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construction 2Pardon our virtual dust.  If you have arrived at our main homepage rather than a specific page you were looking for, we sincerely apologize.  We understand the frustration, but appreciate your patience while we try to make our site more attractive and user-friendly!  To find what you are looking for, try entering a word or phrase in the search box to the right.  Again, thank you for your patience.

Challenged and Banned Books – By the Numbers – Infographic

BANNED BOOK INFOGRAPHIC - SIMPLY NOVELWith the start of the new school year, and Banned Books Week quickly approaching – typically held the last week of September (this year, it is Sept. 27 – Oct. 3), it is time to remember how important our freedom to read is.  I decided to create this infographic to help teachers broach the subject of challenged and banned books and get a quick visual to some of the interesting facts surrounding banned and challenged books.  Information was gathered via ALA.org/bbooks.

Here are the top ten challenged books for 2014:

1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie – Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi – Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison – Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris – Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples – Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini – Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky – Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard – Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier – Reasons: sexually explicit

Out of 311 challenges as recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom; remember – 4 out of 5 challenges go unreported!

Banned Books Week 2015

For posters and other promotional materials, check out the ALA Banned Books store.

What are your thoughts on this top ten? What do you do for Banned Books Week in your classes?  Please share!

The Literary League Back to School SALE on TPT!

Oh, HOLY MOLY!  While I shake my head, wondering (yet again) where the summer went, I am excited to be a part of the TpT Back to School Sale!  I am a part of an amazingly talented community of Secondary Sellers on TpT, many of whom I have had the pleasure of getting to meet in person in Vegas this summer!  Because we all believe in our products, and we believe in the power of the Secondary element of TpT, we are determined to be sure everyone out there who needs our resources, knows about TpT!  Of course, especially when there is a SALE!

August 3rd and 4th, TpT is having a site-wide sale, and both of our stores will be discounted to the fullest!  That means, with the TpT discount applied, you can save up to 28% on all our products throughout the sale.  USE BTS15 at both our elementary store and our secondary store (which also now has some elementary products as we make the transition to one store) to save 28%!

But we are not the only ones, of course!  First, I introduced many of these sellers the other day for our Back to School Linky, but I want to give a shout out to THE LITERARY LEAGUE!  AH-MAY-ZING group of talented secondary ELA sellers – be sure to check out their stores as well (links are below the image)

lit_league_sale_BTS Click the seller’s name or store to be taken directly to their store! Of course, be sure to visit us! Secondary Solutions-Simply Novel Danielle Knight (Study All Knight) Darlene Anne- ELA Buffet Mrs. Spangler in the Middle Created by MrHughes The Classroom Sparrow The Daring English Teacher ELA Everyday Juggling ELA Nouvelle Literary Sherri Making Meaning with Melissa 2 Peas and a Dog Addie Williams Linda Jennifer Fisher Reyna Education The Creative Classroom Stacey Lloyd Room 213 Brynn Allison Open Classroom Perfetto Writing Room Secondary Sara Tracee Orman James Whitaker The Superhero Teacher Created for Learning Brain Waves Instruction

Simply Novel Goes Back to School!

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 8.51.48 AMWelcome baaa–ack!  (Almost!)  You know Back to School is quickly approaching when the kids get squirrelly and bored even doing their favorite things, and Target is readying their shelves with aisle after aisle of empty storage bins holding the place for the incoming barrage of school supplies.  I have to admit, while I no longer need to buy supplies for myself and my classroom, I have already begun to stock up on my daughter’s supplies, plus a few extra for donations to her classroom and for needy children.  You have to admit, a shiny new pen, a few clean composition books and a spiral notebook with an adorable kitten can give you a rush!

With these preparations, teachers everywhere (most straddling the emotional spectrum from thrill to dread) are getting ready for school, planning out their days and looking for practical new resources for the new year.  So, Simply Novel has jumped on board with a little blog hop, as several bloggers go Back to School with some fabulous back to school tips!

