Building Relationships with Books – Friendships

Lately I’ve been working on putting together a collection of books and accompanying resources that can help students strengthen their friendship skills.  A new school year brings new classroom groupings, and I want our students to be prepared for making (and keeping!) new friends.  We also have more new students in our building than normal this year, so it’s important for the “old-timers” to realize how hard it can be for the newcomers to start over in a new situation.  I’m hoping the following titles will inspire them!

Books to Welcome New Students

The Day You Begin written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

A touching story about students who are starting over in a new country (America), and how hurtful it is when their classmates aren’t accepting.  The illustrations are charming, and the closing lines of the story rejoice over the fact that “every new friend has something a little like you — and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”  A standout collaboration between an author who has won the Newbery Honor award and the Coretta Scott King award, and an illustrator who has won the Pura Belpre’ Illustrator award.

The Curriculum Corner offers an extensive book study printable packet for the book.

Here’s the Brightly Storytime read-aloud of the Book:

 

Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic

This title is not new, but I love the exuberant story of Max the Duck, who comes in from the cold and then makes himself completely at home.  At first the other animals in the household aren’t quite sure what to make of his hobbies and messes, but when he leaves to rejoin his flock they realize that he had truly become part of the family.  The ending espouses a “the more the merrier” outlook that can often be needed in the classroom when newcomers join the group after the year has begun, and everyone has to adjust to the change.

Urbanovic offers a Duck at the Door coloring sheet on her website.  And students who fall in love with Duck will be happy to learn there are three sequels: Duck Soup, Sitting Duck, and Duck and Cover.

 

Books for Being a Good Friend

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill

Here we see the main character pondering what it actually means to be kind, both in the classroom and out in the world.  Is it cleaning up after the class pet, choosing to include the new girl in class, making cookies for an elderly neighbor who lives alone, recycling a bottle?  And can one person’s act of kindness inspire others to pay it forward until it reaches all around the world?  The author acknowledges that being kind can be hard — even when you know what to do — and it’s up to each individual to decide to make that choice.  These are important ideas for children to grapple with, and brainstorming additional acts of kindness is a natural follow-up activity.

The official book trailer includes interviews with several kids about their experiences with kindness, which can inspire students engaging in their own discussions::

 

How To Grow A Friend by Sara Gillingham

This book is an extended metaphor that compares nurturing friendships to tending a garden.  The text gives an outline of the steps necessary for building and sustaining relationships, while still leaving room for a class discussion on the meaning of each piece of advice.  For example, Gillingham suggests that friendships need space to bloom, and she warns that sometimes friends bug you.  Students can then offer their own ideas of what that means, and what it might look like in real life.  The illustrations are delightful and almost demand a follow-up art and/or gardening activity.

Here’s a link to a story hour guide for the book. (I love the printable friendship bracelets!)

 

Blue vs Yellow by Tom Sullivan

Blue and Yellow argue about which color is best, until an accidental collision shows what they can do when they join forces.  Then Red comes along, and they have to decide whether or not to include another color.  This book is a humorous reminder that you won’t win friends by constantly bragging about yourself, and that when you share your talents with others you might be surprised at what you can achieve.  The format of the story can also serve as a model for student writing about other colors competing against one another (red vs yellow, blue vs red) and what types of partnerships might result.

Here’s the official trailer for the book:

 

Do you have additional resources or ideas for using these books?  Do you have other favorite books about friendship that you share with your students?  Please tell us about them in the comments!

 

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Autumn Leaves: Kindergarten Story Time

 I love autumn, and I enjoy sharing all the elements of the season with my students. In this lesson I shared the fabulous book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, which never gets old for me even though I’ve been reading it aloud for ten years! We followed the book with a discussion of all the items she was able to make with leaves, and then we brainstormed ideas of other pictures that could be created.

I then gave each student a sheet of plain construction paper, and an assortment of real leaves and acorns from my yard. Ordinarily I would take the students on a nature walk around the school grounds to collect materials for this project, but Hurricane Michael closed our school and then left a wet mess behind. As we talked about what body parts people and animals have, the students experimented with different sizes and shapes of leaves to design their own leaf pictures. And while they were making art, I was taking photos!

We ended our time together by returning to the rug and singing Autumn Leaves are Falling Down by The Kiboomers on YouTube. I chose this song because it mentions the colors of the leaves that fall from the trees, which is one of the facts I wanted the students to know.

