Sunday, January 24, 2016

On the Way to School - Movie

On the Way to School
A film by Pascal Plisson
Available on Netflix
Rated G; 1 hour and 17 minutes

We often forget how lucky we are to go to school.

This documentary follows the paths to school for four children. In the photo above, you see Samuel from India whose brothers push and pull his wheelchair over two miles every day to arrive at school. Zahira walks 4 hours every Monday in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to spend a week at a boarding school. Jackson and Salome walk 15 kilometers through the wilderness of Kenya. They wake up at 5;30 and work hard to avoid elephants along the way. Carlito rides a horse through the hilly countryside of Patagonia, sometimes on narrow and dangerous paths.

This is not a perfect movie. Jordan Mintzer, in a review from The Hollywood Reporter, points out some flaws. But I think you will still come away inspired by the efforts of these students to obtain an education. I suspect it will also make you reflect on your own experiences with our educational system.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Anchor Charts for Main Idea and Supporting Details

We start working on main idea and supporting details next week, so I have gathered some anchor charts that are popular on Pinterest. Check out my Pinterest board, Main Idea and Supporting Details, for some TPT freebies that are out there.

The Lemonade Stand

Life in First Grade

Crafting Connections

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle

The Red Bicycle
written by Jude Isabella; illustrated by Simone Shin
2015 (Kids Can Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

But there is no hint that a girl pedaled along dirt roads carting goods to market or that a boy once whipped around a small North American town on the red bicycle.

Leo has been working for two years to save enough money to buy a bicycle. He buys Big Red and takes it everywhere. When he grows taller, Leo realizes that he will have to part with Big Red. At the same bike shop where he made his initial purchase, Leo finds a place to donate his beloved two-wheeler. A group is giving bicycles to families in Burkina Faso. When Big Red arrives in Africa, the bike is adored by Alisetta. She learns to ride it right away and puts the bike to use. Having this bicycle allows Alisetta to go early in the morning and chase the birds away from her family's sorghum plot. Now they produce more than ever and have more money. Alisetta can also ride Big Red to village markets and sell items that she and her grandmother have made. One day, Alisetta goes to the city to purchase a new bike with money she has made. When she arrives back home with a new green bike, she finds out that Big Red has been damaged. Fortunately, Alisetta meets Boukary who is looking for bikes to use at his medical clinic. Boukary fixes up Big Red who is turned into an ambulance. Big Red's days of service continue.

I appreciate being able to share picture and chapter books that are set in Africa. It allows my students to see a part of the world that is unfamiliar to most of them. I also welcome books that show children being industrious. Leo and Alisetta are children who work hard to earn money and seek to pass on their good fortune to others. That's a great lesson for young children and one I could have used. I see reading The Red Bicycle for a unit on economics or one on kindness. It will give your class a perspective on how important bicycles are to many cultures around the world.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How the Sun Got to Coco's House

How the Sun Got to Coco's House
written and illustrated by Bob Graham
2015 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

It had to start somewhere. While Coco slept far away, the sun crept up slowly behind a hill, paused for a moment, and seemed to think twice...

On its way to Coco's house, the sun crosses the Arctic and makes shadows in the snow for young Jung Su. Soaring over a yurt in perhaps Mongolia, a child in a plane gazes out the window to view it. The sun continues to press on, crossing a city in Asia and waking animals in the countryside. It moves over the desert and pushes the night out of many countries. After taking a look at itself in some city towers, the sun breaks into Coco's house through her window. It joins her family for breakfast and spends the rest of the day with Coco.

Bob Graham gets it. He knows that children find wonder in what adults consider mundane. We're dulled to the joy of the sun rising, too besotted with the day that lies ahead. The last time I seriously considered a sunrise, I was blinded through my hotel window at 4:30 in the morning in Copenhagen. Read this book to a group of kids and they will recall different times in their lives where the sun made an impression on them. This would be a terrific text for a lesson on the earth's rotation. It's also an excellent lesson for wanna-be writers like myself who seek to capture what children find interesting. Bob Graham is a role model for such aspiring authors. Check out How to Heal a Broken Wing and Vanilla Ice Cream to learn more.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Max the Brave

Max the Brave
written and illustrated by Ed Vere
2015 (Sourcebooks)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Max does not like being dressed up with bows.

Max doesn't think of himself as a cute kitten even though he fits the bill. He's courageous and ready to take on the mice of the world. The problem is, he doesn't know what one looks like. Once he finds out, he'll be ready to do battle. Max finds a tin can and asks a fly if he is a mouse. No, replies the fly but he mentions that Mouse was there a moment ago. Max has similar encounters with a fish, a group of birds, and an elephant. Finally, Max meets Mouse. But being a clever creature, Mouse declare himself to be Monster and points to a place where Mouse might be scurrying. When Max meets "Mouse", he looks much larger than expected and he's asleep. When Mouse's mouth opens, his teeth look really big. Falling into "Mouse's" mouth creates a bit of a problem for heroic Max.

