Book Talk: I'm Not Scared

I love writing workshop!  Usually, my students are immersed in a study of personal narratives (Small Moments) or some type of informational writing, such as How-To Books or All-About Books.  But one type of writing I like to weave in every now and then is "Copycat Writing."  Copycat writing happens when I share a book with a predictable pattern or repeating phrase and ask the children to mimic that author's style while writing their own unique ideas.  My more emerging writers tend to like copycat writing lessons because they feel they have a place (or structure) to start from... it leaves very little room for "writer's block."  

I just found this little book at Barnes and Noble last week and thought it was perfect for October.  It's about being scared (and then not being scared).  The pattern is very simple and perfect for primary writers to mimic with content relevant to them.  Take a peek inside at some of the pages:

(Left Page)

(Right Page)

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(Right Page)

(Left Page)

(Right Page)

(Left Page)

(Right Page)

I love the back-and-forth seesaw style of Todd Parr's book... I think the kids will, too.  And I really think they're going to love the artwork because it totally looks like something they can do, so it's not intimidating, but rather empowering instead.  I'm thinking each writer could make their own book OR (if time is short) each child could write and illustrate two pages to contribute to a class book.  These are some other copycat books I've used in the past and love:

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

When I Am Old with You by Angela Johnson  (This one is my favorite... great for elaboration!)

If You're Not from the Prairie by David Bouchard

Outside, Inside by Carolyn Crimi

Once There Were Giants by Martin Waddell

I know I'm missing some (too tired to walk to my bookcase), but I'd love to hear some of yours.  Do you have a favorite book with a pattern that inspires writers?

Happy teaching!  :)


Book Talk: A Very Brave Witch

{Written by Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Harry Bliss}

This is a sweet little book about facing your fears and being brave.  If the illustrations look a little familiar, it's because Harry Bliss also did the artwork for Diary of a Spider, Diary of a Worm, and Diary of a Fly... some of my students' favorites.  (As a bonus, I love how the text's dialogue is written in speech and thought bubbles.)

It starts with the reader finding out this little pet dinosaur is actually the main character... the brave witch.

She's very brave and even though most witches are afraid of humans, she's not.  (She even shares a little research with the reader.)  

She decides to do a little research of her own, so she and Kitty head into town on Halloween night.  "Hang on, Kitty, we're going in!" she screams.

But like every good story, there's a problem... Kitty and Witch have a flying accident.  

Witch is very apprehensive when some humans come to her rescue, but eventually she pulls herself together, remembers she is brave, and meets a new friend.

This story lends itself well to a class discussion about Halloween night... what we're excited about, what we're nervous about, how to be brave, etc.  You might even use it to launch some personal narratives:  "Write about a time you were scared and overcame a fear."


Conferring Notes {A Freebie}

Over the years, I have tried many different ways to keep track of the notes I take when I'm conferring with children during reading and writing workshop.  I've tried sticky notes, index cards, flippy books, you name it.  But, in the end, a simple set of boxes on a piece of paper works best for me.  I keep a page for each student in my data binder and jot my notes in there.  I love how the boxes are big and empty so I can add in whatever I'm thinking at that moment... usually the title or topic, things I notice the student is doing well, and something I think could be an area for growth. The notes are a great source of ongoing, anecdotal assessment information and they come in really handy during parent conferences when I want to address how each child is progressing.

You can download these for FREE by clicking HERE or by clicking on each image below.

Happy teaching!  :)


Halloween Science: Part 3

Science and food come together in this investigation, teaching the children how heat can have a dramatic (and sometimes yummy) effect on the state of a matter, in this case the dough.  

First and second graders should be able to cut their own hot dogs with a plastic knife.  Only three cuts are required, but if you feel your students' motor control isn't quite ready for that, you can either pre-cut the hot dogs (hello, favorite parent volunteer) or make simpler mummies by not cutting the hot dog at all.  

