Category Archives: Lesson Ideas

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? “How To” Books for “How To” Writing

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Sometimes the discovery of a new book leads me to making many connections to other books and that sparks me to want to make a new blog post!  Such is the case for this week’s post – focusing on books written as “How To’s”, inspired by the new book The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog by Paul B. Janeczko.

One of the tendencies for students writing instructions is including too many words:  “First, you have to ….”  When teaching “How To” Writing – I tell students to follow the S.A.D. FormulaSequence word, Action word, Detail.  For example, First, (sequence word) squeeze (action word) a little toothpaste on the bristles (detail).  If you don’t follow the S.A.D. formula, your reader will be SAD because they won’t know what to do!

While it is important to learn how to write realistic “how to’s”, I also love to invite students to add a little creativity and imagination to their instructional writing.  The following are books to inspire creative “How To” writing.

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The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog Paul B. Janeczko

This delightful collection of “How To” poems, from practical (how to mix a pancake or how to bird-watch) or fanciful (how to scare monsters or how to be a snowflake) are written by a collection of amazing writers including Kwame Alexander, Ralph Fletcher, Karla Kushkin, and Douglas Florian.   There is creativity, gratitude, and joy in these poems and the soft, watercolor illustrations make it delightful to look at.  Love this brand new book!

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How to Give Your Cat a Bath: In Five Easy Steps Nicola Winstanley

Laugh out loud, hilarious new “how to” book features a little girl, a know-it-all narrator, and a cat who refuses to take a bath.  This book will have your students cracking up and would inspire a lot of funny “how to’s” in your class!

How To Be – Lisa Brown

I LOVE this charming book and have used it as an anchor book for many writing lessons.  Simple instructions on how to be various animals, written in a clear “how to” format.  Added clever bonus is that it doubles as instructions on how to be a person – brave, clever, friendly, curious, and charming.  Delightful illustrations.

Writing Idea – students write about an animal they researched in a “how to” instructions format.  Include diet, habitat, behavior, special skills, enemies and a human character trait.

Live___________,  Eat____________,  Catch _________________,  Fly______________, Swim_______________, Beware___________, Be _________________  and _______________________

How to lose your friends

How To Lose All Your Friends – Nancy Carlson

Hilarious tongue-in-cheek “how to” guide to loosing your friends.  Lots of connections to the child-like behaviors Carlson describes:”Be a bad sport – When someone touches you playing tag, lie and say they missed” (LOL!)  This is a great book to use at the beginning of the year.  I like to have the class ‘re-write” the instructions, focusing on positive behaviors –  “How to Keep Your Friends”.

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How to Read a Story – Kate Messner

Step One: Find a story. (A good one.)
Step Two: Find a reading buddy. (Someone nice.)
Step Three: Find a reading spot. (Couches are cozy.)
Now: Begin.

Delightful book to encourage reading and sharing, with the steps on how to read a book to a friend.  Simple but effective reminders to use expression, make predictions and read with feeling.

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle Chris Raschka

A young girl provides step by step instructions to learn to ride a bicycle…complete with some falls and lots of practice and determination…but ultimately with success!
Could be used to discuss determination or to discuss growth mindset.  Signature Chris Raschka watercolor illustrations.

The Astronaut Handbook – Meghan McCarthy

Delightful guide to becoming an astronaut.  Interesting and entertaining, full of fascinating facts and adorable illustrations. (Kids are particularly fascinated by bathroom instructions!)  Back notes provide more detailed information about space life.  Fun read-aloud and great anchor for writing “How To Become” with different occupations.

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Things to Do – Elaine Magliaro

 Things to Do If You Are A Honeybee

    Flit among flowers

    Sip nectar for hours

    Be yellow and fuzzy.

    Stay busy.  Be buzzy. 

I remember being surprised by how much I loved this book when I first read it.  Whimsical  illustrations and gorgeous, rhyming text.  This book is really a collection of poems focusing on the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day, including animals and insects they encounter.  This book is delightful invitation to write!

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Eddie Gets Ready for School David Milgrim

Morning routines are different for everyone, including Eddie!  While Eddie’s check-list says one thing, the illustrations tell a different story!  Fun read aloud and perfect anchor book for younger writers to write their own “How to Get Ready for School” (or hockey practice, swimming lessons, soccer game) instructions.

How to Teach a Slug to Read – Susan Pearson

Clever, witty, delightful, useful and engaging – full of practical advice for teaching slugs (and human kids) to read.  Adorable illustrations and hilarious “sluggish” titles and slug-related stories (think Little Miss Muffet with a slug instead of a spider!)

