Thursday, 23 June 2016

Watching Books

Having a copy of a book in their hands while listening and watching its being read was amazing for my English Learners. They would look at their book and then at the screen, comparing the story and illustrations. It was a great teaching tool!

Many read-alouds can be found on YouTube, which is what I typically used. Here is The Very Hungry Caterpillar read by Eric Carle himself. (Since my ELs thought of him as a rock star, they were thrilled to watch it!)

In this video, Bill Martin reads Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Search for your favorites, and let your students or your own children enjoy and read along!

P.S. If your kiddos LOVE Eric Carle's books as my English Learners did (and my grands do) you can watch this animated version of five of his most popular books on Netflix through the end of June 2016. It includes Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and I See a Song. (To be honest, $4.99 from Amazon would be a good investment, too!)

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Kids Should DEFINITELY See This!

On this beautiful Good Friday in Tennessee, I have to share an amazing website that I just came across.

I just watched Newton's Three Laws of Motion (always close to this former Physics teacher's heart) and loved it.

TKSST was started in 2011, by Rion Nakaya, who curates it with the help of her own two children. She says, "There’s just so much science, nature, music, art, technology, storytelling and assorted good stuff out there that my kids (and maybe your kids) haven’t seen. It’s most likely not stuff that was made for them…But we don’t underestimate kids around here." That's my favorite! I always felt the textbooks I was provided tended to do that, and I would give my students much more detail and background so they could see the big picture. I think it made a difference.

The 2400+ videos shared on the site include science, technology, space, animals, nature, food, DIY, music, art, and animation. What a treasure trove!

Parents, as well as teachers, will find SO much to love about this collection. Here's a video about making the gorgeous Pysanky Easter eggs.

Of course, before or after watching the video, you need to read your kiddos Patricia Polacco's Rechenka's Eggs! This beautiful book was always a favorite of my ESL students, and we would let them draw designs on plastic eggs after reading it. We also made bookmarks and did activities found on Polacco's book page.

Enjoy The Kid Should See This, and please let me know what your favorite videos are!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Nerdy Book Club: Using Picture Books to Introduce New Units

If you don't follow Nerdy Book Club, you should. You'll find more than 70 bloggers there, so you'll be able to hop right over to their blogs to see which of them will be invaluable to you!

The post I'm featuring today is Top Ten Picture Books To Introduce Units Of Study, by Kari Allen. In it, Kari describes how she used ten favorite books to introduce math, science, and other units to her second graders. Here's an example:


Library Mouse written and illustrated by Daniel Kirk
She says, " was the foundation for our writing (which we did in all subjects.) I started the year off by sharing this book with students." The next day "students would discover tons of stapled blank books that the Library Mouse left," and thus began their "yearlong (hopefully lifelong) inquiry into writing."
I've long believed, that with the emphasis on reading and math that new standards have required, science and social studies could best be taught by using integrated units. How better to do this than to use books and stories to teach both reading and content?
Enjoy Kari's ideas, and may they lead to many more of your own!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Donalyn Miller: No More Language Arts and Crafts

This morning, I simply have to share a post from Donalyn Miller over at It says so many things I want to say about reading and reading instruction. And while it may seem a bit critical at first, pay attention to what Donalyn says here:

"I’m still learning how to be a better teacher. I’ve missed a lot of chances to connect my students with reading. I’ve created negative reading experiences in my classroom. I didn’t know what I know now. I learned. I grew. I evolved. I improved. I was a novice teacher once, but I’m not new any more. When you know better, you do better. No excuses."

If you are a teacher, I hope you will read the entire post, and then, as quickly as you can, read The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. I also hope (if you aren't already a fan) that you will read all you can by:

Penny Kittle -
Kristin Ziemke -
Kelly Gallagher -

When we know better, we can DO better.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Asperger Experts

I am SO excited to share this with you today! I've known, taught, and observed people with Asperger's Syndrome since I was in elementary school (though I didn't know it at the time.) Most people I know in the education field, especially parents and teachers who love someone with AS, are constantly searching for better ways to help that person be successful. 

Danny Raede and Hayden Mears, both of whom have AS, have developed a Facebook page, a blog, a coaching/mentoring program, reasonably priced video products, and a website, where there are links to 47 video clips posted on their YouTube channel that you can access for FREE!

Here's an example: 

Amazing, right? And who is better equipped to teach us about Asperger's Syndrome than real people who have it?

