Berenstain Bears: still great for fun & character education

BBearsTeasingMany of today’s kids have little experience with the Berenstain Bears, but once you introduce kids to this lovable family of bears, they’re hooked. 

Berenstain Bears books come in three main types:

  • Easy readers (AR reading level 0.5-2.0; very short books mostly in the “I Can Read!” series. )
  • Picture books (AR reading level 2.5-4.0, 1200-1500 words)
  • Chapter books (AR reading level  3.5-5.0 ; about 7,000-12,000 words or 100 illustrated pages)

My students just love these books, and reading the collection raises the reading level of both individual students and the class as a whole.

My family used to have all the Berenstain Bear books, but we gave them away when my younger brother and sister grew up.  This was before I became a teacher. I had to buy our childhoods back on eBay.  It wasn’t too expensive; I got most books for $1 each or less.  I bought lots of Berenstain Bear picture books and chapter books.  Some of the easy readers were mixed in, but I didn’t seek them out.

I started a Berenstain Bears challenge in my classroom.  I gave the class two weeks for everyone to read 10 points of Berenstain Bears books.  For most kids, this involved 20 picture books.  Some of the higher kids read a mix of picture books and chapter books.  For many third graders, the Berenstain Bears picture books are a stretch.  (This is because many third graders read below the third grade reading level.)  We paired our struggling readers with higher readers for read-aloud sessions.

At the end, we celebrated with a Berenstain Bears teddy bear tea party.  The pictures are adorable, but they’re of other peoples’ kids, so you’ll just have to imagine how cute it was to have a classroom of third graders and their teddy bears.

Berenstain Bears books can be a little didactic, which I think would make them difficult to publish in today’s climate.  Preachy books are out.  However, kids love them.  Berenstain Bears books make it easy to broach a variety of topics.  Here are some sample titles, all available at Amazon.com:

The Berenstain Bears and the Truth
The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers
The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners
The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room
The Berenstain Bears Show Some Respect
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV
The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Chores
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing

Click here to read my post about how AR reading levels are determined.  Then visit ARBookfind, a site that tells you the reading level of books.

Posted in Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Nov 10, 2014

 

John Grisham’s series for kids: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

TheodoreBooneAR level 5.2
AR points 8
Available at Amazon.com

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer is a clever series written by John Grisham.  Theodore is a thirteen-year-old kid lawyer.  Both of his parents are lawyers, and he spends a lot of time hanging around the courtroom.  (Kid Lawyer is the first book, but it also identifies the series.)

Theo enjoys acting as a kid lawyer for his friends.  He helps a pretty girl get her dog out of the pound and advises his friend on how her parents’ divorce is likely to play out.  However, things turn serious when a potential witness in a murder trial comes to Theo for advice.  Now, only Theo knows who the real killer is—but it isn’t clear what he should do about it.  Theo has to protect his witness.

I think that older elementary studnets will enjoy Theodore Boone.  John Grisham keeps the plot churning.  In everyday and school scenes, the book doesn’t always ring true.  (None of the thirteen-year-old boys in Theo’s class care about girls?)  However, the court scenes and legal issues are the center of the book, and they work quite well.

Theodore Boone is a sophisticated series.  It will appear to intellectual students in grades 4 and up.

Books in the  Theodore Boone series, all available at Amazon.com

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone: The Abduction

Theodore Boone: The Accused

Theodore Boone: The Activist

Once you hook fans, direct them to the Theodore Boone website for activities that coordinate with the books.

Send a summons: submit the necessary information and the site will send a summons to a friend or family member.

Odd laws: peruse some unusual laws around the country.  For example, butter substitutes must not be served to Wisconsin inmates, any person in Ohio who loses their pet tiger must notify authorities within an hour, and no one in Michigan may sell a car on Sunday.

Courtroom 101: learn the basics of a courtroom, from the locations to the people.

 

Posted in Book Lists,Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Nov 3, 2014

 

Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring

RuthHellerFlowersA good coloring page should be part of every teacher’s Emergency Sub Plans.  Ruth Heller’s designs for coloring are high-quality, engrossing designs that boys and girls love to color.  I highly recommend that every elementary teacher own one or two.

