5 Great Picture Books for Teaching Primary Students to Ask Questions

Looking for some great picture books for teaching students to ask questions? In this post, I’m sharing 5 of my favorites!This post has 5 great books for teaching Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade students to ask questions!

Picture Credit: SergiyN, Shutterstock

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post.

1. A Chicken Followed Me Home! (Robin Page

This nonfiction book is set up in a question-and-answer format. Before you read the book with students, you can have them brainstorm some of their own questions about chickens, and read to see if their questions are answered.

2. The Arrival (Shaun Tan) 

This is a wordless graphic novel that tells the story of a man who immigrates to a new country without his family. Because there are no words, much of the story is left up to the reader’s imagination. This lends itself nicely to kids asking questions about what is happening, why things are happening, etc. Make sure to model a few of your own questions as you begin the story, so that students can come up with their own questions as time goes on.

3. The Tea Party in the Woods (Miyakoshi)

This text is great for teaching kids to ask questions because it’s full of mysteries! A little girl goes to find her father for a tea party in the woods. She comes across a strange house, as well as some animals that are having their own tea party. The ending is mysterious, as well! Model asking questions a couple of times as you begin reading the book, and then have your students chime in with their own questions throughout the rest of the text.

4. Plant Secrets (Emily Goodman)

Plant Secrets is a nonfiction book that uses suspense to keep the readers interested. The author tells us that seeds have a secret….that plants have a secret…that flowers have a secret….and so on. The book naturally lends itself to encouraging kids to ask questions about what these “secrets” are!

5. The Most Magnificent Thing (Ashley Spires)

This story is about a little girl who is working hard on an invention! Throughout the text, the reader wonders exactly what she’s building. The pictures will inspire lots of questions from your students! Throughout the story, they can ask questions about what this mysterious invention might be.

Conclusions

Do you have any other suggestions for picture books that teach inferring? Please leave a comment below!

If you’re looking for resources to teach asking questions and many other reading comprehension strategies, check out my K-1 reading comprehension or 2nd grade reading workshop bundle:

Happy teaching!!!




5 Of My Favorite Books About Literacy Instruction

As I’m writing this post, winter break is rapidly approaching. Yay! If you’re looking for a good literacy-related read for your time off (or any old time!), I’m sharing five of my favorites in today’s post!

Love these books for teaching reading and writing in K-2!

 

Note: This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

Okay. So honestly, it was hard to pick just five. I could easily have pulled another five (or ten!) off my shelf. But here are some of my favorites!

#1: When Readers Struggle: K-3 (Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas)

This is a long one, so you may want to read just bits and pieces. But oh my GOSH is it good!

My favorite thing about this book is that there are LOTS of concrete examples of teacher talk. If you’ve ever stumbled over your words trying to explain something, introduce a text, or support a reader in a place of difficulty, this book will literally give you ideas about what to say!

Read this book if you are a classroom teacher, interventionist, or specialist – there’s so much good stuff in here. I believe there is a version for the upper grades, too. Check out the primary version HERE.

#2: Strategies That Work (Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis)

I got this one a while back, but it’s a classic. It includes comprehension lessons that are organized by strategy. There are lots of real photos and examples of anchor charts, sticky notes, etc. The authors promote a very active approach to comprehension. The lessons are geared mostly toward first grade and up, but I didn’t find it hard to apply the concepts to Kindergarten.

This is a book you’ll come back to again and again! Get it HERE.

#3: Reading With Meaning (Debbie Miller)

This book totally changed how I thought about teaching reading comprehension! I read it 6 or 7 years ago, and the concepts have really stuck with me.

The book gives you a peek into Debbie Miller’s first grade classroom, where young students (many of whom can’t read traditionally) are engaging in truly deep comprehension. There’s also a whole lotta metacognition going on – kids are able to talk about what strategies they’re applying, and why.

If you want to give your readalouds and comprehension lessons a real boost, check out the text HERE (I actually read the first edition, but I assume it’s largely the same).

#4: Conferring With Readers (Jennifer Serravallo and Gravity Goldberg)

If you’re not sure if you a) have time for individual reading conferences or b) want to implement individual reading conferences, this book will SO motivate you to make time for them! Jennifer and Gravity walk you through the steps of conducting a reading conference, figuring out what to teach, quickly gathering information during a reading conference, and the list goes on.

There are lots of concrete examples of teacher talk, as well as for strategies to teach. It’s a relatively quick read, too. You can find it HERE.

#5: Who’s Doing The Work? How To Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris)

This is a book I read recently and just loved. I am not a super talkative person overall, but I sometimes do way too much talking when I’m working with students!

This book challenged my thinking and gave me some new ideas for helping students take more responsibility and ownership in their literacy learning. I also like how it’s organized – the authors go through different balanced literacy routines (i.e. guided reading) and describe steps we can take to let our readers do more of the work. You can find the book HERE.

Let me know what you think!

I hope you found something new to read in this post! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts – and additions to this list! Happy teaching. 🙂




The Best Gift For Teachers To Give (Or Get!)

If you’re a teacher like me, you probably have mixed feelings about the weeks between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

It’s such a beautiful time of the year – but the kids also get a little bit rowdy, you’re scrambling to put together student gifts or holiday projects…..and then there’s your OWN holiday baking and shopping. Yikes!! It’s all a little much.

But I have a tip for you that will make your holiday shopping MUCH easier!

Instead of texting your sister 27 times asking for gift ideas, get her a book or subscription from GiftLit. (And use my affiliate code, PrimaryPond5, for a 10% discount when you check out! This code is good through December 24th.)

