Monday, December 30, 2013

Easy Way To Get Whiteboards For Your Classroom

Lowe's Home Improvement stores sell 4 x 8 feet sheets of a thin board that can be used for whiteboards in a classroom. They will cut the boards to whatever size you would like. Each sheet costs about $14. I have used this for my classroom and went back today to help my wife's classroom. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Fly Guy Presents Space

Fly Guy Presents: Space
written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
2013 (Scholastic)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday for more links.

Buzz and his pet Fly Guy have wandered into the realm of nonfiction. The two buddies visit a space museum and find a treasure trove of facts. They start big with a definition of the universe. This leads to a mention of the 8 planets (Pluto, we miss you!) and a quick fact about space probe Voyager 2. An explanation of gravity and how the sun pulls the planets is the next stop on the museum tour. Other subjects explored include smaller objects in space including meteoroids, astronauts, and spacecraft.

Since this is a book for early readers, you are going to get a lot of facts and not much depth. I think this is the right way to go for this age. Another plus is the use of a well known character like Fly Guy to pull more readers into nonfiction. Fly Guy Presents: Space isn't a book that you would use for a mentor text, but that's okay. Its purpose in my classroom would be to act as an alternative to the vast majority of fiction books for early readers. Put it in a kid's reading basket and be prepared to share!

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Wow, it's been a few months since I've been able to contribute to this meme. Teaching in a classroom knocks you off your feet and it takes a while to get back up again. Here's what's happening at NC Teacher Stuff:

Last Week:

This is a nifty iPad app for young readers. It tells the story of a ladybug trying to prepare for winter. She eats aphids (great sound on this app!) and escapes from an ant, a mouse, and a wren. 

Pete and Gabby are bored in their lonely campground setting, so they venture into town and see a nice red school building. Looking at the cover, you can tell what happens next. This book has been loved by a second grade and a kindergarten class. Highly recommended. 

Do you know what an aquaskipper does or how much it sells for on Amazon? Check out this book for this strange vehicle and many others. 

This Week:

If you don't know about the Lulu series, find out now. These are excellent early reader chapter books. This third installment is every bit as charming as the first two books. 

I'm a fan of James L. Swanson's YA books. My oldest daughter has recommended this one to me. I really enjoyed his previous Chasing Lincoln's Killer and look forward to reading this. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Ladybug at Orchard Avenue

Ladybug at Orchard Avenue
written by Kathleen W. Zoehfeld; illustrated by Thomas Buchs
2013 (Oceanhouse Media)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday for more links.

On the leaf of a cherry tree, a ladybug is on the lookout for food. An autumn wind blows the leaf back and forth, forcing her to stick to the leaf with her claws and pads. As the ladybug approaches an aphid, something else sees her as a meal. An ant clamps down on her forewings. Before the ant can get another bite, the ladybug makes her escape down the cherry tree. Having left the ant behind, our heroine must continue looking for food and storing fat for the cold times ahead. Searching for more food on a rose stem, a wren takes a long look at the ladybug before deciding that better tasting food can be found elsewhere. The coloring on the ladybug tells the bird that this is not the menu item she desires. Later, playing dead around a mouse pays off. It also doesn't hurt when you can ooze a stinky fluid to aid your escape. I wonder how that would work to leave suddenly awkward conversations. Having filled herself for winter, the ladybug lands on a windowsill and seeks a place to stay. Not having a standing reservation, she finds a crack in the window frame and crawls in. Sleep will soon arrive and when spring comes, there won't be a bill for her stay!

