Animals at this Moment

October 10, 2011

Jim Arnosky invites his readers to imagine what animals are doing around the world in his book, At this Very Moment. On back en papers, Jim shares with the reader some of his thoughts on the featured animals. His love for nature resonates. He explains where each animal is located in the wild from his observations.

Whenever I think of them [animals], I am transported momentarily to their part of the world. And I  become aware again that my life is happening simultaneously to theirs.”

Jim invites readers to imagine what animals are doing throughout the day. His text has a gentle rhyme that creates daydreams. His illustrations illuminate the beautiful surroundings and brings you near o them as they stare at you from their habitat. The text is simple enough for young children to understand and leave with an appreciation for wildlife. Older students will reflect on his word choice and learn new facts.

Savorings for reading and in writing for At this Very Moment:

  • Magic of 3
  • Visualization – “pretend you’re hearing lions
  • Repeating Line – “all at this very moment
  • Compare/Contrast – animals doing an activity in two parts of the world
  • Parallel Structure – what an animal is doing at the same time we are doing something

The Listening Walk

September 12, 2011

The Listening Walk invites children to notice the world around them. It’s a great introduction to onomatopoeia with the many nature sounds weaved in throughout the text. Each page illustrates possible sounds children can hear around them when they are take the time to focus. Paul Showers also shares snippets of action dipped in sensory detail. Aliki’s colored drawings provide children with an example of how to capture the setting around them.

Class Activity: read the book and then take your class on a listening walk outside. Each season provides different sound opportunities. You can extend this activity by creating a sensory chart. Have your children focus in on the smells and sights around them as well.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Listening Walk:

  • Onomatopoeia
  • Writerly Life – noticing life around you
  • Everyday Happening
  • Descriptive
  • Compare/ Contrast

My Farm Friends

September 5, 2011

On the book jacket, Wendell Minor shares a photo of himself as a youngster sitting near chickens. As I share the book with children, I would show this picture and allow them to wonder about where the author is and how it relates to the book. This little feature connects the story with the seed idea the author used.

My Farm Friends begins with an introduction to the farm, enticing you to explore the farm. This test would support students who live in an agricultural setting,  sparking ideas to write about. For those students living in an urban setting, the pictures will bring the farm to them.

Nine animals are featured. The text has a repeated structure, describing characteristics of the animals, rhyming lines (ABCB pattern). A fun fact is added in. For example, did yo know that turkeys purr when content?

For a sneak peak at the book, view the YouTube video:

At the end, each animal is featured in a two page fun fact spread. It’s a great example for a nonfiction unit of study. Six internet sources are included for further research. A favorite is

Savorings for reading and in writing for My Farm Friends:

  • Magic of 3 – in the introduction
  • Repeated Structure
  • Adjectives – great for young children to learn and understand
  • Character descriptions
  • Everyday Happenings – on the farm

Warsaw Community Public Library – new book

Zak’s Lunch

February 25, 2011

On our snow day yesterday, my oldest son came down around 10:15 a.m. and said, “Is is almost lunch?”  His seventeen year old stomach process food rather quickly and my refrigerator is my witness. 🙂

Margie Palatini adds humor to an ordinary, every day happening – lunch.  I’m sure your student shave plenty of stories about cafeteria food.  I have several lunch stories myself.

In Zak’s Lunch, the scene begins with Mother calling Zak for lunch.  His dog, George, bounds in with him.  Zak is hungry.  But when he sees his sandwich, Zak pouts.  He does not want ham and cheese for lunch.

“This is not a restaurant.  Hmmf! Well, it should be a restaurant.My very own restaurant where I could eat anything I wanted.  As much as I wanted. Anytime I wanted.”

The scene changes as you turn the page and Lou, the waitress, appears.  The neon sign shines Zak’s Place and boy, does Zak’s dreams come true: cheeseburgers with the works, mounds of fries, baseball-sized meatballs, three-tiered chocolate cake.  Mouth-watering illustrations by Howard Fine will have your students drooling.  (I highly recommend not reading this before lunch.)

The story is funny with lots of repeating phrases.  I love the descriptions that will create wild visualizations in each child’s mind.  Have fun with this book.

