Train vs. Ant

September 30, 2009

Jack, the switchman, has a job to transfer trains from one track to another.  I’m guessing that many children do not know about railway workers.  I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track by Joshua Prince will help build background for jobs then and now.  A discussion could develop about technology replacing manpower.

I Saw an Ant on the Railroad TrackThis poetic narrative is seemingly ridiculous, but I love the rhyme and word play.  Macky Pamintuan paints realistic, vivid pictures.  But I can hear the kids saying, “Stop.  Move the ant.  You don’t  have to sop a train.”

It’s a cute tale. Did I mention that  love the rhyme?  You can definitely stop throughout the text and have the students predict.  The children could also discuss how Jack personifies the ant.  Would this story really happen?  Why not?

Savorings for reading and in writing for I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track:

  • Onomatopoeia – tickety-tack
  • Aside – (That’s the sound of an ant on a railroad track.)
  • Character Thinking – “Now what to do?  Think quick!  Think, Jack!
  • Community Property in writing – ‘that wrong-way ant on the way-wrong track”  (As noted in a prior entry, I don’t know what this craft is officially called, but it reminds me of the Community Property in math.  So, I’m naming it for my reference.)
  • Prediction
  • Author’s Note:  Joshua take a daily train ride to his job.  ” A brief encounter with an ant at his regular station inspired this story.”

(Heather’s book :))

Sleepy Cars

September 27, 2009

Trucks, cars, diesels of all sorts are featured in this great read, Off Go Their Engines,  Off Go Their Lights.   Janice Milusich begins the taxi’s journey when it picks up a mother and her son.  On their way home, the boy notices several vehicles.  David Gordon narrows the focus by enlarging the auto mentioned in the text.  He features a fire engine pumper, a dump truck, a delivery van, a police car, ice-cream truck and of course, the yellow taxi.

Off Go Their Engines, Off Go Their LightsI find it refreshing that the story takes place on a drive home, a short amount of time.  Often times, students think they need to write about some special event.  Here is a text that takes an ordinary trip and uses the theme to teach the reader something.  Our children can write about events and conversations on the way home.

This book reminds me of when my children were younger.  Our oldest, Wes, was fascinated with the United States Flag.  He would be sitting in his car seat in the back and yell, “Flag!”  We began looking for it.  I was amazed at how often I would see our country’s symbol of freedom flying.  But it wasn’t until Wes took an interest and zoomed into the object did I ever notice the sites and occurences.  This book is like that.  Kids pass vehicles all the time.  Some children love looking for them.  They could write about them.  I love introducing a book that brings to new light a possible text they could try writing.

Savorings in reading and in writing for Off go their Engines, Off Go Their Lights:

  • Vocabulary – cruises, fare rumbles, patrolled
  • Colors – each vehicle is one color:  yellow, red, green, brown, blue, black & white
  • Repeating Structure – after the job has been completed, the vehicle goes to rest
  • Flashback – the vehicle flashes back to one scene in the day’s work
  • Repeating Lines – “Off Goes Its Engine.  CLICK.  Off Goes it Lights.  Good night, green dump truck, good night.”

(Warsaw Community Public Library)

Sweet Dreams, Bear

September 25, 2009

Old Bear is hibernating for winter.  Do you ever wonder what the animals are thinking?  Kevin Henkes speculates a tale of possibilities in his book, Old Bear.   Snuggle up and get cozy as you journey with bear as he dreams.

Old BearI love the close up illustrations of the bear cuddled up, snoozing in his cave.  Old Bear’s dreams takes the reader through the seasons.  Kevin illustrates a two page layout of the seasonal scenes.

The flowers were as big as trees.

He took a nap in a giant pink crocus.”

This text is explicit for teaching visualization.  Read the seasonal scene and have the kids visualize in their minds.  The children could even draw/color the visualization.  I highly recommend doing one as a model on the overhead or chart paper.

Old Bear is just fun to read during this autumn season.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Old Bear:

  • Illustrations – excellent for younger students when teaching to illustrate using the large piece of paper
  • Visualization – dreams
  • Predictable Structure
  • ‘Community Property of Writing’ – “Old Bear slept and dreamed, dreamed and slept.”  (Okay, I do not know what the fancy title is for this literary technique, but the reciprocation of the verbs reminded me of the community property in math.  Katie Wood Ray says name it what you can remember in order to use it.)
  • Varied Sentences – long, short, short;  “When he finally woke up, it seemed to him that no time had passed since he had fallen asleep.  He yawned.  He stretched.”

(PES Library and Warsaw Community Library)

Personality in a Pick-Up

September 23, 2009

Have you ever noticed that pick-up trucks can have a personality?  You have the big-wheeled monster trucks, the well-worn farm trucks, the look-at-me shiny trucks.  My favorite is the old time pick-up trucks.  The hood seems to smile at you.

The image Jill McElmurry illustrates in the book, Little Blue Truck, is a neighborly-type truck.  Alice Schertle creates a friendly character in Little Blue Truck.  He ‘beeps’ at all the farm animals.  The animals canter a friendly ‘hello’ to the truck.  You can feel the gentleness of the pick-up as he enjoys the sunny day.

