Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rain by Sam Usher

author and illustrator Sam Usher
Candlewick Press, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

When I began reading Rain I was touched by the relationship between the two characters; a little boy and a grandfather.  The little boy is wanting to have creative adventures out in the rain but the grandfather is putting him off a bit and wanting to wait for the rain to stop.  The boy's ideas are creative and action packed.  The grandfather listens patiently but isn't willing to join in.  The rain stops and the grandfather has a letter to mail.  The two of them get dressed to head outside and have a grand adventure.  The grandfather wasn't hesitant this time to join in and play.  The grandfather shares, "You see the very best things are always worth waiting for."  I think with the author's message directly stated this would be a great text to help students discuss things that happened in the story to help get this message across.

I love illustrations that are soft; warm tones, thin black lines to offer details and simple ways to show action.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

I discovered the book Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd when @jenjmcdonough shared it during a Wonderopolis twitter chat.  The book begins with the question, "What is wild?  And where can you find it?"  As I read this book, I discovered it's more than just defining wild.  It's a book showing readers how to wonder and notice.  It even shows the reader that you might not notice right away but if you spend more time looking you will notice new things.  Wild can be captured with different senses.  The reader follows a young boy and girl as they explore wild in the great outdoors to a city setting.  The author lives in Washington DC; loving the woods and the beach while the illustrator Abigail Halpin lives in Maine.  I think both of their settings and experiences are clearly shared throughout the text.  This will definitely be a read aloud within the first month of school.

Here's a page of text to help nudge you to explore this book.

"Wild is full of smells - fresh mint, ancient cave, sun-baked desert, sharp pine, salt sea.  Every scent begging you to drink it in."

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros

The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros was my first summer professional read and lifted my soul.  It gave me hope and reminders why I became an educator.  I read it on my Kindle and have over two hundred notes.  I can't think of another book I've read recently that had so many thoughts I wanted to refer back to help my overall thinking.  The premise of the book - "I'm defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better...innovation is a way of thinking.  It is a way of considering concepts, processes and potential outcomes; it is not a thing, task, or even technology."  This is a book for classroom teachers and administration.  Often there are things mentioned for the whole of a district but as I reflected on those thoughts they apply to a classroom setting.  

If it's in your stack this summer, move it up.  If it isn't in your stack stop what you are doing and buy it or borrow it as soon as possible!  If you've already read it, you might want to revisit it.

These are nudges I found to try within my own work.
-start things slower, establish relationships with students and between students
-make growth mandatory for myself as an educator and my students
-create things with the knowledge we are acquiring, taking a growth mindset a step further
-adjust to my learners, don't let them fall into a pattern of compliance
-teach about resiliency, try and fail and try again
-try some new or different things at a district level to "lead"
-blog more again, share and connect with others

Here are some quotes that are sticking with me and might interest you in looking at this book more.

"Change is an opportunity to do something amazing."

"We forget if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them."

"...relationships are at the crux of everything we do"

"But to develop these traits in our people, we must empower them; we must inspire innovation, rather than demand compliance."

"Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional."

"I believe it's possible to have kids who are deep thinkers, creators, and innovators, and still do well on their exams, but I do not want to forsake those critical elements for the latter."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Farmer Duck is 25 Years Old!

Readers everywhere are so lucky Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury is being celebrated by Candlewick Press.  In 1992 it made it's first appearance in the inaugural list of new books for Candlewick Press.  Together they have had an integral part in developing readers.

This book couldn't be more timely to be revisited.  We need books about friendship, justice, and fairness.  Poor Duck does all the work around the farm while the farmer lays in bed eating chocolates and being lazy.  Even though it's summer, I think I need to find a group of emergent readers to join in and chorally read this with me.  I can hear them in my head after I read, "How goes the work?"  They read with energy, "Quack".  The animals plot how to get the farmer out of bed and their plan surprised me a bit.  It leaves the animals working together to run the farm.  While the text appears perfect for emerging readers I think older students would have a lot to say around justice and fairness.  I'm also thinking it's a great visual for teamwork.

