Saturday, September 27, 2014

Apple Books for Toddlers and Preschool

1. Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell

This book is great to use as a preview or review of a visit to an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch. Let kids tell you about what they see in the pictures as you read. When my daughter and I read this we also painted an apple and pumpkin. 

2. Apple Farmer Annie - Monica Wellington

This book follows apple farmer Annie as you grows apples in her orchard to selling her apple products at a farmer's market. I enjoyed reading this book on the days we would visit the farmer's market. It was a great way to build on our conversation at the market and as we drove home. The font in this book was also very toddler friendly. 

3. Apples by Gail Gibbons
This book was a little more advanced but the detailed pictures allow for great discussion on the types and parts of an apple. This would be a great book to use alongside an apple tasting. You could use the tasting as an introduction into opinions, data collection, and graphing. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Great Books to Start Your School Year

There's nothing better than a good book to kick start the school year!  Books can set teacher expectations, model writing lessons, and motivate students to read.  I have gathered my favorite school year starters and presented ideas to use for the teaching standards while enjoying the story.

1. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg (K-5th Grade)

I love irony. It's the ironic story that sticks with me. This picture book finds a way to connect to everyone in the classroom that first day of school. 
A. For a pre reading strategy have students jot down (on post-it notes or with a chalk talk) what makes them nervous on the first day of school. You may want to share these before you read. A great way to get the students moving is to make a target in your reading area on the floor. Read each post-it note aloud.  Students who stand in the middle are really nervous about that thing. In the second ring they are kind of nervous and the third ring it's no big deal to them. This is a great way for you to get a quick assessment of the personalities in your classroom. I always find that if I participate and let my students know what makes me nervous then they are more honest with their fears and worries. You can always ask students to explain why something is a big deal to them or not that big of a deal. 
B. Completing a story map as you read the book can help preview or review the story elements.
C. Journal Writing Ideas:
1. What was your first day of school like today?
2. Have you ever been new to a school?  Describe your fears and worries.
3. Opinion Piece - Do you think teachers really get nervous about the first day of school?  Why or why not?

2. There's A Boy in the Girls's Bathroom by Louis Sachar (3rd-5th Grade)

This is a great chapter book to help students discuss how to get along with others. Louis Sachar does an excellent job of developing the characters in this book.  Most students can identify with the traits of the students in this book and understand the frustrations.
A. Create a character chart of each of the main characters in the book.  List traits of these characters.  (You may want to do a mini-lesson on character traits as a preview or review).  As you read have the students suggest ways they could deal with the issues presented by the characters.
B. Play charades of some ways to handle situations in the classroom.  (Ex: Someone bumps into you.  Someone hurts your feelings.  Someone moves away.)

3. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (3rd-5th Grade)

This is the perfect book to kick off a year long poetry unit. The narrator is a boy who doesn't like poetry, however he comes to love and appreciate it.  This book is good to use at the beginning of the year because it doesn't have a lot of words.  I always found poetry to be the best way to start the year and assess my students reading and writing abilities without the stress of reading a lot of words (especially in 4th and 5th grade).  Another great thing about this book is it is written in free verse and for students who have trouble reading, this is great!  Why?  Because there are no rules!
1. Have students keep a summary journal where they reflect or retell what you read that day.  Have them write the reflection in free verse style.
2. Study the poems that were used and are located in the back of the novel.
3. Kick off a poem of the day activity.
4. Use along with a poetry unit.  Check out my second, third, fourth, and fifth grade units on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

4. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (1st-5th Grade)

This is my all time favorite book. I have read it aloud to students from first through fifth grade. I would have thought a story about a china doll rabbit would not interest my boys, but the journey of Edward Tulane brings in all of my students. I have recommended this book to many other teachers and they say their students are immediately drawn in.
A. For second and third grade this would be a great book to make a story map.
B. You could also look at the sequence of events  as both readers or at looking at how to organize a story to write.
C. With the upper grades I uses this to introduce theme. It doesn't take long for students to understand that this book is trying to teach us to love and think of others. And of course a book where the ending makes your students gasp is always a huge bonus!
D. I also found this great FREE resource online at

5. My Garden by Kevin Henkes (K-3rd Grade)

The beginning of this book is pretty realistic and then the imagination of the narrator takes us into a garden that is truely her alone.  
A. This a great book to use for a beginning of the year writing lesson.  Students can write about what they might find in their garden.  I found that this was a great piece of writing to allow for students to add artwork and complete pretty quickly.  I typically used this as the first writing piece I posted for a display of student work. 
B. Use this book to begin an author study on Kevin Henkes.  I am still amazed at how many different populations of students love Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

6. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sacher (2nd-5th Grade)

The characters in this book are ones your students will love. The great thing about this book is you don't have to read it in order to follow what is happening. I find each time I read this book all my extra copies get checked out. Many times this is the dollar book in the Scholastic book orders.
A. This is a great book to use for character traits. You can create a chart with adjectives describing each character.
B. Teach students how to summarize by modeling (with student help) writing summaries of each character.  At the end of the book, students could make trading cards of their favorite character. On the front draw a picture of the character.  On the back list character traits and have the students write their own summary of the chapter.  Remind students that summaries are not long and only focus on the important points.  

7. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (4th-5th Grade)

I'm am not a science fiction lover. The only other scifi I really enjoyed was A Wrinkle In Time. And lucky for me the main character of this book always keep a copy of it with her. A book to motivate and keep you students on the edge of their seats.
A. Just read and enjoy. The book itself will keep students engaged and spark discussions.
B. Read back to back with A Wrinkle In Time and compare and contrast the stories.
C. Record characters, setting, and plot with specific details.  

8. Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos  (3rd-5th Grade)

I loved the audiobook version of this story. The author is the reader and he makes Joey jump off the page! In my opinion the best audiobooks are the ones read by the author. They know the characters better than anyone.  Joey works really hard at being his best, but spending the summer with his dad makes it really hard.  The dad is this book has a drinking problem, so you may want a heads up on this topic in case questions arise.
A. This would be a great book to use along with There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom.  Students could compare and contrast Joey and Bradley.
B. Several sections of this book show the worries and anxiety of Joey.  This would be a great chance to discuss ways to deal with worry.  Create a chart or slide with student suggestions of how Joey could/does deal with worry.  Health seems to have taken the backseat in the curriculum these days.  With more and more pressure put on some students this would be an important talk for students.  

If you need time to squeeze in running records or organize all of the paperwork coming in, preview the audiobook of each of these books and let an actor read aloud. I always found adding some audiobooks allowed my students to hear more readers so they could enhance their fluency and expression.