Saturday, May 30, 2015


Recently we bought a piece of furniture from IKEA and it came in a large, sturdy box. When  it was headed for the curve I begged my husband not to throw it away. "Why not?" he asked. "It's just a box." Kindergarten teachers—you and I know it was NOT JUST a box! So I made asked him to drag it to my classroom.

First of all, it was the tool for a group lesson in number combinations. We took turns getting in and out. The kids recorded the action with pictures and numbers in their math journals.

Next we read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. 
We looked at the pattern of the book. For a shared reading experience, we alternated reading the brown pages or the red pages by teacher/students and boys/girls.

Finally, we drew pictures to create a new book. (Sadly, there is not a use your imagination. After all, that's what the book is all about!)

This is not a box. It is a camper.

This is not a box. It is a monster.
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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hats off to Jon Klassen! Inferring, Questioning, Writing Dialogue

Hats off to Jon Klassen for creating two amazing books! I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat look simple at first glance, but they are packed with possibilities for helping your kiddos infer, question, study details in illustrations and even write dialogue. 
What? My kids writing dialogue?
Yes, your kids can write dialogue.

Let's start with This Is Not My Hat, a 2012 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book
The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as the bear begins to despond, a deer comes by and asks a simple question that sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance. Told completely in dialogue, this delicious take on the classic repetitive tale plays out in sly illustrations laced with visual humor-- and winks at the reader with a wry irreverence that will have kids of all ages thrilled to be in on the joke. (Summary from Candlewick Press.)

Day One: The Text
The first day we look at this book we focused on the text. Notice how the colors change depending on which character is speaking? My kids also realized that the text matches the color of the speaking character...until you get to the rabbit. They decided the rabbit's words are red because he is wearing the red hat.

When I read the book aloud, I sped up during the "confessions." Hmmm...we wondered if we've ever sounded like this when we were guilty!

We talked about why some of the text is in all capital letters. We decided as writers, we also could write in all caps sometimes when we wanted to show a strong emotion. Scroll down to see a child put this into action.

Day Two: Inferring and Making Connections
On the second day we read this book, we paused on the spread where the bear finds the rabbit and his hat. We wondered what each character was thinking and recorded ideas on this chart. 

Next we recorded some of the ideas side by side on a chart.

Writing Lesson
Here's the follow-up writing lesson. Each child drew two characters of his choice on a folded sheet of paper. We wondered what other animals or people might look at each other the way the rabbit and bear did in the book. What would they think in their heads or say out loud to each other? After drawing, each child shared with a partner what the conversation would sound like between the two characters on his page. 

Finally, I helped each child pick a different color of marker to represent each of his characters. You're going to love this child's writing! Notice his use of capital letters and punctuation. There's some humor here, as well, because the kids all know about my intense fear of the pet snake in our building.

Snake: I'm hungry. I want to eat you.
Mrs. G: aaaaaAAAAhhhhh! Wait. I'm so old. I don't think I'll be a tender snack.
Snake: OK. But I'm not making any promises.

 Next up, This Is Not My Hat, a 2013 Caldecott winner. 

When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . . . Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassen follows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale. 
(Summary from Candlewick Press.)

I read this book aloud slowly and with suspense. There was an audible gasp from the kids when we got to these pages and they realized...the big fish ate the little fish. Awesome!

We revisted this book for several days. One day involved discussions about which characters did something wrong. And how about that crab? Maybe he didn't mean to not keep his word. Maybe he was intimidated by the big fish, they offered. 

One day we made a chart comparing the story in the pictures with the story in the words. What an a-ha moment when they realized it was a book of opposites. What the little fish thinks on every page is the opposite of what really happens.

My kids have really developed a skill for looking at the illustrations to justify their thinking. For example, they thought the little fish was going slowly because there were only a few bubbles, but that the big fish was swimming quickly because there were more bubbles. How did the big fish know where the little fish went? The bubbles from the little fish go up. Check out the eyes on the big fish. Slanted eyes from a predator are never a good sign!

