Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poppleton Forever

Cynthia Rylant has been one of my favorite children's authors ever since I was introduced to her Mr. Putter & Tabby series when Gregory was in first grade. I've also read the boys some of her stories about Poppleton, a pig. Yesterday I read Poppleton Forever to Matthew and he read Mr. Putter and Tabby Row the Boat. I am so impressed with how far he has come with his reading! In Poppleton Forever I was reminded of one of the projects David did in Mrs. Mazie's class at Sicomac. Parents were asked to come in one day and work with their child to build a bird feeder. The kids had to use tools from home. David used a plastic soda bottle and wound wire around the outside and decorated it with pony beads. I'm going to try to dig up a picture. In Poppleton Forever, I saw the perfect story to Read Aloud before beginning a project like this. Poppleton plants a tree which isn't growing well. He asks each of his friends what the tree needs, and Cherry Sue has the answer.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Three Ninja Pigs

The Three Ninja Pigs retold by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat is a fractured fairy tale. No, I did not know this word until my third-grader come home with a Book Share project :) South Pasadena has this wonderful story, among many others, which is a retold fairy tale. This version of the class tale was a big hit in our household over the last few weeks. The three pigs, two brothers and a sister, train in aikido, jujitzu, and karate to protect themselves against the wolf. The story is retold in rhyme.

My "ah-ha---I could do this with book" moment came when I realized what an authentic opportunity fractured fairy tales present for comparison and contrast. It is also appealing that the actual read isn't challenging in and of itself for a third or fourth-grade student, yet the sentence structure work which could be practiced within the context of the story IS relevant and challenging for those grades. Many schools do book buddies with younger grades, so these stories can be "recycled" (practiced in a book buddy setting with first or second graders) and then practiced at grade level in a more applicable "common core" context. 

One of my new ideas for designing student practice is to present compound sentences using the coordinating conjunction but, which students then revise using the subordinating conjunction although. This is an idea in progress so stay tuned.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz

I stumbled upon this in the South Pasadena library while I was looking for one of those Who Was biographies of George Washington to read to Matthew and David. David recently made a George Washington puppet for his book share. 

Yesterday I read this book to the boys. It was quite long for Matthew, but he listened to most of it before being lured away by handball on our back porch :)

This story is about a boy named George Allen who was born on February 22nd, George Washignton's birthday. He is obsessed with all things "George." He likes to count things, just like George Washington. He goes to great lengths to find out the answer to his question: "What does George Washington eat for breakfast?" He reads several books from his school library to find the answer to his question. My favorite part of last night's Read Aloud was when my eight year old ask, "Mommy, what's a card catalog?" He's not satisfied by what people ate around the time of George Washington. He goes to the Smithsonian and sees an actual uniform worn by George Washington and counts all the buttons. He's secretly pleased that he and George are probably the only two people who ever counted all those brass buttons. He travels to Mount Vernon and talks to a docent who can only tell him what the rest of the household ate. Read the book to find out if he finds the answer to his question.

Not only did I enjoy the story, the boy's persistence, the flashback to the card catalog at Lincoln School's library from when I was in elementary school, but this is the line that struck me.

"Don't look at me," his grandmother said. "I said I'd cook but I wouldn't look."

Matthew's words this week are look, book, cook, etc. What is that . . . short "o" vowel sounds, right? Remember, I'm not an elementary school teacher, but how perfect is this that his class is comparing Abraham Lincoln and George Washington and this line comes up again and again in the book. George's grandmother isn't a big help with all this research George is doing. She's busy doing the spring cleaning. She tells George that she'll make George Washington's favorite breakfast for him once he finds out what it is. And a few times throughout the book she says to George, "Don't look at me," his grandmother said. "I said I'd cook but I wouldn't look."

Yes, I know. Interrupted dialogue. That got my creative juices flowing too!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A View from Saturday

Another book by E. L. Konigsburg caught my eye on the Barnes and Noble bookshelf this weekend. A View from Saturday won the Newbery Medal winner in 1997. One chapter in, I found it interesting that the narrator changed from one character to another. I enjoyed getting to know Noah, a sixth-grader spent to spend part of his summer vacation with his grandparents in Florida. I loved his perspective on the marriage of two elderly members of the Century Village community where his grandparents lived in retirement and how that community had gathered and participated in celebrating the wedding. I especially loved the mention of "Your presence no presents" in the wedding invitation. That speaks to me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Last Holiday Concert

This Andrew Clements' favorite is featured in this month's Scholastic flyer! Nothing like a discounted good read, a great author, and the upcoming holidays to inspire me to create a worksheet. I devised a 10-item freebie. This particular worksheet focuses on AND, BUT and SO, instructs students to identify subjects and verbs in both independent clauses, and reminds students to use a comma. The worksheet begins by bringing students back to the text and providing four examples from Clements' writing which show how he uses coordinating conjunctions. If you are wondering why other conjunctions such as FOR, OR, and YET are not included, it's because this is more of an introductory worksheet. FOR and YET are a bit more advanced (for has a formality to it) and OR wasn't a conjunction that worked in context. 

And a shout out to PoppyDreamZArt for the border clip art and help creating thumbnails!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Henry Huggins (Answer Key)

Please take a moment to let me know how this freebie worked for your students.

Were the directions clear? 
Was the example provided helpful?
Were any items too confusing?
Do you think it helped your students clarify run-ons?

Thank you! You can comment below or e-mail me at

Answer Key









Henry went to the Lucky Dog Pet Shop each Friday, and he bought horse meat for Ribsy.

Guppies have lots of babies, but catfish rarely have babies if they’re kept in warm water.
(if they’re kept in warm water is a dependent, adverbial clause with its own subject (they) and verb (are kept))

Henry doesn’t want to play the part of Timmy in the Christmas operetta, but he can’t think of a way out of it.

Henry thinks Ribsy is smart enough to climb down the ladder on his own, but Scooter doesn’t think so.

Ribsy was covered in mud, so Henry ran home to get a brush and some talcum powder.

Henry thought he grabbed a bottle of white talcum powder, but it was really pink.
(that he grabbed a bottle of white talcum powder is a dependent, noun clause that functions as a direct object of Henry thought. It has its own subject and verb)

Ribsy chased his own tail, so his first owner named him Dizzy.

Ribsy could run in one direction toward Henry, or he could run the other way toward the boy calling him Dizzy.
(calling him Dizzy is a reduced adjective clause—who was calling him Dizzy)

Monday, October 28, 2013

More on Gooseberry Park

I'm doing my second read this week taking detailed notes. 

This is hands-down the best book I've read to review how to punctuate items in a series. There are numerous examples of separating nouns, predicates, and even prepositional phrases. When predicates are separated, it provides practice with parallelism. There is a special rule, not noted in my current punctuation chart, about using semi-colons to separate items in a series when they have internal commas. Cynthia Rylant's writing provides some stellar examples.

Kona looked back at his good friend staring anxiously through the glass, at Professor Albert snoring peacefully on the sofa, at his own warm bed in the corner, and at the inviting flames of the fireplace. pg 50

When Professor Albert finally woke up, it was four o’clock in the morning. Gwendolyn was waving her antennae like an inspired conductor; Kona could be heard rattling around down in the basement; some bits of . . . egg roll? . . . lay on the carpet; and the world outside was nothing but solid, unyielding ice. pg 62