I Pledge Allegiance

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Holiday, People Smart, Range of Reading, Self Smart, Social Studies, Vocabulary | 0 comments

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez illustrated by Patrice BartonHappy August! Although summer is in full swing in Michigan, one of my local elementary schools is already back in session. Whether your school bell has tolled or you have one more glorious month to enjoy, you’ll want to have this beautiful book in your classroom: I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez and illustrated by Patrice Barton.

Libby’s great-aunt Lobo is becoming a citizen of the United States. Her story gives a meaningful framework for the information shared about the Pledge of Allegiance. We learn a bit of history about the Pledge and what it means when we say things like “allegiance” and “indivisible”. The entire Pledge is in the text several times, so kids will be able to recite along. The soft art that celebrates our country’s diversity and the sprinkling of Spanish words (Libby’s great-aunt is from Mexico) are wonderful inclusions.

Not only is this book a fantastic story about the immigration experience, it’s the perfect springboard for a lesson on what we are really saying when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. For example, Lobo tells Libby, “‘I like the words “liberty and justice for all… we are promising to be fair to everyone.'” Write the Pledge of Allegiance on a chart and put it next to a large open space on a whiteboard. Using I Pledge Allegiance as a guide, students can help translate the lines of the Pledge into terms that make sense to them. It’s a great vocabulary lesson (so you can check off Craft & Structure on your Common Core to-do list) and it will make the Pledge of Allegiance much more meaningful and personal for your students. This is patriotism at its best.


Read More

Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Body Smart, Early Learning, Fluency, Holiday, Phonological Awareness, Rhyming | 0 comments

Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith GravesHere’s a treat for you this Halloween: a rhyming picture book that will delight your little monsters while you hit the CCSS of Fluency and Phonics & Word Recognition.

Frank was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves is simple, spooky, silly fun. Frank’s dancing delights the audience until his body parts start to come loose, but even a cold shoulder from the crowd (see what I did there?) can’t diminish Franks’s love of performing.

There are plenty of simple rhymes for early elementary students to catch (“ants in his pants”, etc.) and I love that students can listen to them while they enjoy this story on TumbleBooks. Many school, public, and state libraries have subscriptions to this great website where kids can hear books read aloud. TumbleBooks has picture books, chapter books, fiction and nonfiction, all kinds of titles to help students build fluency. An extra bonus: TumbleBooks also has a section of lesson plans for teachers, including a K-2 lesson plan for Frank was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance!

So read aloud this book to your class, or log into TumbleBooks and project it so the entire class can enjoy it. If your little wigglers are anything like mine, they’ll want to move their bodies like Frank did, so on repeated readings, encourage listeners to act out the text. Kids can mime brains flopping out, arms falling out of sleeves, etc. For Halloween, or for anytime your mini-monsters need an active read-aloud, this book does the trick.

For more about the author/illustrator, please visit:

Read More

Celebrate America with “Seed by Seed”

Posted by on Jul 3, 2013 in Biography, Early Learning, Holiday, Key Ideas and Details, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Range of Reading, Self Smart, Social Studies | 2 comments

seedbyseedWhat better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than with a slice of apple pie and a beautiful picture book about an American legend? Seed by Seed: the Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman written by Esme Raji Codell and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins is one of the most thought-full biographies I’ve read. Codell and Perkins invite children to leave behind the world of concrete, cars, and screens, and enter a time when one man made a huge impact on our country, seed by seed.

John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed, planted so many seeds across America that chances are the apples you eat are descendents of his trees. His legend of humble generosity is a story every child should know. I love the five examples Johnny Appleseed planted that we can follow:

“Use what you have.
Share what you have.
Respect nature.
Try to make peace where there is war.
You can reach your destination by taking small steps.”

And I just want to hug the book every time I read the end:

“Seed by seed, deed by deed,
Johnny Appleseed changed the landscape of a nation.
And now it’s your turn.
One small deed, every day.
What seed will you plant?”

Pick this book to use in your classroom as a biography, as part of a unit on apples, in an American legends unit. Codell, who knows what works in the classroom (remember the terrific book about a teacher’s first year called Educating Esme? That’s her!) has great ideas in the back of the book, including a recipe for apple pie. There’s also a fantastic free teacher’s guide on I’d have students help me make a yummy apple treat to share as we discuss the five examples of Johnny Appleseed. Connecting what Johnny did in his life to each of those ideas will be a good Common Core Key Ideas & Details lesson (plus you can put a checkmark next to Range of Reading).  You can talk with your students about putting these examples into place in your classroom. Seed by Seed could inspire your students to plant seeds of kindness, and those seeds could spread through your school, your community, your nation. That is as wonderful and American as apple pie.

Have a happy Fourth of July!

For more information about the author, please visit
For more information about the illustrator, please visit

Read More

My favorite Earth Day book: Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Biography, Early Learning, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Range of Reading | 0 comments

2010-wangari-trees-of-peace-africaSometimes I fear that I can’t make a real difference in helping the planet, but Wangari’s Trees of Peace: a true story from Africa by Jeanette Winter shows how powerful one person’s actions can be. Wangari Maathai was devastated to see how barren Kenya was after thousands of trees were cleared. Soil was eroding and crops wouldn’t grow. The birds were gone. Women walked for miles to gather firewood. “I can begin to replace some of the lost trees here in my own backyard – one tree at a time.”

Wangari started with nine seedlings, which grew into a nursery. Wangari gave new seedlings to village women for them to plant, and gave them money to keep those trees thriving. When Wangari tried to stop the clearing of old trees, she was beaten and arrested. But her message of caring for the Earth was taking root just like her trees were, and because of her, Kenyan women planted over 30 million trees, saving their land and making life there better.

For Earth Day/Arbor Day/natural resources units/biography units/non-fiction read-alouds that you can finish in one sitting, this is my new go-to book. Just by reading it and discussing it with students, you’re hitting the Common Core Standard of Range of Reading (a biography that teaches science and social studies? Non-fiction score!) Wangari’s Trees of Peace is also excellent for an ecological cause-and-effect lesson, one of the big pieces of Key Ideas and Details. Using the book for reference, students can write and draw the effects of deforestation (crops wouldn’t grow, birds were gone, lack of firewood) and the effects of planting all those trees (women don’t have to walk so far to gather firewood, more birds, crops growing in the soil.) Winter’s picture book doesn’t delve deeply into the science of why a lack of trees leads to soil erosion, so you can share Planting the Trees of Kenya: the story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola if you need to build that knowledge with your students. Use both books as resources for student writing and drawing, and now you’re Integrating Knowledge and Ideas!

If in the past you’ve received more apple-themed coffee mugs than you need as end-of-the-year teacher gifts, you can suggest that in lieu of a present for you, students can give a gift to us all by planting a tree. If you can spring for a seedling or if your parent-teacher organization will chip in, plant a tree with your students and let them help take responsibility for watering it (seeds are cool, but watering a visible seedling is way more exciting than watering a patch of dirt.) Wangari’s Trees of Peace may plant in your students a dedication to care for our planet.


Read More