Books About Autumn:
Fall is perhaps the best season in the school year. During fall, we get to enjoy the outdoors, learn, have plenty of activities in and out of school. It’s an ideal time to learn about season and incorporate cross curriculum across subjects. Spring would be more exciting in the school year if it wasn’t for the yearly standardized test craze. Nothing beats fall. There is simply too many unbeatable things fall offers. Here are some my classroom favorite fall reads that are engaging and cross curricular.
“Awesome Autumn” by Goldstone – is a comprehensive non-fiction for K-3. The text is visually engaging, and the book presents changing seasons, equinox, winter solstice, vanishing chlorophyll, harvest, and animal adaptations perfectly. This book is a great resource for many additional questions and further study of autumn and other seasons.
“Fall Mixed Up” by Bob Raczka – is a beloved humorous picture book. If your students are like every other students I ever met in primary grades, they love to correct other people. They will love catching all the backwards things in the text.
“Apples turn orange.
Pumpkins turn red.
Leaves float up into
blue skies overhead.”
(Note: Don’t expect the same type of enthusiasm when you asked them to correct their own writing :).)
Bob Racka’s “Fall Mixed Up” offers super humorous engaging text and illustrations that are a discussion of their own. This is a definite re-read year after year.
“How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?“ by Margaret McNamara is another must have in your fall reading selection. “How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin” story incorporates language arts, math, and science in the story. It’s idea for practice skip counting by 2s and 5s, retelling the story, sequencing, comparing numbers, estimation, relation of number of seeds in a pumpkin and its size/ length of growth, etc.
“The Scarecrow” by Ferry – Lesson Plan
This is a beautiful story about hope, compassion, friendship, and family. Two unlikely friends, a baby crow and a scarecrow, make this story unforgettable. Someone called this book a masterpiece amongst picture books, and I can’t describe it better.
“The Very Last Leaf” – by Steg Wade – is a new addition to our fall books shelf. This is a great story about overcoming fear, worries, being brave, and learning about science of seasons and trees.
“14 Cows for America” by Carmen Agra Deedy – is a wonderful healing story for the wounded world. It carries a powerful message of friendship, compassion, kindness, and hope. While the media channels offer daily reminders that wars and hostility never sleep or end, teachers need to educate students about the side of the world that offers an oasis and refuge. When Massai Warriors hear about September 11 attacks they gift a grieving nation a symbol of life, 14 cows…. fourteen cows for America.
… because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded,
nor people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort…
John J. Harvey is a historic boat of the New York City Fire Department. The first fireboat with internal combustion engines that can pump and move at the same time. Fireboat John J. Harvey was retired in 1994 and left at the scrap yard only to be repaired by a group of friends and be ready to be called to service by the FDNY on September 11, 2001. A fireboat John J. Harvey pumped water for 80 hours, showing the world that the NYC icon is a hero we can count on.
“September Roses” by Jeanette Winter
Two sisters from South Africa are flying to New York City, on September 11th, with 2,400 roses to be displayed at a flower show.
“Kindergarrrten Bus” – by Mike Ornstein is a perfect Back-to-School picture book for Kindergartners and Pre-Kindergartners. This super fun read is available on Epic!, ideal for sharing while distance learning. Worried kindergartners board the pirate’s bus where they learn the rules that are much like classroom rules…
The pirate bus takes kindies to school where…
“they be learnin’ to rrread and wrrrite, they be playin’ games and makin’ new mates, they be rrrunnin’ around like scallywags durin’ rrrecess.. because school is treasure of all treasures…”
Even the rrrough and tough pirate faces his own fears as Polly flies out of the window, learning that it’s ok to be scared.
Happy Back to Kindergarten!
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
“The Assignment” by Liza Wiemer is a must-read, analyze, and study with high school students. The story is based on real-life events, and it addresses an array of current and past social issues; racism, discrimination, intolerance, prejudice, bigotry, etc.
This complex novel offers an opportunity for our high school students to learn about and debate multidimensional perspectives. Can a debate topic be both unethical and educational? What power do ideas hold? How do ideas transcend? How do we shape our identity through our choices? What are American ideals?