GiftLit is a book subscription box company that does a fantastic job of curating book collections. You can choose from 3, 6, or 9 month subscriptions, and you can even swap out some of the books if you like!

Shopping for a child? You can choose from different subscription boxes for kids by age group, or by fun categories like:

  • Trains, Planes, and Things That Go
  • Favorites for Boys
  • Great New Picture Books, and more.

If you’re looking for a gift for a teen (I never know what to buy for them!), there are plenty of fun collections that you can order “as is” or customize. Some of them include

  • Fantasy
  • Fiction for Girls
  • Graphic Novels

There are tons of choices for adults, too. For the chef or wine lover in the family, check out the “Eat, Drink, & Party” collection. There are also great fiction and nonfiction collections available.

There are SO many great subscription options on the website. But if you ask me, one of the cutest options is The Cuddle Collection.

Book Subscription Box for Children from GiftLit

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These books are designed for 2-5 year olds and all come with an adorable stuffed animal. The best part is that, like any of the other subscriptions, it’s not just a single gift – the recipient continues to receive a book each month for as long as the subscription lasts!

There are so many fun things you could do with a subscription – you could have “Santa” gift your classroom with a 3 or 6 month subscription – how much fun would it be for the kids to unwrap a surprise book each month?

Obviously, I’m biased, because I love books. 🙂 But in my opinion, a GiftLit subscription is one of the best things to give (or get) for the holidays or any time of year.

After you’ve selected your boxes, don’t forget to use my affiliate code PrimaryPond5 at checkout to save 10% through December 24, 2016. Happy shopping, and I hope this idea makes life easier for you this holiday season!

Gift Lit Subscription Book Box




How To Incorporate Diverse Children’s Literature Into Your Classroom

Children’s literature is SO powerful.

Through books, our children and students can learn more about themselves. They can also learn about people, places, and experiences that they have never before experienced. They can learn empathy and social skills to use in their own lives!

We can think about a children’s book as serving as either a window or a mirror. “Window” books allow children to peek into other people’s worlds (Bishop, 1990). “Mirror” books, on the other hand, present familiar characters or worlds to children, and they allow readers to identify with characters’ experiences (Bishop, 1990).

It’s essential to have both types of books in our classroom libraries. “Window” books can be fairly easy to come by. But it can be a bit more challenging to find “mirror” books that truly represent our students’ cultures and experiences.

This summer, in my efforts to add more diverse “mirror” books to my own collection, I started following Dee Fogarty on Instagram (@ILoveBooksAndICannotLie). Dee is an educator and literacy consultant in the D.C. area, and she started her Instagram account to showcase diverse children’s literature.

I LOVE following Dee and I wanted to share her awesome work with you! So I talked her into writing a post for me to share here. 🙂 In today’s post, Dee gives some great suggestions for adding diverse books to your own collection, and she also shares some of her own favorite books for the back to school season.

Some of the books children read should serve as mirrors, giving them opportunities to meet characters that look similar to them. In this post, Dee Fogarty gives us some great tips for finding outstanding, diverse children's literature for our classroom libraries! She lists some great back to school books, too.

Photo Credit: AZP Worldwide, Shutterstock

Dee says…

The new school year has arrived! If you are anything like me, you probably will spend countless hours organizing your classroom library, leveling your books by genre or reading level, and ensuring each book is color coded and welcoming to your students.

While you are doing this, I want you to step back and do one more thing. Yes, just one more thing.

Step back, scan your library, and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does your library provide books that is a balanced mix of “mirror” books, books that students can see themselves reflected in, as well as “window” books, books that allow readers to see a world or a character that might be different than them?
  • Do the stories in your library build an understanding of diverse cultures and experiences?
  • Does your library include diverse books that are not just about racism, prejudice or immigration?
  • Does your library include books by authors or illustrators of color? Authors/illustrators who are differently-abled?

If you found yourself answering “no” to many questions of the above questions, don’t fret.  

In this post, I am going to discuss some ways you can ensure that you have books in your classroom that reflect your students and the outside diverse world that we live in. As someone who has worked in education for over a decade, I know how challenging it can be to find diverse books. I also know it is something that some educators may not think about when we are selecting books for our class.

I’m going to ask you to shift your mindset starting today.

Shift away from selecting diverse books for your students only during certain months of the year or books that only deal with learning about another culture.

Move to the place of simply wanting books where the characters represent all kinds of children and families. Period.

Why, you ask? Our world is diverse. Even if children do not live in a diverse area, it is important for them to be able to see positive images of people who make appear different than them. When kids read books like this frequently, it helps them to develop empathy and to accept others’ differences.  

It is also important for students from underrepresented backgrounds to be able to see themselves in books in a positive way. It can affirm their cultural identity and allow them to know that they exist. It allows them to relate to the character on a deeper level, thus allowing you the teacher to be able to use all of our wonderful lesson plans with books that students are already invested in.  

So, it is not just important for students of color to read books with characters of color, it is just as important for students who aren’t of color to read books with characters of color or who may have other differences than them.

Evaluating Books

When I first started teaching, I was always on the hunt for books that reflected by students. I also wanted to find books that exposed them to other cultures, since they should great interest in it.

I’d usually go to a bookstore, look at the cover, skim through it, and if I felt like it was a good fit, I’d buy it. But there were too many occasions when I purchased a book that I hadn’t read, and later ended up being troubled by it.