Along comes a HUGE dump truck with a big, bad attitude.  He is on a mission that requires speed, and he bolts right past the animals.  Little Blue Truck beeps a friendly ‘hello’ and receives a rude brush off from the big vehicle.   His haste causes him to land smack in the middle of the mud.  Even he, the HUGE dump truck cannot wheel his way out of the situation.  The animals just ignore the dump truck’s call for help.  Rudeness was not welcomed.

Only Little Blue Truck comes to the aid of the brute truck.  Only trouble arises – Blue Truck gets stuck too.  As Little Blue Truck beeps for help, a change begins to transform the Dump Truck.  He realizes that even though he’s big, he’s not without fault.  All the animal friends come to Little Blue and both trucks are rescued.

Now I see

a lot depends

on a helping hand

from a few good friends!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Little Blue Truck:

  • Aside – “but nobody heard (or nobody cared)
  • Ellipse – All together – one… two… three!
  • Character change – this book is a simple example for younger children to see that characters change in a story
  • Repeating Line – “Beep,” went the Little Blue Truck.
  • Teamwork

Content Areas

September 22, 2009

Today I updated the Content Area page.  I have listed several books  featured in the blog within two categories:  science and social studies.  (Historical Narrative is a genre that I enjoy.)   When you click on the title, the link takes you to the blog page with other teaching possibilities.    Eventually, I hope to write about several math books that are good read alouds as well.  May you  find the update  useful.  🙂

Who Did This?

September 21, 2009

The tale begins with a typical child-like scene:  a boy getting into trouble in the book, Who Did This? (illustrated by Poly Bernatene). The mother is busy painting.  Her son, Billy, wants to help to which mom says to just go and play with his dog instead.  All of the painting eventually leads mother tired.

As she naps, Billy feels the invitation to “help” his mother.  Booboo, his dog, sits and watches.  The painting becomes boring, so Billy paints a picture.  He moves to admire his masterpiece and disaster strikes.

The ladder kept falling and smashed a lamp and a vase…


and landed on the sofa.


Billy’s mom leaped up.  She couldn’t believe her eyes.”

Mother awakes.  Standing amongst the mess, the blame begins.  “Er…ah…Booboo did it,” said Billy.  Can’t you hear a kid say it?  Mr. Pickles, the neghbor, arrives at that moment and spread the news about “an amazing artist” – the dog.  Booboo becomes famous… until he has to perform on stage.  He’s a wash out.  The reader can associate with the characters, feeling the guilt of the boy and the embarassesment of the dog.

The story doesn’t end here.  You could stop and have the children predict the next scene.  K.T. Hao decides to have the dog become a hero in the end.  He runs to his house and puts out a fire, by peeing on it.  (The kids will probably find this hilarious.)

Savorings for reading and in writing for Who Did This?:

  • Suddenly – “Later that evening, Booboo suddenly perked up.  He sniffed the air and jumped to his fee.  What was that smell?”
  • Suddenly –  to signal a change in the story (see above quote)
  • Magic Words of Story – “One day Billy’s mom decided to paint the living room.”
  • Every Day Happening – blaming someone else
  • Stretching an Important scene – the author uses onomatopoeia and gives a play by play account of the ladder disaster
  • Book Connection:  Jon Scieska shares a similar story from his memoir, Knucklehead, Chapter 2:  Who Did It?


September 19, 2009

Creative! was the first thought I had when I finished reading We’re Off to Look For AliensColin McNaughton writes two books in one. 

He begins by sharing a narrative of himself as an author, told through his son’s point of view.

Dad writes children’s books.  He also draws the pictures.  He says it’s hard work, but he seems to spend an awful lot of time messing around.  (At this point, the illustration shows characters from other books that Colin McNaughton has written).

The father leaves his family to read his new book while he walks his dog.  The reader then changes to read a new story from a paperback book pocketed on the page.  The title of the new book is “We’re Off to Look for Aliens” by Colin McNaughton.  Sound familiar?  The text shares how he leaves with his dog, Wilberforce, to visit space.  They meet several type of aliens, all described through a familiar tune.  At the end of the journey, he meets a lady alien and they fall in love, bringing her home.  Kids will have fun reading it, especially a struggling reader, as they can connect the text to a nursery rhyme they have memorized.

In the end, the family shares their views. They believe the story is good, but “kids prefer fairy tales and stuff“.  The reader then learns that his family is the lady alien with two alien-like children that were featured in his children’s book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for We’re Off to Look  for Aliens:

  • Conversational Lead – “Ah-ha!” said Dad.  “My alien book.  Thank you, Mr. Mailman.”
  • Poetic Text – internal book written to the tune of  “Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Hyphenated words – Never-seen-on-telly things, Eyeball-in-their-belly things
  • Surprise Ending
  • Stories about our lives


September 17, 2009

The school year is up and running – five weeks into the year.  Teachers are beginning to stress about midterms that are due in a week and half.  Parent-teacher conferences begin two weeks from today, and the to-do list seems to be never ending.  School- a job that requires so much more than teaching academics.  As a literacy coach, I’m meeting with new and veteran teachers, reflecting on what is work and what is not.  Kids are the heart of what we do.  I mentioned to someone today that there is never a “free – normal” week.  Something is always coming up.

