Sunday, November 25, 2012

Apples A to Z

Apples A to Z
written by Margaret McNamara; illustrated by Jake Parker
2012 (Scholastic)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at The Miss Rumphius Effect

When you look at the cover of this book, you see two cute characters and maybe assume this will be a light romp with plenty of rhyme and not a lot of information. Apples A to Z surprisingly most resembles a piece of informational text more than any other genre. Fox and Bear don't mess around when it comes to apples. They will teach you about grafting where a branch of one kind of apple tree is attached to a branch of another tree. This creates healthier trees. N is for nutritious where we learn that apples contain fiber which helps the stomach digest other foods. Our two apple enthusiasts also show us the difference between apple cider and apple juice. This is pretty heady stuff for preschoolers and K-1 students. My favorite letter is V which stands for varieties. On this page there are 26 different types of apples listed and illustrated, one for each letter of the alphabet. The back matter includes information about Johnny Appleseed, figurative language involving apples, jokes, and a recipe for making applesauce.

If you work with preschool or kindergarten students and teach a unit on apples, you need to find this book. I wouldn't read the whole book in one setting, but would spread it out over a week's time. The vocabulary in Apples A to Z is terrific. Words like yield and harvest are good terms to learn as they can be used in many different contexts. This book would also be a good model for creating booklets as most sections are two or three sentences long which is a good length for beginning booklet writers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sparrow, Eagle, Penguin, and Seagull: What is a Bird?

Sparrow, Eagle, Penguin, and Seagull:What is a Bird?
written by Brian P. Cleary; illustrated by Martin Goneau
2012 (Lerner Publishing)
Source: Orange County Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Perogies and Gyoza

Feathers serve to block the sun 
and keep birds warm and dry.
They help them in attracting mates,
And plus, they help them fly!

What makes a bird a bird? With fun rhymes and illustrations, Brian Cleary and Martin Goneau explore the characteristics that make up our fine feathered friends. It is indeed feathers that unite this group. They can block the sun, keep a bird dry, attract a mate, or provide camouflage from predators. In order to be part of these proud preeners, you have to have a backbone which makes you a vertebrate. Eggs are the preferred form of birth for these warm blooded creatures. Other characteristics that are explored include size, sound, and motion.

I used circle maps quite a bit in kindergarten and this book lends itself to using that form of organizer. You can put the word birds in the center circle and ask students to list what they know about the subject. During reading, you can ask students to contribute more answers to the circle map. If you are studying classification of animals, this would also be a very good book to use. You can create tables or use a spreadsheet to classify birds and compare to other groups such as reptiles.

Check out Brian P. Cleary's website for games and teacher materials. This would be a cool site to visit with your class in your school's computer lab.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Tree! A Tu B'Shevat Story

Happy Birthday, Tree! A Tu B'Shevat Story
written by Madelyn Rosenberg; illustrated by Jana Christy
2012 (Albert Whitman)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links

A thoughtful Joni wants to celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the Birthday of the Trees. Unfortunately, the big tree in her yard doesn't seem to be in a mood to celebrate, but this won't dissuade the plucky young girl. She sings Happy Birthday in Hebrew and in English. Later, she gathers her friend Nate to help provide presents for the tree. They bring water and provide wind to move the clouds so the sun can shine directly on the tree. Soil cupcakes and Joni's souvenir swan are added to make the tree happier. Joni decides that friendship is the key, so she asks her mother to take her to the nursery so a friend can be added nearby. After a prayer is said to welcome the new tree, friends and neighbors come together to celebrate the new addition to the neighborhood and remember the Birthday of the Trees.

Happy Birthday, Tree! is a delightful reminder of the importance of remembering what sustains life on this planet. The illustrations are bright and cheery as is the main character, Joni. With the Common Core curriculum, we will be focusing on character traits, so I will share Joni with my class when I talk about the word "determined". We've also been studying harvest festivals this week, so my class is familiar with celebrations that focus on nature and what it provides. This book also easily fits in with a unit that focuses on preserving the environment.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last Week
I just finished Parent Conference week which is always crazy, so I didn't have a ton of time to read and review last week. In the classroom, we celebrated Election Day and Veteran's Day so there were two books that stood out:

 I Can Be President, Too! was a great book to use to talk about the traits we would like to see in our president and in ourselves as well. 

The Wall by Eve Bunting is a powerful text to read for Veteran's Day or Memorial Day or any other day for that matter. It helps students focus on the sacrifices made by so many soldiers and their families. This led to a nice writing activity that thanked veterans for their service. 

This Week

Speaking of powerful books, Henry Cole's new wordless book, Unspoken, fulfills that adjective quite nicely. A young girl on a southern farm sees a runaway slave hiding in her family's barn. Set during the Civil War, this girl must decide whether she is going to help the slave or turn him in. Travis at 100 Scope Notes and Brenda at Prose and Kahn have reviews. We are working on asking questions in Reader's Workshop this week so Unspoken will definitely be shared in class. 