As I read this book, I thought it would pair well with Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin.  A huge shoutout to Candlewick Press for this copy to preview.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen is a book to revisit a few times to discuss different aspects of writing workshop.  Right away, I could empathize with main character as she describes her older sister.  Quite often younger siblings have a comparison hurdle to overcome.  The little brother is stuck, unsure how to get started writing and worried he doesn't know how to write.  The older sister is encouraging and they actually have a little writing conference to help him get started.  The older sister is positive and offers suggestions, isn't that what we try to do as teachers?  I'm reminded about my classrooms filled with kindergarten writers.  The little boy brings his story to sharing circle at school and "reads" his story which is a verbal retelling more detailed and involved than his actual writing.  I love how the little boy admits he's stuck and his peers offer helpful suggestions.  Writers grow with peer feedback.  The ending is a celebration in itself for this new writer and one I can't give away.

I'll be honest, at first I wanted the boy's writing to be more phonetic because I thought the book was about the actual writing but it's not.  It's about a process.  It's about a community that supports each other.  This will be a must read for next year in our room.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Windows by Julia Denos coming Oct 2017

Windows by Julia Denos with illustrations done by E. B. Goodale takes place at twilight in an urban setting.  The main character takes his dog for a walk and notices things within the windows as their lights turn on.  Observations are made about the activities within the neighborhood windows along with predictions.  Words are carefully chosen to create comparisons for the reader to ponder.  As I read the text, I found myself noticing and observing windows not mentioned in the text and wondering about the contents or people inside.  I think this would be a great book to encourage noticing and wondering.  

The illustrations are delightful.  E. B. Goodale used ink, watercolor, letterpress, and digital collage and I just want to know more about the digital collage.  The combination of these mediums adds texture and depth to each page.  The curtains look like gauze with the detailed thin lines.  The screen door looks realistic with depth to see the building on the other side of the street.  

The ending of the story is endearing.  One that will touch the heart of teachers who teach reading.  A story that celebrates home and the safety of your surrounding which provides comfort.

A huge shoutout to Candlewick Press for sending along this Advanced Reader Copy.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Even Steven and Odd Todd {Math Monday}

I just discovered Even Steven and Odd Todd by Kathryn Cristaldi to use during math workshop.  Even Steven and Odd Todd are cousins and complete opposites.  Even Steven is very organized and likes to have equal groups of objects.   Odd Todd enjoys odd things and groups of things that can't be shared equally.  My students really enjoyed figuring out how the character names connected to the actions each character did within the story.  The story begins with Even Steven making 12 pancakes for breakfast so he's have 6 for lunch.  His plan had potential until Odd Todd eats 3 pancakes and Even Steven gets mad.  Their interactions continue to have some frustrations and funny moments while leading the reader to think about odd and even numbers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tips for Creating a Board in Discovery Education

I've had access for Discovery Education for years through my district and on and off I go through phases where I will find a video and share it with the entire class.  I've loved using it has a visual for our content learning or a way to front load some work we are doing together.  Earlier this year I was talking with my college roommate on the phone and she started rattling off all these things I could do using Discovery Education.  My head started spinning because I knew none of this.  As with new learning, I felt a bit overwhelmed and wanted to spend some - one on one time with her to see and learn more. 

I recently had this opportunity while traveling south for spring break and stopped in NC to visit her.  She is currently in a position helping teachers embed technology into their days and encouraging them to try new things.  She's a natural teacher.  I loved hearing her share how she guided kindergarteners through using a Discovery Education board for research.  You can read about Wanda in a Discovery Education Community Member highlight post.  She showed me the feature Board Builder and her example for front loading a new classroom read aloud titled, Stone Fox.  You can search it in Discovery Education, if you have an account and see her work.


