Book of the Week: Somewhere Today

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!

Somewhere Today, by Bert Kitchen

Bert Kitchen has illustrated and written a variety of books about interesting animals. Many of the books seem out of print or difficult to find, but I’ll keep nosing through the bookroom to see if we have any others. If not, we have a TON of guided reading book sets about unusual mammals, insects, and birds that would be a good complement to this text. If you’re looking for another mentor text to go along with this, check out the lesson plans posted for A Hummingbird’s Life.

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. As you go through the text, keep a running chart with the characteristics each of the animals seem to have in common with each other. At the end of the book, an author’s statement is included, so they can compare their ideas with his intent.

Expand Vocabulary

  • Tune in to interesting words and use new vocabulary in my speaking and writing. It’s exciting to see strong adjectives, strong verbs, AND strong nouns in this text, and it might be useful to do a word sort having students categorize words according to the different forms of speech (which will help make students more comfortable to use them independently). I might suggest these words for a word sort. Adjectives: formidable, devastating, brackish, grating. Verbs: merging, recoils, cruises, emerge. Nouns: mangroves, surface, plumage, fringes.
  • Use prior knowledge and context to predict and confirm meaning. In addition to neat unfamiliar words, the text also uses many words in ways that are different from casual speech. which would be good for conversation or charting, particularly with pictures. Potential words to discuss include: bed, meat (shellfish meat), dense, fringes, recoils, cruises, throw, call.

 

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: Rachel Parker, Kindergarten Show-Off

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!

Rachel Parker, Kindergarten Show-Off, by Ann Martin

Chances are, if you are of a certain age, Ann M. Martin means Baby-Sitters Club. Although she ended the series in 2000, she actually remains pretty active online, posting updates every few months to her Scholastic site. The biography posted there says she’s currently interested in writing books set in the 1960s.

If you’re interested in reading gearing-up-for-kindergarten books, you might want to touch base with Sarah Stock, because I know she’s been reading up on them lately. Plenty of great ones exist, but not many talk about someone moving to the class in the middle of kindergarten.

Conversely, plenty of books about students moving deal with the acquisition of new friends (including this year’s Battle of the Books novel Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Moving Day), but it’s a bit more rare to find one that looks at it through the lens of shifting classroom dynamics because of the addition of a new personality.

Last I checked with Bev, our transient rate has decreased to somewhere around 25-30 percent, but new class members is something bunches of our students can relate to.

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

Comprehension

  • Predict what will happen, use text to confirm. Older students who may be familiar with the basic “Happy about new kid, disappointed about new kid, BFFs with new kid” structure could be encouraged to go deeper in their predictions. What will their fall-out look like? How will the reconcile? How will they move forward with their friendship? How will their relationship impact the class at large?
  • Infer and support with evidence. Neither Rachel nor Olivia admit that they’re jealous of each others’ talents and home lives, but their actions and dialogue reveal they feel otherwise. This might also be a good point to talk about a reliable narrator — how do we know that some of what Olivia says is actually exaggerated or incomplete?

 

Fluency

  • Use punctuation to enhance phrasing and prosidy. This is one of those rare picture books where there’s actually paragraph indentation, especially indents due to dialogue. It’d be useful to point this out during a shared reading passage, or to use a passage in a writing workshop conversation about conventions.

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: Max Found Two Sticks

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

Max Found Two Sticks, by Brian Pinkney

Brian Pinkney, like his father, the legendary Jerry Pinkney, has illustrated a ton of books. We have several in our school library if you’re interested in setting up an author study. Jojo’s Flying Side-Kick, Dear Benjamin Banneker, and Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King are all available, and if you check with our interventionists, we should have several copies of Jojo’s Flying Side-Kick from the Soar to Success program.

Holy cow, there are a ton of resources available to help students with this book. I find the choices overwhelming, quite frankly. This site has tools to help students with phonics, writing, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary. If you’re someone interested in hard copy work, plenty of blackline masters are available here.

Additionally, if you want to use this book as part of the 3rd grade Sound science kit, that could be doable. There are a few other books on music in the bookroom in the bucket labeled Fine Art, and there are a bunch of leveled readers as well. (that will be a future post)

Drum vibrations

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

Comprehension

  • Recognize literary elements. The book follows a pretty traditional three-tries story structure (Max bangs on the bucket, the hat boxes, the garbage can, and then receives the marching band drummer’s sticks). Talk about why so many stories, particularly traditional folk/fairy tales follow this pattern. This is a good place to start if you want to explore patterns in literature. Here are the 36 dramatic plots identified by Georges Polti.
  • Compare and contrast within and between text. Use this strategy in conjunction with the one explained above!

