It’s self-indulgent, but I can’t resist; my December pick is my new picture book that just hit the shelves, Groundhog’s Dilemma! It’s gorgeously illustrated by award-winning author/illustrator Matt Faulkner (with whom I’m about to celebrate five years of wedded bliss.)
Half of Groundhog’s friends want him to predict an early spring, and the other half want a longer winter. Groundhog wants to please everyone, so when February 2nd comes, Groundhog has a dilemma: to see or not to see his shadow?
Because the characters in this book have strong opinions and are trying to persuade our hero Groundhog (who is not immune to the lures of membership on a team or blueberry pie), use Groundhog’s Dilemma as a springboard for writing an opinion piece. I have a free, printable page on my website so students can write a persuasive letter to Groundhog (Core Writing Standard #1? Check!). Kids who send letters to Groundhog via my email or snail mail will receive responses!Read More
I’ve been hooked on Pout-Pout Fish since the beginning (fellow Michigander Debbie Diesen is a long-time friend), and the newest book, The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish, is as wonderful as the original.
Mr. Fish feels caught up in the “tizzy-busy” rush of the holidays. (Dan Hanna does a brilliant job of tucking jokes in his illustrations of the packed store shelves!) The repetition of these lines not only supports our early readers, it completely captures the overwhelmed feeling many of us get :
“For a gift should be big,
And a gift should be bright,
And a gift should be perfect –
Guaranteed to bring delight.
And a gift should have meaning,
Plus a big of bling-zing,
So I’ll shop till I drop
For each just-right thing!”
When Mr. Fish has shopped until he’s plopped and still worries that his friends will be disappointed, the lovely Miss Shimmer reminds him that “the best gifts of all come straight from the heart.” Together they make wonderful gifts and, most importantly, enjoy their time with their fishy friends.
Let’s scale back this season. Share The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish with your kiddos, and talk about what you can make and do instead of buy. Consider replacing physical gifts with shared activities. I know some grown-ups who’d prefer the gift of a Readers’ Theater performance of this story to receiving another bag of potpourri. I wish you all oceans of joy and contentment this year!
It’s September, the start of a new school year. I have no apples for you teachers, but I do have the perfect back-to-school picture book to teach empathy and point of view: I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien.
Maria, Jin, and Fatimah are new to their schools and to the United States. Through their stories, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to hear a new language, to see a new alphabet, and to try to pick up a new set of classroom expectations. “Back home… I knew just what to do.” All of your students can relate to the unsettled feeling of a first day in a new classroom. With I’m New Here, you can expand upon that feeling to help your students empathize with people who are new to our country. I love that Anne Sibley O’Brien not only shows what it’s like to be an immigrant, but how we all learn from each other. On one page, O’Brien writes from Jin’s point of view, “I am learning from others. And they are learning from me.” Jin asks a little boy, “How to spell cloud?” The boy responds, “C-L-O-U-D.” Jin holds up a piece of paper with Korean characters on it. “This is cloud in Korean.” “Cool.”
Michelle A., a gifted kindergarten teacher of English as a Second Language students and a remarkable friend, told me about Step Inside thinking. After you’ve read through the book, ask your students to “step inside” a character and imagine that they are Maria, Jin, or Fatimah. Students can write and draw from the perspective of the character, describing what was a challenge and what helped. You can turn this book into a readers’ theater script for students to perform, or have students take on the roles in an impromptu performance as you reread the book. As a class, you can talk and write about what you all can do to help a new student feel welcome. Whether or not you gain a new student during the year, all of your students will gain a wider, more empathetic perspective from I’m New Here.Read More
Happy Book Award Season! Many of us look forward to the annual announcement of the Caldecott and Newbery Medal Awards from the American Library Association, but the one that made me hoot and holler loudest this year was the announcement of the winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book: You Are (Not) Small written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyent.
Fantastic “easy” reader? Check.
Great for Readers’ Theater? Check.
Funny ending? Check.
Works for a ton of tie-in lessons? Check.
Story and art that kids will want to return to again and again? Big ol’ check!
Finding mentor texts on expressing opinion, giving reasons, persuasion, etc. isn’t easy for the younger crowd, so if you teach kindergarten – third grade, grab You Are (Not) Small. (It’s also fantastic for a print concepts lesson on italics, ellipses, underlining, for a lesson on reading with expression, for a math/science tie-in for comparing items by size, but I digress.)
The two main characters in this book express clear, opposite opinions. The orange fuzzy creature tells the purple fuzzy creature, “You are small.” The purple fuzzy disagrees, “I am not small. You are big.” Back and forth they go, giving reasons for their opinion by comparing themselves to other fuzzy creatures. It’s so simple it’s brilliant, and the ending will get everyone giggling.
After reading this to a first grade class, I told them, “You are small.” Uproar ensued. “No, we aren’t!”
“Yes, my opinion is that you are small, and my reason is that you are all smaller than this bookshelf.”
“But we’re bigger than the chair!” “Yes, and we’re taller than the desk!”
This led to an easy quick-write session: choose an opinion statement of “I am big” or “I am small” and write three reasons to support your opinion. Go!
So grab You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, and check out other winners of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. The Caldecott and Newbery Medals are wonderful, but they aren’t the only awards given by ALA, so explore lists like the Coretta Scott King Awards and treat yourself to award-winning books.