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How to Make Friends with a Ghost – Rebecca Green

A great book to share at Halloween but with a universal story of friendship and kindness, it could be read anytime.  A whimsical story about ghost care, this story is a perfect combination of offbeat humor, quirky and sweet illustrations, and written in lovely “how to” format.

How to Read a Book – Kwame Alexander

This book will not be released until June, but I’m so excited about it, I just had to include it!  Created by the dream team of extraordinary poet Kwame Alexander and collage-style illustrations of Melissa Sweet –  this ode to reading is a must have for me!  “Once you’re comfy, peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine…Next, put your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and POP the words out.”   Squeeeee, can you stand it?

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found a book that caught your eye!

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Filed under 2019 releases, How To Writing, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Poetry, Read-Aloud, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading! New Books from Kids Can Press!

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

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I am fortunate to receive books every spring and fall to read and review from Kids Can Press, the largest Canadian-owned children’s publisher in the world.   It is like Christmas in my house when these boxes arrive!   This week, I’m excited (and proud!) to highlight some of my favorite new releases from our amazing Canadian authors and illustrators that arrived on my front porch last week!  Please note that many of these titles have not yet been released but most will be available early April and can be pre-ordered.

Toshi's Little Treasures

Toshi’s Little Treasures – Nadine Robert

Sigh.  I love this book.  Love it enough to want to make pajamas out of it and wear it to bed every night.   It is a unique search-and-find informational picture book about a little boy named Toshi and his grandmother. Together, they explore six of their favorite places — the riverbank, the town, the forest, the country, the park and the beach. At each location, Toshi finds treasures to add to his collection.  After you find the treasures with Toshi, there is a matching activity on the next page for Toshi to figure out where the treasures came from. There are SO many teachable moments in this book!   Interactive + thinking = a winner!

The Storm

The Storm – Akiko Miyakoshi

A young boy, excited to go to the beach, is disappointed when a big storm approaches and possibly ruins his plans.  That night, as his parents prepare for the storm, the boy listens to the sound of the rain and dreams an imaginary dream to try to drive the storm away.  This book has minimal text but the story is told mostly through the amazing charcoal drawings, which set the tone of gloominess and fear as the storm approaches.  This would make an excellent read-aloud book for practicing making connections.  

Life Without Nico

Life Without Nico – Andrea Maturana

Simple, poignant story about two best friends having to cope with parting ways when one must move away. Translated from Spanish, originally published in Mexico.  I  like how the book deals with not only the sadness when a friend moves, but how to “fill up the spaces” and what happens when the friend returns.  Lots of emotions here to connect to and charming illustrations.

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure – Andrew Larsen

My dear teacher and blogger friend Carrie Gelson (There’s a Book For That) has a fondness for books that highlight inter-generational relationships so I immediately thought of her when I read this book!  It is an endearing story of a girl and her grandfather doing something special together.  I loved the message that  it is not necessary to leave home for an adventure.  Great mixed-media illustrations.  This book would make a great anchor for writing about adventures with grandparents.

Manners Are Not for Monkeys

Manners are Not For Monkeys – Heather Tekavec

Hilarious story that turns “good” and “bad” manners on it’s head!  Children behaving like monkeys and monkeys behaving like children!  This one will be sure to get a lot of laughs from both the story and the silly illustrations and also be a good discussion starter about manners with the younger ones.

Mr. King's Machine

Mr. King’s Machine – Geneviève Côté

There aren’t many books for younger students that focus on environmental issues in a simple, accessible way.  This is the third book in Geneviève Côté’s wonderful picture book series about a crown-wearing cat who, with a little help from his friends,  learns important environmental lessons.   This book focuses on air pollution and would be a great book to begin a discussion on the environment with early primary students.  The two other books in this series are Mr. King’s Things (impact of pollution and over-consumption) and Mr. King’s Castle (environmental stewardship and reducing your footprint)

Willow's Smile

Willow’s Smile – Lana Button

This book is a perfect book to share with students just before picture day!  (Great connections!)  Willow has a beautiful smile but she is shy and doesn’t always smile when she should.   Lovely message encouraging you to be yourself and about having a good self image.  I have enjoyed the other Willow books, but I think this is my favorite!

Fluffy Strikes Back

Fluffy Strikes Back – Ashley Spires

This is a fun graphic novel about a group of pets, led by Fluffy the cat, who try to rid the world of aliens (bugs).  It is an apparent “spin-off” of s is a spin-off from the  successful Binky series.  This book is filled with dry wit and slapstick tones, (along with the occasional bathroom break!) but with important underlying themes of courage, determination and taking responsibility.   A great graphic novel for early readers.

