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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: classroom, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 84
1. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
by Laura Shovan
jacket and interior art by Abigail Halpin
Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin Random House), April 12, 2016
review ARC provided by the author

What a treat it was to spend a fifth grade year as a fly on the wall in Ms. Hill's classroom at Emerson Elementary!

Except for the fact that she only had 18 students in that class, Ms. Hill's class could have been one of mine. The diversity mix is right, including a hijab-wearer, a Spanish speaker, and a kid on the spectrum. The mix of personality types was also right. There is a queen bee girl (and a reluctant follower who finally stands up for what she wants), an intense rule-follower, a new kid trying to find his place.

I could go on, because one of the things that makes this book so fun to read is that Laura gets her characters so right, so believable, so quirky and likable. Each one has a distinct voice that shines out through his/her poems (and the little headshot sketch at the top of every page also helps the readers keep the characters straight). Just like in a regular classroom, no child ever comes to school without carrying the baggage of their home lives, and Ms. Hill's students' lives make it into their poetry. As I read, I found myself sharing their hopes and wishing their wishes.

And then there's the poetry. When I started reading, I sticky-noted more than a half-dozen poetry forms before I said to myself, "Hey, savvy reader, remember when you got all the way to the end of Love That Dog before you realized that the mentor poems were in the back of the book?" Sure enough, when I flipped to the back, I found information about all the poetry forms found throughout the book, along with a suggestion for trying each one out and a reference back to a mentor poem in that form in the book. Writing prompts from Ms. Hill's "Prompt Jar" are also listed, again each with a mentor poems that was written from that prompt.

Finally, there's the very believable story of a neighborhood in transition and the struggle between what's loved and what's needed that ties together the fabulous characters and the wonderful variety of poems.

I can think of three readers to whom I could hand this book when I get my copy in mid-April, and I can imagine a small group who would love reading it and trying out the writing challenges. Plus, I think it would make a perfect read aloud under the document camera to introduce a whole class to verse novels and, as a bonus, to a variety of poetry forms! Thank you, Laura Shovan, for this wonderful book!

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2. Dragons

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3. Fire-Breathers Academy, Patrick Girouard

A spread from the first book in a series of five about the Fire-Breathers Academy.

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4. Kids, kids, kids. This week's sketching.

Busy week in the studio. Aside from my work that I can't show you just yet, I've also been creating some new work.

I always post process shots on my Instagram account. Come over for a visit!

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5. Throwback Week: How To Read A Unit of Study

Learn some tricks for reading the Units of Study, whether you're new to the units or have been using them for many years.

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6. R is for Recruiting Officer

Recruiting Officer           from my poetry book, Kaleidoscope  

You old devil, performing conjuring tricks
in the bleak December classroom.
You ham act the nativity, roll up your sleeves.
The ginger hairs on your arms glisten
under the naked bulb.

Your fists scoop out manure, cleansing the stable floor,
warm dung drips between your coarse fingers,
as your sour breath touches open faces.
You revel in their reaction, forming young minds,
creating an hypnotic state.

Your stoat to their frozen rabbit,
you teach them original sin,
tell them they shut the inn door, and weave
a glowing lantern slide before their astonished gaze,
with towering Magi bearing bitter gifts.

Lord of your chalk domain, exhausted by your
matinee performance now replete,
you close moist fleshy mouth, replace the lens cap
over thrusting tongue, and Pied Piper them
into a leafless playground.

Years later, standing in that empty classroom,
the stage of your many triumphs, you look at the rows of
iron-runner desks, breathing the fumes from the 
pot-bellied stove, and rummage in your bag of tricks.
Your hopes for your future, your religious faith, now gone, 
have you forgotten the Christian army you sent into battle?

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7. "Rich" Math Problems

I got the best compliment ever last week: "That math problem was really fun! That was the best day in math so far this year!"

It was this problem from Robert Kaplinsky: "How Much Money IS That?!"

I put the pertinent information (photos, link to the video, questions to ask) into Google Slides, and printed the above picture for individuals and small groups to mark up. (We did the Coinstar problem the day before.)

I wish you could have been there when I started the slide show with the above picture! Excited conversation ERUPTED all around the classroom! Questions, predictions, estimates, scenarios...leave it to money to get kids excited to solve a problem!

We worked on this problem over the course of two days, and our final answer was in the ballpark of the actual amount, but not at all spot-on. That's okay. We had already determined that we were not going to be able to aim for precision with this problem.

This week, I'm going to try some of the problems from Inside Mathematics. I like how they come tiered with different levels on the same theme.

