Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 French Picture Books to use with Reading Power

While all of my Reading and Writing Power books are translated and published in French, I, myself, am not French speaking.  This makes it rather challenging for me to create book lists for French Immersion teachers.  After numerous requests, however, I decided to rise to the challenge! I was surprised to see many of the English books I have recommended for Reading Power are translated into French so the challenge wasn’t as difficult as first thought!  Thanks to Vanessa Zentner, a grade 4 French Immersion teacher in Calgary, for the gentle nudge – here are my top 10 French picture books to use with Reading Power.

Image result for la branche Mireille Messier

1. Ma branche préférée – Mireille Messier

When an ice storm breaks a branch off a little girl’s favorite tree, she is devastated.  Fortunately, her kind neighbour, Mr. Frank, helps her turn her branch into something wonderful (not telling!)  I love this book for making predictions – students predict what Mr. Frank will make.  I also like the reference to an ice storm to introduce students to this weather phenomenon that many have never experienced.  A great CONNECT book – connecting to something special that was damaged or lost.

                     2. Grand-mère, elle et moi – Yves Nadon

There is something special about memories with your grandmother.  Special feelings, memories and moments to connect to.  A perfect CONNECT book.

3. Tourbillon d’émotions – Janan Cain

I use the English version of this book with many classes when we are practicing making Connections.  It is filled with many different examples of everyday situations and the feelings connected to them.  A great book to introduce “feeling” vocabulary.

Quel génie!- Ashley Spires

This past fall, I used this book to launch our school wide Critical Thinking project called the “Most Magnificent Thing”.  (You can read all about the project here.)  It is the story of a little girl who sets out to build “The Most Magnificent Thing”, but becomes increasingly frustrated when things don’t turn out exactly as planned.   It is one of my favorite books because it is filled with so many themes for discussion – determination, managing frustration, and, in the case of our MMT projects – the importance of using critical thinking to solve problems.

4. Plus noir que la nuit – Chris Hadfield

One of my favorite biography picture books of 2016, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield shares his childhood experiences of being afraid of the dark.  A perfect book for CONNECTING to childhood fears but also an inspiring young readers to overcome those fears and dream big.  Gorgeous illustrations by brothers Terry and Eric Fan.

5. Le jardinier de la nuit – The Fan Brothers

A mysterious gardener begins to sculpt trees into animals during the night and young William wonders who and why.  Breathtaking illustrations (again by the talented Fan Brothers) and spare, sweet text, this is a perfect QUESTION book.  (Before starting the story, show the class the cover – and ask the “Qu’est-ce que vous vous demandez?” (Not sure if that’s how you say “What are you wondering?” but I tried!)  They will fill a chart paper, white board or smart board screen with questions!

6. Le lion et l’oiseau Marianne Dubuc

Another favorite from last year, this  is a tender tale of friendship between a lion and the wounded bird he finds and cares for.  When bird flies off with his flock the following fall, Lion is left alone.  A great book for QUESTIONING.  (I’m wondering what the bird is whispering to the lion on the front cover!)

7. Le bateau de fortune – Olivier de Solmicnhac

This gorgeous book is a perfect one to practice VISUALIZING!  Two friends arrive at the beach but have forgotten their swimsuits, buckets and spades.  What to do?  Instead, they make a makeshift boat and sail off to imagine the sound of the sea, the taste of the sea spray, seeing the sparkling light of the sun on the water,  and the feeling of a day at the beach.  Full of sensory descriptions, this book will make a wonderful one to practice VISUALIZING.   

                   8.  Mon papa, il est grand, il et fort, mais Coralie Saudo

A humourous role reversal plays out in this gentle book about a boy who is trying to get his dad to go to bed.  Children will make many connections to being coaxed into their own bedtime routines.  Perfect for Father’s Day!

9. Et si jamais…? Anthony Browne

I was very pleased to see that this book about childhood anxiety by Anthony Browne has been translated into French.  On his way to to a birthday party, his first “drop off” party, a little boy becomes more and more anxious about the many things that could go wrong.  As he and his mum get closer to the house he becomes filled with worry:  “What if nobody talks to me?”  “What if I don’t like the food?” “What if you forget to pick me up?”  It is a book I have shared many times and it always invites many “worry” connections from children.