“The Assignment” is a story about a debate. Mr. Bartley as many teachers believed that every argument is debatable, even if students are to defend crimes against humanity. In the end, the debate encouraged groupthink and created the very effect it was trying to prevent.
“The Assignment” is a perfect read to develop students’ ability to think critically, identify cause and effect of choices/actions/ideas, to learn from historical experience, and apply the story to present world situations.
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
“The Very Last Leaf” by Steg Wade and Jennifer Davidson – Lance Cottonwood is the best and brightest of the leaves, yet the thought of letting go and falling down to the ground horrifies Lance. While Lance gathers courage to let go and complete the last graduating assignment, students learn about overcoming fear and worries, being brave and a whole lot of science. This is a wonderful cross-curriculum book on social-emotional skills, science, and language arts. This book is a definite gem that will be shared for years to come. Steg Wade tells a wonderful story, while Jennifer Davidson creates the most beautiful visuals. Of course as always, I have included art in the lesson plan that goes with this book. All primary teachers know that the day isn’t complete without doodling.
Bitmoji Classroom Walls are all the craze this fall. I am guessing that almost every teacher has created a Bitmoji mini-me avatar by now. The virtual classroom wall can be created in Google Classroom or in PowerPoint. I believe that they will not only help the kids but parents as well. I keenly remember hunting for the random links and announcements posted by my children’s teachers. Surely, I have made the same mistakes while learning sharing and editing options in Google Classroom. The virtual classroom wall allows for easy access to homework, announcements, homework, current classwork, additional resources, etc. Surely Bitmoji craze is a fad, but it’s a useful one that will increase productivity. So for that reason, it’s an hour well spent to increase home-school communication.
Edutopia’s article will walk you through the whole process. It even provides examples that can be edited for individual classroom use. Teachers are also creating bitmoji signs to teach classroom rules and procedures.
My Favorite is the Daily Social -Emotional Check In with the Zones of Regulation created by Galiba Džaja, from West Valley City, Utah.
Resources on how to make your own Bitmoji Virtual Classroom:
Whether you are in the classroom or at home, activity books are a great way for kids to break the routine and still learn while having fun. First graders need a lot of math practice to make their number foundation solid, and I am not talking about worksheets that repeat the same question sheet after sheet. First graders also need to see numbers presented in many different ways and different situations.
“My First Grade Math Workbook” does just that. It covers national first-grade math standards with fun activities that can be done in sequence or in any other order. It goes from skip counting to time, money, and fractions. This full scope math workbook is ideal for class use with early finishers (every class has them), enrichment, on the go, or at home.
What I like the best about “My First Grade Math Workbook” is that its first-grade math concepts are created to instill confidence and challenge students at the same time.
This super fun workbook goes on sale on September 15th. If you are a parent or teacher interested in reviewing this workbook, for a free copy, send your contact info to kidsread.rocketmail.com, and we will be in touch.
Happy Back to School!
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
“The One and Only Ivan”novel based on a true story is coming to the big screen. The Newbery Award winner has been around since 2012. The novel and the movie are based on a true story of a baby gorilla who was poached in Africa and brought to Tacoma, Washington to be a part of mall entertainment. The movie trailer promotes the story as an incredible journey of animals. Ivan spent 27 years in a cage at the mall, until people wrote hundreds of petitions to move Ivan out of the environment that deprived him of any normal life.
As a result, Ivan was moved to Zoo Atlanta where he spent the rest of his life. Having spent most of his life in a cage, Ivan had a difficult time adapting to the zoo environment and outside elements. The captivity wasn’t incredible or exciting, sorry, Disney. Still, Ivan’s story should be heard as both inhumane and educational.
Katherine Applegate, the wonderful author of “One and Only Ivan” novel, also wrote the picture book, “Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla” in 2014. The picture book is targeted for elementary students, and it brings the effects of poaching to the forefront of the story. Poaching severely endangered animals and is quickly bringing gorillas to extinction. Ivan’s story is not a story of self-fulfillment and self-discovery as Disney would have us believe. The story of Ivan is a story of how humans need to take illegal poaching and trophy hunting seriously to prevent the extinction of some of the most beautiful mammals on earth.
