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!

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Read Aloud Freebie

The lack of even a thank you for all of the freebies I have up is honestly, very discouraging. Despite that, I uploaded a 4-page grammar freebie on Ramona the Pest. Chapter 6 is titled The Baddest Witch in the World. Since I was working on the book in its entirety to add to several different packets, I decided to put one more freebie out there. 

It's encouraging to me to see that my work is being downloaded because that means that students out there somewhere are practicing grammar in context. When is this idea going to catch on? I did a portion of this worksheet with my third-grader, and I could clearly see how much more fun it is to do a language arts worksheet when it ties into a story you enjoyed. And he enjoyed the Ramona books all summer long!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Best Halloween Ever

To be honest, I'm not sure what I think of this book. Maybe I'm thinking too deeply about it, but I felt sorry for the Herdmans! My 3rd grader is enjoying this Read Aloud right now though.

The story centers around six siblings, the Herdmans, who cause chaos wherever they go. All year long, their capers frustrate the people in this town until eventually, the mayor cancels Halloween. Here are a few dependent adverbial clauses which can be structured into a worksheet to help students practice writing complex sentences and identifying subjects and verbs. They all belong to the Time and Sequence category.

Whenever the Herdmans were around,

After the Herdmans switched the sardines for guppies,

While the bank guard kept watch over the fish tank,

When Imogene overheard about “Herdman-free” Halloween,

While the lights were out at the school,

As soon as Alice plugged herself into the socket,

After the lights went out at Woodrow Wilson on Halloween night,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sign of the Beaver

My fifth-grader is currently participating in the Read-A-Thon for his school, and his teacher has assigned a Battle of the Books challenge for the month of October. Students will read 4 out of 6 books, write questions and answers about the books, and compete in teams at the end of the month. This was one of the books assigned for the battle. Elizabeth George Speare also authored The Witch of Blackbird Pond which I must have read when I was in school.

For this sensational tale of the friendship that develops between a white boy and an Indian boy in Maine in the 1700s, the author won a Newbery Honor. 

Matt's father purchased land in Maine and travels up north with his son. Together, they build a log cabin and plant a corn field. By mid-summer, Matt's father leaves him alone in the cabin to return to Quincy, Massachusetts to collect his mom, sister, and the new baby.

Matt has never met an Indian, but he soon does. His experiences challenge what he has been told about the Indians and force him to think about what it means for the Indian when the white men begin to settle in "unsettled" areas of the country. Although he perceives of the Indians as savages, he quickly learns that they know more about how to survive on the land than he does.

I am going to add this novel to my collection of possessive noun worksheets; it will be included as well in some error analysis exercises.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

I'm certain I read this back in elementary school, but I didn't remember many of the details. I ordered it from Scholastic about two years ago and began reading it to my now-fifth grader. He showed ZERO interest. But this morning over breakfast I caught his attention with the part about the Hershey bar that Jamie found in its wrapper. I've asked his teacher to promise me that she will make it one of his Literature Circle books this year.

First I reread the book to see if I enjoy it, and then I do a careful reading/notetaking so that I can decide which grammar to include and how to present it. Below are a few examples which stood out as I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

She decided that she would go to the ladies’ room, and Jamie would go to the men’s room just before the museum closed. pg 35

Mrs. Frankweiler’s residence on East 63rd Street was long a Manhattan showplace for what many considered the finest private collections of art in the Western Hemisphere. pg. 59

Students need "real" examples of the grammar in use. They often rush through the reading and would hardly take the time to notice the grammar.

I am currently putting together a packet of Possessive Noun Worksheets for several 4th and 5th grade novels. This award-winning book about a brother and sister's week-long adventure in the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be included in that packet.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

This award-winning book provides great context to study grammar and is a wonderful read for fourth-graders. From here, students can move on to books by David Kherdian about the Armenian Genocide. This is especially relevant to students living in Southern California where many Armenians have made their home.

Lois Lowry was inspired by the true stories her childhood friend, Annelise, told her about her life in Denmark during WWII. She read through historical accounts of Resistance fighters and learned about one in particular whose letters inspired the character Peter. The stories takes place in 1943, in the middle of the German occupation of Denmark. In October of that year, the Nazis began to address "the Jewish question," and the Danes protected their neighbors and friends, smuggling out on fishing boats to Sweden which was neutral during WWII. Lowry intricately weaves true details from those years into a fictional tale about two Danish families, neighbors who protect and care for one another. 

