Category Archives: Lesson Ideas

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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plow

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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!

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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

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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: 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

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014

I’m excited to be joining Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy in this year’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014  I’m hoping to discover many new nonfiction books that I can share with my students at school and with other teachers at workshops.  Link up here to join in!

Here are the nonfiction books I’ve been reading this week:

New Year’s Day – Celebrations in My World     Crabtree Publishing   

 

This was the perfect “back to school” book to start the New Year with my students.  It is a great book to share – filled with colorful photographs and interesting information about the history, customs and celebrations of New Year’s Day around the world.  There was also a page about New Year’s resolutions – which was a great way to launch our writing about our own resolutions!

I is For Imagination – An Invention Alphabet – by Marcia Schoberg

This term I am working with a grade 7 class on a project linking writing with their Social Studies unit on ancient inventions from Mesopotamia.  I used this anchor book today to launch the unit and get the children thinking about inventions.   We spent nearly 40 minutes reading this book and discussing inventions!   For every letter of the alphabet, I had the students predict the invention in the book:

“A” – is for…?  Students responses:  “airplane”, “antibiotics”, “apps” (ha!), “apple pie”  (The actual invention in the book is “aluminum”)

Once the invention had been revealed, we discussed the importance of the invention and how it made an impact on our lives.  By the time we got to “Z” – the kids were hooked and so excited about their project.  I learned SO much and HIGHLY recommend this as an anchor book to launch an invention unit!

Big Bang Science Experiments – Jay Hawkins (Windmill Books

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During the second term at my school, the intermediate classes spend a great deal of time preparing for the school Science Fair.  For the younger students who are participating for the first time, it can be a challenge coming up with just the right experiment or project.  Our great Teacher Librarian discovered this series and they have proved to be VERY helpful resources,   The books include clear photograph visuals, instructions and examples of many different experiments to try.

First Facts Biography Series (Capstone)

                                       

I’m a huge fan of Biographies for kids – and while I tend to be drawn towards the more narrative versions like On a Beam of Light and The Tree Lady, I also think it’s helpful to have examples of more factual biographies at a lower reading level.  This series  of 6 books (missing here are Jeff Kinney and Barbara Park)  was released in August – and I love that they include authors of books that many students will be familiar with.  The text is very accessible with full colored photographs and many text features.  A great collection for your library!

Noisy Frog Sing Along – John Himmelman

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Noisy Frog is an simple but interesting look at the different songs frogs make!  Some peep, some trill, some growl, some creek, and some go WAAH, WAAH, WAAH!  (Who knew?)  This book has bold and beautiful pictures and great facts at the back provide information about the “singers”!  Big frog love for this book!

The Unpopular Pea (& Carrot) by Elle Valentine

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I was immediately drawn to this book because of the cover, but debated whether I should list it as a nonfiction read.  It is a cute story of a pea and carrot who feel unloved compared to the donuts and candy everyone seems to love.  It has a fun rhyming text and very cute illustrations, however, the important message of this book focuses on nutrition.  It shows the differences between junk food and vegetables and would be a great anchor book to help teach children how to make healthy choices.  It’s also just darn cute!

What nonfiction picture books have you been reading this week?

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Filed under Lesson Ideas, New Books, NFPB Challenge 2014, Nonfiction, Science

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – New Picture Books for the New Year – Part 1

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.

Well – it’s the beginning of a new year and I thought I’d celebrate with sharing some newly released picture books that I’m very excited about! There are too many to share in one post – so I’ll complete the list next week!  Here we go….

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The Mischievians – William Joyce

Oh, the connections I made to this book!  Have you have ever wondered who is responsible for all the things that happen around your house that nobody seems to be able to explain?  Like where the remote control went, what happened to homework, why there are so many single socks in the laundry and why songs stick in your head.  Well, this book has the answer –  It is the pesky little “Mischievians” at work again!  This book is classic Joyce – funny, clever and fun!  I can’t wait for my students to think up some of their own “mischievian” happenings!

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The Colourblind Chameleon – Laura Kantor

How can you not smile at this adorable little face?   And how can you not laugh when you read that this poor wee chameleon is colorblind so while his fellow chameleon’s are changing color for camouflage, his color changes results in the exact opposite!  Because he cannot distinguish colors, he ends up changing into some outrageous shades where he stands out instead of blending in.  Poor thing!  He is left feeling alone and discriminated against.  I loved this book and have developed a huge case of reptile love! The book is bright and colorful with a rhyming text that makes it a perfect read-aloud for younger children.

