Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The OK Book

Ever feel like no matter how hard you try, everything turns out just OK. That's how things seem to be going these days, the perfect time to read this story....

The letters OK come together to make the character in this story, who imparts on the reader that it's alright to try things and just be OK. That someday, each one of us is really good at something, but that having fun trying new things is part of the journey.

The simple illustrations, the letters O and K (turned sideways to make 2 arms and 2 legs), make this a book that even the youngest readers can illustrate. Knowing this, it provides an opportunity for students to create "quick" illustrations based on the pattern in the story as you read the story.

After read a few pages, the kids figure out that OK is only OK at each thing it tries. In each pictures, something is not all the way right (ie. the alright sharer with the sandwich in 2 unequal pieces). It invites a conversation about what and OK person would look like as they were doing different activities. Predicting through illustrations gets all learners engage and involved.

This text can also easily be mimicked to make a pattern book. I'm an OK ________. With simple illustrations, students can create several sentences that follow the pattern, or each child can contribute one idea to a class text.

The message of this story is a fabulous one that resonates even with the youngest of readers. Engaging these students in discusses and determine the criteria for being OK and being good is something that can help you motivate your students and build their self confidence. It also reminds us as adults that while things might not be going perfect, OK is just fine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We Are in a Book!

On Thanksgiving eve, I wanted to post about one of the things that I am most thankful for...teachers like Mrs. Dunn, Mrs. Wilson, and Mrs. Selario that made me the reader I am today. That is not to say that I always had my nose in a book as a child, but I always felt connecting to writing...so Mo Willems beloved newest Elephant and Piggie book seemed a great choice to appreciate the love of all things books!

In their latest adventure, Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie are biding time when Gerald realizes they have an audience. Piggie introduces Gerald to "the reader." They come to the realization they are in a book and they are being read. With the realization the book is drawing to a close, Gerald panics, then pleads the reader to read the story again. For fans of Elephant and Piggie it's a fabulous addition to the series.
For early readers it is fabulous to work on concepts of print - it discusses how characters "speak" to the audience, bubbles show speech, punctuation (! ? ...) we read from left to right, front to back. With it's plethora of high frequency words, it encourages participation from early readers.
As writers, it also provides plenty to discuss. These characters demonstrate voice consistently - through small and large font, all capitals, repetition, italics and facial expressions. For young writers, this is often a very difficult concept to provide instruction on and often difficult for children to convey in their writing. The dynamic between the two characters provides a fabulous guide for including voice and expression in writing.

There are a few stopping points in the text that are opportunities to predict. The best opportunity is near the end, when Piggie has a suggestions for how Gerald can be read and the story can go on. After taking and discussing predictions, then reading the end of the book, it's a great way to discuss how readers read stories multiple times with a different purpose. Another opportunity is in the middle of the text Piggie says he can make a reader say anything if they read aloud - this provides a great discussion point about how authors choose their words carefully, and readers could predict, knowing Mo Willems, why he choose the word Banana for the word Piggie has the reader say.

I always enjoy the dialogue between the two characters - a great way to get your students writing conversations is to remove the words from the bubbles and have the children write their own stories using the same facial expressions - providing a few pictures in a sequence, students can use the illustrations to support their writing as the two characters interact.

Elephant and Piggie often speak to each other, including the reader in their conversation in this text is a new twist. As readers, this allows for a reaction addressed to the characters. As the book closes, Elephant and Piggie hope the reader will return to the book. Readers can then respond to the characters about their plea, letting them know if they were persuasive enough or providing suggestions to persuade them further.
Check out all awesome things Mo at www.pigeonpresents.com and www.mowillems.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Alice the Fairy

This is a particular favorite of mine, perhaps because it resonates perfectly with a kid who has a fabulous imagination - something I always had as a kid. This story tells follows Alice through her trials as a temporary fairy from casting spells to flying, she makes attempts but hasn't seen much success. Her shortcomings lead her to the conclusion that perhaps she'll remain a temporary fairy rather than graduate to the status of a permanent fairy. Author/illustrator David Shannon has created another memorable character for young readers.

