Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beware of Men in Yellow Hats

If you need an idea for a costume for next year, I recommend the one I had chosen for me this year. This guy (the character, not the blogger:) is a big favorite and easily recognized. I always like to have a costume that doesn't have to be explained. Enjoy the candy. I hear frozen Kit-Kat bars are the best.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Emily Gravett books

Emily Gravett's Orange Pear Apple Bear (2007) and The Odd Egg (2009) are categorized as books for babies and toddlers, but they both can serve as introductions to skills needed for reading and math in K-5.

Orange Pear Apple Bear
is a book that uses only 5 words to tell an amusing story of a bear's love for fruit. This book would be a great introduction to permutations. A permutation is "a rearrangement of the elements of a set" (American Heritage Dictionary-2009). Think about a problem where Jane Doe has three shirts, two pairs of pants, and two pairs of shoes and you have to list the different combinations. In Orange Pear Apple Bear, the bear and the fruit are presented in many different combinations.

The Odd Egg tells the story of Duck who is the subject of ridicule from the other birds because of the strangely shaped egg he has found. Duck is not discouraged and shows unconditional love for the egg which becomes a surprising hatchling. I would use this book to show how we use our background knowledge and text clues (Harvey and Goudvis- Strategies That Work) to make predictions. Part of building background knowledge before reading would be to discuss how different animals give birth (mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Wolf and Little Wolf

Big Wolf is perfectly happy with his life living under a big tree. A little blue wolf shows up and Big Wolf tolerates him but is definitely not abundant with his affection. The little wolf mimics Big Wolf in everything he does and Big Wolf starts getting used to having Little Wolf around. One day, after a long walk, Big Wolf comes back to the tree to find Little Wolf absent from the tree. He suddenly realizes how lonely he is without the little wolf. I'm definitely not a professional reviewer, so read Fuse #8's review for a more informed analysis.

What I try to do in my reviews is talk about how I use the book in the classroom. I read this book to two different groups today (kindergarten and 5th grade students) and did a lesson on how we can connect to the feelings of a character (in this case Big Wolf). The students made a ton of text-self connections and discovered how it helped them understand the story better. More importantly, both groups really enjoyed the story.

Written by Nadine Brun-Cosme and illustrated by Olivier Tallec, Big Wolf and Little Wolf is a sweet story about the emotions of finding and keeping a friend. The sequel, Big Wolf and Little Wolf, The Little Leaf That Wouldn't Fall, is now available.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Ed Young's Hook tells the story of a strange egg that is rescued by a Native American boy who gives it to a hen. After hatching, the hen notices the chick's hook nose and calls him "Hook." It is not long after that the hen also knows that Hook is "not meant for earth" and so she sets out to help him find his way.

The chalk illustrations are sumptuous and the message of friendship and dedication is very thoughtful. The text is sparse, but that isn't a problem since the illustrations are so rich. I think there are many ways you could use this book including contrasting Hook and the hen who adopts him (think Venn diagram). This would also be a great book for introducing time lines to young students.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Lion and the Mouse

Jerry Pinkney has created a gorgeous wordless book that retells Aesop's fable about a lion that, against his instincts, lets go of a mouse. One day the lion is trapped by hunters and it is the mouse's turn to help the lion.

The illustrations are as rich as you will find in any book. I suggest reading The Lion and the Mouse several times so you can catch details that were not apparent the first time through. One of our kindergarten teachers is using this book to teach the concept of problem/solution. The students are creating their own wordless books. It would also be a great book to begin discussion of the importance of being kind to one another.

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Blue (quiet), Yellow (sunny), Green (bright), Purple (regal), and Orange (outgoing) are very happy being themselves unless they are around Red. Red likes to pick on Blue, and the other colors, though they like Blue, feel helpless to stop Red's bullying. Then one day, the numeral One comes along and he stands up to Red.

