Category Archives: Folktales

New year? New ideas! Kindergarten

After teaching elementary school library for over a decade, one would think there is a set lesson or format I use to map out each school year. It’s often assumed that I do the same thing, year in and year out. After all, why recreate the wheel?


Well, I do. New classes mean new personalities. What worked with one group of children may not work with another. Our annual school learning goals need to be taken into account, as well as curricular, technological, and logistical changes. In short: I never do the same thing exactly the same way each year.WP_20141002_006

Our K’s traditionally take part in unit studies, but the books, activities, and technologies used change a bit each year. With so many new titles, apps, and websites, there will always be new ways to foster learning.  The questions used in lessons change, too, since I work to get better at incorporating critical-thinking, claim-evidence-reasoning questions. Adding strategies and ideas from the Maker movement into our lessons (when reasonable) is also a goal.      


Protecting their garden from invading bunnies. Inspired by Candy Fleming’s Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

The first six weeks tend to follow a pretty set format regarding skills introduced and overall expectations. Most of my first six weeks is explained here.  Note: for the lessons listed, students visit library 1x week for 40 minutes.

  • Week 1: Play I-Spy in the Library game, learn where to sit (assigned spot) and how to sit (hands/feet to self), get to know one another with the Squishy Ball, listen to one story (first author study), show where to sit at the end of the lesson (the line near the door…no chairs/table spots), learning goal: what does an author do?
  • Week 2: Review where/how to sit, play make-believe games with Mr. Tiger (large stuffed animal mascot who I “talk” to), listen to story, barcodes & passes, self check-out (books on top of shelves only), learn whose responsibility it is to bring back book (students, not moms!)
    • Before week 3 – remind students to bring back books. No tears is the goal…
  • Week 3: review where/how to sit, play make-believe with a stuffed animal Tiger (he holds our stories…I model kindness by asking to borrow it politely, then giving it back at the end), listen to one story, begin questioning, learn E=Everybody, review what happens if you forgot your book (browsing basket), review self check-out
  • Week 4: continue week 3. No new additions.
  • Week 5: Add Rhyme Time. Continue with previous skills/expectations.
  • Week 6: Introduce book care. Continue with previous skills/expectations.

By this point, routines are usually down pat. If they’re not…it’s reteach, reteach, reteach. It’s impossible to add in how to find books if children can’t remember where to sit so that they have their own safe space.

Most of our lessons will have a focus question and includes stories and rhymes. I’ll often include movement games and make-believe to maintain interest and focus. Technology (in the form of beginning database research and project creations) is usually added in the second half of the year. Some tech I like: PebbleGo (for outer space/animal research), Flipgrid (for video responses to any literature), iPads (is perfect for K to extend learning, Daisy the Dinosaur & Lightbot Jr are great for coding). Major units outside of Author Studies may include the Geisel Award, a Wool/Fabric science collaboration, and Folklore Around the World (which includes map skills). However…

I’ve been known to extend units into first grade. To leave units out. To add new learning. Because life happens: there are subs, no school days, new classroom units.  Because each group of children is different…so my teaching should embrace and reflect their differences. And while there are certain authors I read year in and year out (Ezra Jack Keats), each group has stories shared and questions asked that best meet their needs.

Curious as to which author/illustrator units were kid-friendly AND whose stories had great questioning / conversation potential from the past few years? See below! And please note: the K’s will usually study 5-7 per year at a minimum of 3 weeks per individual.

  • Ezra Jack Keats ♥♥
  • the Mo you don’t know (lesser-known Mo Willems titles)
  • Kieko Kasza
  • Jon Klassen
  • Mac Barnett
  • Candace Fleming
  • Lauren Castillo
  • Jon Agee
  • Sergio Ruzzier
  • Deborah Freedman
  • Cynthia Rylant (usually with Arthur Howard)
  • Christian Robinson

Happy reading & teaching, y’all! ~arika

Oct 3-7, 2016: Deborah Freedman, Folktales, WCCPBA and maps

Week 6:  Deborah Freedman author study (K), Folktales Around the World (1), Learners in Our World (2)


Week 2 of the Deborah Freedman author study. This will culminate with a whole-kindergarten Skype visit with Deborah at the end of the month!

At the end of the lesson, students can:  identify the role of an author; identify a variety of feelings displayed in response to scenarios* (*from SecondSteps); use shelf-markers to assist in selecting books

Our book conversation focused on feelings. Mouse and Frog display a wide range of feelings in the book and struggle with their friendship – something very familiar to K students. Talking through their authentic reactions to Frog taking over the story (and Mouse’s reaction) was a powerful connection to their classroom-based SEL learning.