Feathered – Deborah Kerbel

Wow.  This book caught me by surprise, sucked me in and wouldn’t let go.  Powerful, sad middle-grade novel about an eleven year old girl named Finch who endures the recent death of her father, the depression of her mother, the nasty friend of her brother, the meanest teacher in the school and nasty-girl bullying. When a new family from India moves next door, Finch begins to find a friend and a find a purpose.  This book tackles so many issues facing adolescent girls and would be an excellent book for discussions on loss, bullying, mental health, learning difficulties.  It is powerful, compelling, raw, and you will not be able to stop reading it.  Right up there with The Thing About Jellyfish and Reign Rain.

Thanks for stopping by!  Which Kids Can Press book has caught your eye?

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Filed under 2016 releases, Canadian, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, making connections

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – New Books from Kids Can Press (part 1)

 

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers.

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Last week, I was thrilled to receive a box of new Spring Releases from Canadian children’s book publisher Kids Can Press.  I am on their list for previews.  There are MANY wonderful books that I am excited to share.  This week I will focus on the fiction books, and next week I will share the nonfiction titles.

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Eat, Leo! Eat! – Caroline Adderson

There is a lot to love about this one! Every Sunday, Leo’s large Italian family meet at Nona’s house for a big, noisy meal of her homemade pasta. Leo, who we infer is a bit of a fussy eater, does not want any. So Nona tells him a story about a little boy who is going to see his Nona, but she cleverly weaves the shape of the pasta into the story. As Leo listens to the story, his appetite grows. Each week, Nona tells a story connected to the shape of the pasta. One week stars, one week bow-ties. This book is a celebration of food, family, traditions and pasta! There is a glossary of Italian words at the front, an interesting pasta page at the back and charming illustrations. If you love pasta, family gatherings or anything Italian – this is the book for you! 

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Me, Too!  – Annika Dunklee

There are many books with a similar friendship theme:  what happens to best friends when a new friend comes onto the scene, the feeling of being left out, “three’s a crowd” scenario.   (Think The Worst Best Friend and Chester’s Way) What makes this one unique is the addition theme of international friendship – one of the girls is from Sweden and one is from France.  This book is also adorable – simple text, charming illustration, humor (Annie makes up words so she, too, speaks “another language”).  The author does an excellent job of showing girls how to express themselves in a productive & inclusive way.  Lovely book!

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The Bus Ride – Marianne Dubuc

This sweet book (first published in France) is reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood. This simple story is about a young girl, riding the bus alone for the first time, on her way to visit her grandmother’s house.  Along the ride, passengers including rabbits, a bear, a turtle, a mouse and a very sleepy sloth come and go at each stop.  This is not a book to rush through.  Much of the pleasure of is found in the soft, detailed illustrations.  Subtle things change on each page and children will want time to look closely at the pictures, particularly after the tunnel switches things around.  Pay attention to the newspaper headlines!

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Walk on the Wild Side – Nicholas Oldland

This book is adorable – so much to love about it!   It is the latest in a series of books that feature these loveable characters.  Moose, bear and beaver are all friends who love adventure but sometimes their competitive nature gets in the way of their fun.  The three set off one day to try to hike to the top of a mountain – and things begin to go sideways.  This is a wonderful story about friendship, compromise and working together to reach a goal.  There is humor, colorful illustrations and wonderful messages about working together and about stopping to appreciate the moment.

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My Family Tree and Me –  Dušan Petričić

This unique celebration of family ancestry traces four generations of a young boy. From the front of the book, we trace the family from his father’s side and from the back, you trace the family from the mother’s side. They all come together in the middle of the book to show the boy’s family tree.  A beautiful, simple introduction to the concept of family ancestry and I particularly like the cultural diversity of the boy’s family which shows both European and Asian ancestors. Includes amazing illustrations by the award winning Canadian illustrator (The Boy and the Violin). This book would make a wonderful springboard for having children research and create their own family tree. 

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Jasper John Dooley You’re In Trouble – Caroline Adderson

There is always a need for early chapter books for ages 7-9 that feature boys so I would highly recommend this series to have in your library!  This book is the 4th in a series that features the delightful Jasper John Dooley.  In this book, Jasper accidently choses an energy drink from the vending machine.  He knows it’s bad but he hides the drink and keeps taking sips from it, eventually learns important lessons about making good choices.  I love this book – it’s funny, age-appropriate, realistic characters, short chapters, larger font (I didn’t need my reading glasses!) and cute illustrations.