This makes this story fabulous for analyzing attributes of a character and comparing them with character traits. I like to have my students illustrate and label a picture of the character inclusing the details that help determine who she is (ie. wand, crown, wings...). Then I have them illustrate actions that she does in the story so that they can draw conclusions about her character and define traits.

A critical challenge I often use is having children determine the characteristics of a fairy (students determine, often through illustration and labeling in Kindergarten), the criteria for a successful fairy if you will. As we read the story, they collect evidence (again through the form of pictures and labels) to evaluate whether or not Alice is a fairy.

The vocabulary is often something I take for granted when first reading this story with my students. But after a first read, they are often ready to discuss the meaning of temporary and permanent. I use a series of pictures to discuss temporary and permanent (it's a great way to tie in changes that we often discuss in social studies with natural and man made features).

With it's memorable character and the situations she creates, this is a book that gets read repeatedly in class without losing it's humor and effect on children!

Friday, November 19, 2010


A rainy day in the park turns into an adventure filled with creativity and dinosaurs when three kids find magical chalk that turns pictures into real life. The life like pictures in this wordless picture book stand out on the pages.

As a wordless picture book it is easy to have students write the words to tell the story.

Making connections is a great way to get readers thinking about the story. Discussing what they would use the magical chalk to create and explaining why they chose it. Another open ended question is, would you leave the chalk behind again explaining why or why not.

This book can also be used to discuss cause and effect the relationship between the drawings that are created and the effect they have on the kids.

Students can judge who drew the most important illustration and establish criteria for what constitutes a good drawing based on the circumstances.

Have the students write a sequel to the story - what would the characters do after leaving the chalk on the playground.

I love covering the title, and having my students create and evaluate the best title for the story. Sometimes I show the students the actual title at the end, others I encourage them to seek out the author and text, encouraging students that is' not always reading that helps your understand it's something to consider.

Wordless picture books are a fabulous part of primary classrooms and this is one of the better ones I've seen. The pictures alone are amazing. Plus it's always great when a kid can make up the story with the text!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Scaredy Squirrel

If you have not experienced the world of Scaredy Squirrel you are in for a rich literary treat. Engaging for adults and kids alike, it's the first in a series of adventures (future blogging to come...) of a Squirrel who cautiously avoids things living daily in his nut tree. One day his routine unexpectedly changes and he is forced to face his fears ultimately causing him to change his ways.

I love using this book as a mentor text for writing with my Kinders (and they love hearing it over and over again!). Here are a few techniques to examine
  • labeling pictures

  • list making

  • plus/deltas (a way to evaluate the positives and negatives of a situation)

  • numbered steps

  • diagraming and plans (he has quiet the exotic exit plan in the event of an emergency!)

  • voice

A fabulous critical challenge is to discuss being prepared in the event of an emergency. Scaredy has his emergency kit prepared with some very unique items. You can have students brainstorm what they would want in their kit - start with listing 5-7 items. Then have the students determine one thing they could give up and the 2 most important items to ensure they have. It is important to also have them set up important criteria - they have to be able to get the emergency kit quickly so weight and size are important factors. It is amazing to hear the discussions students have as a result of this critical challenge. Here is a resource from the publisher to get you started.

time is also an important part of Scaredy's routine. The digital and analog clocks that are part of the routines Scaredy outlines. Students can make the times to match the schedules. Another great critical challenge is to judge the better of two schedules in terms of use of his time. Again it's important to frame the challenge with criteria by discussing responsibilities throughout the day. Students can also design to specs a schedule for Scaredy to ensure he is using his time efficiently.

In the end, the kit is lost in of all things...a patch of poison ivy...a great opportunity for students to create a new story where Scaredy goes on a recon mission to get the kit back. Students can use the same techniques that Watt uses including lists, plans, steps and labels to stay true to the initial story line.