At the end of the story, to prepare for our author Skype, students brainstormed with knee-neighbors to generate questions for Deborah Freedman. Please excuse my messy handwriting – this wasn’t best modeled work; rather, it was getting their ideas down ASAP so we could check out before dismissal!

This was also the first week K’s could choose books from anywhere in the library using a shelf-marker. After I led today’s modeling, there will be quick (1min) student-led modeling of this skill for the next 4-8 weeks.

1st grade:

Our LAST week of our Folktales Around the World study! Based on student feedback, we had to continue for one more week and include the continent of Europe. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good trickster tale to share…so Margaret Read MacDonald came to the rescue with Too Many Fairies.

At the end of the lesson, students can: sing and locate the continents of the world; identify traits of folktales make predictions; name feelings when presented with physical clues*, use claim evidence reasoning, locate and label the folktale’s origin on the world carpet map

For this story, students had two focuses: identify the feelings of the old lady AND the fairies (and how behavior was impacted based on the feelings) and make a claim as to having the fairies come to their house. Overall, a good discussion spurred by a Celtic folktale…even for the students who didn’t want to read “a fairy book”.

2nd grade:

To conclude our unit on Learners Around Our World, I chose a 2017 WCCPBA nominee to bring the learning full-circle: Anne Sibley O’Brien’s I’m New Here.  With children from 3 different countries (Guatemala / S Korea / Somalia) moving to a school in America, this reinforced the idea that we are all learners while opening a conversation on empathy and compassion.

At the end of the lesson, students can: independently access a database; locate and label a country/continent on a world map; use and understand map features; use physical, verbal, and situational clues to determine what others are feeling*; identify ways to show compassion for others in response to scenarios*

During reading, we had whole-class discussion on how the students felt in their new schools. We also talked about the (seemingly unfair) expectations of one of the teachers.  After sharing, I modeled again how to access CultureGrams, and students were set to work locating and labeling one of the countries featured in the story on a world map (a “magic map”, as I call it, thanks to Quiver!).

However…this happened in one class:

It was a Make It Work moment…time to model flexibility and problem-solving! Thinking fast, we used a generic world country map to locate and label countries as a whole class (thankfully, Google still worked!). By modeling a growth mindset of “problems happen” and staying calm, we were successful and met our learning goals.  And next week, they’ll use CultureGrams one more time!

PS: CultureGrams fixed the problem in a matter of minutes after the tweet!


Sep 26-20, 2016: Deborah Freedman, Trickster Tales, Learners in Our World

Week 5:  Deborah Freedman author study (K), Trickster Tales (1), Learners in Our World (2)


The first week of a 2-3 week Deborah Freedman author study (one class will miss a week due to a teacher workday).  I shared Blue Chicken as our first story…which was perfect, as the first part of the lesson was on book care.

At the end of the lesson, students can: identify ways to keep books safe, identify the role of an author, show where the E section is in our library, identify the E on the spine label of a book.

My friend Tiger – who only speaks to librarians and allows me to model polite conversation and manners – was holding a package as we sat down. After asking him if we could open it, we found books that had been destroyed: chewed up, colored in, pooped on, ripped apart, dropped in water. This was a tactile way to show why caring for books is important. I stressed that accidents happen and that telling someone if a book gets hurt is the right thing to do…no matter what.  And that they won’t get in trouble for it. 🙂

Blue Chicken – when blue paint is spilled everywhere – was a lovely story to follow. The chicken who spilled blue paint did her best to be a problem-solver and fix her mistake…which is what we expect our students to do.

1st grade:

Possibly the final week of our Folktales Around the World lesson…possibly, because my 1st graders called me out for not featuring a story from Europe!

At the end of the lesson, students can: sing and locate the continents of the world, explain what a trickster tale is, identify key traits of folktales (retellers, from 6 continents, stories passed down orally), make predictions.

Years ago, I performed Tops and Bottoms at a storytelling festival, and it remains a favorite to share with listeners of all ages. After the first trick Hare played on Bear, students started predicting what Hare could grow that would benefit him while giving Bear nothing good to eat. Many giggles, lots of opportunities for conversations, and fabulous illustrations!

2nd grade:

Week 2 of Learners Around the World! This week, we looked at schools in Colombia, South America with Monica Brown’s Waiting for the Biblioburro.

At the end of the lesson, students can: identify the 7 continents of the world and Equator, use a primary source to learn new information, access a database to learn about a country, compare schools and education in two different countries using personal knowledge and information gathered from a database and primary source.

This week, YouTube came to the rescue with these two video clips, showcasing the work of Librarian Luis and his two burros, Alfa and Beto, as he takes books to remote areas in Colombia.

