Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Publication Year: 1900
Author: Lyman Frank Baum
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Grade Level: Grade 3 to Grade 6
Theme: Diversity and values
Skill Taught: Story mapping

Summary: A young girl from Kansas named Dorthy Gale and her dog Toto are blown away in a tornado to the Land of Oz.  While in Oz, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion.  They go on an adventure, following the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City where the Great Oz is.  Each of them uniquely wants something special in life, and only the Great Oz can grant them their wish.  The only problem is, they must first kill the Wicked Witch of the West.  They eventually kill her, and the Great Oz grants everyone's wish except Dorthy's.  Together, Dorthy and her new friends travel to find the Good Witch of the South who helps Dorthy and Toto return back home to Kansas.

About the Author: Lyman Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York on May 15, 1856.  He held a wide range of jobs including a chicken breeder, actor, a playwright, and a dime store owner to mention a few.  He married Matilda Josilyn Gage in 1882 and had four sons with her.  His mother-in-law heard the stories he would tell his children before tucking them into bed, and encouraged him to submit them to a publisher.  Readers wanted more of the Oz books, but Baum wanted to write about more than just Oz.  He ended up writing fourteen books in the series and would pass away on May 16, 1919.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would begin class talking about diversity and ask the class, "If you had one wish, what would they wish for and why?" Students who wanted to share could share, and after all volunteers had gone, I would mention that in the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there are four characters who have their own wish of something they want most in life.

Post-Reading Activity: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz contains a lot of information, and a story map would help to clarify the information.  This would begin as something done as a whole class, but as we continued reading, students would fill in the boxes independently.  While we were reading the book, I would check to make sure students are writing the correct information and ask for volunteers to share what they have included.

Reflection: This classic story is a great tale about unique characters on an adventurous journey through Oz.  This story is one of the first I remember hearing about when I was younger, and with the number of books written, the adventure continues far beyond this book.  Its popularity hasn't faded, and this literature will continue to grow as this story remains a favorite for many readers of all ages.  For those who have only seen the movie, the book is slightly different, and it will be an entirely new adventure.  Baum describes each new land well, but spends a little time at every location, keeping it short to maintain the reader's attention, especially younger readers.  Since the book is longer, the teacher can teach a new lesson each chapter.  

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There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books!

Publication Year: 2012
Author: Lucille Colandro
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Pre-K to Grade 1
Theme: Rhyming
Skill Taught: Creative writing

Summary: It is the first day of school and the old lady is swallowing pens, books, rulers, pencil cases, folders, chalk, and bags.  Each item she swallows relates to past item she has swallowed, and by the end of the book, she coughs up a book bag with the items needed to begin another school year.

About the Author: Lucille Colandro has written many children books, but is best known for her There Was An Old Lady series.  Lucille has teamed with Jared Lee who has illustrated over 100 books for young readers.  The series of books originated as a song and eventually turned into a book. (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: Students would write down on a sheet of paper a list of items in their backpack.  I would go around the room and ask the student to name one item in their bag, trying not to duplicate any items already mentioned.  Before reading the book, I would mention that it is a good thing the old lady is not in our class because she would swallow a couple of their items.

Post-Reading Activity: After reading the book, I would write the prompt, "If I were an old lady, I would eat..." on the front board.  Students would write a number of items following the prompt, and I would check it before they could glue their final copy to construct paper with their drawing of an old lady.  Students who would like to share, would read theirs to the class as we all got a good laugh each time.

Reflection: These series of books are fun to read and listen to.  Children will once again laugh as the old lady once again swallows a lot of things that normally aren't eaten, which makes it so funny.  This makes for a good read aloud because of its rhythm and the illustrations will attract the students' attention.  There a couple of directions an educator could go with in this book; an activity that it could be used for is sequencing.

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Flat Stanley

Publication Year: 1964
Author: Jeff Brown
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Grade 2 to Grade 5
Theme: Accepting other's differences
Skill Taught: Keeping a journal and communicating with peers

Summary: Stanley Lambchop wakes up one morning to find he is flat.  Surprisingly, there are more benefits to being flat than you may think, and Stanley demonstrates a couple of them.  Unfortunately, children at school begin teasing him because of his difference.   

About the Author: Jeff Brown was born in New York City on January 1, 1926.  He started his career as a child actor, then later became a story consultant for Paramount.  He enjoyed writing fiction, which found  him at Warner Books as a senior editor.  Jeff is best known for his series of Flat Stanley, which the idea came to him one night before bed when one of his sons asked what would happen if a bulletin board fell on his brother, and his wife responded that he would wake up flat.  Jeff would eventually pass away in December of 2003, but his beloved character of Flat Stanley lives on.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would begin a class discussion with the class, having the students to imagine being flat for a day and posing questions such as how they would feel, how they would be treated by others, and what they would do since they are only half an inch thick.