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Dot – Randi Zuckerberg

This past summer, I discovered a few books that shared a similar theme of breaking free of being “plugged in” to electronic devises – Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino and Hello, Hello! by Matthew Cordell.  Meet Dot – she is a spunky, device savy gal – who knows how to tweet, swipe, tag and tap her way through just about every electronic device she can get her hands one!   One day, she is sent outside on a technology-free adventure to re-connct with her friends.  What I loved about this book is the realistic message about enjoying BOTH life and technology.  I also enjoyed the author’s clever double meanings to the words “tweet”, “tap” and “surf”!  And in case you were wondering, yes, the author Randi Zuckerberg is the sister of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg!

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Paul Meets Bernadette – Rosy Lamb

My, oh my, this is one for my special shelf.  This is a book about seeing the world in a different way.  simple, imaginative, beautiful. The oil painting illustrations are remarkable.  Paul is a fish who swims around his fish bowl in circles.  Enter Bernadette – who shows him a different perspective on the world and helps Paul see things in a whole new way.  This is a gentle love story that I fell in love with.

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The Nowhere Box – Sam Zuppardi

So much to love about this book!  What child cannot relate to being constantly bugged by a sibling?  And what child has at some point used a large cardboard box to create a secret fort, space ship or castle.  George is constantly being followed by his younger brothers.  His solution?  The Nowhere Box!  In it, he can be a pirate, a king, a pilot!  In the end, playing alone turns out to be not so fun.  The illustrations in this book are extraordinary – there is something very textural about them and I kept wanting to run my hands over the pages to “feel” them!

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ABC’s From the Whippety Wood: The Magic in Nature – Pamela Harden

From Acorn Fairies to Zillo the Zebra Unicorn – this is a whimsical, wonderful ABC book to add to your Alphabet book collection!  A celebration of nature with beautiful illustrations and creative characters for each letter of the alphabet.   Lovely!

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Fossil – Bill Thomson

Wow! Wow!  So so so so good!  A boy and his dog discover some stones while out walking. When one of the stones breaks open to reveal a fossil from a prehistoric plant the boy gathers as many stones as he can find and begins breaking them apart. The result is magical!   This is a wordless picture book with extraordinarily detailed and life-like illustrations.  It almost feels as if you are wearing 3D glasses!  I loved Bill Thomson’s last wordless picture book Chalk and found it a wonderful anchor book for practicing questioning and inferring.  This book has the added bonus of being a Segway into discussions about fossils, dinosaurs, and other aspects of science.  This is a must have for your wordless book collection!

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Once Upon a Memory – Nina Ladin

My students, family and friends roll their eyes whenever I say “This is my FAVORITE new book” because I tend to say it a lot.  But this is TRULY my FAVORITE new book!  LOVE LOVE LOVE this book SO SO MUCH!  Why do I love it so much?  First, the images are captivating, soft, gentle, quiet, sweet.  I want to climb inside the book and stay for a while.  Second – this is a story about memory – but gifts us with so much more – questions about nature, about life, about transitions, about the origins of objects, about life.  This book is begging to be used in a classroom – a treasure for lessons on inventions or discussing imagination and asking the question:  What will you remember?  I will certainly remember this book for a long time.

There you have it – part one of my “new books for a new year”!  Hope you found a few titles you might want to read and share.

What have you been reading this week?

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

Christmas Metaphors

Christmas Metaphors

Have you ever taught metaphors to 10 and 11 year olds?  How did it go?  Honestly.  Did they get it or did they just fake it well enough to make you think they got it?  Did you just give up halfway through because even though you had explained that a metaphor is not the same thing as a simile – they kept writing “like” or “as” anyway?

To teach or not to teach metaphors?  That is the question I have been asking myself.  With only two weeks to go before the Christmas break, I was hesitant to introduce this rather challenging poetic devise to the wonderful grade five class I have been teaching poetry to this term.  This clever group had successfully demonstrated their understanding of the other techniques I had introduced them to over the last 3 months (similes personification, onomatopoeia  and alliteration) and had been using them frequently in their weekly poems.  But I admit that in the past, teaching metaphors had proved to be challenging, frustrating and overall disappointing.  Yesterday, however,  I collected their poems in which they were to use metaphors.  WOW!  I was amazed at how well they did!  Needless to say, these talented young writers have answered my question:  YES – you should teach metaphors!

Here’s the lesson and some amazing poems written by grade 5’s:

I explained the concept of metaphor and showed them a few examples.   Ralph Fletcher has written some great poems that use metaphors:  “Pinball” – a pinball machine as a metaphor for high school; Poetry – as a metaphor for a sugar-crazed teenager; “Earthhead” – a globe as a metaphor for a baby’s head.   I read these poems from his book A Writing Kind of Day and we discussed the metaphors.

