Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mock Caldecott Unit for Kindergarten

Over the next few weeks I'll be adding resources to this space that you may steal, er, borrow, to create your own Caldecott Unit.  None of these ideas are particularly original; I hope you find some of these resources useful!  Do you have any mock Caldecott ideas you'd like to share?

Here is my first document which will be the first page of my students' Caldecott "book":
Name Your Own Medal


My kindergarten classes and I have now read three books that I feel are Caldecott contenders.  Here are the sheets they used to create two more pages for their Caldecott books:

Grandpa Green

We also read Perfect Square by Michael Hall.  My students then deconstructed their own perfect squares and reassembled them by gluing them to a sheet of construction paper.  This will be the fourth page of their Caldecott book.

As January 23rd approaches I have just one wish:  oh please let at least one of the books we've looked at win a Caldecott something! :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday Soup: In My Mailbox - Bigger Than A Bread Box

Are we talking resolutions yet?  Because one of mine will be sharing, in a more timely fashion, books that I have received.  Each of these books that I will be highlighting over the next few days came my way thanks to the generosity of a publisher (with the author putting in a good word), an author, and a tweep.  I love my PLN!

Title:   Bigger Than a Breadbox
Year Published: 2011

Author:  Laurel Snyder
You May Know Her:  as the author of Penny Dreadful and Baxter:  The Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher
You May Find Her:  at her blog and on twitter at @laurelsnyder

Illustrator (Cover art):  Steve James
You May Know Him: from his blog.
You May Find Him:  at his blog and...?

Review You May Not Have Seen: 

The Delta/Plus
The fabulousity of Bigger Than a Bread Box is now old news, but in this case old news is still news!  This was one of the best books I've read in 2011.  It fits into my new fiction genre: realistic fantasy (along with my favorite book When You Reach Me which fits into my other new fiction genre, realistic science fiction).  

This book is very tightly written, each and every word counts, and it drew me right in (I have to say that I'm lazy and in general cannot wait 'til halfway through a book for the action to get crackin').  Tiny details add to the books believability.

There is not a thing I would change about Bigger Than a Bread Box.  To me, even the cover art added to the book's appeal.  It fits the feel of the book exactly and gives you the sensation that you are literally being drawn into the book and into Rebecca's story.  It reminds me of a Brian Selznick cover, especially those that he did for Andrew Clements' books such as Frindle and A School Story.

15 Second Book Talk in the Stacks (These are when I'm in the book stacks with my students and they hold out a book to me and say, "Have you read this one, Mrs. Blaine?".  I have about 15 seconds.):  

"I loved this book.  This is about a girl who moves with her Mom and brother to her grandmother's house in Atlanta because her parents are having problems and she finds a magical breadbox in the attic and anything she wishes for shows up in the breadbox, but imagine what happens if you got everything you wished for and what if your biggest wish might not come true?"

From the the cover to the writing, Bigger Than a Bread Box gets five out of five Dog Ears from me!

Thank you Random House for this gratis, no-strings-attached, copy of Bigger Than a Bread Box!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wadda Ya Know Wednesday: Timelines in Books

The other day I mentioned that I would be borrowing an idea from over at Babbling Abby, a first grade teacher who has a ton of creative, adorable and engaging ideas.   If you scroll down to the bottom of her post, you'll see that she has come up with a timeline activity using Eric Carle's A Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I intend to use her idea with my first graders, but since I see three first grade classes, I wanted to mix it up a bit when it came to the books.  I will be using each of the following books with each of my first grade classes:

The original used by Babbling Abby!

My choice for the second class of first graders.
For use with my third class.  BTW, this book is out-of-print.  Unacceptable!
What are your favorite timeline/days-of-week books that you would use?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Turn it Around Tuesdays - A Nation's Hope

On the eve of World War II, African American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title; for much of America their fight came to represent America's war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to put aside prejudice and come together to celebrate our nation's ideals.
~ Summary from GoodReads 

Last week I shared A Nation's Hope:  The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis with my fourth graders.  By coincidence we had just read two other Kadir Nelson-illustrated books:  Henry's Freedom Box and Mama Miti.  My students were riveted by this story.  Although they are in fourth grade, they don't have a lot of background knowledge about World War II (curriculum-wise, I mean) but nonetheless the importance of this American versus German boxing match-up was not lost on them.

Here's one of the reasons I love my job:  I told them that this book was probably being considered for a Caldecott Medal and after finishing the book I said, "So, what do you think the chances are that this book will win the Caldecott?"  Hands went up.  "85%", "97%", "95%".  They took my question quite literally, as you can see!

