Friday, December 31, 2010

Anna Hibiscus

Anna Hibiscus(Book #1)
written by Atinuke; illustrated by Lauren Tobia
(Kane Miller) 2010
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Anna Hibiscus is an early reader chapter book containing four short stories about the life of a young African girl. If you teach children in grades 1-3 and don't find and read this book, you are totally missing out! Anna lives with her large extended family which contains grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and two baby twin brothers named Double and Trouble. These four stories contain universal themes (importance of family, merging of old and new cultures, doing the right thing) that primary students will easily connect with and in a setting (Africa) of which most of our students have little background knowledge. What I especially love about these stories is the importance placed on family. The grandparents are greatly respected and everyone works together to help one another. In the first short story, Anna Hibiscus on Holiday, Anna's immediate family of five goes away for a vacation and finds out that having a large extended family is a great blessing. Anna Hibiscus Sells Oranges shows us a grandfather with great wisdom who teaches Anna how important, and sometimes difficult, it can be to do the right thing. This family is a wonderful mixture of old and new ways. The short story Auntie Comfort, about an aunt who lives in the United States and comes back for a visit to Africa, really illuminates this mix. Family members text and email each other across the Atlantic, but are also concerned about whether Auntie Comfort will remember the old family traditions. Few early reader books are this rich and well told. I can't wait to read more Anna Hibiscus books.

Other reviews of Anna Hibiscus:
The HappyNappyBookseller
Fuse #8
The Reading Tub
Brown Girl Speaks

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let's Count Goats!

Let's Count Goats!
written by Mem Fox; illustrated by Jan Thomas
(Beach Lane Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

If I'm going to read a book a million times to a child, I want it to be funny and with predictable rhymes so the child can soon join me in the reading. Let's Count Goats! fits my criteria on both counts and will prove to be an enjoyable read to a preschool child. Author Mem Fox knows her stuff when it comes to early literacy and so has crafted a book that is both fun and full of learning opportunities. In the book, the pattern is a humorous statement followed by an equally humorous question involving counting:
"Here we see an airport goat looking for her cases. But can we count the Pilot goats with goggles on their faces?"
The goat looking for her cases is happily munching on a blue suitcase while on the next page we see two goats flying planes while one is munching on a tail wing. Jan Thomas's illustrations are an equal partner in providing mirth for the reader as they work on learning how to count. As Mem Fox explains in the video linked below, Let's Count Goats! provides an interactive experience between reader and text that is invaluable.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Old Bear and His Cub

Old Bear and His Cub
written and illustrated by Olivier Dunrea
(Philomel Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Old Bear and Little Cub love each other very much. And sometimes love means having to tell someone something for their own good instead of what they want to hear. For instance, Little Cub does not want to eat his porridge, but after a stern glance from Old Bear he decides to eat it. Old Bear admonishes Little Cub to tie his scarf around his neck so he won't catch a cold. Little Cub is not warm to the idea, but he decides to wrap the scarf after a patient and loving "Yes, you will" from Old Bear. While on their way home from a walk, Old Bear sneezes. This time there is a role reversal and Little Cub has to remind Old Bear to wear a scarf. When they arrive at home, Little Cub lovingly but sternly tells Old Bear that he needs to get into bed and drink some blackberry tea. Old Bear doesn't want to do this, but Little Cub stands his ground and the grouchy bear follows through with the instructions.


Old Bear and His Cub is a beautifully illustrated picture book. Little Cub and Old Bear are a pair that would make for a good discussion to explain to children why we have to sometimes tell them things they do not want to hear. This ursine pair also serve as a role model to those of us who work with children in that we need to be consistent and patient with our little folks. Another good use for this book would be to show how characters change during the course of a text.

Visit Olivier Dunrea's website (linked to his name above) for some interesting behind the scenes information about his creation of this book.

Other reviews of Old Bear and His Cub:
Kids Lit
Children's Books

Friday, December 24, 2010

Kauffman's Fruit Farm - Gingerbread Cookie Mix

I try not to push product (other than great books and technology) on this website, but I have to tell you about the best gingerbread cookies we have ever made. This summer we visited Bird-in-Hand, Pennslyvania and purchased gingerbread cookie mix among other things (peach butter was unbelievably good) from Kauffman's Fruit Farm. We just used the mix tonight and made fantastic gingerbread men. If you make gingerbread men or women in your classroom, you might want to consider trying this. We were able to make about 24 gingerbread figures from one bag of mix.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rubia and the Three Osos

Rubia and the Three Osos
written by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(Hyperion Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

The Three Osos are getting ready to eat a plato of la sopa when Mama Oso suggests they go for a walk as "part of her South Woods Plan." While the family of osos is enjoying their stroll, who should come along but Little Miss Rubia who immediately expresses adoration for the bears' casita. If you are familiar with the Three Bears, you know where this story is headed. What you don't know is that Susan Middleton Elya has written a different and sweet ending to this familiar tale which will delight preschool and primary students.

Rubia and the Three Osos is a terrific read aloud for introducing students to words in Spanish. I can see students easily transferring the words they learn from this story into their everyday conversation. This book also could be used as part of a unit on fables where you compare different versions of the same story.

Other reviews of Rubia and the Three Osos:
5 Minutes for Books
A Year of Reading

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Good Night Little Monster

Goodnight, Little Monster
written by Helen Ketteman; illustrated by Bonnie Leick
(Marshall Cavendish Children) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Little Monster is getting ready for bed. He goes out on the porch to howl at the moon. His plump, pointy tail is scrubbed and his ears are checked for bugs. Mama Monster makes sure that she tangles his hair and makes a bedtime snack of worm juice and baked beetle bread. Little Monster has one particular fear as he gets ready to go to sleep, but Mama assures him that there are no children under the bed. After turning on his monster eyeball night light on, he snuggles with his stuffed slug and falls fast asleep.