Many thanks to Erica Falvey, who shared this site to the FB group Encouraging Teachers. I'm SO glad to know about it and to share with you, and I hope you'll help spread the word to your friends and colleagues.

For more information about Asperger's Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders, go to the wonderful Autism Speaks website.  

Monday, 11 August 2014

Teri Lesesne: Singing the Praises of Books and Reading

It's true that Sunday was yesterday, but I simply can't NOT share this "sermon" from Teri Lesesne, posted over at Nerdy Book Club.

Teri says, in part, "Our first priority is, of course, service to the students who come into our classrooms. In the picture book The Three Questions by Jon Muth, Nicolai has three burning questions: 'What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?'" 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Picture Books for Science AND

I'm on the deck this morning with four, yes FOUR, grandbabies 4-years-old and under. They've been having a fine bubbles party, which of course leads this retired (or "expired," as one little friend put it) science teacher to think about science.

I've also been on Pinterest, where I found a link to a great blog post from Erica, over at What Do We Do All Day. You NEED to go:

I love books, and reading, and science -- and I believe in combining them as much as possible. With the emphasis in CCSS on nonfiction, teachers have a wonderful opportunity to teach reading and science as a two-for-one! 

I'm also a fan of Readworks, which provides more than 1,000 leveled literary & nonfiction passages with questions, as well as comprehension & novel units, and skill & strategy units. You simply can't go wrong there.

Erica recommends The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer. Cross-reference with Readworks, and you find a complete 3rd grade unit to use with that book! It includes a detailed lesson plan in three parts:
  1. Teacher Modeling and Questioning
  2. Guided Practice and Discussion (with a graphic organizer)
  3. Student Independent Practice 
If you are new at teaching close reading, this is for you. If you aren't new, well, here's a lesson you don't have to create! As always, you should make it your own by tweaking any part of it.

Be sure to look at all the books in Erica's list, and while you're looking at the Readworks links, check out what else is available there, for FREE. Just register, and everything on the site is yours. Enjoy!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2014

In a blog post one year ago, I shared links to great resources for studying about Dr. King's life. I hope they serve you well!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol

The official SIOP website says that the "Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) Model is a research-based and validated instructional model that has proven effective in addressing the academic needs of English learners..." but 
I learned while an ESL teacher that what worked for English Learners also worked for native English speakers.

Implementing the full SIOP Model is a big task that requires training and professional development. I'm suggesting that you look the website over, and try some of the lesson plans and activities provided FREE. Even if you don't have English Learners in your class, you most likely have students who can benefit from the Comprehensible Input, Strategies, Interaction, and Lesson Delivery, as well as the Review & Assessment included in the model.

The lessons shared range from early childhood to Adult/GED, and as you look through them, you will see that careful planning and scaffolding are two of the most important features. The same, of course, is true of any lesson, for every level of students in every content area!

I think you'll enjoy looking these lesson ideas over to see what you can use. You can read more about the protocol and find answers to questions about it here

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013

The world has lost a great warrior in the quest for freedom and justice. Please don't let this moment go by without engaging your students in reading, researching, discussing, and writing about "Madiba" - Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

I linked to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in a post last July about the book Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Today I'm adding resources that offer retrospectives on his life and work, some of which include lesson plans.

A lesson plan from PBS: Remembering Nelson Mandela

From the New York Times: The Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013, a collection of resources that includes
  • an illustrated timeline of his life
  • a slide show
  • images of the anti-apartheid struggle in posters from 1967 - 1994
  • memories of Mandela
  • his major speeches
  • his obituary
  • reactions from public figures and NY Times readers
Freedom Fighters, a lesson plan comparing the work of Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Readworks Revisited

I've written before about the amazing website, and I have to share today that they've just added 100 new passages. As you can see above, these include fiction and original reporting, in addition to science and social studies. The passages are identified by grade level and lexile. 

This fabulous site also provides Skill and Strategy Units, Novel Units, and so much more! I could go on and on, but I'd prefer that you check it out for yourself. I guarantee that you will find it hard to believe that all of this is FREE!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Common Core Poetry Exemplars

I have good news from the Poetry Foundation! This great group has collected almost 50 of the poems that are listed in Appendix B of the CCSS, and they are available to you FREE. Links to the poems are found in the October 28 article Common Core State Standards Text Exemplars on the foundation's website. And while you're there, be sure to check out some of the MANY other resources available. 

