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. 😬

The BEST Mentor Texts for "Small Moments"

It’s really important to have a few strong mentor texts at your fingertips as you get ready to launch your “Small Moments” writing unit.  It's challenging for young writers to focus in on one small moment in time and many of them tend to write the same way they tell stories … they can go on and on, and are often distracted by unrelated tangents. 

Been there?? πŸ˜‚ 

πŸ‘‰Pro Tip: One of my favorite ways to show the small-moment non-example and help prevent “Bed to Bed” stories is to verbally share one of my own where I go on and on about everything I did from the moment I got up until the moment I went back to bed.  At first, they think it’s pretty silly, but then they start to get bored (and a little annoyed) which is exactly the feeling I want them to have. 

Want to make an even bigger impact?  Model writing your bed-to-bed story on chart paper in front of them.  It’ll be super long and you’ll get confused and your hand will get sooo tired (be dramatic here). This can be very effective. πŸ˜‰   

Here are my favorite mentor texts for SMALL MOMENTS:

#1:  Salt Hands by Jane Chelsea Aragon

This is hands-down my favorite book for teaching children how to write about small moments.  It’s perfect because

• it focuses on ONE small moment in time
• it's written in the first person
• the author uses descriptive language

In this story, a little girl hears something rustling outside her window and discovers it's a deer. The author does a really great job slowing down this moment between the girl and the deer and tells about how she quietly tiptoes toward it with a handful of salt. Once the deer licks the salt from her hands, he turns and heads back out of her yard. And ... the end. Yep, that's it. It's perfect. And I promise you'll be able to use this text to model so many other qualities of good writing such as details, transitions, strong verbs, emotions, setting descriptions, leads & endings, and pace. 

πŸ‘‰Pro Tip: If you teach K-1 children, I recommend choosing a book written in the first person so they have a model that sounds like the kind of writing you’ll want them to do.  Being developmentally self-centered at this age, it’s natural for young kids to use the pronoun “I” in their stories, so texts that are written in third person can be counterintuitive and confusing.

#2: The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell

This book is a close second to Salt Hands. Again, the author uses the pronouns "I" and "we" throughout the text to tell the story of a little girl and her mother sharing a tender moment by the sea beneath the moonlight. Near the end of the story, the little girl gets cold, so her Mama carries her back home where they snuggle by the fire and fall asleep. 

#3: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen 

#4: Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe

#5: Shortcut by Donald Crews

#6: Rollercoaster by Marla Frazee

#7: Blackout by John Rocco

#8: The Underbed by Cathryn Clinton Hoellwarth 

All of these titles are great examples of small moments, but not all are written in the first person and some are longer than others. Preview each one before making your decisions. I think the age and attention span of your students are important things to consider as you choose the best mentor texts for your unit. 

Happy Teaching! :)

Biographies for Children Come to Life on Netflix

I've been collecting titles from the Who Was biography series for years. The text is too complex for most of the primary children I work with, but every now and then I find a student with a deep interest in a connected topic who has the ability to read and comprehend the material independently, so they haven't been wasted. 

Mostly I use them to research information and then adapt it to my needs and the skill level of my students.

The other day, my daughter Haley (future elementary teacher) said, "Mom ... you do know Netflix has that series available for kids to watch now, don't you?"


I didn't. 


But now I do.

And if you, like me, didn't know that either, check it out. Like the books, it's most appropriate for upper elementary, but you can make that call depending on your students' needs, abilities, and interests. 

The first season includes 13 episodes, each less than 30 minutes, with a focus on two historical figures per episode ... Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, Bruce Lee, Louis Armstrong, George Washington Carver, and so many more. Check it out to see a complete list.πŸ‘† 

Thanks Haley! 

Happy teaching!

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