Well, we are already back. This summer had flown by, but it was fun. By now, all teachers are back to work, and students are coming back soon as well. I have come up with the favorite first day -first week of school book list. Here are some all time favorites!
Wemberly, the mouse, worries about everything, little things and big things, real things and imaginary things (well who is to say). Kids love Wemberly cause she is so real and believable. The first day/week of school is stressful and worrisome. Wemberly is an awesome book about human emotions. Love it!
2. Chrysanthemum – by Kevin Henkes
Another amazing book by Henkes. Kids love Kevin Henkes books. Chrysanthemum is bullied at school because of her name. Why I love this book as a teacher? As a teacher I know that in every class there is a possibility of negative dynamics. So, teaching and encouraging positive behavior and teaching kindness is perhaps the most important classroom management tool.
3. What If Everybody Did That? by Javernick
“What If Everybody Did That?” is becoming the most read book during the first week of class. What I love about this book is not only that it teaches common courtesy and classroom rules, but students can clearly understand that most of the rules are in place to prevent accidents and promote safety for all students.
4. How I Spent My Summer Vacation – by Teague
Ok, I love Texas, and the kids, they think that cowboys are the most adventurous people on earth. This book is a great ice breaker during the first week of school. It is funny and engaging. It teaches creativity. It is ideal writing prompt resource. Just done right.
“Grumpy Monkey” is a great new edition to our library of social skills. It’s an adorable story about dealing with emotions and people around. Jim, the grumpy monkey, tries all kinds of stuff to cheer up, but nothing works. Jim’s bad mood can’t be attributed to anything or anyone in specific. He is just simply grumpy. Lang’s story is relatable and provides the most realistic ending of acknowledgement and patience. Perfect for grades K-2.
Have Fun Teaching!
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
2020 will be the first time for many parents to homeschool. Homeschooling feels like a huge undertaking, but thankfully, there is a lot of tools online, and I am not talking about buying the “Best Homeschooling Curriculum” sold on every homeschooling site. Do not buy the “Best Homeschooling Curriculum”. There is no such thing, no matter what the homeschooling sites claim. As we all know, the internet can be useful, but only if we know what we are looking for.
So, how do you figure out what your child would be learning this year in the classroom, since you do want your child to resume normal schooling as soon as we are done with the corona ordeal? Here are some starting pointers.
1st – The way teachers figure out what kids need to know is by looking at the instructional standards. Most states are aligned with the common core.
A way friendlier layout of instructional standards can be found at https://www.ixl.com/.
We use ixl.com for practice at my school, and students can also sign up individually. It’s a great site.
Another super helpful math resource is Eureka Math. Eureka Math provides a great balance between the numerical foundation and analytical thinking. It’s a mix of European and Singapore math. It’s free for non-commercial home use.
Teachers Pay Teachers – has many free resources as well as resources that are very affordable and created by actual teachers.
For students Kindergarten – 5th grade – include spelling workbooks and vocabulary, along with daily readings.
I will be adding more resources to this topic. Please feel free to leave feedback with any questions.
Mrs. Lena, M.E.d
“Black Brother, Black Brother” by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a new timely middle school novel that explores a number of themes; racial prejudice, family, coming of age, resilience, bullying, identity, etc. Rhodes never fails to tell a wonderful story and weave a message of positivity and strength. What I love about Rhodes is her detached objectivity. She is able to present her characters for who they are and expose their humanity, unburdened by the North American cultural burdens and blind spots. This is also why middle school students enjoy her works so much. “Black Brother, Black Brother” is so much more than a story about a boy who was bullied at a racially non-diverse school. It’s a story of a boy who learned to “win with his mind”. It’s the ideas that make or break us individually and as a group. Donte learned to reject the false ideas and see bullies for what they are, break away from feeling like a victim, find a role-model, and figure out how to take personal responsibility. I can’t wait to share this novel with my class in the fall.