Let's say you decide to read Carl Sandburg's "Fog" with your 4th grade class. By clicking the Related Content tab above the poem, you'll find

  • a biography of the poet
  • links to 34 of his other poems
  • links to 15 audio and podcasts of his poetry
  • two archival recordings of Sandburg, from the mid 1900s
 And that's just one of the poems on this website. Hustle on over and start finding great resources you can use with your own kiddos!

Update: Last August I wrote about the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's webpage that listed free, online sources for the CCSS text exemplars that are public domain. Unfortunately, that document has been taken down, so I deleted the post from the blog. I hope this one helps with your poetry lessons!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Foldables FoldiFun Factory, by blogger Mor Zrihen

A quick heads-up to all of you who use and love foldables (and those of you who soon will!) Mor Zrihen, a teacher in south Florida, blogs over at A Teacher's TreasureShe shares her own collection at the Foldables FoldiFun Factory tab on her blog. 

Giving credit to Dinah Zike, who holds the registered trademark for foldables, Mor describes them as "interactive 3D graphic organizers (that) encourage student ownership of study material, provide a kinesthetic component to teaching strategies, and promote long-term retention of academic lessons." 

Below are just a few pics of Mor's cool ideas:




Click on over and see what you can use, offered FREE from this great blogger!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Common Core Writing? Help is Here!

A truly amazing Common Core resource was just released this summer! 

Achieve the Core now offers on its website a FREE book - the 686 page In Common: Effective Writing for All Students Collection of All Student Work Samples, K-12, by The Vermont Writing Collaborative, with Student Achievement Partners and CCSSO. It is a PDF document that you can download and print. Before you think, "PRINT 686 pages?!" remember that no one will need to print the entire document. Instead, you can pick and choose the parts that you need, and print them as you need them.

If you teach ELA, I believe you'll find it invaluable. Check out the Table of Contents:

Dr. Jim Patterson, a lead writer of the ELA/Literacy Common Core State Standards, says that while CCSS Appendix C "sought to illustrate by example what it meant to say that a given piece of writing met the Standards, the included works had not been written expressly to the Standards. In Common advances the work begun in Appendix C."

Joanna Hawkins and Diana Leddy led the effort to complete this project and make it available to teachers across the nation. Patterson explains its value in several ways:

  • It has more than twice as many samples as Appendix C, all "planned, drafted, revised, edited, and published by students working over extended periods of time."
  • It is the result of "an intriguing real-world 'experiment' in on-demand writing."
  • The writers "crafted grade-specific argument, informative/explanatory, and narrative writing prompts...based on source texts and intended to elicit student samples written to nearly uniform tasks across broad grade bands." 
  • The result is "a stepwise progression of ever-more-sophisticated writing samples with a common baseline."
The switch to the CCSS is huge by anyone's standards, and resources like this one should help to make the transition easier for everyone who teaches writing. I hope it helps you!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Booklists for the Common Core from Reading Rockets

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the many resources available from Reading Rockets, the national multimedia literacy initiative of WETA's Learning Media

With the current transition to Common Core State Standards, one of the most useful resources for those of you who teach K-4 is their Themed Booklists. As you create your CCSS ELA units, you will be searching for stories and informational text that you can sequence appropriately for your kiddos. 

And while your reading textbooks will provide a starting point, you will need to search out other quality texts, a daunting task to accomplish on your own! The 150+ booklists found on the Reading Rockets site can help. Below is just a sampling of booklists you'll find there.

Every list I previewed consisted of ten books, with a nice mix of fiction and informational text. Check it out - just another awesome FREE resource from this great site. And while you're there look at what else Reading Rockets offers! 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Common Core Resources for ELLs at Colorín Colorado

I have great news for anyone who teaches English Learners, via Lesli A. Maxwell at Education Week. In a blog post yesterday, she reported that Colorín Colorado has added a wonderful new CCSS resource for teachers of ELLs. Lesli had previously reported about the work that Albuquerque, N. M., teachers were doing to "ensure that the district's large number of English-learners would not be left to languish under the more demanding requirements of the common core." Now she reports that "anyone can see the full lesson plans those teachers created, videos of them teaching in the classroom, and interviews of them talking about how it worked." Lessons created by teachers, for teachers? Bravo!

