Freebie: I'm a Little Penguin

If you're planning lessons on polar animals, animal habitats ... or just think penguins are cute ... and need additional resources to integrate literacy work, you can grab this nonfiction poem at the link above. 

It's sung to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot and provides factual information about penguins, giving the children a spot to draw what they know based on the text. 

The text also provides opportunities to focus on: 

• rhyming words
• blends
• digraphs
• high frequency words
• fluency 

To extend the learning, show children how to research additional information about penguins and record new facts / illustrations on the back of the page. 

And for a little extra fun, try acting out the song ... it can be very engaging to let kids create the movements to accompany the text. 

Happy teaching! 

Bite-Size PD Podcasts

Podcast: Teachers Ask Jen Serravallo

I just found this little podcast treasure and it's great for elementary teachers, particularly in grades K-3, which is awesome because I often think it's a challenge to find quality material for such a specific audience in education. 

I've read (and have loved) her books, so I don't know why it took me so long to discover her podcast, but if you teach reading and writing in a primary classroom, you'll definitely want to check it out. 

(And if you're a literacy coach in an elementary school, each episode is a perfect way to launch a PD session and stimulate instructional conversations.)

Jen calls her episodes "bite-size PD" because each one is less than 10 minutes in length and is focused on the answer to a specific question submitted by real teachers. 

She stopped launching new episodes a few years ago, but I've listened to a season and a half already and the content is still very relevant and the advice is honest and helpful, addressing many common topics such as: 

• conferring with readers
• managing writing folders
• using reading logs effectively
• helping parents understand the workshop model
• planning for small group instruction

...and so much more.

Have a listen! 

And happy teaching! 

Room on the Broom (On Netflix)

NETFLIX has brought another one of my favorite children's books to life ... and it's perfect for your October lesson plans. (Rated G / 25 minutes)

Read the story by Julia Donaldson, watch the show, and then incorporate literacy standards by discussing:

• problem / solution 
• cause / effect
• character traits / relationships
• setting
• mood
• theme, plot, or main idea 
• beginning, middle, end (retelling)

Any of these could also be turned into journal prompts if you'd rather have your students respond in writing. They can also illustrate their favorite part, draw a character map, or explain their opinion about a given part of your choice.

Keep going ... is there a moral to this story? Did you like the ending? Would you have written it differently? What part made you laugh? What part surprised you? Etc.

You can find it on Netflix by searching the title, Room on the Broom.

Happy teaching!

No More Mentor Texts?

"Because texts don't mentor ... authors and illustrators do."
(Lisa Cleaveland)

I love this book ... and if you teach writing in a K-1 classroom, you should get this book, too. (Ask your principal. That's my answer to all the $$ questions.πŸ˜‰)

Teaching writing is a favorite of mine, so this book was really interesting to me and it got me thinking about how a small shift in our planning and delivery can make a big difference in children's growth and understanding.

Lisa suggests shifting the focus from mentor texts to mentor authors, because texts don't mentor people ... authors and illustrators do ... which makes it more like a relationship, helping kids create greater identities as book-makers. 

If you already love to teach writing, you'll be excited about new possibilities. If you don't like to teach writing, I really think this book will change that, and I think that's a big deal ... for you and your kids. She shares so many examples and stories, and the great part is they all look do-able ... like your kids could do what her kids are doing ... which is pretty refreshing, actually.

"When authors and illustrators are mentors, you teach students more about how to learn from their mentors than what to learn."

The only problem I have now is that I feel bad about all the blog posts I've ever written about great mentor texts. πŸ˜‚ Oh well.  



Happy teaching! :)

A "Must Have" Text for K-1 Teachers

I recently ordered 4 new picture books for writing workshop ... sight unseen ... and I ended up only liking ONE of them. (I have to stop buying books I haven't actually looked through!)

But lucking out on this book made up for the other three. And actually, I don't just like this book ... I LOVE IT!

It's not even new. (©2012) But I just discovered it, so it's new to me.

It's about Ralph, a reluctant writer who can't think of anything to write about, but (unlike the other books I bought), his struggle with writing and the support his teacher gives him are authentic and realistic ... she says exactly what we would say. And the writing community in his classroom is friendly and genuine, which helps him overcome his fear of writing and sharing his stories with others.

The illustrations are humorous and Abby Hanlon's pictures of student writing look just like our students' examples, complete with simple drawings and invented spellings. She celebrates Ralph's story, even though he verbally shares WAY MORE than he actually wrote on his paper ... so much of this book is developmentally appropriate and reflects best practices in the teaching of writing ... that's why I love it! 

Respecting Abby's work, I don't want to share too much, but here are a few pages to give you an idea of what to expect:

• She teaches that writers get their ideas from everyday life ... small moments in time.

• She shows that sometimes writers struggle to think of ideas ... kids will relate!

• After Ralph finally shares his story, the kids ask him lots of questions. (Community)

• She shows that it's ok to verbally tell a story ... even if it's not written on the paper yet.

• And she shows Ralph's actual story so the children can see his writing and celebrate.

• She even has some fun with the beginning and end papers in the book.

And make sure you look carefully at the illustrations inside the book for some characters from popular children's literature ... Pigeon, Lilly, David, Frog & Toad, Olivia, and more. Your students will have a lot of fun spotting them!

Happy teaching! :) 

It Is Labor Day! (A Fan Freebie)


Happy LABOR DAY weekend!

Here's a little FREEBIE for your K-1 readers.
Click the image or the link below to download the book. 
It's ready to print and read!

Happy teaching!

...and THANKS for following!

Rethinking An Old Anchor Chart

About a year ago, I saw this graphic at church and thought, "Oh, that's cool. That's exactly what we teach kids in school. I'm going to turn it into an anchor chart." 


But as I used it with children, I realized something. This train of thought isn't linear ... it's an ongoing circle. So I revised the chart. 

(Curvy arrows are a little harder to draw, but you get the point.)

SIDE NOTE: If you make the chart, I'd probably take the "s" off leads. The more I read it, the more I think it should be singular. I made it plural because I was thinking of "the process," but technically I guess it should be singular. (Your call.) 

Anyway, what was naturally happening was that with each good question, the kids were developing new ideas and THOSE new ideas were leading to more questions, which led to more ideas, and so on.

Thus, the circle.

πŸ‘‰TIP: The arrows are intentionally green because I want the kids to think "GO" ... keep going ... keep asking questions ... keep thinking ... keep forming new understandings.

So, happy chart making! 

...and don't forget about that s. 😬

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