Happy Problem Solving, and Happy Math Monday!

It's Math Monday! 
for the Math Monday link up!

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8. #715 – I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann

star on mrs bensons blacboard cover
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard

Written & Illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
Candlewick Press     6/09/2015
32 pages     Age 4—8

“Rose wants to get a star on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard, but sometimes her mind wanders, she doesn’t always know the right answer, and her reading-aloud voice is too quiet. When it’s time to make a thank-you card for an artist who visited her class, Rose makes an amazing card—but also covers herself and her desk in paint and supplies. Will Mrs. Benson be able to see her creativity and passion through all that mess? Is it possible to get a star for something other than answering questions and having a tidy work space?” [inside jacket]

Poor Rose, she tries to answer the questions Mrs. Benson asks the class, she tries to read aloud in a strong voice, and she tries her best to keep her desk neat and tidy—even getting to school early to clean it up. No matter what Rose tries to do, she never gets a star on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard and boy, does Rose want that star. Rose’s attention span is not what it should be. She would rather doodle and daydream. Then an artist named Mr. Sullivan talks to the class about art and being an artist. Afterward, Mrs. Benson asks her students to make thank you cards for Mr. Sullivan. Rose decides to make a “super-gigantic card with paintings on both sides.” It is a beautiful card. But when Rose was finished making her card, her desk was a BIG mess! And Mrs. Benson has just called out Rose’s name in that big, deep voice teachers use when someone is in trouble. Will Rose ever get a star on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard?


I love this story. Every kid wants that gold star on their paper, or in Mrs. Benson’s classroom, on the blackboard. Rose in no exception, but the harder she tries the more she figures she’ll never see a star beside her name on Mrs. Benson’s blackboard. I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard is an inspiring picture book for those kids who find they operate much easier from the right side of their brain. The illustrations are beautiful and capture the classroom setting with a multicultural group of students. The illustrations are a combination of ink, gouache, and digital collages. The gentle humor depicts Rose’s predicament as she tries and tries to please her teacher and get that elusive star. Rose’s thank you card expresses the joy of those children who lean toward the artistic and I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard is a testament to the value of being different in a world that values rules and order.

I WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS. BENSON’S BLACKBOARD. Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer K. Mann. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Purchase I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard at AmazonBook DepositoryCandlewick Press.

Learn more about I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard HERE.

Meet the author & illustrator, Jennifer K. Mann, at her website:  http://www.jenniferkmann.com/
Find more picture books at the Candlewick Press website:  http://www.candlewick.com/

Starred Review—Publishers Weekly

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Jennifer K. Mann, and received from Candlewick Press, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: artistic expression, being different, Candlewick Press, classroom, I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard, Jennifer K. Mann, order, value

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9. REVAMPED--A SKYPE Challenge for Teachers.



BOOK. . . News

WRITING. . .Ideas

MARGOT'S. . . Thoughts

W-H-A-T-E-V-E-R  Grabs My Interest. 

Hold onto your hair, mates,

not even The SHADOW knows! 


The school year is almost upon us.
With a FREE Skype Author Visit

from ME!

My selection of 14 books were written with the idea of
Picture books and young teen adventures. 

Here's the Scoop!
<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]-->

*First grade through mid-grade.
*Registered with Education Skype.

*Contact me through the FORM on the right 

As the author of 14 books,
I love gassing up my Magic Carpet of Books, 

and flying into classrooms anywhere there is a SKYPE connection.

I live in the US now, but I grew up in Australia, so some of my books have a Down Under flavor. I Skype globally, depending on how well the time zones mesh.

Many teachers have told me, that after my visit, their classes became much more enthusiastic about reading and writing. Meeting a real life author, and learning how their favorite book came to life, can work marvelous MAGIC!


I begin by introducing myself, asking about their favorite books, and showing some Australian Aboriginal artifacts. Then a short question time. I then read a story, and chat about how to write stories that HOOK readers. More in-depth details about writing and how books are created, depending on the age of the class, and what the teacher wants me to include. The final Q and A is often the highlight of my visit!

Do email me, and we can chat further about your class needs.
.  CONTACT: mfinke@frontier.com

Margot Finke

Read SAMPLE Chapters and
verses from all my books

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->http://sample-reads.blogspot.com/


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10. New classroom guides, discussion questions, and more

We’ve created lots of new content this February to help you extend the experience of reading our books long after the last page has been turned. Here are some of our newest resources to go with our titles:

Free Classroom Guides for:
-First Come the Zebra
-John Lewis in the Lead
-Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars
-George Crum and the Saratoga Chip
-Yasmin’s Hammer
-The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby
-Poems to Dream Together/ Poemas para soñar juntos

Discussion Questions for Irena’s Jars of Secrets

A BookTalk with Glenda Armand, the author of Love Twelve Miles Long

-It Jes’ Happened Book Teaser
-Tankborn author Karen Sandler answers your questions

And remember, sign up for our e-news to get monthly updates of our latest resources, sneak peeks at new books, and more straight to your inbox.