Here are some tips to help you avoid this situation:

  • Check the Publication Date:  Remember, there was a time where we were not such an accepting society. Believe it or not, it is not as far back as many people think. Always make sure to check the publication date!
  • Accuracy: Is this an accurate representation of the culture being represented? The setting? Is it historically accurate?
  • Ask Yourself Tough Questions: Does this book perpetuate a stereotype? Does this book have a conflicting message? Would this book be inappropriate in light of current events going on? Are the illustrations free of bias and/or stereotypes?
  • Credibility: Who is the author and what experience or knowledge do they have as they write from this cultural perspective?

Actually read the book or at least one chapter if it is a chapter book! No skimming!!

It is truly important to keep these ideas in mind whenever you purchase a new text. I would also recommend you do this even if you receive books from your school district. The people who are making decisions about what to purchase often don’t read every single book. It’s our job to ensure that the books we receive are appropriate. Don’t let those books slip through the cracks!

Finding Diverse Books: Where Are They?

Back in January, I started an Instagram account called @ILoveBooksAndICannotLie that regularly showcases diverse children’s books. Because of this account, I have connected with many authors of these books who all want to get their books in the hands of readers. Often major publishers won’t publish these books. Also, very often, major bookstores won’t sell those same book unless they are coming from a major publisher! It shouldn’t be this complicated to find diverse books, right? Here are some solutions:

  • Independent Bookstores: I find that it is easier to find diverse children’s books in independent bookstores vs larger book stores. In larger bookstores I find myself searching for hours, only to find a few books with diversity.  I love that independent bookstores have a greater selection of books. If you are ever in the DC Area, make sure to check out Bus Boy’s and Poets and Sankofa Cafe and Books.  They have a great selection of diverse books!
  • Subscription Services: Monthly subscription services are another way to get access to diverse books without the hassle of searching for them.. My subscription service WAM! Book Bundle delivers diverse children’s books that serve as windows and mirrors to its readers each month. We are launching this month, so please feel free to check us out at http://get.wambookbundle.com/. There are also other diverse subscription services such as “Just Like Me Box” and “Heritage Box” that offer diverse books as well.
  • Social Media Book Influencers: I love Instagram! There are some great accounts to follow if you are looking for diverse children’s books such as @HereWeeRead @diversebooks @WeNeedDiverseBooks @diversereads. Check them out, make a list and head to another great place to find diverse books, the library!

Ready to add some more books to your classroom library? Check out these diverse books to help to kick start the year with your students!

Great Diverse Back To School Books:

Suki’s Kimono By Chieri Uegako

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

My Teacher By James Ransome

The Name Jar By Yangsook Choi

How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? By  Jane Yolen

I Am Absolutely Too Small for School By Lauren Child

Pedro For President By Fran Manushkin

Katie Woo Rules The School By Fran Manushkin

Sofia Martinez: Picture Perfect By Jacqueline Jules

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Additional Resources:

More Mirrors in The Classroom: Using Urban Children’s Literature to Increase Literacy (Fleming, Catapano, Thompson, & Carrillo) 

http://blog.leeandlow.com/

WeNeedDiverseBooks.org

I hope you enjoyed Dee’s post as much as I did! With so many things to worry about each day, it’s all too easy to neglect this part of our classroom and instruction. But incorporating diverse books is so important for our students’ learning and emotional well being!

I’m grateful that Dee makes book selection easier for us thru her Instagram feed, the suggestions she included here, and her book subscription service. Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram for more great ideas (@ILoveBooksAndICannotLie)!

Happy teaching!

 

References

Bishop, R.S. (1990a). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives, 6(3), ix–xi.




How To Build Reading Confidence in Pre-Readers

If you teach Kindergarten or first grade, you probably spend time working with students who are pre-readers – who can’t yet read traditionally.

We spend a lot of time teaching letter sounds, simple sight words, and basic skills to those kiddos. All of this is good, but they also need to have experiences reading real texts!

And I don’t know about you, but every year I’ve taught or co-taught Kindergarten, I’ve run out of books for those pre-readers who get “stuck” at Level A or below. There never seem to be enough!

So when teacher and author Joanna Meredith shared her Mush Mush Readers series with me, I was beyond excited! This set of books is perfect for pre-readers or beginning readers who need to work on print concepts and beginning sight words. And if you’re wondering about the name (like I was!), Mush Mush is her cat who stars in the book. 🙂

Joanna has taught Pre-K and Kindergarten for six years, and she developed these books because she had the same problem as I did. She just wasn’t finding enough appropriate books for pre- and beginning readers.

Like me, Joanna believes that developing reading confidence our little learners is key for long-term reading success. So in today’s post (written by Joanna), she shares with us some tips and fun activities for working with pre- and beginning readers!

This post has some awesome ideas for Kindergarten small group literacy activities. These ideas are perfect for your pre-readers and students who are just beginning to learn to read!

Photo Credit: Racorn, Shutterstock

Joanna says…

“I was relieved when I read Alison’s blog post, What To Do When ‘Level A’ Readers Are Too Hard,because it confirmed that I wasn’t alone in tackling this problem!!! Whether it was for small group, independent, or ‘at-home’ reading, I witnessed that all the ‘Level A’ or ‘Level 1’ readers were too difficult for my little learners just beginning their reading journey.

So why do I think ‘Level A’ and ‘Level 1’ Readers are too difficult for beginning readers? Well, they demand that beginning readers know many of their alphabet letter names and sounds, how to blend CVC and CVCe words, have a sense of 1-1 correspondence, read sight words (pre-primer up to 2nd grade!), and understand sentence structure.  Not to mention demanding that they master basic print concepts.  Learning all of these reading concepts at once is overwhelming and can be crippling when children’s reading confidence is already in a vulnerable state. It’s just too much!

 This post has some awesome ideas for Kindergarten small group literacy activities. These ideas are perfect for your pre-readers and students who are just beginning to learn to read!

