Monday, September 29, 2008

Nonfiction Monday - An Island Grows

The Hawaiian islands, the Galapagos, Iceland, the Marianas, and more. What do these places have in common? They are all islands that are volcanic in origin. The book An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead, tells the story of an island's formation in simple rhymed couplets.

Here is how it begins.
Deep, deep
beneath the sea . . .

Stone breaks.
Water quakes.

Magma glows.
Volcano blows.
The first double-page spread shows a calm, flat, ocean. Three-quarters of the page is sky, with only the bottom quarter showing water. When readers turn the page they find just the opposite. The view is now under the water, with the sky the setting for the verse. In beautiful collage illustrations the verse is made real. Readers see that first stone crack, with just a hint of glowing red magma. The facing page reveals another crack and waves of water reacting to the shaking earth. The magma glows page is focused on a small illustration with lots of white space surrounding it. This makes the transition to the erupting volcano even more explosive, as the page is covered with the rocks and debris shooting out of it.

As the lava flows ... an island grows. Readers see how the volcanic rock grows and is then weathered by wind and water. Soon the island begins to sprout, as seeds carried on the wind take root and grow. As plant life emerges, insects and birds arrive. As the island begins to thrive, it soon appears on a sailor's map. The island continues to grow, and soon it is settled and home to many.

Here is how it ends.
Busy island in the sea, where only water used to be.
Then, one day, not far away,

deep, beneath the sea,
a volcano blows,
and lava flows.
Another island grows.
The final page provides a more detailed description of the geology of volcanic island formation. A short biography is also included.

Everything in this book works just right. The text and illustrations come together beautifully to make this concept accessible for young readers. I highly recommend this stunning book.

Book: An Island Grows
Lola Schaefer
Cathie Felstead
Greenwillow Books
Publication Date:
40 pages
Source of Book: Personal copy purchased at a local independent bookstore.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Acrostic

I've posted a few stretches this month, but only one brave soul seems to be joining me each week. Please come back and join me/us!

Since fall is much on my mind, I thought it would be fun to write poems about fall. But wait! These won't be just any poems about fall, but acrostic poems about this lovely season. Here is an example. This poem comes from Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, written by Steven Schnur and illustrated by Leslie Evans.
From the window the
Rows of
Orange pumpkins
Seem clothed in
Thin white shawls.
So, what kind of acrostic will you write for fall? Pick a word that sings autumn and write away. Then leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results later this week.

P.S. - Thanks to Elaine for her poetry Friday inspiration!

Monday Miscellany - Awards, Links and a Photo Op

While much of the kidlitosphere gathered in Portland on Saturday for the 2nd Annual Kidlit Bloggers Conference, I spent the day with a group of preservice and inservice teachers leading a workshop. I had great fun, but probably not as much as those reporting on the events from Portland. The good news is that Kidlit '09 will be held in D.C., sometime before the National Book Festival. (Will we even HAVE a festival next year once Laura Bush is gone?)

Some very kind people have bestowed awards on this blog. Recently, Just One More Book!!, and Blue Rose Girl Elaine awarded The Miss Rumphius Effect the I *Heart* Your Blog Award.
Way back in July (when I was on vacation), I received two awards that I just learned about/remembered while reading old post comments and Technorati links. I'm so sorry I missed these! The amazing Anastasia Suen selected TMRE for an Arte y pico award.
And how cool is this? Becky from In the Pages (one of my fellow Cybils judges) awarded TMRE this award.
All of these awards ask that you pass the honors on, but because I read so many great blogs, and since most have already been tapped for these awards, I'm simply going to say thank you so much for reading TMRE and making me a part of this wonderful community.

Morning Linkage

I had a "parking lot" moment yesterday morning. While I should have been heading into Stir Crazy for some tea and a scone while William was in Sunday School class, I was instead listening to this great interview with Dar Williams on NPR. And yes, I promptly went to iTunes and bought her new album. The interview was THAT good.

Yesterday's episode of This American Life included a story about the Harlem Children's Zone. Anyone interested in kids, education, literacy and/or raising children out of poverty needs to listen to this.

The last two episodes at The Classics Tales Podcast have been The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. You can still listen to Part One and Part Two.

A Photo Op
Finally, a picture of my son in his new specs. Genes are an amazing thing. I'm just sorry he couldn't escape the one for nearsightedness he inherited from both his parents. He did pick out his own frames and seems quite happy with them, so all's well that ends well. (Until they get broken or lost, of course!)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Fruits of Fall

While students across the country are studying apples and pumpkins, I thought this might be an appropriate time to recommend some of my favorite titles for use in the classroom. Since my interest here tends more towards the historic and scientific, you'll find that this list is largely focused on the growing and harvesting of these fruits. (Please note that I have not included any titles about Johnny Appleseed. That's another list entirely!)

Apples, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons - From blossom to pollination to picking, this book presents information about how apples grow, their various parts, and the different varieties. Instructions on how to plant and care for an apple tree are included.