Think of board builder as virtual bulletin board.  You can gather and post images, videos, files, and documents in one place for students to access, view, and work with.  We are starting my new favorite book - Book Uncle and Me and I thought my students could benefit from some background knowledge about the setting and the concept of a lending library.  As I created this board on Monday, Wanda was able to answer some of my help text messages.  I learned a few things on my own and became very determined to create something for my students to use.  I had to do some trial and error attempts and search within the internet for some help. I thought I would share some initial tips with anyone who wants to explore Discovery Education and the board builder feature.  Creating a board  and personalizing it is so easy and fun.  A bit of artistic expression for creators.  

In general under the Professional Learning tab, you can find how to video clips under the Lead section.  These were super helpful and easy to follow.  These are some things I learned during my first attempt at creating a board for students to use.

1.  You can find lots of images and videos within Discovery Education.  

2.  You can use an image or video or image from an outside sources as long as they are saved on your device. It got a bit tricky for me here, make sure you visit the original site to save the photo and not from a search page of images.

3. You can click the edit button once to get a menu of activities you can use to change and create a box of information you want to insert.  

4.  On my Macbook Air I used an app, ClipGrab to save videos from Youtube and place within my board.

5.  A text box is the perfect spot to place any type of direction, an action you want your students to do after interacting with the board.  I had my students post a comment within a Schoology discussion.  

I thought I would share just five tips so here's a plus one bonus tip -

You can set the settings for sharing your board.  I suggest you save it to the DE Community so others can use it as a mentor for creating their own.  Once you select the DE Community you can select the permission level.  You can let other members view your board and possibly save a copy and edit for their own use.  How fun is it to have help from other users to enhance your own work with students.

Look for Book Uncle and Me in Discovery Education to see my final project.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Must Have for Readers and Teachers of Reading!

I couldn't stop reading Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami!  I started it last night and came home to set a timer twice so I could balance reading and getting some things done.  Then I did a "chore" and my reward was finishing this book.  After you start this book, you'll have to decide if you are going to tune out everything around you or organize your time and have it help you get things done.

Yasmin has been reading a book every day for just over 400 days.  She gets a book every day from Book Uncle.  A retired teacher who has a loaning library on the street in India.  There are no fees or fines for borrowing his books.  He doesn't get upset if books don't get returned every so often.  His motto is - "Books.  Free.  Give one.  Take one.  Read-Read-Read."  

Unfortunately, Book Uncle receives a letter from the city stating he has to stop his lending library because he doesn't have a permit.  Yasmin rallies her school mates and community to help Book Uncle.  It involves empowering a community and becoming involved in a mayor election.  

Here are three lines I love from this story and hope you find, if you pick this book up.

"Right book for the right person for the right day.  As you know well, that is my motto."

"Sometimes you have to let the perfect book sit in your mind for a while before it begins to mean something."

"The book smell in the air turns me dizzy with joy."

This book was just published in 2016 and it appears Uma Krishnaswami has 20 books for readers from picture books to a couple of novels.  You can find out more about her at

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Tree - An Environmental Fable

I recently received The Tree - An Environmental Fable by Neal Layton as a review copy from Candlewick Press and thought this was a perfect book for young readers.  The illustrations convey this story easily with just enough details.  The text is simple and large to read.  The book begins showing different animals that use the tree as a home.  The reader is then introduced to new characters; humans with plans for the space where the tree is.  Their plan includes cutting the tree down but those plans are halted when they make a discovery that brings tears to the wives eyes.  They adjust their plans so all the characters in this book are able to enjoy and benefit from this tree.  A perfect reminder that humans can and should co-exist with nature.  

Thank you Candlewick Press and for promoting #readkindbekind

Thursday, March 2, 2017

a bus called heaven

I recently received a bus called heaven by Bob Graham as a review copy from Candlewick Press and thought the timing was just perfect.  An abandoned bus just appears one day in a city neighborhood.  The neighborhood gathers to look at this new strange addition to their street and small conversations begin.  Stella, a young girl begins to have a vision for the bus - a community space for all ages.  The bus transformation and how the community transforms gives it's readers hope.  Hope for a better tomorrow for communities near and far.  The bus is violating some ordinance in the city and gets towed away.  You'll have to pick up this little gem to see how Stella rescues the bus to keep the community together.