Ladybug at Orchard Avenue is a narrative that brings young readers into the daily trials of a ladybug. They're cute insects, but their lives are also full of hard work and ever present danger. I like the presentation in this format in that readers are drawn into the story and continue to read to make sure the ladybug survives. It's a good way to present informational text and connect with young readers who may need to be scaffolded into nonfiction. Not everyone can handle a ton of facts so this is a good way to ease readers into the world of information. The back matter presents several more facts to further teach readers about ladybugs.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pete and Gabby: The Bears Go to School

Pete and Gabby: The Bears Go to School
written by Kay Winters; illustrated by Katherine Kirkland
2013 (Albert Whitman)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Pete and Gabby are two bears who love to explore. They have a nose for adventure and trouble. Bored with an empty campground, these curious cubs head to town and come upon a red building where kids are entering. After saluting the flag outside the school, Pete and Gabby wander into the music room. Percussion is their instrument of choice and they play with drums, cymbals, and tambourines. The art room is the next stop with paw painting on the walls. Even harder to resist is a climbing wall in the gym. Gabby climbs one rung higher than Pete. All of these subjects are fun for these unkempt ursines, but by far their favorite school item is the salad bar in the cafeteria. Vegetables and salad bowls go crashing to the floor. It's this last bit of fun that gets the park ranger and other officials racing to the school. The day of fun ends with a backseat ride in a police car complete with a siren and flashing light.

Pete and Gabby are two lovable characters that connect with young readers. My students really enjoyed this book and the previous chapter book featuring these two characters. Lessons on problem/solution and character traits could be developed for this story. Your students will enjoy the hijinks of Pete and Gabby.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Bizarre Vehicles

Bizarre Vehicles
written by Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy
2013 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Orange County Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday for more links.

The name of my childhood dentist was Dr. Sunshine. No kidding. His calling card was a three wheeled yellow vehicle. I'm also old enough to have grown up in the James Bond era where cars drove out of the water like submarines on wheels. So it's no surprise that I'm intrigued by Bizarre Vehicles. Thirteen different modes of transportation are presented in this eye-catching title. Some travel through the air, while others go in the water or stay on the ground in unique ways. For example, zorbing is a way to roll from point A to point B. A zorb is a ball inside a ball. You climb into the sphere and become hamster like. If that is not enough of an adrenaline rush, you can try hydrozorbing where water is pumped inside the ball and you can float in water instead of being strapped to a harness. Not interested in rolling? Maybe you want to hover in the air above your friends. If so, try the Moller Neuera. You can go about 10 feet in the air and fly your way to your destination. The height is low enough to avoid airspace and filing flight plans. Do a little investigating and you'll find an interesting history to this vehicle. If you find water to be more your speed, try the aquaskipper.

Bizarre Vehicles is a fun read that can stir your imagination. Some spin-off activities include having students create their own dream vehicle and writing about how it could be used. If you are studying length measurement, there are plenty of those in this book. Students could measure height, width, and/or length to match the measurements in the book and give classmates a sense of the size of these vehicles. I would start off with the Kerala Snake Boat which can easily hold over 50 people. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Hour of Code: Angry Birds Tutorial

My class spent an hour writing computer code today as part of the Hour of Code project. This week is Computer Science Education Week and this effort is meant to encourage students to become interested in learning how to write computer code and perhaps pursue a career in coding.

We had a lot of fun doing this. This was one of those great projects where you have students, who don't usually shine, take the lead and help others. Try out the Angry Birds tutorial at this address:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Great Biography Project Idea

My daughter's class recently completed a biography project. Students wrote a letter to the United States Postal Service campaigning for a particular historical figure to be honored with a stamp. Here is the initial paragraph from the Scholastic lesson that inspired this project:

Have you ever wondered about how the United States Postal Service gets ideas for new stamp designs? They actually take suggestions from regular citizens . . . like you! Using the USPS Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee as our authentic audience, I combined biography research, persuasive writing, and visual art to create my students’ favorite biography project yet. Read on for a ready-to-go three-step writing project that will also brighten up your bulletin boards.

Here is the link to the lesson:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Becoming Ben Franklin

Becoming Ben Franklin
written by Russell Freedman
2013 (Holiday House)
Source: Mebane Public Library

Check out all of the new links at Nonfiction Monday.