The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree
, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons - In this story, Arnold and his dog play in and around their apple tree throughout the year. In the spring they build a swing and smell the apple blossoms, in summer they build a tree house, in fall they rake leaves and pick apples, and in winter they build a fort.

How Do Apples Grow?, written by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Guilio Maestro - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science series presents the growth of an apple from blossom to fruit.

The Apple Pie Tree, written by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern - An apple tree grows through the seasons, providing fruit for a pie in the fall. The seasonal growth is described by two sisters who closely watch the tree in their back yard. In addition to learning about the growth cycle of the tree, readers learn about the role of bees and the weather in the production of the fruit.

Apples, written by Jacqueline Farmer and illustrated by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes - This book examines how apples are grown and harvested, covering some basic botany concepts (parts of the flower and pollination) and more sophisticated ones (grafting) along the way. A terrifically organized and illustrated chart of apple varieties is included. Readers can also find facts about apples, apple world records and a recipe for apple pie.

The Life and Times of the Apple, written by Charles Micucci - This book presents a variety of facts about apples, including how they grow, crossbreeding and grafting techniques, harvesting practices, and the uses, varieties, and history of this popular fruit.

Autumn is for Apples written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Denise and Fernando - When the weather turns cool and crisp, a family visits an apple orchard enjoys some freshly picked apples. Written in rhyming text, the story is told from the point of view of a child who describes the trip.

Apples, Apples, Apples, written by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace - Follow the rabbit family on a trip to Long Hill Orchard as they learn about how apples grow before picking their own. There is much to be found in a close examination of the pictures, as the cut paper collage illustrations hold hidden facts and riddles.

The Pumpkin Book, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons - This book explains how pumpkins are planted, cultivated and harvested. Also included is an appendix with a mix of information, including facts about pumpkin history, directions for drying pumpkins seeds, the nutritional value of the fruit, and more.

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas - When a teacher brings three pumpkins of varying sizes to class, students are challenged to guess how many seeds each one contains. Will the largest have the most? Or is there some other factor that determines how many seeds are in a pumpkin? Read this book to find the answers. For more information, read my review of the book.

Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden, written by George Levenson with photographs by Shmuel Thaler - Accompanied by vibrant photographs, this book documents the life cycle of a pumpkin from seedling to sprout, bud, bloom and fruit. The process comes full circle when the fruit breaks down into rich soil, from which seeds sprout again. You can learn how this title can be used in the classroom from this book review.

From Seed to Pumpkin, written
by Wendy Pfeffer and illustrated by James Graham Hale - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science series explains how pumpkins develop from seed to fruit. Also discussed is how the plant how the plant obtains and distributes water and nutrients.

Pumpkins, written and illustrated by Ken Robbins - This book highlights the life cycle of the pumpkin with gorgeous photographs and clear, concise text. Readers will also learn that pumpkins come in a variety of sizes and colors.

It's Pumpkin Time!, written by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern - A brother and sister begin the work of preparing for Halloween in the spring, when they dig, plant, water and tend to their pumpkin. Now all they must do is wait!

Pumpkins, written by Jacqueline Farmer and illustrated by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes - This book introduces the life cycle of the pumpkin, along with pumpkin facts, history and legends. The final pages describe pumpkin world records, words for pumpkin in other languages, and some useful web sites.

It's a Fruit, It's a Vegetable, It's a Pumpkin, written by Allan Fowler - This book in the Rookie Read-About Science series
describes what a pumpkin is (fruit or vegetable?), includes some history, and describes how pumpkins are used for Halloween. Written for early readers, most pages have only two or three sentences in large font and are accompanied by photographs. A pictorial glossary is included.

Pumpkin Day!, written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace - While a rabbit family visits Pumpkin Hollow Farm to select pumpkins for cooking, decorating, and carving, they learn about how the fruits grow. Facts and riddles appear on signs scattered throughout the illustrations. The cut paper collage illustrations add to the appeal of this book that nicely mixes fact and fiction.

Apples, Pumpkins and Poetry
Autumnblings, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian - Included among these 29 poems about fall you'll find selections for apples and pumpkins.

Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, written by Steven Schnur and illustrated by Leslie Evans - Written in acrostic form, this book describes the sights and sounds of fall from A to Z. Accompanied by beautiful linoleum block prints, readers will find ripe apples and pumpkins here.

Apples and Pumpkins, written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell - In this book, readers follow a family on a trip to an apple orchard/pumpkin patch where they pick the fruit. Later we see them carve the pumpkin and greet trick or treaters.

Picking Apples and Pumpkins, written by Amy Hutchings with photographs by Richard Hutchings - This book follows a family as they take a trip to a New Jersey farm to pick apples and pumpkins. Beautiful photographs also show the family eating a picnic, baking a pie, and carving their pumpkins.

Additional Resources
If I've missed one of your favorite books about apples or pumpkins, please let me know. I'd be happy to add it to the list.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Poetry Friday Is Here!

