Sunday, April 29, 2012

More Spaghetti I Say by Rita Golden Gelman

Submitted by Kindergarten teacher, Anna
Anna writes:

I love working with More Spaghetti I Say! because the children love the rhythm of the book and there are so many ways to connect, act out, or plan activities!  This book works at the Kindergarten level because of its simplicity and the abundance of words that have rime patterns.  I often integrate pasta=spaghetti=noodles=macaroni with oodles of activities!  This book is a perfect fit for my students!

Click the image below for Anna's differentiated unit.  Activities can be selected for small groups depending on their level of phonemic awareness/reading skills.

Thank you Anna for the wonderful, usable unit!
Release Date:  1993
Age Range:  4 yrs. and up
ISBN:  978-0590457835
Genre:  Fiction

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne Lexile 1080

Tara and Trent attend a Project-Based Literacy Charter School.  Tara is learning about the Holocaust.  She has researched facts and events at school, attended a museum exhibit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and now has read a historical fiction based on the events of the Holocaust. 

  Summary:  This is the story about two boys who saw each other as two boys, not defined by social prejudice or boundaries.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was set in the past, in 1942.  Bruno is the main character in this story.  He and his parents moved from Berlin to a new city in Poland. He was confused about the fence that seemed to go on forever.  Bruno explored the fence and made friends with a boy on the other side with a shaved head and striped pajamas. Bruno made the decision to crawl under the fence...
Tara's discussion question responses:
1.) If you had to design a new cover for this book, what would it look like?
When I thought of this book at the very beginning, all I saw was a little boy in striped pajamas in my head. The cover of this book just had big light blue and white stripes on it which I then understood why the author picked that for the cover as I read on. If I was to create the book cover I would’ve put a barbwire fence on a cloudy rainy day from up close to as far as you could see representing the Holocaust. 

2.) How does this book connect with another book that you have read?
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was about this little boy and his family that was not Jewish and his perspective of what it was like or could have been like during the Holocaust. In the book, The Diary of Anne Frank, it tells through diary entries how Anne and her family lived during the time of the Holocaust that they took place in. Both stories took place during the Holocaust from different viewpoints. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is really historical fiction and The Diary of Anne Frank is real. Her hopes, dreams, attitudes and thoughts are written for history. 

3.) What would this story be like if the main character was of the opposite gender?
The main character in this book was a nine year old boy named Bruno who loved to explore the area around him. If the main character was a girl, she would probably have spent more time at home and less time exploring because that is what girls did during that time. Girls learned how to cook, clean, sew and take care of their home.

Tara’s Thoughts:
Normally I read fiction (princess/romance books) but this book really made me think of what happened during the Holocaust and how Jewish people were murdered. I thought this book was a fantastic book, from Bruno moving and hating it, to meeting a new best friend.  I thought that this book would have more violence than it did regarding the topic choice, but it wasn’t that violent until later on in the book. I would completely recommend this book to people older than 12. There is too much violence and the ending is too hard for younger kids.

Theresa's Thoughts:
Tara and her Advisor found a website called Operation Butterfly. The original thought was for the class to make 1500 butterflies to represent the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust. Their site is up and they have written of their potential contribution to the Houston, TX butterfly collection. See link for more information. 

The Houston, TX Holocaust Museum has stated that they will take butterfly projects through June 2013. See link below.

This is Tara's final project...a remembrance butterfly.

John Boyne's website is:

Release Date:  2006
Age Range:  12 and up
ISBN:  978-0385751063
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Topic:  Holocaust, Friendship

Thanks for reading my review!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Perfect Square by Michael Hall is one of my FAVORITE books because it emphasizes individuality, creativity and the strength in our differences.  It starts with a perfect square that quickly gets turned into something else making it no longer perfect.  Instead of being upset, the square embraces its new form and chooses to celebrate it! Throughout the book, the square changes into different shapes and adventures.  It soon realizes that it no longer likes the confinement of being perfect; instead, it it is joyful at its differences. Perfect Square is an amazingly uplifting book!

You HAVE to watch the video!!!

