The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. Feel free to use anything you find useful, but comments are always appreciated!

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Paul Galdone

We talk a lot about filling in background knowledge of our high-poverty and ELL students. Lucky for us, we have a whole bunch of Paul Galdone’s traditional stories in our bookroom. I’ve seen The Three Billy Goats Gruff, obviously (it’s currently in the bucket of former SFA Roots books), The Little Red Hen, The Three Bears, and The Gingerbread Man. Combine this with all the James Marshall fairy tale books we have, and we’ve got a pretty solid collection. You might also want to talk with our Kindergarten team, as I know a few teachers did a fairy tale unit last year.

You can learn more about Galdone here, in a neat Seattle Times profile. Information on the Austrian-born artist and his work can also be found here, here, and here. You know I’m more than wary about Wikipedia, but I’m perplexed that I can’t find any “official” biographies. Holy COW, look at all the books he illustrated (scroll down to the bottom).

1958 book review in the St. Petersburg Times

Children’s book historian Leonard S. Marcus had this to say about Galdone’s works: “Knowing that copies of his books were bound for use in preschool and elementary school classrooms and public libraries, he planned his illustrations with the child in the last row at story hour in mind.” I love learning the thinking behind books, particularly picture books, which are so often dismissed by grown-ups as easy to write. You can see his illustration style in this sample of The Little Red Hen.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use prior knowledge to connect with text. This goes along with asking questions, below. Ask (or chart) what traditional stories students have heard or seen. This will help you gauge familiarity with patterns such as the rule of three, etc.
  • Ask questions throughout the reading process. Before: What are some characteristics of traditional or enduring stories? During: What patterns do you notice in the structure of the story? Does it remind you of any other children’s stories? After: Why do you think the author says the troll was “as mean as he was ugy”? Do you often notice that the evil characters are ugly while the heroes are pretty or handsome? Why do you think many authors do this?

Fluency

  • Use punctuation to enhance phrasing and prosody. For primary students, talk about the all-caps words and the different tones the billy goats and troll might use. This would be a great shared reading opportunity to start with, because everybody will probably wind up sounding pretty silly. For older students, you could contrast the all-caps approach of conveying mood with more modern books like Geronimo Stilton, which uses multicolored, crazily-shaped text. How does technology impact the way books are written, published, and ultimately interpreted? How do these interpretations change over time?
Speaking of different interpretations of the Three Billy Goats, this is a tremendous resource.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Papagayo: The Mischief Maker

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Papagayo: The Mischief Maker, by Gerald McDermott

Papagayo is a loud parrot, and the night creatures don’t care for all his squawking. But they start to change their tune when a giant dog wakes up and begins chomping on the moon.

Second graders in Federal Way have a science unit on weather. It might be fun to use this and other weather legends to explain how different cultures used to explain conditions in nature.

This book is by Gerald McDermott, who won the Caldecott award for Arrow to the Sun and a Caldecott Honor for Anansi the Spider. He’s another great candidate for an author study.

You could also read this book with The Parrot Tico Tango or fellow Caldecott winner Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. For a more advanced conversation, consider — why were so many legends and folk tales selected for Caldecotts in the 1970s and 1980s? You might want to look at this link for some new perspectives.

Plenty of lesson plans are available for trickster tales, which is the subgenre this book falls into. Did you know Papagayo has been made into an opera? And if you’re in Nebraska, you might even be able to catch McDermott’s show at the Joslyn Art Museum!

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Retell the story. This is a pretty basic plot line, so it would be a useful to book to use to help students either increase or decrease the level of detail in the retells, depending on what’s necessary.
  • Ask questions throughout the reading process. Because the book follows a time pattern (first one night, then the next night, etc.), checking in on how predictions and ideas change would be able to happen at pretty natural stopping points.