**I know all you early birds thought I'd forgotten you. Let's just say that my brain took a little vacation and set the publish date for 9-27. Ummm.... that would be tomorrow. Sorry folks! I am truly the absent-minded professor today.

This week I'm sharing a bit of Emily Dickinson. This poem comes from Part One: Life of her Complete Poems.
Our share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,
Our blank in bliss to fill,
Our blank in scorning.

Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.
Here a mist, and there a mist,
There is no Mr. Linky here, so please leave me a comment about your entry and I'll round up posts throughout the day.

Book Reviews
Shelf Elf gives us a review of the poetry book Hip Hop Speaks to Children.

Jill at the Well-Read Child gives us her review of the verse novel T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte.

Mark and Andrea at Just One More Book have given us a review of the book The Noisy Airplane Ride and dedicated it to everyone heading off to the Second Annual KidLit Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Kelly Fineman of Writing and Ruminating also shares her review of Hip Hop Speaks to Children.

Over at Poetry for Children, Sylvia Vardell reviews two new poetry books--Gary Soto’s Partly Cloudy; Poems of Love and Longing and Pat Mora's Join Hands! The Ways We Celebrate Life.

Original Poems
Greg K. has written another one of his Oddaptations. This one is for Where's Waldo?

Laura Salas shares an original poem entitled Written in the Stars, as well as the results of this week's fifteen words or less picture poetry challenge.

Linda Kulp at Write Time gives us an original autumn cinquain entitled Contemplation.

Debbie Diesen of Jumping the Candlestick shares her very funny poem entitled Not While You're Living on My Roof.

Ellsworth's writer (Candice Ransom) shares the heartfelt poem September 2008.

Elaine of Wild Rose Reader shares a fall acrostic entitled Maple.

Shelia at the Greenridge Chronicles shares a poetry lesson and the results.

Julie Larios at The Drift Record shares an original poem entitled Natural Curiosity, as well as the Hayden Carruth poem The Cows at Night.

ebin_5446 at Amy, Aaron and the mini-Wheats shares an untitled original.

Other Poems
Little Willow shares Beginning by James Wright.

Stacey at Two Writing Teachers shares some Rainer Marie Rilke.

Mary Lee at A Year of Reading shares The Little Ways That Encourage Good Fortune by William Stafford.

Jama Rattigan is thinking politics (sort of!) and shares The Exquisite Candidate by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seatonby.

Janet at Across the Page shares the poem Please Hear What I Am Not Saying by Charles C. Finn.

Lisa at A Little of This, a Little of That shares us a cento. The poem was "arranged " by Richard Thompson, but the words are all George W. Bush. The poem is entitled Make the Pie Higher.

TadMack from Finding Wonderland shares the words of a character from the 1859 novel A Life for a Life by the English writer Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.

Jone (Ms. Mac) at Check It Out is also in today with a short poem by Emily Dickinson. (Great minds think alike, no?)

Sarah from Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering gives us the John Updike poem September.

Over at the Blue Rose Girls, Elaine shares the poem After Apple Picking by Robert Frost.

Diane from The Write Sisters shares the Valerie Worth poem lunchbox.

Karen Edmisten is in with the Wordsworth poem Surprised by Joy.

Yat-Yee Chong gives us a lovely poem by Valerie Bloom entitled Autumn Gilt.

In honor of T.S. Eliot's birthday, Sherry at Semicolon shares the poem Hysteria.

Becky at Farm School is also thinking Frost and apples, though her selection is The Cow in Apple Time.

Monica at educating alice is in with the stirring J. Patrick Lewis poem The Innocent.

Becky of Becky's Book Reviews is sharing two Dracula poems by Douglas Florian.

Liz Scanlon from Liz in Ink shares Robert Herrick's poem To Music: A Song.

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti gives us Kenn Nesbitt's poem If School Were More Like Baseball.

Miss Erin is in with Sleeplessness by Peter Leithart.

Michelle at Scholar's Blog shares a portion of Samuel Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Jennie of Biblio File shares a little Ogden Nash with A Drink With Something In It.


Over at the Shady Glade, Alyssa shares the lyrics to All I Need by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband.

Em from Em's Bookshelf gives us the lyrics to She Will Be Loved by Adam Levine, James Valentine, Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, Ryan Dusick.

Barbara at Stray Thoughts shares the words to the hymn Thy Sea is Great, Our Boats Are Small.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Newbery Library Exhibit on Children's Books

This Saturday an exhibit entitled Artifacts of Childhood: 700 Years of Children's Books will open at the Newberry Library.
Artifacts of Childhood: 700 Years of Children's Books explores the Newberry's little-known collection of books and manuscripts created for and by children. The exhibition showcases aspects of the interaction between children and books and includes approximately 65 works, drawn from the Library's collection of thousands of children's books in more than 100 languages, from the fifteenth century to the present.
The exhibit is co-curated by Paul Gehl and the kidlitosphere's very own Jenny Schwartzberg. (Who also just happens to have hosted this month's Carnival of Children's Literature.)

