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2017 Reading Challenge and Using Goodreads to Keep It Fun

My 2017 Reading Challenge and Using Goodreads to Keep it Fun


Every year I set at least one goal/resolution for myself.  Big surprise, it’s to read more — or at least read!  Each year since before I can remember, I have set a reading goal for myself, and while in the beginning when I was still in school, it was very low and only included pleasure reading (even if some of my history texts were pleasurable), I have incrementally increased my goal every year since.  This year I’ve set a goal of reading 115 full length books, up from 2016’s goal of 110, a goal I feel that I barely eked out, thanks to lots of life events that prevented me reading as much as I would have liked.

Back in the dark ages, I used to keep my lists by hand, and track the titles, authors, pages, etc. of all my books each year, but would end up inevitably losing or misplacing my notepad and having to try to guess and try to reconstruct my list or just plain make something up.   That’s when I found Goodreads.  Now, I am sure most of you are familiar with Goodreads as it’s been the most popular social network for readers and books for years, and even more so now that it has been acquired by Amazon, so I won’t get into the details.  Just what I like about a feature I surprisingly did not know about until recently to help me decide what to read next since that’s always a problem for me!

WHAT TO READ?!?

So if you’re like me, you are always on the lookout for new books and something new to read and always seem to have a never-ending pile or backlog of books on your “Want to Read” list.  I can’t resist bookstores or the free and reduced e-book lists out there for Kindle.  My favorites right now are BookGorilla (an email subscription for free and reduced books based on your genre preferences) and AtoZWire (scroll their list for the daily free Kindle deals).  Unfortunately(?) this has left me with a “to read” list of over 1450 books!!

My biggest problem was trying to remember what I had, and then deciding what to read next.  I know there are always some books I will gravitate to, like superhero graphic novels (MARVEL!) or Star Wars books, but after reading something great, I struggle to find something new, or just in general I might want something new and different.  This is where I found a neat trick to keep myself guessing.

GETTING YOUR LIST TOGETHER

One of the great things about the merging of Goodreads with Amazon (though I miss Shelfari a little bit) is the ability to add your Amazon purchases to your Goodreads account. It is also very simple, if you know where to look.  After logging into Goodreads, click on the “My Books” link on the top banner.  Mine is set to show me my “To Read” list, but it doesn’t matter what yours shows, you can still find the “Tools” on the left hand side of your screen.  Make sure you scroll down the list to the bottom and you’ll see the link to “Add Amazon book purchases.” Click on that link and give the next page a little time to load and you’ll see all the book (print and Kindle) purchases you have made!  Under each, there’s a button and you can automatically add these to your “Want to Read” list!  Don’t want to add something?? there’s an option for that too! This comes in handy at the next step in your surprise reading…

 

SURPRISE!!

Now the fun can begin…  Jump to your “To Read” list and scroll all the way to the bottom.  There you will see a spot where you can sort your newly padded list.  The default from Goodreads is to show you 20 titles sorted by Date Added in descending order.  So in other words, the newest book will be added to the top of the list and everything else bumped down one. (but you knew that.)  All you need to do to give yourself a surprise next-to-read is click on the “sort” and choose “Random” like so:

Ascending and descending order doesn’t matter here and you can display as many titles as you like.  Now, each time you refresh, you will have a totally different list each time!  Here’s what I got for my test list for this post:

 

When I ran it a second time (F5 or refresh), I got this:

 

Two completely different lists!  SURPRISE!!  Now, you can pick and choose what you like from this first page, or what I have chosen to do is just take the top book on the list when I am ready.  So, I’ll finish Inferno, which I’m currently reading, and unless there is something I need to read, I will jump to my “To Read” list and take what Goodreads gives me!

I find this to be a big help, since I end up finding that I can’t stick to other reading suggestions or challenges that ask you to read certain books from certain categories, like the 52 book challenges you can find online.  Even though my personal goal is nearly double that, I can’t force myself to read something I am not interested in, there’s too much I am interested in out there, and I will always fall short on those.

Hopefully this little trick can help you find, or rediscover some of those “lost books” in your kindle or on your shelf that you forgot you were once interested in.  I know that since I found this out myself, I have read some very fun books (and some not so fun ones), but always something I know that I wanted to read — even if it was three years ago!

Let me know your challenge for yourself, if you have one!  If you would like to follow along with my reading on Goodreads, you can find my profile here.  Please feel free to follow me or send a friend request.

If you’re interested in my past reading goals and summaries:

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Blogs, Tips & Tricks, Websites

 

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Traffic Simulator

Traffic Simulator

 

Sticking with today’s theme of traffic and car related materials, Traffic Simulator gives you and your students a chance to see how slight changes in road systems, driving patterns, and other factors can lead to major back-ups on our roadways.

The initial pattern on the website is a steady circle of traffic (ring road), and you can manipulate different factors such as the total number of cars on the road, the number of those that are trucks, and the acceleration of those vehicles to show how each affects the traffic in a closed system.  Once you’ve played with that and messed up rush hour, you can try the other traffic patterns, such as adding an on-ramp (above), off-ramp, construction, hill, or detour to see how each can also change the traffic.  Different elements can again be manipulated to test the roads and demonstrate how different factors can lead to traffic nightmares.

