Over and Under the Pond

February 18, 2019

View my blog post at The Lead Learners Blog of Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner; illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.

Savorings for reading and writing for Over and Under the Pond:

  • metaphors – “water’s a mirror, reflecting the sky!”
  • Sensory Description
  • Compare/ Contrast structure
  • Environmental – ecosystem, wetlands
  • Author’s Note – a glimpse into how a writer gathers ideas and then creates a book

Kate’s paired text is called Over and Under the Snow.


What About Moose?

March 22, 2018

Fox is ready to build a tree house with her friends: Skunk, Bear, Frog, and Porcupine. All of a sudden, Moose arrives on the scene and he begins to shout orders. Teamwork seems to go by the wayside as Moose disrupts the groups’ plans.

“But what about you, Moose?” Fox asked with a glare. “You’re tromping about but not doing your share.”

View the book trailer with the class and predict what may happen. As a class talk about how this story compares with group work in class. You could possibly create guidelines for teamwork on projects.

View the book being read online. On Corey Rosen Schwartz‘s website, you will find a curriculum guide for activities in all content areas and STEM activity too. For language arts, this book has numerous words ending in -ed (28 different ones).

Savorings for What About Moose?

  • Rhyming
  • Problem Solving
  • Verbs
  • Teamwork
  • Being in charge
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Friendship
  • Clauses

Big Bug/ Super Bugs/ Some Bugs

March 10, 2018

27431983Children often have a favorite topic to write about. They return to the topic and use the same genre in sharing their information. For example, if a child loves his dog, he often will write a story, a narrative. This writing practice is a great start.

One way to broaden children’s understanding of genres is to present books on the same topic with different formats. You can compare and contrast different books on the same topic. Dinosaurs. Trucks. Bears. Show them how this information can be shared out through a narrative, informational text, poetic nonfiction, poetry, all about, etc.

Three books I found recently lend themselves to this kind of study.

Savorings for Big Bug:

  • Opposites – big versus little
  • Perspetive
  • Comparison of size
  • Circular/ Bookends – begins with a bug that looks small on a big leaf  but is a small leaf to a big tree, and continues (begins with the topic of bugs but is only one part of the book versus the other books are all about bugs)

Savorings for Super Bugs:

  • Rhyming
  • Setting – each two page spread illustrates a scene (you could write about each scene)
  • Teamwork
  • Repeating Lines
  • Heroes
  • Author’s Note – writes about what fascinates her

Savorings for Some Bugs:

  • Illustrations are a fascinating collage
  • Repeating structure
  • Vivid Verbs
  • Personifies the bugs – communicating, playing
  • Last 2 pages is a culmination of all the illustrated pages
  • Invites the reader to action – explore their ordinary backyard

Savorings for National Geographic Everything Insects:

  • Nonfiction text features
  • Photographs in natural setting
  • Scientific explanations
  • Link to further research

Little Red Writing

October 13, 2014
Little Red Writing by Joan Holub is a must-have book to encourage narrative writing in young children. From the beginning, my attention was captured. Like a mystery, clues are interspersed throughout the story. Melissa Sweet’s  mixture of fonts, mediums, and cartoon frames create added action and intensity to a rather predictable fairy tale.  As a mentor text, you will be able to teach story elements while Little Red is exploring her story. As a fractured fairy tale, this book creates a great compare/contrast lesson with the actual fairy tale. It is an example of how children can also gain ideas for their own stories from books.

The play on words is brilliant. Each scene, short but with depth, creates the opportunity for discussion about narrative basics, tension, balanced description, and focus. The element of surprise brings a twist to a rather known fairy tale.

Little RedI must say, I wondered if Ruth Ayres had collaborated with Joan Holub. At the end, Little Red’s teacher encourages her to “Write On!”, a phrase I hear Ruth extending to us all.

Have fun reading this tale!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Little Red Writing:

  • Story elements
  • Idioms
  • Types of genre on the same subject
  • Compare/Contrast texts
  • Vocabulary



January 30, 2012

Emily Gravett uses her illustrations to lure her readers in. The soft, puppy with the leash in his mouth makes any dog-lover go, “Awe” and want to read more. Cat lovers, listen up. This book will be one you will enjoy too. It will springboard for you as well.

The simpleness yet carefully paired dogs, in the book called Dogs, is a natural text to teach compare and contrast. It promotes a structure children can duplicate with topics they know.