Here is a simple activity that Administrators can use for a fresh inservice day or for teachers to complete with their students:
Note:  Provide hole punches, scissors, glue, and glitter

  • As teachers/students walk in the door, give them a 4 x 4 inch red square and a 5 x 5 inch black square.  
  • Direct teachers/students to cut the square up and make a creation from it, gluing the creation on the black paper.
  • Read the book.
  • For Administrators:  Discuss how none of our students are a perfect square.  Each student is an individual with different interests, hobbies, personalities and achievement levels.  We need to embrace those differences and remember to facilitate learning through those strengths, through differentiating our curriculum to meet each individual child.  
  • For Teachers:  Discuss how we are perfect just the way we are with our interests, likes/dislikes and learning styles.  We celebrate these differences!
  • Distribute the following label to put on the front of the picture.  Give teachers a magnetic strip to place on the back to keep displayed as a reminder that we are all perfect in our individuality.  For students, you have a beautiful bulletin board celebrating each child!
The following labels are printed on Avery 5160.

Release Date:  2011
Age Group:  All
ISBN:  978-0061915130
Genre:  Fiction
Topics:  Individuality, Shapes, Days of the Week

Monday, April 23, 2012

Commercial Breaks: Famous for Thirty Seconds by P.G. Kain Lexile 910

Commercial Breaks:  Famous for Thirty Seconds centers around Brittany, a thirteen year-old girl who lives in New York City.  She and her family: Mom, Dad and (sister) Claire, have spent the last year in Hong Kong while her Mother worked.  Before leaving, Brittany was one of the most famous faces in the commercial world, being the top candidate selected at most auditions.  While in Hong Kong, Brittany learned a little bit of the language, made a few friends, discovered drawing as a hobby and anxiously awaited establishing the spotlight once again.

  Upon returning to New York City, Brittany expected to immediately jump back into the spotlight and become the commercial star she was one year ago.   She described how she felt about being in a commercial as:
All of a sudden the world stops and everything is focused on you and the new soda you are drinking or ice cream you are tasting.  I was hooked from the very start and my parents never once tried to stop me.  
 Her casting agent was named Judith.  Upon meeting Judith again, Brittany reflected:
Everything I want begins on the other side of the door.  For a second I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz the moment before her life goes from black-and-white to color.
Brittany would soon discover that much can change in one year...
How can so much change in twelve stupid months?  It's not my fault my family moved to Hong Kong so my Mom could stop freelancing and become a full-time staff reporter.  Why am I being punished?  Not a single person in the room knew who I was or even recognized me.  I was just one of the names on the list, just one of the girls wearing a teal polo shirt.
Brittany found that she was no longer the first call-back.  In fact, she didn't even get very many call-backs.  Brittany decided that she would have to work a little harder to define herself in the business. Along with that decision, she spent quite a bit of time feeling sorry for herself.  I loved the following "Brittany feels sorry for Brittany" statement:
Now I realize that day was just the first drop in the bucket that is the utter disaster called my life at this very moment. 
 Next, enters Phoebe, the girl who used to forget her lines and is now the "it" girl in the commercial business.  Brittany communicated the dismay that candidates feel when the "it" girl walks through the door.
Every single girl in the waiting area snaps her head toward the door and after seeing who has entered, looks down in despair.  I am not unfamiliar with the scenario; I'm just used to being the one who provokes it.
Phoebe and Brittany met over and over at many auditions with Phoebe obtaining the lead in most of them.  Finally, Brittany was booked and later discovered that she was the "extra" in the commercial.  Although Phoebe was consistently nice to Brittany and went out of her way to speak with her, Brittany was jealous. Phoebe's very cute brother, Liam, went to auditions with her to help practice lines and keep her from getting nervous.  Brittany decided to steal Liam from Phoebe and make him her boyfriend. 
Phoebe may think that after a year she can just become me and steal all of my bookings and even my wardrobe, but she's underestimated me.  I've figured out something I can steal from her, and it might just be the thing that helps me become me all over again.
Brittany discussed her plan with Claire who responded that she was an evil genius.  Brittany told Claire that she didn't need to worry about Phoebe or Liam.  Claire very wisely retorted:
I'm not worried about them...See, that's the thing about an evil genius:  They are always the ones who wind up getting hurt by their own spectacular, but insane plan.

 Throughout the remainder of this book, Brittany struggles with her choices, developing a friendship, her feelings about Liam and where she fit in the commercial business and as a person.  

The book summary asks the following questions:
1.  Will Brittany be able to steal back her spotlight?
2.  Or will she discover there's more to life than being famous for thirty seconds? 

Commercial Breaks:  Famous for Thirty Seconds is well worth reading to find out the answers.

Theresa's Thoughts:
I was absolutely captivated with this book.  It is a must read for any 9-13 year-old girl.  Famous for Thirty Seconds was engaging and dealt with real-world concepts that any tween/young teen is immersed in on a daily basis:  Where do I fit in?  Am I important?  Do I have friends?  Why does that person like me?  What is important to me?  Am I making the right decision?  Does this boy like me?  Why would this boy like me?  How do I define myself?