I have had Grammar Worksheets up for some time now reviewing homophones, possessive noun forms and more recently, coordinating conjunctions. A fourth-grade teacher whom I work with is going to be field-testing a DLR, Daily Language Review. I created a chapter-by-chapter list of sentences which pertain to the story and contain an error. The types of errors range from punctuation to spelling to capitalization and really hone in on fourth-grade Common Core skills. I've included recognizing the correct order of adjective, using a semi-colon to separate two closely related independent clauses, correct forms for both verbs and nouns. After reading each chapter, these worksheets can be assigned as classwork, in pairs or small groups. As students progress and gain confidence in identifying and correcting the errors, the worksheets should be assigned for homework.

While pouring over the details of the text, I was led to the library to reread some of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales. Lowry makes mention of him as one of the most famous Danish storytellers, and I had vague memories from my own school years of reading his stories. So far, I've read The Little Match Girl and The Fir Tree, both of which made me think that fourth-grade teachers should begin reading this book in the fall, just as the Jewish New Year comes around. As the Christmas and New Year holidays approach, the fairy tales can be read and explored with their book buddies or during library time. Visiting the Museum of Tolerance would be the perfect field trip to accompany this work of historical fiction. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grammar Worksheets (Current Freebies)

Here is a list of my current freebies on TpT! This will give you an idea of how I present most grammar in the packets I have up for sale. Freebies are eventually reworked and combined into larger packets which cover either a particular grammar point or a novel. If you follow me, you'll be notified when I put something new in my store and in this way, can get some of my work before it goes up for sale. 

Henry Huggins: Using Conjunctions to Avoid Run-Ons, Proper Nouns, Combined Skills (A Review of Chapter 2)

Howliday Inn: Chapter 1: Vocabulary and Expressions, Parts of Speech, Homophones, Common and Proper Nouns, Identifying Subjects and Verbs. Possessive Noun Forms, Compound and Complex Sentences, Punctuation, Adverbial Clauses, Transitions

Island of the Blue Dolphins: Verb Forms (Simple Past Tense)

Lunch Money: Chapters 1-4: homophones, vocabulary, parts of speech, proper nouns, subjects and verbs, possessive noun forms, conjunctions and dependent clauses

Number the Stars: Homophones

Superfudge: Homophones

The Whipping Boy: Error Analysis

Tuck Everlasting: Writing Complex Sentences

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Now I don't remember reading this particular sequel to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing when I was in school. My best-remembered Judy Blume book was Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret

My eldest read through all the Fudge stories in third grade. About six months ago I began reading Superfudge to my middle child. However, warned by my eldest that this book is a spoiler for any child who still believes in Santa, I stopped. I'm hoping for one more year of magic for David.

I just finished reading about Fudge's new adventures in this hilarious sequel that continues the story of the Hatchers and tells of the new addition to their family and their move to Princeton, NJ. Mr. Hatcher has decided to take a leave from the advertising agency and write a book, but he is more interested in hockey and Chinese cooking. Peter has to adjust to life in Princeton and make new friends. And Fudge gets a new pet and starts kindergarten. If you thought he was a funny toddler, he is an even funnier kindergartener.

I read Superfudge to include in my possessive noun bundle, but I also wrote a homophone worksheet. There were just too many good ones that popped into my head as I was reading and laughing!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuck Everlasting

Years ago I read Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt along with my ESL students. I can't recall which class, but I do have a file somewhere. I just finished rereading it to add to my bundle of possessive noun worksheets. So far, I've included this fairy tale-like story of a magical spring whose water has special powers and a little girl who yearns to do something important and break free from her neat and orderly life. I've also included and expanded the freebie I've had up for awhile on Because of Winn-Dixie and more recent read, Everything on a Waffle

Here is a preview of what great material Tuck Everlasting yields for the practice of this somewhat difficult grammatical concept.

The reflection of Mae never surprised her because it had not changed in eighty-seven years.

Mae's reflection

According to the recollection of her grandmother, Winnie had never heard the music of the elves for herself.

her grandmother's recollection
the elves' music 

Winnie noticed that the feet of Jesse were bare, and he had a twig stuck between his toes. 

Jesse's feet

Friday, August 23, 2013

Indian in the Cupboard: Error Anaylsis

Error analysis is the term we use in ESL to refer to identifying which part of the sentence is incorrect. It is very challenging because all parts of the sentence need to be analyzed. There are so many different types of errors which you can "create" in a sentence. See below.