My fourth graders made some very astute observations about how realistic the pictures were, how Kadir Nelson seems to illustrate books about African Americans, how Kadir Nelson's name seems to be before Matt De La Pena's name on the front cover, and there was much discussion over how much the text and the pictures complimented each other.  Many students agreed that this was a book where the words and the pictures were equally powerful.

I know my students would love it "100%" if this book won a Caldecott and so would I.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday News

Here are a few links to library news of interest I've had my eyes on this week:

Oh yes, I did order these notepads for the librarian at my children's school.

I found this super fun site by accident while I was searching for contraction activities for first grade.  I also found this The Very Hungry Caterpillar time line activity which I will be adapting for my first graders!  More on that this week.

Have you ordered your free Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service promotional materials yet?  I have a feeling they may not last long!

I spy with my little eye...Bats in the Parking Lot!
I had the privilege to hear Brian Lies speak at the Mid-Atlantic Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference.  He talked about the pre-publication marketing steps he took to promote his first book Bats at the Beach - he then spoke about the use of shadows, light and perspective in his work.  His website is chock full of useful activities related to his books and to bats! 

And finally, if you want to get anything done today do not, I repeat DO NOT, go here.  Don't do it.  I'm warning you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grateful for Grace (Lin)

On Thursday we were honored to have Grace Lin visit our Library.  She taught our first and second graders about the publishing process from idea to published book (which most guessed took, oh, approximately two days) and read to us from her books Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat.  She was gracious, energetic, and made a lot of dreams come true, to be sure.

Thank you, Ms. Lin!  What a fitting time of year for your visit; we are so thankful for the opportunities we have to meet wonderful authors and illustrators like you!

Monday, October 10, 2011

National Postal Museum and Owney the Dog

Lately I have been tweeting with a dead dog. I really hate to put it that way, but it's true. Owney is a, ahem, permanent resident of the National Postal Museum here in Washington D.C. I first learned about Owney when my colleague ( @booksandbytes ) told me about a book called Owney the Postal Pooch by Mona Kirby.   Since my 2nd graders were soon to visit the Postal Museum, we did a quick Owney Overview and I sent them on their way. The students returned having had a wonderful time. They even brought me letters about how they wished I could have come with them (HINT, HINT) and a little book of stamps assembled just for me ( #whyilovemyjob ).

Who knew that Owney has his own twitter account so in a weird reversal of dog v. owner, I started following him! In time, I met his er, human, via twitter and then via telephone. We have some really great plans in store for our 2nd graders over the next few weeks and I'm very excited to introduce them to Owney and the wonderful world of stamps and letter writing.

Here are some of the resources we'll be using in the upcoming weeks:

Nate the Great and the Sticky Case
by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

 Nate the Great is indeed involved in yet another pancake-inducing mystery.  This time it's a missing stamp.  Nate reliably leaves a note for his mother and then is off to interview the usual suspects including the four Hex cats.  This edition as a number of wonderful stamp-related activities and information.  We'll be using this book to introduce stamps in general.

Owney the Mail-Pouch Pooch
by Mona Kirby

This was the book first introduced to me by @booksandbytes last year.  The students were fascinated by this true story, his tags, and of course they wanted to know if Owney was still alive.  Uh.  No.  Depending on the age of your students you may wish to tell them that Owney's recent makeover.  Or not.
This year we'll look at another book that I have yet to read "A Lucky Dog:  Owney U.S. Rail Mail Mascot" by Dirk Wales. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 for 10: Favorite Picture Books (For the Time-Being!)

 I am so happy to announce the the second annual 10 for 10 Picture Books blog sharing event is up and running.  Mandy Robek over at Enjoy and Embrace Learning along with Cathy at Reflect & Refine are hosting and you can join along by tweeting at #pb10for10 or by jogging on over.  Last year I jotted down so many titles and useful suggestions for new books or ideas for making "old" titles fresh again.

Here, in no particular order, are my 10 picture books I could not do without (with the caveat "for the time-being).  I can't tell you how many times I read a book to my students and have said, "This is my NEW favorite picture book!!"  They just roll their eyes at me.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorites - and please comment if you have any novel ways that you use these books in your own library or classroom.

My Best Friend 
by Mary Ann Rodman & illustrated by E. B. Lewis
I love this book for so many reasons.  The realistic illustrations in watercolor that make you want to jump right in the pool, the African American families portrayed, and of course, the subject matter:  the difficulty of wanting so badly to be friends with someone who just doesn't seem to want to reciprocate!  I use this book at the end of the school year because of the pool setting and because many children will be in new environments during the summer where making and keeping friendships may suddenly become a challenge.

