Dig in to fun summer books!

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Michigan Author, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Range of Reading, Rhyming, Science | 3 comments

Digger Dozer Dumper by Hope Vestergaard and David SlonimBuilder Goose: It's Construction Rhyme Time! by Boni Ashburn and Sergio de GiorgiThese books are so much fun I couldn’t choose just one! Now that summer is here, I’m looking for books that encourage outdoor play. Here are two books that will have kids scurrying to the sandbox: Digger, Dozer, Dumper written by Hope Vestergaard and illustrated by David Slonim and Builder Goose: It’s Construction Rhyme Time! by Boni Ashburn and illustrated by Sergio de Giorgi.

Both of these books have poems about construction vehicles, so by sharing them together you’ll not only hit Range of Reading, you’ll have great compare/contrast discussions which hit Integration of Knowledge & Ideas. (Also, both are written by Michigan authors, so shout out to the proud Mitten State!) I love that these books both give real information about how these machines work within fun, catchy poems. Dig these favorites:

Backhoe (from Digger, Dozer, Dumper)
The backhoe’s two machines in one:
a useful little truck.
His front end pushes dirt and rocks:
his back end digs out muck.

Heave Ho! Let’s Go! (from Builder Goose)
This old crane,
it swings wide!
It takes pallets for a ride.
With a heave ho, let’s go,
swing it back for more.
Hoist it high and watch it soar!

Once you and your crew have enjoyed the construction poems, everyone will want to go dig in the sandbox and build, dig, measure, and pour. Extend the learning and develop fine motor skills with these fun activities I found on preschoolexpress.com, Jean Warren’s genius website: hammer golf tees into firm Styrofoam pieces, screw screws into bars of soap, and build edible structures with graham crackers and frosting, peanut butter, or cream cheese. Happy reading!


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Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Art, Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Michigan Author, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Poetry, Range of Reading, Self Smart, Vocabulary | 0 comments

Peace by Wendy Anderson HalperinIt has been twelve years since the terror attacks on 9/11. Most of the students in elementary classrooms today weren’t even born yet in 2001, so how do we commemorate that day with kids? The kindest way I can think of to honor the lives that were lost is to promote peace, and the most beautiful book I know about peace is this one.

Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin combines art, poetry, and quotes to help answer the question “how do we make a peaceful world?” The book is quiet and thoughtful, with detailed pictures your students will want to spend time examining close up. You can read aloud the main thread of the poem, which begins with

“For there to be peace in the world…/ …there must be peace in nations./ For there to be peace in nations, there must be peace in cities.”

and then take time to read all the beautiful quotes threaded throughout.

“It’s not so much the journey that’s important, as the way we treat those we encounter and those around us, along the way.” – Jeremy Aldana

Wendy Anderson Halperin has a beautiful website that extends the book: drawingchildrenintopeace.com. She has cool videos where she teaches kids how to draw different peace symbols and she talks about conflict resolution. You can even browse through a gallery of art where kids have drawn and written what peace means to them.

I hope you share Peace with your students. I hope you take time to discuss some of the beautiful quotes, not just because it works for Range of Reading and Craft & Structure, but because they may plant hopeful seeds in your students. If your students choose a quote to illustrate, or write a peace quote of their own and add pictures, you can send it to Wendy Halperin, and send it to me, too. I am all about sharing peace.

For more information about the author/illustrator, please visit wendyhalperin.com.

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Words with Wings

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Print Awareness, Print Concepts, Print Motivation, Range of Reading, Self Smart | 0 comments


This novel-in-verse is for the daydreamers and for the teachers who want to guide, not squash, those who have such vivid imaginations.

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is one of those gorgeously-written books you can read aloud to your class for wonderful group discussions and then watch them eagerly grab it to read independently. (Novels-in-verse are not only a great way to immerse your students in poetry, but it hits both Range of Reading and Fluency for Core Standards. Woohoo!) Imagine yourself reading aloud this page to your students and knowing that for some kids, it will hit home:

First Day
I duck down in the seat
of my new class.
To these kids,
I’m not Gabby yet.
I’m just Shy Girl
Who Lives
Inside Her Head.
No one even knocks
on the door
for a visit.
They don’t know
it’s beautiful
in here.

Gabby is a daydreamer, which sometimes causes problems in school and at home. But how can she help daydreaming, when words have wings? Some of the poems would make for great writing prompts in your classroom, like this one:

Say “waterfall”
and the dreary winter rain
outside my classroom window
turns to liquid thunder,
pounding into a clear pool
miles below,
and I can’t wait
to dive in.

To my absolute delight, Nikki Grimes named the teacher in this book Mr. Spicer after one of the coolest teachers I’ve ever meet, Ed Spicer. He teaches first grade here in Michigan and he is committed to giving his students time to daydream. Sometimes he plays music, sometimes it’s quiet. Sometimes he asks his students to write about their daydreams, or turn and talk about them, or daydream on a particular topic, like a science concept they are studying. I love the power of daydreaming and I adore Ed Spicer for encouraging his students to take a few moments to let their minds wander. Follow him on Facebook for more about his classroom because he is a wealth of amazing ideas.

So share Words with Wings with your students. For a quick Craft & Structure lesson, talk about the words Nikki Grimes chose that have “wings” for Gabby. Why did she choose these words? What words have wings for you? Give your students a few minutes just to daydream, wonder and imagine. It may become a favorite break in your classroom.

Happy September, everyone!

For more information about the author, please visit: nikkigrimes.com.

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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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