Friday, July 5, 2019

The Indian in the Cupboard

This story became a household favorite when Gregory read it in fourth grade. Enthralled with this magical story of a boy who locks plastic figures into an old metal cupboard and opens the cupboard to meet live miniature people, Gregory read through the entire series. One of the teachers at the elementary school where my sons have been enrolled decided to introduce The Indian in the Cupboard as a Read Aloud. She had high third grade learners. For her to use in class, I redid Novel Work for Grammar Gurus, added vocabulary and shifted the focus to the CCSS for third grade.

Grammar study should derive naturally from an authentic text. The Indian in the Cupboard offers great examples of compound words: secondhand, keyhole, and cowboy are just a few. I've chosen the vocabulary by chapter and made sure to include all four main parts of speech --- nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs --- for each chapter. There are enough examples and enough context to focus on both singular and possessive nouns. However, the main focus on the novel work is basic sentence structure. What constitutes a simple sentence versus a compound?



Work on compound sentences versus complex sentence can be found in the Novel Work for 4th Grade Grammar Gurus.




Grab it here.



Monday, July 1, 2019

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The book is always better than the movie. Except in the case of The Help. The movie version of Kathryn Stockett's novel was just as good as the book. This was one of those books that I stayed up all night reading. Put Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in a movie together, and you have a winner. I still cannot look at a can of Crisco and not think of Octavia Spencer teaching Jessica Chastain how to make fried chicken. But I digress.

I haven't called into a radio station since my 20s, but I was inspired while listening to K-Love one morning several months ago. They were discussing a show on Netflix about organization. The hosts were talking about how to go through their closets and decide what to keep and what to toss based on the KonMarie method. According to their interpretation of the KonMarie method, if an item doesn't spark joy, you can get rid of it.

I immediately reframed Kondo's words --- without having read her book. Give the item away, I thought, because it might spark joy for someone else. So I called in. And I explained my thoughts on how God calls us to be kind to others and to give to others and that these "things" we have in excess or "things" we no longer need can spark joy in others. I told the story of how I gave away most of my boys' baby clothes and sent them to Armenia, knowing they would bring joy and comfort to the moms during the harsh winters. And that kind of thinking would make it easier to organize your closet I confidently told the radio hosts.

Everywhere I went for these few months I kept hearing about this new Netflix show which I hadn't yet seen.

Then I heard this Marie Kondo woman was telling people they should only own 30 books. What? I mean I delight in buying bookshelves. I love displaying my books, grouping them. I've kept most of my books from graduate school.

Thinking this Kondo woman must be insane, I reposted a Facebook article that talked about how having home libraries will encourage your children to be readers and remarked, "Take that, Marie Kondo!" And still, I had not read the book.

Then I watched a few episodes. I found the kneeling on the floor and blessing the home a little quirky.   I listened to many of her tricks about grouping things together. The bag inside the bag. Well, I like having only one good purse, so that wasn't going to help. I kept wondering when she was going to get to the papers. The papers! What wisdom would she share that might help me unload these piles of papers I have kept over the years. And I wanted to know what she had to say about those 30 books. And why only 30.

I watched the second or third episode where one family was piling garbage bag after garbage bag outside their home. That didn't sit right with me. Were those all going to go in into a landfill? Why couldn't each of those items find a new home where it would be appreciated and used and spark joy?

And then I read the book. And I liked her. I found this woman vulnerable. And vulnerability resonates with me these days. If you haven't already seen Brene Brown's TedTalk, you need to understand the concept that vulnerability and courage go hand-in-hand. I kept thinking as I read through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that Marie Kondo was daring greatly. I mean, who admits that they obsessively cleaned and organized from the young age of 5? Who admits in a public forum that they felt forgotten as the middle child and turned to organizing and cleaning? Who admits to enjoying finding the perfect container and then searching for ways to use it to store items? And isn't that what I want to do here? Isn't blogging about how much this book is transforming me daring greatly? Am I stepping into the arena when I openly acknowledge that I absolutely love grammar, and I will correct your grammar errors . . . and explain why they are errors. I don't do this to lift myself up and to put you down. I do it because I like to follow the rules. And I like to share my knowledge. And  because it offends me in a strange sense to see bad grammar. I liken it to a person who loves math and someone writes 4+4=7. Well, no, it doesn't. And they can tell you why, and they will most definitely tell you why.

