Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Have you seen this new book by Andrea Beaty? She wrote these other amazing books, which I'm sure you've seen over the past few years:

Ada Twist, Scientist

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Iggy Peck, Architect

Her books empower children, leaving them feeling like they can do anything and her new book does not disappoint. In Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, a young girl notices a problem in her community and goes about taking action, knowing it won't be an easy journey. 

Her emotions run the gamut ... she feels concerned, then motivated, mad, overwhelmed, discouraged, then encouraged, determined, and finally victorious. But at no point along this journey toward a solution does she give up. And in the end, with a lot of perseverance and the support of her neighbors, they're able to create something beautiful out of something that was once a disaster.   

First of all, Sofia gets my vote for President, but that's beside the point. This is a great book for many Big Ideas you might want to address in an elementary classroom:

• Children can be empowered to take action and make changes, even in a world of grown ups. 

• Girls have a voice and can be strong and courageous leaders. 

• A proper plan and perseverance pay off. 

• Communities benefit when people work together on common goals. 

• It's important to take care of the environment and be mindful of the footprint we're leaving behind. 

... to name a few. 

If you're working on issues of teamwork, equality, activism, or environmentalism, check it out.

(Oh, and it's written in rhyme, so you might want to read it through once on your own before attempting it in front of the kids ... you know how that goes. 😂)

You go, Sofia!! 

Make Ten: A Game for Math-Loving Kids

(Make Ten / Free in App Store)

This is one of those games I play on my phone when I'm waiting in a doctor's office or find myself needlessly and unfortunately wide awake at 3:30 AM. 

My son and I are in a not-so-secret competition for high score, but I'll never catch up because he plays it when he gets bored at school (which is a WHOLE OTHER topic of concern, but I'll save my educational reform rant for another day). 

In any event ... I was playing last night when I realized what this game offers for kids. In order to get a good score, you need:

• an understanding of various sums of ten

• spatial dexterity (the vision to rotate pairs of numbers to make sums of ten)

And once you get the hang of it, you'll see opportunities to create multiple sums of ten in one move ... which, of course, gets you extra points ... although that still doesn't give me enough to catch up to my son. #MathNerd

👍 Thumbs up for this game.

Happy teaching! :)

Reusable Anchor Charts for K-2 Readers

I have a few teacher-friends who hate their own handwriting and swear they can't even draw a stick-figure. 

(I'm not sure I totally believe the stick-figure part, but I get the point.)

So you can imagine their anxiety over the thought of creating anchor charts. And seriously ... don't we all have that one teammate whose charts are museum-worthy perfection? The kind of charts with superior artistry we envy and despise? I mean admire. 

We just want them to make our charts too. Is that too much to ask? they're busy or something. 🙄

Here's the thing ... maybe they're not completely perfect. Right? I've been in primary classrooms before where anchor charts look more like mini-novels ... even in kindergarten where we're thrilled if they're reading leveled books with the words I can see the ... on every single page. Believe me, it is actually possible for an anchor chart to have too much information written on it. 

I attended a workshop one time where the presenter said: 

"An effective anchor chart is a lot like a billboard on the highway. It has to communicate a lot of meaning with a small amount of text. Relatable graphics are key. The sign maker has about 5 seconds to grab your attention and memory."

I know Interstate traffic and a first grade classroom aren't completely the same, but (again) I get the point and I walked away that day with a commitment to reevaluate my own charts and start the conversation: 

• Are we constructing charts that will help our students function independently?

• Or are we making super wordy, fancy charts to impress our administrators and colleagues?

If you like to draw, have zero qualms about your own handwriting, and have a gift for getting to the point, great! This blog post may not be for you. (Sorry I didn't lead with that sentence, but I just thought of it.) 

However, if you're just starting out or you need a little help bringing some clarity to your chart-making, you might like these CHART PARTS. They're ready to print and assemble with your students, and the limited text design allows you to elaborate and model in a way that supports your specific standards and style. (Plus, you can use them again and again, year after year.)

There are 35 reading anchor charts in all and each comes with an instructional planning sheet, a suggested sample of the completed chart, and all the pieces needed to construct the charts. You'll most likely still be creating other anchor charts on your own, but this set provides K-2 teachers with a wide variety of lesson topics, including:

• the structure of reading workshop
• decoding unknown words
• choosing "just right" books
• recognizing repetitive text patterns
• understanding the differences between fiction and nonfiction
• making predictions
• asking questions
• visualizing
• making inferences
• synthesizing information
• thinking about emotions
• retelling
• sharing and supporting opinions
• making meaningful connections
• providing text evidence to support ideas
• close reading
• nonfiction text features
• plot vs. theme
• cause and effect
• participating in higher-level literary discussions
• knowing how to stay engaged
• ... and more!

You can CLICK HERE to see more samples of the materials in the set and decide if they're right for you and your needs.

I love hearing ideas from people, so if you have suggestions for other charts that could be included in a future updated set, please feel free to write to me.

Happy teaching! :) 

(And don't be mean to your Perfect-Poster-Peers. They can't help it.) 

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.😉)

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. 😂 Oh well.  



Happy teaching! :)

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