Holiday Round Up

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How did this happen?? Wasn’t it Just August?  Now it’s December panicattacksand we have a classroom full of children dreaming of  Hanukkah presents, Christmas surprises and Winter break.   Looking for something fun to keep them interested and learning?  Check out my round up of holiday lesson plans and great read-aloud stories. Keep your class on task and in the learning spirit!

Websites – you’re just a click away from instant lesson plans.

Scholastic.com

NEA Holiday Tools 

Teachervision

Hot Chalk

For some Great December Holiday Books – check these out from your library:

Hershel and the Hanukkah GoblinsHersch
By Eric A. Kimmel and Trina Schart Hyman

Every year goblins attempt to ruin Hanukkah for innocent villagers trying to celebrate the festival of lights. But not this year. Find out how Hershel of Ostropol outwits the nasty goblins and celebrates Hanukkah in this beautifully illustrated story.

 

 

 

dancinggoatsThe Trees of the Dancing Goats
By Patricia Polacco

When Trisha’s friends and neighbors can’t celebrate Christmas due to scarlet fever, her Jewish family helps renew the holiday spirit in this heart-warming tale of friendship and true holiday spirit.

The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah

By Bill Berlin

Much like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the Kvetch (someone who complains or nags a lot) of Oyville is set on ruining Hanukkah for the townspeople. The end is bound to bring a smile to everyone’s face … the Kvetch included!

Together for KwanzaatogetherKwanzaa
By Juwanda G. Ford

Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa?

Seven Spools of Thread
Angela Shelf Medearis

In an African village live seven brothers who make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will be turned out as beggars.

Celebrate Kwanzaa
By Carolyn B. Otto

With beautiful photographs, this book celebrates African-American culture and helps readers understand this special holiday. Over the course of seven days, families and friends come together to light the candles that symbolize past and future—and African-American unity. Readers are introduced to the symbols of the holiday, such as the mkeka (a special placemat), kinara (candleholder), and kikombe cha umoja (unity cup).

How to Catch SantaHowToCathc
by Jean Reagan

After waiting for days and days and days, it’s finally Christmas Eve. And that’s when you can try to catch Santa. . . . Two sibling narrators give clever tips for “catching” Santa (be crafty! be clever! be gentle!) on Christmas Eve.

Santa’s Favorite Story
By Hisako Aoki

Christmas may be canceled this year because Santa is too tired to deliver all his packages. The forest animals are worried, but when Santa tells them the story of the very first Christmas, when Christ was born, the animals discover the true spirit of the season.

The Baker’s DozenBakersDozen
By Aaron Shepard

Van Amsterdam the baker was well known for his honesty as well as for his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. He always gave his customers exactly what they paid for — not more and not less. So, he was not about to give in when a mysterious old woman comes to him on Saint Nicholas Day and insists that a dozen is thirteen! The woman’s curse puts an end to the baker’s business, and he believes it would take Saint Nicholas to help him. But if he receives that help, will it be exactly what he imagined?

Double Duty

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I’m always looking for books that can do double duty – A great reading book I can use to teach science or social studies.  This year non-fiction authors and editors have produced some wonderful titles.  These are my favorites for 2015.  Check them out.  You may want to add them to your classroom library!

(These are from the 2015 ALSC Notable Books list.)

Science

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes. By Nicola Davies, Illus. by Emily Sutton. Candlewick.

This straightforward narrative introduces young readers to microbes through simple descriptions, colorful examples, and concise writing.  Watercolor images illustrate the examples and create a nostalgic feel.

 Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, By Loree Griffin Burns. Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. Millbrook/Lerner.

In this handsome book with glorious photographs, children can follow the life cycle of a butterfly from a farm in Costa Rica to a live museum exhibit in the U. S.

winterbeesWinter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Rick Allen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

A collection of 12 poems about northern tundra wildlife uses a variety of poetic structures and includes additional information on each creature. Vivid linoleum-cut illustrations.

