Book of the Week: Too Much Noise

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Too Much Noise, by Ann McGovern (illustrated by Simms Taback)

You can take a look at this text on Google Books. A video of it is also available below.

You might recognize Taback’s art from his Caldecott-winning Joseph had a Little Overcoat, and this book would pair nicely with it. Taback seems to gravitate toward cumulative stories (see here and here), which could prompt conversations for a good genre study (I know “cumulative stories” isn’t really a genre, so please help me if you know a better label). If you DO have a cumulative story study, make sure you include class favorite Drummer Hoff!

Oooh! Or even better! You could study this book along with fantastic cumulative story The Mitten! Use any version you prefer. I like the original by Alvin Tresselt or the adaptation by Jan Brett (clicking on the afore-linked link will take you to some rad Brett-designed animal masks so you can perform the book).

Here’s a math lesson with the same title as the book, but it’s actually totally unrelated. It aligns nicely to 2nd grade standards, though, so I figured I’d pass it along.

I wonder what it would be like to use this book at the beginning of the year to prompt a conversation about appropriate levels of noise at different times in the classroom.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Tune in to interesting words. In my vocabulary lessons with my students, we often talk about the idea that “interesting words” don’t necessarily need to be the longest, most unusual words, they can also be short words or any words that are extremely effective. There aren’t any particularly striking words in this text, but the repetition of phrases in the text is important. This might be a good book to connect the strategy of using interesting words to the writing strategy of varying sentence length and structure.
  • Use pictures, illustrations, and diagrams. In a primary or heavily ELL class, discuss how the pictures support students connecting the new word introduced on each page (usually an animal) with an animal addition to the house. I usually use the example of “it’s a lot harder to read the word ‘elephant’ if you’ve never seen an elephant before or heard the word out loud.”

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: Dear Benjamin Banneker

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Dear Benjamin Banneker, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

You can preview this book on Google Books.

I wanted to highlight this as a book of the week because I know many grade-level teams have planned a unit highlighting interesting and inspiring Americans, and I wanted to make sure we have enough resources to support this unit.

Benjamin Banneker was a freed black man living in the late 1700s who ran a successful tobacco farm, published a successful almanac, and told off a young Thomas Jefferson for his hypocrisy in owning slaves.

Well-known books like this already have a bunch of full lesson plans available online, so there’s no real need for me to redo them. If you’re looking for a more in-depth project, you might want to take a look at:

Additionally, this book used to be an SFA text, so 30 copies are available for use as a shared text. If you use multiple bags of books, please make sure you check out each bag from the bookroom. There’s also an SFA teacher’s guide with vocabulary and comprehension questions.

We have enough of a collection of books by Andrea David Pinkney / Brian Pinkney that you might want to consider an author’s study of their work. See me if you’d like help putting this together!

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

Comprehension

  • Recognize literary elements (theme). Especially if this is part of a larger unit on inspiring Americans, you might want to explore some of these universal themes:

    • Persistence in the face of challenges
    • Standing up for what you believe in
    • A full life is well-rounded and allows you to develop your passions
    • Privilege plays a role in what individual determination can achieve (how would Banneker’s life be different if he hadn’t been born to a freedman? If he had been born closer to the civil war? If he was born in the South during the civil rights movement?)

  • Compare and contrast within and between text. The SFA skill focus for this book is compare and contrast. Please refer to the teachers’ guide in the book bag for more details.

Accuracy

  • Use the pictures… Do the words and pictures match? More complex words like observing, plotted, astronomy, and eclipse make sense in the context of this book. It would also be interesting to use this book with the Astro Adventures science kit, because students would already be primed to be more aware of sky-and-space related terms.

Behaviors that support reading

  • Select and read good-fit book. Benjamin Banneker taught himself astronomy! Amazing. The level of self-motivation he must’ve had is amazing. Our students need to strive to find topics and issues that interest them so they too can be motivated to take a lead role in their own successes. Use this book to reinforce the strategy of IPICK.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: How Animal Babies Stay Safe

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

How Animal Babies Stay Safe, by Mary Ann Fraser

You can see a Google Books preview of this book here.