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                                             The Ghastly McNastys – The Lost Treasure of Little Snoring – Lyn Gardner
Ahoy maties!  If you are 7-10 year old and love a real rip-roaring tale of adventure, filled with nasty pirates, kid heroes, silly humor and jokes about slime, boogers and butts then this is the book for you!  The McNasty pirates are twin brothers, Captain Gruesome and Captain Grisly McNasty who sail in their ship, The Rotten Apple, in search of treasure. This is their first adventure in which they attempt to discover a lost treasure on the Island of Little Snoring.  This book is hilarious, includes great illustrations, some wonderful triple-scoop words and a surprisingly good plot.  While I may not chose this book for literature circles, I can see kids loving this first in a series featuring the Ghastly McNasty brothers!

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The Confabulist – Steven Galloway

For book club this month, we are reading The Confabulist by Canadian author Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo. This book is a fictionalized account of the life of Harry Houdini and the young man, Martin Strauss, who supposedly contributed to Houdini’s sudden death.  Strauss suffers from a memory disorder, called confabulation, in which one produces fabricated and distorted memories about oneself.  The person who experiences this is unaware that they are making up stories so are usually confident that they are speaking the truth.  The book moves from Strauss’s story to Houdini’s story, and much is left for the reader to fill in (lots of inferring!) how the two men’s lives connect.  This book is a mix of historical fiction, mystery, conspiracy theory, secrets behind magic and also about love, loss, truth and identity.  I’m not finished it yet, but so far, I am intrigued.  I love the two voices in the book and especially when the voice of Houdini reveals some of the secrets behind some of his magic tricks.  I’m fascinated by how these two stories are going to come together but will have to keep reading!

Thanks for stopping by!  Please leave me a message to let me know which books have caught your eye!

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, making connections, Multicultural, New Books, Picture Book

Celebration Saturday – Classroom and Christmas celebrations!

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I am happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week(s).

Here are the things I’m celebrating this week…

1) Celebrating completed report cards – This is always a stressful time in a teacher’s life – so it is a huge relief to have those envelopes stuffed and sent home.  I am only in the classroom part time, but teaching partner worked extremely hard on these reports.  Thanks, Katie!

2) Celebrating Pen Pals – This year, my class will be Pen Pal’s with a grade 2 and 3 class at the Country Day School in Toronto.  Despite the length of time it took us to get this organized, we finally got our first introductory letters mailed!  Hoping our letters arrive safely and looking forward to hearing from our Pen Pals!

2) Celebrating writing – I have been working closely with the grade 6’s at my school on writing this term.  It has been so rewarding seeing their growth over the past few months, as they have been applying many of the writing techniques to weekly “practice writes”. This week, our final writing piece was on “My Special Place” – where they wrote a description of a special place that holds many memories for them.  We were focusing on trying to create a visual image for our readers by including the senses.  I used my favorite anchor book for this writing – The Hello-Goodbye Window by Norton Justin – a delightful story of a girl’s special place inside her “nanny and poppy’s” house. I am looking forward to reading their pieces this week!

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3) Celebrating Kindergarten Connecting – I have been teaching the kindergarten students about “making connections” this term.  Each week, I visit the class, share a book and we practice making connections.  I have enjoyed seeing the children respond so well to the books.  Last week. I read “Too Many Toys” by David Shannon and the children made connections to toys that they COULD give away and toys that they absolutely COULD NOT give away!  (love the “Dum” truck!)

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4) Celebrating Christmas –  I LOVE Christmas!  It is, by far, my favorite time of year.  Tis the season to pull out my tubs of decorations and said hello to all my old Christmas friends.  Our tree is not up yet – but it’s sitting in a bucket in our back yard waiting to be decorated!  Shortbread recipes are pulled out and my family’s favorites: toffee squares are in the fridge!

5) Celebrating traditions – Every year, my dad would make fresh wreaths for family, friends and neighbours.  He made dozens of wooden wreath rings, which he could replenish with Christmas greens each year and deliver them to neighbours and friends. After Christmas, the greens were removed and the wreaths returned.  When he died many years ago, my sisters and I divided up the wreath rings and tried to carry on the tradition with our own friends. Last week,  I replenished the greens on 8 wooden wreaths and delivered them to my friends, now part of my own Christmas tradition.  There is one wreath ring I keep and make for myself.  It is the one labeled “Adrienne” on the back in my dad’s printing – 8 letters I treasure.

