Summer Reading to Beat Childhood Cancer

Hey Kids!

I hope everyone’s summer is going along swimmingly! I’m happy to report that a number of you have been blogging during vacation.  Woo-hoo!  Way to go!  I’m enjoying reading your posts from vacations to Atlanta to the Miami Heat to bucket lists.

Our favorite books

Our favorite books

I want to share a summer reading program with you called A Million Books for HOPE.  In reading Mrs. Rombach Reads  (an excellent blog by the way; check it out), I learned about this program which aims to raise funds in order to fight childhood cancers.  A Million Books for HOPE was started by 8-year-old Hope Veazey and her two sisters, Joy and Peace.  Hope was diagnosed with leukemia on July 10, 2013.  Her mother writes that reading has been a stronghold for Hope, distracting her from her hard days of chemotherapy and helping her to keep up with her days of missed class time.  To that end, Hope’s family teamed up with The Truth 365, a  campaign devoted to increasing awareness and research for childhood cancer.  According to their website, “cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children and adolescents in the United States. In fact, cancer kills 7 children every day in the United States. (Source: National Cancer Institute). Each year in the United States, approximately 13,500 children and adolescents 18 and under are diagnosed with cancer. That’s more than a classroom of kids a day.” (Sources: Center for Disease Control and Children’s Oncology Group).

The goal of A Million Books for HOPE read-a-thon is to raise money for pediatric cancer research by reading and receiving sponsorships for each book read over the summer.  Students can register and create a reading page which will keep family and friends updated on the number of books read over the summer and offer a way for these family members and friends to make a donation for every book read.  In addition, Barnes and Noble is offering prizes to students who raise $250 or more.  Every student who raises $250 will receive a Barnes and Noble gift card for $25.  Students who raise $500 will receive a $50 gift card.  You can find information about all available prizes as well as dates, deadlines, and reading logs  here.  Families can register as a team as well.  My family is on board!  I hope you will join us!

After you read a book, remember to list it on your summer log and leave a quick review of it on our Summer Reading post.  Also, it would be great to keep anyone who is sick in our prayers this summer.  Write their names down in your own little prayer book so you remember them.

How can you make an impact on this world this summer?





Flattening Classroom Walls!

After two years of blogging, and exchanging a plethora of comments with classes around the world from Canada, to New Zealand, to the heartland of America, we finally connected via Skype with a class in Connecticut, Mrs. Emerick’s 6th grade wave riders!  This visit is the epitome, so far!, of our blogging adventure.  We spent two half hour sessions chatting with our blogging buddies about summer reading books, sports, band, school uniforms, book trailers, brain teasers, Genius Hour, and of course, blogging!

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Mrs. Emerick on our Apple t.v. during our Skype visit

Capturing my students on the iPad as we Skype with Mrs. Emerick's class.

Capturing my students on the iPad as we Skype with Mrs. Emerick’s class.

We learned that we have a lot in common:

  • The book we read for summer last year, A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, is what Mrs. Emerick’s students will read this summer!
  • We love to play sports and music.
  • We love blogging and Skyping!
  • We don’t love homework (teachers included).

We learned we have a few differences:

  • In Connecticut, lacrosse is favorite sport; in Florida soccer reigns supreme.
  • Mrs. Emerick’s class created book trailers on Animoto; Mrs. Donofrio’s class will learn how to create book trailers on Animoto.
  • The Floridians are on summer vacation now!  The New Englanders have to wait until June 23rd.


Next year we hope to Skype more often.  In addition to our high tech pen pal system, i.e. blogging, we will put the Pony Express to work as well and send each other some postcards this summer.  We are also hoping to share in each other’s curricula in new ways.

Participating in blogging and Skyping makes me think about all the ways education has changed since I was a middle school student in the early 1980s.   We barely knew what schools around the block were doing, never mind across the country or around the world!  The biggest technological advancements were erasable pens and dustless chalk.   Grades came home on papers in schoolbags.  Now we can visit schools around the world and engage with them through blogging, Vimeo, Skype, YouTube, and Educreations, among other technologies.  Parents can much more actively participate in their children’s learning.  Today I used my iPad to email a mom a video of her daughter participating in a Chinese tea and speaking Chinese.  Another mom asked me to post my grammar lessons which we record on Educreations on the blog next year.

Here is a photo of a classroom, 1978, and another now 2014.  I am in both photos!  Can you find me?

Mrs. Donofrio- Grade 5, 1978.  Sister Lois taught our class "nitty gritty grammar".

Mrs. Donofrio- Grade 5, 1978. Sister Lois taught our class “nitty gritty grammar”

Mrs. Donofrio-language arts teacher grade 7, 2014.

Mrs. Donofrio-language arts teacher grade 7, 2014.














What changes do you see in teaching and learning over the last 30 years?  Ask your parents to comment also!

Thank you to Mrs. Emerick and her 6th graders for helping us end our school year so fantastically!  The walls are tumbling down!


Summer Reading!

Relaxation, Recreation,  and Reading!

What are you reading this summer?  

On our first day of vacation, I drove with my family to Books-A-Million to meet author, neurosurgeon, and potential presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson.  Much to my joy, four of my students were also at the book store on the first day of their summer vacations for the same reason I was; they came to meet Dr. Carson and get his book.  We had watched Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story in class this past week in 6th grade and at Christmas time in 7th grade.  I was so impressed that my students went home talking about the movie with their parents and that together they decided to meet Ben Carson in person.  When their parents had asked, “What did you do in school today?”  the kids answered, “We watched a great movie about Dr. Ben Carson.”  Good job, kids!  

Outside Books-A-Million with the Ben Carson tour bus

Outside Books-A-Million with the Ben Carson tour bus


Ben Carson's summer book tour

Ben Carson’s summer book tour

My students also used this time to buy some of their summer reading books; at least one of them walked out of the store with Avi’s Nothing But the Truth, a documentary novel.

I’m planning to read A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro this summer.  Usually I am consumed with middle school fare, so I am looking forward to reading this adult book.  I also have Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell on my nightstand.  Dr. Carson’s One Nation has made it to my list also, so I am ready to read for the next few weeks.  

What are you reading this summer?  

How do you read your books:  ebook?  paper copy?  library?  own?  

Where do you read:  beach?  bed?  bus?  favorite chair?  

Leave a review as a comment.  All my students get extra credit as part of their summer reading for a well-written review.  We’d love to get new ideas for great books!  You can visit my Shelfari page, too, to see some of my favorites.  

Happy reading!

Learning to speak Chinese

A Chinese Tea

A Chinese Tea

Tea and cookies

Tea and cookies


After weeks of practicing, two of our Odyssey students shared a Chinese tea with us, the result of working during our weekly Genius Hour.  Dressed in traditional attire, we enjoyed green tea and some tasty cookies in addition to listening to them converse in Chinese.  To my ear, they sounded wonderful!  I was very impressed with their determination to learn a foreign language, and Chinese at that, without any help from an adult.  They conducted the research on the computer, wrote their own script for the tea, practiced consistently, baked the cookies, brought in the tea, and they shared their knowledge all without assistance.  I was impressed! I’m sure they will remember this experience for years to come.


How many languages do you speak?  What language would you like to learn, and why?