Self Smart

Play It! “Ten Rules of Being a Superhero”

Posted by on Sep 27, 2021 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Michigan Author, Print Awareness, Print Concepts, Print Motivation, Self Smart | 0 comments

Twice during my years as a classroom teacher I had students that weren’t allowed to participate in Halloween activities for religious reasons. To keep the fun of dressing up without creating difficulties for any of your students, read Ten Rules of Being a Superhero by Deb Pilutti and become superheroes!

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero by Deb Pilutti

Captain Magma and Lava Boy show us the rules with bright, captivating art and with short sentences to support younger readers. Big ideas like courage, integrity, and loyalty are introduced in kid-friendly ways, and there are good giggles, too. For example, Rule Number 2: “Saving the day is messy.” As Lava Boy cleans up the playroom ( with Captain Magma holding the dustpan), he adds, “Moms don’t understand Rule Number 2.”

There’s a fantastic, free discussion and activity guide (written by Superteacher Debbie Gonzales)  that you can print from debpilutti.com. You’ll find fun games and a story sequencing activity that nails that Key Ideas & Details reading standard. I think Ten Rules of Being a Superhero makes a wonderful discussion and writing prompt. What are the qualities of a superhero? Who can be one? Since many kids are thinking about costumes this season, what about making superhero gear? Towels and blankets from the thrift store (thoroughly washed) can be made into capes. Donated t-shirts or paper grocery bags can be decorated with paints and markers. Thin craft foam can be used to make masks, wrist bands, and other superhero gear.

Once everyone is looking super, play the book! Act out the rules or write rules as a class for kids to act out. I hope you are having a happy school year!

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Your Name is a Song

Posted by on Aug 10, 2021 in Early Learning, Fluency, Key Ideas and Details, Music Smart, People Smart, Self Smart, Song Books | 0 comments

YOUR NAME IS A SONG by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Luisa Uribe

This is the book you need to start your school year.

A little girl is upset because her teacher and classmates not only can’t pronounce her name, they seem to think it isn’t important to say it correctly. When the little girl goes home upset, her mother tells her that her name is a song. So the girl goes back to school and sings her name, sings everyone’s name.

It is important to say names correctly. Everyone’s name.

I looooove the pronunciation key that comes with every name. We learn how to pronounce Ta’jae (TAH-jay) as well as Bob (BAWB). And if we can’t pronounce it correctly on the first try, we learn it – even sing it! – until we get it right.

You can listen to the author, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow read her book aloud here:

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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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Play the Book!

Posted by on Jan 17, 2021 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Michigan Author, People Smart, Self Smart | 2 comments

cover of Groundhog's Dilemma
“Groundhog’s Dilemma” written by me and illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Oh, 2021, we waited all through 2020 for you and frankly, you’re not off to the start we’d hoped for. We’re exhausted in so many ways. We still need to show up for our little ones. We need a bit of lightheartedness. “Playing the book” is a fun way to connect while it helps your child deepen their understanding of a story.

Groundhog puppet to color
Groundhog is ready to be printed and played with!

Groundhog and all of his friends are ready to be printed, colored, cut out, and played with!

Squirrel image to color
Squirrel and his kits are ready to play, too!

When a child retells a story, they are showing how much they understand. They are moving from just listening to a book to making connections.

Playing the book lets your child to go beyond retelling by extending the story with their own imagination. Use this link to print out Groundhog and all his friends (or click on the cover of my book in the upper right-hand corner of this screen for puppets and more free fun stuff to do!) Give the characters funny voices when they try to convince Groundhog to make Spring come early or to keep Winter lasting longer. Give the characters new adventures. Take time to play. And may this year bring us all more joy.

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