I felt like I was right there with Brittany as she journeyed through self-discovery and found her way through life including friendship and her first crush.  I especially liked that Brittany's family was portrayed as supportive with no family conflict.  They were a family that celebrated each other.  Another point that I would like to emphasize is that the author wrote Brittany's first crush as happening not only because the boy was cute, but because he and Brittany had something in common that they enjoyed doing together.  What a great way to model why we spend time with other people!

Bottom line:   Commercial Breaks:  Famous for Thirty Seconds is a "must read" for any tween/young teen girl.  I loved it!

P. G. Kain has a rockin' website~check it out!

Release Date:  March 6, 2012
Age Group:  5th-8th Grades
ISBN:  978-1416997863
Genre:  Fiction
Topics:  Life, Friendship, Self-Worth, Love

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic

The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic is a realistic look at death, grief and loss through the eyes of a young boy struggling with the death of his Mom.  Throughout this book, the boy demonstrates anger, sadness, conflict, empathy, loss, pain, hope and remembrance--all emotions that we struggle with when someone we love dies.


Theresa's Thoughts:
I was so happy to have discovered this book through the Kids Book Review,  The Scar immediately went into my Amazon cart and I received it last week, read it and cried.  This author accurately voices how everybody feels when someone they love dies.  The ability to write these feelings through the voice of a child is priceless for every child to come who receives this book at the loss of their Mother. It will validate their fears, words and actions-that everything that happened and will happen is normal and o.k.  Don't we all want to hear that?

The scene where the boy's Mom tells him that she is not going to get better left me in tears...
"I told her that she could come back after she was rested, that I would wait for her.  She said that she wished she could but that it wasn't possible.  Her smile got smaller and her eyes were a bit wet.  That made me mad, and I shouted that if it was going to be like that, I wouldn't be her son anymore, that she shouldn't have had a kid if she was going to leave before he was grown up.  She laughed a big, but I cried because I knew that she was really going to die."
Later, the boy expresses his fear that he will not ever be able to smell his Mother again so he closes all of the windows, but his Grandmother opens them.

"I shout and cry and scream, 'No!  Don't open the windows!  Mom's going to disappear for good...'  And I fall and the tears flow without stopping an there's nothing I  can do and I feel very tired."
The last few pages show hope, love and healing.

"He (Dad) opens his arms to me, I throw myself in them, and my heart beats so hard I can almost hear Mom whispering, 'Go on, my little man.  Go on..." 
What a beautiful book...

Release Date:  2011
Age Group:  5 and up
ISBN:  978-0-7636-5341-5
Genre:  Fiction
Topic:   Death, Grief & Coping

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

H.I.V.E.-Dreadnought by Mark Walden Lexile 1000

H.I.V.E.-Dreadnought was another fantastic addition to the H.I.V.E. (Higher Institute for Villainous Education) series!  This installment introduced the Disciples, which is a new organization that is trying to take over the world...

Trent's Points:
  • Jason Drake made a giant command ship for himself and Number One, but the new ruler of G.L.O.V.E., Nero, took over the command ship, Dreadnought.  
  • Jason left G.L.O.V.E. and joined the Disciples, got mad and captured everybody on the Dreadnought and took it over by force. 
  •  The Disciples were trying to take over the world along with the Overlord who takes over bodies.  When the bodies die, he transfers to a new body.
  • There was a facility where the military tested atomic bombs and where Drake had his underground hide-out.  That was where Otto's friends were captured. Otto and Wing had to fight to get them out. 
  •  Drake set a bomb that blew-up the facility. 
  •  Raven made her way aboard the Dreadnought with her swords that cut through just about anything, including titanium. (Way cool!)
  • Jason Drake's partner, Furan, shot Jason thinking he was dumb and not a good example of the Disciples.  Furan became the commander of the Dreadnought working with the Overlord.
  •  Otto helped Darkdoom, the former ruler of G.L.O.V.E., destroy the Dreadnought. There is so much more to tell, but you will have to read and find out.
Trent's review chosen from Peck's questions to ask about a novel.

How does this book connect to another book that you have read?
In this book there is a lot of similarity with another book I read called H.A.L.O. by Eric Nylund.  The similarity is the action in the books. In H.A.L.O. the people are against aliens called the Covenant. In this book there are Otto and his friends fighting a former G.L.O.V.E. member named Drake.

