Ben Franklin myths

We talked today about the idea that Ben Franklin’s famous key and kite experiment was not actually struck by lightning. Instead, he felt a small zap of static electricity that was not enough to harm him, but was enough to prove that lightning was related to electricity.

We talked about the fact that nonfiction means not fake, but you still sometimes need to double check information, especially if the book is old. We then saw the Mythbusters video showing that Ben Franklin’s kite experiment was not quite what it seemed.


Using Reference Material: Poppy

One of the CAFE strategies we learned this week was the comprehension strategy of using reference material. As we were reading Avi’s Poppy, we came across a section where Poppy puts lady slipper petals on her feet and pretends like she’s Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire.

First we tried the strategy of Back Up and Reread. We reread the section. But no matter how many time we reread the word “lady slippers” or “Ginger Rogers,” we weren’t going to somehow spontaneously understand what those phrases meant by using the clues in the text.

We could have turned to the dictionary or a thesaurus, but in this case, photos and videos from the Internet seemed to fit the bill.

Poppy wears petals from lady slippers to pretend she's a dancer.

Poppy talks about dancing as though she were floating on air. After watching a few videos of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, I think you know what she means.

For more information on our literacy program, visit The Daily Cafe.


The Funny Little Woman

This week, we’ll be studying The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent. This is another Caldecott winner, although I personally prefer Mosel’s Tikki-Tikki-Tembo.

In the book, the funny little woman makes rice dumplings. If you’re not familiar with rice dumplings, they usually come wrapped in banana leaves and look like this:

Rice Dumplings

Click here to find out how they’re made.

I love getting food from Mee Sum Pastry at Pike Place Market, but I’ve never tried their rice dumplings. I’ll let you know what I think next time I’m downtown!


Our Chapter Read-Aloud

Hi there!

We are continuing to welcome new students to our classroom, and we are getting so much done!

Today, we discussed the many ways to count when we are skip counting. Families, ask your students any multiplication problem involving zero. They are experts at them. 🙂

We reread Drummer Hoff today, and we practiced reading it chorally as a class as well.

AND!!! We had a chance to read the first chapter of Poppy by Avi. Avi is one of my all-time favorite children’s authors, and he’s extremely versatile. He’s written everything from The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle to Crispin: The Cross of Lead to the Dimwood Forest series, which started with Poppy.

In the first chapter, we meet Poppy and Ragweed, two mice. We also meet Mr. Ocax, who is a horned owl. I mentioned that I’d post a picture of a horned owl here.

Could this be Mr. Ocax's cousin?

I’m still trying to track down a good photo to compare the size of an owl to the size of a mouse. When I find one, I’ll share it with you.

Enjoy your long weekend! See you on Tuesday!


First day!

Oh wow! There are so many thoughts racing through my head today, the first day of school! I have some incredible kids, and I’m so glad we got so much done on our first day together!

This morning, we read Barbara and Ed Emberley’s Caldecott-award winning book Drummer Hoff. One of our goals this year is to read at least half of the Caldecott books. This summer, I finally finished reading all of them myself and discovered books I never knew existed, so I want our class to have a similar goal!

One of my students mentioned the violence of shooting off a cannon. I explained that at the time this book was written (it won the 1968 Caldecott), cannons were really usually used as giant noisemakers rather than weapons of war. I told my class I’d post a clip of the 1812 overture featuring cannons, so here it is:

I love the Boston Pops. Every year, they perform this song with cannons in Washington, D.C. I hope to see it performed in person some day!

Tomorrow, we’ll read Drummer Hoff out loud together — I’ve copied it onto chart paper. Off to visit Mrs. Chan and her new baby!


Lessons from Hatchet

We finished reading Hatchet last week, and although I’m usually more of a My Side of the Mountain kind of girl, my students’ enthusiasm made me enjoy it a ton more this time around. (Also, the student who checked out My Side of the Mountain this week in library — AND is actually reading it — is my current hero)

A few days ago, my partner Toby found this link for us. When Toby was in 5th grade, he wrote a song about Hatchet with his friend Lena. He says he can’t remember all the lyrics, but when he does, I’ll pass them along to you. 🙂 Parents, I screened this article to make sure it was 4th-grade-appropriate! Please enjoy 10 Wilderness Survival Lessons from Hatchet.

You can also read Gary Paulsen‘s introduction to Hatchet and chunks from the story here, at Google Books.

If you’d like to write to Gary Paulsen, his address can be found by clicking on his picture below!

(He looks so serious, doesn’t he? I bet he’d be able to give Man vs. Wild a run for his money!)


Under the Sea

Hi there!

I apologize for my lengthy time away from this site. I have about a million things I’ve told my students I would upload, but I’ve run into a bit of technical difficulty.

I recently discovered that I am not permitted to have an online wish list for our classroom’s needs, nor can school Web sites link to teachers’ blogs. Yet teachers largely do not have access to any district-approved Web site support. If I want to put anything online, I need to go through our office manager, who is super crazy busy and has many larger fish to fry than uploading an html page. Upper grades may use a forum-style option to engage in a dialogue with their classes, but that’s not really accessible for my students.

What to do? Well, I’ve taken the wish list down for one.

I wanted to share this information with you because I thought I had a pretty good handle on our district’s Internet policies, but it appears that I don’t, and I wanted to make sure you don’t make the same errors I did. I’ve talked with several district people in the tech department, but the ultimate answer seems to be “just don’t post anything.” I completely understand that the Internet must be a big can of worms for the folks in charge, but I also know my students are hungry to access the content we’ve talked about in class.

For example, this week we read an incredible book called The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau. My students were amazed, and thrilled to discover his Web sites: and .

I discovered that we could become a sponsored classroom and receive a year’s worth of sea life magazines and teaching materials for free! If you’re a classroom teacher, I highly suggest you contact the organization. I spoke with Edna, who was just a dream. We can’t wait to receive our first issues of the magazine!

I want to be able to share this kind of information with my students and with other teachers. I’m hoping the district creates more comprehensive, open classroom Internet policies, but until then I will respectfully continue to keep my content in compliance.

Thanks for supporting our class!