Kathryn Otoshi's One is a great resource for teaching about bullying, but there is more to this book. I really enjoyed the wordplay ("If someone is mean and picks on me, I, for One, stand up and say No.") and the watercolor illustrations. Many books about bullying are too preachy and feel false, but One is certainly a clever one that stands out.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Phases of the Moon

In North Carolina, teaching about the phases of the moon takes place in third grade. The McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas has a website called StarDate Online. This website contains a moon phase calculator. You can use the drop down menu to see the phases for a particular calendar month. Cool stuff.

A Book by Mordicai Gerstein

A little girl lives inside a book. When the book is closed, her family is asleep. When the book is open, the family wakes up and starts their story. The problem for the little girl is that, unlike the rest of her family, she does not have a story. This book is her adventure in trying to find her story.

A Book by Mordicai Gerstein (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers - In my top five all time favorites!) is an extremely clever and humorous book. Gerstein takes us through several genres and illustrates the book from the reader's point of view. After having the book read to her, my youngest daughter promptly asked for a piece of paper so she could write her own book.

I am going to purchase this book to start my study of genres and when we begin our writer's notebooks in August. It is a wonderful celebration of the joy of being part of a story whether you are the reader or the writer. A good compare and contrast lesson with A Book would be The Three Pigs by David Wiesner.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Keena Ford and the Field Trip Mix-Up

Keena Ford's second grade class is going on a field trip to the U.S. Capitol. The class is going to meet a congressman, and Keena wants to discuss her idea for a new law concerning taking turns on who gets to be the "caboose" in line at school. The field trip, like other parts of Keena's life, is a series of hilarious mishaps that don't keep our heroine from bouncing back and trying again.

I was laughing out loud while reading this book. Melissa Thomson's dialogue rings true and Frank Morrison's illustrations show you the situations as a second grader would see them. The early chapter book crowd (or anyone with a sense of humor) will be rooting for Keena Ford and looking forward to more books featuring this lively second grader.

If you are looking to teach voice or stretching a small moment in writing, the scissors scene is a great small moment.

Published Authors Show Revision

Thank you to Betsy Bird (Fuse #8 blog) for posting a tidbit about Kate Messner (The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z - a lot of good buzz about this book) showing how the revision process works for published authors. Messner has posted a "Revision Gallery with a collection of authors' notes and photos of their marked-up manuscripts." It is a series of PowerPoint slides (JPEG images) that can be copied and used in the classroom. From reading the post, it sounds like this gallery will continue to grow. What a great resource!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Under the Snow

Under the Snow, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance R. Bergum, explores the world that exists underneath the blanket of winter snow. Several different animals are shown in their habitats and the author contrasts animals that are hibernating and those that are active during the winter months.

This is an excellent book to add to your science collection for teaching habitats, hibernation, seasons, etc. I can also see a class working on questioning with this text and you can also teach nonfiction text features with Bergum's use of inserts. The watercolor illustrations are first rate. You may have seen her work before in The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins.

Check out Melissa's website for a curriculum guide and readers theater script for Under the Snow. Thank you, Melissa!

Week 3 of the Exquisite Corpse Adventure

Chapter 3 of the Exquisite Corpse Adventure has been posted. Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie, Tale of Despereaux) has penned this chapter. If you are afraid of clowns, you may not want to read.

Here is the site for resources related to this progressive story.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to Heal a Broken Wing

Will, a small child living in a big city, is the only person to notice a bird on the ground that is suffering from a broken wing. With the help of his mother, Will takes the bird home. After many months of care from Will's family, the bird is able to take flight.

Bob Graham's How to Heal a Broken Wing is a story of hope and perseverance. The text is sparse with the illustrations providing much of the narrative. Like his previous book, "Let's Get a Pup" Said Kate, Graham presents a simple story of how we can make a difference in this world. One thing I like about Graham's books is that he doesn't hit you over the head with the message.

This would be an excellent book for character education and for teaching sequence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Otis is a tractor who loves living on the farm. His best friend is a calf who is comforted by the sound of Otis' puttering. All is well until a big new yellow tractor comes to replace Otis. Retired behind the barn, Otis is set to rust away until a crisis brings him back into action.

