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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Quick Link for CAFE Resources

It seems as though I always leave my CAFE book at school, and I always have my Daily 5 book loaned out to someone. That said, it’s irritating to poke around online to find the CAFE resources I need when I’m writing about our bookroom Book of the Week or doing lesson planning. Here’s everything you need to get started.

CLICK HERE OMGOMGOMG!

Hope this has saved you some time!

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Book of the Week: Chester’s Way

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

Chester’s Way, by Kevin Henkes

Most people love Henkes’ seminal character Lily, of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse fame. I think she’s obnoxious, and I’m glad this book gives us a chance to learn more about Chester.

First, an aside. I believe Sheldon’s character from The Big Bang Theory is based heavily on Chester. I think these portions are particularly relevant: “Wilson wouldn’t ride his bike unless Chester wanted to, and they always used hand signals.”, “Chester duplicated his Christmas list every year and gave a copy to Wilson, because they always wanted the same things anyway.”, and “One day, while Chester and Wilson were practicing their hand signals, some older boys rode by, popping wheelies. They circled Chester and Wilson and yelled personal remarks.”

Dr. Cooper does not find your personal remarks amusing.

Anyways. This is a great beginning-of-the-year-let’s-be-friends kind of book, and Kevin Henkes is brilliant as always.

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

Comprehension

  • Recognize literary elements (character). This book provides a great opportunity to discuss author’s craft, especially if you’re reading this book as part of an author study. Henkes uses very precise, particular, and sophisticated vocabulary when he talks about Chester. Contrast this with the language he uses in Birds or Kitten’s First Full Moon.

Fluency

  • Read appropriate level texts that are a “good fit.” Many primary students would not be able to successfully make it through this book independently, due in large part to fantastic words like “diagonally,” “miniature,” “swung,” and “reminded.” However, if a teacher reads the book aloud to the group first, the book will now be accessible to more students because they are familiar with it.
  • Reread text. See above!

Vocabulary

  • Tune in to interesting words and use new vocabulary in my speaking and writing. I know a several primary teachers who have a Kevin Henkes author study at some point in the year, and the thing that’s so striking to me is what a sophisticated vocabulary Henkes uses in this book. This is a great book for introducing your class’ word collector.

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!

Chester’s Way

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

Chester’s Way, by Kevin Henkes

Most people love Henkes’ seminal character Lily, of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse fame. I think she’s obnoxious, and I’m glad this book gives us a chance to learn more about Chester.

First, an aside. I believe Sheldon’s character from The Big Bang Theory is based heavily on Chester. I think these portions are particularly relevant: “Wilson wouldn’t ride his bike unless Chester wanted to, and they always used hand signals.”, “Chester duplicated his Christmas list every year and gave a copy to Wilson, because they always wanted the same things anyway.”, and “One day, while Chester and Wilson were practicing their hand signals, some older boys rode by, popping wheelies. They circled Chester and Wilson and yelled personal remarks.”

Dr. Cooper does not find your personal remarks amusing.

Anyways. This is a great beginning-of-the-year-let’s-be-friends kind of book, and Kevin Henkes is brilliant as always.

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

Comprehension

  • Recognize literary elements (character). This book provides a great opportunity to discuss author’s craft, especially if you’re reading this book as part of an author study. Henkes uses very precise, particular, and sophisticated vocabulary when he talks about Chester. Contrast this with the language he uses in Birds or Kitten’s First Full Moon.

Fluency

  • Read appropriate level texts that are a “good fit.” Many primary students would not be able to successfully make it through this book independently, due in large part to fantastic words like “diagonally,” “miniature,” “swung,” and “reminded.” However, if a teacher reads the book aloud to the group first, the book will now be accessible to more students because they are familiar with it.
  • Reread text. See above!

Vocabulary

  • Tune in to interesting words and use new vocabulary in my speaking and writing. I know a several primary teachers who have a Kevin Henkes author study at some point in the year, and the thing that’s so striking to me is what a sophisticated vocabulary Henkes uses in this book. This is a great book for introducing your class’ word collector.

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!

Jalapeno Bagels

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

Jalapeno Bagels. By Natasha Wing

You can find a copy of this book in the red Multicultural Fiction bucket in the bookroom.

No lesson plans are included with the book, but if you visit this site and click “Lesson Overview,” Kathryn Felten shares her ideas.

Learn more about the author at her Web site. You can even set up a Skype conversation with her!