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6) Celebrating my sister – Last week, my sister’s book “Taan’s Moons” was released.  I am so very proud of her!  The book is a collaboration of author, artist and students.  The poem, written by my sister, is highlighted by gorgeous reproductions of large felt tapestries created by artist Kiki van der Heiden and the students of SD 50 Haida Gwaii, B.C., where my sister has lived for the past 17 years.  The story follows Taan (“Bear” in Haida language) as she experiences the wonders of the seasons through the different phases of the moon.  A stunning book with many links to First Nations, science and social studies.

Watch a short clip about the book: http://vimeo.com/97461062

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7) Celebrating giving – Every year at this time, the gals in my book club get together and make hampers for needy families in the downtown Eastside.  We have been doing this for the past 13 years and it is always a wonderful way of giving back to those less fortunate.  The site of these laundry baskets filled to the brim with toys, diapers, baby food, toothbrushes and shampoo brings the Christmas spirit a little closer to all of us.

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8) Celebrating this picture – This is a picture of my eldest son, at the top of Blackcomb Mountain, taken on his first snowboard day of the season.  I celebrate the extraordinary beauty of this majestic province we live in, captured in this amazing photo (taken by his buddy); I celebrate that my son has the opportunity to experience such beauty; I celebrate that when my son showed me this photo he said,  “Look, mum – here’s my Carpe Diem pose”.  The phrase “seize the day” is my motto, my mantra, my words of wisdom that I have always tried to live by.  To hear my son say those words back to me….well, my heart is still smiling.

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What are you celebrating this week?

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Filed under Celebration Saturday, Lesson Ideas, making connections, New Books

Celebration Saturday

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I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Here are the things I’m celebrating this week:

1) Spring Break is here!  Ahhhh…I am celebrating the thought of two full weeks of extra time with family, books and just hanging at home!  We are heading up to Kelowna to visit my mother in law and also hope to get in a few days skiing.  I have a “to do” list that is always long – so perhaps I shall make an attempt to shorten the list!  (or perhaps not!)

2) Book launch – Last week, I celebrated the launch of my 4th book – Nonfiction Writing Power.  Phyllis Simon, co-owner of Vancouver Kidsbooks, hosted the event for me at her amazing bookstore.  I was surrounded by so many dear friends, family and colleagues – not to mention books!  Thanks to everyone who came and those far away friends who sent me well wishes and beautiful flowers!   In my speech, I quoted Pablo Picasso  – “The meaning of life is to find your gift – the purpose of life is to give it away”.  I celebrate that I have found my gift and am now able to give it away through teaching, writing and presenting.

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Signing books for friends. (Carrie Gelson waiting for her turn!)

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Four Fab Vancouver Elementary Administrators!

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My sister, her beautiful daughters and my handsome boys!

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Happy to be celebrating with my boys!

3) Nonfiction Writing Power in Action!  –  This term, I have been teaching some of my lessons from my new book to a grade 7 class at my school.  Because they are focusing on Ancient Mesopotamia in Social Studies, I decided to link this subject to our nonfiction writing focus. Each student selected an invention from ancient Mesopotamia that has impacted our lives today.  This list includes the sail, wheel, plow, calendar and mathematical counting system.  Over the course of several weeks, I introduced four different nonfiction text structures including description, instruction, persuasion and comparison.  I focused on text structure and the language features of these different forms.  They then wrote several pieces about their invention in these different forms and then created posters.  I was AMAZED at how much they learned about their ancient invention and several different forms of writing!

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4) Workshop in Ashcroft –  One of the many rewarding things about my work is being able to visit places in this beautiful province of British Columbia that I may not otherwise see.  Earlier this week, I travelled to Ashcroft to present a workshop in Gold Trail School District.  I was lucky enough to stay in a BEAUTIFUL Bed and Breakfast called Willow’N perched high on a hill with a views of the Thompson and Bonaparte River Valleys.  After a delicious breakfast of fresh berries, yogurt, oatmeal and coffee, I drove down the hill to Ashcroft Elementary School and presented Nonfiction Writing Power to a group of teachers ranging from grade 1 to grade 11!   It was a wonderful day!

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View from my room when I woke up!

5)  Proud Mom  – My 15 year old has spent the last 12 days in Arizona for spring training with his baseball team.  He and a few other Jr. Players were was invited to join the Senior team for training and to participate in a tournament.   He comes home on Sunday (I can’t wait!)  I have missed him terribly but know he is having the time of his life!  I’m very proud of him and grateful he has found his passion.

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My 13 year old is fortunate to be attending an amazing Fine Arts School – the only public high school in Vancouver that offers a unique focus on performing arts, visual arts and band.  His grade 8 class performed their first play last week – they had written it themselves.  A great story-line – with some singing, dancing and humor mixed in.  I was very proud to see how confident he was on stage.