Thank you Candlewick Press and for promoting #readkindbekind

Monday, February 27, 2017

Snail and Worm - A Student Recommendation

I love when student's discover a book and tell me I have to read it.  Snail and Worm Three Stories About Two Friends by Tina Kugler is a delightful book about two friends.  There are three stories within this book that will give early readers a "chapter book" feel.  The first story is a sweet story about two friends playing tag.  The second story is about encouragement and doing something you think you might not be able to.  The third and final story is filled with simple humor but will delight primary students.   The combination of illustrations, small bits of text on a page, and the frequency of sight words will make this a great book for students.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nonfiction Books for Independent Reading in Second Grade - #nf10for10

Dear Betsy,

You sent me a message a few weeks ago asking me about reading levels in second grade and thinking about the reading your own special boy is doing.   Learning to read is a journey and you've mentioned it's a struggle over the years.  This night we chatted you said he had brought home a nonfiction book and nonfiction is hard.  You made me stop and think.  Nonfiction can be hard but does it have to be?  I wondered how can we simplify it a bit for those early readers so they can have some independence.  

My wondering turned into collecting books I thought your special boy might be able to read.  You'll notice the nonfiction features are simple and not hectic busy.  The text is larger, sometimes with a pattern and definitely pages with white space.  I love white space!  You will notice many of these are books have a series/collection from the same publisher giving you way more than ten ideas, maybe 100.  Some of these books are old and dear to my book loving heart.  I picked books that might spark some interest in fun animals, animals you might see while camping, and a few that could connect to your gardening.  

These are all books I have on my shelves right now and I can send them over to you via school mail. Just let me know.

Your friend,

BAT LOVES THE NIGHT by Nicole Davies

narrative format sharing bats nightly activity
tidbits of facts here and there
soft illustrations


I love Joy Cowley books!
photographs are quite fascinating
carefully chosen words for accessibility

Joy Cowley again!
more fascinating photographs
text a bit easier

HOW A SEED GROWS by Helen J Jordan

illustrations tell a story, maybe an early narrative
reader follows the journey of a few different seeds
might help readers enjoy nonfiction

RACCOONS by William John Ripple
lots of interesting facts
a sentence of two on a page
pure nonfiction for early readers

Seed to Sunflower by Camilla de al Bedovere
lots of nonfiction text
beautiful photographs
you'll want to grow sunflowers

Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins
beautiful playful language
narrative format
subtle facts

Opossums by Mary R. Dunn
an animal I wouldn't dream to think about
filled with interesting facts
easily accessible for early readers
Busy Squirrels by Melvin and Gilda Berger
probably an easy read - confidence builder
up close photos
one sentence per page

My tenth book for second grade readers might require a treasure hunt - Where Do Birds Live? by Ron Hirschi.  It appears to be out of print.  Lovely photographs, one line of text, with more at the end of the book.  I hope you can find it at the library or you can borrow mine.


Nonfiction Celebration - #nfpb10for10 is Here!

I can't wait to see all the nonfiction picture book love being shared today.  If you are reading this post and thinking - ugh the week got away from me and I don't have my post ready for today.  Don't fret, we won't close the community at midnight.  Take the weekend and join in the fun.  Here are the nuts and bolts to share the books you love right now today.  My book love is always changing so maybe yours is too.