After a quick Google search the night before the lesson, I had found some other examples of metaphors.  These were written by students who had used metaphors in their poems about their families. One had used the metaphor of a medicine chest, the other of the 4th of July.   https://www.teachervision.com/poetry/literary-techniques/5453.html  This gave me the idea of having the students writing poems about their families, using metaphors about Christmas.

Here’s how the lesson went:

  • We read samples of poems and I asked the students what they noticed.  We discussed how the writer connected each family member with an object with whom they shared common qualities.
  • We then brainstormed symbols of Christmas:  tree, decorations, candy cane, star, presents, wrapping paper, tape, candle, stocking, angel, etc.
  • We talked about the “characteristics” of each object:  ie:  Tree – strong, steady, straight; candy cane – sweet, sticky, minty; star – bright, shiny.
  • Each student then listed the members of their family down one side of a paper, including themselves.   (I modeled using my family)  Then I asked them to try match up each person with a Christmas object that best fits their personality or character.  Beside each family member, they listed the object.
  • Finally, they had to explain WHY or what the person and object had in common.

Some example we did together (these came from the kids – not me!)

                   Sister – ornament  – beautiful, delicate but breaks easily

                   Dad – tree – strong and steady and smells good

                  baby brother – gingerbread man – sweet but runs away a lot  (this one made me laugh!)

The students thought of some amazing “metaphor matches”!  I was SO impressed with their final poems – and I would definitely use this lesson again as a way to introduce metaphors.    If any of your students do not celebrate Christmas, you could use the same lesson, but use symbols of New Year’s or any other cultural celebration.

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                                 My favorite line from Rudra’s poem:  My sister is the star which finishes the job. 

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                   My favorite line from Reuben’s poem:  And my grandma is the tape never letting go of the family.

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My Family is Christmas by Rhea

My Dad is Santa

He is strong and does all he can to make me smile.

My mom is a present

Sometimes not what you want but you have to be thankful for a while.

My sister is a reindeer

Annoying but guides the way for others.

And I am the Christmas Star – I know I am small

But I keep our family together.  

What are your experiences and ideas for teaching metaphor to younger students?

 

 

 

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Filed under Lesson Ideas, Poetry, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

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.

I have not been blogging lately as I have been focusing on trying to finish my book.  I am extremely pleased to have completed the first draft of my manuscript for Nonfiction Writing Power and it is now in the hands of  Kat – my extremely competent editor at Pembroke.  I know there is a lot of work still ahead but I am enjoying the temporary break from book writing and the chance to share some of the amazing new books I’ve read in the past few weeks.   51InOvbTzZL._SL500_AA300_[1]

David Wiesner fans – you will be happy to know that he has a new picture book out called Mr. Wuffles.  In his latest masterpiece, we meet a finicky feline called Mr. Wuffles who shows disinterest towards all the cat toys his owners have purchased for him.  He does, however, become interested in a tiny toy space ship.  After flicking it about, he discovers there are tiny aliens living inside – and now their space ship is damaged. The aliens eventually team up with household insects to repair their ship.    In his classic near wordless style, Wiesner illustrations are detailed and captivating, particularly capturing the movement and expressions of Mr. Wuffles.  Classic Wiesner!  51WL6EckLdL._SL500_AA300_[1]

How to Train a Train by  is a unique and hilarious “HOW TO” manual on how to take care of your “pet” train.  Any child who loves trains, or any who may prefer the mechanical toy rather than a real pet, will enjoy this book.  I was drawn to this book because of how well it fits into teaching students the form and language of instructional writing.  It is written as a handbook and includes everything from how to choose your train, feed, clean and care for your train.  I do not have a particular interest in trains but thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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This is Our House by Hyewon Yum is GEM!  It is one of those books that you could integrate into so many units of study – from family history,  to multiculturalism, to changing seasons, to immigration.  There is something so warm about this book as you follow a Korean-American girl and her family through seasons and generations.  Through their journey, we witness the true difference between a ‘house’ and a ‘home’.516qNkYtN9L._SL500_AA300_[1]A Single Pebble:  A Story of the Silk Road by Bonnie Christensen is the story of a little girl in 9th century China, who sends a small jade pebble to travel with her father along the Silk Road.  We follow the journey of the pebble along the Silk Road.  It ends up in the hands of a boy in the Republic of Venice – the end of the Silk Road.  The illustrations are lovely and the reference to the five “gifts” (reference to the five senses) which accompany the merchants along the silk road makes this a wonderful anchor book for writing as well as launching a unit in Social Studies.