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6) Dog Scare – Our dearest dog, Bailey (Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever) is recovering from a very serious eye infection.  She had a small scratch that got infected and went from bad to worse in a very short period of time.  The vet thought that she might, in fact, lose her eye.  After 2 weeks of a very rigorous eye drop routine (every 3 hours ALL day and night!) I am celebrating that she is on the road to recovery and will not lose her eye.  The vet has now decreased the frequency of drops so my hubby and I are also celebrating being able to sleep a few extra hours!

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Bailey has to wear a “cone” to prevent her from scratching her eye.

It’s been a week full of celebrations and I am grateful for them all.   What are you celebrating this week?

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Filed under Celebration Saturday, Lesson Ideas

February 10 for 10! Ten Nonfiction Books I Can’t Live Without!

I’m excited to participate in the first Nonfiction 10 for 10 event celebrating fantastic nonfiction picture books. Thank you to Cathy Mere from Reflect and RefineMandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning  and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge for hosting this.

So what are the 10 nonfiction picture books I cannot live without?   As I did with my 10 for 10 picture book list in the summer, I have decided to organize this list around Nonfiction Reading Power strategies I use for helping students read and understand informational texts.   There are 5 strategies – so I have selected two anchor books for each!   The books I chose are not only my “tried and true” books in my classroom but often books I share with teachers at workshops.   It’s tough to narrow it down – but here we go….

Zooming In – to Nonfiction Text Features

My Map Book

1. My Map Book – Sara Fanelli

This is a wonderful anchor book for teaching students about using nonfiction text features – in particular – mapping and labeling.  I LOVE this book and have used it SO often as an anchor book for many lessons that my cover is nearly falling off!  This book is a collection of child-like drawings of different types of maps:  map of a neighbourhood, map of my bedroom, map of my family, map of my heart (My students make a “Map of my Heart” for Valentines day every year – using this book!)  There are unique maps that can stimulate all sorts of lesson extensions.  A MUST for your nonfiction collection!

Imagine You're a Knight!: Lady Megavere, Lucy D'Ancealot

2.  Imagine You’re A Knight – Lucy and Meg Clibbon

Lucy and Meg Clibbon are sisters from the UK.  They have created a series of books about different people including Knights, Pirates, Astronauts, Princess, Wizards, Mermaids and Ballerinas.  They are incredibly funny and visually appealing andI love how Lucy and Meg use LOTS of nonfiction text features (labels, maps, charts, captions, etc) to represent the information.   While some may consider this style of book to be to be more fiction,  they are excellent examples to show students the use of text features.

Determining Importance

Sorting out main idea from supporting details can be a challenge for students.  When practicing this strategy – I look for books with short, interesting sections I can use for a read-aloud during a guided lesson.  Here are two of my favorites:

How Big Is It?

3. How Big is It?  – Ben Hillman

This appeal of this book are the amazing photographs.  Ben Hillman uses amazing photographic juxtaposition (that was a mouthful!)  to show comparisons of size.  The book is large enough to hold up for students to see the pictures easily.  I love the short informational passage explaining each photograph.  Be prepared for a lot of “Whoa’s!”  and “Wow’s!”

Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth

4. Extreme Animals – The Toughest Creatures on Earth – Nicola Davies

This is another great book for using to practice determining importance.  Nicola Davies has included many interesting facts about animals who need to adapt to survive extreme heat and extreme cold. The unique thing about the book is that from one side, the book is about animals adaptation to extreme cold – flip it over and start from the other side to learn about animals adapting to extreme heat.  As always, I love Nicola Davies use of voice and humor in her writing.  Hilarious illustrations and comic-like animation.  (My favorite page is about “Frogcycles”!)

 Making Connections 

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World

 5. You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, Kids Around the World – Barbara Kerley

I could not have a list of favorite nonfiction books without including a book by Barbara Kerley.  Barbara Kerley is a photographer for National Geographic – so her photography in all of her books is amazing.  In this book, she captures images of the relationship between parent and children from different places in the world.  With very little text, she is able to capture this bond beautifully.  I love to read this book to students and invite them to make connections.  Information about each photograph and where it was taken is included in the back of the book.

The Great Big Book of Families

6. The Great Big Book of Families – Mary Hoffman

Many primary curriculums include a focus on families and communities.   I always tell teachers at my workshops that this book encompasses an entire unit on family, community, school, cultural celebrations – you name it and you will find it in this book!  The book is well laid out and has colorful, interesting illustrations.  I like how Mary Hoffman recognizes different family make ups and adopted children.