If you to film this story and could not use all of the characters, which character(s) would you eliminate and why?
If I were to make a film I would eliminate Chief Lewis and Number One’s name.  I would eliminate Chief Lewis because he doesn’t do anything but say, “Security go take them prisoner,” and “Security go take them to the brig.” Do you see where I’m going with him? I would change Number One’s name because it’s lame.  I would call him Trey.  I don’t know why, but Trey is such a cool name to me.

If you had to design a new cover for the book what would it look like?
I would have it look like the dreadnought which is a giant command ship. It would include a picture of Otto by the Dreadnought.

This book is COOL!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

This Little Chick by John Lawrence

I just received my copy of This Little Chick illustrated by John Lawrence and it is delightful! This Early Literacy book promotes rhythm and rhyme and can be sung to the tune of Five Little Chicks. I embrace any book that integrates singing, which is brain-based learning at its best!  The simple bold pictures in This Little Chick were created through engravings and will easily draw the attention of young children.

This Little Chick is a perfect book to introduce rhyming.  This book follows the long a sound at the end of a word in the -ay pattern.  Jack Hartmann, one of my favorite children's musicians, has a CD where he explains that rhyming words have "different sounds as they begin and sound the same at the end."  That is the phrasing I use when discussing rhyming with children.

The simple rhyme text in this book follows:
"This little chick from over the way
went to play with the pigs one day.
And what do you think they heard him say?"

Kids could stamp, clap and tap every time they hear these rhyming words as they sing along.

Those who have taken my courses know that I am a true believer that anything on a Popsicle stick is more fun.  I have created the attached graphic for students to cut out, place on a stick and lift in the air every time they say the rhyming words in this book:  way, play, day and say. 

Grab this book and your singing voices.  This is sure to be a classroom treasure!

Update 3/18/2013:  Great link to integrated math activity at PreK and Sharing from Deb Chitwood!


Jack Hartman's CD:  Shake, Rattle and Read 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reading Level Conversion Chart

I love this conversion chart!  It compares all leveling of books that teachers I work with use in their classrooms:  Lexiles, Grade Equivalents, Fountas & Pinnell, DRA, Reading Recovery, Basals and DRP.  Whatever you use for leveling students in your classroom, this conversion chart will keep you on track!


Links to conversion charts you may want to print:

The Going to Bed Book By Sandra Boynton Submitted by Joyce M.

Joyce is a PreKindergarten teacher. She has submitted a wonderful unit for The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton.   

Joyce's Comments:
Sandra Boynton's poem, in book format, was a great anchor book for our unit on Healthy Hygiene Habits!  This text offered a very rhythmic story that was entertainingly silly.  The pictures were engaging and promoted conversation about healthy bedtime habits.

Using a pocket chart, we transferred this poem to sentence strips where all rhyming words were written in red.  This allowed students to pick up a word card to match one-one-one to one of the red words on the sentence strips.  My students really enjoyed the challenge of this activity.

Theresa's Comments:
Joyce's differentiated graphic organizer draws activities that focus on rhyming words, directional positional concepts, opposites, graphing, rime families and sorting with beginning phonemes.  This is a wonderful, usable unit for PreKindergarten and Kindergarten teachers!

Thanks, Joyce for sharing your beautiful unit!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Magyk by Angie Sage Lexile 640

The last two times Tara, Trent and I have visited our public library, the Youth Services Coordinator has suggested that we try the Septimus Heap Series by Angie Sage.  Although there are several books out in this series, I decided to start with the first, Magyk.

Summary from the back cover of Magyk
Septimus Heap, the seventh son of the seventh son, disappears the night he is born, pronounced dead by the midwife.  That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across an abandoned child in the snow--a newborn girl with violet eyes.  The Heaps take her into their home, name her Jenna and raise her as their own.  But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their  beloved son Septimus?
Theresa's Review:
Septimus Heap lands itself squarely in the fantasy genre of fiction, filled with magic, wizards, heroes and villains.  This book has a medieval feel with a Queen, castle and surrounding lands.  Magyk skips in time to ten years after the Queen was murdered and magic users became oppressed.  The Queen's daughter, Jenna, was hidden with Silas and Sara (parents of Septimus).  Dom Daniel and his villainous followers discovered Jenna's location and the race was on to save Jenna, Silas, Sara and the six Heap sons.  They all escaped  the boundaries of the castle with the help of Sally (friend) and Marcia (magician). Then, the adventure truly started.

