Happy April, everyone! A teacher-friend asked me for super-simple books for readers who are wrestling with her lowest-leveled texts. I shared BANANA! by Ed Vere and the kids went ape. The facial expressions on the two monkeys are so engaging, and the text is limited to two words: “banana” and “please” with either question marks or exclamation points. As I read, I pointed out how the exclamation mark and question mark change the way we read the words. (Print Concepts mini-lesson? Check!)
Banana! is perfect for readers’ theater. After reading the book to your students, split them into pairs. The kids can make their own monkey masks or hats or puppets. Give students time to practice their lines (nailing that Common Core State Standard of Fluency). Then, kids take turns performing for the class, reading their lines as you hold up the book and turn the pages.
You can make a silly spin-off book called “Apple!” Take photos of two teachers arguing over who gets to eat the apple and lay them out like Ed Vere’s pages. You can make lots of little class books like this if you have a digital camera – let your students be the stars of the book, arguing over and eventually sharing an orange, or a pencil, etc. Your students will go, well, bananas for this book!
I’ll be in Elizabeth, New Jersey this month to talk about the best books to teach preschool and kindergarden reading standards. Next month, I’m the keynote speaker for an early literacy conference in Michigan and I have two presentations to public librarians on Common Core State Standards. Please keep your fingers crossed for ice-storm-free travel days!
Happy March, everyone! This month I’m sharing a terrific informational picture book about humpback whales and a fabulous, free activity guide that will have your students up and moving as they process information. For those Nature Smart students who’re fighting the winter blahs, this kind of reading will be especially meaningful.
Here Come the Humpbacks! written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Jamie Hogan is a nonfiction book detailing the migration of a humpback whale calf. Sayre gives us all the excitement of the treacherous journey that spans over 1,500 miles and doesn’t skimp on rich vocabulary or solid information.
After reading the book, your students can review what they’ve learned and “act out” the migration of a humpback. (Go, Key Ideas & Details!) Curious City has a wonderful, free humpback migration game you can download with step-by-step instructions and printables for 10 stations for students to visit. To add another layer of fun, go to YouTube and let kids hear the sounds that humpback whales make. (For more information about Curious City and its free children’s book engagement materials as well as book giveaways, please visit: curiouscitydpw.com. You’ll thank me later.)
I’ll be in New Jersey in April giving a seminar on early literacy skills for preschoolers and kindergartners. Please keep your fingers crossed that we’ll be enjoying tulip blossoms and not ice storms!
For more information about the author, please visit: aprilsayre.com.
For more information about the illustrator, please visit: jamiehogan.com
Happy February! This time last year, I was celebrating the sale of my first picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, to Charlesbridge. This February 2nd, I came home from a week of presenting seminars to a cool surprise: my husband (author/illustrator Matt Faulkner) just received the official layout of the book so he can begin making the art! Woohoo!
Of course, I won’t see any of the art until it’s passed my editor’s approval. In the publishing world, authors don’t get to communicate with the illustrators. I just happen to live with my illustrator. And because I’d like to continue living with him, I can’t watch over his shoulder as he draws my characters, because I’d be tempted to give helpful comments like, “Maybe his cheeks should be a little chubbier, and maybe you should….” So Matt will make his magic in his studio and I will try not to peek until my editor says I can!
Those of you came to my seminars last week have already seen my new favorite book: Battle Bunny written by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett (and Alex) with pictures by Matthew Myers (and Alex). Kids who love the humor of Captain Underpants will go nuts for this book, and you can use it to teach the Core Standard of Craft & Structure.
When you show students the cover, they might think this book has been defaced. Well, yes and no. Battle Bunny is supposed to look drawn on and scribbled over – that’s the brilliant premise of this book. A kid named Alex is supposedly given a sappy-sweet book called “Birthday Bunny” from his Gran-Gran. Alex transforms the book by crossing out words, writing his own words, and adding crazy details to the pictures. For instance, the line “Birthday Bunny started on his path, hopping through the trees” is rewritten as “Battle Bunny started on his Evil Plan, chopping through the trees” and we see the cute birdie in the tree now has a speech balloon saying “You will fail!”
Revising! Editing! Transformative writing! After you’ve talked with your students about the authors’ and illustrator’s craft of word choice, art design, etc. that add layers to the book, go to mybirthdaybunny.com. There’s a free lesson plan for teachers, and I love that you can print off the “original” sweet version of the story for kids to change. If you are super-brave, buy some beat-up books from the library’s used book sale or from a thrift store and let your students revise them. Just make it clear which books can be written in and which of your books are off-limits!Read More
Ed Spicer, fantastic first grade teacher and blogger at spicyreads.org, was kind enough to include me in a author interview video! Ed attended a reading conference with Matt Faulkner, Ruth McNally Barshaw and me this summer on Mackinac Island. Here we talk about using books in the classroom to teach writing, how to engage visual learners, and my first picture book.