If you’d like to see some vocabulary and comprehension PowerPoint presentations related to Jalapeno Bagels, check out this site.

If you’d like to study the vocabulary in this book, a virtual stack of flashcards is available here.

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

Comprehension

  • Use prior knowledge to connect with the text. I have decidedly mixed feelings about this book. I like that it highlights a multiracial family based on an actual family in California. But I don’t know how I feel about some pieces that could be seen as caricatures or stereotypes (Does the Dad really need to wear owlish glasses and have full facial hair?). Wildwood has a pretty significant Hispanic population. I think it’d be interesting to see how our students feel about the portrayal of the Mom. Are they pumped because a Mexican-American family is featured? Or do they find the depth of the characters lacking? What are their experiences?
  • Summarize text, include sequence of main events. This book is short and simple enough that it would be a good resource for a lesson explaining the differences between retelling and summarizing.

Expand Vocabulary

  • Use dictionaries, thesauruses and glossaries as tools. Jalapeno Bagels has a multilingual glossary in the back. Talk with students about the fact that fiction books that contain multicultural or international components often contain supplemental material in the back. This could be particularly useful for intermediate students who have gotten out of the habit of doing picture walks before reading.

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

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My Grandma, Major League Slugger

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

My Grandma, Major League Slugger. By Dan Greenburg

You can find a teacher copy of this book and the Targeted Treasure Hunt for it in the red Silly Book mentor text bucket in the bookroom. We have a complete set of lesson plans left over from our SFA book set, which might be useful for comprehension questions and vocabulary lessons. We also have 29 student copies, separated into book sets of six each and filed under Guided Reading level M.

The SFA suggested instructional goal is “questioning II,” which involves asking questions that can be proven in the text as well as asking higher level questions. There isn’t a CAFE menu in the bag yet, as I am writing this post during Snowpocalypse 2010 and I don’t have access to the copy machine.

If you’re using this in a unit on families, we also have book sets on grandmas for Fountas and Pinnell levels D and E (DRA 5 and 8), and a billion books on families. I’m sure there are many others that would fit into the category — I’ve only searched for books with grandma or families in the title or subject tags.

Additionally, you might also want to take the unit in the direction of women  making breakthroughs in baseball.

There was an all-women’s minor league baseball team that played in the 1990’s? They were neat.

Finally, Jim Trelease has some great sports read-aloud suggestions at his Web site (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

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

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Classroom Library: Filling the Shelves

To view previous posts in this series, click below.

Classroom Library Part 1: Supplies
Classroom Library Part 2: Getting Started

Hopefully, you haven’t agonized too much over the last two steps because I don’t want you to have lost steam. THIS is the important part — having plenty of texts at many different levels accessible to all students at all times. So let’s get started!

1. Figure out some kind of sorting system. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember how I asked you before how you were going to catalog your books and sort them? If you haven’t decided already, do it now. My books are sorted by genre/series (for fiction), and Dewey decimal number (for non-fiction). I have a few partner reading buckets that are sorted by reading level. Our school also uses Accelerated Reader, so my books are labeled with the schoolwide leveling system as well.

All our math books are in bucket 510. We talk in class about the fact that the Dewey Decimal uses at least three digits, so bucket 030 (books of facts) is different from bucket 30 (Judy Moody books).

2. Decide how you want to process and add your books. For me, this meant starting fresh — pulling every single book off my shelf and reintroducing them into the library as I processed them. It’s not the most efficient (I still have six boxes of books to catalog), but it helped keep my brain clear (a daunting challenge). You might want to sort your books into different bins first, or you might want to label them first.

3a. If you’re leveling books and/or cataloging books, open several tabs in your browser. Open your cataloging site in one tab, your leveling site (Renaissance Learning, Scholastic, Fountas & Pinnell, probably) in another. Open Pandora in a third so you don’t go crazy.

3b. Get your books in check-out condition. For me, this meant putting a book pocket on the inside title page (many people use the inside front cover because then you don’t block the inside title page, but I find that paperback books are easier to keep open if you put them on the title page). I then wrote the title on an index card and inserted it into the book. I looked up the AR level of my book, entered the book into LibraryThing, and put the book in a stack ready for AR tape and bucket number.

Leveled and ready for check-out!

4. Sort your books. I put AR tape on the top of the spine of the book so the color can be seen when it’s sitting inside a book bucket. I stick a mailing seal to the upper left corner of the back cover of the book, and I write the book bucket number on the back.