He snatched lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants.
- French statesman Jacques Turgot

If you are looking for a thorough and entertaining biography of Ben Franklin, then you should read Russell Freedman's Becoming Ben Franklin. For readers of previous Franklin biographies, Freedman covers familiar and not so familiar territory. For example, I was not aware that Franklin's oldest son was born not to his wife Deborah but to a woman that he never identified or that one of his beloved nicknames was "Dr. Fatsides." After reading this book, you come away with a greater appreciation of Benjamin Franklin's combination of intellect and common sense. In late 1764, Franklin returned to England to represent Pennsylvania's interests. Parliament sought out his opinion on the enacting of the Stamp Act. He told them this act "would create a deep-seated aversion between the two countries, laying the foundations of a future total separation." That's an insight of the kind that Nostradamus wished he could have had. Franklin and others helped to persuade Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act. The king and his ministers (could you insert minions here?) managed to convince the assembly to later pass the Townshend Acts which imposed taxes on several items. Once again, Ben Franklin's crystal ball was on target. He warned that these acts would serve "to convert millions of ...loyal subjects into rebels for the sake of establishing a newly claimed power in Parliament to tax a distant people."

Reading Becoming Ben Franklin will leave readers even more impressed with this historical figure. Make sure you read the end of the book to learn about Franklin's efforts to end slavery. You should also take note of Russell Freedman's source notes and bibliography. As Dire Straits once said in the song Money for Nothing, "That's the way you do it."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

High Frequency Word Lists - Spelling City

I have created high frequency word lists on my Spelling City site. List 1 is a list of kindergarten words. Lists 2A and 2B are for first grade. Lists 3A, 3B, 3C, and 3D are for second grade. Students can play games and practice spelling these words. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mapping the Nation - Social Studies Resource

Mapping the Nation looks like a valuable resource for teachers and students who want to use different types of data for research. It's an interactive map that puts together "demographic, economic, and education indicators."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Deadly!

Deadly: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth
written by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Neal Layton
2012 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Orange County Library

Nonfiction Monday is here! Leave your link below and join the fun.

Stabbing and strangling, poisoning and drowning, electrocuting, exploding, dive-bombing, and even death by gluing!

What a great hook! How could a nonfiction fan stop after that lead sentence? Each section of this deadly and drolly animated book focuses on a different way that animals can meet their doom. The first segment is on killer cats. A great diagram with labels shows the various parts of a cat that contribute to its ability to hunt. Another illustration shows a lion, with a chalkboard, coaching fellow lions through the steps of capturing a zebra. Nicola Davies doesn't hold back with the text either. She compares the bite of a lion to a staple gun clamping off a prey's mouth and nose. This book is probably not for the sensitive type. Another gruesome trick may be pulled off by orca whales. They are thought to flip sharks upside down or hold them still to keep them from breathing. Hard to believe there is an animal, other than humans, that bullies sharks! Perhaps my favorite part of the book is on the second two page spread. There are ten animals featured in a trading card format. I would have a hard time deciding between the rookie cards of the carpenter ant, which explodes and covers its enemies in glue, and the bombardier beetle which sprays boiling toxic liquid out of its rear end.

Deadly! is a book for the kid that loves animal facts and is not squeamish. I'm finding this crowd to be bigger each year I teach. Below the surface gruesomeness, there are some really smart things going on in the text. For example, Davies compares wolves and orca whales in the way that they hunt in packs. That is the kind of thinking that we want our students to do. Students will also be attracted to the humor in Neal Layton's illustrations. My third grade daughter was sufficiently amused by this book.

Fossil Book Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Julie Maloney! She is the winner of our book giveaway. Thanks to everyone who visited and commented!