I also wondered many times while reading the book how having written it in Japanese and having it translated to English may have affected my perception of the writer. She is not a native speaker of English, but how bold and brave to get on television and host a show.



I found her to be self-aware. I found her to truly want to help others find joy . . . . and purpose in their lives.

And after reading the book I had to confront my obsession with The Container Store. I'm still wondering if I can return this.



The truth is that I love gift bags. I feel like they are part of the gift itself because they can be used over and over again. I love buying beautiful gift bags, and sometimes I won't even write on the tag because I want the person to be able to use the bag again. So do you think even without a receipt I can return this?

By the end of the book, I realized how much I agree with Marie Kondo. And the truth is that she never said you can only have 30 books. She said SHE has kept only about 30 books. But the wisdom she imparts about how to choose helped me go through my bookshelves and take a closer look. I made a pile for this single dad I sit next to whose son is going into fourth grade. He knows I'm an educator and had been asking me for recommendations. I set aside a pile for a cousin who I know is trying to start a family. I put some in My Little Library outside my house. I made a pile of books to check and see if the local library carries because I think they should have the most up-to-date books on ADHD and ASD. And they probably don't. I sparked a whole lotta joy doing all that. And there is still a whole lotta joy on my shelves. Books bring me joy. So, no, I'm not going to count and tell you how many books I have, but the ones on my shelves are part and parcel of me. They are ones that are teaching me about my boys and parenting, or they are books I picked up to inform a product I'm creating.

While I am still in the midst of organizing, and while I have strayed a bit from the order she recommends, I believe I am making progress. Three garage sales later and many, many, many gift-aways to friends and family, I have sparked much joy these last few months . . . both in my joy and elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

READ Worksheets

I once had a fellow teacher tell me she had googled READ Worksheets to find out what exactly they are! That's where the idea came for me to blog about this concept. I came up with the word to label a product I had created on TpT. Maybe now if you google it, it brought you here. But I doubt it. I'm not that well known! Jajajajajaja (that's my inner Latina).

For a long time now I've been obsessed with the word READ. I have created bookmarks and written out Read Each And every Day. I *think* that works. When my kids ask me for their screen turn, my response is typically, "Have you read yet?" I am always going to the library trying to find new series. I am obsessed with the little libraries all around my town. And I go a bit crazy at the school's book fairs and donated books to our librarian and my children's classrooms.

My other obsession is grammar. Of course it is. Who else puts the word into their store name? My kids call me a Grammar Nerd. They tell other people I'm a Grammar Nerd. Truthfully, I'm pretty proud of myself for being a Grammar Nerd. If I don't know the answer, I will look it up. But change are I do know the answer because yes, I'm that nerdy about grammar.

So when I saw One Stop Teacher Shop's product on grammar, I bought it. Not for myself. I'm not in the classroom. But I bought it and shared it with my son's teacher. And then I was inspired to create something of my own. And then I labeled it a READ worksheet. I love the idea of offering choices to students for homework. I love rigorous work that challenges students to go above and beyond. And more than anything else I love when grammar is authentic and connects students to a story. So here it is . . . . TA - DA . . . . the READ worksheet for the story Charlotte's Web.



Directions: The student finds and corrects the one mistake in each sentence. The can complete one box in each row, or go above and beyond and attempt the other boxes. They can outline the box in color of errors they are certain about.

This particular worksheet can be assigned after your class has read Chapters 1-2. These worksheets aren't meant to overwhelm your students. They are designed to give your students confidence in what they know, and they target 2nd and 3rd grade learners. Rigor with choice. They offer practice with concepts that are typically challenging for ELLs. After all, that's how I became a Grammar Nerd. I taught ESL for many years and as I sat in a Language Acquisition course at Georgetown after spending four years studied Spanish, I had the urge to return to my college advisor who said to me, "Why are you studying Spanish if you are only interested in the grammar and not the literature?" and scream, "Because I love grammar! I love analyzing why and how a *mistake* happens when someone is learning a language. There is a term for this . . . error analysis. So darn fancy.