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The Invisible Boy – Trudy Ludwig.  Brian is so quite he is “invisible”.  He is not included, invited to birthday parties or  is really noticed.  Then Justin, the new boy, arrives and works with Brian on a class project, giving him a chance to shine.  This gentle book is a valuable one to include in your class collection, showing children how small acts of kindness can help others feel included.  The illustrations by Patrice Barton are soft and gentle, just like Brian.

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Princess Tales:  Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek and Fid Pictures by Grace Maccarone.  Ooooooo… you MUST see this book!  It is ingenious and splendid and clever!  Ten well known princess stories, from Princess and the Pea to Sleeping Beauty are retold with hidden pictures and extraordinary illustrations by Gail De Marcken.  Pour over each page and enjoy!  This book is on my Christmas list for several young girls I know!

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Speaking of Christmas… Peter H. Reynolds has released The Smallest Gift of Christmas just in time for the upcoming season ( I know it’s not even Halloween but I can’t help myself!)  I adore anything and everything Peter. H. Reynolds does so was thrilled to see his new book.  “Be careful what you wish for”  appears to be the theme of this book as Roland, after receiving a very small gift for Christmas, wishes for something bigger… and bigger… and BIGGER!  After his search takes him to outer space, he finally realizes that what is most important is waiting back on earth for him.  The true meaning of Christmas is shared as only Peter H. Reynolds can share it.  And in case he didn’t know, his books are enormous gifts to me.

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My dear friend Carrie Gels0n , who shares my passion for books, sent me this book recommendation last week and I am in love with it already.  What Does it Mean to Be Present? by Rana DiOrio has such an important message about being mindful, aware and grateful.  Amazing illustrations and the perfect book for transforming.  To help my students experience how a book can “transform our thinking”,  I started with the word “PRESENT” and asked my students what the word made them think about.  (I call this “taking stock of our thinking”)  Most connected the word  it to gifts, birthdays and Christmas.  After reading the book, we “revisited our thinking” about the word.  Many were transformed by the idea that “present” is not an object but a way of being.

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I love maps.  Any book that begins with a map has me hooked before I even begin reading.  I don’t know if it’s the physical shapes or the sense of adventure a map represents but whatever it is – I’m drawn in by a map.  And so when I saw the cover of MAPS by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, I was fascinated.   This book is an illustrated children’s atlas – but not one that you have ever seen before.  It is utterly amazing, delightful, sensual, amusing and informative.  There are maps, illustrations and detailed drawings.   The pages are heavy and I couldn’t stop running my fingers over them.  I was completely consumed and mesmerized.   A book for children but no doubt will be loved by many adults.

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I loved A Wrinkle in Time by  Madeleine L’Engle as a kid – my first real experience with Sci Fi that I enjoyed.  50 years later,  Hope Larson’s work has created this graphic novel of the classic tale.  I’m not sure if I wanted someone else to create images of Happy Medium and Aunt Beast that have stayed in my imagination for all these years and the jury is still out.  I did enjoy revisiting the characters and the many layers and themes of this book and think that children who are not familiar with the original version will be captivated by the classic story through this format.  Be prepared – it’s very long!

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My 13 yr. old is reading this book and loving it.  Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi has everything a 13 yrs. old boy could possibly want in a book – humor mixed with horror, baseball, zombie cows, evil coaches, battles and blood.  It also has a lot of great themes for teachers – racism, immigration, corporations, food processing and, of course, friendship.  The setting of this book is a small Ohio town with a big meat packing plant that is pumping their cows full of bad things.  The effect is that the cows turn into zombies.   I loved that the main character Rabi – a boy from South Asian – because there are not many books with main characters from this culture.   This book would make a great read-aloud for an intermediate class – lots of laughs but great discussions too!

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And finally…. Sutton by J.R. Moehringer is my Book Club read this month.  It is based on the true story of notorious bank robber Willie Sutton,  one of the most infamous criminals in New York during the 1960’s.  He was a hero of sorts amongst the public and dubbed a modern Robin Hood because he never carried a gun – his only victims were the banks.   His motivation for robbing – his first love.  I am half way through the book and thoroughly enjoying the writing of a tender love story disguised as a crime novel.

Well – there’s my latest list!  Hope you found one or two new titles that sparked your interest.  What have you been reading this week?

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Filed under graphic novel, immigration, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Novels, Picture Book, Social Responsibility, Transform, Writing Anchors