By Barbara Samuels
AR Reading Level 2.9; 0.5 points
Available from Amazon.com
Summary: Dolores is a cat lover and recognized by her classmates as an expert. Then Hillary comes to class. With her Siamese cat and awesome cat projects, she steals all Dolores’s thunder. Dolores tries to make her cat cool, and her sister tells her “Let Duncan be Duncan.” Eventually, Duncan saves the day when Hillary’s cat gets stuck in a King Tut cat maze.
Activities: This book is a good Read-Aloud for grades K-1 and an independent read for grades 2-4. The messages of self acceptance and realizing a rival can be a friend are valuable. The book is excellent for predicting: the resolution makes sense, but it isn’t obvious and kids will keep guessing until the end.
One major benefit of reading aloud is introducing your child to new vocabulary. The vocabulary we use in everyday conversation is small compared to the number of words in English language. Everyday conversation is not enough to give your child a sophisticated vocabulary.
When you choose stories to read with your child, consider reading the stories that are above your child’s reading level. Your child can listen at a much higher level than she can read herself. By reading aloud from more difficult books, you expose your child to new vocabulary words.
How you address new vocabulary and the story isn’t as important as the reading aloud itself. You can stop the story briefly to explain a word. You can keep reading and let your child determine the meaning from context. You can teach your child to ask questions for clarification of vocabulary words.
Some examples of higher-level Read-Alouds:
Kindergartners will enjoy Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary’s chapter book about a spunky kindergartner. (AR level 5.1, 4 points)
First through third graders will enjoy listening to the Harry Potter series, which is probably above their grade level. (AR level 5.5 and up, 12-44 points each)
Fourth grade students and up may not be able to read Tom Sawyer for themselves, but they will enjoy hearing about his exploits. (AR level 8.1, 12 points)
Many elementary classrooms can become cold on any given day, even when it’s hot outside. Sometimes air-conditioning gets chilly. Floors can be cold. How can kids focus on grammar when they’re shivering?
In my classroom, I have a bin stocked with a dozen frequently laundered sweatshirts. The kids love feeling cared-for, not to mention warm, when they wear the class sweatshirts. The kids love to cuddle up with the sweatshirts on a reading day, when the whole school is assigned an afternoon dedicated to reading books.
Our sweatshirt collection builds community. My students always tell the new kids about our sweatshirts right away.
In the classroom, kids don’t care about whether the sweatshirts fit. They love to curl up their knees under big sweatshirts. I stocked my bin with sweatshirts from home. I don’t stock sweatshirts with logos or images that could be offensive.
Build your own sweatshirt bin: Request donations from families or buy a few gently worn sweatshirts from from a thrift store or garage sale. Another source of sweatshirts is the school’s lost-and-found pile—minutes before the remainders are packed up for donation. (Don’t raid the lost-and-found pile without permission!)
Some teachers don’t like the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, but I think it’s great!
Of course, I’m aware that Captain Underpants is not great literature. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great read. What other books combine prose, comics, and do-it-yourself animation (Flip-O-Rama) with action and potty humor?
Captain Underpants is a gateway book. It turns reluctant readers into chapter book readers. The Captain Underpants series is relatively short, so a child will devour the series quickly. Once the child runs out of new Captain Underpants books, he’ll want to read other fun chapter books.
Captain Underpants turns lower-level readers into upper-level readers. Once children reach the fourth grade reading level, they are ready for Captain Underpants. They will feel so special because Captain Underpants books can go as high as the 5.5 reading level. Children who would never consider reading a 5.5 level book will break this rule for a Captain Underpants book. Once Captain Underpants has built confidence, the child feels ready for more difficult books.
Tip: I don’t set out Captain Underpants books with the rest of my classroom library. I hold these books back. Children get to read Captain Underpants books only when they read at the fourth grade level. This is very motivating in a third-grade classroom. Children will read, read, read in order to become better readers so they can read the Captain Underpants series.
The Captain Underpants series is great!
Cell phones in elementary school do not create the same issues that cell phones create in high schools. However, I would caution parents to research their school district’s cell phone policy before sending a cell phone to school. Some districts insist that parents sign a form before their child is allowed to bring a cell phone to school.
I like the safety benefits of having multiple communication options in the event of an emergency. My experience is that kids are very careful to keep cell phones in their backpacks so they don’t get lost.
With fifth graders, I had very few problems with cell phones. Most children used their cell phones only to communicate with parents after school. Communicating with other students via cell phone during class was not a big issue, but it did happen on occasion.
In third grade, cell phones seem to be mostly for helping working and single parents communicate with their child. I have allowed upset children to call their parents during recess or lunch — it helps! If a parent calls their child during school hours, I figure it must be very important.
Texting from a cell phone can be quite a different situation. It is very easy for children to text in class; even elementary school students text their friends. Parents might want to think twice about enabling this feature on a kid’s cell phone.
by Ann McCallum
Available at Amazon.com
Summary: This book is a twist on Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack climbs the beanstalk to meet a young giant, Ray. Ray and Jack become friends, and play all sorts of games together. They use ratios to make the games work for boy and giant. They create a hoop for Jack proportionate to Ray’s hoop for a toss game. Jack constructs a checkers game Ray can play. They describe all this to Jack’s mom and explain what they were doing: “Ray shows” – ratios.
Activities: I would use this as a Read-Aloud for grades 4-6. For sixth grade, where ratios are part of the curriculum, I would use it to teach the subject. I might use it for a math lesson for mathematically advanced fifth graders.