Storybox Idea

The winner is: You Are (Not) Small!

Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, Math Tie-In, Print Awareness, Print Concepts, Print Motivation, Readers' Theater, Self Smart, Storybox Idea | 3 comments

You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher WeyantHappy 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.

 

 

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A Piece of Cake

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, People Smart, Print Motivation, Readers' Theater, Storybox Idea | 3 comments

A Piece of Cake by LeUyen PhamEvery December I see lists of the best books of the year, and every year there’s at least one gem that I can’t believe isn’t getting more love. My choice this year for the “Don’t Miss This Picture Book” award is  A Piece of Cake by LeUyen Pham (whose first name is pronounced “LeWin” but she mostly goes by “Win”. Now you know.)

Pham had me from the moment she made the cover art reminiscent of a Golden Book, even down to her swirly signature. It starts like a sweet, simple story.  A kind Mouse bakes a birthday cake for Little Bird, but then – there are all these unexpected surprises!

Mouse is bringing the cake to Little Bird’s house when Chicken stops him. Chicken wants a piece of cake, and the very kind Mouse has trouble saying no. Chicken, who is surrounded by eggs and is reading a book while sunning herself says, “If you give me a piece of that cake, I’ll trade you…” An egg, right? Nope! A cork, from Chicken’s bottle of suntan lotion. 

At each stop on Mouse’s walk to and from Little Bird’s house, Pham sets us up to call out an obvious answer and then she delivers a twist that gets readers giggling. It reminds me of Guess Again by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, but A Piece of Cake has a strong plot and internal logic as well as silly surprises. The cork that Chicken gave is used later for another unexpected purpose. It’s the ideal picture book to work on prediction and comprehension (Key Ideas and Details, anyone?)

Read this book aloud for the sheer pleasure of it, and then for the second reading, make a chart where kids can write what they thought would happen and what actually happened. “I thought Chicken would give Mouse ____ but then Chicken gave Mouse _________.” This is also a great story to act out for the whole group and then in centers so students can see what happens with each object. Make a Storybox with the characters and objects from the story for students to retell, and building comprehension skills will be A Piece of Cake.

 

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Bananas for Early Readers!

Posted by on Apr 7, 2014 in Early Learning, Fluency, Nature Smart, Print Awareness, Print Concepts, Readers' Theater, Storybox Idea, Wordless | 0 comments

2049763Happy 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 pointsAs 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!

 

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A Ball for Daisy and the Power of Wordless Books

Posted by on Mar 27, 2013 in Art, Early Learning, Fluency, Key Ideas and Details, Storybox Idea, Vocabulary, Wordless | 0 comments

ballfordaisyI am super-geeked that I am a guest blogger for Nerdy Book Club. Nerdy Book Club is a great resource, especially for those readers who are hard to match with just the right book. I like their Top Ten lists, like Top Ten Middle Grade Novels featuring Homeschoolers  and Top Ten Books featuring Autism Spectrum Disorders. My list of Top Ten Wordless Picture Books will post on March 30.

In honor of my Nerdy Book Club debut, I’m sharing with you a wordless book that did not make my Top Ten. It’s the Caldecott winner A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka. (Why not in my Top Ten? Check out my post on Nerdy Book Club to see which of my favorites nudged this one out!) Daisy loves her red ball. She loves it so much, she even sleeps with it. One day, she and her owner take the red ball to the park to play. Daisy and her owner are playing fetch when another dog chases – and pops! – the red ball. Daisy is heartbroken. But the next day at the park, the other dog’s owner presents Daisy with a new, blue ball. Now Daisy has a new ball to love, and a new friend.

One element of the Common Core Standard of Key Ideas and Details is “retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson”. A Ball for Daisy has such a simple plot that this is easy to do. If you’re working on problem/solution, this book works. If you’re working on first/next/last, this book works. And, if you’re looking for ways to build vocabulary, this book works. (How do wordless books build vocabulary? Read my article on ReaderKidZ.) As you “read” this story to your class, use those rich, expressive words. “Daisy looks distraught over the loss of her ball. She is so sad, she is practically inconsolable.” Your students will develop their listening vocabulary and may even use your Scrabble-worthy adjectives themselves as they retell the story.

A Ball for Daisy would be a great Storybox. Put the book along with two dog puppets and two balls in a Storybox and let students act out their retelling. Your students will have a ball!

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