Preschool and kindergarten age students will enjoy this bedtime story told from Mama Monster's point of view. The rhyming text and humorous illustrations will keep young readers engaged. I think illustrator Bonnie Leick should market the night light she created for this book. I would buy one. Goodnight, Little Monster would be a good book to share to teach the use of end marks (periods, question marks, exclamation points) as there are a wide variety in this book. You could also have students compare their night time routine with Little Monster's and find similarities and differences with a graphic organizer.

Other reviews of Goodnight Little Monster:
Maw Books Blog

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 Favorite Children's Books for 2010

It's difficult to pick the 10 books from 2010 that I liked the most. I could do this again tomorrow and pick an entirely new list. I have included a short blurb from each book's review. If you have happen to stop by my way, feel free to leave a comment and let me know which books were your favorites. So, without further ado, here are ten favorites of mine for 2010:



Chalk; written and illustrated by Bill Thomson
"Bill Thomson's wordless Chalk is a visual delight.  Thomson used acrylic paint and colored pencils to create the very real looking playground scenes. He also knows kids. We have several who live in our neighborhood and use sidewalk chalk to draw pictures. They draw figures similar to what the fictional kids draw. My favorite part of the book is the dinosaur and the solution one of the quick thinking friends devises to save the group." - May 17th

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"; written by Michael O. Tunnell
"Candy Bomber is my favorite nonfiction book of 2010. Gail Halvorsen is a real deal hero from the greatest generation. Michael O. Tunnell has crafted an unforgettable tale about how an act of kindness led to a heroic effort by American and British soldiers. The individual accounts of German children and their reactions to the candy drops are incredibly touching." - September 26th

Nest, Nook and Cranny; poems by Susan Blackaby and illustrations by Jamie Hogan
"Nest, Nook & Cranny is a collection of poems that is a teacher's dream.  Susan Blackaby combines several different poetic forms (sonnet, cinquain, triolet, villanelle) with animal habitats (desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, woodland) as the subject of the poems. The reader gets a combination of poetry, figurative language, and science that is entertaining and informative." - July 12th

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog; written by Adrienne Sylver and illustrated by Elwood H. Smith
"Hot Diggity Dog combines two of my favorite things, history and food, to make a flavorful concoction that is sure to please." - November 14th

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen; written by Renee Watson and illustrated by Shadra Strickland
"This is one of the most moving books I have read in a long time. Renee Watson and Shadra Strickland give us an intimate portrait, from a child's point of view, of how families in New Orleans were affected by Hurricane Katrina. This book would be an excellent companion to nonfiction books about weather. We often study about the technical aspects of storms (how it forms, wind speed, etc.), but it is rarely combined with how it changes the lives of the people in the path of the storm." - August 11th

Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade; written by Stephanie Greene and illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson
"Author Stephanie Greene has spent a lot of time hanging around kindergarten and first grade students. I don't know her personally, but her writing rings true to this age level so I figure she's knows these kids and what makes them tick. Posey is a delightful character who reminds me of students that I work with each day and one in particular that lives in my house. Like Posey, they're sweet kids who have some fears and need some help in navigating this thing we call school." - October 9th

I Know Here; written by Laurel Croza and illustrated by Matt James
"One of the reasons why we teach children to write is so they can share a piece of themselves with others. I Know Here would be a superb read aloud to demonstrate this. It really reminds me of What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan where both female protagonists are reminiscing about a beloved place and what makes it special. These are not complicated books, but no less profound in their detailed descriptions of a love of place and how it can shape our lives." - November 2nd

The Quiet Book; written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska
"My six year old daughter saw my library copy of The Quiet Book and remarked, "The Quiet Book! I love The Quiet Book." Do you need to know any more before you find a copy of this wonderful book? Deborah Underwood's concept may strike you as a simple idea, but as a kindergarten teacher I can tell you that it is sheer genius." - October 12th

Country Road ABC; written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert
"Arthur Geisert has created a series of 26 illustrations that show daily life on the Iowa farmland where he lives. The detailed illustrations are humorous and informative. My favorite illustration is for the letter I which is represented by the word inoculate. In the illustration, there are pigs that have red spray paint marks on their backsides. Geisert explains in the accompanying glossary that "the red spray paint is to keep track of who has been given a shot already!" - October 4th

Ants: National Geographic Reader; written by Melissa Stewart
"There are more than 10 quadrillion ants in the world.  The queen African driver ant alone lays fifty million eggs a year. I say we stop teaching these cute penguin units and start focusing on the ants.
Melissa Stewart is certainly doing her part by writing Ants.  She has penned a ripping good piece of nonfiction that happens to masquerade as a Level 1 Reader.  Ants is packed with amazing facts (Did you know that there were ants that could live underwater? Me neither.), several nonfiction text features, and terrific National Geographic photographs. What more could you ask for?" - March 12th

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shattering Earthquakes

Shattering Earthquakes
written by Louise and Richard Spilsbury
(Heinemann Library) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Simply Science 

On page 6 of Shattering Earthquakes is the clearest, most kid-friendly description of what causes an earthquake that I have ever read. Authors Louise and Richard Spilsbury describe the crust of the earth cracking like the shell of an egg and that the plates formed by this cracking "float like huge rafts on hot, liquid rock that bubbles deep inside the Earth." Throughout this book, they seek to explain scientific phenomena by comparing it to things (rafts, ripples on a pond, etc.) that a kid would understand. There are several other features that I really like about this book. Contained in the book are four case studies of famous recent earthquakes that have taken place around the world. Facts like time, location on a map, and the size of each of these earthquakes is located within each case study. A map of the world on page 10 also shows the "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific Ocean where many volcanoes and earthquakes occur. In the latter half of the book there is information about the efforts of scientists to predict earthquakes and what you can do if you are in an area experiencing an earthquake. Included in the back matter are a glossary and website addresses including one for a kid's site produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Check out the animations and an excellent ABC book about earthquakes. Shattering Earthquakes is also a superb book for teaching nonfiction text features.

