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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Old MacDonald and His Animals on the Farm: Kindergarten Story Time

After spending two years at a school that housed 4th and 5th grade only, I’m thoroughly enjoying leading story time for younger students again!

  For the last couple of library visits I’ve been focusing on farm animals.  The first time I used several nonfiction books, along with a spirited rendition of the song Old MacDonald Had a Farm complete with flannel board pieces.

For the second visit I shared three fiction stories:

  Click Clack Moo Cows That Type (by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin) This classic book is a crowd-pleaser for children and adults alike which shows how the farm animals work together to negotiate with the farmer for what they want. I’ll probably use some of the sequels during future visits.

  Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry) A rhyming delight AND an opportunity for students to chime in with both animal and vehicle noises AND a sweet message of friendship, all in one book. (There are more books about the Little Blue Truck too.) And it segues perfectly to the next book….

  Old MacDonald Had a Truck (by Steven Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban) Instead of focusing on the animals on the farm, this book celebrates the heavy machinery (dump truck, bulldozer, etc) being used for an unusual project on the farm. Most boys will be delighted by the sights and sounds on each page, and girls will probably be pleased to see Mrs. MacDonald partnering with her husband in their exciting endeavor. (It turns out that Old MacDonald also has a boat, if you’re interested in the sequel to this story.)

Do you have a favorite Old MacDonald story time resource?  Please share it in the comments or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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New Year, New Reading Projects

  I’ve been thinking about the all the upcoming opportunities to share books with kids this year.  I’m excited about the opportunity to partner with teachers to provide a variety of positive reading experiences with students.

We all know that kids are social, so one of my goals is to make reading more social too.  Certainly books can be enjoyed independently, as a private and silent conversation between the reader and the author.  But books can also be read aloud and discussed and debated and reviewed and recommended in a way that builds a shared excitement for reading.

One of the ways I can foster these types of interactions is by collaborating with teachers on some social reading events.  So far I have the following on my list:

  •  International Dot Day (Sept 15-ish) – a celebration of creativity, inspired by the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds.
  •  National Comic Book Day (Sept 25) – an event that I like to celebrate with a Comic Book Read-In in the library featuring an assortment of graphic novels for students to enjoy.
  •   The Global Read Aloud (Oct 1 – Nov 9) – founded by Pernille Ripp to connect and unite students around the world through a common reading experience, and dependent on teachers following a universal read aloud schedule. There are different books selected for different grade levels. (Pictured: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed)
  •   Jumpstart’s Read for the Record (Oct 25) – an initiative developed to highlight the importance of early literacy, which this year features the book Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.
  •   Picture Book Month (the entire month of November) – an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book and provides a themed literacy calendar and blog posts from picture book authors and illustrators sharing their thoughts on why picture books are important.
  •   The South Carolina Children’s Book Award program (going on now) – a children’s choice award sponsored each year by the S.C. Association of School Librarians. Students read books from a list of 20 nominated titles from one of four age-based categories, and then vote on their favorite.  The format makes it the perfect foundation for a student (or teacher!) book club.  (If you don’t live in South Carolina, your state probably offers a similar program.)

What reading events are you looking forward to this year?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune and share!

 

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Summer Reading Reminders for Students

I always like to plan end-of-the-year activities for my library classes that encourage students to keep reading over the summer. As someone who always has stacks of books around the house, as well as a public library card, I take it for granted that time off from school just means MORE time to read.  But I realize that for many of our students, the opposite is true.

Here are a few things I like to do:

  I usually do a book swap during the last week of school, but this year we made that one of our Read Across America Day activities.  Click to download the flier I send home for the summer swap.

 Summer Reading BINGO, except I don’t play it as a bingo game.  I give each student a copy of the grid showing all the reading possibilities along with some colored pencils.  I put on some upbeat music and students move around the room collecting signatures from their classmates.  Each student signs a square representing one type of summer reading he/she will participate in.  Not only does this get kids planning for their reading, but it makes a nice memento with everyone’s autograph.  I have also used this as a back-to-school icebreaker, where students sign a square that represents a type of reading they actually did over the summer.  You can download the grid I use for free on Teachers Pay Teachers from Create Teach Share.  (Also includes a Summer Reading Bucket List, which is cool for setting individual reading goals.)

  I also like to create a Summer Reading Brochure tailored to my students as a way to share a lot of info in one place.  I include a definition of “summer slide” and how to overcome it; information on summer reading programs hosted by the public library, the local bookstore, and online sites; and summer reading lists including our state book award nominees for the upcoming year.  Since many kids now have some type of device capable of accessing the internet, I also include URLs for websites with free ebooks.  I include our school library collection, and a link to DISCUS Kids, which includes a free subscription to Tumblebooks for residents of South Carolina courtesy of our State Library.  (Your state library may offer something similar.)

  And finally I entice them with the promise of our annual Summer Reading Celebration, an ice cream sundae party for students who turn in a reading log (signed by a parent) of books they enjoyed during the break or a certificate of completion from an official summer reading program.

How do you get students excited about reading over the summer?  Leave a comment and share!

 

 

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Taking the Book Genre Personality Quiz

This week in the library students are taking Scholastic’s Book Genre Personality Quiz.

The quiz consists of seven questions such as what you want to be when you grow up, favorite after-school activity, and thing you’re most afraid of.  Your answers determine your recommended genres, and you can receive anywhere from one to three categories of books that you might enjoy, along with a brief description of the genres and the reason they were chosen for you.

I have each student write his/her name on an index card and list the recommended genres.  I then collect the cards so that I can provide some reader’s advisory feedback using the quiz results plus what I already know about the students’ reading habits.

While I look through the cards and write down a few recommended titles from our library collection, students use Destiny (our OPAC software) to conduct genre searches and write down any promising results on the To Be Read log sheet in their library folders.  I give the index cards back as I finish my recommendations, and students are then free to visit the shelves for check out time.  They can choose a book they found in the library catalog, a book I suggested, or something totally unrelated to the genre quiz activity.

Helpful Resources:

Here are two log sheets you can download for your students to use for books they want to read in the future.  They both have a column for the title and author of the book.  The first one also has a space for a brief summary of the book, while the second one has a column for the book’s genre and for the date finished (should the student actually read the book).

Books I Want to Read 1

Books I Want to Read 2

 

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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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