41hiaMwx-iL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery. By Sandra Markle. Illus. Millbrook.

Follow the scientific method as a group of researchers notice something wrong with the little brown bat population and search for a way to save them.  Stunning photographs make the discovery even more fascinating.

chasingChasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats. By Sy Montgomery. Photographs by Nic Bishop. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Montgomery and Bishop join the Cheetah Conservation Fund in the African wilderness, studying the cheetah’s ecological, genetic, and behavioral patterns in order to chase down the fastest animal in the world.

Social Studies

firebirdFirebird. By Misty Copeland. Illus. by Christopher Myers. Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s.

Famed ballerina Misty Copeland encourages a young African-American girl to follow her dreams to be a prima ballerina in this poetic text vividly illustrated with evocative collages.

anfel islandAngel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain. By Russell Freedman. Illus. Chinese poems Tr. by Evans Chan. Clarion.

More than half a million people from 80 countries arrived at Angel Island California between 1910 and 1940.  Freedman tells their stories in this well documented and handsomely illustrated book that illuminates a little known piece of history.

freedomsummerFreedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. By Susan Goldman Rubin. Illus. Holiday.

A well-researched and beautifully written explanation of the attempts to enfranchise Mississippi blacks.  Rubin writes about the murder of three young civil rights workers with a superb sense of suspense and dread.

 

 

MATH

fractalsMysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature. By Sarah C. Campbell. Photographs by the author and Richard P. Campbell. Boyds Mills.

Found everywhere in nature, fractals are shapes that are not perfect but change in the same way over and over.  Photographs show where these marvels can be found and clear language will engage readers to be more observant and see the correlation between nature and math.

Boys and Books – Get them Hooked!

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Once upon a time I had dreams…

I dreamed that I would have children who loved to read as much as I did.  That we would be a literary family comparing the books we adored and arguing over Tolkien versus Lewis.

Then I met my son –

josh

Reading is not his idea of a good time.

And apparently my son is not the only boy who would rather eat fire than read books.

As a teacher and a writer I had a new dream.  I was going to teach boys to like books.

Epic FAIL. Again.

No matter how much you bribe some boys, they will not enjoy Amber Brown, Junie B. Jones, or The Magic Treehouse.  And I used some great bribes, like – if you read this book, I’ll help you build an exploding rocket.  Or if you read this book – I’ll take you rock hunting.  Instead they wanted to read about how to build the rocket or how to find fossils.

Oh wait – they wanted to READ about how to do things!  They wanted to learn facts and decipher instructions. Finally!! I got it. And I started giving them what they wanted.  NONFICTION!!!

Over the years I have learned that all I really have to do is learn what interests a reluctant reader. (And this applies to girls, too.) Do they like cars? Airplanes? Mummies? Sharks? Outer space? Disgusting body functions?  There’s a book about that!

Nonfiction is the way to a boys (and girls) heart.  And my latest book series is designed just for them.  The Top Secret Files of History explores the truth behind dangerous spies like The White Mouse Mata Hari. Readers can discover real life pirates of the Caribbean and learn about the true Lone Ranger.

The stories are all short.  Many of them no longer than 500 words.  The books also have multiple entry points.  They are not in sequential order so readers can pick up the books and read in the middle or at the end and still get great information.

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The two newest books, Wild West and Gangsters and Bootleggers will be in bookstores December 1.  I hope you will check them out for your own favorite reluctant reader!

Picture Book Diversity in 2015

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I am a strong proponent of diversity and I firmly believe that our children need to see a diverse world in the books they read.  I am happy to say there have been several great picture books published this year that give our children a beautiful view of the world.

Take a look at these titles and revel in the diversity on the pages and in the pictures!