This strong tween fantasy book was filled with characters that were easily discernible by the author's descriptive writing style. Each chapter started with a title that foreshadowed the main idea of that chapter's events.  The hand-drawn stretches expanded my imagination of each character and their traits.  

One of my favorite characters was the Boggart as described on page 160: 

"A sealike creature covered in slippery brown fur pulled itself up so that its head was just out of the water.  Two bright black-button eyes started at Jenna, who had her paddle still poised in midair.” 

This was a solid fantasy genre story sure to engage tween readers!  The mystery of what happened to Silas Heap was finally resolved in the last pages of this book.

Happy Reading!

Please enjoy the Fantasy genre poster below!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Punished by David Lubar Lexile 510

I am always on the look-out to find amazing books for kids that hilight and integrate fabulous figurative language concepts.  David Lubar's book, Punished, is one of my all-time favorites!  This is an easy, great read that  seamlessly introduces kids to puns, oxymorons, palindromes and anagrams.  This book is loads of fun!        

Logan and Benedict, best friends, raced through the library resulting in Logan crashing into an older man, Mr. Wordsworth.  Logan apologized.  Mr. Wordsworth replied, "Words aren't always enough."  Ominous sounding, he continues to tell Logan that he needed to be punished.

Page 15 gives us a wonderful tease to read on.                                           
"Yes. Punished.  I suspect it would do you some good."  He raise the book he was holding and blew on it.  A puff of dust swirled through the air.  I closed my eyes as the dust tickled my face.  "Hey, cut it out!" I wiped my face with my sleeve and then opened my eyes.  He was gone.

From that point forward, Logan speaks in puns, which are groan out-load "punny!"  Logan eventually  finds Mr. Wordsworth for an explanation.  Mr. Wordsworth tells Logan that he can remove the punishment himself by finding seven oxymorons, anagrams, and palindromes or he will speak in puns forever....

You will enjoy this delightful book!

Here is a quick {LINK} to my new unit!

You can find educational opportunities in the most unusual places.  Tweens and teen will make a connection with the annoying orange.  This one is Trent's favorite!

David Lubar's Website:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Like Bugs by Margaret Wise Brown submitted by Bridget

I Like Bugs by Margaret Wise Brown is a darling book/poem that extends oodles of phonemic awareness and phonics skills.  This book lends itself easily to differentiation.  Bridget created an amazing graphic organizer of many ranges of skills to draw from for young children!  This unit works best for PreKindergarten and Kindergarten classrooms.
The rhythm screams for children to follow along:
"Black Bugs, Green Bugs, Fat Bugs, Buggy Bugs!" 
 Montessori teachers, I can see a bug sort tray in your future!!

Bridget's graphic organizer of activities follows:

Thanks, Bridget!  You are wonderful!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding Figurative Language in Strong Literature/What Makes a Good Book?

One of my favorite activities working with students is when we identify and learn about figurative language and how authors use different techniques to make their writing more exciting.  Recently, I was invited into Trent's room as a guest teacher for an afternoon.  Trent attends a Project Based Learning Charter School where parents are frequently invited into share their strengths.  Mr. Gay, his teacher, asked me to review and extend analyzing figurative language in books.

I brought in several of my favorite picture books that are filled with oodles of figurative language examples.  It is easier for kids to learn a new concept through picture books at a lower reading level before being asked to apply their new knowledge to their individual reading level.

Step One:  We first reviewed several categories of figurative language using the following chart:

Step 2:  I read Sailor Moo, Cow at Sea by Lisa Wheeler to the class. Students were asked to make tally marks each time they noticed a style of figurative language being used.  It was exciting to watch as they noticed and shared their discoveries!  When you live in Wisconsin, who doesn't like a few bovine puns?!  Lisa Wheeler has a clever, clever mind...

  Step Three:  Kids were put into small groups and picked a picture book to read aloud to each other.  They the following recording sheet to write down their examples.

Step 4:  After reading their selected picture books and finding examples, each group in Mr. Gay's class was given a large piece of poster board and instructed to make a graphic organizer of the figurative language in their books.  Art always cements learning!

This class demonstrated an amazing understanding of basic figurative language concepts.  Each group decided who would read their book to the class and who would present categories of figurative language they discovered.  This was an all afternoon project and well worth the time it took to process through whole groups to small group and then with presentations.

Students in Mr. Gay's class are in grades 4-6. Here are a few examples:

Step 5:  As an extension, Mr. Gay decided to have his class write stories.  Selected categories of figurative language were required to be incorporated into their writing.  I can't wait to read their final drafts!