Other reviews of Shattering Earthquakes:
Karen Timmons/NSTA

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dinosaur Vs. The Potty

Dinosaur Vs. The Potty
written and illustrated by Bob Shea
(Hyperion Books for Children) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

The second in the Dinosaur Vs. series finds Dinosaur battling lemonade and splashing in the sprinkler while not having to go to the potty. My favorite battle is when Dinosaur takes on the three juice box lunch and still doesn't have to use the potty. Through each battle, you know that eventually Dinosaur is going to have to go. It would be fun to read Dinosaur Vs. The Potty and have students try and predict at which point the potty will win. A big part of the charm of the Dinosaur books is in Bob Shea's writing. You have to read it out loud like a 4 or 5 year old boy who is playing by himself and having pretend battles. This books plays like a parody of monster movies from my childhood. While you certainly could use this book for help in potty training with preschoolers, I think another good idea would be to read it as part of a writing activity with K-2 students. You could make a list of different childhood issues that could compete with Dinosaur and write a class book using one of these ideas. For example, Dinosaur Vs. Homework could be a book. "Dinosaur versus math problems. Dinosaur wins!". Dinosaur Vs. Lunch Time could be another book. "Dinosaur versus opening a milk carton. Dinosaur wins!"   The Dinosaur books are big read aloud hits that will have your students roaring with delight.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Octopus Opposites

Octopus Opposites
written by Stella Blackstone; illustrated by Stephanie Bauer
(Barefoot Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Octopus Opposites is a charming book for very young readers that would be a popular read aloud in preschool and a big hit as a bedtime story. Each set of pages rhyme (Elephant young, elephant old. Polar bear hot, polar bear cold.) and are accompanied by illustrations that are vibrant and sweet. Children will love the animals represented on each page and enjoy learning about opposites by reading this book again and again. In the back of the book, all of the land animals are represented together and the sea animals on another page. Each set of opposites are shown together on the last page. With the vivid animal illustrations and rhymes, this would be a good book to use with English language learners. I also think you could use this to teach preschoolers how print works. The text is fairly large and located at the bottom of each page which makes ideal for using your finger to point under each word. On a lighter note, if you are going to a baby shower anytime soon, you would do well to purchase Octopus Opposites as a gift.

Other reviews of Octopus Opposites:
Storytime Kate

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Cow Loves Cookies

The Cow Loves Cookies
written by Karma Wilson; illustrated by Marcellus Hall
(Margaret K. McElderry Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

The horse loves his hay and the chickens love their feed. As a matter of fact, most of the animals on Farmer's farm eat what you would expect them to eat. But the cow loves cookies. She's not interested in pig slop, or doggy treats. The corn adored by the geese holds no charm for her. But the cow loves cookies. It's not until near the end of the book that we find out why the cow holds out for sweet treats. Apparently she and Farmer made an unusual deal that results in a daily delight for the two of them.

The Cow Loves Cookies was an engaging read aloud in my class, but it turned out to be more than just a book where students could chime in on the predictable rhymes. My kindergartners asked about the meanings of the words "glop" and "slop" which led to a discussion of pig food on a farm. They questioned aloud, without prompting,  about why the cow liked cookies which led them to make predictions. This book just seemed to open the thinking floodgates in my class. I was pleasantly surprised to have a "deeper read" than expected. The Cow Loves Cookies is a whimsical read aloud full of surprises and delightful illustrations that will get your kids' minds buzzing.

Other reviews of The Cow Loves Cookies:
Young Readers
KidsRead

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hugless Douglas

Hugless Douglas
written and illustrated by David Melling
(Tiger Tales Books) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Douglas the bear has woken up from hibernation and what he needs more than anything else is a hug. First, he hugs a huge boulder which is a bit too heavy. Hugging a tree gives him too many splinters. His attempts at hugging various woodland and farm creatures doesn't exactly endear him to the rest of the animal kingdom. Fortunately, a kindly rabbit takes him by the paw and leads him toward the hug that he needs.

Hugless Douglas is a sweet and funny story that our kindergarten students loved. It would fit in nicely with a hibernation unit or if you are trying to teach the skill of identifying the problem and/or solution in a fictional story. David Melling's illustrations are hilarious and I like the idea of this book leading to a discussion of how all of us, even big ol' bears, need to know that we are cared for and loved. You could also create a graphic organizer (maybe a T chart) and list things you should hug and not hug.

Other reviews of Hugless Douglas:
The Cat's Rrar
Jenny the Librarian

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Recommended Older Books for the Holidays

If you are looking for two good books to read for the coming week during this holiday season, check out Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel and Allen Say's Tree of Cranes. In the first book, Hershel of Ostropol is tired and hungry as he approaches a small village on the first night of Hanukkah. He is surprised to see that there are no menorahs in the windows. It seems the village has a problem with goblins who don't like Hanukkah. The fast thinking Hershel is up to the challenge of defeating the goblins and bringing happiness to the village. The second book is a biographical tale from the wonderful Allen Say. It is the story of his first experience with Christmas during his childhood in Japan. Say's mother brings in a small pine from the garden and decorates it with paper cranes and candles while sharing her experiences as a small child in California. This book is an understated beauty that extols the peace of this holiday.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud

Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud 
written by Frances Watts; illustrated by Judy Watson
(Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) 2010
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Ernie Eggers is late for school again. His favorite TV show, The Daring Dynamo, runs over and therefore Ernie is hustling into the school building as the bell is ringing. As Ernie is racing to his class, he spots an unusual sight. A slightly bulging man wearing purple tights and an orange turtleneck draped by a purple cape. Amazing Desmond is posting an announcement that will change Ernie's life forever. The Baxter branch of the Superheroes Society is getting a little long in the tooth (hilariously illustrated by Judy Watson) and needs new blood. They decide to hold a contest to add to their "elite" group. Mild mannered Ernie Eggers, who views himself as anything but super, is the only student to answer their ad. With the sassy sheep Maud as his selected sidekick and a super suit, formerly ordinary Ernie goes out into his community to find crime to fight and to discover why he is indeed extraordinary.