When I have to juggle many things here at school and add the schedule of a 3-child home, my mind sometimes has trouble focusing.  I feel like I have an attention problem; I’m having trouble focusing on one thing.  It’s hard to slow down and relax.  I guess that’s why the book title, Stuck in the Mud, caught my eye at the library. 

Stuck in the MudJane Clarke, along with illustrator Garry Parsons, has created a fun pattern book.  The rhyming narrative begins with the mother hen being frantic.  One chick is not accounted for.  She searches and to her dread, finds him stuck in the mud.  Being the responsible mother that she is, she searchs for help.

I love the way Jane Clarke jumps the reader into the action with her vivid verbs. 

The barn door burst open.  “Wake up!” squaked the hen. 

The hen jumbs in after her chick and… gets stuck.  So needing help, the cat comes to the rescue.  And…gets stuck.  Another call for help causes each animal to jump in and…get stuck.

Dog pushed and he pulled again and again…but soon he was stuck iwth the cat and the hen.

The ending just made me laugh.  The mother hen is trying so hard to help her chick and the rest of the rescuers come to help as well.  In the end, the chick is self-sufficient.  She has never been stuck, only enjoying playing in the mud.  She pops out and leaves the rest stuck in the mud. 

It made me reflect that I as a teacher, or mother, will often see a problem and jump in.  I don’t stop to think that maybe if I give him/her a little time to explain.  Conferencing is like that.  You want to jump in, looking at how to help the piece.  Stop.  Wait.  Wait some more.  Wait for the kid to tell you what he/she needs.  They might not be stuck at all.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Stuck in the Mud:

  • Setting Introduction – “Early in the morning, down on the farm, a new day was dawning, peaceful and calm.”
  • Schema – farm with animals (Ok this fits with Indiana at least)
  • Every Day Happening – mud; getting stuck; problem-solving
  • Illustrations – sid bars to introduce the next animal
  • Surprise Ending – the chick wasn’t stuck; he thought it was fun to play in the mud.

(Warsaw Comm. Public Library)


September 15, 2009

From the heritage of Danny the Dinosaur, Edwina is the dinosaur who everyone loves having around.  She plays, helps, and bakes chocolate chip cookies for everyone (who could resist?).  Mo Willems captures the fun tale of believing in someone in his book, Edwina The Dinosaur who Didn’t Know She was ExtinctEdwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct

Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie (say that three times in a row) did not like Edwina.  He was an expert on many things and enjoyed sharing his knowledge with others.  He was deteremined to prove that dinosaurs were extinct.  But no one listend.  Being the kind friend, Edwina was willing to listen to Reginald.  Reginald felt like a champion.  Surprisingly, Edwina realized that she was to be extinct, but didn’t care.  Interesting twist at the end. 🙂

Savorings for reading and in writing for Edwina:

  • Setting – school and neighborhood
  • Transitions – today; but as soon as; then; before he knew it; the next morning; finally
  • Inferring – Notice the dedication page.  You’ll see a little boy’s upset face watching Edwina
  • Character Change – Reginald
  • Surprise Ending – “She just didn’t care.
  • Colon – “There was no doubt about it in Edwina’s mind:  She knew she was extinct.”
  • Magic of 3 – He tried flyers, protesting, and everything he could think of…

Players in Pigtails

September 13, 2009

While in Cincinnati this past summer, my son and husband went to the National Sports Collector’s Convention.  Rick and Wes love to search for great baseball cards.  Me, I love the history.  Family Day brings the rest of us to the event for a day of meeting players and sight seeing at the booths. 

Last year, I happened upon a booth where a kind, senior lady sat.  Flanking her table was a uniform from the 1940’s.  But not just any uniform.  The uniform was a dress.  Elizabeth noticed the pictures and the banner that said, “A League of Their Own”.  The lady, Dolly Niemiec Konwinski, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks from 1949 – 1952. 

This year, I returned with a book in my bag.  I talked with Dolly and brought out my book Players in Pigtails.  She was impressed with the book and kindly signed on the back page with the logo AAGPBL.  She said that playing was fun and encouraged anyone to get involved in sports.

Players In Pigtails (Scholastic Bookshelf)Shana Corey gives you an overview of how the women’s league began.  She loves history.  Shana shares more information about the league in her two page author’s note in the back.  She also shares information in an interview with Scholastic.  Click on the link:  Shana Corey.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Players in Pigtails:

  • Alliteration and Magic of 3 – “Her clothing was crumpled.  Her knitting was knotted.  Her dancing was a disaster.”  “She preferred sliding to sewing, batting to baking, and home runs to homecoming.”
  • Interjection of BOLD words – WOULD SHE?!
  • Show don’t Tell/ Inferring – “The leauge managers heard the talk, and their stomachs started to twitch.”
  • Clauses – After all, at least she was getting to play ball.
  • Transitions/ Passage of Time – Every spring; When she got to Wrigley Field; On opening day
  • Historical background – dress of the era; women’s role in society