Friday, November 15, 2013

STEM Friday: Hydroponic Garden

Epic Gardening, a site created by Kevin Espiritu, has a lesson for kids about hydroponic gardening. This is a pretty cool lesson. It's also a good opportunity to work on procedural text which involves reading directions. You can download the PDF for free. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Measuring Penny - Craft Activity

Measuring Penny is a delightful book by Loreen Leedy. In the book, a girl measures her dog and other dogs as she learns about different types of measurement. This activity, from Primary Junction, is very cute. Students use templates to cut out the parts of the dog. Then they can measure the dog's height and width using standard and nonstandard measurements. I created a different data sheet so students could measure in inches and centimeters. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fossil by Bill Thomson

illustrated by Bill Thomson
2013 (Two Lions)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

*** Leave a comment in the comments section and you will be eligible to win a copy of Fossil! I'll announce the winner by Saturday, 11/17.

A boy wearing a baseball cap walks along a shoreline. His dog sniffs out a rock and he picks it up. Something interesting is on the underside of the rock. Tripping over a limb, the boy accidentally throws the rock in the air. The rock lands on a larger rock and breaks apart. What is revealed is an imprint of a fern from long ago. In front of the boy's eyes, an actual fern appears. His dog sniffs out another rock. The boy breaks open this rock and sees the imprint of a dragonfly. Suddenly, he is buzzed by a dragonfly. His dog gives chase and this leads to an even larger rock. With his curiosity at an all time high, why wouldn't the boy open this rock too? Third time is a charm, right? In this case, it's trouble. The fossil is of a claw that belongs to a pteranodon. As the prehistoric creature tracks the boy, the dog decides to hop on its back for a ride. Now the boy has to figure out how to get his dog back and get rid of the pteranodon.

Chalk, Bill Thomson's 2010 wordless treasure, is one of my favorite books that I have blogged about during the 4 year history of NC Teacher Stuff. Many other bloggers had a similar affection for the book, so the pressure was on for Thomson with this second book in a planned wordless trilogy. Fossil does not disappoint. The illustrations are magnificent. They are not computer generated, but hand drawn. You can check out several of them right here. I recently finished a unit in my classroom on how to use illustrations to draw meaning from the text. Fossil would be a great mentor text in this regard. Wordless texts also make the reader think a little differently, which is a good thing. Students have to work harder to gain meaning since they can't use words. Other ideas on how to use Fossil are available in a classroom guide and a kid's activity guide.

If you want a good lesson on how writers come up with story ideas, check out Bill's blog post about the inspiration for Fossil. See the video below for a cute review by several kids.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Oh Say Can You Seed? iPad app

Oh Say Can You Seed?
written by Bonnie Worth
2013 (Oceanhouse Media)
Source: Review copy provided the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Wrapped In Foil

The Cat in the Hat meets Dick and Sally by a giant gum tree. He wants to teach them about how plants start as seeds. First, he explains that plants are used to produce many items such as clothing, food, medicine, and paper. Next, he uses the bean seed to show his two friends how plants begin. Three charts featuring the embryo, the cotyledon (provides food for the embryo), and the seed coat. Yes, the word cotyledon is used. With the Read to Me feature, this Cat does not talk down to learners but lifts them up to higher learning levels. After watering the seed, the trio explores the shoot system of a plant by going underground to view the roots. They learn what the roots do and how they benefit a plant. The stem and leaves get the same detailed treatment. Photosynthesis is one of the processes explored in this part of the book. The Cat starts with how leaves take in carbon dioxide through a stoma. A great diagram with labels shows how sunlight and water combine with the air to create food and produce oxygen. Thing Two displays another detailed diagram that shows how pollen helps produce seeds. If you are using this app with young learners, you will have to guide them through this part because it is pretty high level information involving fertilization. This tour of plants ends with a discussion of how seeds can travel. Bur and dandelion seeds are featured. The Cat leaves the scene by exiting on a giant beanstalk.

