Testing Week Read-Alouds

  Testing getting you down?  Just the thought of testing getting you down?

I recently read a blog post entitled Uplifting Read-Alouds for Tough Testing Days, and I thought it was interesting (and timely) to think about new ways of using books during testing. From the blog:

Testing season can be stressful for students and their teachers! We asked teachers for their favorite positive, motivational, stress-reducing, hard-work-encouraging and just plain fun read-alouds for those bubble-test kind of days.

The author (Hannah Hudson) goes on to list 6 titles that teachers recommended, with an explanation of why each book was chosen.  It got me thinking about which books I would want to hear if I had taken one bubble test too many.  Here’s what I came up with:

  Dex: The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner  (Because no one epitomizes the importance of hard work and dedication to a goal than Dex!)

Dexter the dog is little but he has dreams — big dreams. He wants to be a superhero! So he reads all the comic books he can, works out to build his muscles, and even orders a hero suit. Dexter has determination, spirit, and heart. He proves that no matter how little you are, you can still do very big things.

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Brainstorm ways that students can prepare themselves for standardized testing (getting a good night’s sleep, eating a nutritious breakfast, etc).
    2. Allow students to design a Testing Hero Suit.  Features might include a cape in case the testing room is chilly, pockets for mints and #2 pencils, a belt buckle with a built-in pencil sharpener, and a logo to represent some sort of testing motto.  (A large question mark, for example, with the big red NO symbol over it.)

  Grandpa’s Teeth by Rod Clement  (Because I LOVE the visual twist at the end!)

Grandpa’s teeth, which were handmade by the finest Swiss craftsmen, have been stolen! Officer Rate arrives on the crime scene to investigate. He puts up WANTED posters for the missing teeth and rounds up the usual subjects. Grandpa even goes on the famous TV show Unsolved Crimes. But the crime remains unsolved. What is Grandpa going to do? And why does everyone in town keep smiling all the time?

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Athk all thtudenth to thpeak with a lithp ath though they were mithing thome teeth.
    2. Have students smile continuously throughout the day, the way the townspeople in the book do.
    3. Face the standardized tests with the same bright smile the townspeople in the book use.

  Skippyjon Jones: Class Action by Judy Schachner  (Because any school story that can pack in Mo Willems’ pigeon, a woolly bully, The Mona Fleasa, a word of praise for the delicious scent of books waiting to be read, a jump rope rhyme, slipping on a banana peel, three different Mexican Hat Dance songs, and a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary words is worth sharing!!)

Skippyjon Jones, the little Siamese cat, really wants to go to school, but Mama Junebug Jones tells him school is where dogs go to get trained.  So he goes inside his closet instead, where he finds himself in the school of his imagination, surrounded by dogs of all kinds enjoying reading, art, and music!  It’s fun until a bully threatens total lunchroom destruction; then it’s up to Skippyjon to save the day.

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Read it aloud to your students.  Even better, play the audio version of the story (my book came with a CD) while you show the pictures.
    2. Visit the Skippyjon Jones website for videos, activities, games, and curriculum guides.
    3. Write your own set of class lyrics for a Mexican Hat Dance with a testing theme.  (“Oh we are the testing banditos Clap Clap, We bubble like lively mosquitos Clap Clap, We all do our best on the standardized test, We hope that our snack will be Fritos Clap Clap!)  Use the song and dance during your testing breaks.

Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile  (Because students may need to practice doing nothing, since once they finish the day’s testing they aren’t allowed to read or draw or move until everyone else has also finished the day’s testing.)

Instructions for Using This Book:

    1. Use the “Doing Nothing” challenges and games from the Non-Activity Kit.
    2. Practice doing nothing every time the kids get on your last nerve.  These are high-stakes tests after all, so your students really can’t over-prepare for the strict testing environment they will encounter.

  Big Bad Wolves at School by Stephen Krensky  (Because ya gotta love a book whose cover shows a wolf sitting in class with two pencils stuck up his nose!  Thank you Brad Sneed, illustrator!)

Rufus is not like the other wolves.  He spends his time rolling in the grass, running like the wind, and howling at the moon.  His parents, feeling he needs a more structured existence, send him off to the Big Bad Wolf Academy. The curriculum is tough: learning to huff and puff, determining the best way to enter a henhouse, and coming up with disguises to fool little boys and girls. When it’s time for exams, Rufus is unprepared. Then hunters interrupt the testing, and it’s Rufus who has the necessary skills to successfully fend off the danger.

Instructions for Using This Book:

    1. Discuss with your students how everyone has a unique set of talents and abilities, and that rather than trying to force everyone into the same mold and measure success through a single limited type of assessment, we should….we should….well…
    2. Maybe you’d better just save this book until after the testing is over!

  All kidding aside, are there any read-alouds you like to use during testing season?  Please share your favorite titles in the comments!

 

Image #1: 'NJ Hot Air Balloon Festival - Great+Colors' Found on flickrcc.netImage 
Image #2: 'Wink ;)' Found on flickrcc.net
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Children’s Book Week 2016

CBW2016  Happy Children’s Book Week!

Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes — wherever young readers and books connect!

You can download and print some wonderful resources to celebrate reading this week, including a poster by Brian Won featuring characters from his book Hooray for Hat! and a bookmark by Cece Bell based on her graphic novel memoir El Deafo.

CBW2016Poster   CBW2016Bookmark

You can also print lesson plans and activity kits for kids of all ages, and right now the awesome site TeachingBooks.net is offering a collection of free resources for all the Children’s Choice Book Award nominees, including videos!  Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for the links to each category.

