Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Sunday, April 21, 2013

View From the 5th Grade Trenches: April 2013: Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

As a teacher in these days of high-stakes standardized testing, no matter how hard I try to be fresh and interesting, I feel like I’m sending pre-packaged knowledge down a conveyor belt at a furious pace and simultaneously dumping it into 33 brains.

The days of “discovery learning” and gradual development of concepts seems to have gone the way of the Dodo.

Every so often, there is a magic experience where the kids and I connect as a collective soul. Our hearts swell and shine as one. We laugh together and cry together.

Thanks to Alan Silberberg, this wonderful synergy happened when I read his amazing story, Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze to my class.

Alan, perfectly balancing loving honesty and humor, guides Milo through the aftermath of losing a parent while navigating the insanity that is junior high.

There is a child in my class who recently lost a parent so at first I was wary of sharing Milo’s experience. I gave the book to the child’s parent to read. She adored it and appreciated the sensitivity Alan used in his storytelling.

Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze in addition to being an important story, is chock full of terrific drawings. I am able to project books on an interactive white board in my classroom so the kids enjoyed the illustrations in real time as I read the story aloud to them.

We didn’t just read Milo together, we experienced it. Rich conversations sprang up as we laughed, cried, and shared our own emotional journeys with one another. The student who had lost a parent told me how much she had related to and appreciated the book.

Thank you, Alan Silberberg for the gift of Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze.

 The kids had a few thoughts to share:

Many students said they made a connection with Milo because they have lost someone they loved.

Milo trying to make Summer like him
Milo getting really scared in the haunted house
Booger Flavored Freezies
Sylvia and Milo planting the flowers
Milo finding the blanket
Playing with the salt and pepper shakers
Milo wanting to celebrate Mother’s Day
The dentist’s office
Milo writing the poem
Tuna fish

Did you really know a One-Eyed Jack?
Does Summer secretly like-like Milo?
How do you connect with Milo?
Is there going to be another Milo story like how he handles high school?
Why did you make Milo so clumsy?
Did anyone else give you ideas that were in the book?
How did writing this story effect you? Were you sad?


  1. OMG! This is amazing! I love when you have the kids give actual feedback. That is so cool. And how awesome is it for that child to connect with a book in such a sad situation?

  2. Wow, just reading this post brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing write such a book that impacts kids (and adults!) this way.

  3. I don't know this one - but I'm going to look for it! Sounds like a fantastic book!

    I'm so jealous you have a smart board *sigh*

  4. I haven't read the Milo books. I had no idea they were so layered. Thanks for an enlightening me.

  5. Aw, that's sweet. I bet you're a great teacher :)

  6. I love how you sometimes suggest MG books like this one. I'm always on the lookout for books for my kids. Thanks! And like LR said, I bet you're a great teacher too! :D

  7. Sounds so good. I'll have to read this!

  8. Books are amazing for how they help us through the tough times, put into words what we feel, but haven't expressed, make us laugh, make us cry. This book sounds like a perfect one for kids. Thanks Leslie.

  9. This book sounds great! I'll definitely get it for my 6th grade daughter. I'll read it too! Thanks!

  10. What a wonderful book and experience for you and your students! I wish my son had a you for 5th grade. He might have a different outlook on school if he did. Thanks for sharing the things your students thought were memorable! I'm sure they have learned a lot more than what is on those standardized tests from you! You're one of a kind, Leslie Rose!


  11. Love your post; I'm glad they have books like this to deal with such experiences. And I'm glad it led to some good discussions and sharing together for your classroom.

  12. Thank you for all the kind words. I'm really the meanest teacher in the world. The kids cry "sanctuary," by the end of day one.

  13. I need to see if my kids have seen this book. I think some of them might like it.

  14. Hi Leslie! Hope you well. *waving*
    Thought I'd see you on the A to Z circuit...

    Judging from the interaction with your kiddies, this sounds like a great story!

    Writer In Transit

  15. Hi Leslie-
    Thanks so much for sharing this one with us. I think it will be a great addition to my classroom library. I often have a student in the same position as Milo. It sounds like this was a wonderful experience for your class. It is so tough these days with all the testing and pretesting to see how the kids will do on the tests. Hopefully things will make a change for the better. :)


  16. Leslie - I am so happy to hear how my book connected with you and your class and need to tell you that THIS is why I write books. I would love to answer your kids' questions but think we should do that via Skype unless you'd rather get my written answers.

    Thank you for taking the time to write about your experience - and the fact that my book could possibly be comforting to a student - and create a shared experience of support means the world to me. You can write me at

    Tuna Fish!
    Alan Silberberg

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  18. Milo is a special character to me and his story even more special! I'm so glad your students loved it just as much - what a wonderful thing for you to experience with them!
    Marilee Haynes

  19. Hi, Alan. *waves* My humble blog welcomes you.

  20. Sounds like an awesome book. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  21. Wow, how beautiful! Good for you still trying to do right by your students. I wish my son could have you next year for 5th grade.


  22. Oh how cool is this - this is one of the books I read to my kids! (well, we read part of it... alas! I need to buy it because the library wouldn't let me keep renewing it).

    So cool you could project the pictures for everyone to see! I love technology in teaching, but not just for technology's sake. Love hearing about your classroom experiences.

  23. Leslie, this is so cool. Can I go back to school and be in your class? It's wonderful that you read this amazing book to your class, and that you had the parent read it ahead of time. You are a gem. And how great is it that Alan Silberberg stopped by the blog!

  24. I love that you and your class got to experience a good book together. Sounds like a good one to read just to see how the author did it!

  25. I love it when my class and I feel the magic with a book.