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrewsbennyby Kathleen Benson and Benny Andrews

Benny Andrews loved to draw. He drew his nine brothers and sisters, and his parents. He drew the red earth of the fields where they all worked, the hot sun that beat down, and the rows and rows of crops. As Benny hauled buckets of water, he made pictures in his head. And he dreamed of a better life—something beyond the segregation, the backbreaking labor, and the limited opportunities of his world.

     Benny’s dreams took him far from the rural Georgia of his childhood. He became one of the most important African American painters of the twentieth century, and he opened doors
for other artists of color.
28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World
by Charles R. smith
28DaysEach day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president.
Juna’s Jar
by Jan Bahk
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Sometimes a simple, everyday object can take you away on great adventures. Juna and her best friend, Hector, have many adventures together, and they love to collect things in empty kimchi jars. Then one day, Hector unexpectedly moves away without having a chance to say good-bye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will on go on adventures with her. Determined to find Hector, Juna turns to her special kimchi jar for help each night. She plunges into the depths of the ocean, swings on vines through the jungle, and flies through the night sky in search of her friend. What Juna finds is that adventure―and new friends―can be found in the most unexpected places

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

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connieHsuThis weekend I attended the Missouri SCBWI conference and got to hear the amazing Connie Hsu (Roaring Brook Press) speak on the need for diversity in children’s books.  She talked about growing up as a Chinese American in Alabama. As a young reader, Connie was a huge fan of the Sweet Valley Twins books. To this day she remembers which twin had a mole on her shoulder and which one was in the unicorn club.  While she loved the series and devoured the books, they never provided a reflection of her Ethnic heritage. As a matter of fact she rarely saw Chinese faces in the pages of any books or magazines, and that had an impact on her self image.

Its a problem that Latino, African-American, and Asian-American children have been facing for decades.  It seems like by 2015 we would have fixed the problem.  But we haven’t.  And shame on us!

Working as an editor Connie now has the opportunity to promote diversity in children’s books, but it’s not just up to the writers and editors to effect change.  As educators we need to demand diversity in the texts and images that are presented to the children in our classrooms.  What teachers say matters, and you can have an impact on the illustrations selected for books, and the stories that are purchased for your libraries.

WeneedDiverseBooksIf you are interested in helping promote diversity in children’s literature please get involved in the We Need Diverse Books Movement.  It does take a village to raise a child and that village is full of people from all different backgrounds.  Let’s make sure our books reflect the blessing of diversity.

Girl Power!

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kid-president-1

Teacher, counselors, and principals!  This is your chance to
show the world the amazing young women in your schools.  Kid President – whom I LOVE! – is seeking stories about Awesome Girls.

Let’s flood the web with great stories about young women doing incredible work in their community, church, and school.  Brag on the 4.0 athlete who also runs a food pantry.  Tell them about the group of girls who volunteers at the homeless shelter, gets good grades, and rules the science club.  The stories are out there and they need to be heard!

I can’t wait to watch Kid President’s series on Awesome Girls and I hope one of your students is the star!

Take a Test Break

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Ah Spring, the season of tulips, tree leaves, and test taking. One way to make those test days more bearable is to insert a little reading fun. Pull out any of these fun books to read between sessions and your kids may start begging for testing days!

No it’s not Christmas – but this book is funny all year long.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

christmasThe Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.
None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale — the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating — has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year’s pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

Many of your kids will have seen this movie, but as usual – the book is so much better.
cloucymeatballsCloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
The tiny town of Chewandswallow was very much like any other tiny town except for its weather, which came three times a day–at breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Life for the townspeople was delicious until the miraculous food weather took a turn for the worse. The food got larger and larger, and so did the portions. The flood of huge food caused chaos, and the people feared for their lives. Something had to be done . . . before it was too late!

For the older students pull out
spidershirdoSpiders in the Hairdo – Modern Urban legends by David Holt.
This book has both funny, scary, and gross stories that will keep your students begging for more. They are short enough that you can read one or two as a short test break. It also makes a fun discussion about what legends they have heard.