went to Atwell and discussed his writing method and how it is different than other students, I was hesitant because when things are not done the way we like or the way we are used to, we get stressed out. Asking if they will actually get it done or in this case if Jeff will have his writing folder full by the end of the year. In this case, it worked. Jeff was able to fill his folder and actually write but through his own learning style. For some teachers, me included, it can be difficult to let the student go away from the traditional way of learning because it feels safe. However, student’s know themselves better than any teacher will. They know what works and what doesn’t. If we do not give them the chance to use their own learning strengths, we are failing them in school. 

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Image from Denise Krebs

In “I’m Teaching Writing to the Whole 5th Grade–Now What?!”, Rasmussen, talks about a variety of methods to teach writing. All of these are great suggestions and I could see myself using all of them but my favorite is the idea of choice. Like Rasmussen says, it gives students more apt to take ownership and care about their writing. I believe if a human wants to be successful in anything, they first have to care about it. When students are given this chance, they not only care about their writing during that class period, they also have a better chance of continuing to write into their adult lives. I don’t expect every one of my students to become a writer (even though that would be awesome!). I expect my students to see how writing is important for their lives and others. When we are writing, we leave our mark on something. Who knows, a grocery list could be used in history books to show handwriting!

Overall, these three articles were very informational on not only teaching reading and writing but teaching in general. Our goal as teachers is to help students learn. There are many different ways to go about this goal but our main focus is the students.

References:

Atwell, Learning How to Teach Writing. Retrieved from https://online.csc.edu/access/content/group/f15194b1-3620-4ba5-a5f5-8bec8b8da125/Curriculum%20and%20Lesson%20Planning/Learning%20How%20to%20Teach%20Writing%20_Atwell_.pdf

Atwell, Learning How to Teach Reading. Retrieved from https://online.csc.edu/access/content/group/f15194b1-3620-4ba5-a5f5-8bec8b8da125/Curriculum%20and%20Lesson%20Planning/Learning%20How%20to%20Teach%20Reading%20_Atwell_.pdf

Rasmussen, A. (2015) I’m Teaching Writing to the Whole 5th Grade–Now What?! Retrieved from https://threeteacherstalk.com/2015/08/26/im-teaching-writing-to-the-whole-5th-grade-now-what/

ENG 461

Lesson Planning- ENG 461

For this blog post, I want to discuss some things from “3 Questions to Ask When Lesson Planning” by Christopher Lehman, “Planning a Year” by Bomer, “How Units Work Together” by Penny Kittle and “Planning for What You Can’t Know” by Matt Glover and Mary Alice Berry. 

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Image from Mike Cohen

Right away, I want to talk about the questions addressed in “3 Questions to Ask When Lesson Planning”. First off, when lesson planning, it is important to think about what the students are capable of and how much workload they can handle. If students get too much work, they will become overwhelmed and shut down. If students get to little work, they will not be challenged. The amount of work can vary from class to class and even student to student. It is important to take past experiences and what assignments are helpful and not just busy work when working through the lesson plans. 

When building lesson plans, it is also important to think about how the lesson outcomes will be beneficial to the student outside of the class. Being teachers, we do not want our students to remember something just until they have to take their test. The goal of the lesson should be that students understand the concept, see it’s importance, and use it in their lives. 

In terms of an English Language Arts classroom, students should look back on their lessons and see how it relates to their literacy life. This is discussed in “Planning a Year”. Students should be welcome to look at their literary lives, in terms of reading and writing, during the lessons. As humans, we can make significant changes in our lives if we first understand our starting point. By this, I mean if someone wants to become a better reader, for example, they need to start with some reading skills they are not good at. 

Something discussed in “Planning a Year” is the need to plan for real people. This is incredibly important because every student is going to learn differently. With this being said, it is important to have a variety of learning styles involved with a lesson and be realistic with expectations. Some expectations may change according to the student because some students are above grade level and some students are below. These accommodations need to be available because they are so common in a class. 