You can read more about it in the Chicago Tribune article, Newberry Exhibit to Showcase Children's Books. You can also visit the Newberry Library site for more information. The exhibit runs through January 17, 2009.

Congratulations, Jenny!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Book Reviews - Earth Science

Over at Open Wide, Look Inside my students have been reviewing books that connect to the teaching of science. Each of their posts includes a brief summary of a book, curriculum connections, links for some supporting resources, and general information about the book.

This week the focus is earth science. You'll find some poetry (2 books!) a Caldecott winner, a Magic School Bus classic title, and many more. In addition to this week's selections, other areas of focus have been:
The next two weeks will be devoted to practice teaching and a workshop on Ag in the Classroom, so there won't be any book reviews for a while. Please stop by and take a look at these last reviews for science. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Review - Johnny Appleseed

My son's class has been studying apples for the last two weeks. The unit culminates on Friday with a big celebration. Since Friday (September 26th) is Johnny Appleseed's birthday, it is only appropriate that this is the day they devote entirely to apples.

I received a copy of Jane Yolen's new book, Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth, in the mail today. I suppose I should wait until Friday to write this, but since I want to put the book in the hands of my son's teacher for their big day, I'm highlighting this extraordinary work now.

How about we play a game of "fact or fiction" before we begin? Let's see how much you know (or think you do) about Johnny Appleseed.
  • Johnny Appleseed was born in Ohio.
  • Johnny Appleseed's father was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.
  • Johnny Appleseed was a farmer's apprentice as a young man.
  • Johnny Appleseed planted trees as far west as California.
  • Johnny Appleseed planted the first U.S. apple trees.
  • Johnny Appleseed's real name was John Chapman.
Who was Johnny Appleseed? Legends and tall tales abound, but when it comes to separating fact from fiction, answers aren't always easy to find. In Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Jim Burke, Yolen explores the myth and brings some of that elusive truth to light.

Accompanied by a full page illustration (sometimes a double-page spread) is what looks like a page from a book. Each of these "pages" contains a portion of a poem on Johnny Appleseed, as well as a lyrical telling of Chapman's story. This section is labeled The History. Along the bottom of each page is a third bit of information in a section labeled The Fact. This last section expands on the history presented on the page. Here is how the poem begins.
Apple blossoms
Tap the sill,
Welcome baby
With a will,
Johnny, Johnny Appleseed.

Comes from a line
Of apple men,
Who sow and grow
And crop and tend.
Johnny, Johnny Appleseed.
The history section describes Chapman's birth, his early life (his father did fight in the Revolutionary War), education and apprenticeship (to a local farmer where he worked in the fields and with apple trees). As a grown man, Chapman converted to the Swedenborgian religion and became a missionary, spreading the word of God and apple seeds. Chapman began planting seeds in Pennsylvania. From his orchards he sold seedling trees to families moving west. When Pennsylvania became too crowded, he too went west, planting trees in Ohio and Indiana. Chapman never married, living most of his life alone, though he did spend some time with his half-sister Persis and her family. Here is how The History concludes.
Johnny looks like a poor old peddler,
but perhaps that is part of a plan,
for when he travels, he often
carries a great deal of money.
And then one day, going to Indiana
through the cold and rain,
he hears that cows have broken
through one of his orchard fences.
He walks fifteen miles to fix it.
Chapman contracts pneumonia and dies, having been a tireless farmer who lived nearly 71 years.

The story of Chapman told in these pages is one that is both fascinating and inspiring. The reading was enhanced tremendously by the facts that accompany the history. For example, readers learn that Chapman actually left much property when he died. He owned a gray horse, 15,000 apple trees and 2,000 seedlings in orchards in Indiana and Ohio (800 acres), as well as two town lots. However, the facts tell us that most of his estate was eaten up by bills and a greedy lawyer. In the end, his half-sister received only $165.95.

The first time I read the book through, I focused only on the poem, which I greatly enjoyed. The book could even be read this way with small children. The illustrations are stunning and quite nicely support and extend the poem and history. A pair of hands holding apple seeds is pictured against the backdrop of American quilt patterns. The opposing page features this piece of the poem, "Planting trees/Is quite an art./He plants the apples/With his heart./Johnny, Johnny Appleseed." The history section describes Chapman's early planting efforts.

The book ends with a note entitled Everyone Loves a Legend. In it, Yolen describes some of the legends that have arisen from Chapman's story, highlighting some of the more fanciful ideas. In it she says:
Legends are like that. They take over the real life story. But John Chapman--Johnny Appleseed or Appleseed John, as he was alternately called--led a life that was in some ways even greater than the legends.
Yolen has done much in this book to help readers understand and appreciate the real truth about John Chapman and his legacy. This is a beautiful book both in word and illustration. It deserves a place on your bookshelf and in your study of apples, legends, and American heroes. I highly recommend it.

Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth
Jane Yolen
Jim Burke
Publication Date:
August 2008
32 pages
Source of Book: Review copy received from Raab Associates.

**If you're looking for answers to the quiz they are: fiction, fact, fact, fiction, fiction, fact.

Well Hello Cybils NFPB!

