All the Water in the World

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Range of Reading, Science, Vocabulary | 1 comment

All the Water in the WorldSummer in Michigan means swimming in lakes, running through sprinklers, diving into pools. It’s a good time of year to share  All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson.

Science, poetry, and art swirl together in this gorgeous picture book.
“That rain
that cascaded from clouds
and meandered down mountains,
that wavered over waterfalls
then slipped into rivers
and opened into oceans,
that rain has been here before.”

All the water in the world is all the water this world will ever have, so it’s our responsibility to keep this precious resource clean. George Ella Lyon has a free teacher’s guide on her website: georgellalyon.com  with plenty of extension activities. I think it’s cool to recreate the water cycle with your students by putting hot water and a glass in a clear bowl, and covering the bowl with plastic cling wrap so they can see evaporation and condensation (for a much better explanation, go to easy-science-experiments.com). Talk about the lyrical language Lyon chose as well as the facts of the water cycle and you’ll hit the Core Standards of Craft & Structure plus Key Ideas & Details (love the two-fer!) Pay homage to Tillotson’s flowing art by pulling out the watercolors to illustrate the water cycle or why water is so important. And if it’s as hot where you are as it is in Michigan, get out the sprinklers as well!


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The Pet Project

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Logic Smart, Michigan Author, Nature Smart, Poetry, Range of Reading, Vocabulary | 0 comments

petproject As soon as I picked up this new poetry book, The Pet Project, I thought of the animal reports many of my students are doing and I knew I must get this book into the hands of those kids and their teachers! The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses written by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora begins with this ominous verse:

If you’re the type who oohs and ahhs
at furry faces, precious paws,
the words ahead may be alarming:
Animals aren’t always charming.

Considering that I’ve been giving stacks of informational animal books to teacher-friends for student research projects, this poetry book comes at exactly the right time. It’s poetry month (hello, Range of Reading Standard!) and each poem about a different animal just begs to be compared to an informational book that will confirm the cool, and sometimes gross, facts. (Integrating Knowledge and Ideas? Check!)

For example, if you’ve got students who’re interested in monkeys, share this gem:

He looks so like a little man
     with smiling teeth and grasping hand.
He chatters to his monkey friends,
     but that is where the likeness ends.
His hair is full of bugs and lice.
     He flings his poo – His aim’s precise.
His scream sounds like a banshee’s wail.
     He swings from his prehensile tail.
And worst of all he smells so funky.
     If he’s a man, then I’m a monkey!

After your students calm down from giggling over poo-flinging, the research-sparking discussion can begin. Do monkeys really fling poo? What does prehensile mean? Do monkeys really smell funky? Time to pull out the informational non-fiction books for a fact-finding expedition. I love that Wheeler never dumbs down her vocabulary (you’ll find query, devise, and formulate all in the second poem). Discussing all the wonderful words she chose will help you hit the Craft and Structure Standard. So one little picture book can help you teach three Common Core State Standards, kick off student-led research projects, enrich vocabulary, and strengthen the love of poetry. I think we’ve just found a new teacher’s pet in The Pet Project.

For more information on the author, please visit: lisawheelerbooks.com.For more information on the illustrator, please visit: zohora.com.

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Dear Hot Dog

Posted by on Apr 10, 2013 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Print Motivation, Self Smart, Vocabulary | 0 comments

DearHotDog_COVWhen writing poetry with kids, one of the biggest complaints I hear is “I don’t know what to write about.” I can’t blame them. There are plenty of times when I look at a blank sheet of paper and I don’t know what to write about, either.

That’s one reason why Dear Hot Dog by Mordicai Gerstein is so brilliant: he writes poems about the most ordinary of things, like a hot dog, the summer sun, even the air, all the things we love but sometimes overlook.

Take, for instance, Gerstein’s poem about socks (which is still apropos in April in Michigan):

I never stop
to think about socks,
and if I get them
for a birthday present
from Aunt Adi,
I’m disappointed.
You can’t play
with socks.
But now,
with wind rattling
the icy windows,
putting on these
soft, thick, red ones
makes me happy
all day.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: poetry is meant to be read aloud. During this month of poetry (or any time of the year), read Dear Hot Dog to your students. (You’ll hit the Common Core Standard of Range of Reading, and if you focus on the poet’s choice of interesting words, you’ll teach Craft & Structure as well!)  Talk about how each poem is an ode of gratitude for an everyday object. Take inspiration from Gerstein and brainstorm with the class all the ordinary stuff we love. A few of Gerstein’s poems have to do with food. In lousy-weather months when we can’t get outside, working food into a lesson will light up your Nature Smart Students. Perhaps everyone can bring in a favorite food as inspiration, to savor as they write their own poems about the taste, texture, smell, general wonderfulness of an everyday thing they love.  Your students may find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

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Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disasters: Poems

Posted by on Apr 3, 2013 in Early Learning, Fluency, Non-Fiction, Phonological Awareness, Poetry, Range of Reading, Rhyming, Self Smart | 0 comments

wherearemypantsPoetry doesn’t have to be “roses are red, violets are blue…” As David Lubar wrote in his young adult novel, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, “There are as many types of poems as there are types of food. As many flavors, you might say. To claim you don’t like poetry because you hate ‘mushy stuff’ or things you don’t immediately understand is like saying you hate food because you don’t like asparagus.”

April is National Poetry Month, but don’t relegate poems to just one month – share all kinds of poetry all year long! (If you do, you can check Range of Reading off your Common Core Standards list!) One of my go-to poetry books is Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disasters: Poems edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins with pictures by Wolf Erlbruch. These “disaster” poems range from funny to poignant, and your kids will find at least one to which they can totally relate.

For example, here’s one titled “Oh, No!” by Katie McAllaster Weaver:
“Hello apple!
Shiny red.


Hello worm.
Where’s your head?”

and here’s part of one called “My Friend is Gone” by Lillian M. Fisher:
“A hug, a tear, and you are gone.
Your swing is missing from the lawn.
Your house is silent, dark and lone.
Your window says no one is home.”

Poetry is meant to be read aloud, so read Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disasters: Poems to your class and then choose one or two of your favorite poems to read aloud again. Talk with your students about why you liked that particular poem. Encourage your students either to choose a poem to practice reading or to write a disaster poem of their own. Then, have a disaster poetry slam where you and each of your students read a poem aloud expressively to the class. You can bring a stool for kids to sit on, and a beret to wear, and students can snap for each other instead of clap (I like to teach them phrases like “cool cat” and groovy, man” because it makes me giggle.) Your students will build their reading fluency (another Common Core Standard checked off!) and find that poetry isn’t just mushy love stuff.



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