Asking Questions

I Wonder

7. I Wonder – Tana Hoban

This simple beginning reader has become one of my favorite anchor books for questioning.  Tana Hoban takes readers on a “wonder walk” outdoors and questions simple things she sees along the way.  “Have you ever wondered how hard it is to spin a web?”  “Look at that tree – there’s moss growing on one side but not the other.  I wonder why?”  Beautiful photographs and clear close ups make this a perfect nonfiction read-aloud.   I like to read this book to my students and then take the on a class on our own “Wonder Walk”.

Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book about Nature, Science and the World around You

8. Why?  The Best Question and Answer book about Science, Nature and the World around You – Catherine Ripley

This book really is the best question and answer book about the world around you!   There are questions and answers about just about everything you can think of:  Kitchen Questions, Bathroom Questions, Farm Questions, Night time Questions.  I like to read one question just before I send my students home as “thinking homework”. Have you ever wondered why some eggs are white and some are brown?    They think about the question and come back to school the next day and share their thinking.  After sharing our “maybe’s” – I read them the answer from the book.  They LOVE it!

Infer

It's Our Nature

9. It’s Our Nature – Rebeca Orozo

This delightful book explores the character traits that the animal kingdom shares with humanity — altruism, community, generosity, responsibility, trust, commitment, solidarity, brotherhood and tolerance.  The illustrations are delightful.  I start by listing the character traits from the book and discussing them with the students.  I  then read a description of one of the animal’s behavior and invite the students to infer which trait this animal is demonstrating .

A Strange Place to Call Home: The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home

   10. A Strange Place to Call Home:  The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home                         – – Marilyn Singer

The art in this book by Ed Young is amazing.  The poetry, by renowned poet Marilyn Singer, is amazing.  This is a collection of 14 poems, each highlighting  a specific relatively unknown animal who have, against the odds, adapted to their extreme environments.  Students can use the clues in the poems to infer what type of environment they live in and what features they need to survive.  Great additional information included at the back.

Transform

Often when teaching students about synthesizing information, or what I refer to as “transformed thinking”, I look for books that provide students with information that can potentially change their thinking in some way.

What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?

11.What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? – Steve Jenkins

My top nonfiction list would not be complete without a Steve Jenkins book.  While I have and love many, this is one I use most when teaching students about how books can sometimes change our thinking.  In his classic collage illustrations, Jenkins explores the many fascinating and unique ways animals defend themselves against predators.   Many students find new meaning to the expression “run for your life”!

What Does it Mean to Be Present?

12.  What Does it Mean to be Present? – Rana DiOrio

This recently published book has made it’s way to the top of my favorite pile!   Rana DiOrio has created a vibrant, thought-provoking picture book that simply and effectively teaches us to be present, mindful and caring citizens.  When teaching students about books that transform our thinking, I like to write the word “present” on the board and ask students to “take stock of their thinking” before we read.  Most students make connections to birthdays, Christmas, wrapping paper and boxes.  After reading the book – we talk about how our thinking about the word “present” now looks different than before we read the book.

And there you have it!  My top 10 (Ok.. I went over by two!)  Nonfiction Picture Books!  Thanks for reading my post!

Which picture books are on the top of your “can’t live without” pile?

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Filed under Blog Challenge, Connect, Infer, Lesson Ideas, NFPB Challenge 2014, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Question, Reading Power, Transform

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Animals, Friends, a few darn Squirrels and a remarkable Bird

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

This week I discovered some new books that I’m very excited about!  Here we go…

What's Your Favorite Animal?

What’s Your Favorite Animal? – Eric Carle and Friends

All of my favorite authors and illustrators in one book!  What could be better?  This book is a delightful anthology of well-loved children’s authors/illustrators describing their favorite animal and why they love them, accompanied by his or her own signature style illustrations.  I did SO enjoy looking through to discover what everyone’s favorite animal was and why.  I can see how this would be a great anchor book for students to write about their favorite animal with an accompanying illustration.    I was also thinking my students could go around the school asking the teachers what their favorite animals are!  Authors included in this fabulous book are: Eric Carle, Nick Bruel, Luc Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Jon Klassen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Rosemary Wells and Mo Willems.   I am hugging this book.

Friends – Eric Carle

I am always on the lookout for new books about friendship as they lend themselves so well for having children practice making connections.  This story is about a young boy whose best friend moves away.  He then embarks on a journey over mountains and across rivers to find her.  This book is apparently based on Eric’s own journey to find his wife, whom he moved away from as a child and then searched to find her again.  This would be a great book to read to K’s and 1’s and I can see them acting out the movements of the boy’s journey – “climbing”, “swimming”, etc.   I loved the messages of determination and the importance of friendship.