AR Tape.

5. Add books to your library. Put your book buckets on your shelves, add your books to them, and admire your handiwork.

6. A word on templates. When I first organized my classroom library, I saved a ton of time by printing my book bucket labels and check-out cards in Microsoft Word (otherwise I would have had to hand-letter cards for my entire classroom set of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle). This also saves time if you have a lot of guided reading book sets. Now, if your printer is fussy or you’re a bit of a technophobe, templates will probably cause you more frustration than joy. If despite this you’re still finicky enough to want ALL your materials typed out, then you’ll want to see the templates I’ll be posting tomorrow in Library Upkeep.

Please feel free to share and use this information as you see fit. If you’re able to take a moment to leave a comment, though, it completely makes my day and my students usually squeal with delight.

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Classroom Library: Getting Started

To view previous posts in this series, see below.

Classroom Library Part 1: Supplies

Now that you’ve got all your supplies collected, take a look around your classroom. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when you’re thinking about what your classroom library will look like. That doesn’t mean you need to agonize and ponder endlessly over ideas, but it does mean you want to be intentional with the decisions you make. Some points to think over:

How old are your kids? The kindergarteners in Mrs. Terry’s class wouldn’t have a chance if they wanted to pick out books from the bookshelves in my classroom. And my kids probably wouldn’t give the books on Mrs. Terry’s lowest shelf a second glance. The physical size of your students will impact their browsing patterns. I’ve actually found that books tucked away in a corner get a ton of traffic from my kids because they often like to cuddle themselves up in corners to work independently.

How big are your books? Kindergarten teacher Ms. Nietering uses blue bins from IKEA to store her books, and it has worked out well for her the past few years. If I were to use them on my shelves, there would be a tremendous amount of wasted space. Plus, my kids would have a difficult time seeing the covers of novels. I do have a few blue bins for some of our picture books, but I still prefer the Sterilite Ultra bins I mentioned in the last post.

How much space do you have? Ms. Stock once told me that if she put all her books in buckets, they would overrun her whole room (kind of like in my room, huh? :)). That was probably especially true when she was in our school’s diminutive portable. Her 3rd-5th graders pick their books out from a clearly labeled library nook. She also has the advantage of working with students who are more likely than average to investigate books when only the spines are visible — cover visibility is pretty much the only reason I switched to book buckets.

How big is your budget? If you don’t want to drop a ton on new bookshelves or book buckets, look in your school’s or your district’s surplus collection. Servicable book bins can be found at dollar stores or in the dollar section at Target. I can’t remember the last time Miss Turner bought a bookshelf, but she still has plenty of space to store her classroom library. Our school has a tradition of putting any unwanted furniture in the hallway at the end of the school year, so it’s always nice to go hallway-shopping for a new shelf or two.

How many books do you have? How many do you want? When I started my classroom library, I began with more generalized buckets — Mysteries, Silly Stories, Animals. Then, as I added more books and the buckets became full, I created more series-specific buckets. I added a dog books bucket and a dinosaur books bucket, and I replaced the book bucket labels on the backs of my books whenever I made a change.

How involved will your kids be? A few great texts on classroom libraries highly recommend that your students put together their classroom library at the beginning of the year. Several teachers at our school do this, but I’m a bit of a control freak. Whenever I add new books to our classroom library, though, I do always ask students where they think the books should go.

Next up, Filling the Shelves.

Many thanks to my talented, book-loving colleagues for allowing me to photograph their classroom libraries.

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David Wiesner Author Study

Our second author study this year was David Wiesner. I usually do author studies for one week because I have so many other ideas racing around that I want to move on after a week, but this outline can be shortened or extended as needed. Comments are always appreciated so I know whether this post was useful!

MONDAY: Kicking off the study

This year we’ve been reading many books that are elligible for the 2011 Caldecott, so I was dying to share Art and Max with our class. I didn’t even think to make this an author’s study until my students expressed shock that Wiesner had written other books that were very different from Art and Max.

Art connections

Part of the reason why our class understood the humor in Art and Max was that we just so happened to use all three media that are referenced in the book — tempera paint, chalk pastels, and watercolors.

We learned about pointillism, because at one point Art appears to have been created in the pointillist style. I made a Powerpoint of several famous pieces from the movement, and students made their own creation using markers. I had them make their dots in groups of ten, which led us into our next math lesson…

Large Number Estimation

The book Great Estimations is excellent for helping students see why it can be more practical to use estimations or skip counting to find a total. Prior to reading this book, about 3/4 of my students would refuse to round when solving an estimation problem, OR they would solve the entire problem, then just round their answer at the very end.