It's that time of year again. On October 1st, the Cybils opens for nominations. I am very lucky to be a member of a judging panel again this year. Even though I'll miss my fellow judges from last year who have moved on to other panels or different judging roles, I am thrilled that I get to work with a new group of amazing bloggers. Here's the scoop on nonfiction picture books.

Our esteemed organizer: Fiona Bayrock at Books and 'Rocks

Becky Bilby at In the Pages
David Judge at Adventures at Wilder Farm
Jone MacCulloch at Check It Out
Debbie Nance at Readerbuzz

Fiona Bayrock at Books and 'Rocks
Andrea Beaty at Three Silly Chicks
Emily Mitchell at Emily Reads
Candice Ransom at Ellsworth's Journal
Andrea Ross at Just One More Book

I'm hoping we'll have a slew of amazing books to review and report on, with the outcome being a small group of outstanding finalists that will give those round two judges a whole lot to talk about. Three cheers for a process that ultimately makes the work of the round two judges really, really hard!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Destructive Forces

I'm preparing for a class this week on teaching earth science in the elementary grades. Right now I'm focused on constructive and destructive forces, as well as weather. As part of the lesson, I plan on sharing the USGS photos on coastal change hazards due to hurricanes and extreme storms. Here's a photo taken near McFaddin Wildlife Refuge, TX, on September 9, 2008 (top) and September 15, 2008, two days after landfall of Hurricane Ike (bottom). Yellow arrows mark features that appear in each image.
This type of devastation reminds me a bit of this event, another I'll be including in my lecture/discussion.

Writing Prompts for Teachers

Not only do I teach my students about reading across the curriculum, but we also talk about the value of writing to learn and how it can be used to enhance understanding. My preservice teachers are big on journaling in math and like for their students to keep experimental journals in science.

In looking for some writing prompt resources recently, I came across this amazing collection of prompts from The Teacher's Corner. Here is the overview from the site.

As always, The Teacher’s Corner is looking for ways to make your life easier. We hope that our newest addition, “Daily Writing Prompt,” does just that. On as many days as possible, we have selected an event from our monthly event calendars to be the focus of the writing prompt. Our “Daily Writing Prompt” resources can be used in a number of ways:

  • Daily warm-up activity
  • Practice in prompt writing for state assessments
  • Daily/weekly writing prompt
  • “Anytime” activity
  • Student work center
  • “When You’re Done” activity
  • Substitute teacher activity

One added advantage to TTC’s “Daily Writing Prompt” is that they can easily be displayed through an LCD projector in your classroom. This eliminates time you would have to spend at the copy machine. All of the prompts can easily be printed as well. Be sure to look over the different options we provide you for printing the prompts.

You will find that the writing prompts are written for different grade levels. We hope to continue to adding prompts that will meet the needs of both primary and intermediate students. You will also find that some of the prompts don’t explicitly state that day’s event. You may want to refer back to the monthly events calendar for this information in order to share it with your students.

To give you a sense of what is available at this site, here are the prompts for this week.

September 22
On this day in 1789, the United States Post Office opened. In recent years, many people have begun to use email. Do you think there will ever be a time in the future that the only items actually “mailed” by the Post Office are packages? And all letters and magazines will be sent via email?

Autumn begins today. What is your favorite season? Explain why you enjoy that particular season.

September 23
“National Dog Week” is the 4th week of September. There is a saying that a dog is “man's best friend.” How do you think this saying came to be and does it hold any truth?

September 24
On this day in 1789, the Supreme Court was established. Using resources in the classroom, learn five (5) facts about the Supreme Court’s roll in our nation’s government and summarize them in your own words.

September 25
On September 25, 1513, Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean. What types of things do you think we still have to discover about the ocean?

September 26
On September 26, 1774, John Chapman was born. Later in life, he became better known as Johnny Appleseed. Johnny performed a “community service” as he traveled west spreading apple seeds. Write about some types of community service that you could possibly perform.

There are many great ideas here. Do take some time to check them out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Looking Inside Classroom Libraries

I am always interested to see how teachers set up their classroom libraries and how they structure reading time. While browsing some teacher pages this week, I decided that I'd like to be a student in Beth Newingham's third grade for a while.

Take a look at her classroom library! It's A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The books in this collection are color-coded, leveled and stored in baskets. Students can find:
  • Fiction Picture Books
  • Chapter Book Series
  • Chapter Books by Genre
  • Nonfiction Books
  • Favorite Author Baskets
  • Magazine Collection
  • Poetry
  • Math Stories
Beth describes exactly how she organizes her library and includes a number of photographs. She is even generous enough to provide downloadable copies of her labels so that you can organize your own book bins!

If you haven't been to the Planet 13 site for Beth's classroom, you should stop by and check out the wealth of resources she is sharing for all areas of the curriculum.

**If you want to check out even more classroom spaces, Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading rounded up all kinds of them in their Trading Spaces event!