Vocabulary

  • Voracious reading. Voracious readers encounter many exciting verbs, which helps them avoid overusing words like “said,” “happy,” “sad,” and “mad.” Papayago and company use a wide variety of verbs. You might want to take a peek at this as well:

 

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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A Hummingbird’s Life

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

A Hummingbird’s Life, by John Himmelman

I’ve been slowly processing the old mentor texts from the SFA Roots series, and I’m pretty excited to add these to our bookroom for several reasons:

  • Many of them are light on the text, making them perfect for primary read alouds.
  • Most sets have three or more copies, so an entire grade level team can plan their read alouds collaboratively if they so choose!
  • Quite a few of the books have a “sister text” pairing fiction with nonfiction, another powerful planning tool.

If you’re looking to celebrate the arrival of spring with a study of nature and/or of poetry, this website is a good place to start for some hummingbird-inspired poems.

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use text features. Despite being narrative nonfiction and being such a basic book (its AR readability level is 2.3), A Hummingbird’s Life is chock-full of text features. There’s an info box at the front giving background information on the Ruby-throated hummingbird, a glossary, and an About the Author section.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. Another great benefit of this text being so short is that you can copy the entire book onto a piece of chart paper, project it using document I’ve typed here, or give each student their own copy to mark what they believe are the main ideas.

Accuracy

  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. Many primary science units (at least in our school district) are about animals, habitats, and ecosystems. Talk with students about how their familiarity with new vocabulary they’ve learned in their science unit can help them read accurately.

Behaviors that Support Reading

  • Increase Stamina. Because of the limited amount of text in this book, this might be a good book for young primary students to practice making it all the way through a read aloud without needing a body break.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

Meet Wild Boars

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Meet Wild Boars, by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall

See a preview of this book at Google Books.

Meet wild boars. They are crude, naughty, and wear sweet vintage-inspired duds. “They are dirty and smelly, bad-tempered and rude. Do you like them? Never mind. They do not like you either.”

DID YOU KNOW that wild boars are an invasive species to North America? It’s true — they came over from Europe. If you’re using this book with older kids, it might be neat to talk about metaphors — the boars as plaid-shirt-wearing ruffians are a bit of a pain, but is this perhaps also a commentary on wild pigs running amok?

Older students (huzzah for using picture books in high school!) might even extend this further to make comparisons with Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, where wild boars play an alarming role. (Did I just relate feminist speculative fiction to a children’s book about boars? OH YES I DID.)

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use prior knowledge to connect with text. Countless books are written where the mean old rotten character turns out to have charming, redeemable qualities in the end. Not so in this book. Yet, the author doesn’t advise the reader to take action against these meanies, just to be wary and respond appropriately. What a refreshingly honest message!

Accuracy

  • Use the picture… Do the words and pictures match? Onomatopoeia are great for getting students who think they don’t NEED to use the picture to slow down and take a look at the picture. If you don’t use the picture, how will you know precisely how to articulate that SNORT? How in the world could you decide what emotion TUSK conveys?

Fluency

  • Adjust and apply different reading rates to match text. We usually read a book with repeated phrases and patterns differently than we would a regular fiction book or a nonfiction text.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

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There’s an Alligator Under My Bed

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom and offer lesson plan suggestions.

There’s an Alligator Under my Bed, by Mercer Mayer

This book is one of the old SFA Roots listening comprehension texts, and as such, there are three copies available! Perfect for collaborative lesson planning with your teammates!

In There’s an Alligator Under my Bed, a young boy is fully cognizant of the reptile hanging out below his mattress, despite the fact that he can’t get his parents to believe him. He takes matters into his own hands to solve the problem.

You can watch Mr. Mayer himself read the book in this video:

Boy, would a Mercer Mayer author study be awesome. Especially for folks working on a writing unit on realistic fiction or personal narrative (I’m thinking of the Little Critter books, not There’s an Alligator Under my Bed :)). Also, did you know that Mercer Mayer does non-picture book art too?