Friends  – Miles Van Hout

I LOVED Miles Van Hout’s wordless book Happy and used it many times in many classrooms to help students infer feelings.  In Happy, Van Hout’s  uncanny ability to capture emotion through the  faces of fish was remarkable!  In her latest wordless book Friends,  she takes us one step further by showing emotional interactions.  Her vibrant chalk fish have been replaced with monster type creatures and she has illustrated them depicting different situations – cuddling, fighting, teasing, laughing and playing.  Another perfect wordless book for helping younger children practice inferring from illustrations.  Hugging this book too!

A Friend – Anette Bley

Sticking with the “friendship” theme, I saw this book in our local library on display and was drawn to the illustrations.  This book, published in 2009, (I have never seen it before)  is a perfect book for primary teachers who are looking for a great book about friendship.  The story begins with the simple question: What is a friend?  and goes on to illustrate many different examples of what friendship looks like and feels like.  The illustrations are charming and the text is simple and meaningful.  A perfect “connect” book.  (Note:  A few places I searched said it was out of print but I was able to order one on Amazon)

Those Darn Squirrels – Adam Rubin

This book is the perfect choice if you are looking for a or a great read-aloud/laugh-aloud story for  grades 2-4.  It tells the tale of  grumpy Old Man Fookwire who dislikes most things – except his wild birds.  So he builds a bird feeder and fills it with berries so his wild birds will stay with him through the winter.  Unfortunately,” those darn squirrels” raid the feeder and eat all the berries.  Apparently there are two more “Darn Squirrel” books in the collection.  (Warning – I stumbled over the name “Mr. Fookwire” a few times – so just be careful because when it comes out wrong – it comes out VERY wrong!)

Paper Dolls – Julia Donaldson

I loved paper dolls growing up.  My sisters and I would play for hours, folding the little flaps of clothing onto those cardboard dolls.  This book is whimsical, beautiful, playful, nostalgic, simple.  A little girl plays with her five paper dolls.  There are not many words, but the rhyming and repetition lend itself well to a read-aloud.  I love the mother/daughter play time highlighted in this book and I think it would be a great invitation to have students create their own paper doll and use alliteration and rhyme to name it.  A lovely book!

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Stand in My Shoes – Bob Sornson

Teachers frequently request books on social responsibility themes so I’m always on the lookout for new titles.  This book, produced by the Love and Logic Institute, focuses on empathy and clearly illustrates to younger children what empathy is and how easy it is to demonstrate this important social skill.  This book would also be great to include on a book list for parents.

Drac And The Gremlin

Drac and the Gremlin – Allan Baillie

One of the rewarding things about my work is visiting schools and meeting teachers who have been using some of the ideas from my books.  I especially love when they share new book titles with me!    This past Friday, I was in Calgary at Huntington Hills elementary and met a teacher who had been working on Visualizing with her students.  She took me into her classroom and shared this great book with me and showed me some of the visual images her students drew when she read this story to them.  Of course, she DID NOT share the illustrations with them until they had listened and visualized.  The great thing about this book is that the descriptions are very misleading – you think the author is describing some imaginative sci-fi creatures.  As it turns out, it is only two children and their pets as they play in their backyard.  A wonderful book for visualizing!

Bird – Crystal Chan

Wow.  Wow.  Wow.   This book left me breathless and speechless – and that is no easy feat for me.   Not since Wonder and No Fault in the Stars have I been so moved and so deeply touched by a book.  My soul is still aching.   I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC and I could not put it down.

The book begins:    Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John.

From the first line, you will be drawn in by the exquisite writing and heart-wrenching story of Jewel – a girl who lives in the shadow of her younger brother – who died the day she was born.  Her grandfather, blamed for the tragedy by Jewel’s parents, has not spoken since.  This is a story of love, of loss, of family and friendship – of a broken family who had to fall apart before they could put themselves back together.  This is a remarkable debut novel – and I KNOW one that will top many “best of 2014” lists.   “Book linger”  is my reference to books that stay with you and actually become part of you.  Bird is the ultimate in book linger.  I want EVERYONE to read this book!

Well, it was a great week of reading for me.  And just in case you didn’t follow the book award announcements this past week – here is the complete list from CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/27/living/newbery-caldecott-awards-2014-kate-dicamillo-books/

What have you been reading this week?

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Filed under Connect, Friendship, Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Picture Book, Social Responsibility