I first learned of Ruth Heller’s coloring books when a colleague shared the Snowflakes book.  I used them to help the kids create personalized calendars for their parents.  The class would be silent for forty minutes straight as the kids colored their snowflakes.  At other times of the year, this is forty minutes a teacher can ill afford to devote to coloring.  However, during mid-December in a particularly snowy year with no recess, it was just fine.

Your class will love all of Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring.  The books can easily become projects.  Use the Flowers designs as the basis for Mother’s Day cards.  Use the Butterflies design for decorations to go with your science unit on butterflies.  Prisms and Geometrics can accompany a math lesson; Leaves go with a plant unit or autumn leaves lessons.  All linked books are available at Amazon.com, where you will find still more of Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring.

Happy coloring!

Posted in Book Lists,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 7, 2014

 

Free worksheets for the Tapestry series by Henry Neff

TheHoundOfRowanBring the fantasy series The Tapestry into the classroom with FREE worksheets written by a National Board Certified teacher.

Have you discovered The Tapestry series? It’s a richly imagined fantasy about a Chicago boy who stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.

The Tapestry series stands out because of the beautiful writing and gorgeous illustrations. The illustrations are my favorite part. Author Henry Neff is a great artist, and it’s interesting to see the world so vividly illustrated by the person that created it.  Click here for a gallery of Henry Neff’s illustrations for Book One: The Hound of Rowan.

The Tapestry series is four books strong and growing, with Book Five set for release in 2015. I met author Henry Neff early on, when we presented together at the International Reading Association Annual Conference West. Henry presented his book; I presented worksheets and ideas for teaching The Tapestry in the classroom.

Books in The Tapestry series, all available at Amazon.com:
The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry

The Second Siege: Book Two of The Tapestry

The Fiend and the Forge: Book Three of The Tapestry

The Maelstrom: Book Four of The Tapestry

The Red Winter: Book Five of The Tapestry

My worksheets:
What Do You See? In The Tapestry, Max saw a tapestry depicting the Cattle Raid of Cooley. He later learns that he may have abilities like those of Cuchulain, the Irish folk hero. What qualities link you to heroes of the past?

Vye Detector: In The Tapestry, Vyes are minions of The Enemy. It is important to be able to identify them:

“A vye is not a werewolf. The vye is larger, with a more distorted and hideous face—part wolf, part jackal, part human, with squinty eyes and a twisted snout. In human form, however, they can be most convincing….They are clever in their deceits and their voices are wound with spells to ensnare you.”

After a Vye attack at Rowan, students receive extra training in identifying and fighting Vyes. In the following scenarios, how would you identify and fight a Vye?

Create Your Own Charge: In The Tapestry, students are paired with mythical animals who will be their charges and companions for the rest of their lives. In the book, the animals choose the students. Max was chosen by Nick, the lymrill. It is difficult to describe a mythical animal—until you organize.

Workers for Rowan: Like any school, Rowan depends on workers to help the school run smoothly. The cooks are a reformed hag and ogre, and a leprechaun is the bathroom attendant.  The following creatures want to work at Rowan. Match the creatures with the best job for them.

Enjoy The Tapestry!


 

Cesar Chavez: Watch the movie; share books with your students

Don’t miss Cesar Chavez, the biopic directed by Diego Luna and starring Michael Peña.  Bring Cesar Chavez into your classroom with these beautifully written picture books appropriate for elementary students.

Cesar Chavez’s story adds depth to units in social studies, history and economics:

  • Justice, equality, inequality, civil rights
  • Worker’s rights, unionization, strikes
  • Migrant workers, agriculture’s role in California’s history
  • Freedom marches and demonstrations
  • Latino heritage, Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Chavez’s influences: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi

Picture Books about Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez: this picture book tells Chavez’s story with simple, strong prose by Kathleen Krull.  Yuyi Morales’s beautiful illustrations perfectly complement the setting.  Click here for my book review on Harvesting Hope, featuring ideas for using the book in the classroom.

Cesar: Si, se puede! / Yes, We Cana collection of poems that recreate the life and times of Chavez.  This bilingual edition will capture the attention of your students as Chavez captures their hearts.

Cesar Chavez: A Hero for Everyone: this straightforward, easy-to-read biography is perfect for the Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction.

Side by Side/Lado a Lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez this bilingual book helps students understand that Cesar didn’t do it on his own.  Strong people like Dolores Huerta were instrumental to the success of the strike and march.