10. Le Canada, c’est moi!  – Heather Patterson

I was SO excited about this gorgeous book when I saw it in English (I am Canada) and now soon to be released in French!   A perfect book to help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, written in simple text and illustrated by 13 amazing Canadian children’s illustrators including Barbara Reid, Jon Klassen, Marie-Louise Gay and Ashley Spires. It is a celebration of all things Canada – from First Nations festivals, to playing hockey on an frozen pond, to lying in a pile of leaves – depicting the cultural and geographical diversity of our home and native land.


Well, French Immersion Teachers, there you have my first official blog of French titles!  I hope that you have found a few new books to add to your Reading Power collections.  I would love to hear back with any of your favorites so that I can perhaps do another Top 10 List soon.  Thanks for stopping by!




Filed under French Books, New Books

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Good-Bye Gift Books for Teachers and Colleagues

As our school year draws to a close, there may be staff members who are moving to other schools, retiring or going on leave.  Gifting your colleague with a special book is a meaningful way to say “Thank you” and “You have made a difference”.  Here are my top 10 books to give as good-bye gifts to teachers.  (Thank you Amber Romero for this great Top Ten Tuesday idea!)

  1. A Letter To My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson

A heartfelt picture book about a girl who prefers running and jumping to listening and learning—and the teacher who gently inspires her.  Written as a thank-you note with gorgeous illustrations.  This one is inspiring and may require a Kleenex.

2, Thank You – A Book for Teachers – Sandy Gingras

This is a charming little keepsake book features soft, sweet watercolor artwork and thoughtful original text celebrating teachers and all they.  Please note this book is very small – like something that would fit into a purse –  very sweet, but tiny.

3. Last Day Blues – Julie Danneburg

A very sweet story that follows a group of students on their last day of school.  The kids are so worried that their teacher will have nothing to do during the summer (LOL!) so they make her a very cute present to help her remember them.  Love the surprise at the end!  (Similar to First Day Jitters)

4. Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden – Edith Pattou

A metaphor for teaching –  tending a garden – planting, nurturing, growing.  Simple, moving story and whimsical illustrations celebrate all that teachers do, year after year, to help children grow and blossom.  A great teacher gift.

5. Because I Had a Teacher – Kobi Yamada

“Because I had a teacher, I have whole new worlds to explore.
I discovered that what I can imagine, I can make real.
And now I feel like I can do anything.
Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

This heartwarming book is a thank you gift for great teachers everywhere. Adorable illustrations.

6. Teachers Rock! – Todd Parr

You can never go wrong with Todd Parr!  Summary:  Teachers are amazing!  They help you find new talents, learn new things, and watch you succeed.  A wonderful ode to teachers.   

7.  The New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons Edited by Robert Mankoff

For those teachers for whom a picture book is maybe not the best fit – here is a hilarious collection of cartoons that capture the fun, terror, excitement, anxiety, bedlam and joy that teachers experience every day.  Hilarious!

8. F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers – Richard Beasoa

This book is hilarious!  Full of apparently real-life wrong answers to various test questions. Perfect for anyone who has ever taught high school or middle school who will make many “connections” to these creative wrong answers to test questions.

9. What Teachers Make – In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World – Taylor Mali

At a dinner party, teacher Taylor Mali was asked by a dinner guest, who happened to be a lawyer, what teachers make.  Tired of being asked this question, he wrote a poem which he later performed at a poetry slam.  The poem got such attention, he turned it into a book.  Heartfelt and filled with inspiration, this is a perfect gift for every teacher.  I did not know about this book but was inspired by Taylor Mali’s reciting the poem on YouTube. 

10.   Thank You, Mr. Falkner Patricia Polacco

No list of inspiring books for teachers would be complete without this one.  A beautiful, touching story of a girl struggling to learn to read and the amazing teacher who “unlocked the door and pulled [her] into the light.”   Kleenex definitely required for this one – I cry every time I read it.  This special book is for that special teacher who just finds a way.

Teachers:  There is No Such Thing as Hot Coffee and Other Teacher Truths -Bored Teachers

This book has not yet been released (July) but I’m including it as a “one to watch for”.  I enjoy following Bored Teachers on Facebook so am looking forward to this one as I’m sure it will be very funny.  Here’s the summary:

Is it Friday yet? Get ready to go behind the desk with this insiders look at a year in the life of an everyday educator. Written for teachers by teachers, this hilarious snapshot into the lives of the overworked and underpaid will have you laughing so loud, you’ll worry it might get confiscated.  Full of administrative frustration, madcap humor; and heartfelt love for the most underappreciated profession of them all, Teachers is the perfect gift for that special someone who spends all day with your kids.  