When discussing units and planning, Scottsbluff has a very specific way of teaching English Language Arts. First of all, the curriculum we use for K-8 is called Wit and Wisdom. This curriculum is very literature and art heavy. For younger kids, I really enjoy having them exposed to so many different types of literature and seeing the connections between them. However, it is very challenging for my class right now. They are seeing common themes but are really struggling with the writing sections of the lesson. With Wit and Wisdom, every grade level teacher needs to be teaching the same lesson on the same day. The school district wants the teachers to follow the Wit and Wisdom lesson plans to the tee because it will be what every 3rd grader is getting in the district. (Hopefully, that makes sense). I do like the Wit and Wisdom curriculum but it makes it difficult if a class has to go back and reteach something. That is what some of the “Reading Target Time” sections we have are for but even then, it can become very easy for a student to fall behind. In the article, “Planning for What You Can’t Know” by Matt Glover and Mary Alice Berry, they discuss that a teacher cannot know what they need to teach until their unit actually starts and students discover on their own. Wit and Wisdom has these guided questions that teachers are asked to follow to help students understand what they are supposed to be seeing, but students will have the opportunity to make their own decisions about what they notice and wonder. 

In Wit and Wisdom, there are four units that are taught throughout the year. Each unit has a different theme but the skills from unit one are needed to work through unit two and so on. The lessons within each unit also tie together very well. With each new lesson, there is a recap section where they talk about what they learned last lesson. For some students this is difficult at first but once they recognize what is being asked of them, it is pretty easy. 

 

References: 

Berry, M. & Glover, M. Planning for What You Can’t Know. Retrieved from https://www.heinemann.com/pd/journal/glover_berry_s11_pdcatalog-journal.pdf

Bomer. Planning a Year. Retrieved from https://online.csc.edu/access/content/group/f15194b1-3620-4ba5-a5f5-8bec8b8da125/Curriculum%20and%20Lesson%20Planning/Planning%20a%20Year%20_Bomer_.pdf

Kittle, P. (2008) Write Beside Them. Retrieved from https://online.csc.edu/access/content/group/f15194b1-3620-4ba5-a5f5-8bec8b8da125/Curriculum%20and%20Lesson%20Planning/How%20Units%20Work%20Together%20_Kittle_.pdf

Lehman, C. (June, 2013) 3 Questions When Lesson Planning. Retrieved from https://christopherlehman.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/3-questions-when-lesson-planning/

 

Book Reviews

Fallen- Book Review

The book being reviewed on this lovely evening is Fallen by Lauren Kate.

OH ME OH MY… Fallen.

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Image is provided by Goodreads

Let me just say, this book was a bit of a disappointment to me so if you love this book good for you, I just wanted more from it.

First of all, when I pick up a romance novel, I WANT ROMANCE RIGHT AWAY! I do not want to have to read 300 pages in order to get to the actual romance. Yeah, there are some kisses here and there but their relationship does not peak till right around this time.

Some positives:

I felt that the initial story of the main character was interesting. The death that made her go to the reform school was interesting and I wanted to follow her story right away.

The writing was very easy to follow and flowed smoothly for the most part.

I enjoyed the dark tone to the story.

Negatives:

The main character was very annoying to me. If a guy flips you off the first time you look at him, why would you keep going for them?

The inserts of comedy felt very awkward and unnecessary. These two obviously do not love each other for their humor and neither one of them are considered funny by their peers so when they try to be funny, it is just strange.

THE ROMANCE! Holy moly, this love triangle was difficult for me to get through. This may be a SPOILER but we all know that Daniel and Luce are gonna end up together the first couple of chapters in. The awkwardness of Luce and Cam was just cringy because we know that they are not meant to be and their encounters are just creepy (in my opinion). With that said, Cam and Daniel were my favorite characters! I like the mysteriousness of Daniel and how much of a jerk he was. I like how awkward Cam is even though I think he is supposed to be displayed as a dream boy.

Overall, I would give this book a 2/5. Even though I did not enjoy the first book, I will probably continue the series just because I own them and do not like reading partial series. With that said, keep an eye out for the rest of my reviews on this series!

Happy Reading!

 

Book Reviews

Sing, Unburied, Sing- Book Review

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Sing, Unburied, Sing is about a young man named JoJo who is trying to figure out what it means to be a man. JoJo looks at the different male figures in his life. His grandfather is a very big influence for him because his father is in prison. At the beginning of the book, we find out that his father is getting out of prison. JoJo, his mother, her friend, and his younger sister make a road trip to pick up the father. During this road trip, we find out that their family has a lot of issues and because of that, JoJo and his mother start seeing ghosts from the past. JoJo sees a ghost named Richie who is talked about in his grandfather’s stories and the mother sees her brother.

Overall, this book was okay for me. I felt like it took forever to get into and I did not really care for the characters. Don’t get me wrong, I felt bad for JoJo and his situation but everyone else seemed to just be fillers. A lot of people felt bad for the mother but I did not like the mother at all. I gave this book 2.5/5 stars.

Trigger warnings: Drug abuse, police brutality, racism, child abuse.