Like other apps in The Cat in the Hat Learning Library, you are receiving a thorough treatment of the subject. I'm really impressed by the detailed lesson in this app. It's not something that you should just hand to a young reader for independent use. They will need some help with the concepts. You could hand it to a struggling middle school reader who needs to know about photosynthesis and plant fertilization. I would recommend a headset and privacy so they don't feel stigmatized. This is a terrific app you could use for a unit on plants.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon

Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon
written by Marty Crump
2010 (Boyds Mills Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Apples With Many Seeds

One of the baddest animals on the planet is the Komodo dragon. It can weigh over 200 pounds and can grow to over 10 feet. In the wild, you will find Komodo dragons on five Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Marty Crump documents the efforts, over the last several decades, to study Komodo dragons and save them from extinction. In 1969, Dr. Walter Auffenberg proposed to his family of five that they move to Komodo Island so they could study this unique animal. While most families at that time would have opted for catching an episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom instead, the Auffenbergs took up the task with enthusiam. With the help of his oldest son Kurt and aide Putra Sastrawan, Dr. Auffenberg trapped dragons and tagged them to study their roaming and eating habits. He learned about the deadly bacteria contained in the saliva of the dragon which infected animals who died from the bite. Since the dragons could smell dead animals from 7 miles out, they could find the carcass and have dinner. Fast forward over 20 years later and Terry Fredeking, a president of a biotechnology company, decides to study the Komodo dragon to find out if the dragon had a substance that protected them from their own bacteria. If such substance could be found, it could be used in antibiotics.

There are some surprising twists in this book including the playfulness of some Komodo dragons. Older students who are studying animals will enjoy reading the information collected by the author. The process used by these scientists is also a good example for students to follow as well. If you have a grade 3-5 reader who likes to read about carnivorous animals, this would be a good book to recommend.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Character Traits Poster

This is a cute poster that my colleague Paula Patterson created. We can add Post-Its as we continue to learn about character.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Anne Frank

Anne Frank
written by Alexandra Zapruder
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Booktalking

Our world is not perfect. But we do not stop trying. We study the past to learn from our mistakes. We remember those who were killed in the Holocaust. And we work to make the world better and safer for all of us. 

Those words end this informative biography of Anne Frank's tragic life. Author Alexandra Zapruder starts the book with this paragraph:

Can you imagine being punished just for being who you are? Or because you look, think, or feel differently from those around you?

In between these two paragraphs is the story of a young girl who started writing a diary to help her deal with the brutality of the Nazi regime that terrorized Europe and beyond in the 20th century. Most, if not all, of you that read this already are familiar with Anne Frank's life and the diary that she kept while in hiding. So what suggests this particular retelling of her life? The story of Anne Frank, and the background knowledge needed to understand her situation, is told in a straightforward and simple text while still being extremely informative. That is a difficult task for an author. The reason this is valuable is that it makes reading about Anne Frank's life and the Holocaust accessible to students who are struggling readers in middle or high school. With the help of the insightful photographs and text features that you expect from a National Geographic book, readers who are reluctant to read about history would be more inclined to read this book as opposed to a dry textbook. Readers will understand why this is a horrible chapter in history that needs to be remembered. It also challenges us to do what we can to prevent people from being unfairly treated. One extra feature near the end of the book that provided new information for me was the inclusion of six other European young authors who also kept diaries of their experiences during World War II.

Anne Frank could be decoded by a student reading on a third grade level, but I wouldn't recommend handing it to a third grader to read independently. There are some pretty heady concepts working here that need added maturity for the reader to begin to grasp the information properly. I think it is a great text to give to a student in middle or high school who needs to read nonfiction and learn to use text features or read a biography.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Piggie Pie Craft

My colleague, Lisa Irby, teaches kindergarten and has many cool ideas. I saw this in the hallway yesterday and had to take a picture. My phone photo is not the greatest, but you can see that Piggie Pie is the inspiration for this craft. What I think is particularly cool about this craft is the geometry involved. Rectangles and circles abound. Check out the lace on the shoes! Below the construction paper is a recipe for Piggie Pie written by her class. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Meerkats

written by Laura Marsh
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Abby the Librarian

Q: How does a meerkat stop the DVD from playing?
A: It presses the PAWS button.

