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!



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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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!



New Books for our Classroom Library

I’ll admit that I’ve neglected our classroom library as I’ve been chipping away at all the books that need to be processed for the school bookroom. But the boxes of unused books are just killing me, and so I decided I’d spend a good chunk of time this weekend knocking some of these books out.

This is usually my home base when I process books. I use Toby’s iMac instead of my laptop because I scrunch over less. Plus, I can queue for random dungeons in World of Warcraft.

Stack of books and book pockets. And WOW hidden behind GoodReads.

I try to add books to our library as soon as I receive them, but lately we’ve added a ton of new books. You can see I also enjoy eating pizza and drinking fizzy water while I work.

Books from Wildwood, Mrs. Burn, and Ms. Willard

This doesn’t even really put a dent in all the books I need to go through. My parents are still sending me old books from my childhood.

OMG BOOKS!!! (and my math frameworks binders... I TOLD you I didn't lose them, Ms. Stock!)

After I’ve entered the books into LibraryThing, figured out their AR levels, and made sure they have book pockets and book cards, I set them out in the hallway to be whisked away to school.

Sound book to send back to the science center, books with no AR level, books that need AR tape.

I’m looking to go into Wildwood tomorrow to spruce up our classroom and get these books into book boxes so students can check them out first thing Tuesday morning.

Remember that tomorrow is really supposed to be a day “ON,” rather than a day off, so consider participating in a local service project. I’ll be serving in a public elementary school classroom, and you should totally join me! 🙂 Oh, speaking of public schools, did you notice the Glee folks thanked public school teachers in their acceptance speech?


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:


  • 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!


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:


  • 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!


Tomorrow’s Alphabet

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

Tomorrow’s Alphabet. By George Shannon, illustrated by Donald Crews

I yesterday e-mailed a list of environmentally-related texts in our bookroom, and I thought this mentor text would also fit into a theme of thinking about how today’s actions affect us tomorrow and in the future.

In Tomorrow’s Alphabet, A stands for Seed, B is for Eggs, and C is for Milk. What? Well, tomorrow, the seed will be an Apple, the eggs will be Birds, and the milk will be Cheese! How smart — you could use this text in so many ways! There are no lesson plans included with this mentor text, but there is a CAFE menu included in the bag, and it’s highlighted as follows.


  • Predict what will happen, use text to confirm. You can use a piece of paper to cover the righthand pages (I’d attach the paper with a paperclip or binder clip otherwise I think it’d be too much to juggle in a read aloud situation), or you could project the lefthand pages on the document camera. Students can guess what tomorrow’s word will be.
  • Determine and analyze author’s purpose and support with text.
  • Recognize and explain cause and effect relationships. I’ve been trying to figure out an uncomplicated way to explain cause and effect, and I think this just might do the trick!


  • Use the pictures… Do the words and pictures match?

Expand Vocabulary

  • Use prior knowledge and context to predict and confirm meaning. I’m thinking this will be particularly important on words like “embers” and “bud.” Speaking of “bud,” this might also be a good book to explain that challenging words aren’t necessarily the long ones.

If you’re following the units of study for the writer’s workshop, your students may have already been introduced to Crews’ work. Lucy Caulkins loves Donald Crews. I hadn’t heard of him prior to that, and my appreciation has grown rather slowly. It’s more of Toby’s style. His art is bright, bold, and accompanied by the Helvetica text that Mr. McKes adores.

If you’re interested in using more Donald Crews in your classroom, our bookroom has a big book copy of Freight Train. We also have three student copies of Freight Train, and three student copies of Truck. Both of those texts can be found in the blue bucket marked GR LB (where we keep wordless books and low-level books).

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

P. S. We also have a book set by Donald Crews’ daughter, Nina. We have seven copies of Snowball, and they should be in the small office next to the bookroom. See me if you’d like the set.

P. P. S. I lost a little bit of respect for George Shannon when I discovered his entire Web site uses Comic Sans. Barf.


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!


Library book sales

In a few days, I’ll be sharing some of the best ways to add new books to your classroom library.

Hands down one of the cheapest (and most charitable) options is to pay a visit to your local Friends of the Public Library book sale. Some public library systems sell books by weight, some have a flat rate, and some even have a “Better Books” section where you can find brand new or nearly-new titles.

Here, I’ll share the step-by-step process I go through in preparing for a trip to a library book sale. If you live in the Seattle area, you can find out more about the SPL’s epic book sales here.

Last winter, Seattle was named the most literate city in the country, and despite suffering from the abysmal funding of its library system, it has some amazing things to offer.

Things like bags of books for crazy cheap. You must go.

One other tip, and I’m not really sure if this is totally legit. Last year, we went on the Friends’ preview night, where you’re limited to 25 books. We, of course, couldn’t limit ourselves to 25 books. But when another patron heard of our plight and saw we were from a school, she gave us her voucher, because she hadn’t bought all 25. Score! I obviously wanted to stay the rest of the evening and poach more voucher cards, but I was denied.


David Wiesner Author Study

Our second author study this year was David Wiesner. I usually do author studies for one week because I have so many other ideas racing around that I want to move on after a week, but this outline can be shortened or extended as needed. Comments are always appreciated so I know whether this post was useful!