In 2010 Cathy and I hosted our first picture book event.  In 2013, Julie Balen suggested we add a nonfiction picture book event that worked the same.  Participants choose 10 - well, usually 10 (they're a crafty bunch) - nonfiction picture books to share.  On the day of the event, we'll ask that you visit the Google Community site to add your nonfiction link to the 2017 #nf10for10 tab

  • What:  10 nonfiction picture books you can't live without.
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.  
  • When:  Friday, February 10th - TODAY
  • Where:  All posts will be linked on the 2017 #nf10for10 page of our Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.  
  • How:  Stop by our community site, join the community, and share your favorites on February 10th. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bizarre Birds Almost Changed my #nf10for10 Post! {Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday}

I couldn't resist Bizarre Birds by Sandra Horning at the book fair last week.  The letter i is dotted with an egg, alliteration makes the title and the close up bird face was just calling my classroom.  I do have a nonfiction tub for bird books in my classroom and this title will be something different for my readers.

The reader learns about 14 different bizarre birds that probably aren't in their backyard.  I know for certain they aren't in mine here in the Midwest.  Each bird has a two page spread with a one page photo and a paragraph of information about 4-7 sentences on the opposite page.  Just enough text but not overwhelming as nonfiction can sometimes be.  The paragraph format varies but you will often learn where the bird lives, what they might eat, information about their size or a strange fact one would never guess.  Each bird also has a close up and caption sharing another interesting fact.  I love the simplistic layout, which will help younger readers navigate the text easier.  I hope you will find this book and enjoy learning about the Hoatzin, Oxpecker, or the Common Tailorbird and yes this bird can sew!

Thanks to Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy for encouraging us to share nonfiction books weekly and if you are interested in knowing how to join #nf10for10 this Friday you can find out more information at my Sneak Peak post.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Piper Green is back in The Sea Pony

I noticed a few of my students trying the first two Piper Green stories during independent reading and it triggered my memory; Piper Green and the Fairy Tree The Sea Pony was in my TBR pile!  I immediately moved this book to the top of the stack so I could keep some reading momentum going in our classroom.  

With each Piper Green and the Fairy Tree story, I seem to fall in love with her more and more.  I love the format of her stories; short chapters, a smidge larger font, an occasional black and white illustration to support the story, and a good amount of white space between the lines.  

Piper's personality is one any reader must adore.  She's spunky, helpful, and hopeful.  Piper really wants a horse and witnesses the first horse coming to the island in which she lives on.  She decides to help her dad on their lobster boat by stocking feeder bags for ten cents each bag.  She soon realizes it would take a long time to save money for a horse this way.  She has a fairy tree in her yard where she leaves things for the fairies and in return the fairies leave her things.  An interesting whistle was left in the Fairy Tree and helps Piper connect with a sea pony while on a lobster catching adventure with her dad.  During this adventure, she helps her dad find something really important.  In return, he surprises her with a new opportunity.  She doesn't get a horse to own but her dad's clever thinking is one any parent should/can admire.

I can't wait to discuss this book with my students.  I think we will definitely discuss finger snails, bosun's whistle, gullywhumpers, and sternman.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover!

I did just that.  I judged Dirty Bertie GERMS! by Alan MacDonald by its cover.  I picked it because for two reasons; I need more boy characters/books in my classroom library and the front cover looked gross-ish.  Bertie isn't very cute.  He looks a bit of a mess and there appears to be mucus spraying everywhere!  I expected Bertie to be a silly story about silly things appealing to boys.

I was wrong and pleasantly surprised.  The story begins with a realistic situation.  His sister gets the chicken pox and he tries desperately to get the same germ so he can stay home from school.  His attempts are cute and funny.  When I finished chapter four, I discovered the next chapter was chapter one.  I had to do some further investigation to discover there are three stories about four chapters each within this book.  A huge win for my student's who need shorter books to help them comprehend and transition to longer text!  The second story is a charming story of how Bertie becomes his grandma's dance partner in a contest and how they hope to win.  The third story is about an evening he spends with a new boy babysitter.  Let's just say it wasn't his typical babysitter experience.  

