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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Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Story of Babar

Publication Year: 1931
Author: Jean de Brunhoff
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 2
Theme: Courage and pride
Skill Taught: Making connections

Summary: A young elephant named Babar escapes being caught by the hunter who killed his mother.  He runs away from the jungle and to the big city where he meets an old lady who buys him nice clothing and a tutor to educate him.  He marries Celeste, also an elephant, and returns to the jungle to be crowned the King of Elephants.   

About the Author: Jean de Brunhoff was born in Paris on December 9, 1899.  He is best known for his creation of the Babar series.  The books are a reflection of Jean's life and philosophy.  As a Frenchman, his books first appeared in French, and then within two years, they were translated into English.  His wife created the character Babar and the adventures he went on to help put a smile on their four-year-old son who was ill.  In 1937, Jean passed away of tuberculosis, but his son Laurent, has continued the series producing over fifty Babar books.  (  

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would introduce the ideas of fantasy and reality.  Students would receive a graphic organizer to write down an explanation and examples of fantasy and reality.  Students who like to volunteer, would share their examples with the class.    

Post-Reading Activity: When completing the read aloud, students would then write a brief log about a "Text-to-Self" connection.  Prompts would be projected onto the front board such as, a trip/vacation to somewhere new, being away from friends and/or home for an extended period of time, or a time they proud or courageous.  At the end of the unit, their notebooks would be collected, I would look over all the assignments. 

Reflection: Reading The Story of Babar, it reminded me of other books I have read such as Curious George, The Lion King, and Bambi.  This book as well as the rest of the series is a great set of books to have in the classroom because students will fall in love with Babar, from a little elephant being rocked in a hammock, to a grown elephant with a family.  The books are easy for children to comprehend and the illustrations will continue to attract their interest.  Throughout the series, Babar shows good character through difficult events and proves why being optimistic is important.    

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Publication Year: 2000
Author: Doreen Cronin
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 2
Theme: Conflict resolutions
Skill Taught: Making predictions, creative thinking

Summary: The story is about Farmer Brown and his cows.  The cows have found an old typewriter in the barn and have typed out a message that they would like electric blankets because the barn is too cold.  Farmer Brown can't believe the cows are able to use the typewriter, and even more stunned when he realizes the cows will go on strike if their demands are not met.  Farmer Brown does not fold into the demands, which leads to the cows going on strike.  The hens join the strike as well, leaving Farmer Brown with no eggs nor milk.  Between the two sides is Duck, who delivers the typed messages back and forth.  The book ends with the cows developing a solution that ultimately makes both sides happy.   

About the Author: Doreen Cronin was born in Queens and latter attended Pennsylvania State University, followed by St. John's University School of law.  Her first book, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type was rejected numerous times, but while she was a practicing attorney, a publishing company accepted her manuscript and wanted to turn it into a book.  The process took five years, but she was committed to never giving up the story that so many people love today.  Doreen has decided to change career and become a full-time children's author.  

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would begin by showing students the cover of the book and reading the title out loud, asking the students for predictions of what the book may be about.  I would then go into a class discussion about the sounds animals make, and ask the questions, "Who has pets?" "How do you know when they want something?" "What would it be like if animals could talk?" "What might they say to us?" I feel children will be unfamiliar with typewriters, so I would try to find one and bring it into class for students to look at and play around with, becoming familiar with the sounds it makes.

Post-Reading Activity: When we have completed the book, I would ask the students what would happen if other animals could type, and what would they ask for.  We would listen to students' thoughts and then they would go back to their seats to write a short story along with an illustration about any animal of their choice and the demands they would have.  

Reflection: Children love animals, and this book's watercolor illustrations compliment the animal characters that children will enjoy reading about.  The story is funny and different, allowing children's imaginations to wonder as they hear the story and see the pictures.  I like how the book incorporates the entire class during a read aloud, suggesting that everyone reads, "Click Clack Moo, Click Clack Moo, Clickety Clack MOO."  This kind of reading keeps students' excitement level high throughout the book, as well as keeps their focus.  Another aspect I liked about the book are the cows' eyes expressions.  