(X) As soon as the horse's feat touched the ground in Omri's backyard, he began to gallop.

Here the homophones "feat" and "feet" have been mixed up.

(X) As soon as the horse's feet touched the ground in Omri's backyard he began to gallop.

Here there is a comma missing at the end of the adverbial clause.

(X) As soon as the horse's feet touched the ground in Omri's backyard, he begins to gallop.

Here the verb tenses are not parallel.

(X) As soon as the horses' feet touched the ground in Omri's backyard, he began to gallop.

Here there is a possessive noun error.

Not only do students have to identify the error, but they must also know how to correct it. Unlike with multiple choice types of assessment, this is how you know if a student really understands a grammatical concept.

I've included a great deal of practice in my Contextualized Common Core Grammar Review.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Number the Stars

I've just finished reading Lois Lowry's 1990 Newbery Medal winner, Number the Stars. This award-winning book tells the story of Annemarie, a young Danish girl, during the German occupation of Denmark. I've created a worksheet which reviews 31 homophones using the context of the novel. It is up on TpT for free until I've completed the packet which will offer a more in-depth review of other grammar. View a modified version below and click the link to the right at the top of the blog to take you to TeacherspayTeachers to download this for-now freebie.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Indian in the Cupboard: Phrasal Verbs & Vocabulary

Phrasal verbs are ordinary verbs followed by particles or prepositions. They are not idiomatic expressions but real verbs. Anyone who hopes to speak English fluently can't avoid memorizing them. There are entire books written about phrasal verbs and dictionaries for ESL learners (I like Longman's) which help ESL students learn how to use them. Are they separable or inseparable? It's hard to know the difference between pick out (choose), pick over (look through carefully), pick on (bully or tease) and pick up (lift or give someone a ride). So I've incorporated three separate worksheets in my new packet and this list of phrasal verbs (below) to choose from. Here is a sample from Chapters 1-5.

The new packet will contain three pages of vocabulary, all of which has been categorized by parts of speech. Pages numbers are listed and if a word is underlined, that means it is used elsewhere in the book as well as in that particular section.

Monday, August 12, 2013

La Gran Aventura de Alejandro

Today I dug up my McColl Grant work from Oldfields School and began publishing it on TpT. I spent a summer putting together the Spanish 2 curriculum. I used a book by Abby Kanter called La Gran Aventura de Alejandro and a video series called La Catrina. The girls at the boarding school loved it. I wrote three original chapters to La Gran Aventura de Alejandro and about fifteen years ago had them published on a website along with contextualized grammar exercises. I was known then as Profesora Debby. I had also written exercises to a video series called La Catrina. I wrote those original chapters to bring my students further into the past tenses in Spanish and back then, as I still do, I felt that grammar was best taught in context. I'm going to be brushing up on my Spanish and publishing this work at no charge on TpT.

The first chapter I put up today takes Alejandro to El Escorial. He meets Santa Teresa de Avila in the year 1532 when his ring shines on this adventure. There are references back to his other adventures with El Cid earlier in the book. It flows perfectly from Capitulo 16. Now, if only I could figure out how to put accent marks into this blog :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Howliday Inn

Howliday Inn is the first of 6 sequels to the wonderful book by Deborah and James Howe. I am in the process of creating a Contextualized Grammar Review for this story. Unlike my review for Bunnicula, this will be a chapter by chapter collection of worksheets and will not include answer keys. It is a work-in-progress and will be up TpT for free for the time being. The first chapter is complete, and I aim to complete the additional chapters by the end of September.

Get it on TpT while it's free :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Indian in the Cupboard

(April 2013) I am reading The Return of the Indian to my oldest son this week while he's on break. I thought he'd be so interested that I'd find him reading it on his own, but when Matthew broke out the wooden Thomas trains, it sparked his interest and between those and Lego, he's had a full week of playing. At least he's not obsessed with his Nintendo. The Return of the Indian is just as interesting as the first book in the series; I am so eager to create materials for it. Gregory finished Indian in the Cupboard on his own and read through to series.

