One Plastic Bag

November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving provides a time for reflection. Family. Job. Friends. Health. Seat-warmers in my van. Coke Zero. A microwave. Electricity. Clean water. I am sure you could add more to the list.

Having lived in a third-world country for two years, I learned to be thankful for the everyday conveniences we have on a daily, hourly, minute basis. Trash pick-up is one of those conveniences I am thankful for. When the heavy rains came in the Dominican Republic, trash flooded the streets. Daily, I would notice garbage lying around. And the smell. The foul aroma clogged my plugged nostrils and I could hardly breathe.

A swelling of thanks rose within me as I read One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Miranda Paul shares the story of change, illustrated beautifully by Elizabeth Zunon. Plastic bags have many uses, and I am thankful. But living in a condition with no garbage system poses a problem. Isatou noticed the growing problems the piles of plastic bag garbage was causing. Goats and other livestock were dying. Gardens were affected. Something needed to change. As in Ada’s Violin, the creativity of one person sparked hope and an answer.

View the book trailer (1.34 min.) and be drawn into the story of change, of hope, of making a difference.

Learn more about how the women of Gambia create the bags from the founder, Isatou Ceesay.  Information on how to help this organization is also listed on this video. (9.27 min.).


Savorings for reading and writing for One Plastic Bag:

  • Repeating Structure
  • Making a Difference
  • Believing in Yourself
  • Persevering
  • Varied sentences
  • Author’s Note and Timeline

Ada’s Violin

November 15, 2018

Philanthropy. Defined by Merriam-Webster, philanthropy is “1 : goodwill to fellow members of the human race especially : active effort to promote human welfare. 2a : an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.”  Other words associated with it: generosity, social conscience, brotherly love, compassion. 

My parents taught me from an early age to notice the needs of others, to be thankful for what I have, to care. Living in the Dominican Republic for two years, I saw first hand the needs of people in struggle. Teaching for thirty years, I see first hand the needs of children in need too. It’s all around us. Fourth graders at our PES school featured Socktober, raising funds and donations for wool socks for veterans. Read more about it at Mrs. Clark’s Twitter. The level of energy was raised and kindness prevailed. So thankful!

Favio Chavez, with the help of local carpenters, brought hope to the children of Cateura, Paraguay. The town grew beside the dump. Families made their livelihood from the trash. Señor Chavez created hope. He taught his students to respect, to listen, and be in tune with each other. Ada’s Violin: the Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, demonstrates philanthropy in action. (Click on this link to hear the book read.) Instruments were made from items found in the dump. Ada’s father had sparked her interest in  music, listing carefully to the individual instrument sounds from the radio. Grandma sang.  Ada learned to play violin from an old paint can, wooden crates, trays and a fork. A priceless piece of art.

See the book trailer below.

See Senor Chavez and his orchestra on this YouTube video. Ada Rios is featured along with her grandmother, who first signed her up for the free violin lessons. Heartwarming philanthropy at it’s finest. Talk to your kids about how they can help others in their community, their country, and around the world.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Ada’s Violin:

  • Hope
  • Transitions
  • Setting
  • Wonderings
  • Varied sentences

Never Smile at a Monkey

March 29, 2018

Steve Jenkins warns his readers about the dangers of some animals in a kid-friendly fashion in Never Smile at a Monkey. Each page shares one of eighteen different creatures’ harmful characteristics. Written in a repeating structure, NEVER begins the informative paragraph using alliteration in the subsection titles. At the end of the book, more information is shared regarding each creature.

Introduce the book with this book trailer.

Jessica Ivy shares how to use the book with close reading techniques (level O). She shares her reproducible resources on Teachers Pay Teachers for free.

Savorings for Never Smile at a Monkey:

  • Alliteration
  • Descriptive
  • Commands – Look out!
  • Intertwines physic qualities with emotional characteristics – “Sharp hooves, long horns, and an extremely nasty temper”
  • Dependent Clauses
  • Power of 3

What Do You Do With a Problem?

March 26, 2018

Problems. They arise when you least expect it. Each one of us handles problems in different ways. Children are learning to handle problems, to see another person’s point of view or to face a fear perhaps. This book, What Do You Do With a Problem?, gives us an opportunity to teach children different ways of handling problems. It’s a great reminder for anyone.

“Every problem has an opportunity for something good. You just have to look for it.”

On this link, the first 1:37 seconds is a book trailer. The reader continues to read the book for the duration of the video.  Below is another read-aloud of the book.

The author, Kobi Yamada, gives his thanks to teachers as he reads his book Because I Had a Teacher.