Cesar Chavez: The Struggle for Justice / Cesar Chavez: La lucha por la justicia This bilingual picture book by history professor Richard Griswold del Castillo simply and vividly tells Chavez’s story.

A Picture Book of Cesar Chavez (Picture Book Biography): this beautifully expressive biography tells Cesar Chavez’s life story in an engaging way.

Older students will enjoy the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Viva la Causa kit.  It features a 39 minute film and teaching guide.  Viva la Causa will show how thousands of people from across the nation joined in a struggle for justice for the most exploited people in our country – the workers who put food on our tables.

¡Viva la causa!  ¡Sí, se puede!  The movie and books will make you want to stand up and cheer.

Posted in Academics,Book Lists,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Mar 31, 2014

 

Teach Kids about Art with Katie’s Picture Show by James Mayhew

Katie'sPictureShowIntegrate art and literacy with James Mayhew’s terrific books about Katie, a girl who can step inside paintings.  These beautifully illustrated books bring masterpieces to life.

Books in the series, all available at Amazon.com:

Katie’s Picture Show: This is the book that started it all.  Katie visits London’s National Gallery, where five famous masterpieces come to life.

Katie and the Starry Night:  The stars are falling out of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night!  Can Katie save the day, er, night?

Katie Meets The Impressionists: Katie meets Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Katie and the Waterlily Pond: A Magical Journey Through Five Monet Masterpieces: An art competition inspires Katie to step into Monet’s masterpieces.  Can she learn how to create a winning entry?

Katie and the Sunflowers:  Katie explores post-Impressionst masterpieces by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne.

Katie and the Spanish Princess:  This one’s about  the pride of Spain, Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.

Katie and the Bathers: Pointilist art comes alive for Katie.  She cools down with the bathers—but floods the gallery!  What now?

Katie and the British Artists:  Katie has a magical art adventure exploring masterpieces by Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Katie and the Mona Lisa:  Katie tries to cheer La Giaconda up—with disastrous results!

Teaching ideas:

  • Choose a masterpiece and imagine what would happen if Katie stepped into it.
  • Learn more about each masterpiece Katie encounters.
  • Write or discuss alternate adventures for Katie.
  • Write a letter to Katie.  You can suggest topics (requests to become her sidekick, questions, suggestions for new adventures) or you can leave it open-ended.  Students may surprise you with their creativity.
  • Create a Katie’s Picture Show comic book.  Retell sequences from the book or create your own.
  • As a class, prepare a mini-lesson for younger students.  This could involve mini bios on the artists, listing sensory details in the paintings, or fun facts about the masterpieces.  Buddy up with a younger class and reread the book.  Then, partner students and let them present their work to the youngsters.
Posted in Academics,Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2014

 

Your Class Will Love Bruno and Boots books by Gordon Korman

I cannot recommend Bruno and Boots books highly enough!  Prolific author Gordon Korman was a seventh grader when he began writing this sorta-series about two mischievous boys at a Canadian boarding school.  Your students will love these books!!!

Bruno and Boots love to play pranks and cause trouble at their boarding school, Macdonald Hall.  Bruno is the ringleader, a wisecracking con-artist-(or lawyer)-in-the-making who loves to stir the pot.  Boots is his faithful sidekick, a realistic boy who helps Bruno with mischief but also acts as a voice of reason.  The story works because the boys are good at heart.  They love their school and they do the right thing when it counts.  They are never mean to others—they are always in it for fun and looking to recruit new jokers.

The books are great for reluctant readers, boys in particular.  Readers must be reluctant, not remedial, because these books are not simple.  The AR levels range from 4.5 for the first, shortest book to 7.0 for the longer, more complex stories.  Students who can comfortably read at the 5.0 level will be fine with all of these books.  Don’t AR block kids from these books!

Bruno and Boots make good readalouds.  Your students will be in stitches, and you will be exposing them to higher vocabulary, longer sentence structure, and more complex plots that.  Plus, there is an element of rebelliousness to reading these books aloud.  Bruno and Boots operate outside Macdonald Hall law, and it’s pretty cool for a teacher to share these mischief-making secrets with students.  You may find your students attempting Bruno and Boots style shenanigans, but don’t worry.  Real-life kids will probably not achieve the success of Bruno and Boots.