First, who is Simply Novel?  Usually Emily does our blog posts (and a FABULOUS job, I might add), but occasionally I (Kristen) will jump in for a promo or something like this. As many of you know, we have been in the process of rebranding – from Secondary Solutions and Elementary Solutions to Simply Novel.  Why?  Let me tell you, trying to keep track of two different companies is rough.  Long story short: it just became too difficult to manage, and I felt that our products and service would ultimately suffer by trying to handle the two companies separately but equally.

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Me and my 6 year old daughter on our recent trip to Big Bear, CA.

I taught for 7 years before I had my daughter and decided to work from home to be with her.  I taught high school English: freshman, juniors, seniors, Creative Writing, CAHSEE prep (High School Exit Exam), Honors prep, SAT prep – you name it.  (Never did teach a full sophomore only class, though!)  I am currently running Simply Novel full time while I write, train and support other writers working for us.


Me several years ago at a small conference.
Simply Novel with me TPT
My TPT Store image with the new Simply Novel logo

My favorite novel to teach is To Kill a Mockingbird, but I especially like teaching Shakespeare (yes, I know – not a novel, but go with me on this).  I majored in Theater, and my heart is in Shakespeare since I did a lot of work deconstructing his plays, especially in my junior and senior years in college.  I have a way of understanding Shakespeare that kids seem to love – I am sure because they can sense how much I love him and his writing.  I cannot help but infuse my passion for his words in my teaching, and I some of my fondest moments in teaching – the “AHA” moments, the entire class engaged, the entire class involved, and the entire class laughing with understanding – all happened while teaching Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth.  I always told my freshman before beginning to study Romeo and Juliet that if more people actually understood Shakespeare, he would certainly be on the banned book list every year!  That always gets them totally hooked, of course.

Early in my teaching career, I had already planned out my first month and new how many things I needed to accomplish, so I would quickly run through the syllabus and rules on the first day of class. (Oops!)  The last year or two, I decided to take things a bit slower and try to let them know a little about me  before jumping in the the rules.  One thing they loved is when I showed them pictures of me when I was their age.  Letting them know a little more about who I was and who I am now allowed them to see that I did understand what it was like being a teenager, and I did have their best interests and a positive future for them in mind.

Me in 1992 at my Senior Prom

I was honest with them, and shared that it was tough for me in high school, and that high school was not the be-all-end-all, and once you leave it, there is so much more of the world to see.  I would leave that picture up all year right behind my desk with other treasures and family pictures to remind them, that A) even though it seems like I am pushing or being strict with them, it is because I want them to realize their potential, and B) that even though high school (or middle school) drama can seem like the end of the world, they can make it through, and they can flourish and become what they want to be.  Of course, share only what you feel comfortable sharing.  I didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about myself, nor did I go into a diatribe about high school versus the real world.  I spoke a bit to make a spark, then put the picture on my board and moved on to talk about all the amazing things we would be reading about that year.

first-day-of-school-pin1For more of my recommendations for the first day of school, check out my First Day of School Tips, or Emily’s recent post on Five Things I Won’t Be Doing on the First Day of School for another perspective.  Of course, definitely be sure to check out some of my other favorite ELA teachers for more ideas for a productive and successful Back to School!

Have you ever used personal pictures and stories to help connect with kids?  How did it work for you?  I’d love to hear your story.



40 Things You Must Have in Your School Survival Kit!

sos must haves
Are you ready to survive the school year?  Compiled by a bunch of veteran teachers, here’s a list of items you should not start school without!

Here’s our Practical Teacher Survival Kit…the first 30 were featured last year…check out the list for new additions!