What are your favorite teacher gift books?

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Filed under New Books, Teacher Books, Top 10 Tuesday

Guest Post #2: BC Performance Standard Makeover and Student Portfolios by Jennifer Moroz (SD 57)

This week, I would like to welcome Jennifer Moroz as my second guest blogger!  She is a teacher from Prince George, B.C. who is currently working at the district level as an Assessment Support Teacher.  I first met Jennifer many years ago in Smithers while facilitating a Reading Power Leadership Series in the district.  Jen was early in her teaching career at the time, but I knew instantly that she was going to go places!  She had a keen intuition about student learning and showed amazing promise and insight as an educator.  It is not surprising she has gone on to do amazing work in her school district and is now starting to present workshops in and around BC.  I’m very excited (and proud!) to have her share some of the amazing work she is doing in the area of assessment, student portfolios, and the new curriculum.  Way to go, Jen!

BC Performance Standards: A Once-Per-Term Score Sheet, or the Groundwork for Student Portfolios? 

by Jennifer Moroz, Assessment Support SD 57

I know.  Performance Standards.  Two words no one really likes, or maybe just not together.  The term simply sounds like the image it evokes; forced samples, waiting to be duly assessed under fluorescent lights.  I intuited this during conversations with teachers in my capacity as an assessment support teacher in SD 57; it became clear that most teachers were familiar with Performance Standards as either summative assessment tools (stapled to the front of a writing sample, for example) or as a reference tool for assessing comprehension questions (in the DART assessment, for example).  I felt strongly that these documents had more to offer than being visited only three times a year.

The Link Between Performance Standards and Student Portfolios

I have always been passionate about developing Student Portfolios as a way of developing a personalized learning profile for each child, as well as to help guide my instruction. As a classroom teacher, I began using a portfolio system six years ago because I needed to streamline the task of tracking the individual growth of 30 students in a combined grade 5 and 6 classroom, with reading and writing levels ranging from grade 3 to grade 9.  I used the original Performance Standards in reading, writing and numeracy (for simplicity I am only referring to the reading and writing standards in this blog) to track student progress throughout the year.  In interview format, I shared the results of baseline assessments as recorded on the Performance Standards with each student, explaining that I had to develop a profile for them to best meet their needs.   Together we came up with ideas for learning opportunities that reflected their interests and passions, and this was recorded and stored in their portfolio – which was a simple binder in which I kept their baseline, mid-term, and end-term assessments.

Students took equal ownership of their portfolio binders by adding documents that demonstrated their learning, such as reading fluency charts, reading logs, and before/after writing samples.  In this case, the Performance Standards provided crucial scaffolding that enabled us to effectively communicate our learning, and helped me develop momentum and purpose in my instruction through the year.  It also made student-led conferences and report card writing enjoyable, as I recall. (I’m in the process of developing blackline masters that can be used for a similar binder or folder system for a portfolio like this, so come and visit me at the PSA Superconference workshop – details below — for more information on that!)

What Was Missing in the BC Performance Standards?

The original BC Provincial Performance standards have served me well in the past as a way of aligning my assessment to my practice and for helping me communicate with students where they are and where they need to go.  As with any assessment tool, however, the current Performance Standards are not without a few “hiccups”.  Over the years, while using these documents, I have often wished “someone” would make them more user-friendly.   There are many things that could be improved upon –  starting with a space for the student’s name!  Since the curriculum in BC has recently undergone a huge transformation many, including me, have been wondering if changes to the Performance Standards will follow – aligning them more with the new core competencies, big ideas and learning outcomes.  Having recently been hired in my district as an assessment support  teacher, it seemed serendipitous, even necessary, to seize the opportunity to update the Performance Standards to reflect the spirit of change. And that is just what I did!  My revised continuums are based on our current Performance Standards but are not “official” ministry documents.  I have made minor modifications to the layout and the language, but have maintained the format, structure and intent. Like in many other districts, we are taking what we have and trying to make it work best for us and for our students.

Below are a few of the highlights of my “revamping”:

  1. The language of the revised performance standards is aligned with aspects of the curricular competencies.
  2. The language is taken directly from the full scale. The quick scale was too vague for a comprehensive portfolio piece.
  3. The box for student name and current grade level is added so that teachers can easily personalize the document.
  4. The common reading assessments, PM Benchmark and Reading a-z, are linked to the continuum of the year.