Gordon Korman was in seventh grade when he turned an English assignment into his first book, This Can’t be Happening At Macdonald Hall!  Gordon was the Scholastic Arrow Book Club monitor for his class, and clearly he felt that gave him an “in” to the publishing industry.  After completing the assignment, he mailed his manuscript to Scholastic.  They published the book when Gordon was only 14 years old.

Gordon’s high school years yielded more fun Bruno and Boots books.  He continued to revisit the characters over the years, and readers eagerly devoured new Bruno and Boots books.

Geek out with the Wikipedia page about Bruno and Boots.  You can learn all about the characters, the setting, etc.  Then, learn more about Gordon Korman at Wikipedia or at his website.

Here are the books in order.  You don’t have to read them in order, though.  I didn’t.  As a kid, I read them in the order I found them at my local used bookstore.

This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall! (AR reading level 4.5, 3 pts)

Go Jump in the Pool! (AR reading level 5.0, 5 pts )

Beware the Fish! (AR reading level 4.8, 5 pts )

The War With Mr. Wizzle (also published as The Wizzle War) (AR reading level 4.6, 7 pts)

The Zucchini Warriors (AR reading level 5.0, 7 pts)

Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood (also published as Lights, Camera, Disaster!) (AR reading level 4.7, 7 pts)

Something Fishy At Macdonald Hall (also published as The Joke’s on Us) (AR reading level 4.6, 6 pts)

 

Posted in Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Aug 23, 2013

 

A Smart Girl’s Guide: Advice Books from American Girl

knowingwhattosaySavvy girls will love the Smart Girl’s Guide series from American Girl.  Everything connected to American Girl is top quality, and the Smart Girl’s Guides are no exception.  I highly recommend them for classroom use and feel they would be excellent for the school psychologists and social worker’s lending library.

Titles abound, but the first one I read was A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation.

The books are really fun, with lots of pictures and whitespace, but ample content.  The books are easy on the eyes and relaxing to read.

…Knowing What to Say really does cover any situation.  Here are the subsections:

Small Talk (I love “25 things to say after ‘hi'”)
Asking for What You Want
Making It Right
That Hurts
Sad Times
I’m Embarrassed
Saying the Right Thing

Illustrations show students the importance of posture, body language, and facial expressions in communication.  That way, girls can make sure their nonverbal signals are on par their newfound conversational prowess.    The book is full of quizzes, simple exercises, and demonstrations.

The American Girl books are excellent, and I encourage my boys to read the fiction series.  However, these Smart Girl’s books are way too girly for boys to read with any dignity during class.  Even reading them at home is risky–the wrong kid finds out, and the boy’s rep takes a dive.

Not to worry: as a teacher, you can read the books, then teach students these tips.  (Just don’t mention your source.)  If you’re like me, you will find the books relaxing and fun to read.  You will be positively itching to share the information with students.

There are many books in the series.  Enjoy Smart Girl’s Guides to…

Boys
Liking Herself, Even on the Bad Days
Friendship Troubles
Her Parents’ Divorce: How to Land on Your Feet When Your World Turns Upside Down (American Girl)
The Internet
Knowing What to Say
Manners
Starting Middle School
Money
Parties
Staying Home Alone
Surviving Tricky, Sticky, Icky Situations
Style
Understanding Her Family

The books retail for $9.95 each*.  A smart teacher will try to get the school library fund to pay for the series, or apply for a grant—from an outside source or from the PTSO.  I really think many schools would be better for owning these books.

*They run a little cheaper at bookstores: most are about $8.95 on Amazon


 

American Girl Teaching Guides

American Girls SeriesThe American Girl series is just wonderful for introducing elementary school students to history. For each era, there is an irrepressible character with many books, games, and often even a movie to hook students on that time period. Students comprehend history lessons more easily if they can relate them to the experiences of an American Girl.

Today, the American Girl Teaching Guides! These are high-quality materials, just like everything from this company. You will find printable worksheets, easy-to-teach lessons, and ideas for connecting the books to character lessons as well as academic content.