Post-Reading Activity: The Flat Stanley Project is something I would like my students to be involved in, as it is educational and fun.  Students would color and then cut-out their Flat Stanley template, journaling every adventure they take Stanley on.  The class would send their Stanley to another class as the new class would continue journaling the adventures Stanley took and then send him back.  Students would plot on a map all of the places their Stanley has traveled and write a concluding journal entry. 

Reflection: Flat Stanley is a humorous book which teaches an important lesson to accept everyone's differences.  It teaches this lesson while not using a specific cultural background, which is why I like it even more.  Flat Stanley is a character children will enjoy reading about as he goes from one adventure to another in each of the books.  As students fall in love with Stanley, they will become understanding of his difference, and be able to relate to him one way or another, whether they have teased others or have been teased by others because of differences.  Creating this awareness among students will help lead to better character, and a classroom of better citizens.

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Miss Nelson is Missing!

Publication Year: 1977
Author: Harry Allard
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 2
Theme: Good character
Skill Taught: Debating

Summary: This story is about a kind and sweet teacher anyone would be thankful to have, but her students treat Miss Nelson with disrespect.  One day, the class is so obnoxious and wild that Miss Nelson doesn't even return to school the following day.  The class instead gets a substitute teacher named Ms. Viola Swamp, who gives the students a lot of homework and has strict rules.  The class is afraid they will be stuck with her forever and try to get Miss. Nelson back.  Eventually, Miss. Nelson returns to school and the students improve their behavior so they don't lose her again.

About the Author: Harry Allard was born in Illinois on January 27, 1928.  He graduated from Northwestern College in 1943 and continued further education because of his love of learning.  He never planned on writing children's literature, but in the early 1970's, he teamed with James Marshall to collaborate on twelve books until Marshall's death in the 1990's.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: Before reading, students would answers a couple of questions about the person opposite of who they are.  Questions would include, "What are you favorite activities to do?" "What is your biggest fear?" "What words would you use to describe yourself?" Students would be reminded to think of their opposite while answering these questions in their reader's notebook.  Their notebooks would be eventually collected at the end of the unit and I would check all assignments.  Following the activity, I would set the purpose for reading by having the students determine why Miss. Nelson left her classroom.

Post-Reading Activity: After reading the book, I would try to begin a class debate, but second grade might be too soon to do such an activity.  If the debate didn't work out, I would begin a class discussion asking the class, "Does a teacher have to be strict/mean in order for the students to learn?" "Are there bad things about being a nice teacher?" 

Reflection: I enjoyed reading this book because as a substitute teacher, I have experienced the well behaved classes, and the classes that were difficult to control.  Miss Nelson is Missing! is a book all teachers should use early in the beginning of the school year to help teach students the importance of respecting others.  This is a book that an educator could do multiple activities with, such as a character comparison chart, identifying clues to determine what happened to Miss Nelson, a letter persuading Miss Nelson to return back to school, or making predictions.  The book indirectly teaches and places the idea of good character in students' minds while reading, which is an effective way of learning.   
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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Wump World

Publication Year: 1970
Author: Bill Peet
Genre: Science fiction, Fantasy
Grade Level: Grade 3 to Grade 5
Theme: Pollution and Ecology
Skills Taught: Creative writing, Text-to-Text connections

Summary: This story is about Wumps and their imaginary world filled with healthy plant life to eat and crystal clear lakes to drink from.  A group of aliens called Pollutians arrive to their small planet and begin destroying it by cutting down the forests, leveling the land to construct skyscrapers, and build roads.  The Wumps run in fear to underground tunnels, away from the noise and destruction.  Eventually, the Pollutians leave because the small world is so badly polluted and move to another planet to colonize.  The Wumps come out from the tunnels and are shocked at what they see.  A small patch of grass gives them hope that they can revive the land, and over time, they do.

About the Author: Bill Peet was the author of thirty-four children's books for the publishing company Houghton Mifflin.  Bill was also an illustrator, working for Walt Disney for twenty-seven years, working on films such as Fantasia, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, CinderellaSong of the South, Dumbo, Snow White and the Seven DwarfsAlice in Wonderland, 101 Dalmatians, and The Jungle Book.  After leaving Disney, he became a full-time children's author producing mainly picture books.  His first book Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure was published in 1959 and he would continue to write great stories and memorable characters.  In 2002, Pete passed away, but his art still lives on.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would begin by activating prior knowledge by asking the question, "What is found in nature?" and recording the students' responses on chart paper.  

Post-Reading Activity: I would give students the option to do one of three activities.  The first activity would be writing an alternative ending, such as the Pollutians changing their mind about polluting the planet and would they decide to stay or go.  Another alternative ending could be what the Wumps do to prevent their planet from being polluted and how they would protect their planet from being attacked in the future.  The second activity would be a story board, where one student does the illustrations, while the other student writes a sentence. They would have to do six pages, which would have to follow the correct sequence of events from the book, and include how the Wump World looked in the beginning, how the Pollutians invaded, the change in land, water, and air, and how Wumps felt about the changes.  For the third activity, I would bring to class National Geographic magazines for students to read and cut-out pictures to compare to our story The Wump World.  Students would look for parts of the world that have been polluted, and investigate how they became polluted.  Volunteers would have the opportunity to share their assignment with the class, but all of the students' work would be collected and looked over.  

