Family Reunion Picture Books – Teaching Resources

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Now that travel and gatherings are becoming safer for folks, it’s likely that many families will be planning holiday reunions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  If you’d like to tap into the excitement (or trepidation) that students might be feeling about that, you can’t go wrong with these four picture books:

Going Down Home with Daddy – written by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter

In this Caldecott honor book, Lil Alan looks forward to the annual family reunion at the farm where Daddy grew up, but everyone is supposed to share something special and Alan worries about arriving with empty hands.  As he goes on a tractor ride, enjoys family meals, attends church services, and listens to his relatives share memories, he realizes he can use the gifts of their land to pay tribute to his family’s roots and strength.  Lyons use of imagery and metaphor keep the language lively, and Minter’s illustrations are awash with pattern and symbolism that reinforce the idea of family values and traditions.  There is so much to notice and ponder in this beautiful book, you’ll want to allow plenty of time for discussion after you share it.

Teacher’s Guide from Peachtree Publishers – we all know that some teacher’s guides are kind of lame (summary, superficial discussion questions, coloring sheet) but this one is PACKED with thinking questions, cross-curricular activities, and links to additional resources.  And don’t miss the information about the Adinkra symbols used by Minter in the illustrations!

 Enjoy a video read-aloud performed by the author

Author Website for Kelly Starling Lyons (includes a page of activities for kids)

Visit The Brown Bookshelf which was cofounded by Lyons and celebrates black authors and illustrators

Illustrator Website for Daniel Minter – enjoy his beautiful fine art, and see page spreads from his other books

The Relatives Came – written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

“Early one morning the relatives pile into their rainbow station wagon and drive down the twisty mountain roads to spend the summer with their relatives. The weeks that follow are filled with hugging and laughing and eating and sleeping and enjoying one another, until it’s time for the trip back home.”  This is one of my all-time favorite books ever, in large part because of the happy marriage between the poignant text and the exuberant illustrations that make me grin every time I look at them.  (The station wagon hitting the mailbox

 

Ruby’s Reunion Day Dinner – written by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Jestenia Southerland

“Everyone coming to the reunion is bringing a signature dish, and Ruby wants to contribute something too.  How discouraging that everyone tells her she’s too small to work in the kitchen!  What can she prepare that is special enough to share and simple enough for her to make?”  For the listeners who really look forward to the family feast (and really, who among us doesn’t?) this book is a love letter to down-home cooking, and the emphasizes the importance of food in family traditions.  Dalton’s descriptive language will have your mouth watering as you read: “The crack and sizzle of chicken and catfish frying up…the slow babbling of collard greens simmering…the zing of Aunt Lena’s pickled okra that crunch when you bite them…”  Delicious!

Enjoy a read aloud video performed by the author and illustrator, courtesy of TeachingBooks

Author Website for Angela Dalton

Illustrator website for Jestenia Southerland

Family Reunion – written by Chad and Dad Richardson, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin

Not all kids get excited about attending family reunions, and this book (written by a father and son) acknowledges that reluctance.  Aaron is sure it will be boring, and he’d rather stay home and play video games, but from the first welcoming hug from PopPop he’s drawn into the spirit of the gathering.  As Aaron participates in the the dance party, the church service, and the family stories, he realizes how enjoyable – and meaningful –  family get-togethers are.  Bonus: The whole book is written in haiku format!


Enjoy the book trailer!

View some page spreads from the book

Hear from the authors about their inspiration for the story, and see photos of them and their family

Illustrator page for Ashleigh Corrin


Do you have other family reunion books you like to share with students?  Can you recommend other resources or activities for these books?  Please leave a comment and tell us about them!

 

 

 

Looking for Library Makerspace and Learning Center Ideas?

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Several years ago I crowdsourced a collection of ideas for using Learning Centers in the Library Media Center.  It was amazing how the folks in my PLN generously shared their most popular activities, and all of our students benefitted from it!

In light of the changes we’ve seen recently in the way students are learning, I feel it’s time to revisit these suggestions in order to update them as well as add to them.  Some of the links are broken now, most of the ideas don’t have an accompanying photo, and many of them don’t provide enough detail to easily recreate them in your own library.  But most importantly, back then we weren’t really talking about STEAM or Makerspaces, but those are a huge part of what librarians provide now and any list that doesn’t acknowledge that is woefully out of touch!

And it’s not just the ideas that need an upgrade.  At the time, wikis were the hot new curation tool of choice, but there are other, more effective options out there now that avoid some of the drawbacks of wikis.  (For example, the endless scrolling to view all the ideas!)  Some of the platforms I’m considering using this time around are Wakelet, LiveBinders, Padlet, and Destiny Collections.

So for the next few weeks I’ll be working on a new and improved version of the Library Learning Center collection, and I’d love to have your input.  Please leave a comment with your suggestions and links for great activities, and/or your opinion on the perfect online curation tool for the project.  I’ll be sure to give you credit for your ideas!

 

Lightbulb image created by me using Word Art

Folk Tale Fun with Piggie Pie and Readers Theater

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Psst….Psst….Have you heard about the book Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini?

It’s been a big hit in my library this past week!  Not only is it fun to read aloud, with all the repetition, alliteration, and puns but kids love connecting the dots between this book and other folk tales and songs they’ve heard before.  Gritch the Witch fantasizes over several disgusting dishes (including the tongue-tangling boiled black buzzard’s feet) before deciding on Piggie Pie for lunch, and the hunt for the main ingredient begins.  But the clever pigs have a plan to escape her, and the ending provides a delightful and diabolical twist.

