Organize yourself!

I am not the most organized person. Well, compared to some,  I am super organized and the poster girl for keeping things in order. Or at least that’s what I’m told. However, when writing or creating, I try to make a plan – map things out and get it all in order before I start. This is a skill that took a while to develop and one that I appreciate any and all help to make it easier. There are a few great sites I use and encourage students to use – especially those who say they don’t need to make any outlines for their work.

Popplet is a website and app (for apple) that helps you web information. You can

Screen shot of popplet I made with my English 3202 last year. Popplet itself can be found here.

Screen shot of popplet I made with my English 3202 last year. Popplet itself can be found here.

use it to present information or to map your ideas. I like using it with students for study, especially since I can colour code each idea (and colourcoding is my life!). Popplet is free to start – you just need to sign up with an e-mail address. However, if you want more than five popplets, it costs 3$ a month or 30$ a year. For me, it was worth it but for students it might not be. They do offer an educational option – popplet groups. This option offers a lower cost for popplet accounts for student groups – a cost between 2.00 and 0.50 per account depending on how many students are signing up. For teachers or schools that want to use this as a good organizational tool, it’s a great price.

With popplet you can do some great maps. You can then set up timings and order and present them to others or just keep it for your own usage. If you’re using it for organization for essay writing it’s excellent – simply put the name of your topic in the center in one colour, then follow that by linking your three topics. Then, link your info for each topic. You can find connections and from that build transitions from section to section. Making each section a different colour will help you see your topics that much easier and from that, help you organize. You can also add pictures and video. AND, you can embed it into a website, well, if your site supports flash. Mine apparently does not. You can access your popplet account on the web or with your apple product. Whether you use it for essay organization, for exam review or for presentations, popplet is pretty nifty.

There’s a neat app for apple called MindMap. It’s 1.99 at the app store.

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Horizontal

With it you can plan maps, much like you can with popplet. When your iPad is horizontal, it gives you a map much like popplet – choose a central circle then put your topics around it, adding sub topics as you go. When you turn your iPad vertical,

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Vertical

it gives you a more textual outline, more like you would write on a piece of paper. You can edit it in either form, which ever works best for you. If you want and have e-mail set up on your iPad, you can send it to someone (like, perhaps your teacher who required an outline for that paper you’re working on?). The vertical option does have colours, but the horizontal does not – I like popplet better for mapping because of that, but the mindmapping vertical is great for those who like to make lists, not maps.

 

If you like to type your ideas out, ReadWriteThink has a great free essay mapper. It leads you step by step through your five paragraph essay – asks you for a few lines and sentences explaining your topic, three topics that support your idea

Mapping it out!

Mapping it out!

and details that prove each of those topics.  By simply clicking the arrows, you are prompted to move through your details. At the end it allows you to print, save or share. Very useful for writing the traditional five paragraph essay. And free! All you need is a computer – you don’t even need to sign up for anything. A teacher could just print off the pdf of a blank map if they don’t have access to the technology, however, as long as students have access to a computer, there’s no reason they shouldn’t pass it in.

One of the biggest questions that students don’t understand when it comes to essays is coherence. One of the biggest comments I give when I pass back essays is ‘focus’. These tools will help all students working on essays achieve coherence and focus as they attempt to write the perfect essay.

Preorder wonders

There are time I find out a book I love is coming out sooner than I expected. I am so excited to find out ‘Blood of my Blood’ is out in a few days!! ‘Blood of my Blood’ is the third in the ‘I Hunt Killers’ series, a series I have loved as it has progressed. I find myself recommending ‘I Hunt Killers’ to everyone – yes it’s a thriller, but even if you don’t like thrillers, it’s a good story. A study in nature vs nurture. And, just a good book. So many kids have wanted to read it. I even reviewed it on my old blog. And now the third out comes out in the next few days and I am oh so happy!

When this happens it’s great. It balances those times when I need to wait – like when I finish a book the day it comes out and know I have to wait a while for the sequel. I have to admit, I’ve been that person, going to the book store and getting them to get a book out from the back – just because they don’t have it out doesn’t mean I’m leaving without it. Now that I e-read more, I’ve discovered the joy of preordering – ordering it and then paying for and getting it the day it comes out. I wake up and boom! books are there.

No matter what you’re a fan of, you get excited knowing something new is coming to your life. It might be a movie, a game, a tv show. For me, those things bring joy, but nothing beats the joy of the next book from a favourite author!

I admit, I’m a little giddy! So excited!

 

Ok, so you like to read…..

Have you tried Goodreads?

I really like goodreads (Goodreads.com.) It’s a social media website for reading! Yay connecting! Yay social media! Goodreads is a place to connect with other readers. It’s also a great place to find book recommendations and set challenges for yourself. At times, I have goodreads and kobo open in two different tabs – one to find books and one to buy them!