Loren Long's story of loyalty and friendship is punctuated with illustrations that have a feel of older children's classics like those of Robert Lawson. This would be a great book to use for teaching prediction or problem/solution. Pair it with Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel (thanks Grace!).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Word Magic app for iTouch

Word Magic is a fun app that leaves a letter missing and gives the player 4 choices to replace the letter. The graphics are engaging and the audio is supplied by children. You earn stickers and ribbons for filling in the correct letter. This would be appropriate for children who are beginning readers that have mastered the sound - symbol connection. I like that you can toggle between having the beginning, middle, or ending letter missing. My 5 year old was interested enough to play several minutes of this game.

Moonshot and The Moon Over Star

Brian Floca's Moonshot is a wonderful retelling of the flight of Apollo 11. The watercolor illustrations are detailed and expressive. I really like how Floca illustrates the inside of the capsule, but my favorite illustration is of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon. The text has an almost poetic rhythm with many interesting details, but not too many as to dull the flow of the story.

A nice companion piece for this book would be The Moon Over Star by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Young Mae's family watches on television as the crew of Apollo 11 approaches the moon. This book is a celebration of the dreams that space flight created for so many young children.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

iPod Touch apps for elementary students

My wife has an iPod Touch from school, so we have been downloading apps to use with our two daughters. I also want to use these with the students that I work with at Cameron Park. Some of our favorites are:
MonsterABC ($.99)- Letter and word recognition with a green monster.
Clifford's BE BIG with Words ($1.99) - This app allows the child to make words regardless of which letters they choose from the palette.
Twisty Text Lite - Addictive free app that asks you to make words
in 2 minutes from the letters given. Think Boggle.
PopMath ($.99) and MathRaces ($.99) are great for computation work.

One disappointment: Word Girl ($1.99) didn't do as much as we would have hoped. Great graphics, but the user is actually asked to do very little in the way of learning. For this price, we need more interaction.

Friday, October 16, 2009

John Bemis show

John Bemis, author of The Nine Pound Hammer, came to our school last night for a book signing. He read selections, sang songs, and invited audience members to help retell the story of John Henry. If you have not read this book, you are missing out. It is truly an original novel with American mythology being the inspiration for the story. John announced that the second book in the Clockwork Dark series, The Wolf Tree, will be released in August. A good time was had by all.

Duck! Rabbit!

Two offscreen narrators debate whether the image on the cover is a duck or a rabbit in Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. As in many of Rosenthal's books (Little Pea, Little Hoot, Spoon), the humor is abundant and smart. Check out this video promo for the book. One of our kindergarten teachers had students illustrate their decisions in the Duck!Rabbit! debate.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Duel

Judith St. George has written a fascinating biography detailing the lives of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Both were orphans and had many other connections leading up to their tragic duel in 1804. St. George contrasts these historical figures by writing alternating chapters about each one. The length of The Duel is only 87 pages which is just right for upper elementary and middle school readers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Spoon is jealous of his friends Fork, Knife, and Chopsticks because he thinks they have cooler uses than a spoon. Fortunately, his mother points out how great it is to be a spoon. Amy Krouse Rosenthal strikes again with a humorous tale of the silverware world. Illustrator Scott Magoon has even created T-Spoons!

I read this book with 5th graders for a main idea lesson and could have used it to teach personification as well.  Younger students could also make text-self connections.  

Monday, October 12, 2009

14 Cows for America

14 Cows for America is the story of an unusual and touching gift given in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. A Maasai tribe in Kenya is told of the events and decides that something must be done. This is an amazing book written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah is the young man who is the source of the story. There are so many lessons that can be taught using this book, but one that comes to mind is teaching students that no gift is too small and that we are all connected in this world. An absolutely wonderful read with fantastic illustrations and great heart. Check out the website that is linked above.