Side Note: Thanks to a fellow slicer on TwoWritingTeachersOne Literacy Coach mentioned her experience with Sentence Smack Down lesson.  As I was reading Zak’s Lunch, I noticed two-word sentences.  After combing the text again, I found 11 sentences that would work (i.e. Lou laughed).  I’m putting this text in my folder for future lessons.  Thanks for sharing your lesson or I would not have noticed.  (and Thanks to TwoWritingTeachers for encouraging teachers to write about life.  I learn so much from others in this career.  It’s encouraging!)

Sentence Smack Down lesson by Jeff Anderson:  Jeff has a great lesson to help teach subject and predict, noun and verb, in his book Mechanically Inclined.  I highly recommend his book for work on conventions and grammar.  Zak’s Lunch has several two-word sentences for sentence smack down.  Check it out.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Zak’s Lunch:

  • Everyday happening – it is so important for children to realize that they can write about anything and that the ordinary happenings in life can have meaning and fun too
  • Action scenes – show not tell
  • Voice – you can hear the kid talking!!
  • Slang words – chugalugged, thisaway
  • Descriptive – “chocolate shakes so thick the straws stood straight up
  • 2 word sentence for Sentence Smack Down
  • Interweaving of detail – Palatini does an excellent job of adding a tag on to said that deepens the meaning of the text

Cowboy Clues

July 27, 2009

Ever played What am I?  In the game, you  give clues to your audience, going from the least known clue to the more popular.  Andy Rash has created a children’s book that uses the games frame work.  I’m thinking of using this text with the primary classrooms as a pattern book.  I also see this being a great mentor text for the upper elementary students who have great background knowledge in a subject area.  They could create fun books for kids with the knowledge they know following the structure of this text, Are You a Horse?

Roy, the cowboy, receives a saddle as a present.  He is given instructions to get a horse, but he does not know what a horse is.  So, Roy’s adventure begins as he looks for the horse.  As he meets different objects, he asks the repetitive question, “Are you a horse?” to which the ‘thing’ says ‘no’ and gives a clue to what a horse is.

For example, Roy first meets an old wagon, who says:  “A horse is a living thing.”  Next he meets a cactus, who says:  “A horse is an animal.”  It continues through clues of legs, color, being clean, fast, etc.  Excellent text to help with categorizing in the area of science.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Are You a Horse?:

  • Repeating line/structure
  • Hybrid text of sorts – mystery with clues; informational with facts; narrative
  • Surprise ending – you have to read it to believe it
  • Adjectives – each object/animal Roy meets is described with two adjectives:  “A skittery, pinchy thing ran sideways in front of Roy.  It had plenty of legs.”  “Roy came to a tree with a feathered, hooting thing on a branch.”
  • Bold lettering for voice – Roy was very upset.  “WHY CAN’T I FIND A HORSE?” he shouted.

A Boy Read

Must-Have book

(Warsaw Public Library)

Favorite Room in the House

July 19, 2009

Home holds many memories.  Stories can come alive from those memories.  Let’s Go Home:  the Wonderul Things about a House is a spring of ideas to help your kids.  You can use this text to reference throughout the year from  kinder to high school.

One way to introduce the book is to just read the text without showing the illustrations.  Cynthia Rylant invites the reader to remember.  Kids could bring their notebooks to the rug and after reading about a particular room, they could jot down stories ideas they recall from their home.  You could do this over a week’s time, only reading a couple of rooms at a time.  I would use this book when conferencing as well.

And if ever a kitchen is the most perfect place in the world to be, it is when cookies are being baked.

Believe it or not, a bathroom can be the most interesting room in a house.

Wendy Anderson Halperin illustrates the book with such detail that using an Elmo to enlarge the pictures would be an added touch to your lesson.  My eyes cannot help but wander through her illustrations; they are so inviting.  With the many details, more ideas come to mind.  Wendy definitely was able to weave Cynthia’s words into her paintings, bringing the text even more vivid to the reader’s mind.