Indian in the Cupboard is the story of Omri, named after one of the author's three boys, who is given a plastic Indian figurine on his birthday by a friend as well as a metal medicine-type chest cupboard. The key his mother gives him actually locks the cupboard. Omri awakes one morning to meet Little Bear, alive, breathing and demanding Omri bring him some meat! It is such an imaginative story with heart. The author makes clear Omri's ambivalent and changing feelings as he embarks on this adventure; the book is a window into the thoughts of a little boy who has a secret he is sure he must keep---or maybe not. I love when Omri says:

The trouble was that, although grown-ups usually knew what to do, what they did was very seldom what children wanted to be done. What if they took the Indian to--say, some scientist, or whoever knew about strange things like that, who would question him and examine him and probably keep him in a laboratory or something of that sort?

I read that and thought of E.T., which the boys recently watched.

I created a 16 item {freebie} on adverbial clauses to accompany this delightful story. 

plastic whenever toy locked a the Omri cupboard in, it became real.

Students have to identify the adverbial and unscramble the clause. Adverbials begin a dependent clause and are followed by a subject and verb. An adverbial clause is dependent; it is not a complete sentence. When combined with an independent clause, an adverbial clause creates a complex sentence. An adverbial clause can precede or follow a dependent clause as you will see in this {freebie} on TpT.

I am hard at work on a Contextualized Grammar Review which will include vocabulary, parts of speech, homophones, possessive noun forms, . Check back soon!

Writing Folder Essentials: Punctuation, Transitions and Adverbials

Up now on TpT as an "always and forever" freebie are three different charts in one download: Writing Folder Essentials: Punctuation, Transitions and Adverbials.

The first is a list of 12 important punctuation rules. It is not a complete list, though, as there are more subtle, difficult to understand rules, that have been omitted.  The second is a list of transitions. Although the CCSS group although with transitions such as moreover and however, beware that although is an adverbial and follows a different punctuation rule. The list of transitions is divided into six categories: additional information, restatement, restatement to intensify, exemplification, choice or alternative, cause and result, comparison or similarity, time and sequence, contrast, and summation. The third handout is a list of adverbials. They are divided into 6 categories: time and contrast, condition, cause and result, contrast, manner, and purpose.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Everything on a Waffle

Complete with recipes for all the different dishes she mentions as she tells her story, Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath is the story of Primrose Squarp, an insightful and sensitive young girl living in a small whaling town in British Columbia. Convinced that her parents are marooned and awaiting rescue after a storm, she bounces around a series of different homes. When the Squarps first disappear, she is living with Miss Perfidy, an old lady whose memory begins to fail. Next, she moves in with her uncle Jack, who works in real estate and is trying to develop the wharf and bring tourism to this tiny Canadian town. Though the townspeople, including the school's guidance counselor, try to convince her that her parents are dead, she holds fast to her belief that they are alive and awaiting rescue. Her friendship with the owner of a restaurant in town is sweet; Primrose learns more than just some new recipes from Miss Bowzer, who is determined to keep The Girl on the Red Swing from being bought by Uncle Jack. Primrose Squarp is a self-confident eleven-year-old wise beyond her years who tells us that the only interesting thing about a person is what's inside his heart.

At the moment I'm working on Run-Ons vs. Fragments, Possessive Noun Forms (see below), and Homophones.

Primrose found the memo pad of her mother along with her recipe for carrots in an apricot glaze.

People usually lost interest quickly in the anecdotes of Miss Honeycut.

The house of Uncle Jack, which was on the old naval base, had a gym attached to it.

The taunts of the girls did not dissuade Primrose from believing her parents were alive.

The dishes of Miss Bowzer were always served on top of a waffle.

Miss Bowzer felt that nobody in town could forgive the parents of Primrose for having been truly in love.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Canary Caper

This is what I am working on for the third book in Ron Roy's series about three young friends who solve mysteries in the town of Green Lawn, Connecticut. This type of exercise provides not only a great opportunity for students to focus on a verb tense but also to synthesize and demonstrate their understanding of the CVC pattern (jot, rob, clap, flap) and irregular verb forms.

Regular and Irregular Verbs Forms in the Simple Past Tense

Ruth Rose (to bring) _________________ her brother over to Dink's backyard and (to pitch) ________________ her tent.

Ruth Rose (to stick) ____________ her head inside the tent and (to wake) _____________ up Dink and Josh.

The three friends (to walk) _______________ (to walk) over to the police station and (to report) _______________ Tiger missing.

Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose (to look) _________________ (to look) for Mrs. Davis's canary and then (to go) _______________ to the circus in town.