 This post has some awesome ideas for Kindergarten small group literacy activities. These ideas are perfect for your pre-readers and students who are just beginning to learn to read!

So what can you do to build reading confidence so your beginning readers are motivated and excited to learn to read? I am excited to share 12 small group activities below that do just that:

  • Enjoy small group every day! Make time in your reading block to meet with your small groups every day. That’s right – Monday-Friday! Building a secure, predictable learning environment is huge for beginning readers. They will build more trust in you and themselves if they meet with you every day. In my classroom, I used the following 6 ‘Reading Stations,’ which each lasted 5-7 minutes: Alphabet, Sight Words, Listening Center, Computer, Teacher Time, & Read to Self (Read to Self was normally an extension of what we talked about during ‘Teacher Time’)
  • Read to them! Do not start your ‘Beginning Leveled Small Groups’ by giving them a decodable book. Simply READ TO THEM. I Re-Read a ‘Read-Aloud Book’ in small group 2-3 times to help build fluency.  Model and discuss basic concepts of print (i.e., location of the front and back cover, how to turn the pages, words vs. illustrations, etc.), roles of the author and illustrator, characters and setting, and discuss any conflict that arises and the solution that is found at the end of the book.
  • Get to know their interests! In the beginning weeks, ask them what animals, activities, and things they enjoy.  Then, gather up books that include those topics, share them in small group and leave them in your classroom library! This will help foster a warm, fuzzy feeling inside them when it is ‘reading time’ because they will be interested and feel connected. A child who does not enjoy reading will not be motivated or have the desire to take the necessary steps to read books on their own.
  • Role play being the teacher! Let the student ‘teach’ a stuffed animal or puppet an alphabet letter or sight word they have mastered.
  • Lights, camera, action! Video the student ‘echo reading’ a book with you and let them watch it back! They love watching themselves! You can also take a picture of them during the school day and use that picture in small group to create a story.
  • Connect home & school! Let your beginning readers bring in a book they love reading at home to re-tell, or bring an item from home that begins with the letter you are studying to share during small group. Connecting home life and school life is a great confidence-booster because they feel that they have lots of ‘reading cheerleaders’.
  • Mirror it! Give each student a hand-held mirror when they practice letter sounds. This helps them see that they are creating letter sounds by themselves and that there is learning going on. They also love looking at themselves. 🙂
  • Read’ illustrations! Discuss book illustrations during small group. In the beginning of the school year, I take picture walks and ‘read’ the illustrations but do not read the text. I brainstorm with the students what the words could be based on the illustrations. The kids love to take time to examine the illustrations and discuss their own thoughts.
  • Get excited about sight words! Create weekly sight word lists for your beginning readers. I keep mine between 3-5 new sight words a week. When they master their weekly list, celebrate the victory!
  • Strengthen 1-1 correspondence! Throughout the day you can strengthen this skill by having your beginning readers pass out one item per student (pencils, paper, name tags)! They love being the teacher’s helper.
  • Sound box! Have a special ‘sound box’ that includes 3-D objects that begin with the letter you are studying. The students enjoy practicing the letter sound while they hold and ‘play’ with the objects. It is also fun to make up silly alliteration stories with the sound objects in the box!
  • Mush Mush Readers! With minimal teaching, these 10 early sight word readers give beginning readers an opportunity to read from actual books!

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My desire is that ‘beginning readers’ grow to become confident readers and that they raise their reading trajectory over the course of the year without lagging behind.

This is why I wrote and published my 10 early sight word readers called, ‘Mush Mush Readers.’ Named after my fluffy, friendly cat, my books focus on sight words, 1-1 correspondence, ‘reading’ picture words, and sentence repetition to build fluency.

Mush Mush Readers’ are ACTUAL books that your beginning readers can hold in their hands to build their reading confidence! The book pages were printed thick to hold up against all of the ‘love’ and re-reading the little learners will do with them! Your beginning readers can build their reading confidence using my ‘Mush Mush Readers’ in 4- simple steps:

  • Learn the sight word on the back cover
  • Put their pointer finger on Mush Mush’s paw print below each word as they read
  • Look at the illustration to ‘read’ the picture-word
  • RE-READ!!!

The beginning of the school year is so precious and so delicate for your beginning readers. You play a vital role in their reading foundation – help make it a strong and confident journey!

Thank you so much, Alison, for letting me guest blog, and thank you, Learning at the Primary Pond readers, for letting me share with you! Come and visit Mush Mush and me on my blog, “Reading Tails!” www.mushmushreaders.com then click Reading Tails Blog!”

I hope you enjoyed Joanna’s ideas as much as I did! Her second bullet point about just reading aloud to kids during small group is my favorite. Yes, we can have them work in beginning readers, but reading aloud to and with them is so important (and it’s great to do in a small group).

Joanna also has a tip sheet for parents to share with you – you can download that for free by clicking HERE. Families often aren’t sure how to help their pre-readers, but these ideas give them a fantastic starting point!

I hope you’ll also consider purchasing her Mush Mush readers. They are absolutely adorable and will make an engaging addition to your home or classroom library! You can click HERE to read more about them. (My cat, Max, approves of them, too.) 😉

Max and the Mush Mush readers for Kindergarten students

Happy teaching!




Teaching Children About Autism With “My Brother Charlie”

Teaching children about autism is hard.

When we teach kids about people who use wheelchairs, or people who are blind, there’s physical “stuff” for them to see. They can see a wheelchair, a seeing eye dog, or a cane.