The Summer My Father Was Ten
by Pat Brisson
This is one of two books this year that made me cry or choke-up while reading to my students.  This story about the narrator's father tells about a vegetable garden in a vacant lot and an act of destruction.  It is interesting to see the differing reactions from different grade levels when I read this book.  Some practically cheer when the gang of boys start throwing the tomatoes while other grade levels will sit in uncomfortable and complete silence.  A wonderful book.

Testing the Ice:  A True Story About Jackie Robinson
by Sharon Robinson & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Okay, here's the book I cried over while reading it to my third graders.  It was the ending that got me.  This is a true story told by Jackie Robinson's daughter about her father as a father, not as a famous baseball player.  It involves a frozen pond, courage, and dads just doing what dads will often do for their children.

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
I read Swamp Angel to my multiage classes (grades 1 and 2) and they were completely riveted by the language of this book.  The book was a nice addition to their fairytale/tall tale/pourquoi tale units, plus the illustrations are just magnificent.

Chewy Louie
by Howie Schneider
Chewy Louie is just a great book.  From its humorous illustrations to the poor predicament of Louie's family.  My students love spotting what Louie has chewed in each picture and I can feel the tension build as they wonder if Louie will sent away.  And of course the message could very well be a tear-jerker too:  pets (and people) get older and their annoying but endearing habits often fade away.  SNIFF!

The Gruffalo
by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler
So many elements come together to make The Gruffalo one of my favorite picks.  The rhyming is just perfect, the illustrations are vibrant, and it is useful when teaching animal sounds or habitats.  It also have one of my favorite last lines:  "The mouse found a nut and the nut was good."

by Coleen Salley and illustrated by Janet Stevens 
This may be one of those books where I get a bigger kick out of it than the kids.  That poor possum wearing a diaper!  That frustrated Auntie!  Those baffling directions!  My only wish is that I could hear some reading this story with just the right accent and pronunciation.  Any leads on that one?

Possum Magic
by Mem Fox
I had never heard or read this book before this year and I don't think I would have liked it as much if it hadn't been read by my high school senior Intern...from Australia.  The words will just never have the same meaning when I read it in my shabby accent (recovering Bostonian slathered with Virginia twang).

Ox-Cart Man
by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney
 I have a soft spot in my heart for this book and I'll tell you why.  Many, many years ago I watched a PBS documentary on the poet Donald Hall and his poet wife Jane Kenyon.  I fell totally in love with the both of them.  When my son was born I mailed a copy of Ox-Cart Man to Mr. Hall - addressing the envelope something like "Donald Hall, poet, New Hampshire".  Sure enough it came back with a typed letter and a wonderful inscription to my son.  When I mentioned this to Mr. Hall after finally meeting him at the National Book Festival he seemed not to understand at first, but then said, after autographing another of his books for me, "I'm so glad I did that." Me too.

Sydney Rella and the Glass Sneaker
by Bernice Myers
Call me nostalgic for the style of the illustrations but I just love this Cinderella spoof - plus the boy twist make it especially refreshing.

And those are my 10 for August 10.  YIPES!  August 10 already!  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Windows into New Worlds - More from Vinalhaven, ME


In my last post I grumbled about not having taken better pictures of the lovely stained glass windows in the children's section of the Vinalhaven (ME) Public Library.  Well, grumble and ye shall receive!  Fortunately, my photographer in the field (aka Dad) obliged by taking these pictures for you to enjoy!  Now I only wish I had noted the name of the artist... (grumble, grumble).  To be continued!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Little Library - Vinalhaven, Maine

We just returned from a mini-vacation where we were able to escape the heat of Virginia and enjoy some truly quiet (but busy) days in New England.

Traveling to Vinalhaven, Maine, 15 miles of the coast of Rockland and accessible by ferry, was no small feat but it was well worth the trip.  And where does a librarian go when she's on vacation?  To the Vinalhaven Public Library, of course!

The original building was completed in 1906 and dedicated in 1907 as part of the Carnegie libraries.  A lovely sunlit (well, in summertime anyway) addition was completed in 2007.  I only wish I had taken a better picture of the beautiful stained glass in the children's room.

Yup, it's a Carnegie!
Beautiful building created, I'm assuming, from granite quarried from the island itself.
From my brief perusal of the children's room and young adult section, I could tell that there was some outstanding collection development going on.  As a youngster I'd be as happy as a clam at high tide to spend the winter months just reading my way through the bookshelves.  Of course, being the nut that I am, I took pictures of just some of the books on display.