Jen Moroz

Early Learning Conference Connections

I presented the concept of using the revamped Performance Standards as scaffolding for a portfolio at the Early Learning Conference in Prince George of January this year.  I made the case that something as innocuous as an 11×17 document could exist as a year-long story, punctuated by assessment dates of achievement and success for students. As a natural extension, the portfolios could quite literally highlight an educator’s effort to move learning forward.

Educators who were interested in using the revised Performance Standards to track growth in reading and writing provided me with feedback with four reasons why this system would be useful for them:

  1. Linking the revised Performance Standards to Building Student Success made their assessments feel relevant, particularly because of the connection to the new curriculum;
  2. Using the revised Performance Standards to show growth supports existing structures of interviews, conferences and reporting because it contains the continuum descriptors that they used in communicating formally;
  3. Using the revised Performance Standards to indicate markers in learning enabled them to create a one page picture that showcases the reading and writing assessments they do regularly;
  4. The revised Performance Standards have language that aligns with many commonly used assessments in reading and phonological awareness. They could continue using their usual tools to collect data, but now the data could be expressed on the Performance Standard continuum.

Testing the Proto-types

Educators from our school district were excited to test the prototypes.   Christie Wilson is an educator who teaches grade two and three at Glenview Elementary in Prince George.  She devised a system with highlighters that concisely shows the date of the assessment and student progress (she uses PM Benchmark assessments at regular intervals) at each one. Christie keeps the portfolios (one for reading, one for writing) in an 11 x17 folder on her desk.  Christie shared these assessments with visiting parents and guardians during interviews in the fall.  Now, as she prepares to communicate the story of her students’ growth with the summative report card template, she has a clever visual that is poised to provide a framework for some highly personalized and meaningful comments.

jen 1           Christie uses the margins for anecdotes during assessments

jen 3

Tracy Flesher from Hart Highlands Elementary uses post-it notes to specify targets for learning.

jen 4

jen 2

Laura Gilday from Foothills Elementary sent digital and paper copies of the portfolios home as formal communication at the end of the year.

Well, that’s one big boing of color!

I have the extreme honor of being “the reading lady” who visits many classrooms in my district to help with benchmark assessments.  Recently I started sharing the portfolios with the students. I explained to a lovely girl in grade two that the blue color represented her fall reading level (‘You mean around Halloween, right?’) and green represented winter (‘I remember Santa but not really anything else’) and finally that orange showed her May reading level.  She had no problem reading the information as a visual – her excitement and pride clearly visible as she held her hands on her cheeks.   “That’s amazing! Look at the big boing of the last color! I’m so telling my mom!”

jen 5

To be clear, when the Performance Standards are used in the way described, it comprises one piece of a student portfolio.  Many more pieces, in other curricular and core competencies, would have to be included in order to be considered a comprehensive portfolio.  I simply consider it a starting place, and an arguably important one, because language arts infiltrates so much of what we do in the classroom.

This is the beginning of my journey as it relates to engineering the best version of a portfolio system for language arts in primary and intermediate.  These revised documents are a work in progress and I welcome your feedback and input!  I’m very excited to be one of the presenters at the 2017 PSA Superconference in Vancouver on Oct. 20-21st.   My session, ‘Building Portfolios for Student Success’ (K-3/4-7) and will feature:

  • Tools for building effective assessments in curricular and core competencies; several samples that can be modified to suit your classroom needs
  • Practical classroom tested ideas for how to use the Grade K-3 and 4-7 Reading and Writing Performance Standards
  • Supporting Portfolio documents that enable students to organize, document, and showcase their journey as it relates to the Performance Standards, and the curricular and core competencies

Attached are the pdf files of my “revamped” K-3 Reading and Writing Performance Standards, and the Grade 4 Reading Performance Standards.  Please feel free to use and share with colleagues.   Happy teaching, assessing, and learning!

Reading K

Reading Gr. 1

Reading Gr. 2

Reading Gr. 3

Reading Gr. 4

Writing Gr. 1

Writing Gr. 2

Writing Gr. 3

jen 6

Jennifer Moroz has taught grades K-8 for 12 years in SD 54 and dabbled with various portfolio systems in an effort to streamline the crucial task of communicating student learning.  She began work as an assessment support teacher in SD 57 in 2015 and is eager to meet the needs of educators by creating effective assessments that align with the new BC curriculum.  Jen loves meeting new people and collaborating with other educators. Contact her with your clever iterations, questions, suggestions, or to book a workshop at or @MorozJennifer on Twitter.

