Fall Favorites

October 21, 2013

20131021-220637.jpgPorkenstein by Katherine Lansky is a fun book I read Friday to a groups of third grade boys. I have these three boys each day. Their reading skills are lacking and thus their interest in reading is lacking. My goal is to capture their attention and spark their interest in every day reading. It happened. “Mrs. Gensch, do you have another book like this one?” J asked. The other two listened.

20131021-220702.jpg I suggested The Hallow-wiener by Dav Pilkey, which brought laughs. They totally related with this book.

Although I am not in classrooms sharing literature as writing mentors, I am excited to still connect kids with fun literature that will capture their hearts.

Pumpkin Eye

October 31, 2009

Denise Fleming introduces Halloween and its activities in Pumpkin Eye.  The text is written with short phrases that rhyme.  The words are so beautifully placed.  I marvel at the way Denise creates some frolicking fun and entices an eerie mood.  Much thought was put into the placement of the individual words.  Several authors I’ve heard speak share how each word counts within a shortened text.  I wonder how long it took Denise to create this rhythmic rhyme.

At first, I thought this book was mainly for younger grades.  but just as I have spent time examing this text, upper grade students could do so as well.   Word play, placement of words, is an activity to study and contemplate with our students.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Pumpkin Eye:

  • Repeating phrase – “Trick or Treat  ____ Pounding feet, jack-o’-lanterns line the street
  • Sensory detail – sight, sounds, feeling; swooping bats, hissing cats… (I find it interesting words ending in ‘ed’ or’ ing’ are not just verbs as I was taught, but they can be adjectives too.)
  • Parts of Speech – with short phrases, you can examine and categorize them:  verbs, nouns, adjectives,
  • Verbs vs. Adjectives – pounding feet or feet pounding
  • Rhyming  – excellent for a poetry study

Trick or Treat?

October 29, 2009

Stopping by my local library, I found a new book.  I always notice the picture books on display behind the circulation desk.  I’ve learned that the librarians display their favorite books (well, at least the most current favorite :)).  Trick or Treat by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson was on display.  I’ve never seen this book, although the copyright is 2002.  that’s what I love about books – they are treasures no matter if brand new or old

I teach children to take notice of an author’s fingerprints.  Each of us have our favorite authors.  We begin to notice his or hers style.  Recognizing Bill Martin Jr.’s name, I knew some poetic rhyme or rhythm would be used in his book, Trick or Treat?

I wasn’t disappointed.  A young boy is ready to go trick-or-treating through his apartment building.  After some safety reminders, he heads off with his mom.  The text takes you on a numerical journey up ten floors and back down.  bill uses a predictable structure for each scene. 

At each apartment, the boy is given a treat.  Reaching the tenth floor, Magic Merlin delivers a ‘trick’ to the young boy and makes everything “WackBards” (backwards).  Descending on each floor, the first letters of each treat title is changed creating a trick.  For example, Tangerine Drops change to Dangerine Tops.  I had to use the illustrations to create some understanding of the new vocabulary words. 

Savorings for reading and in writing for Trick or Treat?:

  • Alliteration – each character has the same sound for his/her first and last names
  • Safety Tips – the mother reminds her son about the safety tips for trick-or-treating
  • Climax – excellent for teaching a the climax of the story; could use a mountain graph
  • Possessive – daddy’s hug
  • Predictable structure – each person the boy goes to greet says the same thing
  • Math – numerical order:  second, third, fourth


October 31, 2008

Last spring, my school hosted a Young Authors’ Conference with Claire Ewart. With her gentle spirit, she shared “from words a story grows” and showed the children how she gathered ideas from nature, visiting places, and even observing in her backyard.  I’ll be sharing more of her the books she has authored and illustrated in the near future.  I was grateful for the opportunity to learn from her.  Thanks, Claire.

Claire Ewart illustrates a delightful mystery written by another Hoosier, Valiska Gregory, called The Mystery of the Grindlecat.  The end note in the book explains the purpose in writing the book:  in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Children Museum’s Haunted House in Indianapolis, IN.

The book is filled with many writing lesson possibilities.  On a first time read, this book has several avenues for prediction, conversation, and wonderings with your class.  Your kids will be hooked in with Claire’s brilliant illustrations and Valiska’s beautiful words.  Even the font used crates a spooky foreshadowing.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Mystery of the Grindlecat:

  • Enticing lead –
  • Magic of 3 – used with the characters, their dialogue; from phrases to sentences
  • Building Emotion with the use of Personification – “The tree branch knocked against her window.  ‘I hear the tapping of skeleton bones,’ she said.”
  • Simile – “… an enormous nose with a wart as black as a licorice drop.”
  • Show don’t Tell – “Then all together they knew exactly what to do.”


October 26, 2008

Subject and predicate – why bother with teaching sentence structure anyway?  Well, in my opinion, if the terms are just used within a skill and drill concept of teaching grammatical writing, then I don’t see much to it.  The students will obediently place their lines between the subject and predicate, but does it really help in teaching writing?  I believe that we have so little time to teach that each lesson must touch their writing and reading lives in a deep way.  So, back to subject and predicate.

A fun book for teaching these concepts to integrate into the children’s writing is Skeleton Hiccupsby Margery Cuyler.  Halloween is only five days away and this cute book accents the parts of a sentence.  The skeleton wakes up with the hiccups, and Margery Cuyler adds the onomatopoeia throughout the story.  (I was just thinking that the kindergartners, who are learning to label, would learn a new way to add their voice to the writing.)  The story continues by adding different things that Skeleton does – the predicate of the sentence.  Ghost enters the story, adding in some conversation as well.  Finally, only he thinks of a clever way to get the Skeleton to stop hiccuping.  (Drinking water is one of my favorite pages.)

Savorings for reading and in writing for Skeleton Hiccups:

  • Predicate – teach to vocabulary word that is hounded on standardized tests
  • Turning point – “But nothing worked….Then Ghost got smart.”
  • Labeling onomatopoeia with different fonts – hic, hic, hic
  • Command – “Hold your breath.”



October 22, 2008

Another Halloween favorite is Porkenstein by Kathryn Lasky.  Many of our boys love action, fantasy, and monsters.  The book is a combination of ideas from Frankenstein and The Three Little Pigs.  Kathryn molds the story into a funny, yet enticing text.

I do not enjoy the physical or chemical sciences much, but many children do.  This comical book uses scientific terms that can help build background knowledge or create a better picture understanding of such terms as beaker, laboratory, and incubator.

The friendship theme appears from the beginning paragraph:  “Dr. Smart Pig was a famous inventor, but he didn’t have any friends.”  When I read books, my eye searches for any possible way to connect the book with children.  With many legislative standards being placed on teachers, we have to be creative to overlap subjects to allow children more exposure to ideas, more reflection, more possibilities than the obvious.  Porkenstein is one example of this, as in my last post on The Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey.  As you savor books, look for several avenues the book may take you.  Your students will begin to do the same.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Porkenstein:

  • Vivid verbs – “grunts, squirt, peered
  • Problem/solution – three tries and then a problem
  • Passage of time – “Halloween night was getting closer…, It was almost sunset when he heard…”
  • Character thinking:  questioning self – “Dr. Smart Pig was worried.  Maybe inventing a friend wasn’t such a good idea after all.
  • Show don’t tell – “Suddenly there was a scuffling sound – followed by a huge gulp and a rumbling belch.  Then silence.”