Tag Archives: language arts

Friday Book Review

so I have mentioned before that I write reviews for an professional magazine (LMC or Library Media Connection).  Here are two titles that I have recently reviewed.

18656207The Meaning of Maggie
Maggie Mayfield is a pre-teen who feels has her life pretty much figured out. She is the product of a two loving parents, has two increasingly annoying older sisters, she is a straight A student, owns a small percentage of Coke stock and is working on her bid to run for president one day.  Every thing is planned accept for her father’s mysterious illness.  You see he can not longer walk and soon Maggie must visit him in the hospital.  And this is one event Maggie could not plan for.   Told from Maggie’s perspective in the form of a journal that is chronicling the past year of her life, Maggie learns that her father suffers from MS.  And it is her goal to help cure him.  This is a beautifully written inventive take on a coming of age story.  The author allows for the reader to discover along with Maggie what is causing her father’s illness.  Peppered with typical family drama, the story flows well and offers  very tender moments between daughter and parent.

MuddyMaxMech.inddMuddy Max and the Mystery if Marsh Creek
Getting dirty and muddy is part of being a kid right? So why does Max have to wear five layers of protective clothing when ever it rains?  Because for Max the mud doesn’t just stain his shoes and dirty him up, the mud gives him super powers.   Max discovers by accident that when ever he comes in contact with Mud he develops an array of super hero skills such as, super strength, speed, and invisibility.  But why did Max’s parent wish to keep this a secret.  It appears they knew about his condition all along and wanted to protect him.  However as Max learns more and more about his abilities with mud he soon learns about the family he never knew about. This was a faced paced graphic novel and is perfect for 3rd to 6th grade readers.



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Filed under Books, Graphic Novels, Language Arts, Reading, Reviews

Increase Reading Capabilities

So I have been asked by many teachers, how can we help increase the reading capabilities of our students. This is a tough one since no two readers are the same.  I have tried several promotions in the library, but more often than not only die hard readers are acting on them.  It is difficult to get those who are struggling on a daily basis to not only read what is required of them, but to read another book for enjoyment.

I started to search through magazines and professional resources to see what the experts and other teachers are doing. And after reading through The Mailbox April/May 2014 issue I found two great ideas that I feel I should share.

Both ideas come from Njeri Jones Legrand, of Sharon Elementary in Charlotte NC.
TISC (This is So Cool): reading with accuracy to support comprehension
Getting students to interact with their reading material by using text-message shorthand as reading codes.  Begin by brainstorming with students abbreviations that match specific reading strategies you teach. Then create a mini poster showing each abbreviation, review and discuss the meaning.  Next, provide sticky note flag. Have each student track his/her thinking as they read by flagging specific points and coding the flag with the matching text abbreviation. When the student finishes reading, have them use the sticky notes to respond to the selection, summarize it, answer questions about it, or discuss it.
Here are the Abbreviations this teacher used:
QQ (Quick Question): Use this if the text is confusing or makes you think of a question
RUS (Are your serious?): Use this to flag information that makes you think WOW!
WOTD (Word of the Day): Use this to flag important words in the text
IDK (I don’t know): Use this to flag text that is really confusing and if you can’t figure out what’s going on.
411(Information): Use this to flag text that is important information
TSIA (This says it all): Use this to flag text that is the main idea

Ready, Set, Read!
Energize students to build their reading stamina with a daily challenge. Begin by assembling a read-o-meter (example shown at the bottom of this entry).  Next, display the meter and challenge every reader in class to read, focusing only one his/her reading material, for a set amount of time. As soon as students begin to lose focus, end the session and move the read-0-meter’s arrow to show students how long they read independently.  Begin each reading session by displaying the meter and challenging your readers to read productively longer than they did the previous day.














thank you to The Mailbox magazine and especially Njeri Jones Legrand for your amazing contributions to the reading community.

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Filed under Books, Creativity, education, Language Arts, Nonfiction reading, Reading

A Merry Scrooge to You

Tis the season.  It is one of my favorite times of year.  Especially since I will get to see so many awesome holiday movies. One of my favorites being “A Christmas Carol,” it is also one of my mother’s favorites as well.   So I was so happy to read in a magazine that they are taking the classic story and creating a language arts activity.  This is post is not me being lazy but I would not have been able to summarize this so I decided I will just share the whole article.   If you want to see what other tips, and lessons some educators have to offer please check out  Think Teachers at http://www.thinkteachers.com

But now here we go:

A Turn of the Scrooge: What in the Dickens is up with our favorite ghost story?

Long before Jim Carrey portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in Disney’s 3D version of A Christmas Carol the story written by Charles Dickens in 1843 has been performed in countless films, operas, television specials, and live theater.  All of them take on new adaptations of the core story, which has remained pretty similar over the past 166 years: In short, the grumpy old man is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future and teach ole’ Ebenezer the value of values and he finds redemption in the Christmas spirit.  Just like any growing legend, time adds history…Here are some to get you in the spirit of the season:

  • Charles Dickens spend part of his childhood in prison after his father was arrested for failing to pay his debt. At the time, entire families of prisoners would go to jail with this prisoner.
  • In 1843, Dickens was exposed to tin mines where children worked. These impressions helped him relate to the poor working class.
  • Dickens’ book was originally a short story titled A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.
  • The book was first published on Dec. 19, 1843 and cost 5 shillings (which in today’s money was a little more than $5). The first run 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve.
  • The story inspired American classics such as the 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and Dr. Seuss’ 1957 book How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • Three different stage productions opened on Feb. 5, 1844 and by the end of the month, eight shows were being performed.
  • Patrick Stewart (aka Professor X in the X-Men movies) has performed his one-man reading/acting of the story throughout London theaters and in New York City on Broadway.