But people with autism usually don’t have this kind of “stuff.” Nor do people with autism fit into a neat box. There’s a big spectrum – children may notice that some of their peers with autism can be chatty, while others are nonverbal. Loud noises bother some kids with autism but not others.

So how do we teach children about autism? Reading My Brother Charlie is a good place to start! In this post, I’ll explain why My Brother Charlie is such an outstanding book and link to a free lesson plan to go along with it.

Teaching children about people with autism and other disabilities is difficult. Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete's book My Brother Charlie is a GREAT readaloud for teaching young children about autism. This blog post also has a free lesson plan you can download and use with the book!

The authors of My Brother Charlie are Holly Robinson Peete, an actress, and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, Holly’s daughter (age 12 at the time she co-authored the book). Holly’s son, RJ, who is also Ryan’s twin brother, was diagnosed with autism at age 3.

The text is narrated by Callie, a character based upon Ryan. The story opens with Callie describing the things that she and her twin brother have in common. I love this part! When you read this story with your children or students, you can talk about how important it is to look for things we have in common with other people – even when they may seem different from us.

Teaching children about people with autism and other disabilities is difficult. Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete's book My Brother Charlie is a GREAT readaloud for teaching young children about autism. This blog post also has a free lesson plan you can download and use with the book!

Callie then goes on to explain that even though they are twins, she and Charlie are also different from each other.

She describes how Charlie wouldn’t play with her when they were little, and that he couldn’t say “I love you” to his family.

Callie also explains things that are difficult for Charlie – making friends, showing his feelings, staying safe. And she shares her own feelings about this (which is another great teaching opportunity – it can be difficult to live with or be friends with someone who has autism, and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings, too).

Despite these challenges, Callie says, Charlie is very talented. She describes all of his strengths and explains that even when he doesn’t say “I love you” out loud, Charlie shows it in many different ways.

Teaching children about people with autism and other disabilities is difficult. Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete's book My Brother Charlie is a GREAT readaloud for teaching young children about autism. This blog post also has a free lesson plan you can download and use with the book!

This is such a beautiful book! I was fortunate enough to receive it from GiftLit, a subscription book box service.

My Brother Charlie is part of a special subscription box called the “Brothers and Sisters Collection.” The Brothers and Sisters Collection is one of four “One for One Book Collections.” GiftLit is partnering with Books for Kids, so when you purchase a One for One Book Collections, a book will be donated to a low-income, at-risk preschooler!

As a former Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher, I know JUST how much kids’ experiences with books contributes to their reading success. I would love for you to support this cause by getting a One for One Book Collection for yourself, your classroom, or a friend (click HERE to find a collection you love!). When you check out, please use code PrimaryPond so that they know you were referred from my blog. 🙂

And last but not least – I have a free lesson plan for you to go with My Brother Charlie! I think this book would make an excellent readaloud for the beginning of the school year. It’s a great step towards establishing an accepting, caring community in your classroom.

Click on the image below to download the lesson!

Teaching children about people with autism and other disabilities is difficult. Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete's book My Brother Charlie is a GREAT readaloud for teaching young children about autism. This blog post also has a free lesson plan you can download and use with the book!

Happy teaching!




Writing Mentor Texts for Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade

A while back, I compiled a list of narrative, opinion/persuasive, and informational mentor texts for primary students. A bit of time has passed, so I’ve decided to update that list and include additional awesome books that I’ve found!

In today’s post, I’ll share a list of outstanding mentor texts, grouped by genre. I’ll also share five important tips for using mentor texts to teach writing in the primary grades, so be sure to read to the end of the post!

This post has a HUGE list of mentor texts for narrative, opinion, and informational writing! You can use these books to teach personal narrative writing, story writing, opinion writing, persuasive writing, how-to writing, and nonfiction writing. There's also a list of 5 tips for using mentor texts!

Photo credit: Tiplyashina Evgeniya, Shutterstock

The books listed below are best for use with Kindergarten, first, or second grade. The ones that are most appropriate for Kindergarten are *starred* (not to say that any of the books would be inappropriate for Kindergarten, but having taught this grade, I know that some books are a little too long for the little ones!).

Within the lists, I’ve linked to these books on Amazon, so you can quickly and easily add them to your cart or wishlist!

Narrative or Personal Narrative Writing Mentor Texts:

Salt Hands (Picture Puffins)  (Jane Chelsea Aragon) – personal narrative

*Fireflies  (Julie Brinckloe) – personal narrative

*Bigmama’s  (Donald Crews) – personal narrative Shortcut (Donald Crews) – personal narrative

Oliver Button Is a Sissy  (Tomie dePaola)

Roller Coaster  (Maria Frazee) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective

*Kitten’s First Full Moon  (Kevin Henkes) – fiction

*Amazing Grace  (Mary Hoffman) – narrative

*The Leaving Morning (Angela Johnson) – personal narrative

*Peter’s Chair (Picture Puffins)  (Ezra Jack Keats) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective

The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective

*Whistle for Willie  (Ezra Jack Keats) – narrative

*Kitchen Dance  (Maurie J. Manning) – personal narrative

One Morning in Maine (Picture Puffins)  (Robert McCloskey) – narrative

Mirette on the High Wire  (Emily Arnold McCully) – narrative

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (Patricia Polacco) – personal narrative

Thank You, Mr. Falker  (Patricia Polacco) – narrative / personal narrative

Thunder Cake  (Patricia Polacco) – personal narrative

The Relatives Came  (Cynthia Rylant) – personal narrative

When I Was Young in the Mountains (Cynthia Rylant) – personal narrative

Too Many Tamales  (Gary Soto) – narrative

*Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)  (Mo Willems) – fiction

*Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale  (Mo Willems) – realistic fiction