Expand vocabulary.

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 Rebecca, Winter is Here

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

Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here, by Jean Craighead George

I suppose this post has a bit of a Christmas in July feel, seeing as how most of the country is crazy-hot and humid. If you need to cool down, you can preview the book here at Google Books. As you’ll learn, winter actually began June 21, according to Grandma’s character.

This book is written in a letter format, and I could see it working well with The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart. I also received a great tip from Ohio teacher Ms. LaCrosse that Jean Craighead George books are a pretty great resource for folks looking to integrate science into their literacy block.

Scholastic has leveling information, and a quick search brings up all sorts of resources connecting this book to the winter solstice.  I plan on using this with our weather unit this fall. There’s a Reading Rainbow episode called Snowy Day: Stories and Poems, and a good supplemental lesson plan with several other suggested books can be found here.

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

Comprehension

  • Check for understanding. If you’ve been teaching students to stop every paragraph or page or so to check for understanding, this could be a good book to help them refine the strategy. The whole book is one letter, so you can’t really stop all the way at the end of the letter (this would be contrast to the multiple letters in The Gardener, because you CAN pause and check for understanding at the end of each letter in that book). But at the same time, if you stopped EVERY page, meaning could actually be LOST because there’s not much text on each page and you’d be pausing in your reading an awful lot.
  • Use text features (titles, headings, captions, graphic features). George has her author’s note right at the front of the book rather than buried at the end. Why do students think she made that choice? The author’s note is brief, clear, and interesting, so copying it for students for a shared read might be a good idea. There’s a master copy of the author’s note already in the book bag if you need it.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. About once sentence is on each page, and each section of text is accompanied by a small image. How did the illustrator choose what creature or scene would be featured in that small image? Does it relate to the main idea of the page, or does it illustrate a supporting detail? Maybe break students into pairs and give each pair a different page of the book.

 

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking! You can find this text in the red bookroom bucket labeled realistic fiction or narrative nonfiction.

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: Papagayo: The Mischief Maker

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

Papagayo: The Mischief Maker, by Gerald McDermott

Papagayo is a loud parrot, and the night creatures don’t care for all his squawking. But they start to change their tune when a giant dog wakes up and begins chomping on the moon.

Second graders in Federal Way have a science unit on weather. It might be fun to use this and other weather legends to explain how different cultures used to explain conditions in nature.

This book is by Gerald McDermott, who won the Caldecott award for Arrow to the Sun and a Caldecott Honor for Anansi the Spider. He’s another great candidate for an author study.

You could also read this book with The Parrot Tico Tango or fellow Caldecott winner Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. For a more advanced conversation, consider — why were so many legends and folk tales selected for Caldecotts in the 1970s and 1980s? You might want to look at this link for some new perspectives.

Plenty of lesson plans are available for trickster tales, which is the subgenre this book falls into. Did you know Papagayo has been made into an opera? And if you’re in Nebraska, you might even be able to catch McDermott’s show at the Joslyn Art Museum!

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

Comprehension

  • Retell the story. This is a pretty basic plot line, so it would be a useful to book to use to help students either increase or decrease the level of detail in the retells, depending on what’s necessary.
  • Ask questions throughout the reading process. Because the book follows a time pattern (first one night, then the next night, etc.), checking in on how predictions and ideas change would be able to happen at pretty natural stopping points.

Vocabulary

  • Voracious reading. Voracious readers encounter many exciting verbs, which helps them avoid overusing words like “said,” “happy,” “sad,” and “mad.” Papayago and company use a wide variety of verbs. You might want to take a peek at this as well:

 

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: 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!

Book of the Week: The Huckabuck Family

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

The Huckabuck Family, by Carl Sandburg

I believe this book is taken from Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories. You can read tons of the stories online here. Read more about Carl Sandburg here.

I have a special part in my heart for David Small, the illustrator of this book. Small, who also wrote the excellent books Imogene’s Antlers and That Book Woman, is pretty amazing at writing books about folks who live around the time of the Great Depression and usually spend most of their days in a rural setting. He also had a pretty insane childhood, which you can read more about in his autobiographical graphic novel Stitches.

 

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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