Max the Brave is a really good book to explore the meaning of bravery. I think primary age students would take this topic and run with it. The great thing about Max is that you can approach the subject in a humorous way as opposed to the traditional "let's read some books about some really brave people." This opens the door to thinking about bravery in different ways. Plus, you can't beat a black cat wearing a cape on the cover of the book.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Where's Walrus? and Penguin?

Where's Walrus? and Penguin?
by Stephen Savage
2015 (Scholastic Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

I like it when a book makes me look stupid. This being my first experience with Walrus and Penguin, I had it all figured out. A walrus and a penguin escape from the zoo. What I thought followed was a series of settings where a hopelessly baffled zookeeper can't see the walrus and penguin. Walrus ties on a kerchief and looks like an elderly grandmother cradling a grandchild on the subway. Switching to a brown chapeau, Walrus sits on a park bench and feeds the birds including a curious looking black and white flightless fowl among the pigeons. At this point, I'm thinking "Oh, this is a cute Where's Waldo type book." As my favorite cynic Bugs Bunny would say, then the book takes a left turn at Albuquerque on me. A plot appears with twists and turns. Walrus is hiding out on the infield of a baseball game when he takes a fly ball to the noggin. The kind zookeeper and Penguin escort Walrus to the hospital. A walrus nurse dotes on Walrus and he falls whiskers over flippers for her. The final surprise shows up on the ending page.

This book will be a popular addition to your wordless collection. It is clever, clever, clever. I would use it for a cause and effect lesson with older students in addition to a fun read aloud. Preschool and kindergarten students will be engaged and open to prediction questions. You will enjoy this meeting of Arctic and Antarctic animals.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bernice Gets Carried Away

Bernice Gets Carried Away
written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison
2015 (Dial Books for Young Readers)
Source: Orange County Public Library

It was a horrible, dreary day, and it suited Bernice's mood just fine.

You would think going to a party would be fun, but not for Bernice. No frosting rose on her piece of cake. A soda, not of her choice and warm. Pinata smashed before she got a swing and all to show from that biggest of party favors is a stepped on gumdrop. The party was the pits for this fractured feline. But one chance for gala glory remains. When she saw the balloons, Bernice went for it. Not one, not two, not three. She grabbed them all. Being a small tyke grabbing a whole bunch of helium, Bernice gets a new point of view on the party and her getting smaller by the minute party problems. She floats by a cranky squirrel and a bluebird with an empty nest. Settling underneath a black cloud also having a bad day, Bernice gains a fresh perspective and sets about solving her high flying predicament.

I'm a sucker for a book with a hands-on-her-hips kitten on the cover. This is a sweet book with a pretty good message for primary age students (and their teachers): Don't sweat the small stuff. I would read Bernice at the beginning of the year when you are setting expectations. If you are studying states of matter, you can read this as part of a picture book unit on balloons (A Balloon for Isabel and Balloons Over Broadway are two possibilities). No bubbles burst here. This book rises above the norm.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


written by Katrina McKelvey; illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan
2015 (EK Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

As we watch the little parachutes, we wonder where they go. 

I used to hate dandelions. They were a blight on a lawn of lush, green grass. Dandelions were the pimples of lawn care. The problem was that came from the point of view of a crotchety- getting older by the minute-too worried what the neighbors think-man. Change the point of view to a young child. You get a completely different take on dandelions. Now they are cool flotation devices that inspire your imagination. The charming new book Dandelions gently nudges old geezers like me aside and shows a fresh perspective on these natural toys. In the book, a young girl is upset with her father because he has mowed all the dandelions down to a nub. Dad doesn't understand that they're not weeds, but instead "yellow like the sun, and magical." Fortunately, being a good dad, he finds a patch of dandelions undisturbed near a corner of the porch. Like me, he probably owns a string weed trimmer that is way more trouble than it's worth and therefore leaves little patches of lawn loveliness to thrive. The dandelion duo take deep breaths and blow nature's parachutes up into the sky. They imagine them flying over the park, down to the river, and out of town where they interact with hot air balloons.

Dandelions would be a great book to use for teaching point of view. Discussions can center around how children sometimes see things differently than adults. You will also have differing opinions on the plant itself. You can also use this book for science class. Several trees are named on the path of the parachutes and Dad gives a great explanation of what happens to the petals after they land. Dandelions is a delightful tribute not only to the magic of imagination but also the love between parent and child.