Jack and Annie will be making an appearance as Thanksgiving quickly approaches. We're teaching a unit in Social Studies about Thanksgiving that highlights three different eras: 1) The Pilgrims, 2) Sarah Josepha Hale's campaign to make it a holiday, and 3) How we celebrate Thanksgiving today. This gives me a chance to share Mike Allegra's wonderful Sarah Gives Thanks with my class. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Snow Storm

Check out Poetry Friday at Think Kid, Think!

It's been a little colder than usual here in North Carolina, so I'm wondering if we will have any significant snowfall this winter. With that in mind, I've posted a poem called The Snow Storm by Edna St. Vincent Millay. 

The Snow Storm
No hawk hangs over in this air:
The urgent snow is everywhere.
The wing adroiter than a sail
Must lean away from such a gale,
Abandoning its straight intent,
Or else expose tough ligament
And tender flesh to what before
Meant dampened feathers, nothing more.
Forceless upon our backs there fall
Infrequent flakes hexagonal,
Devised in many a curious style
To charm our safety for a while,
Where close to earth like mice we go
Under the horizontal snow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tracking Plot and Mood with Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

My co-teaching partner in Reader's Workshop, Paula Patterson, created this wonderful plot tracker on bulletin board paper using illustrations from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. We're teaching our second graders about the track of the plot and how the mood changes in a story. We used this book last week and read it several times for different purposes. It is such a good source for teaching about plot and mood. Now our students are thinking about rising action, climax, and falling action. I read Bootsie Barker Bites this morning and my class was able to find the high point of the story. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I Can Be President, Too!

I Can Be President, Too!
written by Yanitzia Canetti
2009 (Scholastic Books)
Source: Purchased copy

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Booktalking

This past week we created a circle graph in my class during social studies. I asked students what qualities they wanted to see in a president.  I was pleasantly surprised by their answers. They spoke about honesty, being able to work hard, being responsible, and getting along with others. I was quite proud. Another group of children who will make us proud are the 14 students featured in I Can Be President, Too!.

Each two page spread focuses on one student who expresses why they can be president. The child mentions one character trait and examples of how they exemplify that trait. Here is an example:

I listen to what my teacher says. I don't interrupt my friends. I always wait my turn. Vote for me. I AM RESPECTFUL. 

I like the diversity in the children's ages and ethnicity. The ages of the narrators range from 5-11 years of age. This is an inclusive book and will appeal to students. It also raises a question that we who will vote in the presidential election should consider as well. Do you vote for someone based on what they say they will do or on who they are as a person? What would President Obama or Governor Romney state if they were given two pages in this book?

I'm already thinking about creating a booklet with my class for Writer's Workshop. You can teach using a topic sentence and supporting details in a persuasive piece.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Poetry Friday: The People, Yes

There is a terrific cover story in Time magazine about the making of the movie Lincoln. I'm looking forward to seeing this film. With this and the presidential election in mind, I am offering Carl Sandburg's The People, Yes for Poetry Friday this week. Check out Poetry Friday at Mainely Write

He was a mystery in smoke and flags
Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags,
Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,
Yes to the hopes of government
Of the people by the people for the people,
No to debauchery of the public mind,
No to personal malice nursed and fed,
Yes to the Constitution when a help,
No to the Constitution when a hindrance
Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions,
Each man fated to answer for himself:
Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?

       Lincoln? Was he a poet?
       And did he write verses?
“I have not willingly planted a thorn
       in any man’s bosom.”
I shall do nothing through malice: what
       I deal with is too vast for malice.”

Death was in the air.
So was birth.

A Trip To The Bottom Of The World With Mouse

A Trip To The Bottom Of The World With Mouse
written and illustrated by Frank Viva
2012 (Toon Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out STEM Friday for more math and science links.

Mouse is not a happy traveler. He is on a ship traveling to Antarctica with his owner, a young boy, and all he can think about is going home. The waves make it hard to do anything. The cold means you have to wears extra layers of clothing. All Mouse can do is ask "Can we go home now?". Off the coast, Mouse's friend sees several species of penguins. Traveling on a dinghy, the boy sees a whale as Mouse announces several different things that whales can do. An unexpected turn takes the duo to a submerged volcano where they can swim in thermal waters. On their way home, Mouse asks a surprising question that doesn't involve going home.

A Trip To The Bottom Of The World With Mouse is a fiction graphic novel on a first grade level that contains a surprising amount of information about Antarctica. Frank Viva based this book on his own travels to the cold continent. I think this book would be a great choice to include in a unit on Antarctica or in a unit on penguins. It also works in the realm of fiction where we read books to find out more about ourselves. Mouse, like many of us, just wants to have the comforts of his surroundings and not to have to face the unknown. We can talk to children about experiences they have had where they were nervous at the beginning only to find out that everything turned out okay. Vivas also includes a few situations where readers can make predictions using their prior knowledge. I appreciate how you have to turn the page before you see the answer of the character. As a teacher, this makes my life easier. The illustrations are engaging which makes this book a trip worth taking for an easy reader.