I enjoyed reading Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud on a couple of levels. The humor of the book is crisp and subtle, so I'm not sure younger readers will be able to fully enjoy it. The "past their prime" Superhero Society kept me in a constant chuckle. If you are teaching parody to older students, you would do well to lift a small passage from this book and share it. I also like that the main character is an ordinary kid that many students will be able to easily connect with. Ernie really doesn't do anything extraordinary, but he finds that he is able to rise to the occasion when needed and this is a good lesson for students in that they too have unknown talents to discover if they are willing to take a chance like Ernie did. Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud, with its not too difficult to read text, could be a nice chapter book to put in the hands of a reluctant 4th or 5th grade reader.

Other reviews of Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud:
100 Scope Notes

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Li'l Rabbit's Kwaanza

Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa
written by Donna L. Washington; illustrated by Shane Evans
(Harper Collins Children) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Kwanzaa is not going so well for Li'l Rabbit. Granna Rabbit is in bed sick. Li'l Rabbit's favorite part of Kwanzaa is the feast called Karamu, but since Momma has to take care of Granna there won't be a feast. Momma sends Li'l Rabbit outside and he works hard to think of what he can do for his Granna.  Along the way, Li'l Rabbit encounters several forest creatures that have been helped in the past by Granna Rabbit. Each animal recalls what she has done for them and they wonder what they can do for her. By the end of the day, Li'l Rabbit hops home sad that he hasn't been able to think of anything. When he opens the door to his house, Li'l Rabbit finds that perhaps he was wrong about not being able to do anything for Granna.

In kindergarten, we study different holidays leading up to our winter break. Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa is a great read aloud for teaching young students about the Kwanzaa tradition. In addition to the engaging story and appealing illustrations, there is back matter that explains the purpose of each of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. I like the overall theme of a community coming together (harambee) to help one another. My students also made several unprompted predictions while reading this book so it works well to work on making predictions as well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - Planes: National Geographic Reader

Planes: National Geographic Readers
written by Amy Shields
(National Geographic Society) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at The Reading Tub

Planes is a nonfiction early reader that will fit well in a tub dedicated to books about transportation. This book would be a good example to use for teaching about different genres under the nonfiction umbrella. You don't have to start reading an informational text (like Planes) at the beginning as opposed to a narrative like a biography. Planes has several short sections with information about different aspects of planes including size, use, and speed. For example, the Antonov 225 can hold 80 cars in its belly and is the biggest plane ever made. You could teach contrast by comparing the aircraft Antonov with the 8 1/2 foot Bumblebee II which is the smallest plane. A good question to ask students would be "What is the purpose of each of these planes?" Since Planes is full of facts, you could also use it to teach fact and opinion. I could also see using Planes to teach how to chart information from a text. You could list the different modes of transportation and write about their use in a parallel cell. Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is the information about the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. It carries 70 airplanes and those planes land on a deck that is 20 stories above the ocean. Planes is a series of short bursts of facts which will appeal to young readers who like to become experts in different subjects.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Free Thumbelina app - Moms with Apps

It's App Friday at Moms with Apps so get yourself over there and find out how you can download a free Thumbelina story app from Touchoo. This looks like a great app for ELL students. Better hurry since this deal only lasts until 8 PM PST.

Most of the cool apps that I download for our K-5 students come from recommendations I find on Moms with Apps. If you use an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch with a kid, you owe it to yourself to go to this website.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stack the States: iPod Touch app for elementary students

Stack the States
developed by Dan Russell-Pinson
2010
$0.99

This is one of the most addictive and clever iTouch apps I have downloaded.  After answering a question where you identify the shape of a state or the capital of a state, you are presented with an animated shape of the state answer which has to be dropped on a platform. The goal is to "stack the states" high enough to reach a checkered bar. Stacking is not automatic as the figures tend to bounce according to their shape which adds some geometric thinking to this game. Think playing Tetris while learning state information. If you are able to stack enough states to cross the bar, you earn a state. Earning states allows you access to other games. I haven't tried this with students yet, but the adults who have tried this app have not been able to put it down. For a very reasonable price, you get a fun way to learn more about our 50 states.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bats: National Geographic Readers

Bats: National Geographic Readers
written by Elizabeth Carney
(National Geographic Society) 2010
Source: Copy provided by publisher

Bats is another winner in the National Geographic Readers series of informational text. You get a combination of high quality photographs and interesting text that will hook young readers. Bats are a fascinating subject with their nocturnal nature and vampire folklore attached to their name. One of my favorite sections of this book is called Bat Myths Busted!. Elizabeth Carney refutes myths about the eyesight and cleanliness of bats. If you want to teach text features, this book would be an excellent source for teaching labeling. Page 13 has a full length photograph of a bat and several labels of bat body parts. The Bat Hall of Fame section is another engaging part of this book with amazing information about species like the flying fox which can have a wingspan of six feet long or the brown bat which "can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in one night."

I read this book with my kindergarten class this morning and they were mesmerized. It is the perfect size for use with a document camera. I drew a quadrant with blocks dedicated to old schema, new schema, new words, and questions we have about bats. Some of my students thought that bats slept at night so reading this book helped us to learn about  the word nocturnal and clear up misconceptions. Bats also helped us work on how to ask questions and wonder out loud.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Firehouse Light

The Firehouse Light
written by Janet Nolan; illustrated by Marie Lafrance
(Tricycle Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Playing by the book

The volunteer firefighters of Livermore, California had a problem. If there was a call for help at night, they would have to wait on a lantern before they could retrieve their equipment in the darkened wooden shack where it was stored. Help came in 1901 in the form of a four watt light bulb donated by Dennis Bernal who owned the Livermore Power and Light Company. Now the firefighters would not have to lose time waiting for a lantern to be lit. As time passed, the light bulb continued to shine. After ten years, the firefighting equipment came to be stored in a firehouse with walls and windows, and the light bulb continued to shine. In 1976, after 75 years of shining, the light bulb needed to be moved to a new firehouse. A parade was held just for the light bulb as its socket, cord, and porcelain outlet were removed and driven to the new home. There was great suspense as the light bulb was reconnected in the new firehouse. Would it continue to shine in a new location after 75 years of nonstop light?