Safeshare –

Safeshare –

Other happenings in our library:

  • Fifth graders are enamored with the PokemonGO game in our library…so much so that they wanted to create game pieces, too. So, during recesses the past few weeks, I taught a handful how I created the images and QR codes. They came in on their own time (usually 10-15 minutes) and worked…and the first student PokemonGO to our library QR code was made this week!
  • A 2nd grader stopped by one morning, sharing how she downloaded the Quiver app at home and showed her parents how to use AR with the dot picture she made in library. She wondered if there was more she could do with the app.  Answer: YES! She came in during her recess and together we explored the Quiver website, downloading new coloring pages to augment using their free app. She had the best time coloring and making her work come to life. We wonder how the technology is made and works. Maybe a future Skype visit with Quiver?
  • Fifth graders+ lunchtime + Wednesday + picture books = Lunch & Listen in the Library! It’s holding steady with about 30-35 students in the room each week.

Happy reading and teaching, y’all!   🙂   arika

Library Lessons: Sep 19-23, 2016

Week 4. Or, 10% of the year. Audrey Wood, Trickster Tales, Learners Around the World.


Our final week with Audrey Wood featured The Little Mouse…Big Hungry Bear and The Birthday Queen (so chosen because it happened to be my birthday on class day!).

At the end of the lesson, students can: make text-to-self connections (related to celebrating a birthday), identify moods/feelings based on illustrations, show where the E section is, identify the E on the spine label of a book.

Before reading The Birthday Queen, students thought of items that makes birthday celebrations special. Writing these on the board, we looked for these during our story. Each time something appeared (say, balloons were in the story), students did a cheer (pat-pat-clap-clap-HOORAY!)  There was MUCH cheering!

During The Little Mouse…Big Hungry Bear, we examined illustrations to infer mood and feeling of Little Mouse. His expressions showed surprise, worry, fear, seriousness and more. A wonderful story to practice the challenging skill of inference!

1st grade:

More trickster tales! This week, from South America: Jabuti the Tortoise.

At the end of the lesson, students can: sing and locate the continents of the world, explain what a trickster tale is, identify key traits of folktales (retellers, from 6 continents, stories passed down orally), identify ways to act when jealous of another.

Much discussion was had by the classes on who the trickster actually was – Jabuti or Vulture. This led to more discussion on why Vulture acted the way he did (jealousy) and how we, as humans, can act when we are jealous of another – a  needed, appropriate topic for 7 year olds, to be sure. A critical thinking question that came up as I read: Why, when Vulture dropped Jabuti, was it important that the tortoise land on his back?

2nd grade:

Week 1 of Learners Around the World! This week, we looked at schools in Chad, Africa with James Rumford’s Rain School.

At the end of the lesson, students can: identify the 7 continents of the world and Equator, use a database to learn about a country, compare schools and education in two different countries using personal knowledge and information gathered from a database.

Rain School is always well-received by students, though always with a bit of disbelief. Do children really build their own school with mud? This question is what CultureGrams is made for – learning about people, land, and cultures in a kid-accessible format.  While I usually wouldn’t use this with 2nd graders (it’s designed for grades 3+), I make it accessible by reading the information out loud, breaking down any difficult vocabulary or concepts, and making connections to our story.

As a whole class, we located the continent of Africa, the country of Chad (which we had estimated on our own world carpet map), then used the sidebar to navigate to Schools in Chad. And at the end, when asked how we are the same as learners, it was easy to make the connections. Yes, there are many differences. But there are many similarities, too…and seeing how we are the same as humans, no matter where we live or how much money we have, is a huge part of this mini-unit.

Students did not write any information down, as we barely had enough time to complete the story, database access, and check out…but I hope for them to independently access and use CultureGrams later this year…maybe for Culture Week?

Happy teaching, y’all! 🙂 arika

Library Lessons: Sep 12-16, 2016

Week, 3, y’all! Author studies, Folktales Around the World, Dot Day!

Our first full week of school. Bring. It. On. 🙂


Week 2 in our 3 week Audrey Wood series featured King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub and Piggies.  At the end of the lesson, students can: show where the E section is, explain the job of an author.

A quick introduction of the spine label – and the E meaning “everybody” – was done.

One of my big thoughts for the year – genrefying the entire E section (and whole library a la Mr. Plemmons in GA) using genres found in our local public library (KCLS).

1st grade:

Week 3 of Folktales Around the World. This crew really enjoyed trickster tales with Anansi last week, so we shared another: Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.

At the end of the lesson, students can: sing and locate the continents of the world, explain what a trickster tale is, identify key traits of folktales (retellers, from 6 continents, stories passed down orally).

2nd grade:

Dot Day 2016!

Having never celebrated International Dot Day, I wanted to do something exciting and memorable. Skype visits were booked way in advance (note to self: book EARLY…as soon as the specialist schedule is released!), but the 2nd graders didn’t know any better. They were so excited to listen, to create, and to augment reality.