To use goodreads, you can just visit it as a website. It will give you access to descriptions of books and reviews. You can sign up and get a fuller experience. I signed up and was able to customize – I have followers and I follow people (equal opportunity stalking?), I get book recommendations and I can join groups of people discussing books. Plus I set a reading challenge each year – this year I set it for 400 books. I’m up to 329, which amazes my students.

When looking up a book, you get to see the book cover, as well as any other editions that have come out. It has the ISBN of the book and the publisher blurb. You can click on the authors name and find a list of all their books – useful if you liked one and want to see what else they have done. There is a ranking – 1-5 stars – as chosen by the users of the site. You are then able to see reviews written by people who are your friends and then reviews written by the general population. Useful when picking a book as it’s not trying to sell you the book (although there is a link to amazon and a corporate connection there). As well, there are quizzes to help you test your knowledge of books and a place to share quotes you loved from an author or one of their works.

For those interested in YA literature, there is a page devoted just to that. You can find it at https://www.goodreads.com/genres/young-adult?original_shelf=ya-lit. This page shows new releases tagged as Young Adult, has contests to win young adult books, has lists of books that users have made that contain young adult books, shows the weekly most popular as well as the most popular overall, and then, if you’re a member who has read some YA lit, shows new and upcoming releases by authors you have read. It’s a fantastic way to find books to read. The lists especially.

Goodreads is a website and has apps for apple and android. It’s free and you can link it to facebook to connect with others. This post is not groundbreaking – the site has been around for ages. However, if you’re unaware of it, it’s a great place to track what you’re reading. Teachers may find it a good way to share book discussions and reviews (I might even start a group for my students as a virtual book club). For book nerds like me, it’s a great way to find that next great (or good) read.

ROBOT – Review One Book on Thursday – Like No Other by Una LaMarche

robotThe book I’m reviewing this week is ‘Like No Other’ by Una Lamarche. In many ways, this novel is an updated Romeo and Juliet. Devorah is a devout Hasidic Jew who never questions her life or her parents. Jaxon is a book smart West Indian boy who walks the line between pleasing his family and finding fun. Devorah is not allowed to be alone with any males who are not part of her family in public areas, one of the many rules by which she lives her life. However, she finds herself breaking the rules by accident when stuck in an elevator with Jaxon during a power outage. Devorah is at the hospital helping her sister who is having her first child while Jaxon is there with his friend who had an accident while skateboarding. While stuck in the elevator they both feel a connection, a connection that both want to act upon, even after they leave each other. Through some detective work, they find each other and despite the odds and customs ingrained in them, they begin a relationship. While Jaxon has to lie to protect Devorah as his family would not have a big problem with the relationship, Devorah has to lie to her family to protect her place within it. She has always been the good girl, the one who they never have to worry about; now she’s spending time alone with a boy, has

a secret cell phone and is starting to question her path in life. Devorah faces a major obstacle in her brother in law – he’s not just observant, he’s righteous and demands obedience from all. When he begins to suspect their relationship, he will not stop until Devorah is set back on the path of right doing. Their romance comes to a dramatic head and Devorah is forced to confront her family and her faith as she deals with questioning and realizing what her life goals actually are and how they relate to her faith and her family.

This book is bittersweet and charming. The relationship reminds me of the quote from ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ – “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”. Once the relationship has begun, it is a runaway train as both come together and experience a relationship that neither ever anticipated. Devorah is a more complete character than Jaxon – she goes through the biggest changes and the most questioning. In many ways, Jaxon serves as the impetus and springboard for the change. It is his prodding that causes her to break many of the rules of her faith – rules that were part of how she has always lived and ones that bind her with her family and community. At times this is annoying – show some respect Jaxon! The girl has faith! – but it does serve the plot well and carry it forward to the ultimate conclusion. While many readers may relate more to the character of Jaxon, they will find the journey of Devorah one that is familiar.

As a reader with some knowledge of Jewish culture, I had some understanding of the Hasidic culture. This preknowledge served me well as I read about the world of Devorah. I did not have much knowledge about the community in Brooklyn where they lived or the tension that has developed between the two groups portrayed in this novel. Knowledge of both the Hasidic culture as well as the cultural history would be useful for readers. While they will understand from information presented by the characters why their relationship is not allowed, understanding the bigger picture would be useful.

I enjoyed this book – diversity was present, a relationship that was edgy while being a familiar story. Readers who enjoyed ‘Eleanor and Park’ or ‘Say What You Will’ will appreciate this take on a modern romance.

I read this book on my Kobo on August 3rd, 2014. It was published by Razorbill on July 24th, 2014 with an isbn of 9781595146748.