Reflection: Teaching children the importance of not polluting and giving supporting reasons can often be complicated and difficult to comprehend.  The Wump World does a great job of getting this message across.  Bill Peet is among the elite as an illustrator, as the pictures help elaborate children's minds of the world and characters he has created.  Any time a book incorporates its literature with a subject area, it makes lessons for efficient to teach.  This book brought a lot of ideas to mind, and trying to pick one or two activities was very hard.  With this book, I would setup four groups, each with a different activity, and give students the opportunity to choose which one they would like to do.

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Looking After Louis

Publication Year: 2004
Author: Lesley Ely
Genre: Fiction, Austism
Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 3
Theme: Children with disabilities
Skills Taught: Building better character

Summary: Looking After Louis is told from the perspective of a girl who is a classmate of Louis, a boy with autism in an inclusive classroom.  At recess, Louis begins talking to a couple of boys who are passing a soccer ball around.  Louis is unable to do much with the ball, but when the ball makes contact with Louis's foot, one of the boys congratulate him.  When the students come into class from recess, the teacher allows Louis and the boys to go back outside and play with the soccer ball.  The girl narrating the story becomes frustrated with the teacher, but she learns to be accommodating,  encouraging,  and understanding of Louis, and students similar to him.    

About the Author: Lesley Ely is a special education teacher who has years of experience working with students with autism.  Another book of hers, Measuring Angels, which was published by Frances Lincoln, tells a story of two girls friendship.  Lesley works with her good friend Polly Dunbar who illustrates her books.  Lesley currently lives in Northampton, United Kingdom, where she continues her joy of writing children's books.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would begin with a class discussion on differences, and how we should appropriately view each other.  Introducing the word "Diversity" to our classroom would make a positive step forward, and always make students aware that we should embrace and accept one another's differences.  

Post-Reading Activity: After reading the book, students would write in their log books about an event they have seen in school about someone respecting someone else or a time they encouraged a student with special needs.  I would call on volunteers to share their log with the rest of the class and hope this activity would make students more consciously aware of building better character. 

Reflection: While many children's books include animals or magical characters, this book follows a different path, and one I think many more should follow.  Looking After Louis includes a main character with autism in an inclusive classroom.  Over the years, we have become aware of the symptoms of autism and how to better tend to children with special needs in an inclusive classroom.  This book will help make students aware that children with disabilities need to be accommodated,  encouraged, and understood.  It usually takes awhile for students to gain these concepts, but once they do, it makes a classroom a much better learning community for all.

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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Publication Year: 1969
Author: William Steig
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 2
Theme: Magic
Skills Taught: Using a story map

Summary: The story is about Sylvester Duncan who lives in the town Oatsdale and enjoys collecting pebbles.  One day, he finds a strange red shiny pebble and tests it to see if it is a magic pebble.  He wishes it to rain, and then it begins raining.  Sylvester than wishes it to stop raining, and the rain stops.  After making these wishes, he notices a lion coming at him.  He panics and wishes he were a rock, and he turns into a rock.  Later that day, his parents begin to worry because he has not come home.  The town begins searching for him, but months go by and no one can find Sylvester.  Eventually, his parents have a picnic on Strawberry Hill, where Sylvester is sitting there as a rock.  While his parents are sitting on him, he tries to yell, but they can't hear him.  They notice the magic pebble and wish that their son would return.  Sylvester the rock, turns into his old self as he and his parents rejoice.

About the Author: William Steig was born in New York City during 1907.  Growing up with family that was involved in art, it was only a matter of time before William became an artist himself.  In 1968, he published his first children's book, Roland and the Minstrel Pig.  All of his books reflect the ideas of the importance of family and friends, and how everyone should support and look after one another.  He wrote over thirty books, one of his more popular books was Shrek!, which was later turned into a movie many children love.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would hand out an anticipation guide about the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.  When students have finished answering the questions, we would review the sheet as a whole class by having students raise their hand if they agree or disagree with each statement.

Post-Reading Activity: After we have finished reading the book, we would as a class work on a story map.  Since this would be their first time using this type of graphic organizer, it would be a time to model how to use it.  When finished, I would review the basics of a story map and why we use it, to better prepare the students for the future when they have to work on it independently.

Reflection: Reading this Caldecott Medal winning book, I realized why it received the award.  The illustrations are different, yet great.  They are accompanied with a great story of the importance of family and how a community pulls together to help those in need.  Aside for the lessons it teaches students, the number of activities that could be done with this book are endless, such as sequencing of events, cause and effect, mapping, and using context clues.  Reading this story, I didn't think it would have a happy ending, but fortunately, it does.  This is a book children will surely love and become a story they want to hear over and over again.

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