Change over time is a major theme in social studies and The Firehouse Light is an excellent resource for helping students understand how the world has changed in the last 100 years. Author Janet Nolan tells the story of this amazing light bulb in ten year increments. With each increment, she gives examples of how life inside and outside of the firehouse has changed. For example, Nolan tells that after twenty years, "No longer was news of a fire spread by cries and shouts. When a fire broke out, townspeople could call the telephone switchboard operator." If you want to teach students how to use and create time lines, The Firehouse Light is a slam dunk text for teaching this skill.

After 109 years, this light bulb still burns in the firehouse of Livermore, California. It has its own website (http://www.centennialbulb.org/) complete with a webcam showing the light bulb. The funny thing is that the first camera showing the bulb lasted only three years!

Other reviews of The Firehouse Light:
Cynsations

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kids Calc 7-in-1 Math Fun: iPod Touch app

Kids Calc 7-in-1 Math Fun: iPod Touch application
developed by Steve Glinberg

In the overview for this app, it is mentioned that it is "jam packed with features." This is not advertising hype. I was really impressed with all the different things you can do with this app. If you want students to work on skip counting, that can be done with colorful icons that are updated according to season. In a different game, you can solve four calculations, each in its own quadrant. When you solve the problem, a part of a picture is revealed. Students can also work on reading numbers which is extremely helpful if you are preparing for a state standardized test. If you work with kindergarten or preschool students, they can work on tracing numbers as well. This is an extremely helpful exercise. Kids Calc is a bargain app that you can use with a wide variety of elementary students.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything

Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything
written by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Robert Byrd
(Viking) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Just looking at the cover of Kubla Khan:The Emperor of Everything revealed three things that made me immediately pick up this book. First, I have very little background knowledge when it comes to leaders of the Mongol Empire so I thought this would be an interesting subject for reading. Second, I looked at the cover illustration and marveled at the detail of Robert Byrd's resplendent work. Third, when I saw Kathleen Krull's name as the author, I knew I was going to have information presented in a clear and entertaining fashion. On all three counts, Kubla Khan delivers. Krull starts off by introducing us to the nomadic culture of the 13th century Mongols. It was a brutal life which made these people rugged and not to be trifled with. We learn about the two most important women in Kubla Khan's life, his ambitious mother and his equally ambitious second wife Chabi. They advised him on military matters and made sure he was seen by the right people. One of the aspects that I really like about this book is the care Kathleen Krull takes to show us that Kubla Khan was a more multi-faceted and civil man than history may give him credit for being. He was tolerant of other religions as long as they didn't interfere with his position as the Great Khan. The civility of China with its fine clothing, art, and intellectual pursuits greatly appealed to Kubla Khan and influenced his thinking later on in life. Khan was not without his excesses and Krull details these much to our amazement. Can you imagine five thousand elephants carrying gifts for you or a party for forty thousand people? Kubla Khan had a tremendous influence on both Eastern and Western culture (see Marco Polo) and The Emperor of Everything would be an excellent introduction to this historic leader. This book would also be a refreshing addition to your biography collection.

Other reviews of Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything:
Chicago Tribune
Book Dragon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Leon Foucault

Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Leon Foucault
written by Lori Mortensen; illustrated by Raul Allen
(Tricycle Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Practically Paradise

Leon Foucault was "a shy and awkward boy" who frustrated his teachers because he did everything slowly. Leon's methodical nature proves beneficial when he discovers that he has a talent for working with his hands. He designs contraptions such that his mother thinks he must go to medical school to become a surgeon. The sight of blood and suffering drives Leon from medical school, but one of his professors notices his talent with instruments and asks him to work in his microscope class. Leon turns his thoughts to science. One day while working in his laboratory, Leon accidentally brushes a steel rod set in a lathe which sets into motion his discovery of how to prove that the earth spins on its axis.  He creates a pendulum and invites Paris to "come see the earth turn."

When I was a kid living in Maryland, we went to the Smithsonian Museum every year on school field trips. One of my favorite exhibits was the Foucault Pendulum that was located in the Natural Museum of American History. Come See The Earth Turn reminded me of this pendulum that was removed in 1998. Until reading this book, I don't think I was really aware of why this pendulum was displayed. I enjoy reading well written biographies about historical figures that are new to me and Come See The Earth Turn fits the bill. The text is not long which makes it perfect for 3rd-5th graders or 6th-8th graders who are not grade level readers and would be interested in reading a biography. It would also be an excellent read aloud for science when you study space and the earth's rotation. The back matter for this book is fabulous including links that I have included below. These links show the pendulum and instructions for making a pendulum.

PBS Kids
Arts Et Metiers Museum
Center of Science and Industry Museum in Columbus

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ben's Birthdays

Ben's Birthdays
written by Elizabeth Hawkins; illustrated by Paul Cemmick
(Tamarind Books) 2010
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Six year old Ben is pretty bummed that his birthday only comes once a year. With his sister Jessica's birthday right around the corner, Ben would like the focus to be on him. He thinks it's unfair that everyone else in his family has had more birthdays. One day while walking to school, Ben nearly trips over a talking snail. The snail asks kind-hearted Ben  to shelter him. Ben takes care of the snail and at the end of the day finds a nice spot in his family's garden wall for the snail to live. As a reward, the snail tells Ben that he will grant him one wish. With birthdays on his mind, Ben decides to ask that every day become his birthday. Sure enough, the next morning Ben's family brings birthday presents to the breakfast table in honor of Ben's birthday. The first few days are exciting for Ben, but afterwards he discovers that a daily birthday can be a troubling thing.

I read Ben's Birthdays to my kindergarten class and they liked the book. It's King Midas with a six year old twist. There is not a lot of humor in the book, but that didn't seem to deter my students. There were several opportunities for making predictions and for discussion of why Ben's wish may not have been a wise one. It has an English setting so you might have to explain a few customs like tea time as you read the book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Cat's Pajamas

The Cat's Pajamas
written and illustrated by Wallace Edwards
(Kids Can Press) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

 If you teach idioms to your students, find a copy of Wallace Edwards's The Cat's Pajamas. Each page contains a richly illustrated portrait (see cat on the left) with a humorous caption below it. My favorite portrait is of an anteater named Anita talking to a painter goat named Sir William. The caption reads "The sight of Sir William's new painting made Anita hold her tongue." Of course, Anita the anteater is literally holding her tongue while looking at a painting of an ant in top hat strumming a guitar. The illustrations are of such high interest that you will be looking at them several times finding new information in each viewing. In the last portrait, the author challenges the reader to find the hidden cat on each page so there is also a little I Spy quality to this book as well.