Next week I’ll be giving seminars in South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Please keep your fingers crossed for smooth traveling. I’m bringing hot new books to chase away the winter chills!Read More
This nonfiction picture book about animal adaptations in winter is perfect for a Range of Reading lesson (Core Standard #1 – check!). Carrie Pearson, a Michigander who knows all about staying warm in winter, uses a conversational tone to share a great deal of information. On each double-spread, kids learn what an animal does to stay warm in the winter when a baby animal wonders if humans do what they do to stay warm. For example, a baby box turtle asks its parent if humans dig deep into the mud and bury themselves like it does. A white-tailed deer asks, “Do they grow hollow hair/ so the coats that they wear/ trap the heat from their bodies for warmth?” A wide variety of animals is presented, and there’s plenty of extra information at the back of the book.
On their website, the publisher, Sylvan Dell, has an avalanche of free activities to go with the book (don’t you love not needing to recreate the wheel?) In the back of A Warm Winter Tail there’s a “Winter Animal Matching Activity” where students match the description with the correct animal, and if you go to sylvandellpublishing.com you can print off the animal sorting cards to make a fun independent/pairs/center activity. (Key Ideas & Details – Core Standard #2!) I can’t wait until February when a companion book, A Cool Summer Tail, comes out. Integrating Knowledge & Ideas – Standard #3!
For more information about the author, please visit: carriepearsonbooks.com.
For more information about the illustrator, please visit: christinawald.blogspot.com.Read More
Happy 2014! My goal this year is to share more nonfiction titles with you, so your Common Core Reading Standards Bingo Board will always have Range of Reading covered! I’m enjoying the new “You Can’t” series from Blue Apple books, especially You Can’t Ride a Bicycle to the Moon! by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Amanda Haley.
This picture book has short chapters and all the informational text features we educators love, including informative illustrations with labels (why hello, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas!) Your students can use the fun space facts they learn from You Can’t Ride a Bicycle to the Moon! in a creative project that incorporates using labels on a diagram or picture as a part of informative writing.
After sharing the book, discuss as a class why you can’t ride a bicycle to the moon, and discuss the features a spaceship needs to support human life. Create a class-made checklist of spaceship essentials: food storage, sleeping area, etc. Students can design, draw, and write about their ideal spaceship. (If you are extra-crafty, get out the cardboard and glue along with the paper and markers to make the spaceship 3-D!) The spaceship should have everything inside that astronauts need to live, as well as something to make your spacecraft go. Encourage students to use labels on any illustrations to convey information as well as write a paragraph or two of explanatory text.
With interesting informational books like You Can’t Ride a Bicycle to the Moon!, all your students will be superstar readers!
For more information about the You Can’t series, please visit blueapplebooks.com.
The path to publication is packed with peaks and pitfalls (and apparently a plethora of P’s). It takes patience to pursue this path, and the revision process can be particularly painful (as can alliteration, so I’m stopping now). The way my editor guided me through this process taught me how to be a writing teacher.
I sent Groundhog’s Dilemma (the story formerly known as To See or Not To See) to my tireless editor in early 2012. She liked the story, but asked for revisions. Round 1.
So I revised, and my editor liked it even better. She still wanted revisions. Round 2.
So I revised and in 2013 I got that glorious phone call – I sold my manuscript! With all my debut-author-naivete, I thought my job was done. Silly, silly me! My editor told me she was excited to dig into the “official” revisions now. Round 3. And 4. And 5.
I have lost count of how many emails there have been with tweaks to make the story stronger. While each request for changes brought a momentary, involuntary stomach lurch, the way my editor approached revision taught me how to make revising less painful for my students.
1. Every email began with praise. Not “you’re the most brilliant writer ever!” or “snazzy font choice!” but honest, constructive, positive feedback. This made me feel like my work was appreciated, and that I was not in trouble.
2. When corrections needed to be made (grammatical or logical story points), my editor briefly explained why without making me feel stoopid.
3. My editor suggested changes, but made it clear that the decisions about my writing were up to me. She used words like “what if” or “I wonder” instead of “you need to do this here”.
4. Every email ended with encouragement. I knew my editor was confident in my ability to improve my work (even when my self-confidence was threadbare) and that helped me approach revision as a manageable, necessary process instead of as punishment. This is the approach I want to use with my students. Less “wrong!” and more “better!”
Today I submitted the final tweaks on the copyedited version of Groundhog’s Dilemma. I’m glad to be done working on this story, but I’ll miss working with my editor. Fingers crossed that my book sells so well, my editor will want a sequel!Read More