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Publication Year: 1996
Author: Andrew Clements
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: Grade 4 to Grade 6
Theme: Creative writing
Skill Taught: Structure of the dictionary

Summary: A boy named Nick in Mrs. Granger's fifth grade English class makes up a word for a research paper about the history of the dictionary.  He creates the word "frindle," another name for a pen.  The word begins being used by the fifth grade and eventually becomes popular across the country.  The story ends as Nick is a rich college student from marketing the word "frindle." He receives a package from Mrs. Granger of a dictionary with the word frindle in it, along with a letter stating how proud she is of his accomplishment.  

About the Author: Andrew Clements was born in Camden, New Jersey in 1949 with a family who loved to read.  After one of his tough high school teachers suggested that one of his poems should be published, the thought crossed his mind that he might want to be a writer.  While at Northwestern University, a professor of a nearby college noticed his work and asked if he would like to teach a creative workshop.  He went on to teach in a couple of public schools within Chicago for seven years.  When enrollment went down, Clement lost his job and moved to New York City to become a songwriter, but it didn't work out.  A college friend of his gave him a call asking for help with a new company that wrote children's picture books.  It was then, when Clements began stirring up thoughts for his first novel Frindle, which took about six years from thoughts to a published copy.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: As a class, we would look for the definition of "frindle" in the dictionary, but will not find he word.  We will look at how the dictionary is structured as it provides a definition, the pronunciation, and part of speech.

Post-Reading Activity: Students would create their own word, providing its definition, pronunciation, part of speech, synonyms, and antonyms.  After students have created their word, they will then write a short story or poem about the word, and have the opportunity to share with the class if they would like.  I would walk around the classroom checking students work and attending to their needs and questions.

Reflection: Frindle is one of my favorite books and made me realize how much fun reading can be.  When I was a child, reading didn't interest me as much as it did compared to my classmates.  In fifth grade, my teacher read this book to our class and I was so engaged in the story that I've read it several times since.  Andrew Clements has a series of these types of books about students and school related issues.  Similar to Frindle, I have read them all multiple times.  It sounds funny to say this book has changed my life, but it has.  I only wish I had been introduced to this book earlier in my life.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Abe Lincoln at Last!

Publication Year: 2011
Author: Mary Pope Osborne
Genre: Narrative Non-Fiction, Adventure
Grade Level: Grade 2 to Grade 6
Theme: Government, Lincoln History
Skill Taught: How to read and fill-out a ballot, structure of democracy

Summary: Jack and Annie travel back in time to reverse the cast spell placed on Merlin.  They need to collect four items, two of which have been collected prior to the story beginning   Jack and Annie are in the year 1861 on the front lawn of the White House and meet Tad and Willie, the President's sons.  After making a wish to meet the President, they transport further back in time and meet a boy named Sam.  Soon after Sam gives them a feather pen he made, they are pulled back to the White House lawn.  Jack and Annie find the President walking around outside, and he tells them a story about when he was younger, how he met the two and played a trick on them by having them think his name was Sam.  They reassure to Lincoln the Civil War will end and freedom will come; he gives them the final item.  Jack and Annie have collected all four items and go back to the Magic Tree House, returning to the present, and then head off to school.

About the Author: Mary Pope Osborne was brought up by a father who was in the military.  At a young age, Mary traveled the world with her father, and after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,  she continued her love of traveling.  As an author of children's literature, she turns her day dreams into stories for children to enjoy.  Mary was an established author for over ten years before she began the Magic Tree House series with her husband and one of her best friends.  (  

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: Using construction paper, scissors, glue, and markers, students would construct a timeline highlighting the key moments in Abraham Lincoln's life.  The class would be instructed to find the year he was born, elected as president, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, assassinated, and other events the student found interesting.  I would check their timelines before they could begin gluing the events.   