Savorings for What Do You Do With a Problem?:

  • Magic of 3
  • Character thinking
  • Perspective
  • Repeating phrase
  • Building scenes
  • Face Challenges – “And the more I avoided my problem, the more I saw it everywhere.”

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

March 20, 2018

I’m in love. Lisa Papp, thank you for this delightful, touching book of hope in Madeline Finn and the Library Dog.

FullSizeRender (9)As a child, I struggled with reading. The letters came together slowly, and I longed to do well – just once. I have vivid memories of knowing who the star readers were in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade. As a kindergartner, I would hide and whisper in order to not read aloud. By second grade, SRA was my HATE! I never seemed to be able to progress past the ugly color. Reading was not magical.

Madeline Finn doesn’t like to read. You can feel her struggle.


“Sometimes the sentences get stuck in my mouth like peanut butter.”

Her teacher supports and encourages. Her mother does too. On Saturday she goes to the library. The librarian brings life to Madeline when she introduces her to Bonnie, a reading dog-buddy. Bonnie never giggles when she makes a mistake. She just listens.

To view the entire book on YouTube, click on this link. The book trailer is below.

Savorings for Madeline Finn and the Library Dog:

  • Dedication – “for libraries, where the real magic happens
  • Perserverance
  • Magic of 3
  • Growth Mindset
  • Love of Reading
  • Community Building – an opportunity to talk about difficulties in learning – how to support each other
  • order on Scholastic Book Clubs


Strictly No Elephants

March 19, 2018

Lisa Mantchev addresses the issue of fitting in, acceptance, to a child’s level of understanding in the book, Strictly No Elephants. It’s Pet Club Day and the boy is eImage result for Strictly No Elephantsxcited to share his pet elephant only to be disappointed to not be included. As they walk away, Taeeun Yoo’s illustrations display the disappointment. The neutral colors on the two page wordless spread cause the reader to pause and soak in the character’s dampened feelings. Turning the corner, the boy and pet meet a girl with her pet skunks. Through renewed hope, the two choose to form another club. Along the way, more children join who have different pets.

As a teacher I envision this story will invite a lot of conversation. Topics of differences and acceptance, overcoming rejection and hardship, are a few that will arise. The book invites you to discuss how the class might solve problems that arise in the class. Strictly No Elephants can be used as a touchstone text for restorative circles.

Emily Arrow shares her song about Strictly No Elephants.

Savorings for Strictly No Elephants:

  • Theme
  • Color highlights
  • Cause/ Effect
  • Repeating Phrase – “That’s what friends do:…”
  • Friendship
  • Restorative Practice topic starter

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

September 25, 2017

Bob Shea combines fun with a powerful theme of self-worth in his book, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great.

Goat reminds me of Eeyore, seeing life with a rain cloud. Perspective. Life is good and Goat is having an okay life … until Unicorn shows up. Unicorn has some special abilities – who wouldn’t love cupcakes with delicious frosting raining down on you? Exactly. Goat looks on and thinks, what do I have that’s so special?Related image

Our students come to school with their perspective zoomed in on not-so-great circumstances or maybe they are doing just fine but someone else is doing it better. Perspective. We as teachers can relate too. I may be “dropping my signature dance moves…” in teaching while someone else tweets a special, magical happening in their class. Both are worthy!  Bob Shea must relate. He realizes everyone has awesomeness and magic and together we make great teams. What we do together makes each day the best ever for our kids!

Pierceton Elementary School and South Whitley Elementary School have adopted a book each month that allows cross grade level discussions, highlighting social skills, endorsing the love of reading, and going deeper with a text. Mike McClain, principal at PES, is the featured reader for this YouTube video.  Nate Wessels, guidance counselor at SWES, is the featured reader for this YouTube video. The kids love this book! What a great start to our 2017-2018 school year.

Savorings for reading and writing for Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great:

  • Onomatopoeia/ Close Echo – rattle, rattle; chomp, chomp
  • Adverbs – totally, heavenly,
  • Humor –
  • Character Change
  • Compare/Contrast – activities of both; strengths
  • Interjections – “Oh Man!” Whoa! Lucky!
  • Talks to the reader – “That’s not all! It gets much, much worse.
  • Voice
  • 1st Person Narrative
  • Font Manipulation – discuss why certain words are in large type or in color
  • Hyphenated words – Fan-tas-tic, show-off,
  • Transitions – until, then, at the big talent show,
  • Apostrophe Usage – contraction and possessive
  • How-to scene – Magic trick
  • Vocabulary – cloven hooves