And another "Bravo!" to Colorín Colorado. As an ESL teacher I consulted this amazing website often, and it's no surprise that these resources are now available here. In addition to the work done by the Albuquerque teachers, you'll find information for teachers who "might be trying to figure out what their role in supporting students and content teachers should be in the common-core era" as well as parent resources.

Hurry over and see what you can use, and enjoy the work of teachers who are willing to share - the BEST kind! 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Listen and Read: Read-Along Books from Scholastic

I love Scholastic for many reasons; the newest is their Listen and Read site, where they provide 54 FREE nonfiction read-along ebooks for primary students. Your kiddos can access them on a computer or tablet, or you can use them with a group on an interactive whiteboard. They are sorted by subject and by level, with a good mix of science and social studies topics.

So why is it called Listen and Read? Because each of the ebooks is also an audiobook - by clicking on a "listen" button, your beginning reader can hear the words on the screen as she reads along. A nice feature at the end of each story is a list of vocabulary words.

Here's a sample page from a story for 2nd graders:

I learned about this great resource via a Facebook post by Charity Preston, who writes the Organized Classroom blog. Charity's post linked to a Pinterest pin by Carolyn Wilhelm, who operates the Wise Owl Factory. Both of these sites offer a ton of free resources themselves, and are definitely worthy of a visit.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Cures for the Common Core Blues: BOOKS, Vol. 8

Today is Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, and in his honor I'm suggesting that you read Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom with your students. Amazon's book description says that the book "offers a glimpse into the mind of a great leader, admired across the globe for his dedication to the struggles against apartheid in South Africa. Now the youngest readers can discover the remarkable story of Mandela's long walk from ordinary village boy, to his dynamic leadership of the African National Congress, to his many long years in prison-and, at last, his freedom and astonishing rise to become the leader of his country."  The American Library Association recommends the book for 2nd - 6th graders. 

Today is also Mandela Day, which seeks "to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good."

If you study this modern-day revolutionary hero, you can incorporate essential skills in geography with history and the government of South Africa where, after 27 years as a political prisoner, Mandela was president from 1994 until 1999. I can imagine using the book to kick off a nonfiction unit for 7th and 8th graders to culminate in a writing assignment that compares/contrasts the struggle to end apartheid with the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Citing evidence after close reading and perhaps using graphic organizers to organize ideas? Common Core to the, well, core!

For more resources, check out the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory website, which includes digital archives and multimedia resources.

Enjoy learning along with your kiddos, and please, let this book and others in the series help cure your CC Blues!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Start with a Book. Read. Talk. Explore.

I LOVE Reading Rockets, and I'm thrilled to share with you their companion website, Start With a Book, launched just last year to "ward off the learning loss that many children experience over the summer. (It) offers adults engaging, research-based ideas for getting kids into books all summer and beyond."

What a great selection of resources for parents, librarians, and summer program teachers including
  • 24 Summer Reading Themes (with suggestions for fiction & nonfiction books to read with your child, hands-on activities & crafts, and much more)
  • Read-Aloud Tips (including tips for reading nonfiction, using mental imagery, and building comprehension & critical thinking skills)
  • Fluency-Building Ideas 
  • Book Lists 
  • Literacy Resources
One of my favorite sections is Fluent Kids, where the importance of fluency is explained, "Fluency is the bridge between decoding words and understanding what has been read," and followed with an abundance of suggestions and tips for helping your child build her confidence and skills so she can focus her attention on what the story or text means. Your kiddo will love buddy reading with you, rereading favorite books, recording herself reading, or listening to audiobooks from your public library.

So, go on. Click over to Start with a Book, and read, talk, and explore...all summer long! 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

CCSS Initiatives for ELLs

I have a quick share today for those who teach English Language Learners, whether in ESL or regular classrooms. 
TESOL International Association released an issue brief just last month titled Overview of the Common Core State Standards Initiatives for ELLs. Its stated purpose is to "provide a comprehensive overview of the policies behind the CCSS and to outline some of the initiatives now in place to address the needs of English language learners (ELLs) in relation to the CCSS."

If you teach ELLs, you need to read this brief. One of its most important features is a table that shows the three overarching English Language Arts/Literacy CCSS Shifts side by side with the continuum of expertise, according to Achieve the Core, that teachers will need "to ensure that ELLs with varying levels of first language literacy, background knowledge, and English language proficiency can achieve the CCSS."

Important knowledge for everyone, since ALL teachers are teachers of English Learners!