Post-Reading Activity: I would connect the book to this year's presidential election and introduce students to vocabulary such as conservative, liberal, republican, democrat, and the meaning of democracy.  Students would receive a map of the United States and color each state either red or blue depending on which candidate won the particular state.  I would begin a class discussion about the electoral college and that a candidate may not win even if they received the popular vote.  I would get my hands on a ballot and give students the opportunity to see what one looks like, but also contribute to a mock vote to see who would become President if it were up to our class.

Reflection: Our book club chose Abe Lincoln at Last! because it tells an adventurous story while at the same time, providing the reader with insights of Abraham Lincoln and the year 1861.  The back of the book includes factual information about important events that took place and why Abraham Lincoln was considered one of the best presidents of all time.  The Magic Tree House series is a great set of books to have in any classroom, and with the common core standards, these books are helpful to incorporate reading and writing with other subjects.  With each Magic Tree House book, there is a Fact Tracker book that goes along with the story book, supplying students with more educational information on the particular topic.

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No, David!

Publication Year: 1998
Author: David Shannon
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: Pre-K to Grade 2
Theme: Misbehavior and consequences
Skill Taught: Three parts to reading a book

Summary: This story is about a young boy named David and the trouble he gets into.  His mom is always saying "No, David!" From reaching into the cookie jar, walking through the house full of mud, playing with his food, knocking down a vase, or picking his nose, he is always causing mischief.  Regardless of the trouble  he continually gets into, his mother still loves him.

About the Author: David Shannon was born in Washington, D. C. on October 5, 1960.  Shannon loved to make his own illustrations to the books he was reading in high school, leading him to choose the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.  After college, he moved to New York City to work for the New York Times and the Book Review.  Working for these two groups exposed his illustrations across the country, leading to his first book of illustrations in How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have?  His first children's book was How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, which was published in 1994.  (  

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would introduce to students the idea of comprehending a book by "reading" its pictures.  I would begin by having the class draw a picture and be able to tell a story from it.  Students would turn to their partner, taking turns telling the story of their picture with no words.  We would begin reading the book by only looking at the pictures and analyzing what is happening on each page.  We would read the book a second time, but this turn around, we would read the words.  As a group, we would compare how we read the story through its pictures and then through its words.   

Post-Reading Activity: After reading the book twice, students would take turns retelling the story to a partner as we went through the book one page at a time.  Students would go back to their seats and I would begin a class discussion about the importance of reading a book in the three different methods we did, and ask the class to explain the benefits of this strategy.  Once we have concluded our class discussion, student would then write an entry into their Learning Logs to be collected at a later date.

Reflection: I really enjoyed the artwork of this book, and especially David's appearance.  This book is a great way to teach students to not only read the words, but the pictures too.  It is a story all children can relate to, and makes them aware they are always loved no matter how much trouble they find themselves in.  This book can also be used to help children recognize their mistakes and learning from them, supporting a healthy development.      

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Strega Nona

Year Published: 1975
Author: Tomie dePaola
Genre: Fairy Tale
Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 3
Theme: Responsibility, resourcefulness
Skill Taught: Italian culture

Summary: This book is about a helpful grandmother witch named Strega Nona, and her magic pasta pot.  One day, Strega Nona leaves town and employs Big Anthony to watch over her house and garden, and tells him not to touch the pot while she is away.  Big Anthony can't resist and begins singing to the pot, making enough pasta to fill up the house, as well as the town.  He doesn't know to blow kisses to the pot in order to stop it from making any more pasta.  Fortunately, Strega Nona returns and stops to the pot from making more pasta.  She hands Big Anthony a fork and makes him eat all of the pasta he made.  

