Tuesday, 31 July 2012


James Patterson writes thrillers, and that's not all. He is the best-selling author in the world, with more than 250 million copies sold worldwide. Some of his books became feature films (Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider) and others became made-for-TV movies.

Why is he the subject of a post on an education blog? For one thing, he is also the author of several young adult novels, including the fantasy/thriller Maximum Ride series. Max, the fifth book in the series, won him the Children's Choice Book Award for Author of the Year in 2010, and he was a finalist in 2012 for Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life. This guy, who retired from advertising in 1996 and became a writing machine, has two English degrees, a B.A.from Manhattan College and an M.A. from Vanderbilt University, not too shabby.

Again, though, I saved the best for last: ReadKiddoRead is Patterson's initiative "dedicated to making kids readers for life." There you'll find videos, lists of suggested books by level and genre, suggestions for lesson plans, discussion groups, and SO much more - too much more for this post. I'll be dedicating some future posts to specific features of this amazing website, but you have it now, so you can begin exploring on your own!

Here's one thing that we would ALL love:

ReadKiddoRead gives away a box of his books to 25 high school and 25 middle school libraries every month. Anyone can enter, and if you don't win this month, you can enter again next month. I couldn't find any schools from Tennessee on the winners' map, so you be the first!

Now you understand why James Patterson is worthy of a post on an education blog, right?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Teach With Movies

Using Hollywood movies in class is great for capturing your students' interest, but it can be labor-intensive to find the ones that are best for specific lessons.

Teach With Movies has Learning Guides based on more than 350 feature films, with 12 indexes for finding just the right one for your curriculum area.

This resource isn't free, but it only costs $11.99 for a one-year subscription. And it could save you lots of time, which is money after all, right?

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Teaching Channel - Pinterest for Teachers, But Better

Back in the day (say the late 1980s), there were filmstrips and old reel-to-reel films, but teaching videos? Not so much. Flash forward to the early 2000s, and my librarian best friends had amassed hundreds of VHS tapes and indexed them for our faculty. We were rich!

Now here we are in 2012, with YouTube, TeacherTube, and Gaggle, oh, my! Gaggle even has a "my videos" button, but sadly, not every school system has a Gaggle subscription for its teachers. 

Enter Teaching Channel, which features videos of lesson ideas in addition to exemplary lessons and strategies:
  • "Teaching Channel is a video showcase -- on the Internet and TV -- of innovative and effective teaching practices in America's schools."
  • "Videos labeled 'Lesson Idea Common Core' are Common Core aligned."
  •  It's my favorite price - free!

All good, right? Well, I saved THE (absolute) BEST for last. Once you register for your free Tch account, click on the Workspace tab, and choose Lesson Planner from the My Workspace menu, you can

The Button enables you to "pin" not only videos and ideas from the Teaching Channel website, but also those you find anywhere on the web! I just pinned this great 2-minute video from Tch :
this one from YouTube, an animation of one of my favorite children's books, Swimmy by Leo Lionni: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=442ie2qFANQ

Simply amazing!!!

The Horn Book

My librarian friends subscribe, as they should, to the American Library Association's publications as ALA members. Since I didn't have that resource for help in choosing great books for kids, I sometimes called or emailed them to ask for recommendations and critiques. Thanks to The Horn Book, you don't have to do that, even if you have librarian friends yourself!

You can subscribe to their print or online publications, such as The Horn Book Magazine:

OR, you can read many, many recommendations and reviews for free at their website!  A great example is their 2012 Summer Reading List. It's divided by level, from Picture Books to High School. I LOVE free, and I'll bet you do, too!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Children's Book-a-Day Almanac

Anita Silvy estimates that she has read about 125,000 children's books over the last 40 years (and I thought I had read a lot)! For 11 years, she was the editor of The Horn Book Magazine, a publication many call “the Bible of children’s literature.” Click on over to her website to read more about her life as a reader, writer, professor, publisher, and expert.

You will LOVE her Children's Book-a-Day Almanac, where she shares daily 
  • Recommendations
  • Stories behind the books 
  • New books
  • Events

You can also search the archives by age group, subject, author/illustrator, and genre. What a treasure trove for you and your kiddos!