You’ll want to follow the book up with a Readers Theater version of the story, and Palatini kindly provides one herself, complete with illustrations from the story.  It even includes a quiz at the end about the meanings of the colorful expressions Gritch uses throughout the book!

Whether you do or don’t celebrate Halloween, this makes a nice seasonal story because it includes a witch, a scarecrow, and some costumes, but it doesn’t use the “H” word.  And the silliness makes it appropriate for younger listeners as well as older kids.

Which Margie Palatini book is your favorite?  Let me know in the comments!

 

The WWW is Back in a New Format!

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  Long-time readers of this blog will remember the WWW (Weekly Wednesday Website), an idea I came up with back in 2010 as a way to share a weekly internet resource with my teachers.  Each Wednesday I sent out an email featuring a relevant website, with an explanation of how to use it and suggestions for integrating it in the classroom.  A few years later I changed schools and I stopped sending out the WWW, but I’ve always thought it was one of my better ideas so I’m bring it back.

This time around I’m expanding the scope of the WWW from a single site sent in an email, to a weekly newsletter of resources for teachers to use themselves and/or share with their students.  Content will include websites for students to use independently, free tech tools for teachers, information about seasonal or timely events, tips and tricks to enhance virtual/hybrid learning, links to activities and lesson plan ideas, articles and blog posts about teaching, and self-care resources.  What better tool to curate such a collection than Wakelet?

  I’ve been a fan since Wakelet burst onto the scene a few years ago because of the way it integrates so successfully with Twitter.  I get daily professional development on Twitter courtesy of the people I follow there, and Wakelet provides an easy way to save and organize the tweets I want future access to.  My respect for the Wakelet support team has grown as I’ve watched how responsive they are to feedback from educators, and the number of new features they continue to add is astonishing — especially when you consider there are no fees of any kind for users!

This is just one of the many ways to use Wakelet, and I’ll be sharing more ideas in the future. For now, my newsletter is Public and I’ve set it to Copy, so feel free to use it and re-mix it and share it yourself if you like.  You can click this link to view, save, and copy it.

 

AASL Conference 2021

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Anyone else wishing you could be at the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City this year?  Even though I can’t make it in person, I can still learn from those who are presenting by:

How are you hacking the AASL Conference this month?  Please share in the comments!

 

If You Share Google Docs, You Need “Make A Copy”

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Ever shared a Google Doc with someone and then realized they were editing your original document when your intention was that they would work from a copy instead?  Did you know that you can force users to make a copy before they can access your document?  This quick screencast video will show you how!

Spooky – But Not Too Scary- Books to Read Aloud

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October is the month when thoughts turn to pumpkins, ghosts, witches, and spiders.  Oftentimes our younger students want to be swept up in the thrill of a spine-tingling story, but they don’t want it to be so scary that they actually become afraid.  Here are some just-right books for younger listeners:

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara
This book became an instant favorite with me when it debuted.  The simple orange, black, and translucent white color palette won it a spot on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008 list as well as starred reviews from Booklist and Horn Book.  (Yes, I still remember that 11 years later.  That’s how big an impression this book made on me!)  The illustrations of the girl and her cat reacting to the ghosts and then catching them are amusing, and the sight of the white cat in his black cat costume is delightful.  This one never fails to please young audiences.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything written by Linda Williams and Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
Our title character is traveling through the dark woods when she realizes she’s being followed by some creepy clothing items.  She bravely tells each “You can’t scare me!” until she’s finally confronted by a huge jack-o-lantern who sends her hurrying home.  She ultimately conquers her fear and puts the pumpkin-headed man in his place — literally!  The audience will enjoy repeating the refrain “Clomp clomp wiggle wiggle shake shake” with you, and adding movement to the chant can give energetic children a chance to move a little as well.

 Bone Soup: a Spooky, Tasty Tale by Alyssa-Joan Capucilli
The tale of Stone Soup gets a seasonal makeover in this version of the folktale favorite.  The witches and monsters are absolutely not scary looking, but the ingredients (slimy sludge, old toenails) used in their bone soup deliver the “ick” factor nicely.  Bonus: The author includes a recipe in the back of the book listing the creature ingredients and their corresponding human ingredients.  For example, you can substitute 3 Tablespoons of olive oil for the juice of a toad and 2 carrots for wrinkled fingers.  A tasty tale, indeed.

Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Paquette
The bouncy, repetitive text in this counting book is just begging to be read aloud, and the titular ghost encounters one surprising creature after another as he slip-slides through the house.  The audience is given an opportunity to guess who will appear around each corner before he/she/it is revealed, and can repeat the “monster” noises that signal each encounter, which keeps them engaged in the story.  Note that this is a lift-the-flap book, so you could even have audience members take turns revealing the surprises.

 Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming
Rhyming books – when done well – make great read-alouds, and this one is definitely done well.  The playful rhymes (toothless hags with tattered rags) will appeal to older listeners as well as little ones.  I’m a big fan of Denise Fleming and her handmade paper illustrations, and the technique is quite effective here. The theme of trick-or-treating has become somewhat outdated as more organizations host fall festivals instead, but the thrill of donning a costume and collecting candy is still a popular one.

 The Too-Scary Story by Bathanie Deeney Murguia
This reads well as a bedtime story, but can also be used for a story time session since there is so much to notice and discuss.  Grace wants a SCARY store but Walter doesn’t want it to be too scary, so every time Papa introduces a plot twist (creatures, footsteps, growling) Walter puts a benign interpretation on it while Grace’s imagination runs wild.  Ultimately the darkness in the room makes even Grace nervous, and Walter finds his courage to confront the frightening shadow.  Bonus: Students will enjoy looking for the little owl on each page spread.

What are your favorite read-alouds for younger readers?  Please share in the comments!