About the Author: Tomie dePaola was born in Meriden, Connecticut on September 15, 1934, and developed at an early age a love for reading.  Throughout his school years, he enjoyed drawing and dancing. After graduating from high school, he went to Pratt Institute and practiced drawing everything.  His first job was to illustrate for a science book titled Sound.  About a year later, he wrote and illustrated his first book, The Wonderful Dragon of Timlin.  Over the past 40 years, Tomie has written over 100 stories and illustrated over 250 books.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would have a K-W-L handout for the students, informing them the "K" stands for what students know, the "W" stands for what students want to learn, and the "L" stands for what students have learned.  Before reading the book, students would write any information they know and want to know about Italy.  I would walk around the room to make sure students were filling the cart out correctly.

Post-Reading Activity: After reading the book, we would explore Calabria by first locating Italy on a world map.  I would project pictures of Calabria's geography and inform the students briefly about the Italian culture, including a visual of the Italian flag, popular food, and a few Italian word (Strega: Witch, Nona: Grandma, Si: Yes, Grazia: Thank you, Libro: Book, Per Favore: Please).  The lesson would finish by students filling the last column of their K-W-L chart and sharing to the class something new they learned.

Reflection: Being Italian, I found this book enjoyable and a great way to incorporate culture into a book.  Depending how much time a teacher would like to spend with this book will determine how much they can teach students about the Italian culture as well as what makes all cultures unique.  The book teaches the lesson to be responsible, and gets the point across in a funny way.

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Curious George

Year Published: 1941
Author: Hans Augusto Rey
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Kindergarten to Grade 2
Theme: Curiosity
Skill Taught: Compare and Contrast

Summary: This book is about a curious brown monkey named George who is brought to a big city by a man in a yellow hat.  George originally lived in the jungles of Africa.  While traveling to a big city, George falls off a boat pretending to be a bird.  When they have arrived to the city, George calls the fire department on accident and gets put in jail.  He escapes from jail and then takes a bunch of balloons from a vendor in the street.  George takes one too many balloons and floats over the city and eventually onto a traffic light.  The man with the yellow hat rescues him, buys the balloons, and then takes him to the zoo.

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would begin class by having students open to a clean page in their writers notebook.  I would model on the front board what I would like students to do in their notebooks.  I would make a Venn diagram, labeling the far left circle "City,"  the far right circle "Jungle," and the the middle circle "Same." Together as a class, we would write down the differences between a jungle and a city, as well as their similarities. 

Post-Reading Activity: Finishing the class read aloud, students would open up their writers notebook and write about their experiences at the zoo.  I would post questions on the front board for students to answer such as "What is your favorite animal and why?" "What animals did you touch or feed?" "What do the people do who work at the zoo?" "What did you find interesting or shocked you at the zoo?" Once students have had class time to finish, I would check to their notebooks to see if they have answered the questions and ask for volunteers to share their thoughts to the class.

Reflection: The Curious George series were books I grew up with during my childhood.  As a child, I like the adventures George would go on and explore the world much of the same way I would imagine myself doing.  Looking back on the series, I have learned that George teaches a simple, yet valuable lesson; in order to learn, one needs to be curious.  As a future educator, teaching students to always ask questions is important to their development and learning experience.  

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Publication Year: 1978
Author: Judi Barrett
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Grade Level: Grade 1 to Grade 3
Theme: Weather
Skill Taught: Distinguishing between types of precipitation

Summary: The story takes place in a town called Chewandswallow.  Their weather is very unusual, as it only comes three times a day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  This small town's weather is also weird in the fact that its weather doesn't include rain or snow, but instead, hamburgers, orange juice, and mashed potatoes.  After a pancake squashes the school, and meatballs begin damaging houses, the people of the town realize they need to leave because they can't keep up with the repairs and sanitation.  They set out in search of new land in a boat made out of stale bread and eventually find a place to settle.  Now, the people must buy groceries and prepare their food, rather than walking in the streets with a plate and a spoon.

About the Author: Judi Barrett is the author of many popular children's books such as Pickles to Pittsburgh and Never Take a Shark to the Dentist.  Several of her books were illustrated by her former husband Ron Barrett.  She currently resides in Brooklyn and teaches art to kindergarten students.  (     

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: I would introduce the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to the class by showing the students the cover of the book and then having them make predictions about the book.  For students struggling to come up with an answer, I would point out the fork and spoon in his pocket, the items in his hands, and his facial expression.  A mini group discussion would follow regarding how they would feel if food fell from the sky.