I could see a two prong assignment using The Cat's Pajamas. If you have access to a document camera, you can show the portraits without the captions and ask students to guess which idiom is being illustrated. Then, you could ask students to pick an idiom and create an illustration and write a caption. For example, I would write a caption that said "Phyllis decided to stay in for the evening since it was raining cats and dogs." The illustration would feature a mouse looking out the window at falling dogs and cats.

Click below for online idiom games and other reviews of The Cat's Pajamas.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Great Books for Text-to-Text Connections

Little Pea, Little Hoot, Little Oink
written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Jen Corace
(Chronicle Books)

If you are teaching kindergarten or 1st grade students how to make text-to-text connections, you should find copies of Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink. This can be a tricky skill for kindergarten students, but as we were reading Little Hoot this morning, one of my students mentioned that they had made a text-to-text connection without being prompted. Why is this important? Being able to connect texts helps you better understand what is happening or may happen in a story. In this case, my students know that there is going to be an interesting twist on a theme such as eating vegetables, going to bed early, or being neat. These books are clever and very popular with our young readers. I also enjoy the wordplay that takes place in the text. Go find these books and share them with your students!

Click below to view a book trailer for Little Oink.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Get To Know Wedges

Get To Know Wedges
written by Jennifer Christiansen
(Crabtree Publishing) 2009
Source: Orange County Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at In Need of Chocolate

Get To Know Wedges is one of those nonfiction titles that probably received very little publicity and isn't an especially glamorous title, but boy does it come in handy when you are trying to teach simple machines. The explanations of what makes something a wedge and how it is useful are laid out clearly for students to understand. Informative photographs and several easy to complete experiments make this an appealing nonfiction text. The cool thing about this information is students can easily connect to it since it is part of their everyday lives. The experiments could easily be conducted at home and make a fun homework assignment. For example, one experiment involves knocking blocks down. What kid wouldn't like that for homework? If you do research reports on simple machines, find a copy of this book. It is part of a larger series on simple machines published by Crabtree Publishing Company. Here is a link to a terrific PDF with more simple machine experiments. One of the websites included in the book, a link to the Canada Science and Technology Museum, provides background information on simple machines. Inspired by this book, I have listed several ways that wedges have improved my life:
  • Doorstops keep my cats from shutting themselves in the bathroom all day until I get home. 
  • A spatula allows me to clumsily flip pancakes for my family.
  • Scissors helped my mother cut away the gum that was stuck in my hair when I fell asleep as a kid. 
  • A snow shovel helps me dig out of the one inch of snow that stops me in my tracks. I live in the South for this very reason.
Thank you, mighty wedge!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog
written by Adrienne Sylver; illustrated by Elwood H. Smith
(Dutton Children's Books) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Hot Diggity Dog combines two of my favorite things, history and food, to make a flavorful concoction that is sure to please. Author Adrienne Sylver begins by tracing the beginnings of sausage in the Roman Empire. How hot dogs got their start is up for debate with Germans and Austrians laying claim to the first hot dog. One of the treats of this book are the interesting sidebars included on every other page. While discussing the origin of the hot dog bun, Sylver mentions in a sidebar that the Pilgrims brought the doughnut to America from Holland. Note to self: buy a dozen to celebrate on Thanksgiving morning. Other topics mentioned in the book include ballpark food and why hot dogs are such a popular food. If you are teaching a lesson on sequence, Hot Diggity Dog would be a good source text. You could also read this book and ask students which of the hot dogs cited in the book would be their favorite. Then you could take that information and create a graph. I'm torn between my native Southern slaw dog and the Chicago dog that I purchased from a vendor outside the Field Museum.

Other reviews of Hot Diggity Dog:
Cynsations: Interview with Adrienne Sylver
Carol's Corner
Rasco from RIF

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Punctuation Station

The Punctuation Station
written by Brian P. Cleary; illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
(Millbrook Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

 A giraffe family purchases seven tickets for Punctuation Station. During their journey, use of correct punctuation is very important. Commas help in ordering ice cream before boarding the train. Apostrophes are useful in figuring out who owns what in the luggage. Question marks work well in asking what is available in the train concession stand. Exclamation points signal the joy of arriving at your destination. Using proper punctuation really helps you get from here to there.

The Punctuation Station's lighthearted rhymes are an inventive approach to teaching the proper use of punctuation. Each piece of punctuation is introduced with a clear definition and examples from the giraffe's journey are used to illustrate how the punctuation is used. For example, here is the rhyme that tells about quotation marks:
These are called quotation marks.
You've seen them when you've read.
They go before and just behind
the words that someone's said.

These rhymes would work great as separate entities to use throughout the year to remind students about using proper punctuation. You could write them down on chart paper and post in the classroom. This book would also be a good way to launch creating your own punctuation booklet. Students could create illustrations and write sentences featuring different punctuation marks.

Other reviews of The Punctuation Station:
Bri Meets Books

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Veterans Day, also known as Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, was first observed in 1919 as Armistice Day as a way of remembering those who died in World War I. Later it was expanded to all veterans. Thank you to our veterans for their service to our country. Below is an excerpt from What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?. Linus is reciting the poem, In Flanders Fields.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog

Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog
written and illustrated by Jon Agee
(Michael Di Capua Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Mr. Putney keeps unusual company. In this latest Jon Agee punny word play book, readers are given a question about Mr. Putney's life on one page followed by an answer that is an animal name created by clever wordplay.