*A Chair for My Mother (Vera Williams) – personal narrative

*Owl Moon  (Jane Yolen) – personal narrative; great for teaching descriptive details

Opinion or Persuasive Writing Mentor Texts:

*One Word from Sophia (Jim Averbeck)

*Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type  (Doreen Cronin) – can also be used to teach letter writing

The Best Part of Me: Children Talk About their Bodies in Pictures and Words  (Wendy Ewald)

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School (Mark Teague) – can also be used to teach letter writing

Hey, Little Ant  (Phillip Hoose)

Should We Have Pets?: A Persuasive Text  (Sylvia Lollis)

I Wanna Iguana  (Karen Kaufman Orloff) – can also be used to teach letter writing

I Wanna New Room  (Karen Kaufman Orloff) – can also be used to teach letter writing

The Perfect Pet (Margie Palatini)

Earrings (Judith Viorst)

*Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!  (Mo Willems)

*Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!  (Mo Willems)

Informational / How-To / Nonfiction / Expository Writing Mentor Texts:

*All About Sharks  (Jim Arnosky)

*Surprising Sharks (Nicola Davies)

Solids, Liquids, And Gases (Rookie Read-About Science)  (Ginger Garrett)

*How a House Is Built  (Gail Gibbons) – how-to book

The Bicycle Book  (Gail Gibbons)

*The Pumpkin Book  (Gail Gibbons) – one page has a how-to

*Make a Valentine (Book shop)  (Dale Gordon) – how-to book

All Kinds of Habitats (It’s Science!)  (Sally Hewitt)

Chameleons Are Cool (Martin Jenkins)

The Abcs of Habitats (Abcs of the Natural World)  (Bobbie Kalman)

Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs! (Kathleen Kudlinski)

*What Is Weather?  (Ellen Lawrence)

*How to Make Salsa  (Jamie Lucero) – how-to book

What Is the World Made Of? All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases  (Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld)

All of these texts can be used with my Kindergarten, first, or second grade writing units or writing bundles, which you can find here:

 

KinderWritingWorkshopBundleCover.001    FirstGradeWritingWorkshopBundleCover.001    SecondGradeWritingWorkshopBundleCover.001

Five Tips for Using Mentor Texts

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite mentor texts, let’s talk about how to use them effectively in the classroom! Here are five things that I do when working with writing mentor texts:

1.  Before utilizing a book as a mentor text, I read it aloud to students for purposes of enjoyment and comprehension. Students need an opportunity to understand, enjoy, and discuss a text before they are asked to think about it as writers. I always read aloud the mentor text a day or two before I use it in a writing lesson.

2.  I use modeling and clear, explicit language to teach students how to “read as writers.” I explain that people read books for many purposes – for pleasure, to learn, and to grow as writers. I like to read a familiar book aloud to students and think aloud as I “read it as a writer.”  I comment on what I notice about character development, how the author introduces a problem, the author’s word choice, the author’s use of punctuation marks, how the illustrations complement the words, and so on.

3.  I use the same mentor text for multiple writing lessons.  While it’s helpful to expose students to many different mentor texts, you can also use a single text for multiple minilessons.  In my second grade writing workshop curriculum, for example, I use the book Amazing Grace (Mary Hoffman) to teach students how to include a problem in a story, write a strong ending, and incorporate dialogue.  This saves us time, because students are already familiar with the text so we can dive right into the teaching point of the minilesson.

4.  I use mentor texts to guide my own planning. When I sit down to plan a writing unit, I sometimes struggle to determine what, exactly, I want my students to be able to do as writers of the genre we’re working on.  When this happens, I spend some time carefully examining mentor texts on my own.  For example, if I’m planning a nonfiction unit, I take out a couple of children’s nonfiction books and pay attention to how the authors convey information.  Are examples given?  Does the author provide definitions of important works?  Is the information organized into categories – and if so, how?  These are all strategies that I can teach students to use as they learn nonfiction writing.

5.  I teach students to learn about writing from the books they read independently.  I show students that, as they read, they can also grow as writers. You might have students keep a list of interesting words they find in books, and then encourage them to share these words with the class and try them out in their own writing.

Do you have any favorite mentor texts or tips for using them? Please comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.




One Word from Sophia: A Fantastic New Readaloud and Mentor Text for K-2

When I was “college shopping” toward the end of high school, I visited a university with my parents. We went to the College of Education and were asked to wait for a professor in her office.

As I sank down into the soft chair, I noticed something spectacular. Every single wall of the professor’s office was completely covered with books. There were shelves, shelves, and more shelves of children’s literature.

It was my own, personal version of an amusement park.

I looked at my parents and said, quite seriously, “My office is going to look just like this someday.”

Flash forward about 15 years…I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it. 🙂 My collection of books is growing, and I still LOVE reading and sharing books with students!

But there’s just one problem: I’m a busy adult now, and I haven’t had time to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest children’s books.

A couple of months ago, I decided that I needed to find a quick and easy way to learn about recently-published children’s literature. Also, many of you had mentioned that you’d like to read about outstanding children’s books here on my blog, and I wanted to find some good texts to share with you.

I started doing a little research, and I eventually stumbled upon a website called GiftLit.

GiftLit is a book subscription website that allows you to select curated monthly book packages for yourself, another adult, or a child. You can have them pick the books, or you can pick your own books. How fun would it be to order a subscription for your class and surprise your students with new books for a couple of months?

Anyway, I emailed GiftLit to ask if they would be able to provide suggestions for outstanding, newer children’s books so that I could share these books with you on my blog. And I was thrilled to find out that the answer was YES!