So once you share these little tidbits with your students you would want to get on to the actual activity.  So here we go.

First you would want to get a picture to represent each of the ghosts in the story (Past, Present and Future).

Make three columns on a piece of paper and put a picture at the top of each column.

Next have the students complete the following:
In A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge learns his lessons after the three ghosts visit him.  If you were to get visits, what would the ghosts tell you?  Write your answers below.

After I read this article I started laughing to myself because depending on the age range the answers will be hilarious.  Remember you can always preview this lesson by reading the book in class, or even watch one of the movie versions or play each ghosts’ section of the movie to emphasis what is being asked.   Thought this was a fun little activity and I wanted to share.
“A Turn of the Scrooge: What in the Dickens is up with our favorite ghost story?.” Think Teachers. Dec 2013: 28. Print. <www.thinkteachers.com>.

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Filed under Books, Language Arts, Reading

Challenging my Students

We have heard this a thousand times before “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover.”  And mostly we are referring to judging a person.  But I decided to take this back to books.

I have noticed that students end up selecting books by one particular author, or subject matter, or genre etc.  And no matter how hard I tried, putting something else in their hands never worked. They would look at it and then say ehh.  Or they would grab what ever their friends were returning, since it most likely fell into the realm of what they always read.  Well I decided to put a little challenge in front of them.

Allow me to introduce the Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover challenge.

Judge a book by its cover

I have 24 book choices

Students will not get to see the covers of the books

They will not get to see the titles of the books

They will not get to see the authors of the books

The only thing they do get are three lines that describe the plot of the book. Examples are: Young girl forced to live with her mean uncle; Unlikely friendship; The bully becomes the bullied; Small town mystery has everyone pointing fingers;  Former boxer turned humanitarian; etc.

The books range from fiction, biographies, poetry,  and story collections.  Once the student picks the plot point he/she likes we give them the book, with these rules

1) they must take it even if they think they are going to hate it after seeing the cover (tough all part of the challenge)

2) they must read it for at least one week. If after the week they don’t like they can bring it back but they have to give us (meaning me and their language arts teacher) reason why they do not like it. We will test them to see if they actually read it.

I thought this was going to be dead in the water, but surprisingly enough the students have really responded to it.  Some have even asked if the books they selected have sequels cause they really liked the story. Others have said they didn’t like it, but read it anyway because they didn’t want to leave undone.  But the good thing is, I now know what they like and don’t like, so when they come to me asking what they should read I can provide them with more informed recommendations.  It has been a fun experiment with a very rewarding payoff.


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Filed under Books, Language Arts, Reading

Summer Reading

August is coming up fast which means that we only have 31 days left to improve reading skills.  I have touched on this subject before but I wanted to give you a few more helpful sites that are proven to enhance your child’s reading capabilities.

Stone Soup  www.stonesoup.com

Little Write Brain  www.littlewritebrain.com

EDUPUP  www.edupup.com

Storyplace http://www.storyplace.org

Storyline Online  www.storylineonline.net

It’s a Mad Libs World  www.itsamadlibsworld.com

Grolier Online http://www.go.grolier.com

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Filed under ebooks, Language Arts, Nonfiction reading, Reading, Technology

Apps for Summer Learning (Part 1.)

With the school year coming to an end skills tend to drop over the summer.  So why not use these next two months to continue to build and improve upon the lessons already taught throughout the school year.  Who knows your child might even pick up some new skills. Here are some great apps for the Language Arts portion of our series.

super-why[1]Super Why! iOS and Android for $2.99  http://pbskids.org/mobile/super-why.html
Super Why was developed by Bean Creative in corporation with PBS to help support young learners the ability to build upon their reading skills with interactive literacy games. Your child can read and play along with the four major characters from the Super Why television show, while practicing the alphabet, reading and writing, spelling, and rhyming. The television series itself was designed to help build critical thinking skills in children ages 3-6 for their reading success.  This is perfect for just starting out readers and for those who need to develop more.

mzl.sbywtvlb.1024x1024-65[1]Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try iOs and Android for $4.99  http://wetdrytry.com/
Handwriting fluency is fundamental to developing reading and critical thinking skills because the child not only expresses themselves through writing but they must learn to think and write at the same time.  Focusing on both fun and achievement, helps to spark a curiosity to the learning process and learning proper handwriting habits will help them to become better writers and communicators in elementary, middle and high school.

grammer jammers[1]Grammar Jammers  iOS for $2.99 (primary edition is free)   https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/grammar-jammers-primary-edition/id386384446?mt=8
Grammar Jammers is designed for grades K-5 and hopes to take the dreaded grammar lesson into a fun and interactive time. Using catchy animation and songs and rhymes children will play interactive games and quizzes to unlock interactive prizes and even more quizzes.  Grammar Jammers Primary Edition includes unique animations and quiz questions on the following topics: Adjectives, Contractions, Nouns, Pronouns, Punctuation, Sentences, and Verbs. Grammar Jammers is also available in Elementary and Middle Editions.

storia_logo_lowres1[1]Storia  iOS and Android for Free  http://store.scholastic.com/microsite/storia/home?esp=SSO/ib/2012/vanityURL/txtl/ads/storiasso//landing//// 
This app from Scholastic is a e-reader  that is designed just for kids of all ages, from pre-school to 7th grade and up.  All storia books are embedded with questions, learning activities, and a pop-up dictionary feature to help with definitions and pronunciations.  You get five free books when you download but additional books can be purchased and added to the bookshelf.  Most of the books cost from $5.99 to $8.99.

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Filed under apps, Language Arts, Reading, Technology