Logic Smart

Try Food as a Way Into Reading

Posted by on Jun 22, 2021 in Biography, Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Print Motivation, Range of Reading, Science, Self Smart | 0 comments

"Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat" by Mara Rockliff and Giselle Potter
Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff and Giselle Potter

Learning is best done through experience, and food is definitely a way into learning for many of us. To tie reading in with some cool hands-on (and mouths-on) experiences, grab this biography, Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Giselle Potter.

Apples, bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, these were almost the only things that Frieda Caplan saw when she went to her produce market. But Frieda wanted to try something different.

She brought mushrooms to sell. Everyone thought they were weird.
Until they tried them. Suddenly everyone wanted mushrooms. People even dubbed her the “Mushroom Queen”.
But she wanted more than just mushrooms.
She tried kiwi, jicama, sugar snap peas, cherimoya, champagne grapes. Red bananas, baby corn, star fruit! All kinds of new foods! She brought them all to her produce market.
And people tried them. And liked them!


A master teacher, Ed Spicer, taught his first graders that learning is all about trying. He encouraged his students to celebrate trying something new, even if they weren’t successful at first, even if they didn’t like it – that in itself is learning. You can create really memorable learning experiences by reading Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat and talking about new food.

Read this book with your kids/students/campers and talk about foods that seemed weird before you tried them. Are there foods they didn’t like before but now they do? You can make charts together of interesting foods and kids can put their names in the columns of “Yes, I like it” or “No, I don’t like it” or “I don’t know – I haven’t tried it yet”. If you have food magazines, kids can cut out foods they like and foods they want to try. Model for them, if kids start saying something is gross, that you used to think a certain food was gross but that part of growing up is that your tastes develop. Tell them about foods you used to think were weird that you now enjoy.

If you’re working with your own children or with children you know don’t have any fruit/vegetable allergies, you can bring in something like star fruit to try. I have researched allergies and it turns out for almost every food, someone is allergic to it. (Check out verywellhealthy.com – I never knew some kids aren’t bluffing about being allergic to broccoli!) To play it safe with a large group of kids, pick a cooked fruit, like applesauce. (Still, avoid anything with strawberries.) Do you think green applesauce is weird? What about pear sauce? Weird food is only weird until you try it!

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Reading an “Again, again!” book in a new way

Posted by on Dec 4, 2020 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, Print Awareness, Print Concepts, Print Motivation, Professional Development, Self Smart | 4 comments

Happy Almost-the-End-of-2020! I think this year has been most challenging for those living with or working with small children. How do you keep them enticed if you can’t get new books from the library or from school? How do you keep yourself from going nuts if you’re tired of rereading the same books? Here’s how.

Mara’s “again, again!” book. I can’t say I blame her!

Ask your child, “What do you notice when you look at the cover of this book?” It’s really interesting to hear the details kids notice that we adults may not, the details the illustrator intentionally puts in.

“I see faces in the trees!”

“I see them now, too! Do you notice anything else?”

“The trees have snow on this side and the tree over here doesn’t have snow. So that’s winter and that’s not winter.”

“I wonder why the illustrator drew the trees that way. “

You can talk about what you see until your child is done reading the picture and wants to hear the words. The pictures often give information that the words don’t. Reading pictures is a big part of learning to read words.

This technique of letting kids lead the reading was a big shift for me as a teacher/librarian. I’m eager to get to the words. I’ve often told kids what I want them to learn from the book, trying to pour in knowledge. Lifelong learners are gatherers of knowledge. We can put kids in charge of pulling in meaning first.

Even if it’s a book you’ve read a dozen times, encourage your child to take the lead. They can tell you what they see and show you how their minds are making meaning. You may see the familiar book in a new way when your child says, “Again, again!”

“Reading Picture Books With Children” by Megan Dowd Lambert (Charlesbridge, 2015)

This Whole Book Approach is wonderfully taught by Megan Dowd Lambert in her book, “Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See”. I highly recommend it!

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“One Family” is one you need for Thanksgiving!

Posted by on Oct 16, 2015 in Art, Counting Book, Early Learning, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Letter / Number Knowledge, Logic Smart, Math, Math Tie-In, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Print Motivation, Self Smart | 0 comments

One Family by George Shannon with pictures by Blanca GomezThanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but it’s a challenge to find Thanksgiving picture books that connect with kids (I find many “pilgrim and Indian” books that are cringeworthy with stereotypes). This year,  I’m focusing on the “thanks” in Thanksgiving and sharing One Family by George Shannon with pictures by Blanca Gomez.

The simple counting book is elevated here to show the beauty of what a family can be.