I reinforced that concept with our line up activity: When I called a child’s name, s/he had to name a real leaf color (green, yellow, orange, brown) before lining up.

Do you share the beauty of autumn leaves with your students? Please leave a comment and share your ideas!

 

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Scarecrow Fun and Friendship: Kindergarten Story Time

 It’s always helpful to repeat books, songs, and rhymes, with students — especially younger learners. It makes concepts more “sticky,” and the kids enjoy participating in activities that they’re comfortable with. So in this session we revisited the topic of scarecrows, mixing some old resources with some new ones.

 The students briefly saw a scarecrow at the end of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, so for this lesson I wanted to choose a book in which a scarecrow had a more prominent role. I decided on Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long so that we could “plant the seed” of becoming a more compassionate friend as well. When the farmer places a scarecrow in the field, the other residents of the farm are put off by his scowl and decide to leave him alone. Only Otis looks past the surface, and his response is a gentle lesson in empathy.

After sitting still for a story and a discussion, it’s time to get up and move. I wrote a simple poem made up of rhyming couplets which included the body parts of a scarecrow and taught it to the students along with some simple motions. We stood up and repeated it a couple of times until everyone was reasonably good at performing it.

The scarecrow pieces on the chart match the scarecrow pieces the students were given. Click to enlarge.

Then I gave each student a sheet of blank construction paper and a set of colored cut-outs of each of the scarecrow parts from Free Kids Crafts. (There’s also a black-and-white version available that kids can color themselves.) The children used the pieces to put together a picture of a scarecrow as we repeated the poem.

We ended with a repeat of the Scarecrow Song by the Learning Station on YouTube. The students always enjoy an opportunity to get up and dance!

Our lining up activity was to have each child name and point to a body part that a scarecrow has. Some of the things I do may sound very easy, but the majority of kids at my school are at-risk students so I usually start simple and then build up to more complex concepts. I’ve found it’s a good way to allow all of the students to experience some success. I also try to include lots of hands-on manipulatives and I bring in real items for them to handle, like the scarecrows you see at the top of this post which came from my local craft store.

I’d love to hear what scarecrow activities you use with your students. Please leave a comment and share!

 

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Welcome Fall! Picture Books to Celebrate Autumn

Welcome Fall!

Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year, and I enjoy fall picture books just as much as I enjoy fall weather.  Here are some of my favorites to welcome the season. (Remember, it comes later here in the south!)

 Fall Leaves: Colorful and Crunchy by Martha Rustad
This one has been around for several years but it’s still a fun celebration of the beautiful foliage that is synonymous with autumn. Because it’s written on two levels (simple narrative main text, plus more information shared in side notes) it works for preschool/kindergarten and elementary learners. This book is part of a series which includes five other books about the season: Fall’s Here!

. Because of an Acorn by Lola Schaefer
A simple cause-and-effect book that depicts and entire ecosystem then circles back to the acorn as it falls from the oak tree. It’s a book intended for young students, but children of all ages will appreciate the detailed artwork and the progression of ideas as they flow through the cycle of nature.

 Counting on Fall by Lizanna Flatt
Another book for younger readers, this is a nice addition to a STEAM collection because of the math connection to the scientific world of nature, with some creative collage art to round things out. It explores numbers, patterns, shapes, estimation, etc – all within the context of animal behavior and traditional symbols of autumn. This book is also part of a series: Math in Nature.

 Look What I Did With a Leaf by Morteza Sohi
Part craft book and part field guide, this is a book just begging to be used in a makerspace! The illustrations do a nice job of showing the reader how to follow the written instructions, and the projects are easily do-able by even young artists. As someone who has used leaf-picture activities with my students and my own children, I was very pleased with this book.

  Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
And of course if you’re going to make leaf pictures, you MUST share this inventive book first! The books I’ve mentioned so far have all been nonfiction, but we’re moving into pure fantasy now as we marvel at the collages Ehlert creates from paper leaves showing us animals, vegetables, and leaf people. The regular version of the book is fine, but if you’re using it as a read aloud you may want to invest in the big book edition so your audience won’t miss the small charming details, such as the mice in the pumpkin patch.

 Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
If you want to go beyond leave to the life cycle of a tree (a sugar maple, to be specific) this is another winning title from Lois Ehlert. The vibrant illustrations are sure to draw the reader in, and the factual details are communicated in a lovely narrative told from a child’s point of view.