If you would like to be a guest on this blog, please email me with your ideas!



Filed under New Books, Redsigned BC curriculum

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 New Spring Picture Books Worth Reading and Sharing!

top 10

It’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for another  Top 10 Tuesday post!  This week, I’m featuring some of the amazing new picture books I have discovered this Spring.  Enjoy!


1. The Treasure Box – Margaret Wild

“When the enemy burned the library, everything burned.”   This extraordinary book tells the story of a young boy and his father who save a book after their library is destroyed by war.  Powerful and heart-breaking story of resilience in the face of the atrocities of war.  Haunting.


2. That Neighbor Kid – Daniel Miyares

A gentle, nearly wordless picture book of a new friendship that forms when a young girl moves into a new neighbourhood just as the boy next door is planning to build a tree house.  Friendship develops as the tree house is constructed.  Charming!  I love how the soft black and white illustrations are gradually include color as the story develops.

3. The Book No One Ever Read – Cornelia Funke

Cornelia Funke, acclaimed author of the InkWorld series and The Thief Lord, shares what it is like to be a book- told through the minds of the books themselves.  Imaginative, enchanting,  and a great message!

4. Twinkle – Nick Bland

A charming,  tender and beautifully illustrated story about a shooting star that falls down from the night sky into Penny Pasketti’s back yard.  When it’s time for Star to “fall up” into the night sky, Penny finds a way to send her new friend home.

5. Places to Be – Mac Barnett

Two fuzzy friends explore a wide range of experiences and emotions in this adorable book, reminiscent of The Quiet Book and the Loud Book.  I love the whimsical illustrations and the introduction of new emotion vocabulary – jubilant, awestruck, or sullen.  Great Connect book!

6. Town is By the Sea – Joanne Schwartz

A simple, poetic story set in the early 1900’s in Cape Bretton, Nova Scotia tells of the challenging life of a mining family.  A young boy goes about his daily activities in the sunshine by the sea while, in contrast, his father works underground in the mines.  The writing is so beautifully descriptive and would be a great anchor book for descriptive, sensory writing or Visualizing, but also Inferring.  The words are lulling and almost haunting and the illustrations are gorgeous. 

The Last Tree

7. The Last Tree – Ingrid Chabbert

“When I got home, I lost myself in my books. To see some green, some leaves… some happiness.”   Simple, thought-provoking story about environmental awareness, reminiscent of The Lorax.    A father tells his son about the days when he used to run amongst the grass and trees, instead of living in the concrete world they both live in.  This is a must add to your “Earth Day” collection!


8. Little Fox in the Forest – Stephanie Graegin

So much book love for this one!  Adorable wordless picture book in large graphic novel panels tells the story of a young girl who brings her favorite Fox stuffy for show-and-tell.  At recess, a sneaky fox snitches the fox from the bench.  Lots of details to pour over again and again.  Heart-warming!  Delightful!

The Thing Lou Couldn't Do

9. The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do – Ashley Spires

Lou is fearless, full of adventure and up for anything… except climbing trees.  Encouragement and perseverance are the themes of this latest delightful book by Ashley Spires (author of The Most Magnificent Thing).  Love the nameless sidekick cat!

10.  The Book of Mistakes – Corinna Luyken

Here’s the perfect book for the Creative Thinking competency!  Gorgeous illustrations and poetic language in a large format make this a great book for sharing. Corrina Luyken explores the creative process, perseverance, accepting mistakes, making the best of a situation… so much packed between the covers of this beautiful book!  Lots to think about, to infer, and to transform our thinking!  So inspiring!  A great “gifting” book for anyone who loves to draw, create or design.  LOVE!

10.  Green Green – A Community Gardening Story – Marie Lamba

This story by Marie Lamba is a wonderful and inspiring book about children who join forces together to build a community garden.  Gorgeous illustrations and lovely rhyming text.  Wonderful details on each page to inspire discussion with primary students about the environment, community, and taking care of our Earth.  Two page information spread at the back gives information about how to make more “green” in your world and the importance of gardens to bees and butterflies.  Great!


10. The Good for Nothing Button – Charise Mericle Harper

Yellow Bird has a button that does… nothing!  If you need a good giggle – you will get it with this third Elephant and Piggie Like early reader series!  What a hoot!  The Imaginative, playful and a perfect read-aloud for an early primary class.

Thanks for stopping by!  What book has caught your eye?

( And yes,  I lost track of my book count!  Turns out it is Top 12 Tuesday today!)