This is Totally Sara's Fault

You'll notice that picture in the sidebar is um... Miss Rumphius. You haven't seen pictures of me since the China trip, and even then, I wasn't in many of them. So today all I can say is "Sara made me do it!"
Meme Rules
Take a picture of yourself right now.
Don't change your clothes, don't fix your hair -- just take a picture.
Post that picture with NO editing.
Post these instructions with your picture.
Sara asked for a comic book pic, but it came out so dark you could barely see me, so I used the colored pencil filter instead.
Another Friday of procrastination at work (literally and figuratively). Now it's YOUR turn!

Poetry Friday - Wordsworth

I've been reading The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. I bought it, in part, because of this quote on the cover.
"A generous and exquisite selective anthology of poetry in forms that may make you decide to give up E-mail and start writing sestinas and villanelles."
Now that's a ringing endorsement (not that I needed one to immerse myself in poetry). One of the greatest things about this book is the wide range of poems it uses for examples. Here is one from the sonnet section that I am crazy about.
Upon Westminster Bridge
by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
The round up is being hosted by Laura at author amok. Do stop by and check out all the great poetry being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday, all! I'm on the round up next week, so I'll see you all here very soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Romeo & Juliet - The Mental Floss Quiz

Today's lunchtime diversion is this Mental Floss quiz.
While Romeo & Juliet is indeed a masterpiece, it’s lucky for us that not all love stories are so gruesome. The title characters die in the tale (twice!), after all. But the Shakespeare play has remained popular, and the names Romeo and Juliet likely conjure up various images in your mind. Today’s lunchtime quiz looks at how the story and the names of its starcrossed lovers have found their way into movies, music, television, and more.
Sadly, I only scored 8 out of 10. Thank goodness I know my planetary moons, Broadway musicals, and Supertramp! (How's that for eclectic?) Otherwise, it would have been much, much worse.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Living Spaces - A Bookish Trio of Habitats

While watching a hawk up close and personal today (from 10 feet away!), I found my self wondering where it lived. This got me thinking about the spaces and places on campus and in my backyard that support all sorts of living creatures. So in honor of these thoughts, here is a trio of books that explores animal habitats.

It's Moving Day!, written by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Geraldo Valério - This book introduces readers to a variety of woodland animals and a home many share. It begins with a woodchuck who leaves its burrow, only to have it inhabited by a rabbit. After the rabbit raises her young and leaves to find a winter home, a yellow spotted salamander moves in. After the salamander, the burrow is home to a raccoons, milk snakes, chipmunks, skunks, and finally, to bring the story full circle, a woodchuck. The book ends with a page that briefly introduces each of the animals that live in the burrow.

Woodpile, written and illustrated by Peter Parnall - Illustrated in ink, pencil and watercolor, Parnall exposes the nooks and crannies of the woodpile. In it he says, "Most woodpiles are made of wood, if you think of them that way. Mine is the spaces between: the aisles and runways that are a world for many creatures soft and warm. And cold." Readers see the animals that tunnel beneath it (worm and mole), those that live and hide in it (a mouse, a chipmunk, bats, a wasp queen, spiders, and more), and those that hunt around it (weasel, owl, skunk).

One Small Place in a Tree, written by Barbara Brenner and illustrated by Tom Leonard - This one made the NSTA's list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 in 2005. 2005. What happens to a tree once a bear sharpens her claws on the trunk? Readers find out as they follow the growth of a microhabitat in the tree as the claw marks cut the bark and begin a hole. Over time the space is inhabited by timber beetles, fungi, and grubs. As more holes form, woodpeckers visit to spear beetles and other insects, making the holes bigger. Soon disease strikes and a large hollow place has formed. It becomes home to a flying squirrel, then bluebirds, and white-footed mice. Other animals use this space too. Finally, the dead tree comes down, but it still serves as a home for other living things.

There are many other terrific books that fit this category, like Brenda Guiberson's book Cactus Hotel, and Wendy Pfeffer's A Log's Life. Now I'm off to see if I can't find some poems to go along with them.

The Simple Pleasures

There are many, many days when I miss the hustle and bustle of teaching in K-12 schools. Today is not one of them. This morning I had the loveliest conversation with my son while he ate breakfast and I cut the sandwich for his lunch in the shape of a frog.

Later in the day, upon returning from a meeting, I spent nearly thirty minutes standing and watching a red-tailed hawk negotiate the difficulties of eating the squirrel it had caught for lunch.

And now, well I'm eating the most divine bar of chocolate (it has chilies in it!) and reading children's books for a new blog post. What could be better than that?

New Book Reviews - Life Science

If you haven't been to Open Wide, Look Inside lately, you've missed a boatload of book reviews connecting children's literature to science instruction. Each post includes a brief summary of the book, curriculum connections, links for some supporting resources, and general information about the book.

This week the focus is life science. Other areas of focus have been:
Next week's topic--earth science. Please stop by and take a look. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

ARCs Available

My TBR pile is huge right now. There are many great looking books on it that I simply must read. Publishers have been more than generous in sending me works to review, but lately, I'm getting a lot of books that are well outside of my area of interest/expertise.