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Predict what will happen, use text to confirm. The surprise ending of this book would be fun to predict then disprove with explanations from the text.
  • Summarize text, include sequence of main events. This simple story would be perfect for teaching the Somebody-Wanted-But-So framework.
  • Compare and contrast within and between text. Why not compare and contrast this book with There’s a Nightmare in my Closet? Video available here:

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Chester’s Way

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Chester’s Way, by Kevin Henkes

Most people love Henkes’ seminal character Lily, of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse fame. I think she’s obnoxious, and I’m glad this book gives us a chance to learn more about Chester.

First, an aside. I believe Sheldon’s character from The Big Bang Theory is based heavily on Chester. I think these portions are particularly relevant: “Wilson wouldn’t ride his bike unless Chester wanted to, and they always used hand signals.”, “Chester duplicated his Christmas list every year and gave a copy to Wilson, because they always wanted the same things anyway.”, and “One day, while Chester and Wilson were practicing their hand signals, some older boys rode by, popping wheelies. They circled Chester and Wilson and yelled personal remarks.”

Dr. Cooper does not find your personal remarks amusing.

Anyways. This is a great beginning-of-the-year-let’s-be-friends kind of book, and Kevin Henkes is brilliant as always.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Recognize literary elements (character). This book provides a great opportunity to discuss author’s craft, especially if you’re reading this book as part of an author study. Henkes uses very precise, particular, and sophisticated vocabulary when he talks about Chester. Contrast this with the language he uses in Birds or Kitten’s First Full Moon.

Fluency

  • Read appropriate level texts that are a “good fit.” Many primary students would not be able to successfully make it through this book independently, due in large part to fantastic words like “diagonally,” “miniature,” “swung,” and “reminded.” However, if a teacher reads the book aloud to the group first, the book will now be accessible to more students because they are familiar with it.
  • Reread text. See above!

Vocabulary

  • Tune in to interesting words and use new vocabulary in my speaking and writing. I know a several primary teachers who have a Kevin Henkes author study at some point in the year, and the thing that’s so striking to me is what a sophisticated vocabulary Henkes uses in this book. This is a great book for introducing your class’ word collector.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

The Huckabuck Family

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

The Huckabuck Family, by Carl Sandburg

I believe this book is taken from Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories. You can read tons of the stories online here. Read more about Carl Sandburg here.

I have a special part in my heart for David Small, the illustrator of this book. Small, who also wrote the excellent books Imogene’s Antlers and That Book Woman, is pretty amazing at writing books about folks who live around the time of the Great Depression and usually spend most of their days in a rural setting. He also had a pretty insane childhood, which you can read more about in his autobiographical graphic novel Stitches.

 

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

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One Woolly Wombat

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

One Woolly Wombat, by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent

Counting books are great. Austrailian counting books with adorable Australian animals are even greater. Especially if that counting book goes all the way up to 14 instead of the standard ten. You can find this book in the red “Math” bucket in the bookroom.

The numbers in this book are written out in word form, rather than in standard form. This might be helpful for second and third grade teachers working with their students on spelling the numbers correctly.

One Woolly Wombat is a recent addition to our mentor texts in the bookroom, so if it meets your needs, make sure you stop by room 301 and thank Anne and Tin for putting the most recent book order together!

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Determine and analyze author’s purpose and support with text. This is so much more than a counting book. It introduces students to Australian wildlife, shows them the word forms of their favorite one-digit numbers, familiarizes them with Australian slang, and entertains them with animals in silly situations. By the way, if you want to learn more about unique Australian animals, check out this fantastic web site.

Accuracy

  • Use the pictures.. Do the words and pictures match? This could be an important lesson on a time when this strategy can fail. If a student doesn’t know what a echidna is, looking at a picture of one won’t help them decode the word. This is a great opportunity to talk about what to do when one reading strategy isn’t working. This is also an opportunity to encourage students to read widely and engage adults in conversation — the more words they’ve heard orally, the better they’ll get at decoding them in their reading.
  • Blend sounds; stretch and reread. There are plenty of blends and digraphs in this book, both at the onset of words and in the middle. There’s not much text, so it would be relatively painless to type the text into a Word document and then project it onto a screen. I’ve typed the text for you here: One Wooly Wombat . If you project the document onto a whiteboard (or SmartBoard), you can then highlight or circle all the blends and digraphs.