I recently received my first book from GiftLit. It’s called One Word from Sophia (Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail), and it tells the story of a little girl who wants just one gift for her birthday – a pet giraffe.

In today’s post, I’ll tell you all about this beautiful picture book and suggest different ways to use it for teaching comprehension and writing to your primary students. I’ll also link to four different FREE lesson plans I’ve created to go with the book, because this text makes an excellent:

  • Mentor text for opinion / persuasive writing
  • Mentor text for strong illustrations
  • Readaloud for teaching character traits
  • Readaloud for teaching problem and solution

Before we dive in, I want to mention one thing – I’m now an affiliate of GiftLit. If you choose to order One Word from Sophia or any other book package from GiftLit, please use the code PrimaryPond when you check out. Using this code will a) get you a 5% discount through March 15th (yay!) and b) enable me to continue sharing these wonderful books with you, as well as provide free lesson plans and materials for the books.

Now, let’s get started!!

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

When I got my package from GiftLit in the mail, I was pretty excited. It came beautifully wrapped, and it was almost too perfect to unwrap! 🙂

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

Here’s One Word from Sophia, the book they’d recommended for me this month! February is Black History Month, so it’s a great time to think about adding children’s literature with diverse characters to your classroom library (for enjoyment all year round!).

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

As the story opens, you meet Sophia, a feisty and precocious little girl with only one, tiny, very simple wish:

To receive a pet giraffe for her birthday.

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

There are just four problems getting in her way: Mother, Father, Uncle Conrad, and Grand-mamá.

Sophia begins to plead her case, starting with Mother. She explains that giraffes burn less gasoline than cars, never have defective parts, and could quite easily deliver her to ballet class on the second floor.

Mother, as you might imagine, says no. She also tells Sophia that her argument is too verbose.

So Sophia approaches Father, then Uncle Conrad, and finally Grand-mamá. She brings graphs, charts, and diagrams to support her lengthy, thoughtful arguments.

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.) Unfortuna

Unfortunately, their answers are no, no, and no. They call her presentations effusive and loquacious.

So in a last-ditch, desperate attempt to get her giraffe, Sophia distills her case to just one word.

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

And guess what? ” ‘One word really worked,’ [Sophia] said.”

“And two words came in handy as well:”

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

Isn’t this a beautiful book? The way the text and illustrations are laid out is AMAZING, and the story is just darling.

But beyond it being a cute story (that drives home the value of saying “please,” and “thank you”), this book makes a powerful mentor text or basis for reading comprehension lessons!

Let’s start with the mentor text possibilities. (Side note: whenever I use a book as a mentor text, I always make sure to read it to the kids once just for enjoyment and comprehension. We later revisit the book to “dig in deeper.”)

First of all, this book makes a wonderful addition to a persuasive or opinion writing unit! Sophia clearly states her purpose: “Her One True Desire was to get a pet giraffe for her birthday.” Then, she goes on to give numerous reasons to support her opinion, including:

  • Giraffes burn less gasoline and are safer than cars
  • Giraffes are a good source of manure, which can be sold for a profit
  • Other “household members” are in favor of adopting a giraffe

Because each argument is featured on a different page, students can clearly see that she has multiple, distinct reasons to support her opinion. On a second read of the book, you can have them help you fill in these reasons into a graphic organizer (and then have them use the same graphic organizer to plan their own opinion writing piece). To get that lesson plan, please click on the image below:

Download this FREE opinion writing lesson plan for One Word from Sophia!

One Word from Sophia also makes a great mentor text for teaching young writers about illustrations. The text and illustrations integrate seamlessly, like on this page:

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

Yasmeen Ismail, the illustrator, uses a type of labeling that continues the narrative across both pages.

Or, check out this page, where Sophia’s sad puppy-dog eyes are featured in a “zoomed in” illustration:

Read this blog post to learn about this fabulous new picture book, and get free lesson plans for teaching the book! (It makes a great mentor text for opinion persuasive writing, or a great readaloud for teaching character traits.)

To download a lesson plan that uses One Word from Sophia as a mentor text for engaging illustrations, click the image below:

Download this FREE writing lesson plan for using One Word from Sophia as an illustrations mentor text!

I can see lots of other uses for this book as a mentor text, but let’s move on to ways this book can be used as the basis for reading comprehension lessons.

Sophia’s fierce, outgoing personality makes this an excellent book for teaching character traits! We could argue that she is:

  • Determined (she tries many different arguments and strategies to persuade her family to buy her a giraffe – and she never gives up!)
  • Intelligent (she uses great vocabulary words in her arguments)
  • Kind (she wants to take care of an animal, and she uses “please” and “thank you”)
  • Loquacious or talkative (she uses a whole lot of words to convey her thoughts!)

For a free lesson plan on character traits with One Word from Sophia (including a character traits poster and graphic organizer!) click on the image below:

Download this FREE character traits lesson plan for One Word from Sophia!

This also makes a great book for teaching problem and solutionOne Word from Sophia teaches us that characters often try many different things before they find a solution to their problem. (This concept is helpful for students to learn as readers or writers). For a lesson plan on problem and solution using this text, click on the image below:

Download this FREE lesson plan for teaching problem and solution with One Word from Sophia!

I hope that at least one of those lesson plans is helpful for you and your students! As you can see, this book can be used in so many different ways – and the best part is that students will LOVE the story. This is definitely one of my new favorite books!!

As I mentioned earlier, I’d love it if you’d support the work I do with children’s literature by using the code PrimaryPond when you check out at GiftLit (this applies for any purchase, even those that do not include children’s literature). This will also get you 5% off your purchase through March 15.