Author/illustrator Mary Ann Fraser blogs pretty regularly. It’s always neat to see into an illustrator’s process, so you should check it out.

There is a lesson for first graders included with this mentor text. It includes suggested conversation ideas along with page numbers. The question prompts are also included as labels stuck to pages throughout the book. The included lesson focuses on these standards:

  • 1.5 Locates Information
  • 2.1 Comprehends important ideas and details
  • 2.1.2 Summarizes a simple text with guidance
A brief aside: WHY is it that when humans are featured as minor characters in a book about some totally different topic they are almost always straight-haired blonde/brunette white folks? This book was written in 2002. I wish there were more non-white characters in books that weren’t just about “issues.” See rad Michigan educator Colby Sharp’s views on this matter here.

Anyways. This book would work perfectly with The Bird Lady, a Level J guided reading text available in our bookroom. The information section in the back talks about what humans do when animals lose their support system, and Bird Lady is a critter rehabilitator.

There is also a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

Comprehension

  • Monitor and Fix Up. If you follow the lesson plan included, you will create a chart showing the different ways animals carry, protect, and provide shelter for their young. You can explain that this graphic organizer can help you monitor your comprehension — if you notice that you haven’t recorded anything in a page or two, there’s a chance that you missed some key information.
  • Recognize and explain cause and effect relationships. The book discusses many different actions that animals take to take care of their babies, all with the effect of keeping them safe. Talk with students about the idea that a cause (i.e. a crocodile putting her babies in her mouth) can also be an effect (A predator had to cause the crocodile to put the babies in her mouth in the first place). At the end of the book, Fraser talks about why it is that animals are so keen to protect their young. This could be used to explore the idea that although there are many smaller causes and effects in the book, they all fit under the overarching idea of protecting young animals.

Expand Vocabulary

  • Use prior knowledge and context to predict and confirm meaning. The lesson plan included in the book bag features a conversation about the word “instinct.”

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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CAFE menu board

I’m finally to the point in preparing the classroom where I can afford to take the time to pretty things up a bit. Here’s our reading corner, featuring our CAFE menu.

I think all our decisions in our classroom should be intentional, so here are some thoughts on what you see in the picture:

  • I don’t see a need to have the Daily Five choices themselves written anywhere all giant. As I introduce them, we write the choices on sentence strips and staple them under the daily schedule. After all, we do keep our T charts for expectations posted year-round, so they don’t need to take up much space here.
  • The empty room under the white paper explaining each CAFE category was left there intentionally. My students will post sticky notes with their names under each definition so we know what strategies they’re currently working on.
  • I want as much space as possible for our strategies, so this year I added a second column to accomodate all the comprehension strategies. For the record, I will be adjusting the burgundy paper so both columns are even. :)
  • The crab chair is named Oddvar. He’s from IKEA and I bring him around the classroom with me when I confer.
  • Chart markers are in a plant pot under the phone. I started using the pot after getting frustrated because I could never seem to get baskets and cups to work for my markers.
  • Our Word Collector will be located on the bulletin board to the right of the easel.
  • Do you see our class crests on the lower part of the whiteboard? So exciting!
  • The big “Day 1” on the white board is posted because we have a six-day schedule instead of just a Monday-Friday schedule. Tomorrow, I’ll post my schedule so you can see how I block out my time.

Questions or ideas for improvement? Let me know in the comments or by e-mail!

Book of the Week: Arctic Babies

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Arctic Babies, by Kathy Darling

Start typing here

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

Comprehension

Determine and analyze author’s purpose and support with text. When we’re reading nonfiction, I’ve often noticed my students will inevitably decide that the author wrote the book because they were interested in the topic they wrote about. That makes sense, after all, haven’t we been teaching them to write about what they’re interested in? But this could be an interesting book to dig a little deeper into that idea. The author is Kathy Darling, and the photos are by Tara Darling. Are they related? Do they visit the Arctic together? Tara Darling has photographed animals all over the world. You can find out more about the duo here. Tara has a Facebook page, too.