Filed under 2017 releases, Connect, Earth Day, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Visualize, Writing Anchors

Top 10 Tuesday – Top Ten New Middle Grade Novels Worth Reading

top 10

With only a few months left until the end of the school year, you may be looking for that “just right” end of the year read-aloud for your class to send them off into the summer bursting with book love!  There are many amazing new books that I have fallen in love with and hope you do, too!  Here are my top ten favorite new books to fill your classroom and your hearts with book joy.

Image result for a boy called bat

1. A Boy Called Bat – Elana K. Arnold

Bixby Alexander Tam, or Bat, is great at Math and knows more about animals than anyone in his class, but he is not great at making friends. When his mom, a veterinarian, brings home a baby skunk, Bat becomes the best skunk care-taker ever, all while trying to navigate his world. A Boy Called Bat by Elana K Arnold is a charming story for your younger middle grades (Gr. 4-5, possibly gr. 3) I like that this book has a character most likely on the autism spectrum, without the book being about that. The story focuses more on Bat’s love of animals and how this empathy for animals helps him connect to his classmates. This book is tender, heartwarming and funny with an amazing character you and your students will fall in love with. Major warm fuzziness.

2. Orphan Island – Laurel Snyder

This  book is not available until the end of May but it is a MUST read!  So much to love about this deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.  I was completely captivated by the writing, the themes, the story – I could not put this book down.  So much emotion and pain and beauty.  WOW.   Perfect read-aloud for grade 5-6 level that will stimulate lots of discussions.

3. See You In the Cosmos – Jack Cheng

A “road trip” novel, narrated by space-obsessed 11 year old Alex through a series of Podcasts.  There have been a lot of books written through letters, emails, situation reports – but this is the first I have read that is written in podcasts. Protagonist Alex travels to a large rocket festival with hopes to launch a rocket into space carrying a golden iPod.  His a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe is funny and moving.  

4. The Ethan I Was Before – Ali Sandish

Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous debut middle grade novel.  So much emotion in this hauntingly beautiful book – I cried in many places.  Ethan is a haunted, broken boy,  filled with grief and guilt about an undefined accident that happened to his best friend.  This is a book of loss, love, guilt, resilience and forgiveness.  It is a multi-layered plot but the story strands all weave together in the end.  Fast paced and beautifully written.

5. Short – Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting By 7’s author Holly Goldberg Sloan’s new book is a endearing novel about a short girl who is cast in her first theater role as a munchkin in a summer production of Wizard of Oz.  Julia has such an authentic voice that had me laughing one minute and welling up the next.  Loved the realistic “musical production” setting and would be a great connect book for students involved in theater or school productions.

6. Hello Universe – Erin Entrada Kelly

So much to love about this book that takes place almost entirely in a single day with an unusual cast of characters who come together for a strange adventure.  I love the diversity of the characters, the combination of reality, adventure and magic, the weaving in of Filipino culture and stories (told by a whimsical grandmother), the charming, witty narrative, the themes of family, friendship and believing in yourself… I could go on and on but just read it!

7. Me and Marvin Gardens Amy Sarig King

This book is the perfect way to approach environmental issues with the middle grade audience!  (think Hoot by Carl Hiassen).  Me and Marvin Gardens is a cleverly written story about a changing world and the changing environment.  I believe I found a class discussion could come from almost every page!  While filled with important environmental issues, it is also a coming-of-age story as sixth-grade Obe must overcome fear and deal with bullies.  Excellent choice for a read-aloud!


The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street – Lindsay Currie

Ahhhhhhh!  This book is CREE-PY!  But Oh, SOOOO good!  If you like history, mystery and scary stories – this is for you!  As well you will find…Friendship, humor, suspense, emotion, family, heart.  So well written.. and oh, and did I mention it was scary????

9. Amina’s Voice – Hena Khan

An excellent story filled with many issues middle grade readers will connect to – changing friendships, parental restrictions, having the courage to try new things and trying to find your own path.   I loved how Amina’s culture, faith and experiences being a Pakistani American Muslim are woven into the story in such a natural way.  Great writing and memorable characters. 

1o. Chester and Gus – Cammie McGovern

Written from the point of view of Chester, a therapy dog in training, as he tries to build a relationship with his human, Gus, who happens to be autistic. This book will make you laugh, cry and want to hug every dog you meet.  The power of this dog’s love for Gus will steal your heart.  LOVED this book SO much!