Meerkat jokes are one of the features you will find in this engaging informational text. The book starts with perhaps one of the cutest title pages you will ever see. One meerkat is sitting and staring into the distance while another one is standing with his arm around his friend. An introductory chapter teaches young readers that meerkats are part of the mongoose family and live in the deserts of Africa and Asia. The text could be handled by a late first grade or beginning second grade reader without too much trouble. Later chapters include information about habitats and preferred foods. Perhaps the distinguishing feature of meerkats is their dependence on their family or mob. Every member has a job. While part of the group is out hunting, others stay back and babysit. Some meerkats take to the high ground and stand guard in order to watch out for predators. A loud peeping sound is the alert to find a safe spot from predators. Other jobs include teaching and being a feeder. Meerkats pitch in and work together to survive.

Readers will enjoy the photographs of meerkats and learning about this interesting animal.  I like the simplicity of the text and the extra features like vocabulary words and jokes. This is the kind of book that can serve as a mentor text when my second graders start writing informational text. Be sure to investigate the National Geographic Kids feature on meerkats. You will find more facts and video to serve as an extra resource.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Perimeter and Area Animals

Check out this cool activity from a Bulgarian website, There is a printable PDF to help create these critters. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Telling Time Project

I printed a sheet of nine blank clock faces. I gave each student a stack of white copy paper. On each sheet of white paper, a clock face is glued to the top and clock hands are written on the face. Underneath the clock face, students will write two sentences telling what they would do at that time. Finally, they can add an illustration underneath the sentences. Not fancy, but a fun way to work on telling time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Here I Am

Here I Am
story by Patti Kim; pictures by Sonia Sanchez
2013 (Capstone Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Perogies & Gyoza

In this new wordless book, a young boy and his family move from Asia to a large American city. He stares out the airplane window with a forlorn face. The signs in the airport are just a jumble of letters with no meaning for him. This new place is terribly noisy and busy. His only release is a red seed, from his homeland, that he keeps in his pocket. It reminds him of his old home and its sights and sounds. He goes to school and nothing makes sense. It's all gibberish to him. Much time is spent looking out windows and feeling sorry about his situation. One day, while sitting again at the window, he sees a young girl jumping rope on the sidewalk. He drops his valuable red seed on the girl's head. She picks it up and goes on her way. The boy is forced to leave his apartment and track down the girl. In the process of finding her, he discovers that this new place may not be so bad after all.

This is one of the best books that I have read this year. Here I Am captures the experience of moving to a new country with such heart and warmth, but it is not cloyingly sweet. The illustrations brilliantly show you the cacophony of a new town when you don't know the language and the main character's initial despondency. I will be using this book with two small groups tomorrow to show how we can use illustrations to infer a character's mood. I have students who struggle with learning English, so Here I Am will serve as a welcome connection. Be sure to read the letter in the back of the book from author Patti Kim. It's a hopeful note for students who may be in a similar situation as she was when she was 4 years old and coming to a new country.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Great post about Accelerated Reader

Photo courtesy of the San Jose Library

Myra at the Gathering Books blog has posted an exceptional essay about Accelerated Reader and her questions about this approach to motivating students to read. If you work in a school using AR, you should read this. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Beginning, Middle, and End Poster on Pinterest

This is a terrific chart for teaching students about beginning, middle, and end. That would be RL 2.5 in Common Core language. I made a copy of this and have posted it in my room. We're reading Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse this week to work on this skill. I also read the beginnings of Grace for President and Anna Hibiscus to show what you will find in the beginning of story. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Two Creepy Titles from National Geographic

That's Creepy
written by Crispin Boyer
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Shelf-Employed