Classroom Library Organizer

Keeping up with the books in your classroom library can be daunting! My daughter found an awesome site this summer that makes it much easier. 

Using Booksource's Classroom Organizer, you can load your books by entering ISBNs or by using a mobile app to scan them, and your students check them out by going online. It keeps up with everything, including due dates, and even prints reports (so you can see which books are checked out most, which students are using your library, etc.)!

From the website:
Classroom Organizer is a web-based program that allows users to maintain and inventory books in their classroom library. With this amazing tool you can:
- Add existing titles
- Import your student roster
- Enable students to check out and return books
- Run assessment reports on student and title activity

Update 9/1/12: Joanna has been using this in her 7th and 8th grade Reading & Language Arts classroom for the past month, and she loves it! I think you will, too!

Friday, 27 July 2012

McKay Books and Your Classroom Library

One final post on this hot Friday night. If you are a teacher, you know that your classroom library is your path into your students' reading lives. In our ESL classroom, our students actually believed that our books were "better" than the ones in the school library. My co-teacher and I made many, many trips to McKay Books to buy books that we used in lessons and for our students to check out. They were always excited to see the table of "new" books chosen just for them, and could hardly wait for their turn to read them. By the time I retired this spring, we had more than 1,000 books on our shelves. On teachers' salaries, this wouldn't have been possible without McKay. With some books as cheap as 25 cents, and many priced from 95 cents to $3.50, this warehouse stuffed with books of every kind allowed us to feed our students' desire for reading in style! You. Must. Go.


Teaching Students to Make Inferences

If you teach inferences, you need to look at this great lesson! And while you're there, subscribe to Byrdseed. While designated as a site for gifted learners, it's much more than that.

Book Trailers

Since encouraging reading is one of my passions, I want to share a great way to catch kids' interest in a new book, in a format they know well. Sell them on a book with a "preview of coming attractions" book trailer or a book talk or author interview.

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collection/book-videos-author-interviews-author-read-alouds-book-trailers-booktalks has many! Below is a link to one example - Scholastic's YouTube book trailer for The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (click on his name to view his amazing website). My daughter just bought this book and its sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back, for her middle school classroom library. She'll make some kiddos happy, for sure, and have them ready for the third book in the series, The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, due out August 7!

In my search for resources, I also found a post all about book trailers at one of Keith Schoch's blogs, Teach with Picture Books. Happy trailer hunting!

Here's my preview: My copies of The Daily 5 and The CAFE Book by "The Sisters", Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, are on their way to me at this moment. Both were highly recommended by Dr. Lori Digisi, a literacy specialist and presenter at my first statewide TAS meeting last week. The books provide a structure for increasing student ownership in their reading and a means for improved differentiated instruction. I'll post a review after I've read them.

A Worn Path

So, my daughter is a teacher. A really, really good teacher. I would like to say that I taught her everything she knows, but it wouldn't be true, even though I was her teacher (twice!) in high school. She also writes a really, really good book blog. You should definitely follow her blog if you like to read. At all.

The Grammar Police

I'm trying to migrate a number of Facebook posts over to the blog, so today will be an unusual one - I normally won't be posting multiple times a day!

If you are on Facebook, and are part of the grammar police (in my country upbringing, that would be said with an emphasis on the first syllable of PO-lice) you need to "like" Grammarly just because its it's fun!  :-)


Today's awesome share is http://planbook.com/. About a year ago, during a search for a template to use so my co-teacher and I could type rather than write in tiny little plan book boxes, I came across this site. With a free, no obligation 30-day trial, we had nothing to lose; at the end of that time, we were more than happy to pay the $12 annual membership. It truly changed our lives! 

You choose your format, enter classes, color-code if you like, and go! Perhaps the best feature of all is that the Common Core State Standards, as well as the Tennessee Curriculum Standards, are right there in a pull-down menu for you to click on and insert!!! You can enter homework and notes, too.

Being able to access your virtual planbook from any connected computer is great, too - no hauling from home to school and back. Enjoy!