Read-Aloud Tuesday: Oct 21, 2014

Welcome to Read-Aloud Tuesday!  It’s my third year of reading aloud in my son’s Montessori classroom (ages 3-6), and the second year of blogging about the books we share together.


Today is Read for the Record, where thousands of kids across the country are reading the same book!  We read three titles before the 2014 #readfortherecord book, Rosemary Wells’s Bunny Cakes.


Today is Monday by Eric Carle

A picture book?  A song?  Either way, Carle’s iconic illustrations bring joy and life to a sing-along story that highlights the days of the week.  By the end of the story, almost every child was chiming in.  Share with ages 2-7.


Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton

Gizmo, Sprinkles and Wild love to build and create.  But watch out – Rex loves to wreck their creative works!  How can the three friends tackle their problem?  Perfectly paced and illustrated for the younger crowd, this energetic story of including others and teamwork was a huge hit.  Rex, we’d love to see you again!  Share with ages 3-7.


Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

A favorite from last year.  With fall settling in and the leaves changing, this interactive story looks at one tree’s changes throughout the seasons as the audience taps, pats, blows, and claps to bring about growth and transformation.  A beautiful book to spark discussion of seasons and evergreen vs deciduous trees.  Share with ages 2+.


Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

It’s Grandma’s birthday, and older sister Ruby is making a cake with raspberry fluff frosting.  Max wants to help, going to the store to get Ruby’s list of ingredients.  There’s just one thing: Max wants to add red-hot marshmallow squirters to his birthday offering, an earthworm cake…but the grocer can’t read his scribble-writing.  What’s a bunny to do?  Creative and engaging, Max and Ruby’s tales never go out of style.  The solution to Max’s problem – drawing the red-hot marshmallow squirters – was reasoned by clever students during the story.  Share with ages 2-6.

Next week, the students get to find out how many other kids listened to this same story!  Big thanks to Issuu for the free online copy of Bunny Cakes, only available 10-21-14.

Lessons: Oct 13-17, 2014 – author study, WCCPBA and claim evidence reasoning, NW Coastal unit

Week 7.  



No white board, as I was out for 2 of the 3 lessons.  We continued our Arthur Howard study with Bubba and Beau, Best Friends.  This week’s thinking question again involved vocabulary: keen and distain.  Using text/visual clues, we work together to define the words, then answer the following question: What are you KEEN about?  What do you DISTAIN?  Any chance for the K’s to talk about themselves is always welcomed, and I love that it incorporates literacy skills!

2nd grade:  

Washington Children’s Choice Nominee!  Memoirs of a Hamster by Devin Scillion.  Another thinking / claim-evidence reasoning question:  At the end of the story, do you agree with Seymour the hamster when he says, “Who’s the luckiest hamster in the world?  Answer: ME!”.  Back up your claim with evidence from the story.  

This was a GREAT question that got students thinking and talking and referencing the text.

4th grade:

Week 1 of a four-week unit with Cornell note-taking and Native Americans using Kids Discover magazines on Northwest Coast Peoples.

Using the doc camera, I activated interest in the magazine by showing the cover and having students read captions.  Flat-headed babies and fish candles got them talking and fired up to look through the magazine!  Working in pairs, students browsed a copy of the magazine looking for any information that was interesting and /or new.  (I have class set.)  As they browsed, I walked among the groups and took notes on which sections each pair was most interested in.  These sections will be highlighted – literally – in next week’s lesson as we delve into taking notes via the Cornell method.


Kids interested in flat-headed babies found Family Life very informative!


Spirits & Ceremonies was another high-interest section!

Why are we doing this mini-unit?  Our 4th grade Social Studies will soon focus on NW Coast Peoples, and our district uses Cornell notes in many of its courses.  Combine the two together, and a useful mini-unit is born.  Big thanks to my colleague Mrs. L for piloting and writing the mini-unit last year!

Here is more info on the Kids Discover magazine, including free page scans!


Review: Nightmares

jason-segel-kirsten-miller-nightmaresNightmares by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

7 word summary: Sleepless, exhausted, Charlie’s living his worst nightmare…literally.

Fantasy.  First in a series.  Share with ages 9-13.  ©2014.

A perfect pre-Halloween story.  Shivery but not super-scary, this creepy tale of a nightmare that gets progressively worse is brilliantly served by comedian Segel and writing partner Miller.  Add in a witchy stepmom and a trio of the best BFF’s a kid could ever have to make this a fly-off-the-shelf pick.

Review: The Family Romanov


The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

7 word summary: Russia’s last royal family abdicated, then murdered.

Biography, nonfiction.  Share with ages 11+.

An absolutely fascinating look at the Romanov family, including Czar Nicholas, wife Alexandra, and their five children (including Anastasia).  This is the non-Disney-fied story of how the family held power in Russia for over 300 years, living in gilded opulence while hundreds of thousands of Russians barely survived in squalor.  The incapacities of Nicholas, the indulgence of Alexandra, the naivetés the princesses, the fearfulness over young Alexei, the influence of Rasputin and the love of a family all lead to the bloody, world-changing dénouement.  A captivating, absorbing read for everyone, not just history buffs and biography fans.  Fleming knows how to make history not just palatable, but downright enjoyable.  Highly recommended.