If you regularly read my blog, you know that I generally review nonfiction and poetry for young readers through middle grades. Every so often I will review picture books that have strong connections to the teaching of math, science or social studies. As a reminder of this, I have highlighted my review policy and moved it up in the sidebar to a more prominent position.

This is my way of saying that I love receiving books to review, finding outstanding works by new and seasoned authors, and sharing those finds with my readers. However, I have a bit of a guilty conscience about all the books I'm not reviewing. I know that authors work very hard to write the best books possible, and they deserve to be reviewed. Since I will never get to some of these books, I would like to send my copies to readers who would like to review them.

Here are the first two.
Need by Carrie Jones - TAKEN!
Zara collects phobias the way other high school girls collect lipsticks. Little wonder, since life’s been pretty rough so far. Her father left, her stepfather just died, and her mother’s pretty much checked out. Now Zara’s living with her grandmother in sleepy, cold Maine so that she stays “safe.” Zara doesn’t think she’s in danger; she thinks her mother can’t deal.

Wrong. Turns out that guy she sees everywhere, the one leaving trails of gold glitter, isn’t a figment of her imagination. He’s a pixie—and not the cute, lovable kind with wings. He’s the kind who has dreadful, uncontrollable needs. And he’s trailing Zara.

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison - TAKEN!
After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she’s only Fair—because she’s not a very good fairy student—Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah’s class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight.
These will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please send me an e-mail and let me know which book you are interested in. All books will be mailed this weekend. Good luck! (And thanks for your help.)

More ARCs to come ...

Constitution Day is Coming!

In the summer of 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to write a new plan of government for our nation. The Constitution was approved by the Convention and signed on September 17th of the same year. Once signed it was sent to the states for ratification.

In 2005, a federal law established September 17th as Constitution Day. Here are some books and additional resources to help you celebrate the law of the land in your home or classroom. Please note that these are largely focused on the elementary level.


Shh! We're Writing the Constitution, written by Jean Fritz and illustrated by Tomie dePaola - This book provides a highly readable account of the Constitutional Convention by describing what the framers were doing and how they did it. Readers will find the text of the Constitution, as well as several pages of explanatory notes.

We The Kids, illustrated by David Catrow - Drawing on his strengths as a political cartoonist, Catrow uses a group of friends and a backyard camping trip to make the Preamble to the Constitution understandable for readers by pairing the text with illustrations that help define phrases like insure domestic tranquility, common defense, and our posterity. For example, the illustration for "establish Justice" shows a dog wearing a helmet and standing guard while the kids play inside the tent.

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution, written by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro - This book
provides an overview of the Constitution, beginning with the initial decision to hold the convention and ending with the adoption of the Bill of Rights. The focus of the text is really on the basic decisions about the organization of the government which resulted in the Great Compromise. Also included is a final section that provides a list of the signers, chronology of events and dates, and simple summaries of the Articles and amendments.

If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution, written by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Joan Holub -
Like other books in the If You Were There series, this one is organized around a series of questions. It begins with What is the Constitution? and then moves on to a bit of history (the war, the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation) in order to lay the foundation for understanding the document. This one answers many questions about who was involved, why certain choices were made, and how the process worked.

Picture Window Books publishes a series entitled American Symbols. In it you will find these books written by Norman Pearl and illustrated by Matthew Skeens:
  • The U.S. Constitution - This book begins with James Madison introducing himself and asking the question "What is the U.S. Constitution?" What follows are a series of spreads with information about the framers and how they worked together, the document itself and the branches of government.
  • The Bill of Rights - In this book James Madison looks at the Bill of Rights and explores how it came to be.
Constitution Translated for Kids, written by Cathy Travis - Written at a 5th grade level, this book provides the entire text of the Constitution accompanied by a kid-friendly translation. In addition to the side-by-side translation, readers will find a timeline of events leading up to the writing of the Constitution, a glossary, information on Constitutional compromises, a bibliography and more.

Sites for Kids
Additional Web-Based Resources
Last But Not Least ... Schoolhouse Rock!

Sendak on Fresh Air Today!

At the end of Fresh Air yesterday, Terry Gross announced her interview for today would be Maurice Sendak.

For all of you who have read this recent interview in the Times, and even if you haven't, here's your chance to hear more from the man himself. I know I'll be tuned in to NPR.

**UPDATED - Here's the official link to the show, The Wild World of Maurice Sendak. Please note that this interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 30, 2003.

Poetry Friday - Brown Penny

In the last two weeks I've spent a lot of time thinking about pennies. I used them for experiments in my science class, rolled gobs of them, and wrote a poem about them. So, in honor of the lowly penny, I give you Yeats.
Brown Penny
by William Butler Yeats

I whispered, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.
The round up is being hosted by Jennie at Biblio File. Do stop by and immerse yourself in all the great poetry being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Crazy for Bookmarks

In addition to having a weakness for journals, I have an affection for bookmarks. Here are a few I've recently purchased to give out at workshops and other events where teachers and book lovers congregate.

