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.Read More
These books are so much fun I couldn’t choose just one! Now that summer is here, I’m looking for books that encourage outdoor play. Here are two books that will have kids scurrying to the sandbox: Digger, Dozer, Dumper written by Hope Vestergaard and illustrated by David Slonim and Builder Goose: It’s Construction Rhyme Time! by Boni Ashburn and illustrated by Sergio de Giorgi.
Both of these books have poems about construction vehicles, so by sharing them together you’ll not only hit Range of Reading, you’ll have great compare/contrast discussions which hit Integration of Knowledge & Ideas. (Also, both are written by Michigan authors, so shout out to the proud Mitten State!) I love that these books both give real information about how these machines work within fun, catchy poems. Dig these favorites:
Backhoe (from Digger, Dozer, Dumper)
The backhoe’s two machines in one:
a useful little truck.
His front end pushes dirt and rocks:
his back end digs out muck.
Heave Ho! Let’s Go! (from Builder Goose)
This old crane,
it swings wide!
It takes pallets for a ride.
With a heave ho, let’s go,
swing it back for more.
Hoist it high and watch it soar!
Once you and your crew have enjoyed the construction poems, everyone will want to go dig in the sandbox and build, dig, measure, and pour. Extend the learning and develop fine motor skills with these fun activities I found on preschoolexpress.com, Jean Warren’s genius website: hammer golf tees into firm Styrofoam pieces, screw screws into bars of soap, and build edible structures with graham crackers and frosting, peanut butter, or cream cheese. Happy reading!
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!Read More
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!