Compare and contrast within and between text. The format of this book makes it perfect for copying a few pages and giving them to students for a shared reading or working with a partner to compare and contrast two animals.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. Feel free to use anything you find useful, but comments are always appreciated!

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Paul Galdone

We talk a lot about filling in background knowledge of our high-poverty and ELL students. Lucky for us, we have a whole bunch of Paul Galdone’s traditional stories in our bookroom. I’ve seen The Three Billy Goats Gruff, obviously (it’s currently in the bucket of former SFA Roots books), The Little Red Hen, The Three Bears, and The Gingerbread Man. Combine this with all the James Marshall fairy tale books we have, and we’ve got a pretty solid collection. You might also want to talk with our Kindergarten team, as I know a few teachers did a fairy tale unit last year.

You can learn more about Galdone here, in a neat Seattle Times profile. Information on the Austrian-born artist and his work can also be found here, here, and here. You know I’m more than wary about Wikipedia, but I’m perplexed that I can’t find any “official” biographies. Holy COW, look at all the books he illustrated (scroll down to the bottom).

1958 book review in the St. Petersburg Times

Children’s book historian Leonard S. Marcus had this to say about Galdone’s works: “Knowing that copies of his books were bound for use in preschool and elementary school classrooms and public libraries, he planned his illustrations with the child in the last row at story hour in mind.” I love learning the thinking behind books, particularly picture books, which are so often dismissed by grown-ups as easy to write. You can see his illustration style in this sample of The Little Red Hen.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use prior knowledge to connect with text. This goes along with asking questions, below. Ask (or chart) what traditional stories students have heard or seen. This will help you gauge familiarity with patterns such as the rule of three, etc.
  • Ask questions throughout the reading process. Before: What are some characteristics of traditional or enduring stories? During: What patterns do you notice in the structure of the story? Does it remind you of any other children’s stories? After: Why do you think the author says the troll was “as mean as he was ugy”? Do you often notice that the evil characters are ugly while the heroes are pretty or handsome? Why do you think many authors do this?

Fluency

  • Use punctuation to enhance phrasing and prosody. For primary students, talk about the all-caps words and the different tones the billy goats and troll might use. This would be a great shared reading opportunity to start with, because everybody will probably wind up sounding pretty silly. For older students, you could contrast the all-caps approach of conveying mood with more modern books like Geronimo Stilton, which uses multicolored, crazily-shaped text. How does technology impact the way books are written, published, and ultimately interpreted? How do these interpretations change over time?
Speaking of different interpretations of the Three Billy Goats, this is a tremendous resource.
Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: A Hummingbird’s Life

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

A Hummingbird’s Life, by John Himmelman

I’ve been slowly processing the old mentor texts from the SFA Roots series, and I’m pretty excited to add these to our bookroom for several reasons:

  • Many of them are light on the text, making them perfect for primary read alouds.
  • Most sets have three or more copies, so an entire grade level team can plan their read alouds collaboratively if they so choose!
  • Quite a few of the books have a “sister text” pairing fiction with nonfiction, another powerful planning tool.

If you’re looking to celebrate the arrival of spring with a study of nature and/or of poetry, this website is a good place to start for some hummingbird-inspired poems.

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use text features. Despite being narrative nonfiction and being such a basic book (its AR readability level is 2.3), A Hummingbird’s Life is chock-full of text features. There’s an info box at the front giving background information on the Ruby-throated hummingbird, a glossary, and an About the Author section.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. Another great benefit of this text being so short is that you can copy the entire book onto a piece of chart paper, project it using document I’ve typed here, or give each student their own copy to mark what they believe are the main ideas.

Accuracy

  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. Many primary science units (at least in our school district) are about animals, habitats, and ecosystems. Talk with students about how their familiarity with new vocabulary they’ve learned in their science unit can help them read accurately.