Q: Who wakes Mr. Putney up in the morning?
A: An alarmadillo

As usual, Agee's illustrations are humorous and intelligent. These riddles and illustrations could be read one at a time as a warm-up for other activities in a 3-5 class. Students could also attempt to create other friends for Mr. Putney. Here is a weak attempt on my part:

Q: Which friend of Mr. Putney's likes to play soccer?
A: A flamingoal

One of the ways you can increase the vocabulary of your students is to engage in word play. If you want to incorporate word play into your word study activities, Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog would be a fun read for your class. Jon Agee has several other word play books that you can find at your local library.

Other reviews of Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog:
Kids Lit

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Errol and His Extraordinary Nose

Errol and His Extraordinary Nose
written by David Conway; illustrated by Roberta Angaramo
(Holiday House) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Errol the Elephant is feeling a little stressed. There is going to be a talent show at his school to raise money and Errol has decided that he does not have any talent. His classmates at Acacia Tree School are not exactly helpful by thinking him clumsy and awkward. Errol tries juggling, playing a musical instrument, and even dancing. None of these attempts are even close to successful, so at the end of the day Errol is in tears. Fortunately, Errol has a loving dad who encourages him and gives him a book about elephants that shows him that he indeed has many special talents. When the day of the contest arrives, Errol is ready to show that he is special in his own way.

I really like the lesson contained in Errol and His Extraordinary Nose. As teachers, we want all of our students to feel good about themselves. One of our jobs is to help each student discover their own talents and realize that they are indeed special. I like that Errol gives a great effort even though he doesn't experience much success in the beginning. My students enjoyed reading this book and afterward we placed events from the story into beginning, middle, and end categories on the SmartBoard  and worked on being able to retell a story. This book would also be a good text for demonstrating how characters can change over the course of a book.

Other reviews of Errol and His Extraordinary Nose:
Hooray for Books!
Bookmarkable

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time Zones

Time Zones
written by David A. Adler; illustrated by Edward Miller
(Holiday House) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Shelf-Employed

If you are teaching a unit on space and the earth's rotation, Time Zones would be a good resource for explaining why different places on the planet have different times. Author David A. Adler tells the history behind the creation of time zones and why it became necessary to invent them. For example, in the late 1700's it wasn't really important for time zones to exist since people couldn't travel very far in a day's time. Travelers simply reset their clocks or watches when they arrived in a new place. They would set them by the town clock or set their timepiece at noon if the sun was directly overhead. Train travel prompted railroad companies to set time zones in 1883 for North America and an international conference the next year set them for the rest of the planet. With the help of Edward Miller's humorous and informative illustrations, Adler is able to deliver interesting information like why time zone boundaries have such strange shapes. My favorite piece of information that I learned was that China and India, despite their geographic size, each have only one time zone.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys
written by Bob Raczka; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Getting young guys to write poetry can be challenging, so Guyku is a welcome resource. Bob Raczka's haikus are inspired by his boyhood and other boys he has observed. Each season is represented and all of the haikus involve nature. My favorite haiku was this one:


                                                                                                            How many million
                                                     flakes will it take to make a
                                                      snow day tomorrow?

Guyku is more than a book. It's a multimedia effort by Raczka and Reynolds to inspire boys to write poetry. The Guyku website contains a how-to PDF for writing a haiku and a gallery for boys to display their work. There is also a teacher section that contains several resources for helping boys write and display their work. If Peter H. Reynolds is involved with a project, you know there's going to be some really cool bonus material in addition to his excellent illustrations. Guyku should be a part of your poetry unit as haiku is a gateway genre of poetry in that it opens the door for boys and girls to express their creativity without too much stress.

Other reviews of Guyku:
A Fuse #8 Production
Books For Kids Blog
Literate Lives

Click below to watch interviews with author Bob Raczka and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. These would be interesting short bits to share with students. Raczka has a message for the girls as well!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hibernation Station

Hibernation Station
written by Michelle Meadows; illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
(Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Forest animals are gathering at the station to prepare for winter hibernation. They have their pajamas on and the bear conductor hands out pillows. The hollowed out logs will provide a snoozing spot for their winter slumber, but it isn't without some difficulties. The black bear's rodent roommate apparently snores too much. Hedgehog babies are getting wet and the young chipmunks have spilled their drink. Fortunately these animals are in good hands as the bear conductors review their blueprints and make decisions to solve the problems. Soon all on board are sleeping peacefully for the season.

If the ALA decides to hand out an award for the cutest book of 2010, Hibernation Station will be in the running. You can't go wrong with animals (even the snakes!) in pajamas. This book is a clever take on hibernation and serves as a great introductory piece for young students who are not familiar with this process. Most of my students did not know the term hibernation. The rhyming and Kurt Cyrus's excellent illustrations kept my kids engaged. As an extension activity, my students used a circle map on the SmartBoard. I uploaded this lesson and it should be available in two weeks on the SmartBoard Exchange (see links on the right.) Make sure you read the author's note in the back matter for more information on hibernation.

Click below for a look at the book trailer:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Know Here

I Know Here (2010 Horn Book Award Winner)
written by Laurel Croza; illustrated by Matt James
(Groundwood Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

A young girl lives in Saskatchewan while her father is helping to build a dam. This place is home to her and she loves every square inch. The woods where she can play hide-and-seek behind the pines and listen to howling wolves at night. Behind the trailers is a great tobogganing hill and a creek where her little sister can catch frogs. She has seen many things like an old moose staring her down. This little girl knows the road that goes from the dam to her beloved trailer school with its nine students and the wonderful teacher Miss Hendrickson. She is going to miss this place when her family moves to Toronto, but her teacher knows how she can keep it with her forever.

One of the reasons why we teach children to write is so they can share a piece of themselves with others. I Know Here would be a superb read aloud to demonstrate this. It really reminds me of What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan where both female protagonists are reminiscing about a beloved place and what makes it special. These are not complicated books, but no less profound in their detailed descriptions of a love of place and how it can shape our lives. As the little girl in I Know Here says "This is where I live. I don't know Toronto. I know here."