Either way, they'll turn out adorable and VOILA... snack for the day.  :)  

You can find the directions, anchor chart photos, and student recording sheets for this investigation HERE.

{Sample Sheets}

This is my favorite "mummy book."  We read it while we're waiting for the magic mummies to cook.

Where's My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi

{Book Summary from B&N}
Little Baby Mummy wants just one more game of hide-and-shriek with Big Mama Mummy before bedtime.  The night is deep and dark, full of friendly creatures that click their clack teeth and whoosh past on flippy-floppy wings.  But who will comfort Little Baby Mummy if a small, scritchy-scratchy someone gives him a scare?  Big Mama Mummy, of course!

Happy teaching!


Halloween Science: Part 2

These "Spooky Poopers" and "Franken Sneezers" are fun engineering and science projects for the month of October.  I love any lesson where I can make holiday celebrations a little more meaningful and standards-based. 

They are simple for even primary children to make, especially if you (or a parent volunteer) pre-cut a few items first.  And they shoot the pom-poms pretty far, actually.  Look.

{The Spooky Pooper}

{The Franken Sneezer}

You can find the directions, student recording sheets, anchor chart pieces, and a sheet explaining "How does that work?" at My TPT Store.

Happy Teaching!


Halloween Science: Part 1

I LOVE science... my students do, too.  And Halloween science is the best because it's especially gooey and fun.  This investigation is a giant success every time... even the girls like it.  I never show them this picture before we do the investigation because I want them to be able to make a hypothesis about what will happen when we mix the ingredients together. This picture would totally spoil the fun surprise.

The directions for this investigation are in my Halloween Science pack. It includes:
• teacher prep notes
• student recording sheets
• anchor chart parts, showing step-by-step directions and photos
• a sheet explaining "How does that work?"

And anchor charts aren't just for reading and writing workshop.  We use them during science lessons, too.  I love how the photos help make the process clear and concrete for the children. 

Want to see a video of the pumpkin actually oozing?  Check out the first post on my Facebook Page.  It's crazy!  :) 

Do you have a favorite picture book about pumpkins that would be fun to read before or after this science lesson?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below.  :)

Have a great day!! 


Book Talk Tuesday

This is one of my favorite books... especially for the first week back to school.  My friend, Susan Minner, introduced the book to me years ago.  Susan taught 3rd grade and I taught 1st grade, but all the children loved it regardless of their age.  It's a lively read-aloud and a great conversation starter for topics like selfishness,  teamwork, and forgiveness... just to name a few.  I think you'll love it, too.

It's about a group of prairie dogs who get tangled up in fuzz when a tennis ball accidentally lands in their burrow.  Get familiar with the book before you read it aloud and be prepared to read with a couple different voices, especially for Pip Squeak (little voice) and Big Bark (gruff voice).  Your kids will be glued to you.

This story actually begins on the title page and dedication page.  I love when authors do that... so don't skip too fast over those parts.  They give clues as to how the ball lands in the burrow. 

When the ball lands in the burrow with a big PLUNK (lots of sound words in this text), the prairie dogs aren't sure what it is, where it came from, or what to do with it.  But, after much pondering, they decide it isn't going to hurt them and they start playing with it.  All the while, grouchy Big Bark does not think this is a good idea, which he makes very clear.  :) 

All's well until the fuzz runs out.  (Gasp!)  The prairie dogs start arguing about who has the most and the once-friendly community becomes greedy and unkind.  They fuss until they're tired and fall asleep.  But later, when they wake up, the notice all their fuzz is gone.  Big Bark has stolen the fuzz!

Well... Big Bark is making such a ruckus, he's snatched up by an eagle.  (Another good time to gasp!)  But, like a good group of friends, all the prairie dogs rally around him and save him.  Of course he's super thankful, everyone learns their lesson, and life is well again.  

Or is it?  (I love a teaser on the last page!)

Happy Reading!