Time to get your creepy on, folks. That's Creepy will provide you with the real life back story of several infamous creeps. The book starts with vampires. My favorite section is titled Original Fangsters. On this page, you learn about two predecessors of Vlad Dracula (aka Vlad the Impaler). Lilith was a Sumerian monster from around 2000 B.C. that preyed upon its victims at night. Lamia was a snake-tailed former girlfriend of Zeus who drank the blood of victims until they perished. I didn't realize these tales had such early origins. There are seven other chapters in this book with subjects like werewolves, unicorns, UFOs, ghosts, and hoaxes. Special Agent Jeeper of the CIA (Creepy Intelligence Agency) will periodically show up to cry "bogus" when a tale lacks reason. Ethel the E.T. is an alien that will share more disturbing facts. This is a book for those students who like the macabre. It's full of historical facts which might attract a student who normally isn't that interested in doing research. I would stick to students in middle grades or above since the subject matter can get pretty gruesome.

Weird but True! 2013
written by Cheryl Harness
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

300 facts abound in this fun book that will keep the attention of nonfiction fans. Starting off the weirdness is the fact that tomatoes were considered poisonous until the 1800s. Other weird happenings:
  • Bull leaping is an actual sport. Somersaults over the backs of young bulls. Alert ESPN. 
  • Tsar Peter the Great was an amateur dentist. I'll pass on that dental plan!
  • An ancient Roman wedding tradition was for the groom to smash a barley cake over the bride's head. Very romantic.
  • Hannibal would launch pots of poisonous snakes at enemy ships. I would prefer snacks. 
I like the format of this book in that you could easily duplicate it with your students. It would be fun to create an animal "weird facts" book in Writer's Workshop for example. Weird but True will be a popular title with your students. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Telling Time to the Nearest Hour Game

Here is a new game that I invented today. If someone else has already invented this, my apologies to you and email me so I can give you credit. I call this game "The Nearest Hour". Sounds ominous, but it's actually pretty tame. Here are the rules and materials needed:

Materials Needed
One clock face
A piece of paper and a pencil
Two dice or number cubes
Two or more players eager to have understated fun

1. Each player will write down the numbers 1-12 on a piece of paper. 
2. Players will show each other 1 o'clock on their clock face and mark out the number 1 on their paper. This is done at the beginning since you can't roll a 1 with two dice.
3. Players take turns rolling two number cubes. The player will add the sum of the two dice and show the corresponding time on their clock face. Then, the player will mark that number off their list. 
4. The player who marks all of their numbers off their list first will win the game. 
Alternative rule: Players will mark numbers off one list and the player who marks off the last number wins the game. 


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: The Cart That Carried Martin

The Cart That Carried Martin
written by Eve Bunting; illustrated by Don Tate
2013 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
*Available November 2013

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Stacking Books

This is the humble cart that, not so long ago, carried greatness.

As written in this new book, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted an ordinary funeral. A borrowed cart pulled by two mules carried his body as thousands watched it go by on the streets of Atlanta. The mules also carried the symbolism of the promise of forty acres and a mule when slaves were freed in the 19th century. Crowds either watched in silence or sang in hymns. Two services were held that day, one at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the second at Morehouse College. Thousands paid their respect as the cart slowly rolled by. Mirroring the simplicity of the funeral, The Cart That Carried Martin is a simple text, but that doesn't mean it lacks in emotional power. A somber but hopeful mood runs throughout. People are grieving, but they are also determined to carry Dr. King's message forward. As the coffin is placed in a hearse, someone asks "Is it over?" The reply comes back, "It will never be over. What he stands for lives on." After the funeral, the mules return to their farm, the cart is returned to the antique store, but the message lives on. With their words and watercolor illustrations, Eve Bunting and Don Tate paint a sad, but ultimately optimistic portrait of an historic event.

I appreciate that this text is accessible to young readers. That's not an easy task to complete, but Bunting's text is simple yet very effective. In addition to using this book to teach readers about Dr. King, I think it would also be a great text for teaching small moments. Eve Bunting stretches out moments and appeals to your sense of sight and hearing. You could also use this text to teach about symbols, as the cart carries great symbolism.