TUESDAY: Learning more about the author

On Tuesday, we read Tuesday. It honestly wasn’t planned that way. I’m nerdy, yes, but I’m not that cheesy. Most of our class’ favorite lessons are completely serendipitous. Tuesday is often used as a text for working on prediction, but about half of my class read the book last year, so I introduced the strategy of Making a Picture in Your Head instead. We discussed how the pictures Wiesner paints are so vivid, we don’t even need words because we can make a mind movie of the entire story in our heads.

We also began noticing some craft choices Wiesner made in both Tuesday and Art and Max. Students pointed out that both stories seemed to have a somewhat circular ending, and they also noticed that Wiesner often divides a page into three panels then uses the three panels to show some form of time lapse (paint flying in Art and Max, frogs flying in Saturday)

Large Number Estimation

I copied three pictures of Art from Art and Max, then made enough copies for the whole class. Students estimated how many dots were in each picture. They explained their estimation strategies, and many talked about how they figured out what ten dots looked like, then applied that to the whole picture. Others counted how many dots were in one square inch (using inch pattern tiles), then counted the number of tiles they needed to cover the picture.

Computer Lab

Before we went down to the computer lab, I pulled up these interviews with Wiesner.

David Wiesner’s Web site is fantastic. My students loved being able to see Wiesner’s creative process and images from many of his books. As we read books throughout the rest of the week, they would often exclaim, “Hey! That was on his Web site!”

WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY: Flotsam

Flotsam was one of the longest picture books we’d read so far this year, plus there was so much to look at, so we split this book over two days.

I needed to build some background for my students on this book, as none of them had ANY idea what film was (way to make me feel ancient at age 27, guys) and most hadn’t seen a microscope before.

I also gave us two days to ruminate on the book because my students were a little more confused by the fantasy aspects of the book. When we first started the book, we had a lengthy conversation about whether it was fact or fiction — the pictures looked very realistic, and we knew from David Wiesner’s Web site that he was inspired by a trip to the beach. But as the book progresses, it becomes increasingly absurd. We talked about how we had to change our predictions and ideas about the text as we received new information.

Splitting the book into two days also gave our class time to let the humor sink in. On Thursday, RO got a huge grin on his face and frantically waved his hand around when he saw an underwater living room scene. “There’s one of those fish that lights up — an angler fish! It’s lighting up the lamp! This is totally fiction!”

Library checkout

When we go to the library, I usually do a brief read-aloud before students check out their books. This week, I read The Three Pigs and asked Mrs. Cole to pull all our David Wiesner books to form a mini-display. I chose The Three Pigs because the story was enjoyable enough without needing outside explanations from me, so we were able to use this as a straight read aloud.

FRIDAY: Wiesner’s other works

In our literacy block, I read June 29, 1999. Because this was Friday, I explained to students that this would be our chance to really put the strategy of Make a Picture in Your Head to work. Unlike many other Wiesner books, there is text in June 29, 1999, but the pictures aren’t quite as straight-forward as they are in his other books. We’d have to fill in the blanks.

Had I read June 29, 1999 at the beginning of the week, I’m fairly certain my students would have been perplexed, at best. But they got into it right away — “Look, he’s doing the three panel thing again to show time passing!” “This looks like the neighborhood in Tuesday, except it’s happening at day instead of night!” “This is kind of like a weird Magic School Bus book, because she’s growing plants, but it’s not realistic!” “It’s like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs but with all healthy food!” I could have hugged them all.

Using Classroom Resources

I asked students if they had ideas of where to find David Wiesner books on their own in our classroom. They guessed in the “Good Picture Books” bucket, the “Caldecott Winners” bucket, and then AE spoke up and made my life. “Miz Houghton,” he said, gesturing wildly to book bucket 34: Scary Stories. “David Wiesner illustrated the book about Gargoyles, I saw pictures from it on the Web site.” He pulled out Night of the Gargoyles. AB piped up. “Yeah, that one’s written by Eve Bunting, she wrote that Wall book Mr. Rosand read to us in library class.”

Culminating exercise

I suppose I could have/should have had some grand end-of-the-week assessment to ascertain whether this was a valuable series of lessons, but based on how much kids were writing about David Wiesner’s books in their reading response journals, I decided it was a success.

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