Example: the Kit teaching guide focus on the Great Depression, giving, and resourcefulness. Worksheets encourage students to relate to Kit’s experiences with the Depression, make judgment calls about giving, conserve today’s resources by applying the lessons of the Depression, and even create their own messages in hobo code.  The materials are very high quality, and the worksheets would have taken you a while to develop. Good, time-saving stuff!

Here are the teaching guides. Each link opens a file in pdf format.

Addy: Freedom, the Civil War, and Life After Slavery

Caroline: Patriotism, Heroism, and the War of 1812

Chrissa: Bullying and How to Stop It

Felicity: Loyalty, Independence, and the Revolutionary War

Josefina: Spanish Culture and the Settlement of the Southwest

Julie: Equality, the Environment, and Facing Change

Kaya: Native American Life and the Nez Perce Tribe

Kirsten: Pioneer Life, Cultural Differences, and Helping One Another

Kit: The Great Depression, Giving, and Resourcefulness

Lanie: Animal Habitats and Observing Birds and Butterflies

Marie-Grace and Cécile: Diversity, Community, and Point of View

McKenna: Self-Esteem, Goal Setting, and Encouraging Self & Others

Molly: Cooperation, Adaptability, and Resourcefulness

Rebecca: Immigrants, Old Ways and New Ways, and Doing the Right Thing

Samantha: Innovation, Generosity, and Family


 

Fun and Educational Games on the American Girl Website

American Girls SeriesThe American Girl series of books have been so helpful in my classrooms—whether I taught 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. The books do a wonderful job of dramatizing eras in our country’s history, which helps students build a schema that helps them comprehend new content. (More simply, kids will understand a lesson about the Great Depression more easily if they read some books about Kit.)

Previously, I have written about the American Girl books and movies. Now, I want to extol the virtues of the American Girl online games.

There are games for all the American Girl characters. Some are mostly educational, others are mostly fun. All the games make students more interested in American Girl characters and books.

My best use of the American Girl online games was as an incentive for my American Girl challenge. I challenged my class to read at least one book about each of the historical characters. We set benchmarks with rewards: read 2 books and you can watch the Kit movie with the class, read 4 and we’ll watch the Felicity movie, etc.

Students who kept up also got to play the American Girl games during specially scheduled computer lab time. (Students who were behind on their reading sat in the back and read.) After one of those sessions, my students decided to get on board and do their reading so they could participate fully in the American Girl awesomeness.

Even the boys liked it! I take sexism out of it as much as I can. I tell the entire class that there is nothing like American Girl for boys, and so the girls owe it to the boys to not tease them about reading books about girls. That speech does the trick because the students understand that they have the power to create the environment they want to learn in.

There are several ways to access the games. I have listed many because they might help you create links for your class.

General access to games

Historical characters: this displays the game menus for all. Click on the girl whose era you want to teach.

Girl of the year: These are modern girls. Click on the girl for access to books, games, etc.

List of American Girls with links to their books:

Kaya 1764: a Native American Girl

Felicity Merriman , 1774: a horse-loving girl caught between Patriot and Loyalist family and friends during the American Revolution

Josefina Montoya , 1824: lives in New Mexico when it was part of Mexico

Kirsten Larson , 1854: a Swedish immigrant who settles in the Minnesota Territory

Addy Walker , 1864: a fugitive slave who escapes to Pennsylvania during the Civil War

Samantha Parkington , 1904: an orphan being raised by a wealthy family during the Victorian period

Rebecca Rubin , 1914: a Jewish girl growing up in the Lower East Side of New York City

Kit Kittredge , 1934: faces the hard times of the Great Depression

Molly McIntire , 1944: keeps the home fires burning during World War II

Julie Albright , 1974: A San Francisco girl facing the changes of the mid-1970s

Posted in Book Lists,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Dec 28, 2012

 

I’m Through! What Can I Do?

This workbook series by Creative Teaching Press helps you answer the age-old classroom management problem: kids finish work at different rates, and idle kids are naughty kids.

Each activity book is filled with thinking and learning tasks that challenge students’ reading, writing, math, and problem-solving skills. The worksheets take students the perfect amount of time: not so short that it was a waste of paper, not so long that frustration builds.

I use the I’m Through! What Can I Do! books for my Emergency Sub Plans. They are a great source of fun activities to keep kids engaged in my absence. The worksheets also make good challenges for daily classroom life.