Post-Reading Activity: After completing the book, I would ask the class about our weather and what falls from the sky.  The handout "Types of Precipitation" would be passed out the students as we would go over it as a class.  Naming each of the four precipitations, drawing a picture, and then describing them within each box.

Reflection: This is a great book to use as a way to attract students' attention in order to transition into a weather unit.  Its popularity has grown since the release of the movie in 2009.  I really like children's books that either teach a lesson or express great imagination.  The story is an easy read and one most children will comprehend.  This book encourages young minds to be creative and provides wonderful illustrations, all while telling an enjoyable story that will make children laugh.

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Year Published: 1982
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Grade Level: Grade 4 to Grade 7
Theme: Friendship, being accepting of others
Skills Taught: Creative writing

Summary: The BFG, short for Big Friendly Giant is unlike many of his peer giants.  In a world where giants give children nightmares and eat people, the BFG is different, putting dreams in the bedrooms of children.  One night, a little girl named Sophie sees the BFG and he captures her because no one is suppose to know about giants.  He explains everything to her about the giants, and they eventually build a very good friendship.  Both Sophie and the BFG work together to put an end to the giants terrorizing and feasting on humans by getting help from the Queen of England and the military.  

About the Author: Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916 in Llandaff, Wales.  Surprisingly enough, Dahl did not enjoy school, but school would later influence him to become a great writer.  His first piece of writing was an article for the Saturday Evening Post about his experience of the war while with the Royal Air Force.  The first children's book he wrote was The Gremlins, which was a picture book published in 1943 that he never thought was considered for children.  His interest for writing children's books started when he would create bedtime stories for his daughters, and soon enough came James and the Giant Peach in 1961 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964.  On November 23, 1990, the world would lose a legend as Roald Dahl passed away at the age of 74 with a rare blood disorder.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: As a huge fan of Roald Dahl, I would like my students to know about him and other books he has written.  Students would go on to the computers and visit his website, exploring and taking notes of at least five things they learned or found interesting.  When all students have finished taking notes, I would begin a class discussion asking for volunteers to explain their notes.   

Post-Reading Activity: When the class has completed the independent reading, we would then start a class discussion about dreams, including people, places, activities, hopes, and other things we like to dream about.  I would then introduce graphic organizers, but focus modeling on only one of them (Three-Box Flow Chart).  Labeling the top box "Beginning," the second box "Middle," and the third box "End," students will fill in each box, telling a dream they would like to have.  I would continually be checking their flow charts and reminding the class the ending is when they wake up.  This reminder will help all students flow smoothly during the assignment.  When the flow chart has been made into a rough draft and checked for punctuation, spelling errors, and grammar by a peer, the student will then write their final copy on a paper cut-out resembling a jar, to be hung up around the class.        

Reflection: Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors and this was the first book I read from his collection.  Every book he writes is filled with characters the reader immediately likes; Sophie and the BFG continue that in this story.  I like how the dialogue consists of a unique and humorous language of the giants.  Many important life lessons are taught throughout the book, including team efforts are better than individual efforts, never judge someone until you have met them, and make good decisions regardless of what others do.  

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Year Published: 1955
Author: Crockett Johnson
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Grade Level: Pre-K to Grade 1
Theme: Imagination and creativity
Skill Taught: Creative thinking

Summary: The story begins with Harold wanting to go for a walk in the moonlight, but there is no moon.  He draws a moon with his purple crayon to fix the dilemma.  While on his walk, Harold draws pies and an apple tree to satisfy his hunger, a little boat to sail away from a frightening dragon, and a mountain to climb to  find his bedroom window.  Eventually, he draws his bed and sheets, falling fast asleep.