These Book a Trip bookmarks with a vintage travel theme depict kids reading across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. You can even download an activity guide with loads of ideas for connecting reading to travel.
These Get Wrapped Up in Reading bookmarks were a gift for some second grade teachers as ancient Egypt is part of the social studies curriculum in this grade. The bookmarks include a short explanation of hieroglyphics on one side and a phrase to be translated on the other.
I love this Reading Takes You Everywhere bookmark. It also comes with an activity guide to books by Dr. Seuss.
There are many more bookmarks I love at the Upstart (Highsmith) site. There are two sets entitled Master the Art of Reading which show famous works of art with books inserted in them. (Check out the Mona Lisa and Girl with the Pearl Earring). These also come with an activity guide! I'm also crazy about the Animal Print, Road to the White House, and Robert Frost bookmarks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Book Reviews - Physical Science

If you haven't been to Open Wide, Look Inside lately, you're really missing something. Last week my students highlighted books focused on process skills. Their reviews include mostly books on the senses for the early grades, but measurement and biography are thrown in.

This week they focused on physical science. You will find books on matter, light, color, simple machines and motion. Did I mention that four of the entries are books of POETRY! Woohoo!

Each entry includes a brief summary of the book, curriculum connections, links for some supporting resources, and general information about the book. If you are looking for some ideas for homeschool or classroom science, do take a look. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Importance of Number Sense

I spend a lot of time teaching my students (preservice teachers) about number sense and how to develop this sense in kids. Though there are many naysayers out there, recent research indicates this might not be such a bad approach.

Here is an excerpt from the Washington Post article entitled How One's 'Number Sense' Helps With Mathematics.

Scientists have for the first time established a link between a primitive, intuitive sense of numbers and performance in math classes, a finding that could lead to new ways to help children struggling in school.

A study involving 64 14-year-olds found that the teenagers who did well on a test that measured their "number sense" were much more likely to have gotten good grades in math classes.

"We discovered that a child's ability to quickly estimate how many things are in a group significantly predicts their performance in school mathematics all the way back to kindergarten," said Justin Halberda, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University who led the research, published online yesterday by the Journal Nature. "It was very surprising."

The advance online publication is entitled Individual differences in non-verbal number acuity correlate with maths achievement. This is fascinating stuff. The most impressive piece of this study is the fact that each of the subjects in the study (n=64) was tested annually from kindergarten to sixth grade (ages 5–11) on a battery of standardized and investigator-designed measures. What researchers found was that approximate number system (ANS) acuity of subjects correlated with symbolic maths performance in every year tested (from kindergarten to sixth grade).

If you're not teaching number sense, why not? Now would be a good time to pull out Bruce Goldstone's books Great Estimations and Greater Estimations. You might also want to pay a visit to the Estimatron and see how good your skills in estimating numbers really are.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ordinary Things

I am rereading Valerie Worth's book All the Small Poems and Fourteen More. I'm amazed and inspired by the way Worth was able to capture the essence of the everyday. Here's an example.

The cow
Across the grass
Like a mountain
Toward us;
Her hipbones
Like sharp
Of Stone,
Her hoofs
Like dropped
Too late
She stops.
I grew up near a dairy farm and spent lots of time in the fields with the cows. Her observation of their hip bones is so spot on. I love it.

Since I'm thinking about everyday things, the challenge this week is to take something familiar and write about the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Nonfiction Nuggets - An Electrifying Trio

My students are preparing for class this week and are highlighting books on different aspects of physical science. Suffice it to say they are VERY disappointed with the choices available to them. As they're slogging their way through lots of "experimental" and "how-to" books, I thought I would highlight three useful resources for the study of electricity.

Wired written by Anastasia Suen and ilustrated by Paul Carrick - Nicely illustrated with lots of examples and labels, this book uses two levels of text to engage readers and help them understand how electricity is produced and conducted from power plant to home. Simple rhyming text describes the basic action, "humming thrumming, power's coming." This is accompanied by detailed informational text. The book begins by explaining what electricity is. "Electricity starts with something you cannot see: electrons. Electrons are part of an atom, and atoms are inside everything, including you!" The text is well-written and makes the concepts easily understandable for students and teachers alike.

Switch On, Switch Off written by Melvin Berger and illustrated by Carolyn Croll - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series explores how lights actually work. Readers will learn how electricity is produced and transmitted, and how generators, light bulbs, and electrical plugs work. At the end of the book readers will find directions for producing an electric current using wire, a bar magnet, and a compass.

The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen - Ms. Frizzle's at it again, taking her students to places they can only imagine. In this adventure they not only experience how a power plant makes energy, but they also travel through fires and wires, meet subatomic particles up close, and see home appliances from the inside.
**Note - I know this last one is a nonfiction stretch, as books in this series are cataloged as juvenile literature and generally shelved with picture books. However, there is a tremendous amount of factual information in them that is very helpful.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.