A few ideas for using the activity books:

Put copies of the worksheets into page protectors and let kids do the worksheets with dry-erase marker or crayon. (Crayon rubs off many sheet protectors.)

Designate an area of the classroom for the Fast Finisher activity of the day.

Make things easier on yourself by not promising a daily Fast Finisher activity: set them out whenever you remember to copy a few.

Have a supply of class sets of Fast Finisher worksheets for when the class just doesn’t want to do traditional schoolwork. The half hour between a schoolwide assembly and the dismissal bell is a perfect time.

Level the Fast Finisher worksheets by using activities from books below, at and above grade level.

As you can see, there are many “I’m Through” titles to choose from.

More I’m Through, What Can I Do?, Grade 1
More I’m Through, What Can I Do?, Grade 2
More Im Through What Can I Do Grade 3
More I’m through, can do? Grade 4
Im Through What Can I -Grade 3-4 (Learning Works)
More I’m Through, What Can I Do?, Grade 5
Im Through What Can I -Grade 5-6 (Learning Works)
Learning Works I’m Through, What Can I Do? – Grade 5-8
More I’m Through! What Can I Do?, Grade 6

Posted in Book Lists,Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 8, 2012

 

Book Review: The Princess School series

The Princess School is a short-lived book series—much like a favorite TV show that gets cancelled too soon*. Authors Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines imagine that Ella, Snow, Rapunzel and Rose attend Princess School, a finishing school that teaches mirror skills, charms, how to be charming—everything a princess needs to know.

The Princess School characters are relatable and fun. There is something for everyone; think Princess Spice Girls. Rapunzel is Sporty Spice. Ella is relatable-and-spunky Ginger Spice. Snow White is Baby Spice, the girl the others protect. Rose is Posh Spice—if Posh wanted to be a normal girl rather than marry soccer star David Beckham, move to Los Angeles and start her own clothing line.

The Princess School will interest readers in third grade and up, but high-achieving second graders can handle it. The books are more difficult than Magic Tree House and similar in reading level to American Girl books. The Princess School books hover at the 5th grade reading level.

Personally, I don’t think The Princess School books are particularly difficult to read. I think the high AR reading level may have kept students from being allowed to read it for school. I see the same thing happening with Beverly Cleary books—I swear that part of the reason kids don’t read them so much nowadays is the 4-6th grade AR level on most of her books.

Here is the information on The Princess School books. Buy them on Amazon, or, better yet, see if you can convince your school library to buy them for you! Your girls will thank you.

If the Shoe Fits: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Who’s the Fairest: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Let Down Your Hair: Reading level 4.9 , worth 4 points
Beauty Is A Beast: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Princess Charming: Reading level 5.0, worth 3 points
Apple-Y Ever After: Reading level 4.8, worth 3 points
Thorn In Her Side: Reading level 5.2, worth 3 points

The The Princess School series is very different from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. The Princess School is like a fun and fluffy romantic comedy; Princess Academy is like Serious Film “Oscar bait.” Both are good—but they are very, very different.

*Prime example: Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Check it out if you haven’t already! Maybe we can bring The Princess School back in the manner that Firefly fans got the Serenity movie made.

 

Posted in Book Lists,Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 29, 2012

 

Amelia Bedelia in the Classroom

Idiom-challenged maid Amelia Bedelia has delighted children since 1963.  Who can resist a maid who doesn’t understand how to draw the drapes or put out the lights?  Amelia Bedelia’s good intentions and delicious desserts carry her through.

Interestingly enough, I have noticed that most children don’t enjoy the humor of Amelia Bedelia unless they are taught how to appreciate it.  Like Amelia Bedelia, children are very literal and they just don’t get the jokes.   I think kids enjoy Amelia Bedelia books best if they hear several of them read aloud.  That way, the students can help each other explain the idioms.  If you are lucky, one or two kids will get each joke, and they can explain them to the class.  Once the students understand Amelia Bedelia books, rereading them makes for good fluency practice.

Amelia Bedelia books are time-honored vehicles for teaching children about idioms.  This is especially helpful to English Language Learners (ELL students).  Idioms are hard to pick up—notice I used an idiom to explain the quandary.