The junior detectives (to disguise) _________________ themselves and (to hide) _______________ in the bushes outside Mrs. Davis's house.

Fred Little and his girlfriend (to rob) ___________________ houses in other towns before hitting Green Lawn.

Update 10/3/2013: This exercise is now complete and has been added to my store on TpT: A-Z Mysteries: A Contextualized Common Core Grammar Review.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A-Z Mysteries

A-Z Mysteries is a series of chapter books by Ron Roy. They are popular with first or second graders and with parents who can buy them grouped at a reasonable price through Scholastic. My oldest son read through all 26 mysteries and then went on to read Roy's Calendar Mysteries and Super Editions. My middle son, who is going into third grade, is now easily reading through them. 

I have created worksheets to practice Proper and Common Nouns within the context of the first book in this series: The Absent Author. The first exercise contains twelve original sentences which together summarize the story. Students are asked to underline the proper nouns and categorize them into persons/animals, places, or things. They also circle the common nouns and then alphabetize them. Students are using multiple skills which makes the exercise challenging. Teachers may prefer to assign the reading as homework and have students work in pairs on these exercises in class. Alternatively, teachers can use these exercises as "bonus" work for students who've demonstrated they are ready to move on when the majority of the class is not.

A download preview is available on TpT.

There is a Possessive Noun worksheet for The Bald Bandit and a Simple Past Tense worksheet for The Canary Caper. Additionally, following The Canary Caper worksheets is an "error analysis" exercise which reviews the previous grammar using the context of the "new" story.

This item is currently priced at $2.00. When I add The Deadly Dungeon (I'm aiming for November) anyone who has purchased the product at $2.00 will receive a new link to upload the product for free. This means that those who buy now will pay $2.00 and will eventually receive all 26 mysteries for that low price. As I work through the series and add additional worksheets, naturally, I will raise the price. So get it now while it's cheap! As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Word Maps

My fourth grader learned to use word maps this year. Having worked with students in Literature Circles, I was well aware of their struggle to understand parts of speech and to write original sentences. There is a lot of practice needed in this area. I created the following as a sample to be included in students' writing folders. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Think Clouds

"Think Clouds" are my way of introducing relevant and interesting information about either the story or the author(s) and providing the teacher with an example to practice in class together. This is my alternative to "the first one has been done for you." I feel if you are going to put something on a page, make it worthwhile; learning more about the author is useful and just might entice a reader to look up some of his or her other novels. 

Most of my Contextualized Grammar Reviews contain these "think clouds." Less cloudlike, there are speech bubbles or callouts. Once I figure out how to download some internet freebies, I'll change it up a bit.

Here are a few examples from Bunnicula

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Books to Explore

My son's kindergarten teacher mentioned Jim Trelease in a memo he sent home with the children. I googled his website and learned a bit about his read-aloud theories. There were links to websites with book lists and author interviews. I found when doing Literature Circles this year that many students didn't know much about the authors of the books they were reading. I like to add "think clouds" to my worksheets that highlight a grammar point using information about the author. The site below is something that I will be exploring over the next few weeks.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bunnicula: A Contextualized Grammar Review

My Contextualized Grammar Review for James and Deborah Howe's comical tale of a cat and dog's adventures with the newest addition to their household is up on TpT for $6.00. The My TpT Store link to your right will take you to TeachersPayTeachers where you can download a sample of the item and view its complete Table of Contents before purchasing.

Below is a portion of the adverbial section highlighting becauseAlthough so that has a similar meaning, I thought it best to present the adverbial because alone in a sentence scramble because so that requires a change in verb structure. 

This type of exercise requires that students really understand parts of speech to figure out the sentence order and having read the book, they use the context of the story to make sense of the scramble. Again, these are original sentences, and I typically present them so that they follow the order of the story. If the teacher wants to assign half the worksheet, s/he can. This type of challenging exercise can be started in class as pair work with the remainder assigned for homework.

Chester stays awake at night because Bunnicula suspicious is of he.
Harold likes to hang out in Toby’s room because cupcakes shares he chocolate his. 
Pete thinks that the vegetables are turning white because with being they sprayed are chemicals.

Mrs. Monroe thought Chester was acting strange because love needs attention and he.

Mrs. Monroe washed Chester in the sink with soap because garlic he of smelled.

Chester threw the water dish at Bunnicula because and shrivel he that water vampires disappear read makes.
Harold ran over to Toby and barked because to wanted warn he that sick Bunnicula was him.

