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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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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Quick Link for CAFE Resources

It seems as though I always leave my CAFE book at school, and I always have my Daily 5 book loaned out to someone. That said, it’s irritating to poke around online to find the CAFE resources I need when I’m writing about our bookroom Book of the Week or doing lesson planning. Here’s everything you need to get started.

CLICK HERE OMGOMGOMG!

Hope this has saved you some time!

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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!

Jalapeno Bagels

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

Jalapeno Bagels. By Natasha Wing

You can find a copy of this book in the red Multicultural Fiction bucket in the bookroom.

No lesson plans are included with the book, but if you visit this site and click “Lesson Overview,” Kathryn Felten shares her ideas.

Learn more about the author at her Web site. You can even set up a Skype conversation with her!

If you’d like to see some vocabulary and comprehension PowerPoint presentations related to Jalapeno Bagels, check out this site.

If you’d like to study the vocabulary in this book, a virtual stack of flashcards is available here.

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

Comprehension

  • Use prior knowledge to connect with the text. I have decidedly mixed feelings about this book. I like that it highlights a multiracial family based on an actual family in California. But I don’t know how I feel about some pieces that could be seen as caricatures or stereotypes (Does the Dad really need to wear owlish glasses and have full facial hair?). Wildwood has a pretty significant Hispanic population. I think it’d be interesting to see how our students feel about the portrayal of the Mom. Are they pumped because a Mexican-American family is featured? Or do they find the depth of the characters lacking? What are their experiences?
  • Summarize text, include sequence of main events. This book is short and simple enough that it would be a good resource for a lesson explaining the differences between retelling and summarizing.

Expand Vocabulary

  • Use dictionaries, thesauruses and glossaries as tools. Jalapeno Bagels has a multilingual glossary in the back. Talk with students about the fact that fiction books that contain multicultural or international components often contain supplemental material in the back. This could be particularly useful for intermediate students who have gotten out of the habit of doing picture walks before reading.

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

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My Grandma, Major League Slugger

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

My Grandma, Major League Slugger. By Dan Greenburg

You can find a teacher copy of this book and the Targeted Treasure Hunt for it in the red Silly Book mentor text bucket in the bookroom. We have a complete set of lesson plans left over from our SFA book set, which might be useful for comprehension questions and vocabulary lessons. We also have 29 student copies, separated into book sets of six each and filed under Guided Reading level M.

The SFA suggested instructional goal is “questioning II,” which involves asking questions that can be proven in the text as well as asking higher level questions. There isn’t a CAFE menu in the bag yet, as I am writing this post during Snowpocalypse 2010 and I don’t have access to the copy machine.

If you’re using this in a unit on families, we also have book sets on grandmas for Fountas and Pinnell levels D and E (DRA 5 and 8), and a billion books on families. I’m sure there are many others that would fit into the category — I’ve only searched for books with grandma or families in the title or subject tags.

Additionally, you might also want to take the unit in the direction of women  making breakthroughs in baseball.

There was an all-women’s minor league baseball team that played in the 1990’s? They were neat.

Finally, Jim Trelease has some great sports read-aloud suggestions at his Web site (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

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

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Classroom Library: Filling the Shelves

To view previous posts in this series, click below.

Classroom Library Part 1: Supplies
Classroom Library Part 2: Getting Started

Hopefully, you haven’t agonized too much over the last two steps because I don’t want you to have lost steam. THIS is the important part — having plenty of texts at many different levels accessible to all students at all times. So let’s get started!

1. Figure out some kind of sorting system. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember how I asked you before how you were going to catalog your books and sort them? If you haven’t decided already, do it now. My books are sorted by genre/series (for fiction), and Dewey decimal number (for non-fiction). I have a few partner reading buckets that are sorted by reading level. Our school also uses Accelerated Reader, so my books are labeled with the schoolwide leveling system as well.

All our math books are in bucket 510. We talk in class about the fact that the Dewey Decimal uses at least three digits, so bucket 030 (books of facts) is different from bucket 30 (Judy Moody books).

2. Decide how you want to process and add your books. For me, this meant starting fresh — pulling every single book off my shelf and reintroducing them into the library as I processed them. It’s not the most efficient (I still have six boxes of books to catalog), but it helped keep my brain clear (a daunting challenge). You might want to sort your books into different bins first, or you might want to label them first.