Thanks for stopping by!  Which book or books have caught your eye?

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017 releases, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Top 10 Tuesday

Guest Post: Core Competencies and Student Self Assessment with Linda O’Reilly

I am very pleased to welcome Linda O’Reilly as my first “guest blogger”.  After retiring from the Vancouver School District, Linda is now busy with her own educational consulting business.  As well, she has worked as a sessional instructor at Simon Fraser University, was lead consultant on Nelson Literacy B.C., and is a School Liaison for the One-To-One Literacy Society.  Over the past three years,  much of Linda’s work has focused on BC’s new curriculum where she partners with teachers to bring the new curriculum ‘to life’ in their classrooms.  Her workshops and school in-service sessions are in high demand!   In this post, she shares some of her new thinking around the core competencies and student self-assessment and has included additional links to some of her documents and posters.  Thank you, Linda, for generously sharing your work with us!


Kids, Core Competencies and Self-assessment

By Linda O’Reilly 

This is an exciting time to be a teacher in British Columbia. As I travel about the province facilitating professional learning sessions, I am amazed with how teachers and students are jumping into the Core Competencies. Just think about this. In classrooms across the province, teachers have become thoughtful designers of core competency learning –creating opportunities for students to communicate, think critically and creatively, and act in socially responsible ways. On one hand, emphasis on core competency growth in BC classrooms is not new. On the other hand, many teachers are grappling with the core competencies and student self-assessment. With this in mind, and in the words of Maureen Dockendorf, “It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters that you start.”

A Place to Start

When students walk into our classrooms they bring their core competencies with them! The competencies are about how children go about ‘doing’ the job of learning. For example, how students communicate, work with others, and deal with conflict. When it comes to helping students develop core competencies, the teacher’s role is more like a coach –stretching and strengthening the core competency growth of their students. So where does one start?

  1. Discuss with students that different people have different capabilities and strengths (things they are good at, strong points, talents, skills) and stretches (things they need to work on). Encourage students to use ‘I can statements’ when they are describing their strengths. Let the students lead the discussion as much as possible.
  2. Introduce core competencies as the ‘six doing engines’. Explain to students that the core competencies have ‘job descriptions’. For example a critical thinker – explains why things happen, evaluates ideas, forms opinions, draws conclusions, understands the perspective of others, predicts what might happen in the future, and thinks of creative solutions.
  3. Create kid-friendly ‘doing’ definitions for each core competency. Post the competency definitions so you can refer to them and emphasize their importance with students.
  4. Create a competency word wall to display competency language for students to reflect upon as they engage with the core competencies. Children need to talk about their competency learning. Language and core competencies grow together and nurture each other’s development.
  5. Weave kid-friendly competency language as much as possible into all lessons, conversations, discussions and self-assessment activities.
  6. Create opportunities for ongoing reflection and self-assessment of core competencies.
  7. When you see your students being critical thinkers for example, point it out to them –‘notice it, name it’. Make clear what kind of thinking the student is being asked to show evidence of, for example, whether it is analyzing, comparing and contrasting, decision making, challenging an argument.

Student Self-assessment of Core Competencies

Ultimately, we want students to be the self-assessors of their competency learning. The process of self-assessment is what matters, not the format. The goal is to guide students toward the development of their own ‘learning to learn’ skills. Students are thus equipped with their own language and tools for competency learning and are more likely to transfer and apply these sets of skills into their daily life. Always keep in mind, students need to be living and doing the core competencies so when they are asked to assess their competencies, they can!

Steps to Student Self-assessment

  1. Address students’ perceptions of self-assessment including wishful thinking, over inflation, and under inflation.
  2. Teach critical thinking skills required for student self-assessment.
  3. Provide students with many opportunities to practise different aspects of the self-assessment process.
  4. Develop metacognitive skills. Metacognitive skills are important organizers of the tasks that students perform (e.g. planning, setting goals, adjusting what they are doing to improve the quality of their work).
  5. Encourage students to assess their own progress by asking themselves key questions about where they are in their learning (1) where am I now? (2) Where am I trying to go? (1) What do I need to do to get there? (4) How will I know I have accomplished what I set out to do?)
  6. Use the I Statements and ask students to assess their development by asking (1) Is this a bit like me? (2) Is this quite a bit like me? (3) Is this very much like me?