Another part of this packet includes a fairly comprehensive list of the book's vocabulary categorized by parts of speech and including page numbers. This chart could be printed on cardstock and used as bookmarks as students read along. Included in this Contextualized Grammar Review is an 18-item worksheet with original sentences asking students to identify adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and verbs. Some of the vocabulary is found in this Parts of Speech worksheet as well as in other exercises throughout this packet.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Bald Bandit: Possessive Noun Forms

Up for free on TpT. Click the link to the right to take you there. Feedback is always welcome. I'm curious to know whether removing the apostrophe in Part C would be too challenging.

When did Betty Azar's book get onto the Internet? Google Betty Azar and possessive noun forms for a review of this grammar point.

I must have been busy birthing and breastfeeding!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A-Z Mysteries: The Bald Bandit

Reread it again last night and took some notes for my possessive noun worksheet. I see many of my readers downloading the freebie I have up on The Absent Author, so I'm guessing some of you are waiting for the next "installment." Here are some of my ideas; it will be about a 20 item worksheet, and then I'll move on to The Canary Caper and see what grammar comes out of that story.

The mom of Dink called him Donald David Duncan, not just Dink, when she was upset.
Dink's mom

Dink rang the doorbell of Mrs. Davis on Halloween.
Mrs. Davis' doorbell OR Mrs. Davis's doorbell 

The front lawn of the O'Learys was scattered with bikes and toys and sneakers.
The O'Learys' front lawn OR The O'Learys's front lawn

This is how I typically present possessive noun forms along with a Part A section with examples taken directly from the book with page numbers. Students simply have to underline and therefore, recognize, the form. I thought last night to add an "unscramble" where students would be required to pick out the noun that the form is modifying.

house friends the Detective Dink's from three called Reddy.

The three friends called Detective Reddy from Dink's house.

That could be challenging for second graders and might be best done in groups.

Off to Sacramento with Gregory today. He's excited to see Iron Man 3 and to swim in the hotel pool. I'm excited to learn more about the Gold Rush and see the capitol. My Gold Rush obsession continues!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What my other boys are reading....

For those of you who don't know me in real life, you may wonder why Gregory's name comes up but not my other two boys. David is in second grade and is working his way through Flat Stanley. I'm sure I can develop some simple worksheets, but he's more into reading on his own and less into being read to at the moment. And honestly, I'm not interested in rereading Flat Stanley! Matthew, my youngest, is in kindergarten. I highly doubt teachers would be interested in learning about the Chima characters he's so obsessed with :) I have to say, though, that I brought the Lego Chima book to family reading today and never have I had a bigger circle of interested kindergarteners around me. I decided to make the most of it and had them call out when they heard one of their sight words! It was loads of fun, and Matthew was thrilled it was his mommy reading to his friends. I hope I always remember these days.

I wrote the above a few weeks ago. Chima is still pretty popular around here, but thank goodness we are done with Flat Stanley. Matthew can now read Catch Me, Catch Me all by himself. He is so proud! I've been reading to him from Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter and Tabby series. Last night we read Mr. Putter and Tabby Fly the Plane. I love his description of the little boy in the park who is a little shy and clumsy and who reminds Mr. Putter of himself. We also read from the Elephant and Piggie series. He loves the characters and their expressions, and I love the messages the book teaches....sharing, including others, looking on the bright side. Although Knuffle Bunny isn't one of my favorites, I do love this series from Mo Willems. David, who will be in third grade in the fall, has moved on to A-Z Mysteries. Yesterday he claimed to have finished The Empty Envelope while I was busy downstairs making dinner. I asked him what was supposed to be in the envelope and he answered, "I must have missed that part." He's so eager to earn a dollar for the books he's read, that sometimes he doesn't really read them! So last night when I could see his interest in his new Lego toys was making it hard for him to concentrate, I started reading the Henry Huggins series to him. It'll help me finish up my worksheets on possessive nouns and conjunctions.

Monday, June 17, 2013

By The Great Horn Spoon (Advanced Grammar)

I've devised a 28-page packet full of adverbial clauses and a thorough punctuation review. It gives students ample practice within the context of this great story. Students are first asked to identify adverbial clauses. They can come before or after the independent clause; they illustrate a variety of relationships including condition (even if, provided that, as long as) cause and result (because, since so that), contrast (although, even though, whereas, while), and time and sequence (by the time, after, before, whenever, while). Part B asks students to combine sentences given the adverbial. They need to decide which clause should include the adverbial and how it should be ordered. They also need to remember punctuation rule #9. Part C has students unscramble the adverbial clause within the sentence. See the example below.