An avid reader in my room was telling me about the second book during a reading conference last week and couldn't stop gushing about how much he liked the book.  We did some investigating and found out there are 27 Dirty Bertie books!  After reading this first one I found a great deal to get all 27 books and they are on our way to our classroom.  Dirty Bertie might appear a little messy but he's full of charm, laughter, and good things for second grade readers!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#nf10for10 Sneak Peak {Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday}

It's been a long time since I joined Alyson for Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday but I knew I wanted to "launch" my #nf10for10 rally with those who are dedicated to nonfiction books.  I haven't joined this community in quite some time.  That doesn't mean I'm not reading nonfiction.  That doesn't mean I don't value nonfiction and it doesn't mean I've stopped sharing books.

But I do have a confession.  When I realized this event was right around the corner I questioned, do we really need it?  We are all busy.  There's so much goodness being shared about books already.  I questioned why and discovered...

1.  It's our 5th anniversary!  Anniversaries need to keep happening.
2.  I love projects with Cathy Mere.
3.  I love the connections people make with others who enjoy nonfiction books.
4.  I love friends who are willing to look at nonfiction books closer.
5.  Nonfiction books are different and need to highlighted, shared, and loved.

So, while these reasons appear to be a bit selfish, I bet anyone who has participated in either nonfiction 10 for 10 or our picture book 10 for 10 events might feel the same way.  So, I'd love to have you, your teammate, your friend, your neighbor - anyone you know should join us.  

In 2010 Cathy and I hosted our first picture book event.  In 2013, Julie Balen suggested we add a nonfiction picture book event that worked the same.  Participants choose 10 - well, usually 10 (they're a crafty bunch) - nonfiction picture books to share.  On the day of the event, we'll ask that you visit the Google Community site to add your nonfiction link to the 2017 #nf10for10 tab

  • What:  10 nonfiction picture books you can't live without.
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.  
  • When:  Friday, February 10th
  • Where:  All posts will be linked on the 2017 #nf10for10 page of our Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.  
  • How:  Stop by our community site, join the community, and share your favorites on February 10th. 

Please spread the news and help us generate excitement.  Here's a sneak peak for one book that will be on my list this year.  You'll have to stop by on February 10th to find out why.

Thank you Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy for hosting Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Can you count backwards from 100 by 7s? {Math Monday}

My in-laws were here over the holidays and my father in-law mentioned he just had his annual physical and everything went well.  He shared they asked him to do two tasks and he thought it was to show mental wellness.  When he told me the first task, I knew right away he passed that with flying colors.  He had to recite the alphabet backwards and he's been doing that for as long as I have known him.  A task I can't do.  

When he shared the next task I was worried but he didn't act worried.  The task was to subtract 7 from 100 down to 0-ish.  He didn't let on he couldn't do this or that he struggled so I wanted to know more and started an investigation.   I was envisioning regrouping mentally and I was stumped because it was taking me too long to think it through.  I asked him how he figured this out and he said, "oh it was easy - you subtract 7 one time and then subtract 10, adding back 3 each time."  I had to ponder and visualize this; only to confirm he was right.

I would assume much of my father in-laws math education involved learning how to regroup.  I was so proud of him for using an effective strategy to show his mental wellness.  Often parents I work with struggle to understand how strategies other than regrouping can make sense and be effective.  I'm going to share this little nugget with people when they need a concrete example for why we teach different strategies.

I also think this is a great story to share with students who also need to know why we study things and why different strategies can be helpful.

Friday, January 13, 2017

NOW {Poetry Friday}


What do you love to do?
Make time for it.
Work will be there
Always constant
Love is fleeting
So is a sunrise
The bloom of an iris
A walk in the park
A child’s laughter
Time with a friend

What do you love to do?
Go do it, savor it


Regie Routman

Reggie Routman closes her book, Teaching Essentials with this poem.  I read this title back in 2011 and shared the poem during the summer months.  It hangs on my inspiration board as a guiding reminder.  These thoughts shouldn't wait until summer for educators and they seemed like a great way to start a new year.

Thank you to Keri at Keri Recommends for hosting Poetry Friday this week.