All through the text, the narrator shares her love for dogs. On my first read, I assumed the narration to be one character and was very surprised in the end. I can’t spoil it. You will have fun, I guarantee. Your students will be sharing stories and Dogs will provide a catalyst for writing at any grade level. Have fun. I’d love to hear your classroom stories.

View Emily Gravett’s author videos at Reading Rockets. There are ten short, worthwhile videos (each 1 to 3 minutes in length). She talks about how she began her writing, illustrating, and even reads one of her books, Monkey and Me. Coming from the United Kingdom, your students will enjoy hearing her accent and learning about this read author. I also highly recommend checking her website out. She has activities for children and background on her books. There is even a contest linked with her book, Again. Children can write to her.

Another 1.5 minute video shows Emily drawing process.

Emily shows children how she illustrates a book for another author with her newest book, Cave Baby.

Savorings for reading and writing for Dogs:

  • Compare/Contrast
  • Repeating Structure
  • surprize ending
  • Perspective
  • Expert topic to use as a mentor text

Imaginative Boys

July 30, 2011

I love the imagination that springs from this text. Two young boys. Two favorite toys. One ultimate challenge.

Shark vs. Train shares the imaginative play of two boys, challenging each other to a competition. Depending on the setting, either the shark dominates the train or visa-versa. Tom Lichtenheld begins with showing two boys playing with their toys that evolves into the full-page visualization of the imaginative play.  Chris Barton shows the importance of the story setting effect with conflict. You get a great sense of perspective too.

Tammy and I shared this book at the AllWrite!!! Summer Institute this past June. My friend, Tammy, explained that after reading this book to her first grade class, students began creating their own books with two objects challenging the other. The mentor text provides a springboard for students to practice perspective even at a young age. We first were introduced to this text by our friend, Ruth, on TwoWritingTeachers.

Savorings for reading in and writing for Shark vs. Train:

  • Onomatopoeia – lots of sounds that young boys use
  • Perspective
  • Compare/Contrast – who is tougher
  • Every day events – imagination with toys
  • Speech Bubbles

Secret Place

June 20, 2011

Secret Place

Among the concrete buildings, a young boy finds a small island of wildlife. As the river runs through the concrete embankments, a small marsh hides around a telephone pole. Ted Rand paints the beauty within the noisy city.  The boy and a few nature lovers observe with admiration. How did such wildlife of ducks and birds come to be? A flashback of the wilderness history is painted in their thoughts in the book, Secret Place

Eve Bunting uses her storytelling  gift to warm every nature-lover’s heart. The “secret place” allows for a spotlight of hope, life and peach within the bustle of the busy city. The book will open the reader’s eyes to the nature that surrounds him/her.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Secret Place:

  • Setting Lead
  • Repeating Line – “in the heart of the city where I live
  • Compare/Contrast – noise of the city versus the noise of the secret place
  • Figurative Language – similes, personification
  • Sensory Description

This is the Dream

February 12, 2009

In celebration of Black History Month, take time to read some books in regards to the positive change our nation has made.  I’m rather humbled that several of these historical events have happened during my lifetime.

This is the Dream by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander is a poetic rhythmic prose that leads the reader from the segregation laws to the present where all people are united.  My favorite line is “and the unwritten rule is to take turns and share.”  Isn’t that what we teach our children everyday?

The authors connect highlighted scenes in history that represent the discrimination and segregation differences.  Each of the five examples – drinking fountains, buses, restaurants, libraries, schools – are focused snapshots.  The text peaks at the “separate but equal” ruling.  The authors’ note states, “[the text] celebrates the power of nonviolent change.”

James Ransome’s illustrations are powerful, adding key visual scenes that intensify the text.  In his illustrator’s note, he used a combination of painting and collage “to help the reader understand the emotional impact of the era….”   My son’s fourth grade teacher read This is the Dream to the class and were impacted.  “Why are those people pouring sugar on the lady’s head?”  someone asked.  They couldn’t believe people could be so unkind.  The illustrations plus text helped lead to a great discussion.

Savorings for reading and in writing for This is the Dream:

  • Repeating structure – “These are the _____”
  • Poetic, rhythmic
  • Time line through text and photos of then versus now.
  • Hyphen/dash – fair paying jobs
  • Contrast of change – beginning states:  “the black-and-white signs says who will drink where“; end:  “the black-and-white sign says ‘OPEN FOR LUNCH'”

Text to text connection:

  • Library – Goin’ Someplace  Special by Patricia McKissack and Jerry Pinkney
  • Hospital – Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell and James E. Ransome

(PES Library book)