I'd never heard of this book.  I checked it out, of course!

Cynthia Lord has visited the island's K-12 school's library!

Outstanding use of available space.  There was truly something for everyone!

Droooooool!  My students would DIE for this shelf!

Thank you, Vinalhaven Public Library, for creating a little bit of heaven in not quite the middle of the Atlantic.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Books for Back to School - Plantzilla Goes to Camp

What did YOU do over summer vacation?

Whether you're a teacher or student returning to school, people are sure to ask you this question!

I'm wondering how many of you will have spent at least part of your summer at camp...with a giant plant...that you thought you had left at home.

Plantzilla Goes to Camp, written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by David Catrow, is not a new book, but it was new to me when my daughter found it at the public library.  Your public or school library may already have this PLANTastic tale which reminds me a little bit of Dear Mrs. LaRue:  Letters from Obedience School or I Wanna Iguana.  Why?  Because this book is told entirely in letters (ssshhh...don't tell your classroom teacher or your librarian that this is a GREAT book to use when teaching parts of a letter or as a mentor text that inspires students to write their own wacky story in letters)!

Not only do the letters make this an appealing read, but so do the illustrations.  When Mortimer is forbidden from taking his prized plant to Camp Wannaleaveee, it is through David Catrow's detailed drawings that allow us to track Plantzilla's, er, progress.  Will Mortimer be united with his beloved greenery?  Is he able to withstand the bunk bully Buford?  Students, particularly in grades second through fourth, will enjoy this hearing this book read to them to help ease them back into the school routine.

Friday, April 1, 2011

From the Home Office: Guykus and Famous People

Guyku by Bob Raczka and Peter H. Reynolds
This year I discovered a great book by the team of Bob Raczka and Peter Reynolds.

I read this book to my third grade students who are also in the middle of their Famous America + some explorers + King Tut drive to the Virginia SOLs (Standards of Learning).

So although we learned that haikus are traditionally about nature, we decided to mix it up a bit and create our haikus about our famous person.

I found this great organizer from Read, Think, Write.  Using the Haiku Starter, the students first brainstormed the main ideas about their famous person.  The second week they created their haikus.  I tried to get them to title their work something other than the name of their famous person.

My next step is to illustrate them with the famous person's photograph using BigHugeLabs for display at our school.

I've found my students love to you?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Books

There just seems to be a slew of gorgeous and fascinating books coming through our Library doors lately.  The are relevant to the curriculum, wonderfully written, pleasures to read aloud and thought-provoking for our students.  Any of these titles on your pick-of-the-list list?

Dad, Jackie and Me by Myron Uhlberg; Illustrated by Colin Bootman
My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman; Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin A. Ramsey; Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Touching Texture

I was stuck; thinking about what I could possible read/teach/share when my first graders arrived in the Library.  And then I had one of those casual conversations that occur in the hall or in the copier room or by the mailboxes. 

The art teacher mentioned that she was doing "texture" with the first graders, explaining the difference between texture you can see with your eyes and texture you can actually feel.  Ding!

First I showed the students Lois Ehlert's book Snowballs.  I had recently purchased a new copy because our only other copy was falling to pieces.  The illustrations are so incredibly vibrant!  I read the book and asked the students, "If you could touch the mittens/birdseed/buttons/bottlecaps, how would they feel?".

Then we moved on to The Black Book of Colors.  This is a book that is in Braille as well as in standard text.  The students were able to actually feel the Braille and the raised illustrations.  {On a related note, does a braille storyhour which I cannot wait to hear about once she escapes San Diego.}

What are your favorite textured books and/or what has been your most recent "copier room" lesson plan?

Monday, January 3, 2011

From the Home Office: Poetry Picks

I'm finally feeling like my old self and just in time, since Winter Break is officially over!

As if to buffer ourselves against the winter chill, many of my grades are beginning poetry units.  I've found several ideas that I will be trying with my first, second and third graders.

This year I will once again create "Spine Poetry" with my third graders.  I can no longer remember who suggested this idea, but it's a lot of fun.  Students roam the fiction shelves in search of three or four books to stack  - forming a poem in the process.  Here are some pictures of last year's poems:

Here's a great website to use for composing poetry on the fly, especially if you are lucky enough to have an interactive Smartboard!  Use this to reinforce sight words too!

And finally, I was intrigued by this idea of Paper Bag Poetry.  I may have my students compose their poems directly onto a brown paper lunch bag. 

How are you fending off the winter blues with a poem or two?
Imagination Designs