In addition to the classic Amelia Bedelia books, your students will enjoy reading Herman Parish’s books about young Amelia Bedelia and her first experiences at school.  The books are charming and will make your students feel like seasoned vets as they chuckle over how confusing school is to young Amelia.  You can read a sample here at the Harper Collins website.

Tip for standardized test prep: it’s tough to answer a question about explaining the idiom if you don’t know what an idiom is.  Your students will face this problem unless you periodically review the meaning of words like “idiom.”  It’s easy to lose sight of vocabulary basics in fun lessons, so remember to bring the kids back to the definition.

Resources for Amelia Bedelia and Idioms

List of Amelia Bedelia books
Available at Amazon.com

Amelia Bedelia (1963) – Wiki link
Thank You, Amelia Bedelia (1964)
Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower (1966)
Come Back, Amelia Bedelia (1971)
Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia (1972)
Good Work, Amelia Bedelia (1976)
Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia (1977)
Amelia Bedelia Helps Out (1979)
Amelia Bedelia and the Baby (1981)
Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping (1985)
Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia (1986)
Amelia Bedelia’s Family Album (1988)
Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia (1995)
Bravo, Amelia Bedelia! (1997)
Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor (1999)
Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia (2002)
Amelia Bedelia and the Christmas List (2003)
Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm (2003)
Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
Amelia Bedelia Goes Back to School (2004)
Be My Valentine, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist? (2005)
Amelia Bedelia’s Masterpiece (2007)
Amelia Bedelia Under Construction (2007)
Amelia Meets Emilie Castro (2007)
Amelia Bedelia and the Cat (2008)
Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School (2009)
Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine (2009)
Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend (2011)

 

Posted in Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 3, 2012

 

Sunday is Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball

Take some time this weekend to teach your kids about Jackie Robinson, the brave man who broke the color barrier in baseball.

Every team in baseball has retired Jackie’s number, 42, and on Sunday every team will celebrate Jackie’s legacy. You might enjoy the special Jackie Robinson Day section on MLB.com. It has a biography of Jackie, interesting pictures, and videos about Jackie and his legacy.

Read some interesting books about Jackie. My favorite is Teammates by Peter Golenblock. It focuses on Jackie’s relationship with white teammate Pee Wee Reese. The moment when Pee-Wee put his arm around Jackie Robinson is one of the most memorable in baseball, up there with Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech.

You will also enjoy Jackie’s Nine: Jackie Robinson’s Values to Live By. This book will help your students apply the lessons from Jackie’s courage and wisdom to their own lives. It is written and compiled by Jackie’s daughter, Sharon Robinson.

I paid tribute to Jackie Robinson by making him the hero to Connor, the baseball-loving protagonist in my newest children’s novel, Double Switched.  Every time Connor faces a difficult decision, he thinks about how Jackie would have handled it.  Connor knows he does not always live up to the example of his role model, but ultimately he finds his personal strength and makes things right.  I hope you enjoy reading about Connor’s (hilarious) misadventures as he learns to follow Jackie’s example. (Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle editions. Read Chapter 1 here.)

Happy Jackie Robinson Day and Play Ball!

Posted in Academics,Book Lists,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Apr 13, 2012

 

Coretta Scott King Book Awards 2012

Author Award Winner:
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
by Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator.

The story is told from the viewpoint of an elderly woman who shares her life story while highlighting pivotal historical events including abolition, the Great Migration, World War II, and the Civil Rights movement.

Watch Kadir Nelson’s video description of the book:

Illustrator Award Winner:
Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom

Shane W. Evans’ effective interplay of dark and light characterizes this portrayal of a band of slaves’ nighttime escape.

Author Honor:
The Great Migration: Journey to the North
by Eloise Greenfield

Greenfield’s book describes the Great Migration of 1915-1930, when African-American families left their homes in the South and moved to the North.

Never Forgotten
by Patricia C. McKissack

Watch an interview with Patricia and Frederick McKissack, who began writing books when they decided they wanted to do something about the lack of children’s stories about African Americans.

Illustrator Honor:
Kadir Nelson was honored for his illustrations in Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Ashley Bryan, storyteller, artist, author, poet, and musician whose numerous awards include the Coretta Scott King Book Award for Let it Shine and Beautiful Blackbird.

Watch a video interview with Ashley Bryan.

From the American Library Association website: Given to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society. The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

Posted in Book Lists,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Feb 23, 2012