(If) hung Doc miners the Higgins, Praiseworthy feared they would never find Dr. Buckbee’s map.
The second half of the packet provides less of a worksheet and more of an activity for the class. Students are given a card with a bubble and a sentence. Each sentence illustrates one of the 12 punctuation rules (sometimes two). Students must identify the rule, illustrate the sentence in the bubble, and display their work on a pocket chart. These are original sentences.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gooseberry Park

My boys registered with the South Pasadena Library's reading program on Friday, and I picked up Gooseberry Park when I recognized the author, Cynthia Rylant. I've been a huge fan of hers since I read through her Mr. Putter and Tabby early chapter books with all three boys. We started with Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog and then discovered favorites (Fly the Plane, Paint the Porch, Pick the Pears), many of which we added to our home library. It's been one of my favorite series to "gift," and I usually buy copies for the libraries from the book fairs at the kids' schools. I feel like kids at this age should all read these stories about a sweet friendship between two elderly neighbors.

Gooseberry Park is reminiscent of Mr. Putter and Tabby. The main character reminds me of Mr. Putter. In this story, Professor Albert is an elderly man who lives alone with his pets. The story starts off in Gooseberry Park with a red squirrel about to give birth and describes her friendship with Kona, Professor Albert's dog and Murray, a friendly bat who shares the tree where she builds her nest for her newborn babies. A hermit crab, another pet of Professor Albert's, is a wise and helpful friend and when the "wild" animals are in danger during an ice storm, the domestic animals come to their rescue.

As I was reading through David's ELA book from this year, it occurred to me that I used to do a lot of "writing the question" practice with my ESL students (so that they could learn about do/does) and that regular first-language learners could benefit from it as well. I saw that they practice question words, and I know they struggle with writing complete sentences. So here is where my mind went while I was reading Gooseberry Park.

1. Stumpy builds her nest in a pin oak tree.

Where does stumpy build her nest?

2. Murray's cousin, Ralph, stole the glow-in-the-dark watch.

Who stole the glow-in-the-dark watch?

3. Stumpy collects straws, gum wrappers, rubber bands, and empty yogurt cups for her nest.

What does Stumpy collect for her nest?

Gregory didn't feel like reading Monday night, so I read from Gooseberry Park. When I finished up Chapter 5, he asked if he could stay up to read more. Of course! He finished (and very much enjoyed) this adorable story.

Feedback is always welcome! Teachers---please comment below. Would you like to see a worksheet or activity for Gooseberry Park? Which grammar point would you like reviewed?

Thursday, June 13, 2013


65 free downloads and counting.....I've written a homophone review worksheet using the context of Deborah and James Howe's Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery. What a great read aloud for Halloween for 2nd graders. Once they have begun this entertaining series, they can continue with Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Return to Howliday Inn, Nighty-Nightmare, Bunnicula Strikes Again, and Bunnicula Meet Edgar Allan Crow.

How could I not choose Bunnicula for homophones? One of the funniest parts of the book involves Chester misunderstanding the directions for how to destroy this little vampire bunny. He takes Mrs. Monroe's steak from the kitchen counter where it is thawing for dinner that night and jumps on top of Bunnicula, pounding the "steak" into his heart. He misunderstood the directions in his "how to kill a vampire" book and confused the homophones "steak" and "stake." It was hilarious! I think this is a perfect Halloween read, and it will be up on my list for gifts and to read to David in September.

On my wish list for Halloween! Vampire trivia? Love it!

I'm working on a review of possessive noun forms, conjunctions, and adverbials for this delightful story. Additionally, as I take apart this story for all its possibilities to review different grammar structures, I'm putting together a list of vocabulary categorized by parts of speech. Printed on cardstock, these can be made into bookmarks. With a tassel and pony beads, this is a relevant and useful homework reward for students once they've read the next book in the series and a great way for students to make connections as vocabulary is often recycled by authors.