At the end of the lesson, students can: identify a word that best describes who they want to be this year, appropriately manipulate AR technology, create and save an image using AR technology.

Resources used: Quiver, Dot Day, iPads (we had 10, but we could have done this with even 1 iOS/Android device)

Our 40 minute lessons looked a bit like this:

8 minutes: reading Peter Reynolds’s The Dot, discussing a word that best describes who Vashti wants to be

2 minutes: brainstorming words to describe who we want to be this year, sharing words (if willing)

5 minutes: whole-class modeling of AR tech, including quick explanation of augmented reality (according to M-W: an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device) and a self-created example

12 minutes: student work time to write, draw, and use AR tech. Work stations were set up at our tables (work mat, sharpie, crayon buckets). Students requested iPads pre-loaded with the free Quiver app when ready.

3 minutes: regrouping to discuss  new learning (there was some!), challenges (always), and share how to access the information at home.

10 minutes: check out

Students received the Quiver dot on a half-sheet of paper – less space meant less coloring, meaning less time to complete. At the end, they received a blank dot on a 1/4 sheet. Shrinking the dot did not impact the size or quality of the AR…but did allow me to save resources and give students blank templates to create with their families.

After completion, the dots were printed and displayed on the library windows in time for Back to School Night. They were a huge visual hit, causing many parents to stop and look twice!

Library Lessons: Sep 5-9, 2016

Week 2 of the 2016-2017 school year!

Another short week, but 3 full days for me (thank you, part-time-by-choice schedule!)


Our first week together meant lots of learning. Students learned: how to come in the library, where to sit (their stair spot), what to do when they know something (including if they know the story we read), how to choose a book from the top of the shelf, how to self check-out, where to sit at the end of class. Phew!

As usual, we played an I Spy game to start the class. Mr. Tiger, our favorite friend, held our books for reading. The squishy ball made an appearance, assisting in learning student names. Pointer paws gave high-fives for best efforts.  And Audrey Wood’s The Napping House was the first title shared this year. That the house in the story is modeled after her house let us make the connection to our lives and homes outside of school. Like grades 1&2, K’s were invited to send in a family photo to help build our school family. More details on teaching K’s in library, especially for the first few weeks, are found here.

1st Grade:

For a variety of reasons (Skype author visits, poor planning, etc), the end-of-year K unit on Folktales Around the World was shortened from 6 to 3 weeks. I planned to start 1st grade by picking up the unit in the middle…and to my delight, it worked beautifully.

We reviewed library expectations (Act like you’re in a library) and began with our Continents of the World song. Most students remembered it! And it was a lovely way to settle into their seating space. More review/reteaching of elements of folklore was done – folktales come from every continent except Antarctica, they’re retold (no authors), they’ve been told for many years, they’re an oral tradition designed to teach, entertain, or inform.  Students recalled folktales shared last year – The Beckoning Cat, Why Koala Has a Stumpy Tail, and Give Up, Gecko! – and mapped each to the continent of origin using our world carpet map.  I chose to start the year highlighting a new type of folktale – the trickster tale – to the delight of the students.

They LOVED this story and the antics of Anansi, prompting the plans for the next 3 weeks to include trickster tales from South and North America…and Europe, if I can find one.

2nd Grade:

PokemonGo in the library.  Fun, engaging, hands-on. Also the best way to share what the library has – and where important spaces/items are located – for young learners.

I plan to do this lesson with grade 1 later in the fall.

OH! Let’s not forget Lunch & Listen! Week 1 was a great success, with over 40 5th graders – mostly boys – coming in to listen to picture books. YAY!

Current thinking:

I feel pretty great to have implemented some of my goals/ideas for the year. Sitting at The Goldfish Line after check-out is working beautifully. Consistently using shelf markers is coming along. Self check-out is slow but steady, and students are eager to be independent. And I got Pokemon in the library for an engaging, informative lesson!

Thinking forward, Dot Day and Global Read-Aloud are in the next two months. We have an author visit scheduled for grades 3-5 (Lauren Tarshis) and the goal to add one more for the K-2 crowd (Ben Clanton). And, as always, I hope to model flexibility and forward-thinking to embrace new opportunities for learning…for students and for myself.

🙂 arika

Read-Aloud Tuesday: 05.19.15


Welcome! On #ReadAloudTuesday, I read to the Maple classroom at my son’s Montessori school to students ages 3-6.  Young readers are demanding and honest: I strive to share the best of children’s literature with them each week.


Tea Rex by Molly Idle



Party Croc! retold by Margaret Read MacDonald

.NEW in 2015!


Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea

.NEW in 2015!


Peanut Butter & Jellyfish by Jarrett J Krosoczka