Behaviors that Support Reading

  • Increase Stamina. Because of the limited amount of text in this book, this might be a good book for young primary students to practice making it all the way through a read aloud without needing a body break.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

A Hummingbird’s Life

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

A Hummingbird’s Life, by John Himmelman

I’ve been slowly processing the old mentor texts from the SFA Roots series, and I’m pretty excited to add these to our bookroom for several reasons:

  • Many of them are light on the text, making them perfect for primary read alouds.
  • Most sets have three or more copies, so an entire grade level team can plan their read alouds collaboratively if they so choose!
  • Quite a few of the books have a “sister text” pairing fiction with nonfiction, another powerful planning tool.

If you’re looking to celebrate the arrival of spring with a study of nature and/or of poetry, this website is a good place to start for some hummingbird-inspired poems.

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use text features. Despite being narrative nonfiction and being such a basic book (its AR readability level is 2.3), A Hummingbird’s Life is chock-full of text features. There’s an info box at the front giving background information on the Ruby-throated hummingbird, a glossary, and an About the Author section.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. Another great benefit of this text being so short is that you can copy the entire book onto a piece of chart paper, project it using document I’ve typed here, or give each student their own copy to mark what they believe are the main ideas.

Accuracy

  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. Many primary science units (at least in our school district) are about animals, habitats, and ecosystems. Talk with students about how their familiarity with new vocabulary they’ve learned in their science unit can help them read accurately.

Behaviors that Support Reading

  • Increase Stamina. Because of the limited amount of text in this book, this might be a good book for young primary students to practice making it all the way through a read aloud without needing a body break.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

Book of the Week: Meet Wild Boars

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Meet Wild Boars, by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall

See a preview of this book at Google Books.

Meet wild boars. They are crude, naughty, and wear sweet vintage-inspired duds. “They are dirty and smelly, bad-tempered and rude. Do you like them? Never mind. They do not like you either.”

DID YOU KNOW that wild boars are an invasive species to North America? It’s true — they came over from Europe. If you’re using this book with older kids, it might be neat to talk about metaphors — the boars as plaid-shirt-wearing ruffians are a bit of a pain, but is this perhaps also a commentary on wild pigs running amok?

Older students (huzzah for using picture books in high school!) might even extend this further to make comparisons with Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, where wild boars play an alarming role. (Did I just relate feminist speculative fiction to a children’s book about boars? OH YES I DID.)

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use prior knowledge to connect with text. Countless books are written where the mean old rotten character turns out to have charming, redeemable qualities in the end. Not so in this book. Yet, the author doesn’t advise the reader to take action against these meanies, just to be wary and respond appropriately. What a refreshingly honest message!

Accuracy

  • Use the picture… Do the words and pictures match? Onomatopoeia are great for getting students who think they don’t NEED to use the picture to slow down and take a look at the picture. If you don’t use the picture, how will you know precisely how to articulate that SNORT? How in the world could you decide what emotion TUSK conveys?

Fluency

  • Adjust and apply different reading rates to match text. We usually read a book with repeated phrases and patterns differently than we would a regular fiction book or a nonfiction text.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

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Book of the Week: There’s an Alligator Under My Bed

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom and offer lesson plan suggestions.

There’s an Alligator Under my Bed, by Mercer Mayer

This book is one of the old SFA Roots listening comprehension texts, and as such, there are three copies available! Perfect for collaborative lesson planning with your teammates!

In There’s an Alligator Under my Bed, a young boy is fully cognizant of the reptile hanging out below his mattress, despite the fact that he can’t get his parents to believe him. He takes matters into his own hands to solve the problem.

You can watch Mr. Mayer himself read the book in this video:

Boy, would a Mercer Mayer author study be awesome. Especially for folks working on a writing unit on realistic fiction or personal narrative (I’m thinking of the Little Critter books, not There’s an Alligator Under my Bed :)). Also, did you know that Mercer Mayer does non-picture book art too?

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Predict what will happen, use text to confirm. The surprise ending of this book would be fun to predict then disprove with explanations from the text.
  • Summarize text, include sequence of main events. This simple story would be perfect for teaching the Somebody-Wanted-But-So framework.
  • Compare and contrast within and between text. Why not compare and contrast this book with There’s a Nightmare in my Closet? Video available here:

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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