MONDAY: Kicking off the study

This year we’ve been reading many books that are elligible for the 2011 Caldecott, so I was dying to share Art and Max with our class. I didn’t even think to make this an author’s study until my students expressed shock that Wiesner had written other books that were very different from Art and Max.

Art connections

Part of the reason why our class understood the humor in Art and Max was that we just so happened to use all three media that are referenced in the book — tempera paint, chalk pastels, and watercolors.

We learned about pointillism, because at one point Art appears to have been created in the pointillist style. I made a Powerpoint of several famous pieces from the movement, and students made their own creation using markers. I had them make their dots in groups of ten, which led us into our next math lesson…

Large Number Estimation

The book Great Estimations is excellent for helping students see why it can be more practical to use estimations or skip counting to find a total. Prior to reading this book, about 3/4 of my students would refuse to round when solving an estimation problem, OR they would solve the entire problem, then just round their answer at the very end.

TUESDAY: Learning more about the author

On Tuesday, we read Tuesday. It honestly wasn’t planned that way. I’m nerdy, yes, but I’m not that cheesy. Most of our class’ favorite lessons are completely serendipitous. Tuesday is often used as a text for working on prediction, but about half of my class read the book last year, so I introduced the strategy of Making a Picture in Your Head instead. We discussed how the pictures Wiesner paints are so vivid, we don’t even need words because we can make a mind movie of the entire story in our heads.

We also began noticing some craft choices Wiesner made in both Tuesday and Art and Max. Students pointed out that both stories seemed to have a somewhat circular ending, and they also noticed that Wiesner often divides a page into three panels then uses the three panels to show some form of time lapse (paint flying in Art and Max, frogs flying in Saturday)

Large Number Estimation

I copied three pictures of Art from Art and Max, then made enough copies for the whole class. Students estimated how many dots were in each picture. They explained their estimation strategies, and many talked about how they figured out what ten dots looked like, then applied that to the whole picture. Others counted how many dots were in one square inch (using inch pattern tiles), then counted the number of tiles they needed to cover the picture.

Computer Lab

Before we went down to the computer lab, I pulled up these interviews with Wiesner.

David Wiesner’s Web site is fantastic. My students loved being able to see Wiesner’s creative process and images from many of his books. As we read books throughout the rest of the week, they would often exclaim, “Hey! That was on his Web site!”


Flotsam was one of the longest picture books we’d read so far this year, plus there was so much to look at, so we split this book over two days.

I needed to build some background for my students on this book, as none of them had ANY idea what film was (way to make me feel ancient at age 27, guys) and most hadn’t seen a microscope before.

I also gave us two days to ruminate on the book because my students were a little more confused by the fantasy aspects of the book. When we first started the book, we had a lengthy conversation about whether it was fact or fiction — the pictures looked very realistic, and we knew from David Wiesner’s Web site that he was inspired by a trip to the beach. But as the book progresses, it becomes increasingly absurd. We talked about how we had to change our predictions and ideas about the text as we received new information.

Splitting the book into two days also gave our class time to let the humor sink in. On Thursday, RO got a huge grin on his face and frantically waved his hand around when he saw an underwater living room scene. “There’s one of those fish that lights up — an angler fish! It’s lighting up the lamp! This is totally fiction!”

Library checkout

When we go to the library, I usually do a brief read-aloud before students check out their books. This week, I read The Three Pigs and asked Mrs. Cole to pull all our David Wiesner books to form a mini-display. I chose The Three Pigs because the story was enjoyable enough without needing outside explanations from me, so we were able to use this as a straight read aloud.

FRIDAY: Wiesner’s other works

In our literacy block, I read June 29, 1999. Because this was Friday, I explained to students that this would be our chance to really put the strategy of Make a Picture in Your Head to work. Unlike many other Wiesner books, there is text in June 29, 1999, but the pictures aren’t quite as straight-forward as they are in his other books. We’d have to fill in the blanks.

Had I read June 29, 1999 at the beginning of the week, I’m fairly certain my students would have been perplexed, at best. But they got into it right away — “Look, he’s doing the three panel thing again to show time passing!” “This looks like the neighborhood in Tuesday, except it’s happening at day instead of night!” “This is kind of like a weird Magic School Bus book, because she’s growing plants, but it’s not realistic!” “It’s like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs but with all healthy food!” I could have hugged them all.

Using Classroom Resources

I asked students if they had ideas of where to find David Wiesner books on their own in our classroom. They guessed in the “Good Picture Books” bucket, the “Caldecott Winners” bucket, and then AE spoke up and made my life. “Miz Houghton,” he said, gesturing wildly to book bucket 34: Scary Stories. “David Wiesner illustrated the book about Gargoyles, I saw pictures from it on the Web site.” He pulled out Night of the Gargoyles. AB piped up. “Yeah, that one’s written by Eve Bunting, she wrote that Wall book Mr. Rosand read to us in library class.”

Culminating exercise

I suppose I could have/should have had some grand end-of-the-week assessment to ascertain whether this was a valuable series of lessons, but based on how much kids were writing about David Wiesner’s books in their reading response journals, I decided it was a success.


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.