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:


  • 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.


  • 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!


Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

It’s Friday Choice. A and X are busily working to finish their perimeter homework, a group of students in the back of the room are singing the Double Rainbow song, and I found this recording of the Caldecott award-winning Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.


The Three Pigs

Our first Bookroom Book of the week is David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs. You can find it in the red Fables and Fairy Tales bin in the bookroom.

This book won the 2002 Caldecott award, and you can find out more about it from David Wiesner’s Web site here. You can even read his 2002 acceptance speech here.

The bag includes a lesson connected with Washington state EALRs 2.1.3: Connects previous experience and knowledge when reading. and 2.2.1 Finds similarities and differences in texts. Pages in the texts are marked with labels for suggested comprehension questions.

As with most of our bookroom books, you can find a CAFE menu highlighted in the bag. I saw several routes that lessons could take — please highlight others with your ideas! If you’d like a copy of the CAFE menu aligned to Washington state standards, one should be laminated and attached to the side of the bookshelf immediately inside the bookroom door.

Potential mini-lessons:

  • Retell the story (you could also have students make a plot grid where they compare and contrast the different versions of The Three Little Pigs. A great blackline master for book comparison is available on Appendix p. 30 in Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell)
  • Use prior knowledge to connect with text
  • Recognize literary elements (genre, plot, problem/resolution, theme)
  • Reread text (particularly if students are reading several different versions of The Three Little Pigs)
  • Practice high-frequency words (and phrases — if you see a fairy tale that starts with “Once,” chances are you know that it will begin with “Once upon a time.” That’s how good readers can start reading in phrases instead of word-by-word.)

You can see how I used The Three Pigs as part of my David Wiesner author study here (to be posted Monday, 11/22/10).

When we read fairy tales or fables in class, my students inevitably ask, “But who wrote it FIRST?” They are often completely perplexed to discover there isn’t THE FIRST Aesop’s Fables or THE FIRST Cinderella that they can put their hands on. That’s why I think this site is so fantastic. It shows several “original versions” of The Three Little Pigs from across the globe.

You can also take the Fractured Fairy Tales route. Sometimes bookstores understand my brain so well that it’s scary. Here are Barnes and Noble’s suggestions.

Hope this was helpful! Let me know if any of these resources were useful in your class.