Are you doing something special for Children’s Book Week?  Tell us about it in the comments, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune

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Spring Garden Books and Activities

Previously I wrote about some of my favorite, fabulous spring collage-art books, but last week we explored seeds and gardens in the library so I wanted share those titles too:

up in the garden  Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
If you’ve seen the book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, then you’re familiar with the concept behind this book which shows us what’s going on above and below ground in the garden.  The book opens just as spring is arriving, melting the snow that covers last year’s garden, and the illustrations show how the garden grows and evolves throughout the year and explain the symbiotic relationship between the insects and animals that live and visit there.  As always Messner’s writing says much in just a few well-chosen words, wrapping scientific facts in poetic prose, and additional information about each animal is provided in the end notes.  (Bonus: Right now you can get the ebook version for only $1.99 on Amazon.  I used the free Kindle Reading App on my desktop computer to share this book on my interactive whiteboard so no one would miss any of the details in Neal’s mixed media illustrations.)  Be sure to share Over and Under the Snow by this duo next winter!

And Then It's Spring  And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Stead
This young protagonist has had enough of winter’s endless brown (haven’t we all!) and with his faithful animal companions decides to plant an assortment of seeds to brighten his world.  The pencil and woodblock illustrations provide us with small signs that spring is indeed coming, even though it seems as though nothing will ever happen in the brown dirt.  Stead includes a nice peek below ground as well, which lends this book to comparison and contrast with Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.  (You could also share the spring poems from Fogliano’s book When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons.)  Enjoy the book trailer:

 

Planting the Wild Garden  Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
In contrast to the planned gardens in our first two titles, this book focuses on the many ways seeds travel and take root without (intentional) assistance from humans.  Solid science combined with lyrical language (including lots of onomatopoeia) make it a perfect choice for story time, and the soft colored pencil and watercolor illustrations give solitary readers much to examine.  The page layouts create the effect of a nature sketchbook, and may inspire some readers to take a nature walk and record what they observe!  (Includes a bibliography of related nonfiction titles.)

      Wild Garden spread   Wild Garden page

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt was our inspiration for these garden pictures, created by some of my 1st graders:

7-garden art 4   5-garden art 1   6-garden art 3

I hope you’ll share your favorite garden books in the comments, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune

 

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Spring Collage Books and Activities

I don’t know about you, but I was REALLY ready for spring this year!  As a result, I’ve been sharing picture books about spring with many of my classes, and we’ve been celebrating in our makerspace and STEAM lab with related activities.  This week I used some springtime books that feature paper collage illustrations (I’m a huge fan of this type of art) and that inspired some paper cutting projects in my library:

Finding Spring  Finding Spring  by Carin Berger
It was love at first sight as soon as I laid eyes on this gorgeously constructed story of a little bear who can’t wait to experience his first spring.  The soft collage illustrations have a slightly vintage feel, and it’s easy to empathize with Maurice’s impatient yearning for spring.  And don’t miss Berger’s other cut-paper books, including Friends Forever which explores friendship in the context of changing seasons, and A Perfect Day which celebrates one magical snowy day in winter.

Finding Spring spread(Note: Be sure to visit Carin Berger’s website; the splash page is delightfully clever!)

 

Sorting Through Spring  Sorting Through Spring by Lizann Flatt, illustrations by Ashley Barron
This book is part of the Math in Nature Series by this author/illustrator duo, and it features a full measure of onomatopoeia, rhythm, rhyme, and whimsical questions about animals and nature on every page.  The math concepts covered include patterns, graphs, and probability, and the author has also included Nature Notes on the animals featured in the text.

Sorting Through Spring pageI included some math cards based on these pages in my STEAM Lab, and students used manipulatives to recreate and solve them.  You may also be interested in the Sorting Through Spring teacher guide.

 

In the Small Small Pond  In the Small Small Pond written and illustrated by Denise Fleming

In the Tall Tall Grass  In the Tall Tall Grass written and illustrated by Denise Fleming

These books take collage art to a whole new level, in that Fleming makes her own paper that she then uses to create her illustrations.  There are plenty of spring pond and meadow animals to inspire young artists to depict their own colorful scenes, and wide variety of descriptive rhyming verbs on each double page spread to move the action along from early morning to late at night.

In the Small Small Pond spread

I wasn’t ambitious enough to try making paper with my classes, but I stocked my Creation Station with construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, crayons, and extra copies of these books.  Here are some of the spring collages my 2nd grade students created:

3-spring collage 3   4-spring collage 4

1-spring collage 1   2-spring collage 2

Can you recommend some other spring books using collage art?  Please share them in the comments, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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Seuss-y Snacks

I will miss celebrating Read Across America Day this year (waahh!) because I’ll be attending the S.C. Association of School Librarians Conference but I thought I’d share a little of last year’s celebration.  I arranged for some education club students to walk over from the middle school next door to serve as guest readers for our lower grade classrooms.  I wanted to provide some snacks for them as a “thank you” that would highlight a few books by Dr. Seuss in honor of his birthday, and here’s what I came up with:
seusstable

Here are some close-ups:
Cat in the Hat hats (strawberry and banana slices)
and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (goldfish)

cathats

Hop on Pop Popcorn
hoponpopcorn

Brown Bar-ba-loots from The Lorax (chocolate teddy grahams)
brownbarbaloots

Pink Ink Drink from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (strawberry soda)
pinkinkdrink

The middle schoolers really enjoyed interacting with our students, and I could tell they put a lot of time and enthusiasm into preparing their read-alouds.  What are you doing to celebrate Read Across America Day?  Tell me about it in the comments, or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

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