Art

Go, Shapes, Go!

Posted by on Mar 15, 2015 in Art, Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Math, Self Smart, Vocabulary | 1 comment

Go, Shapes, Go by Denise FlemingOne of my favorite ways to hook readers during March is Reading Month is to do an author study, and one of my all-time favorite author/illustrators for the elementary crowd is Denise Fleming.

I’ve had a book crush on Fleming since 1991 when I first read In the Tall, Tall Grass. The richness of the colors, the text that is so precise and still so simple – it draws in young readers who ask for it over and over. Fleming’s latest book, Go, Shapes, Go! again takes simple but descriptive words and art, and asks kids to play along. It’s brilliant.

A mouse tells recognizable shapes (square, rectangle, triangle, oval, arc) to move to combine into a character. Verbs like bounce, slither, and twirl along with the shapes that are labeled on each page make for the perfect opportunity to build vocabulary while supporting early readers. (Go, Craft & Structure, Go!)  The plot of how the shapes combine and recombine to the delight (or dismay) of the mouse makes this book more than just a “name the shape” book.

Denise Fleming’s website is packed with fun stuff for kids to go along with her books. You can print off the shapes she used in Go, Shapes, Go! for kids to move and make their own characters, and there’s a Shapes Match-Up page so kids can match the labeled shape with the word describing how it moved in the book

The process of pulp painting that Fleming uses to make her picture book art is fascinating. Click through denisefleming.com or go to YouTube to see videos of how Fleming colors the cotton rag fiber, makes the stencils, and pours the slurry through a screen. She even has in-depth directions to make paper yourself, and a much easier version using toilet paper – a guaranteed hit for kids!

This March, share Go, Shapes, Go! and compare it with Fleming’s 20+ other wonderful picture books for preschoolers and early elementary students. After you’ve all fallen in love with her work, email Denise through her website. She is an exceptional person as well as an amazing author/illustrator, and your kids will have a whole new appreciation for books after getting to know her.

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You Are Stardust

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Art, Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Range of Reading, Science, Self Smart, Vocabulary | 0 comments

You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim

Happy July! This is the month for fireworks and stargazing and wonder, which makes it the perfect month for You Are Stardust written by Elin Kelsey with artwork by Soyeon Kim. It begins like this:

“You are stardust./
Every tiny atom in your body came from a star that exploded long before you were born.”

This informational science book reads like poetry, and the facts within will astound your students:

We breathe in more than a million pollen grains with each breath.

The water we drink today is the same water that filled puddles when dinosaurs walked the Earth.

The electricity in your brain is stronger than lightning.

On owlkidsbooks.com, you’ll find a free teacher’s guide, a link to the app, a video showing second graders discussing the book’s themes, and a video that I found fascinating on how the book was made. Soyeon Kim’s dioramas are awesome and will inspire your kids to get out the art supplies. Choose an incredible fact from the book or one from the world that amazes you and bring it to life with a 3-D diorama. You might even ask a friendly librarian at your local library to put your diorama on display. (I know I’d say yes!) I hope that you and your students can be awed like Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim were and find beauty in our connections to the natural world.

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“Rah, Rah, Radishes” and Go, STEM!

Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Art, Body Smart, Color Knowledge, Early Learning, Fluency, Math, Math Tie-In, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Onomatopoeia, Range of Reading, Science, Vocabulary | 0 comments

rahrahradishes Happy May, everyone! I had the pleasure of speaking at an early education conference where our theme was literacy and science. I brought stacks of books that tie into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or STEAM (add Art) to share. Rather than just lecture all day, I led a session of “speed-dating” books: we’d spend a few minutes skimming a book and brainstorming ways to use it with students, share our ideas with the group, and pass the book along. This way, we had time to get our hands on over a dozen books and walk away with practical classroom applications. I was so inspired by the fantastic ideas the teachers generated! Here are a few ideas we came up with after reading Rah,Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre:

Bring in vegetables found in the book. Sort the vegetables by color and by size.

Classify and sort vegetables by the parts we eat: root vegetables, leaves, etc. Read Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens as a tie-in text and talk about which vegetables would be “tops” or “bottoms” according to Hare.

Predict which vegetables will sink or float. Test predictions in a tub of water. Wash the vegetables and talk about textures.

Use the vegetables to make prints.

Compare and contrast with fruits.

Weigh and measure the vegetables. Use a vegetable as a measuring tool.

Take photos of vegetables and label them. Reread the book and have students hold up the corresponding photos.

Make a chart or a Venn diagram with the terms “raw” and “cooked”. Try some vegetables both ways and chart our preferences.

See what other vegetables besides potatoes can be delicious mashed (great for little ones to do the mashing!)

Bring in potatoes with “eyes” sprouting and bring in vegetable seeds. Compare seeds and sprouts, then plant!

Make an edible collage with vegetables.

Practice patterning skills like ABAB, etc. with bite-size veggies and eat when done.

Plan a field trip to a farmer’s market or invite a farmer to come to the classroom for more vegetable experiences.

If you’re interested in the list of science books I shared, please email me at kristenremenar AT gmail DOT com. If you like Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant, be sure to check out Go, Go, Grapes! A Fruit Chant and Let’s Go Nuts! Seeds We Eat also by April Pulley Sayre. Hooray for early science!

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Battle Bunny

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Art, Craft and Structure, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Print Awareness, Print Concepts, Print Motivation, Self Smart | 0 comments

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matthew Myers 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!

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