I have set up the worksheet so that your student is practicing the same skill they would if they were doing peer editing. They have to use proofreading marks to correct the errors. I don't want to make them rewrite the sentence. That's torture (my eldest made me use the word torture because the act of physically writing feels like torture to him).

If you are using this as a homework assignment, you can go around the room and stamp the papers of the students who made a solid attempt. Then have your students work in pairs to complete the worksheet. Let them learn from their classmates who might understand why you need the article an instead of a before the noun (an ax). Let another classmate show them how to use proofreading to connect two words that form a compound word: outside and backyard.

I promise you teachers in higher grades will come back to thank you the first time they try peer editing in their classrooms with their students' original writing!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Heroes in Training

Two of my boys loved reading about the Greek gods and goddesses last year. The Lightening Thief was the Read Aloud in one of their classrooms, and my then-fourth grader read through the entire first 5 books by Rick Riordan. I purchased Percy Jackson's Greek Gods which we are just now reading aloud together, and I am now becoming familiar with the early stories. I need to find out this book on tape! I just outed myself as a middle-aged woman with that term, but I'll admit that I have no idea how to download a book on my IPHONE. Yes! I have an IPHONE. I just don't know how to use most of what it can do :(




My third grader's teacher chose Heroes in Training: Zeus and the Thuderbolt of Doom for his reading group and asked if I could produce some grammar worksheets to go along with it. I always draw the grammar from the story, so after a thorough reading, I saw the opportunity to review the simple present tense, the simple past tense with irregular and regular verbs and through those tenses, highlight simple predicates and compound predicates. I've done this with other stories and though it might seem "ESL-ish" to a regular elementary school teacher, it works. The terms are just different. Base form versus infinitive. Infinitives are the "to" form of the verb, and it's important to know all those terms because if you have English language learners in your class, they will see terms like "gerund" and "infinitive" in their textbooks. Certain verbs and verb expressions are followed by either a gerund or infinitive and others require one or the other. Consider the verb to like.

I like to swim. (infinitive)

I like swimming. (gerund)

The meaning doesn't change.

After pouring over the story for its verbs and finding those with CVC patterns with consonants that needed to be doubled in the simple past and verbs ending in -y which needed changing to -ie, I noticed that when Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi speaks in the beginning, there was an opportunity to introduce the verb to be. An oddball as my littlest calls it. Why? The verb to be doesn't follow the typical spelling patterns in the past tense (or the present). I am/was, you are/were, he, she, it is/was . . . . . .

Zeus keeps hearing "You are the one."

Pythia begins the story, "I am the Oracle of Delphi."

Therein, a good opportunity to review those very irregular forms.

I took the opportunity with all of the verb review to touch on adverbs. I highlighted only those that ended in -ly to simplify things since the review is geared for second and third grade. And I created a review of singular and possessive noun forms. The authors consistently use the 's after proper nouns ending in -s. Zeus's thunderbolt, King Cronus's belly. And there are several nice examples in the authentic text of plural noun forms and opportunities to review ones which I derived from the story itself.

And then there is the fact that King Cronus is the "baddest . . . " Well, just like with Ramona the Pest, I teased that out for students and reviewed comparatives and superlatives with various spelling patterns.

This book is the first in a series of 15 books which the authors wrote to retell the stories at a third-grade level. The story is full of expressions which need to be explained but provide a great opportunity for exploring language. The back and forth in time also requires explaining but the content will hopefully engage students enough to hold their interest. And who knows? Maybe your child will read through the entire series! I've got the collection on Santa's list this year for Matthew.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The One and Only Stuey Lewis

by Jane Schoenberg.

Halloween and seasonal celebrations should tie in to the curriculum and not be an excuse for a party. Try something other than Halloween B-I-N-G-O this year. Read Aloud this story about Stuey's inventive caper and use the story to two important CCSS-Aligned Standards:

I think I came across this book at a school book fair when David was in second grade. There is one story, in particular, about Halloween. I think it is one of those perfect Read Alouds for second graders, even first graders, on Halloween. Stuey Lewis is the main character who comes up with an idea to collect as much candy as possible without breaking his mother's rules about not crossing the street. He plans to circle his block three times in three different costumes so none of his neighbor's catch on. However, he faces two surprises on Halloween night. The first is that his teacher, Ms. Curtis, is his new neighbor and the second is that Lilly, a girl in his class, thinks she recognizes him.