What are your favorite books to share the joy of fall? Please leave a comment, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves: Kindergarten Story Time

Our most recent story sessions have focused on trees and orchards, so our next logical step was to talk about leaves and the seasonal changes they are starting to go through.

 I began with a callback to a read-aloud I used earlier this year: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms TabackWe re-read that book and used the old lady interactive puppet to re-enact the story, then segued into a different “old lady” book: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro. To make sure the students were actively listening, I instructed them to say “ah-choo” every time they heard the word “sneeze.”

 Not only did we see leaves on every page of the book, but at the end of the story (spoiler alert!) the old lady sneezes out a scarecrow, which provides another seasonal icon to work with! We had an interesting discussion about the purpose of a scarecrow. A few children knew it was for scaring birds away, while others insisted it was a Halloween decoration. We finally agreed that both uses were important.

After the story it was time to move around, so we learned the Scarecrow Dance using the video for the Scarecrow Song by the Learning Station on YouTube. I almost used the video/song Dance Like a Scarecrow but in the end I preferred the way the “Scarecrow Song” kept repeating and got a little faster each time. That gave the kids a chance to practice the dance, and they really like it when things speed up the longer you do them.

 Then we worked on small motor skills with a simple scarecrow coloring page. Some students surprised me with how well they were already coloring, but others were mere scribblers. All were proud of what they created though, as evidenced by their enthusiasm for “show and tell” time when we came back to the carpet to share the pictures.

Do you have some good scarecrow resources that you use in your story time sessions?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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Orchards and Trees: Kindergarten Story Time

I’m “branching out” from apple trees in this week’s kindergarten story time to fruit trees in general. (See what I did there?)

As a callback to our last story time we began our session with the song Way Up High in an Apple Tree by The Learning Station.

 Then I shared the nonfiction book At the Orchard by Bruce Esseltine which depicts a variety of fruit trees and provides a nice opportunity for students to identify different types of fruit.

 That led us into the rhyme A Tree Starts to Grow which I got from Miss Nina’s Weekly Video Show on YouTube. I did not use her video with the students; instead I made a chart of the words and taught it to the children myself. (Click the image to enlarge it.) I always try to alternate sitting still for a story with some singing and moving so the kids don’t get too restless.

 Then I used the Epic! ebook website to share A Tree Grows Up by Marfe Delano, which is a colorful look at the life cycle of a tree. I love the close-up of acorns on the title page, and the fact that the book mentions that acorns are food for different animals as well as seeds for trees.

 I brought in a couple dozen brown and green acorns from my yard, and the last few minutes of our time were spent examining the acorns and describing how they feel. Our “lining up activity” was for each student to place his/her acorn in the correct cup (brown acorns in the brown cup, green acorns in the green cup) on their way to the door. I sent the acorns back to the classroom to be used in the math center for counting and sorting.

Do you have some additional resources to recommend? Please leave a comment!

 

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3rd Grade Novel Unit: The Homework Machine

  And the winner is….The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman!


In my last post I mentioned that I’m providing some ELA enrichment for a small group of third graders, and I was trying to decide which of the novel sets that our school has purchased I should use with the group. My reasons for choosing The Homework Machine include:

  • The story is told from multiple viewpoints. The reader gets to hear not only from the four protagonists but also from their parents, their teacher, the police chief, and some of their classmates.
  • The story is told in the first person. As students are working on character analysis, they can use the individual’s own words as well as what the other characters say about him or her.
  • While the overall tone of the book is humorous, it explores some pretty serious issues, such as military deployment, not fitting in with peers at school, parental pressure to make good grades, and the viral nature of the internet.
  • It’s a great opportunity to discuss the Science Fiction genre with students. In my experience, not many students choose Science Fiction as a favorite type of book, but this is a perfect example of how it’s not just aliens and space travel. We can also discuss the elements of Realistic Fiction in the book vs the elements of Science Fiction.

  And as I mentioned before, Dan Gutman is a prolific author, as well as a diverse one. Not only is there a sequel to this book (The Return of the Homework Machine) but he’s written the My Weird School series, the Baseball Card Adventures series, the Genius Files series, and the Flashback Four series, among others. Once kids connect with one of his books, there are dozens of others to enjoy.

Have you used The Homework Machine as a read aloud or in a book club? Please leave a comment and share your experience!

**The photo of Dan Gutman is from his Amazon author page.
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