Monday, July 15, 2013 (update)

This item is no longer free. The homophone worksheet has now been incorporated into the Contextualized Grammar Review for sale on TeachersPayTeachers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Adverbials (Manner)

These are all over By the Great Horn Spoon!

as if
as though
in that
just as

A hilltop telegraph had signaled the arrival of a side-wheeler and now it seemed as if all of San Francisco had turned out. pg. 83

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bullwhip Griffin vs. By the Great Horn Spoon

I discovered a trailer online for the movie Bullwhip Griffin, which is Disney's version of Sid Fleischman's By the Great Horn Spoon. The movie is quite entertaining and stars Roddy McDowal. Students might recognize his voice from animated Batman films. Richard Haydn, who I immediately recognized from watching The Sound of Music one too many times (oh, no, not just at Christmas, but all year around), plays Quentin Bartlett. This is Disney's version of Dr. Buckbee.

Since I've been working on materials that help students develop better sentence structure through the use of adverbials and transitions, I took a look at the video to see if it had enough comparison and contrast to be worth an activity.

Examples of contextualized sentences using adverbials and transitions follow.

Some important similarities exist between the novel and the movie, for example, the qualities of the main characters, the setting, and the sequence of events.

Though Sid Fleischman details the race between the Lady Wilma and the Sea Raven in his story, Disney chose to leave the race out completely.

In the movie version of Sid Fleischman's story, Arabella is Master Jack's aunt. However, in the book Arabella is Jack's aunt. (transition)

Whereas Jack learned how to pan gold from Pitch-pine Billy in the book, in the movie he reads a pamphlet and practices with his washbasin at home in Massachusetts. (adverbial)

The character of Arabella's butler appears in both the film and book and comes from a generation of butlers. In the movie he is called Eric Griffin, but in the book he is called Praiseworthy. (conjunction)

In Bullwhip Griffin, Jack and his butler sail on the Lady Wilma; similarly, Master Jack and Praiseworthy depart Boston on a ship of the same name in Sid Fleischman's novel.

What a fabulous movie! I'm usually disappointed with the movie version of a book, but this time I wasn't. Of course, the movie was less about the Gold Rush and more about the characters and their stories. There were elements of Gold Rush history appropriately woven in, though.

I devised a 4-page movie guide; By the Great Horn Spoon vs. Bullwhip Griffin is available on TpT and below are the answers to the grammar section. Not only does this worksheet help students decipher the relationship between ideas, but it also challenges them to understand the rules of punctuation.

Part D: Conjunctions, Adverbials and Transitions that show CONTRAST

1. Whereas/While
2. but
3. however,
4. While
5. but
6. Whereas/While
7. Whereas
8. However,

Monday, June 3, 2013

Adverbials (Condition)

as/so long as
even if
given that
granted (that)
granting (that)
in case that
in the event that
on (the) condition that
only if
provided that
unless (negative)
whether (or not)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Adverbials (Contrast)

even though

While is also an adverbial of time and sequence.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Adverbials (Time and Sequence)

(just) as
as soon as
by the time

Since is a tricky one because it can be a preposition, an adverbial of time and sequence or an adverbial of cause and result. After, before and until can also be prepositions and while is also an adverbial of contrast.

Before Cut-Eye Higgins had a chance to reload his pistol, the road agents had surrounded the stagecoach and its passengers. (before is an adverbial)

Before this adventure, Jack had never even tasted coffee. (before is a preposition)

What I find so important when teaching adverbial clauses is that students must learn to identify subjects and verbs. I've always taught my students to underline a subject once and a verb twice. I suggest using this procedure in my answer keys to help students make sense of complex sentences.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adverbials (Cause and Result)

So is the coordinating conjunction used to connect ideas that are related by cause and result; below is a list of adverbials. Students need to be taught that so combines two independent clauses, but adverbials begin a dependent clause and require an independent clause to complete a complex sentence.

Cause and Result

as long as
forasmuch as
inasmuch as
now that
so that

Here are some examples from By the Great Horn Spoon.

Praiseworthy earned the nickname Bullwhip because he knocked out the road agent with such force.

Praiseworthy and Jack let go of their belts so that they wouldn't drown.

Jack stuffed the pig through the porthole since he didn't want the cook to see him.

Now that Praiseworthy is a miner in the diggings, he wears a red shirt and a wide-brimmed hat.

I will soon have up my second packet for By the Great Horn Spoon. It reviews coordinating conjunctions and adverbial clauses and requires students to decipher relationships between clauses. It also presents the 12 rules of punctuation in context in the same way my Gold Rush punctuation activity does.