About the Author: David Johnson Leisk was born on October 20, 1906 in New York City.  After studying at Cooper Union, he worked a number of jobs including in an ice plant, in the Macy' advertising department, a professional football league, and an art editor for several magazines.  Leisk used the pen name Crockett Johnson in his over twenty books in which he wrote and/or illustrated.  During his career, he and his wife collaborated together on four books, one of which was The Carrot Seed.  His first work was the popular comic-strip "Barnaby" which he wrote on a daily basis from 1942 to 1946.  On July 17, 1975, Crockett Johnson would pass away from lung cancer.  (

For the Classroom  

Pre-Reading Activity: Before our read aloud, I will begin with a class discussion exploring students' imagination, asking what they would draw if they had a purple crayon.  Another question posed would be what students are reminded of when they have looked up in the sky and stared at the clouds.  

Post Reading Activity: After reading Harold and the Purple Crayon, students would go back to their seats and receive cut-out shapes from purple construction paper.  The teacher will ask the class what each shape could represents in our world and give the example of a circle being a ball (circle, square, triangle, rectangle, and oval).  They would use the shapes to create a picture from their imagination.  The shapes can be cut smaller and modified to fit their imagination.  Students will arrange their final ideas on black construction paper and be checked by a teacher before gluing.  When students have glued down their shapes, they can use purple crayons, markers, and pastels to draw themselves and details to enhance their artwork.  when the class has completed the assignment, students will explain their picture to a student sitting next to them.     

Reflection: I liked the meaning behind the story in Harold and the Purple Crayon and what it teaches to students.  It provides an example to students of the power of imagination and how individuals can affect the world around them.  It nicely teaches the word perseverance, a difficult word for students ages three to seven to comprehend.  Harold uses examples to teach students that they should have the confidence to "draw" themselves out of any dilemma.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Year Published: 1968
Author: Don Freeman
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction 
Grade Level: Kindergarten
Theme: Altruism, compassion, friendship, hope and love
Skill Taught: Classification of buttons

Summary: This story is a about a teddy bear named Corduroy, who lives in a department store.  One day, a little girl wants to buy Corduroy, but her mother says no because he is missing a button.  That night, he ventures off into the store in search of his button, but has no luck.  The next day, the girl comes back to the store and  buys him anyway.

About the Author: Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California on August 11, 1908.  After graduating from high school in Missouri, he went to New York City and studied etching.  He began working for the New York Times and the Herald Tribune, sketching impressions of Broadway shows.  Don was introduced to children's literature when he was asked to illustrate several books.  Soon after, he began writing and illustrating his own children's books until he passed away in 1978.  (

For The Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: A friendly way to hop into this read aloud would be to create a discussion among the students who have a teddy bear, and describe them to their classmates.  Descriptions the teacher would ask for is the name, color, size, feel, overall appearance, and where the students got their teddy bear.

Post-Reading Activity: The teacher would bring to class a bag full of buttons and distribute them to several small groups.  Students would work together to derive a couple of characteristics from observing the buttons such as shape, size, color, and number of holes.  Once they have viewed all the buttons, students can begin classifying their buttons in two different groups.  The teacher would walk around the classroom observing the students' categorization and provide help if needed.  Through this activity, students will have fun gaining a better understanding of classification.  

Reflection: Corduroy is one of my favorite stories from my childhood.  This teddy bear is a character the reader quickly becomes a fan of and hopes he finds a home.  A majority of childhood books published around 1968 do not include African-American characters, but I liked how the book Corduroy strayed away from the norm.  Rereading this classic, I discovered multiple themes making this book more memorable.  

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Giving Tree

Year Published: 1964
Author: Shel Silverstein
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
Themes: Love, giving, receiving, appreciation
Skills Taught: Understanding generosity, critical thinking

Summary: The Giving Tree is about a tree who loved a boy and vice versa.  Every day, the tree provided the boy with apples to eat, branches to swing from, and shade to sleep in.  As the boy grew older, he wanted more from the tree.  The tree continually gave to please the boy, until it was just a stump for the old man to sit and rest on.

