Thursday, February 25, 2016

Leap Year Literature

It's leap year!  This Monday is February 29th, the date that is on the calendar only once every four years.  It leaves kids (and some adults!) wondering,"Why???" The following is a collection of picture books that you might find helpful to explain the scientific reason behind leap day, as well as some fun stories about characters whose birthday is February 29th.  (Just how old are they and, more importantly, when do they celebrate?!?)


 Two illustrated nonfiction books that will explain leap year are The Leap Year Book by Barbara Sutton-Smith



 and   What in the world is a Leap Year?: And Other Time Related Measurements by Desiree Bussiere.


I have also found several fiction books about characters born on February 29th that include an explanation of why their birthday is only on the calendar every four years.  Two that you and your students might enjoy are  It's My Birthday Finally! by Michelle Whitaker Winfrey,



Happy Leap Day, and, as always, happy reading!

Monday, February 22, 2016

World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day is coming soon!  It will be celebrated on February 24, 2016.


The website for the event has great resources for teachers and parents, including lists of great read aloud books.

One of my favorite books to read aloud is Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco.  I often read it at the beginning of school year because its message is about the importance of reading, the role books play in our lives, and the consequences of our actions. Patricia Polacco delivers an amusing cautionary tale that carries an important message, without seeming heavy-handed. Students always loved this book, and would continue to talk about it and choose to re-read it independently throughout the rest of the school year.



 I have used Patricia Polacco's books as mentor texts for writing lessons for personal narratives, and plan to share some of those lessons soon! However, this story is a change from her usual style and fits more into the tall tale genre.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Books 10 for 10

This morning I was alerted to the fact that today is the "10 for 10 Nonfiction Picture Book Event"#nf10for10, sponsored by Cathy Mere on her blog "Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community".


I perused my collection of picture books for some favorites. The following are 10 picture books that  I have used  in my teaching career for lessons across the curriculum, including science, math and social studies, as well as to teach the 6 Traits and specific author craft moves.


1.   Amazing Impossible Erie Canal by Cheryl Harness


As a forth grade teacher in Western New York, this book was always a part of our Social Studies curriculum.  As I revisited this favorite text, the wonderful word choice stands out in the author's description of the "tantalizing West" as "Settlers' wagons jolted miserably down roads that had once been Indian trails."
2. Liberty by Lynn Curlee

This narrative nonfiction text is the story of the Statue of Liberty.  It includes illustrations and diagrams that show how Lady Liberty was built.  The "Specifications" chart is sure to interest readers.  (Did you know the size of her fingernail is 13 x 10 inches?) There is also a time line at the end of the book, from 1865 when the idea for the great statue is born to when its restoration is complete in 1986.



3. Everything Weather by Kathy Furgang with National Geographic Explorer Tim Samaras

4.  Whiteout! A book About Blizzards by Rick Thomas



These three books were used as mentors in a  Nonfiction Research Reading Unit of Study with fourth graders, based on the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Units of Study.  We focused on books about extreme weather, which fascinated the kids!  I used the two books on blizzards to model the work the students would do as they researched tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, and tsunamis.  Why blizzards, you may ask?  We are in Western New York, of course! Also, I was only 6 years old but I do remember the Blizzard of '77!

6.  Satchel Paige by Lesa Cline-Ransome
This biography of baseball legend Satchel Paige is sure to inspire students.  The first paragraph is a fantastic example of a strong lead.

7.  Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins
The main text is simple, therefore inviting to novice readers and writers. More experienced readers and writers are also fascinated by the amazing facts and the details given in the captions.  Student writers can use this as a mentor for presenting information on several examples of a main topic.  For example, students may use this same format to present their research on a Social Studies topic such as "tools of the Iroquois."

8.  Twizzlers Percentages Book by Jerry Pallotta
Strong voice in a book about a difficult math concept!  What's not to love?

9. How to Hide a Meadow Frog and Other Amphibians by Ruth Heller

I love the lyrical  verse of this book.  It is full of interesting facts that engage readers of all ages!  A great resource for both Science lessons as well as any lesson on adding voice to nonfiction writing.
A great lesson is to contrast this with an encyclopedia article so students can hear the difference and gain a better understanding of the trait of voice.
It is also a great example for teaching the trait of sentence fluency.

10.  Many Luscious Lollipops by Ruth Heller

The beautiful illustrations and playful rhymes of Ruth Heller's books about the parts of speech are a great way to launch any grammar lesson!