Counting up to ten, we see all kinds of inclusive loving groups: two dads and their daughter (all with different shades of skin), grandparents and kids, a family where the dad and his sons are wearing turbans, a mix of adults and kids where it’s not clear what the relationships are but who cares because they’re smiling and together. On the last page showing all the people we read, “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”

Use this book to inspire your students to write and draw about their own families. To continue the counting 1 to 10 structure, students can write about what they are thankful for this holiday. Pair this with the wonderful new nonfiction book Families by Shelly Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly if you want to compare and contrast to hit the Integration of Knowledge & Ideas standard. I count you among my many blessings!

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27 Books You Can Use This Year

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Counting Book, Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Letter / Number Knowledge, Logic Smart, Math, Math Tie-In, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Phonological Awareness, Poetry, Print Concepts, Print Motivation, Range of Reading, Rhyming, Science | 0 comments

During the “Moving Beyond the Basics… Reaching for More” conference on Aug. 11 at the Byron Center High School in Michigan, a roomful of teachers and I read through boxes of books. (Thank you, Annemarie Johnson and Kate DiMeo, for inviting me to share informational picture books and to talk about kids’ book publishing.) ((Have I mentioned that my first picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, will come out this December 1 from Charlesbridge?)) After browsing and brainstorming, we generated a list of 27 books with lesson ideas we can use this year in kindergarten through third grade. Feel free to share it!

Title Author Illustrator  Lesson Ideas
Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types Werner Sharon Forss, Sarah alliteration, identifying letters in different fonts – visual learners
Aunt Ant Leaves through the Leaves Coffelt, Nancy homonyms/homophones
Bee Dance Chrustowski,Rick vocabulary, informational reading, chronological text structure, debate if it is “narrative” or “informative”
The Best of Times Tang, Greg Briggs, Harry multiplication in third grade, rules for each and tables
Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather! Kudlinkski, Kathleen V. Serra, Sebastia compare/contrast what we once thought to what we now think, text features, weather in first grade, landforms in second
Families Rotner, Shelley Rotner, Shelley “all about” writing at a simple level = great mentor text
Greedy Apostrophe: a cautionary tale Carr, Jan Long, Ethan grammar – ways to use an apostrophe
Henry’s Map Elliot, David mapping skills lesson, pictures with labels = text feature, mentor tex for writing
How To Surprise a Dad Reagan, Jean Wildish, Lee mentor text for “how to” writing that goes beyond basic instruction format, mentor text for incorporating all five senses in details
In Mary’s Garden Kugler, Carson Kugler, Tina compare/contrast with “The Most Magnificient Thing”
The King Who Rained Gwynne, Fred homonyms/homophones/word play, figurative language
Lucky and Stu vs. the Mikanikal Man Van Wright, Cornelius reading for pleasure! Friendship themes and good “boy” book
Math Fables Tang, Greg Cahoon, Heather number sense for youngers
Me, Too! Dunklee, Annika Smith, Lori Joy opinion writing: “Reason #1”, friendship story to discuss
Messy Jesse Bowles, Paula writing prompt, “what I’m good at”, punctuation lesson
Nino Wrestles the World Morales, Yuyi using context to decode unfamiliar words, appreciation of other languages/cultures
One Boy Seeger, Laura Vaccaro finding words within words
One Word from Sophia Averbeck, Jim Ismail, Yasmeen persuasive writing, writing for an audience, text features like glossary
Ostriches Are Not Pets! Niver, Heather Moore persuasive writing
Over in the Wetlands Rose, Caroline Starr Dunlavey, Rob vocabulary – word choice and author’s craft, context clues, inferring, how do animals prepare for storms compared to how people prepare?
Rufus Goes to School Griswell, Kim T. Gorbachev, Valeri use at the beginning of the school year, shows importance of learning how to read, point out persuasive reasons why pigs should (not) go to school
Simple Machines Adler, David A. Raff, Anna use as a mentor text for flip books, compare/contrast, nonfiction with illustrations and not photos, text features, easy nonfiction that’s not about animals
Speed, Speed, Centipede! Dahl, Michael Trover, Zachary early math counting by tens, shows 10 frames
This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations Rosenthal, Amy Krouse Corace, Jen writing with math symbols
Water is Water Paul, Miranda Chin, Jason “show, don’t tell”, art tells story as much as text does
Wumbers Rosenthal, Amy Krouse Lictenheld, Tom lesson on speech bubbles
Zero the Hero Holub, Joan Lictenheld, Tom higher math concepts, friendship, lesson on speech bubbles
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