Other reviews of I Know Here:
A Year of Reading
NY Times

Monday, November 1, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland
written by Jill Esbaum
(National Geographic Society) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Capstone Connect

Winter narrates this resplendent photo essay which highlights the joys of the season. Whether it is catching snowflakes on your tongue or flying down a snowy hill on a saucer, Winter encourages us to embrace the cold and relish the fun only this time of year can bring. He asks the reader "Ever skimmed outdoor ice on silver blades? Click-clack-click. Can't do that in the summertime!" Jack Frost also reminds us that some of our favorite holidays are in his domain. At the end of the essay, Winter asks "Will I be gentle or stormy, playful or sneaky?" In North Carolina, we use woolly worms to predict this.

The photos in Winter Wonderland are a gorgeous showcase for the coldest season. Jill Esbaum's approach to the text is a clever one filled with descriptive adjectives that would serve as a nice mentor text for how to liven up your writing. This book could also be used to teach students how to draw an inference. Take this piece of text, "I am Winter, keeper of your favorite holidays." and ask students to infer exactly what the author means. Winter Wonderland would be a welcome addition to your collection of books on the seasons.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm Big!

I'm Big!
written and illustrated by Kate and Jim McMullan
(Balzer and Bray) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

A snoozy Sauropod awakes from his slumber to find that the pack has moved on. As he attempts to catch up with his herd, the Sauropod bumps into other dinosaurs (stegosaurus, pteranodon) and asks them to keep an eye out for his group. Unexpectedly, he runs into a pack of predators. What will he do? He's doesn't have fangs or claws to fight or the speed to run away. The one asset he possesses comes in handy as he faces the trouble in front of him.


Like their previous books such as I Stink!, Kate and Jim McMullen have created a text that has tons of expressive phrases that are fun to read and vibrant illustrations that will keep eyes glued to the page. If you are teaching students to read with expression, this would be a good text to read. You won't find a book that uses more question marks or exclamation points. I'm Big! is also ideal for teaching the use of sound words in writing.

Click below to see the book trailer.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese
written by Sarah Weeks; illustrated by Jane Manning
(Laura Geringer Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Macaroni the cat is a fun loving sort who enjoys bouncing and pouncing and other boisterous activities. On a hot day, he likes to swim. Jumping over garbage cans or with a rope are other sources of feline frolic for the lively Mac. As they say in the boxing world, "And in this corner we have..." the ornery Cheese. He is Mac's best friend, but he's not interested in bouncing, pouncing, or mousing. Cheese just wants to enjoy some peace and quiet. It's not until Mac needs his help that Cheese is willing to alter his ways.

Mac and Cheese are the Oscar and Felix of early reader books. They are an engaging pair that will entertain beginning readers. The rhyming text and delightful illustrations make this book an excellent choice for late kindergarten to first grade students who are stretching their reading muscles. A circle map featuring Macaroni would be a good lesson in character or you could create a Venn diagram to compare Mac and Cheese. If you are working with students who are just learning about rhyming words, you could read a few pages and list rhyming words that are in the text. Mac and Cheese could also complement a lesson on end marks.

Click below for a look inside Mac and Cheese.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beaver is Lost

Beaver is Lost
by Elisha Cooper
(Schwartz & Wade Books) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

A beaver is happily nibbling on a floating log when he finds himself on top of a log pile attached to a truck. The truck unloads in a lumberyard in Chicago where a German Shepherd chases the beaver out of the yard and into a nearby pool. From here, the beaver walks through the house to a local zoo where he is noticed by a little girl who alerts security. Once again the beaver on the lam is chased and he finds himself in downtown Chicago. How will this plucky beaver find his way back home?

Beaver is Lost is a practically wordless (with the exception of two short sentences) gem that could accompany a lesson on story elements (beginning, middle, end), sequence, or cause and effect. Elisha Cooper's illustrations keep the reader's interest in a couple of ways. The illustrations may be two large panes or several smaller panes which take it from picture book to graphic novel mode. There are also several details in the illustrations which make rereading an adventure. It would be an interesting extension activity for students to write words for the last panel of the book. My experience with using wordless books is that they can lead to a richer discussion of the plot since students have to work harder to think about what is happening.

Other reviews of Beaver is Lost:
Literago
Seven Impossible Things (interview with Elisha Cooper)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Partner reading in kindergarten: Beyond whisper phones

(Photo courtesy of Merce Divad)

After conquering the use of whisper phones and learning how to read independently, we are now tackling partner reading in our class of 32 kindergarten students. Each student has a Ziploc bag of books that we culled mainly from our book room. The books need to be at an independent level for the readers, so we are mostly using books at a 1/2 or A/B level. I paired off the students with some students working with stronger readers while other pairs are at about the same level. I modeled for the students how partner reading looks and how it sounds. The students sit side by side in order to be looking at the same book at the same time. The idea is for the listening student to offer support to their reading partner if they get stuck on a word. We will partner read for about 10 minutes each day with students encouraging each other to use strategies like a reading finger, looking at the initial letter, using the illustration, and using their background knowledge. It seems to be working quite well. You will have students who are off-task, but monitoring the class will usually take care of this behavior. It is exciting to see students enjoying the social aspect of reading where you can share a book with a friend.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Fuzzy-Fast Blur: Poems About Pets

A Fuzzy-Fast Blur: Poems About Pets
written by Laura Purdie Salas
(Capstone Press) 2009
Source: Cameron Park Elementary Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Write About Now

A Fuzzy-Fast Blur is a superb collection of poems featuring different kinds of pets and categories of poetry. If I was going to teach a writing unit with poetry, this would be an ideal book to use. Students will easily make connections with the subject matter, and author Laura Purdie Salas writes poems like acrostics, cinquains, free verse, and haiku so you can introduce these poetry genres to your students. Another great aspect of this book are the nonfiction text features in the back matter. There is a section highlighting the terms of poetry and a glossary emphasizing some of the vocabulary (bask, iridescent, loll) used by the author in her poems. An index of the poems and a helpful website for students to use for research (Fact Hound) are also included. Since we have four pets (and I do love them) and I constantly clean up after them, one of my favorite poems is spotlighted below:

Perfect Pocket Pet 

no cage
no accidents
no smelly, icky chores
no running away- it's all yours!

pet rock