Savorings for reading and writing for Let’s Go Home:

  • Everyday happenings
  • Mapping – have the kids map their home, yard, favorite place, neighborhood; have them focus on one room and enlarge that setting.  You could extend this activity to the school setting for more ideas.
  • Setting Lead – “It is evening and the crickets are singing…let’s go to the PORCH.”
  • Feelings – “In a kitchen, people will pat each other on the back, ….  It is the room that reminds people to look after each other.”
  • Voice – Cynthia talks to the reader, inviting him/her to recall or to see

Squishy Mud

July 14, 2009

What is it with children and mud?  Some magical force draws children to the squishy mud like a magnet to iron.  Mary Lyn Ray captures this fun-loving moment in her book, Mud.  The illustrations are large, full, and inviting.  They remind me of what a child might focus on and draw in their pictures.  You can almost feel the mud squeezing its way through your toes.

Mud features the awakening of the spring season.   Although a shorter text, narrative nonfiction is packed with perfect description.  As author Barbara Morrow says, “Each word counts!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Mud:

  • Simile – “A cold sweet smell rises in the ground, like sap in the snow.”
  • Personification – “By morning brown leaves loosen from their frozen drifts and run...”
  • Varied Sentences
  • Alliteration – squish, squck, sop, splat, slurp
  • Magic of 3 – “Come spring.  Come grass.  Come green.”

Mail-Delivery Dog

January 28, 2009

Dog lovers, you will enjoy this phenomenal true account of a stray terrier who was adopted by the Albany Postal Service in Owney the Mail-Pouch Pooch (Frances & Foster Books, 2008).  In 1888, Owney began guarding the mail bags and helped the men at the post.  After a time, Owney jumped a mail train car.  Upon returning to Albany several weeks later, the rail workers gave Owney a collar and note asking to attach a depot tag to mark his trip while being gone. Owney seemed to love traveling on the train.  As the reader, you almost feel like you are traveling with Owney on his adventures.  It definitely leaves you wondering what he did and how he knew where to go, when to get on and off.

Based on true events recorded by the major newspapers in the 1890’s, Mona Kerby captures Owney’s travels through the United States and even the world, on a special voyage.  In the author’s note, Mona shared “When Owney died in 1897, his friends had a taxidermist preserve him and sent this body to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.”  Three original pictures of Owney grace the book.  Check out Mona Kerby’s blog that focuses on letter writing and other activities for this newest book based on Owney.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Owney the Mail-Pouch Pooch:

  • Introduction – “In the year 1888, on a cold rainy October night in Albany, NY, a straggly terrier mutt wandered through the empty streets looking for a place to get out of the rain.  He was so skinny his ribs stuck out.”
  • Descriptive action with the Magic of Three – “circled twice, curled up, and went to sleep
  • Hyphenated words – official-looking, lickety-split
  • Historical narrative – a unique story that’s true
  • Passage of Time

(Warsaw Public Library)

The Beauty of Snow

December 3, 2008

Winter is upon us here in Indiana, and although I do not enjoy the cold, icy winds, I do love the beauty of the fresh fallen snow.  The whiteness blankets the barren lands and brown, sleeping ground.  As I looked out my window at some gently falling flakes, I was reminded of a beautiful book, Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Samms II and Jean Stoick.  First Snow in the Woods is a companion book.

A Photographic Fantasy (Nature)      A Photographic Fantasy

Carl R. Samms II and Jean Stoick are fantastic photographers of nature’s beauty.  I’m intrigued by the brilliance of the photos.  If you have an Elmo, you students will enjoy seeing the photos in an enlarged fashion.  My favorite picture is of the cardinal in flight.

The snow has fallen softly in the woods, but something is amiss.  The animals sense a stranger and begin to share their feelings, thoughts, and concerns.  This book shows such great voice.  “Who-hoo’s in the woods?  Where?  Where did the jays say?  Where is he?” asked the Owl of Many Questions.  Your students can predict who the stranger might be.  The narrative creates a sense of tension among the animals.  As the reader, you gain an empathy for the animals, who are trying to be brave.  In the end, a snowman is the stranger.  The photographs will draw your attention in.

To learn a little about the authors, view the below YouTube video. I think your students would enjoy seeing the authors in person.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Stranger in the Woods:

  • Voice
  • Point of View – the animals share their perspective
  • Non-fiction brought alive
  • Publishing – the placement of the words to add to the movement of the animals
  • Punctuation – creative to show a sense of tension:  “You’ll not be volunteering me!  No sir-ree!”  said the scared rabbit.  “Is…is he watching me?”