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."