Finally, why are there no more words after the seaweed page? Because the character telling the story is....GONE!

I hope your kids get as much out of these two books as mine did. Happy reading!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Higher-Order Thinking with My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza

Looking for a great book to encourage higher-order thinking? Today is your LUCKY DAY! 

A fox outfoxed?
When a delicious-looking piglet knocks on Mr. Fox's door by mistake, the fox is sure it must be his lucky day. It's not every day that dinner just shows up on your doorstep! But as the piglet is quick to point out, shouldn't the fox give him a bath first? And wouldn't it be best to fatten him up a little, and give him a massage so he'll make for a nice tender roast? Mr. Fox sure has his work cut out for him—and his "dinner" is a lot smarter than it looks. (Summary from Puffin Books.)

I know I've found a great book when I have an instant brainstorm of teaching ideas. I usually jot my thinking down before I forget the possibilities. 
Here's a peek at some ways you can use My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza. I'm also sharing some pictures from our class activities with this book. Please note...we read this book every day for a week! Don't try to squeeze everything out of the book in one day. On your first read, let your kids just enjoy the story and the surprise ending.

Take a close look at the facial expressions throughout the book.
Visual Literacy:
What extra information can you learn about the story from the details in the illustrations. 

Take a close look at the sets of three pictures. What extra information can you find? 

Why are there claw marks? Where in the story are there motion lines? 

There are so many great words to focus on in this story....polished, hauled, useless, massage, filthy, exhausted and many more.

Word Choice: 
Focus on the verbs the author uses...screamed, grabbed, hauled, squealed, relaxed and more.

What are the repeating phrases in the book? "Just a thought, Mr. Fox." 
How do the events in the story repeat? (The pig talks the fox out of eating him three times. Each time the fox does three things.) 
Will the story repeat itself? (The pig shows up at the bear's door.)

Where does your thinking change? At what point in the story did you start to figure out that the pig was up to something?

Here's a clip of a child in my class explaining where in the story her thinking changed.
Analyzing Plot:
How does the author get your attention from the very beginning? Why is the ending so funny? (It is surprising.) 

What's the big idea of this story? Is it that the underdog triumphs? Is it that sometimes trickster characters seem helpless?

Evaluating and Characterization:
What words describe the pig, the trickster character?
Act out the story in pairs so that one person is the pig and the other is the fox.
Pretend you are the fox and retell the story.
Pretend you are the pig and retell the story.

Find evidence in the story that the pig is "smart." (He uses flattery. He uses the power of suggestion. He has a strategy and a plan.) 

Create a sequel to the story in which the pig visits the bear.

Write a letter to bear warning him about the pig.

As you can see, we had some great learning moments with this book. I only wish I had more video and pictures to share...I need my own personal camera man to capture my students' brilliant thinking!

Keiko Kasza also has a website: There are resources about the author and you can download this excellent thirteen-page guide to using her books.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Get Sale Ready!

Do you know how to get sale ready? Find out over at Blog Hoppin'!

Also be sure to enter for a $10 shopping voucher for my TPT store. Just follow my TPT store to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And finally...Have you picked up your end-of-school freebie on TPT? Let me know if helps you out!

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Day the Crayons Quit: Speaking and Writing with Voice

It's time to teach your young writers about VOICE...the personal stamp of a writer that reveals personality and purpose. Voice gives energy to a piece of writing. When you write with voice, you know that someone—an audience—is going to read it, hear it and get your point loud and clear. Yes, your kinders can do it! And this colorful book is going to help.

Just in case you haven't seen the book yet...

We read this book over and over again. Here are some of our charts and activities.

We analyzed the problems and facial expressions of each crayon.

We turned to partners and acted like we were crayons with problems. This gave us a chance to use voice.

Then we wrote letters to ourselves as if we were the crayons. We referred to this chart to help us decide how to make our crayons match our writing. You can get the chart from Teacher Treasures here.

Get your free writing frame here.

Speak your mind...Let me know if these ideas work with your kids!

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