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
House Arrest – by K.A. Holt is a must-have and read for middle school grades. This novel in verse tells the story of a boy who tries to do anything he can to help his brother. K.A. Holt does a wonderful job depicting raw emotions and reactions of a middle-schooler to a life that is anything but fair. Timothy has one goal, which is to help his baby brother get the medical help that he needs, and he goes to a great distance to get it, even getting out of his comfort zone and risking public embarrassment to reach his goal. This inspiring story will stay with students for a long time and has earned a permanent place on our classroom shelf. Selected by a reluctant reader, enjoyed by all.
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.
Challenges of 7th Grade Math During an Epidemic
7th grade math is challenging. It is the first time students really immerse themselves in learning algebra. They leave behind elementary math and basic operations to take a new step towards more complex thinking. Teaching and learning 7th grade math is the most rewarding experience. Seeing students master new concepts and have fun learning math is a feeling like no other. All this can be done in the classroom, seamlessly. Learning and teaching 7th grade math online is another story. To compensate for limited daily Zoom session, we worked on math problems throughout the day. Often, going over problems at 10 p.m., when teenage students are most alert. My students experienced and voiced frustration over distance learning. Each unit came with stages of online learning, which can be summed up to 1. Ha? 2. I don’t get it. 3. I know what I don’t get. 4. Oh, that makes sense.
As the year is coming to an end, the learning pains of online platforms will stay with us for good. In a way, we were far away from each other, but close to interact every day, throughout a day, and get where we need to be. Even if it took us 5 times longer.
Middle School Math Units and Lessons:
End of the Year Memory Book – The end of the school year tradition of creating keepsakes is changing this year. We can’t go back to the classroom to make keepsake boxes with students’ arts and crafts. Most kids are not even getting a yearbook due to Covid-19. Keepsakes are treasured by all, parents, students, and teachers. Each year marks a magical growth of little humans. Things they liked…things they hated… things they learned… In my classroom every year we create a memory book. We pen down our growth, likes, dislikes, best friends, favorites (activities, movies, books, friends) things we will miss and not … and all kinds of other stuff. Since we are not in the classroom to make our memory books together, I created a digital file as well to create and share.
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed. 🙂
This isn’t my first post about teaching reading and I have a sense not the last. Every teacher a reading teacher – has been a mantra of teachers everywhere. We all teaching reading, no matter the grade or subject that we teach at the time. Reading is the most important skill that we teach our kids. From reading comprehension to analyzing math questions, it all comes down to reading. For anyone trying to help their child learn to read or figure out the science behind reading progression, Coursera is offering a free course: “Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing“. It’s informative and will make a huge difference whether you are a parent or a teacher.
“Broken Strings” by Eric Walters & Kathy Kacer – a future Newbery Award Winner – is a must read for middle schoolers. This captivating story held our attention until the very last page. Fiddler on the Roof, the world’s most popular musical has made our class bucket list. “Broken Strings” is filled with symbolism of loss and broken things that are repaired and given a second change through perseverance, tolerance, and courage. This is a story of heritage, history, and identity, with timeless themes of human experience that transcend generations and continents. A must read.
Teachers and students everywhere have started their online teaching and learning journey due to COVID – 19. In my previous post, I noted some currently free resources for students and teachers. The transition from the traditional classroom to this new online environment has been an interesting experience so far. There is no outline for expectations when it comes to the learning load. How many hours should a 7-year-old spend learning online? How about a 12-year-old? What do we need parents to do? What about students who are stuck living in big cities on quarantine? How much engagement can we expect, being that millions of kids are confined to their homes with no access to parks or physical activity? This year I am teaching 7th grade and find that some things work well and other things, which in theory should be easy, actually don’t work at all. Some students who are the most engaged in class have a hard time engaging online. The dynamic of distance learning is something to get used to. On top of that, we have a world pandemic looming over students’ mental health. My students love, love, love social studies. So one major thing is really working is using Google Classroom to study and discuss historical and realistic fiction. We are immersing ourselves in novel studies about Native American history, Holocaust, September 11th, racial prejudice, Spanish Flu, water shortage in Sudan, Indian partition, Syrian refugee & immigration,etc. Getting lost in the story of someone else’s life is making the current predicament go by a bit faster. Hopefully, by the time we are done with our yearly reading goals, we will be able to enjoy the outdoors again.
Click here for Google Class Resources
Mrs. Lena, M. Ed.