Fluency

  • Practice common sight words and high-frequency words. I imagine it must get a bit tiresome in the primary world to use the same twenty or so numbers each year. If the text in this book isn’t at your students’ reading level, perhaps they can at least practice finding and writing the number words they see.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

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Stickeen

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Stickeen, by John Muir, as retold by Donnell Rubay

John Muir was a pretty neat guy. This book is told as narrative nonfiction, from John Muir’s point of view. I believe it’s taken right from his journals, but retold by Rubay. This would make an excellent mentor text for a biography unit, particularly for talking about what makes a story narrative nonfiction. (It’s told in such a way that it has a plot, just like a fiction story.)

If your students are working on biographies, there are a TON of great biographies at many different levels in the Benchmark series. Log in to www.librarything.com and look for the tag of “biographies.”

There are also several good book titles at the back of the book for further reading.

John Muir started the Sierra Club, which has a bunch of biographical information at its website.

You can learn more about Muir’s hometown of Dunbar, in Scotland, here. If you want pictures of Dunbar, contact me and let me know. It was one of my favorite places that I visited in Scotland.

Stickeen comes with a pretty high-level lesson about inferences, figurative language, and similes. Please leave this lesson in the book bag, as it is the master copy. The lesson suggests pairing the book with Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows. Both of those books are former SFA books, so 4th and 5th teachers should have 4-5 copies in each classroom if you wanted to use them in a shared reading.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Predict what will happen; use text to confirm. It would be interesting to see if students think that Stickeen will start out being John Muir’s best friend — so many books are written with canine pals, that this might be the case. If they do think they will start off with a strong bond, question them throughout the text as to how their prediction might shift or change.
  • Recognize literary elements (plot, setting, theme). As mentioned above, because this is a narrative nonfiction, it can still be used to discuss the importance of plot and setting. Additionally, the included lesson plan touches on the theme of determination.

Fluency

  • Adjust and apply different reading rates to match text. Although students are often advised to read fact-heavy nonfiction books in second gear (1st gear: memorizing, 2nd gear: absorbing facts, 3rd gear: reading as fast as one would speak, 4th gear: skimming), you could talk with your students about why it matches the narrative flow of the book to read it in 3rd gear, but to make sure to stop frequently to check for understanding.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Flicker Flash

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Flicker Flash, by Joan Bransfield Graham

We have two copies of this mentor text, so this would be a great book for a team to take on! You can find the bag in the red poetry bucket in the bookroom.

Shape poems are covered pretty extensively in children’s literature. If you use this text, you might also want to check out Love that Dog by Sharon Creech and A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco.

What’s neat about these poems is that they fill a niche in children’s poetry. They’re not too adorable or rhyme-y, but they’re not completely silly or gut-busting. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to scan in a page from the book because of copyright permissions, so you’ll need to trust me.

If you’re reading the Battle of the Books book The Maze of Bones, chances are you’ve been learning about Ben Franklin to build up your background knowledge. There’s a great poem called “Lightning Bolt” that would be a perfect starting place for a conversation about the myth of Ben Franklin, the kite, and the key.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Accuracy

  • Blend sounds; stretch and reread. There are tons of digraphs and blends in the poems. Copying a page or two of these poems would make a great shared reading to pull apart and highlight.
  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. Rhyming texts are a great place to start encouraging students to make informed guesses as to what a sensible word could be.

Expand Vocabulary

  • Use pictures, illustrations, and diagrams. If you’re not sure what’s going on in the poem, chances are, the shape of the poem itself will help students figure it out.
  • Use prior knowledge and context to predict and confirm meaning. If your science kit deals with light, the seasons, or space, you might want to use this to link your science lesson to your literacy block.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

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