3a. If you’re leveling books and/or cataloging books, open several tabs in your browser. Open your cataloging site in one tab, your leveling site (Renaissance Learning, Scholastic, Fountas & Pinnell, probably) in another. Open Pandora in a third so you don’t go crazy.

3b. Get your books in check-out condition. For me, this meant putting a book pocket on the inside title page (many people use the inside front cover because then you don’t block the inside title page, but I find that paperback books are easier to keep open if you put them on the title page). I then wrote the title on an index card and inserted it into the book. I looked up the AR level of my book, entered the book into LibraryThing, and put the book in a stack ready for AR tape and bucket number.

Leveled and ready for check-out!

4. Sort your books. I put AR tape on the top of the spine of the book so the color can be seen when it’s sitting inside a book bucket. I stick a mailing seal to the upper left corner of the back cover of the book, and I write the book bucket number on the back.

AR Tape.

5. Add books to your library. Put your book buckets on your shelves, add your books to them, and admire your handiwork.

6. A word on templates. When I first organized my classroom library, I saved a ton of time by printing my book bucket labels and check-out cards in Microsoft Word (otherwise I would have had to hand-letter cards for my entire classroom set of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle). This also saves time if you have a lot of guided reading book sets. Now, if your printer is fussy or you’re a bit of a technophobe, templates will probably cause you more frustration than joy. If despite this you’re still finicky enough to want ALL your materials typed out, then you’ll want to see the templates I’ll be posting tomorrow in Library Upkeep.

Please feel free to share and use this information as you see fit. If you’re able to take a moment to leave a comment, though, it completely makes my day and my students usually squeal with delight.

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Classroom Library: Getting Started

To view previous posts in this series, see below.

Classroom Library Part 1: Supplies

Now that you’ve got all your supplies collected, take a look around your classroom. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when you’re thinking about what your classroom library will look like. That doesn’t mean you need to agonize and ponder endlessly over ideas, but it does mean you want to be intentional with the decisions you make. Some points to think over:

How old are your kids? The kindergarteners in Mrs. Terry’s class wouldn’t have a chance if they wanted to pick out books from the bookshelves in my classroom. And my kids probably wouldn’t give the books on Mrs. Terry’s lowest shelf a second glance. The physical size of your students will impact their browsing patterns. I’ve actually found that books tucked away in a corner get a ton of traffic from my kids because they often like to cuddle themselves up in corners to work independently.

How big are your books? Kindergarten teacher Ms. Nietering uses blue bins from IKEA to store her books, and it has worked out well for her the past few years. If I were to use them on my shelves, there would be a tremendous amount of wasted space. Plus, my kids would have a difficult time seeing the covers of novels. I do have a few blue bins for some of our picture books, but I still prefer the Sterilite Ultra bins I mentioned in the last post.

How much space do you have? Ms. Stock once told me that if she put all her books in buckets, they would overrun her whole room (kind of like in my room, huh? :)). That was probably especially true when she was in our school’s diminutive portable. Her 3rd-5th graders pick their books out from a clearly labeled library nook. She also has the advantage of working with students who are more likely than average to investigate books when only the spines are visible — cover visibility is pretty much the only reason I switched to book buckets.

How big is your budget? If you don’t want to drop a ton on new bookshelves or book buckets, look in your school’s or your district’s surplus collection. Servicable book bins can be found at dollar stores or in the dollar section at Target. I can’t remember the last time Miss Turner bought a bookshelf, but she still has plenty of space to store her classroom library. Our school has a tradition of putting any unwanted furniture in the hallway at the end of the school year, so it’s always nice to go hallway-shopping for a new shelf or two.

How many books do you have? How many do you want? When I started my classroom library, I began with more generalized buckets — Mysteries, Silly Stories, Animals. Then, as I added more books and the buckets became full, I created more series-specific buckets. I added a dog books bucket and a dinosaur books bucket, and I replaced the book bucket labels on the backs of my books whenever I made a change.

How involved will your kids be? A few great texts on classroom libraries highly recommend that your students put together their classroom library at the beginning of the year. Several teachers at our school do this, but I’m a bit of a control freak. Whenever I add new books to our classroom library, though, I do always ask students where they think the books should go.

Next up, Filling the Shelves.

Many thanks to my talented, book-loving colleagues for allowing me to photograph their classroom libraries.

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