Research skills using the Guinness Book of World Records


Here is an exciting way to introduce / refresh researching skills with 4th graders in the library: use the Guinness Book of World Records!

There are a slew of skills can be taught with this one resource: identifying key words, working with ABC order, using an index (including hanging indexes), reading headlines and captions, skimming text for keywords, paraphrasing, and citing a source.

All that’s needed is a great question that works with the content of the book.  In our building, Spirit Week provides the springboard.  Each fall, when our school celebrates Crazy Hair Day during Spirit Week, the 4th graders research a Crazy Hair Fact using the GBoWR.

This is the note-taking template students use.  Download the PDF!


I model how to use Guinness  as a source of information.  As a whole group, we:

  • come up with the key word to research (Crazy? Hair?  what should we look up?)
  • use the index and, if needed, the hanging index (a concept that boggles most of them) to find the necessary page
  • read bold headlines and / or captions
  • skim lots of text for a key word (in this case, hair)
  • paraphrase information
  • cite our source

After the lesson, students choose to either work individually or with a partner to research a fact of their own.  Choosing partners can be dramatic at best, so I’ll call students in a not-so-random way to either (A) choose a partner or (B) choose to work independently (because we know exactly who needs to choose first, who needs extra support, who needs to have an option to work alone, etc).

A few notes:

  1. Before the lesson, check each index to be sure the keyword HAIR appears!
  2. Inform students that the fact must be appropriate for school!
  3. Make sure there are copies for each pair of students.  Our library has built up quite a collection of the Guinness Book – enough so students can choose to either work with a partner or independently.  Before that, copies were borrowed from the public library.

Read-Aloud Tuesday: Oct 14, 2014

Welcome to Read-Aloud Tuesday!  It’s my third year of reading aloud in my son’s Montessori classroom (ages 3-6), and the second year of blogging about the books I choose to read aloud.

This week, the students noticed a thread that connected our stories: cats!  While not the main feature, each book had a cat character.  It’s great when students discover how stories can be similar in unexpected ways!


Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: a fall harvest of shapes by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

Visiting a pumpkin patch is fun, but finding shapes hiding within it is even better.  Circles and triangles, squares and hexagons (and more!) can be seen by careful readers.  Short, rhyming text with quilt-like illustrations make this cozy shape-filled book a winner.  And after last week’s class trip to a pumpkin patch, this was an ideal read-aloud.  Share with ages 3-6.


Don’t Slam the Door! by Dori Chaconas

A child pleads “PLEASE DON’T SLAM THE DOOR!”, explaining how it would cause the cat to wake up.  The door slams, the cat wakes up, which bothers the dog…and the cause and effect-filled story takes off.  From inside the house to the barn outdoors, this silly, rhyme-filled story begs readers to make predictions amidst the growing chaos.  Share with ages 3-8.


Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light

Young Louise loves art, her “imagination on the outside”.  Finishing her latest masterpiece and looking for the perfect space to hang it, she heads to le Gallery du Fridge with her cat and younger brother, Art.  It’s her single-minded focus, though, that causes her to miss important art (Art)-related details not lost on the observant, expressive cat.  This inventive story with bold color highlights creativity, sibling love, and clever wordplay.  Highly recommended.  Share with ages 3+.  NEW IN 2014.

Library Lessons: Oct 6-10, 2014 – WCCPBA, Research, and Thinking Questions

Week 6

Spirit Week, Walkathon, and a Professional Development Friday.  Throw in a full moon.  That sums up the chaos of the week!

Kindergarten:  Continuing the Arthur Howard author study.  Vocab: hubbub.  This lesson had a thinking question – what I call a higher-level question that has no “right” answer – which was a great addition to the lesson.  Note: lessons were on pajama day, after walkathon, before a 3 day weekend.  Wowzers!

2nd grade: WCCPBA nominee: Lion vs. Rabbit by Alex Latimer.  I loved the thinking question, loved the discussion and evidence used from text, and especially loved how it prompted one student to state, “I think the rabbit is also a bully.”  What followed was a great discussion among the students and excellent use of text evidence to support opinions.

4th grade:  At our school, Spirit Week always includes Crazy Hair Day.  What better way to celebrate in the library than by finding Crazy Hair Facts in the Guinness Book of World Records!  If I have to teach a class right before the all-school Walkathon (always on Crazy Hair Day), then I prefer to teach this lesson that I created years ago.  Indexes, hanging indexes, paraphrasing, and citation are all covered in a fun, user-friendly manner.  Bonus: students get to use the GBoWR as a research tool!

Students researching, paraphrasing, and citing a source used to learn new information!  Notice the CRAZY HAIR!  Best part: almost all students were successful AND had time to check out during the 40 minute library time.