Smart Board lesson exchange

Our tech leader, Mr. Rosensweet, sent a link for a Smart Board lesson exchange site. We are in our first year of school wide use of these boards. One of my goals is to find ways to tie this in to literacy instruction. If you have any favorite lessons, please link in the comment section below.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Quizlet Sets

I have added some new flashcards to my Quizlet dashboard. My daughter has state capital quizzes during this semester, so I have created some flashcards for her to use. When you click on the set that you want to use, click on play scatter. This game asks the user to match terms using the drag option. For example, you would drag Harrisburg over Pennsylvania to make a match. Once you do this, the pair disappears. If the pair does not disappear, you know that you have an incorrect pair. I'll be adding more sets to this dashboard in the coming weeks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

To Infinity and Beyond?

The New York Times has an article posted about Walt Disney's new subscription service for its book catalog. For $79.95 a year, you can buy access to thousands of books that will be available digitally on the site. Think about how this could impact schools. Scholastic and Harper Collins have subscription services as well. Instead or in conjunction with buying single copies, schools will pay subscription fees for student access to books. Instead of buying class sets, you would pay a site fee and have access on your computers. With the advent of smaller computers like Netbooks, think about what independent reading in the classroom will look like in ten years.

Chapter 2 of the Exquisite Corpse

The second chapter of the Exquisite Corpse Adventure is now available.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Little Owl (like many of us in the education field!) just wants to go to sleep, but his parents want him to stay up like a good little owl. From the same team (Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace) that created Little Pea, we get a fun picture book that thinks in a different way. I'm all for exposing students to books that are clever and funny as opposed to schmaltzy and preachy. Little Hoot is indeed a hoot to read.

Read Little Hoot, Little Pea, and Little Oink for lessons on comparing and contrasting.  Students will be able to make text-text connections as well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Season of Gifts

Grandma Dowdel is back doing good deeds with her unique sense of kindness and justice in A Season of Gifts. It's 1958 and the Barnhart family has moved next door to Grandma. They are a family in need, and Grandma provides gifts in unexpected ways. One of the most enjoyable parts of this book is reading about the developing friendship between six year old Ruth Ann and Grandma Dowdel. I also appreciate Grandma's ways of getting even. I liked this book as much as the previous two in the series, A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Exquisite Corpse

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure has begun! Jon Scieszka is leading a crew of renowned authors that are writing this book for the next year. A new chapter is added every two weeks. The next chapter is added this Friday.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Panda Kindergarten

The first thing you want to say about this book is "Awwwwwwwwww, how cute!". But after that, you may realize that this would be an excellent book to teach kindergarten students about using graphic organizers. Compare your kindergarten class with that of the pandas. The photographs are fantastic, but don't overlook the text. I like how the author structures it. How cool is the cover? Here is a video of the pandas in action.

Ruby Lu and Alvin Ho

If you want your students to read humorous books that are also smartly written, look no further than Lenore Look's Ruby Lu and Alvin Ho books. My daughter and I really enjoyed reading these books and laughed out loud several times, but there is also great humanity shown by the children and adults in these books. Lenore Look is the rare author who truly captures how elementary kids act and feel. The chicken pox scene in the first Alvin Ho book is a great example of this.

Best Book of the Year?

There is so much buzz in the kidlit blogosphere (see Fuse #8 review) about When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead that I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Believe the hype.

12 year old latchkey kid Miranda begins receiving mysterious notes from someone who seems to know the future. She is asked to complete tasks that will prevent a tragedy.

I was about Miranda's age in 1979 and this book really took me back. It truly was a different world where kids had more independence than the world affords them today. Stead captured the era but did so much more than that. The ending was amazing and will stay with me for a long time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lunch Lady to the Rescue!

If you have a 3rd grader or above who is a reluctant reader, you may want to try a graphic novel (we called them comic books back in the day). Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute is an action packed adventure with superhero Lunch Lady and her sidekick Betty. By day they are mild-mannered lunch ladies, but after school they are crime fighters not to be messed with. Jarrett Krosoczka has also penned Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians and the Punk Farm picture books. This book is way high on the kid meter so check it out.