Explanations of some of the physics and psychology of traffic are provided through the links on the sidebar, as well as different ways to use the simulation.  Traffic Simulator is a wonderful tool for seeing how traffic patterns can shift and change and what affects them, as well as providing students with some problem solving as they work through how to alleviate the traffic and find the ideal conditions for each roadway.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2016 in Websites

 

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EnviroMysteries — Interactive Health and Science

EnviroMysteries


Geared toward middle grade students, EnviroMysteries provides a series of three video sets and interactive activities that help students understand various complex health and environmental issues that affect us all.

Water + ? = Trouble:  This module is a series of videos where students are able to watch the discovery of and investigation of a mysterious waterborne illness.  As the investigation proceeds, students will learn about the properties of water, different waterborne illnesses, and the need for water purification in the face of increased pollution.

Breaking the Mold:  This video series traced the discovery of mold spores and the illnesses that result in the home.  Students will learn how to identify mold when it appears in the home or other buildings and ways to remove the dangerous mold and prevent its spread and reoccurrence.

Inside Stories: A fully interactive investigation that places students in the middle of a health center where four individuals are facing four very distinct and relevant health issues. Students can view each of the four stories and read through the problems, read supporting documents, and then help work out a solution for the problem.  As they read and research, students are exposed to the health issues of skin cancer, the importance of a good diet, asthma, and lead poisoning.  As each story is different, and there are different ways to solve the problems, each trip through the Inside Stories can be very different.

 

EnviroMysteries is a great introduction to various environmental and health issues.  Every module and lesson comes with complete lesson plans, teacher resources, and student handouts and assessments.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Websites

 

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Free SMS Generator — Create Historical and Fictional Texts

SMS (Text Message) Generator

This is a fun little tool that allows students to create fictional text message conversations between fictional or historical characters.  The Classtools SMS Generator does not require students to register or log in and is fairly simple to use.  Simply click on the left hand text bubble icon (gray) to initiate the conversation, then on the right hand text bubble (green) to reply.  Once finished, students can save their conversation to the Classtools server (with a password and unique URL for further editing) or by clicking on the sprocket icon, they can get an embed code, direct link, or QR code for sharing.

The Classtools SMS Generator is great way to get students thinking about how historical or fictional figures would be thinking and having conversations themselves, as well as providing a unique alternate assessment tool to check for understanding of text or events.  Imagine Romeo and Juliet’s conversations if they were only texting!

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Websites

 

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Show: A New Way to Look at the World — Interactive Maps

Show: A New Way to Look at the World

Show: A New Way to Look at the World is a fantastic interactive site that takes demographics and societal data and displays it in a unique way for the United States, Japan, and the world as a whole.  Show would be a great resource for not only history and social studies classrooms (It’s a sociological goldmine!) but also geography and math classes as you can use the data, correlations, and spatial relationships to interpret the maps.

Begin using Show by choosing the region you wish to view, either the United States or Japan (divided by states and prefectures, respectively) or a world map that will deal with countries.  You can then choose a category for study, whether they be broad concepts such as basic demographics (population, language, religion, etc.), more specific concepts like natural resources, GDP, and education, to the more unique categories like distribution of Wal-Marts and number of UFO sightings.

Take some time to explore before you try using this unique resource in class or have students use it during a free period or as a different way to research.  I got lost in the maps on Show for quite a long time myself and still haven’t seen half of it!

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Websites

 

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Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation

Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation

The Griffith Institute at Oxford University has put together the definitive database of artifacts recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in an exhibit called Anatomy of an Excavation.  From its discovery in 1922, the tomb of “King Tut” has fascinated the world because of the unprecedented completeness of the tomb, the fact that it lay undisturbed by tomb robbers and archaeologists alike for over 3000 years, and that because of both of these gives us the most complete picture of Ancient Egyptian funeral rites and practices.

Browse the Anatomy of an Excavation‘s database through either the catalog cards or through the original photographs of the artifacts, both in situ and after their removal from the tomb.  This photography and cataloging was also unprecedented in a time when archaeology was more of a treasure hunt than a scientific endeavor.  Also available are the scanned journals and diaries of Howard Carter, the head of the excavation and the discoverer of the tomb.

Anatomy of an Excavation is a treasure trove (pun intended) of information for studying archaeology, Ancient Egypt, or funerary practices around the world.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Websites

 

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Show Off Random Activity Generator

Random Activity Generator

Are you bored?  Looking for something to do?  Do you want to learn or try some new and fun skills?  If so, check out this cool little site — Show Off.

Show Off is the promotional site for a book by the same title that is a “how-to” book for kids.  They promote over 208 pages with 1500 illustrations that walk you step by step through some interesting activities that can easily alleviate boredom and teach you some new life skills at the same time.  I clicked through a few times and got activities like building a solar compass, learning how to skip a stone, how to dry and press flowers, and how to encode secret messages.

Each “lesson” in Show Off is about 4-5 panels long and even though the activities look easy, you will spend a good deal of time practicing and perfecting each one.  So, what should you do today?

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Tips & Tricks, Websites

 

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