Babymouse: Diorama Star!

Last week, J-girl had a school project: create a diorama…about anything.  Sigh.  Because anyone who knows a 2nd grader knows that “anything” means too many options – which means no work gets done.  Ideas were suggested: restaurant, bookshop, kitchen, bedroom, spooky house.  None were eagerly received…until we hit on Babymouse.  babymouse-4

J-girl LOVES the Babymouse graphic novels.  Throw in some Rock Star – because Techie Rocker has a guitar (or two or six) around the house and music makes our world go ’round –  and her diorama idea was cemented.  One supply run, along with in the stash of scrapbook and craft supplies in our house, and she was off.  Final result: rock-star awesome!WP_20141020_001-edit

Seeing how proud J-girl was of her effort made this project totally worthwhile.  And while we still don’t know the purpose of the diorama(!!!), tying it to a book and character that she loves will certainly make her first shoe box project one to remember.

BIG thanks to Babymouse (and Jenni & Matt Holm) for writing great books and being an awesome project inspiration!

Review: Lulu’s Mysterious Mission


Lulu’s Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst

7 word review: Lulu’s met her match: the new babysitter.

Realistic fantasy.  Third in a series (reads well as a stand-alone).  Share with ages 5-10.

Lulu, that difficult, impossible, pain in the b-u-t-t- little girl is back.  Her parents are off on a trip and – horrors! – are leaving her behind with a babysitter.  Lulu is not at all pleased, and decides to be as naughty as possible to force her parents to come home early.  That’s until she meets Sonia Sofia Solinsky, the terrifying adult chosen to look after Lulu.  Each of Lulu’s disaster-filled plans are foiled by Ms. S’s, who reveals that she is a super-spy and will teach Lulu the tricks of the trade in return for complete obedience.  Spying is what Lulu wants to learn most…but can she quell her fit-throwing episodes?  Quirky illustrations, lush white space, and large font keep the pages turning in this gem from Viorst.  Recommended.


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.