The vocabulary, humor and captivating story line make this book a fabulous book that will fly off the shelves into the hands of readers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One is a Feast for a Mouse

In the spirit of giving thanks, my *favorite* holiday, I am hoping to find some inspiration. This book certainly provides me with lots of food for thought - and thanks to the encouragement of my teammate...I am going to make this the start of staying on track. First up, a new one to my collection by Judy Cox.

This is a great tale about a leftover feast and a hungry mouse. Although one is a feast for a mouse, this mouse has eyes that are "bigger than his stomach." He carefully balances leftovers for a feast. But after greed, and the family cat, get the best of him, he is left with nothing more than a morsel - but one is a feast for a mouse. A great lesson about being thankful for what you have that is exceptionally timely!

Tons of great cross content ideas come to mind when reading this story:

The first is the wealth of vocabulary and literary language Cox uses. Words like dozed, scampered, balanced and surrounded combined with imagery like "cranberries glowing like rubies" and "pirouetting like a ballerina" it's evident there is plenty to discuss and illustrate.

My favorite part of this book is the perspective that the illustrations create. The images of the mouse small on the kitchen table and the plate with leftover that appears enormous in comparison to a mouse. It's a unique way to discuss how things seem from another point of view.

A great social studies tie in is wants and needs - which can make a great connection when discussing the lesson you can learn from reading the text.

For early readers - sequencing events in the story by using pictures of the food items can make this a great book to retell.

And for those like me who are like to encourage readers to think beyond the text - just before the book closes the ellipses (...) offer a great opportunity to make during reading predictions about what the mouse will do now that he's left with nothing - make sure you paperclip down the last page so curious readers to not turn to page or sneak a peek!

Any perspective you take, this is a memorable story to share!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

This classic tells the story who would rather stay in the tub all day and night than anything else the court can come up with.

This story is a great way to get kids thinking about predictions.
After discovering the problem, I have my kids predict what could get him out of the tub. They create a patterning book - ex. Try having a party. That will get him out. I join them together to make a class book for the class to read.

I also like to revisit this book as we discuss story elements of fiction. It helps students provide clear examples of the events that ultimately lead to the solution.

As a Math connection I also like to read this story when we talk about time of day. It helps reinforce time as part of the setting and encourages readers to analyze pictures clues to determine time of day (like how the pictures have a blue hue as the sun sets.)

Just like other books written by Audrey Wood this quickly becomes a classroom favorite!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Important Book

What better title for my first effort? Margaret Wise Brown's book is one that uses description to determine to significance of everyday objects - with a special message at the end. She leaves the reader with the message that everyone is special just for being themselves.

Several ideas come to mind for this book:
First is the discussion of importance. Rather than reading the text, students can generate a list of important things to know about the objects in the book. Start by providing an example from the text and encourage students to evaluate what is the most important (the most important thing about the rain is...). Solicit there ideas rather than using just those in the book. Encourage students to share why that is important. With interactive whiteboard technology - students can vote on what they believe is the most important.

Second is using the message of the story to write a patterned book. Students can write sentences or generate a list of important things about themselves. I use this as a descriptive writing lesson to get students writing about something they are very familiar - themselves! The writing mimics the pattern in the text and ultimately evaluates the important thing about each child. It's a great way to build your students knowledge and understanding of their classmates.

Third is the use of color in the text - just like her more well known Goodnight Moon, students can analyze the use of black and white to contrast color. Discuss why the selected pictures would be in black and white.

Mission Statement

Just like any business venture, I consider this blog my mission. Every teacher knows there is never enough time. Simple trying to manage your daily case load, assess, plan, instruct and evaluate leaves little time for much else. So here it is...my mission. Inside those books, neatly organized and shelved in my closet, that rarely see sunlight are stories that resonate with children.

So it's time to break the bindings, open the covers, and discover the wealth of possibilities. Inside each book are opportunities to teach and develop readers. This blog is more a forum; a place for teachers to read and post ideas for those often unused books, that house so much undiscovered potential. Each post will include summaries, classroom uses and *hopefully* internet resources for teachers. I look forward to the many things I will discover and the stories that will have lasting impressions on my students.