  1. Some kind of crate or storage box to keep everything in
  2. Advil or other headache medicine
  3. Ice Pack (so kids don’t have to leave your class to go to the office)
  4. Band-Aids (for the same reason)
  5. Throat Lozenges (remember, you talk a lot throughout the day and those kids are germ-mongers)
  6. Tampons (for you and students)
  7. Deodorant (it’s not just the kids who can get “funky”)
  8. Hair bands or hair clip
  9. Chocolate (need I say more?)
  10. A lightweight sweater (for those times when you can’t control the A/C)
  11. Safety pins (in case of wardrobe malfunction)
  12. Gas-X (for “those” times)
  13. Chewable Pepto-Bismol
  14. Tums
  15. Flashlight (emergencies)
  16. Screwdriver (the kind that can be switched from phillips to flat-head)
  17. Box of Kleenex
  18. Jar of coins (for those days when you or a student forgets lunch or lunch money)
  19. Granola bars
  20. Hand sanitizer (keep out of view of students, unless you are willing to share)
  21. Water
  22. Hand lotion
  23. Brush and hairspray
  24. Latex gloves (for taking care of student emergencies)
  25. Blister band-aids or moleskin
  26. Mouthwash, Listerine strips, or Altoids
  27. Chapstick or other lip stuff (I like Burt’s Bees)
  28. Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
  29. Candy, stickers (for primary), homework passes or other reward for students who surprise you by being/doing something great!
  30. A binder or file full of filler activities (for those times when you are caught off-guard with an extra five minutes in class)
  31. Floss or individual flossers
  32. Toothpicks
  33. Microwave popcorn (a great snack when you can’t leave your desk for lunch)
  34. Tea (Green tea is good for the soul, and apparently helps curb hunger)
  35. Cup a Soup…good for when you forget your lunch, or when a student does
  36. Glitter Germ-X! Have everyone, including the teacher, shake hands with everyone. Notice how the “germs” spread!
  37. Fresh fruit or veggies (of course, they perish, so don’t keep them forever ;))
  38. Dried fruit (an alternative to the fresh version)
  39. Disposable heat compress for a sore back or neck (i.e. Thermacare Wraps)
  40. A few $15 Starbucks gift cards (for when you forget a colleague’s birthday)

Have other ideas? Let’s keep on adding!  I would love to hear your recommendations.

Happy Birthday, Will (Shakespeare, that is)!

In honor of my absolute favorite author’s birthday, I am offering two fabulous items for FREE TODAY ONLY! Download our Macbeth Literary Analysis Activity Pack (regularly $4.99) and our Romeo and Juliet Post-Reading Activities, Essay and Writing Prompts (regularly $3.99) ABSOLUTELY FREE!  Hurry!  These items will go back to regular price at 8:00pm PST on April 23, 2012!!  Please don’t forget to LEAVE A RATING and FEEDBACK!  It is truly appreciated.

Thanks for stopping by!


Secondary Solutions is Hiring!

We’re looking for a few great writers! If you are a teacher or former teacher and would like to make a little side money, consider becoming an author for Secondary Solutions!

Must have 3+ years in the classroom teaching English Language Arts, grades 2-12.  We are looking for authors to create original, standards-based Literature Guides for popular books in grades 3-12.  If you would like further information, please complete the application!  You need not be familiar with our company or products to apply.

Thanks for stopping by!

1000 Facebook Follower Giveaway and Contest!

We’ve just reached 1000 fabulous followers on our Facebook page, and couldn’t be more excited to share the celebration with you! First, we have a ton of fabulous FREEBIES for all of you to download, donated by some amazing teachers to help in the celebration!

In addition to the amazing freebies for everyone, we’ve decided to give away THREE fabulous prizes – ONE $25 TeachersPayTeachers.com Gift Certificate OR ONE of our The Hunger Games Literature Guide OR ONE Essay Apprentice Writing System (Winner’s choice of ONE PRIZE– Guides are both in PDF/E-Guide format)! To enter our 1000 Facebook follower celebration Contest for either our The Hunger Games Literature Guide (Over 300 Common Core Standards-Based pages! A $25 value) or our Essay Apprentice Writing System (Grades 5 and up; a $40 value) or a $25 Gift Certificate for TeachersPayTeachers.com to purchase anything you wish, simply complete the following form. The THREE winners will be chosen by a random generator, and will be announced on Sunday, March 18th!*

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. Thanks to all who entered.  FREEBIES are still available!

Thanks so much for being a loyal Secondary Solutions follower!