About the Author: Shel Silverstein was born in Chicago on September 25, 1930, and then began writing when he was twelve.  In the 1960's, he was introduced to Ursula Nordstrom, editor from Harper Collins.  This eventually led to the publication of The Giving Tree in 1964, which many publishes thought was either too sad or too short.  She encouraged him to write poetry, even though he had never studied it before, but that didn't stop him from creating his own style that would go on to be a hit with so many children.  In 1974, Where the Sidewalk Ends was his first set of poems and became an instant classic.  Following the book came A Light in the Attic in 1981 and Falling up 1996. Shel's legacy continues as many of his books are included in school curriculum to introduce children to poetry and great stories.   (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: The book is perfect to introduce around Thanksgiving because of the common theme of giving.  Before beginning the read aloud, it is important to make a connection between the student and the text by having each student share in a class discussion, people who provide for them and what the students provide for others.  After everyone has shared one example, the teacher will ask the class how can each student be giving.   

Post-Reading Activity: After completing the book, the teacher would ask, "Imagine yourself in the same shoes as the boy.  What would you give in return of everything the tree has given you?"  A tree would be drawn on the front board with two branches.  One branch would be labeled as, "What can the tree do for others?" and the other branch would be labeled as, "What can others do for the tree?"  Have students respond to the questions and record their answers.  After having two solid lists, have the students take out their writing notebooks and write how they felt for the tree and boy from the beginning, middle, and end.  When students have completed their journal entry and the teacher has checked each journal, the teacher will then propose the question, "Has your feelings toward the characters changed throughout the book and why?"  for a closing discussion.       

Reflection: This book means so much to me because it was given to me by my cooperative teacher on my last day of student teaching.  Before reading to the class, I opened the inside cover that read, "Thank you, Mr. Green, for always giving! -Mrs. Romano" surrounded by all of the students' and other teachers' goodbyes.  At that moment, I was so choked up, I could barely get through the read aloud.  The book has a simple story line and basic artwork, but teaches deep meanings in love, giving, receiving, and appreciation that will help children learn to be a better people.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

Year Published: 2000
Author: Laura Numeroff
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Pre-K to Grade 2
Themes: Wintry Christmas, friendship, sharing
Skills Taught: Making predictions, sequencing events, cause and effect relationships 

Summary: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies is about a boy who takes his pet mouse to the movies, which leads them to doing many more things.  Other activities include buying the mouse popcorn, decorating the Christmas tree, making a snowman, having a snowball fight, and listening to Christmas carols.

About the Author: Laura Numeroff was born in Brooklyn during 1953.  Growing up, one of her most prized possessions was her library card.  She loved to read, and books including Stuart Little, Eloise, and The Cat In The Hat are some of her favorite books.  When college came, she decided to follow her sister who went to become a fashion designer at Pratt Institute.  While in the program, she realized the fashion designing world was not for her, and during her last semester, Laura took a class in writing where one of the assignments was to make a children's book.  Her book was about the tallest girl in third grade.  After four attempts, the book was published and has continued her love of writing since then.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: Have a class discussion asking the students, "What activities and events do you participate in during the holiday season?"

Post-Reading Activity: When the read aloud is complete, the teacher will have the students make a prediction by asking, "What will the mouse ask for next, and why?"  After several students have given their educated guess and supported their reasoning, the teacher will place students in groups of three to four.  Each group will be given a baggy with pictures of activities the mouse did.  The teacher will then ask the students to work together and put the pictures on poster board in the correct sequence as were in the book. After the teacher has checked to see if the students have put the pictures in the correct order, students can then begin gluing them to the poster board.

Reflection: This picture book is perfect for a read aloud during the Christmas season and includes an energetic mouse children will love, and a patient boy who will do anything to please his pet/buddy.  The pictures look great and the colors bring the characters and events to life.  This funny story is a nice way to introduce a class about the sequence of events.  Other stories in the series include If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, and If You Give a Moose a Muffin.      

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