If you want to order One Word from Sophia in your self-selected book package, just follow these steps:

1. Select the “Build Your Own” option:

How to use GiftLit to build your own children's book monthly subscription!

2. Choose “Custom Children’s Collection”:

How to use GiftLit to build your own children's book monthly subscription!

3. Select “Change Book”:

How to use GiftLit to build your own children's book monthly subscription!

And then search for One Word from Sophia.

If I had my own classroom, I would love to surprise my students with a monthly book subscription! There are also these nice gift message cards that you can use (you could even pretend the books are from someone else, like a leprechaun for St. Patrick’s Day):

GiftLit makes a great present for a teacher, family, baby shower, or any book lover!

And of course, GiftLit has lots of other options, too – you can choose children’s books for a certain age range, young adult literature, books for women or men, books for new babies (great baby shower gift!!), and the list goes on. Again, please use the code PrimaryPond when you check out to get your discount (good through March 15th)!

Let me know if you read this book and love it as much as I do. 🙂 Happy teaching!

References:

Averbeck, J. (2015). One Word from Sophia. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.




3 Ways to Use Classroom Photos to Teach Literacy in K-2

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Right? Well, this isn’t entirely true. Not for primary students, anyway.

Here’s why: primary kiddos LOVE seeing photos of themselves and their friends. So a picture is worth far more than a thousand words in the classroom – it’s worth a thousand words + engagement in learning + a whole lot of excitement!

There are tons of different ways to use classroom photos on a daily basis. I’ve used photos for center rotations, supply labels, and more. However, today I’m going to focus on using authentic photos to teach literacy. Keep reading to learn about three different ways I’ve used classroom photos to teach literacy skills to my students!

Here are 3 ways to use photos of your students and classroom to create engaging reading and writing activities for your students!

Photo credit: Kamira/Shutterstock

1. Making a class book. The possibilities are endless here! All you need is a camera and word processing document to create books for your students. You can use photos from a class field trip, special visitor, or any ordinary day to create books for your students to read. You can create the book yourself, or you can engage students in creating the book.

When the local fire department visited my Kindergarteners during our Community Helpers Unit, I took a series of photos that showed the fireman putting on his gear. Then, I put each photo on a separate page of a word processing document. I printed out the photos, mixed them up, and had students help me put them back in the correct order (great sequencing practice). We then created a class book to describe how a firefighter gets dressed in the special gear. Students dictated the words for me to write on each page, and I wrote them down. Then, I laminated the book and placed it in the reading corner. It was the “hottest” item in our classroom library for weeks!

Another great way to use photos is to create patterned books for pre-readers or beginning readers. One year, I took photos of the kids working in various centers. Then, I created a book that read something like this: “I can write” (photo of a child writing) – “I can build” (photo of a child building with blocks) – “I can paint” (photo of a child painting) – and so on. I placed only one sentence and photo on each page. I then made copies of the book and had students place them in their book bags. They loved “reading” the books during independent reading at the beginning of the year, and eventually I had the kids take the books home.

2. Having students participate in writing about the photos in a newsletter, classroom blog, or their own books. One year when I was teaching summer school, I had my kids help out with our weekly newsletter. Students got to take turns taking photos and then writing about those photos in the newsletter. You could do the same for a classroom blog, or even have your kids create their own blogs with photos using Kidblog. If you have iPads in your classroom, you can have students take photos on them. Students can then write about the photos using an app like Book Creator.

3. Teaching vocabulary. If you have a vocabulary wall or use vocabulary visual aids during your lessons, you can incorporate photos from your classroom (and beyond) to teach words. For example, you could snap a photo of a student holding a ball above their head and use it to teach the vocabulary “above.” Using a real photo to teach words definitely makes vocabulary words memorable for students!

Have you used photographs in the classroom to teach literacy? I would love to hear your creative ideas, so please comment below! And speaking of photos, be sure to follow me here on Instagram for the ideas and updates I share!

Happy teaching!




Where To Find Books in Spanish For Primary Students

If you’re a bilingual teacher like me, you know just how difficult it is to find quality books written in Spanish! Since I’ve always taught the primary grades, I feel like I see the same books over and over again. So where are all the Spanish books?!

The answer, unfortunately, is that there just aren’t a ton available. You’d think that there would be plenty of picture books in Spanish, given that 20,000 or more children’s books are published in the U.S. most years.

Even though a great number of children’s books are published, not many of those books are translated into Spanish. This is unfortunate, because there are so many Spanish-speaking children in bilingual and dual language programs across the U.S. (as well as English-speaking children who are learning Spanish).

Moreover, it’s actually better to have authentic literature that was written in Spanish first, rather than translations. Authentic literature is even harder to come by.

So where can you buy books in Spanish? I’ve done a lot of searching over the past few years, and here are some good options I’ve found:

Grab this list of great places to buy bilingual books / books in Spanish online!

  • Scholastic en español:  Picture books, leveled readers, and more!
  • Booksource:  Collections of books, including mentor texts for reading/writing workshop
  • Wilbooks:  Books for beginning readers, grades Pre-K through 2nd (included guided reading sets)
  • Lectorum:  LOTS of different books in Spanish
  • Creative Teaching Press (Learn to Read series – Spanish):  Books for beginning readers; more will be added in the coming months (some were translated by me!)

Amazon is also a good resource. I have an Amazon Prime membership and it’s totally worth it for the free 2-day shipping!

Do you have any sites to add to this list? Please comment below – I would love to add more links!

Make sure you don’t miss any of my bilingual resources or freebies by signing up here.