Early on in the story there is a reference to how adding -e to the end of the word makes a long vowel sound. The year before, Stuey misunderstood the note from Ms. Curtis to bring SNACKS to school and brought a SNAKE to school instead. This is a great place to stop and elicit examples from your students. Cover the board or cover a flip chart with examples. Give bonus points for students who come up with words related to Fall or to Halloween.


Worksheets should encourage students to reexamine the text. There are several great examples of compound words in the story as well as one or two which can be derived from the story. Halloween and its season also provide wonderful context for practicing compound words:

A Daily Language Review worksheet reviews the story and key grammar that students struggle with.

Even though part of me cringes when I read the word stupid in a children's book, the reference is realistic, and it is probably one of the parts of the story that my kids would laugh about. Brothers love to tease each other. I read it so long ago to David that I don't remember if he laughed. Let's see if Matthew will laugh at the Stuey-Stu-pid reference. This is a good place to pause and talk about teasing and hurt feelings.

Lastly, I always love a book that has a sequel. When you introduce a new story in class, you hope that on your children's next library visit, they pick something worthwhile to read. Make sure you've posted your Read Aloud titles (and their sequels) in your classroom newsletter so that if you students come home with yet another book about guinea pigs, parents can make a trip to the library with their children and choose something worthwhile.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Charlotte's Web

I've recently finished reading this story to my second grader who was just about to begin reading chapter books on his own. Though I showed him the movie too soon because I was so eager when I found out Julia Roberts was the voice of Charlotte, he let me read to the end of the story.

I had had a product up to practice coordinating conjunctions, an activity which could also be reinforced through homework. As I've been exploring Rachel Lynette's success with Task Cards, I decided to create Daily Language Review Task Cards which chronologically review this classic and help students practice their proofreading skills. I must admit that my obsession with finding the right clip art and making this product easy for teachers to prepare (i.e. cut easily on the lines with as few slides of that dreaded always uneven paper cutter) took over. Here is what the finished product looks like. I'm pretty proud :) and thank you to fellow TpT seller, Mae-Hates-Mondays, for the graphics.


The Courage of Sarah Noble

Such a perfect Read Aloud for advanced fourth graders or fifth graders. Pair this Newbery Honor book with your study of the native Americans and the colonization of America.

In 54 pages, Alice’s Dalgliesh tells the poignant story of eight-year-old Sarah Noble, who accompanied her father from Westfield, Massachusetts to the wilderness of Connecticut to build a home. As the only one of his daughters who likes to cook, Sarah is chosen for this journey. While her father builds the house, she plays with the Indian children. And when her father returns to Westfield to bring the rest of the family, Sarah lives with Tall John and his family.

It is a short enough story that it can be read quickly, and the story brings home for students the difficulty that families faced as they settled this country. Great discussion can follow as students read about Mr. Noble’s conflicted feelings about leaving Sarah and how Sarah takes what she heard about the Indians and makes her own decisions based on her own experiences.

By fourth and fifth grade, students should have begun to create compound sentences in their writing. Below is an example taken directly from the text which employs the coordinating conjunction FOR. Fourth and fifth graders will have begun to see FOR texts rather than the subordinating conjunction BECAUSE as it is more formal. 



Using REAL examples not only bring students back to the text for discussion (Who is speaking? What made Sarah impatient?), but it also gives credibility to your grammar teaching. Students can be given endless de-contextualized exercises on grammar, but try the following.

Sarah and her father slept in the forest                                there were no settlements nearby.

This is an original sentence that retells an important piece of Dalgliesh's story and directs a student to use the coordinating conjunction FOR. The student clearly identifies two independent clauses and physically places down a card in between. Students can work in groups on this type of activity to generate discussion about the relationship. The example above is part of this activity mat which gives students practice using other conjunctions. 

Students are given this mat and a "pile" of conjunctions cut from the page below.





This story can be followed up by a more in-depth read such as The Sign of the Beaver. Students would have the opportunity to make text-to-text connections and can complete a Comparison/Contrast map.

I hope you feel confident adding this wonderful story to your lessons and introducing the grammar that can authentically go along with it!

~Debby