Student Goal Setting

Students should be encouraged to write their goals down during the self-assessment process, and be reminded of them regularly. The establishment of goals and having students track their progress toward these goals makes the learning process more transparent. To accomplish this with your students begin by asking a few basic questions:

  • What new competency skill will you work on?
  • What attributes/dispositions would you like to develop?
  • Set a Goal: I want to__ by__ so I will__.

Kids, Competencies and Student Self-assessment Resource

This is resource to open up a dialogue with students about the core competencies and self-assessment. The framework is not to be followed in a prescriptive way. Teachers are encouraged to use the framework in a way that works best for their students. Think of your students – you know them best. The resource includes:

  • Access to kid-friendly competency videos, links to excellent websites, and core competency bibliographies
  • Ways to get started with the core competencies
  • Ways to incorporate reflective thinking into the school day
  • Strategies for student-self assessment and goal setting
  • Growing my Core Competencies Self-assessment strategies
  • Six Doing Engines poster set
  • Icons for the ‘six doing engines’
  • I statements written in kid-friendly language (K-2)

I wish you a continued journey of inspired learning with the Core Competencies!

Links to Linda’s documents:   


(10) 2017 K-9 FEBRUARY 10 2017 COMPETENCY CONTINUUM copy (2)


Primary Competency Posters copy 2

Intermediate Competency Posters copy 2

About Linda:


More than anything, I am a teacher at heart. I thrive on confirming and challenging my colleagues’ thoughts about what’s possible in the world of teaching and learning. I have a rich background as a classroom and resource teacher, university instructor, workshop presenter, author, and educational coach. While I enjoy all aspects of consulting, I think my favourite part is collaborating with teachers. The ideas start to flow and that’s always when the fun begins.

Contact Information – or my LinkedIn accoun


Filed under New Books

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Books to Celebrate Earth Day

top 10

Earth Day activities are underway in many schools, leading up to Earth Day this Saturday.  What better way to celebrate Earth Day but to share Earth books with your students!  While there are MANY to chose from, these are ten of my old and new favorites…

1. The Earth Book – Todd Parr

With his signature colourful, playful illustrations and gentle message, Todd Parr gives readers tips and encouragement to “Go Green”.    (The hardcover book is on sale at Amazon this week for $10.79!)

2. Earth Dance – Joanne Ryder

I have loved using this book over the years as an anchor book for personification.  The book is written in first person and you, the reader, are planet earth travelling on a global journey through forests, oceans, deserts and mountains. Lovely message of taking care of the earth.  Poetic language and an excellent book to use for visualizing.

3. The Earth and I — Frank Asch

This story celebrates friendship that one child has with the Earth. It is beautiful and simple with an important message to appreciate our planet Earth by keeping it clean.  Vibrant, simple watercolor illustrations.

4. Earth Day: An Alphabet Book – Gary Kowalski

I love how this book focuses on gratitude for the wonders of nature – from apricots, to groundhogs, to june bugs, to zebras.  Gorgeous language and great triple scoop words!

5. Step Gently Out – Helen Frost

Stunning photography and gorgeous poetic language, encouraging us to stop, notice and wonder.  A wonderful book to read aloud to your class and then go on an Earth Day “wonder walk”.

6. 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World – Melanie Walsh

One of my very favorite Earth Day books, this simple text and engaging “lift the flat” format makes it an excellent read-aloud.  Filled with simple tips with a “small things make a big difference” message, this book will inspire your students to create their own instructional books to help the world!

7. The Lonely Giant Sophie Ambrose

Wow! Wow! Wow!  This brand new picture book is the PERFECT choice for Earth Day!  So much to love about this story about a giant who, thoughtlessly, destroys the forest he lives in just for the fun of it.  He slowly realizes that the forest was home to the animals and begins to feel lonely without them.  A great book to teach consequences of actions and taking care of the earth.  Great discussion starter!   Love!


8. Robins: How They Grow Up – Eileen Christelow

Two young robin siblings explain how robins live, build nests, lay eggs, and protect their baby birds.  Cheerful and whimsical.  (Be warned that one of the robin babies dies)


9. Watersong – Tim McCanna

Another new release, this gorgeous book is a perfect anchor for teaching onomatopoeia. This book takes the reader on a dazzling journey as a fox seeks shelter from a rainstorm.  Gorgeous sound words makes this a perfect read-aloud.

Image result for compost stew

10. Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth – Mary McKenna Siddals

A light-hearted introduction to composting.  The brightly patterned collage artwork features multicultural kids working together for a common goal.   Important information for kids (and parents) about creating your own compost.

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










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Filed under New Books