Filed under: Resources Tagged: book teaser, classroom, discussion questions, new resources, teacher's guide
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11. Stubby Pencil Noodlehead by Kevin White

 5 Stars Back Cover:  When Stubby Pencil Noodlehead is forced to stand in front of his class to explain why he is late for school every day, the resulting tale is more than the teacher bargained for.  Stubby’s story of pirates, pygmies, mastodons, and more, turns classroom order to chaos, and has yhe teacher begging [...]

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12. Illustration Friday: “Teacher”

We all had a favorite teacher, yes? They did really neat, cool things that we remember well after our school days. My most “cool” teacher was when I was in third grade. He taught us to knit, make bread, sprechen Deutsch (as well as sing Bach Fugues in German!), tumble, and make lye soap. And that’s also the first time I did a comic strip–and fell in love with cartooning. His name wasn’t Mr. McCool, but it may as well have been.

Having taught classroom myself for a number of years, I know how hard the job is. So godspeed to all you teachers out there, prepping for the new year!

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13. Writing Workshop Expectations

The first six weeks of school is about providing structure for students.  Teachers who are too lenient never seem to gain control of their class while teachers who are too rigid risk the… Read More

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14. New Work – Teacher's Pet

There's always at least one suck-up in the class!

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15. Happy Charting: ‘Smarter Charts’ Authors Marjorie Martinelli and Kristi Mraz Share Some Tips for Your Classroom

It's always a joy to learn with Majorie Martinelli and Kristi Mraz. In this interview, they share some excellent advice on using charts to support independence in the classroom.

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16. A Mini-Crash-Course on Oral Storytelling

It’s been several months since I’ve written for Two Writing Teachers. In December my son was born, and I was on maternity leave until a few weeks ago. Then, in March I pushed aside all excuses… Continue reading

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17. How To Read A Unit of Study

As the school year comes to a close, many of the schools I work with are launching into a week or so of in-service, summer institutes, and other professional development. It’s “curriculum season”… Continue reading

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18. Sharpen Your Workshop Routines: Writing Centers to Organize All Your Materials

Every year, around this time, I start having dreams about setting up my classroom. In the classroom of my dreams, I’m moving around small circular tables, unfurling a brand new rug for the… Continue reading

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19. Books and Breakfast: Shelter Pet Squad #1 by Cynthia Lord

On Friday, we had our first Books and Breakfast Book Club.  Kids who signed up were dropped off at school 30 minutes early.  We had donuts and chatted about the book.

For this first Book Club, I chose the new book Shelter Pet Squad: Jelly Bean by Cynthia Lord. I wanted a book that was accessible to most kids in my room (either on their own or with help from a parent). And I wanted a book with something to talk about.

I love Shelter Pet Squad and am excited about this series as you may know from my recent blog post about the book.  

About 2 weeks before the Book Club, I gave each student a copy of the book. They had 2 weeks to read it and to jot down thinking, knowing they'd be talking to others about the book. I had no idea how it would go this early in the year so it was very open ended.

Then a few days before the Book Club, I put up a poster inviting kids in the group to jot down questions that might be worth talking about on Friday. I wanted this to be simple and I hoped that this was enough preparation for them.  The board filled as the week went on.
On Friday morning, I typed up the list of questions and kids used this list if they needed it.  I had about 12 kids attend the book talk. Some used the list and others had other connected conversations. The conversations were fabulous and we all had a great time.  The event was definitely a success!  We sent a few tweets to Cynthia Lord and heard back.  

Below are the questions that students discussed:

Shelter Pet Squad #1

What is your favorite part?
What do you like about this book?
What’s your favorite thing about Shelter Pet Squad?
Who is your favorite character?
What is an interesting part you like? 
Did you choose this book because you like animals ?
What did you think about to pick this book?
What is your most favorite chapter?
What is so important about this story?
Why did you decide to read this book?
Do you have a pet?  If you do, did you get it from a shelter?
Why do you think the author wrote this story?

We had a great time and can't wait until our next morning book club. Next Up: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.

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20. Work Smarter: How To Wrap Up A Unit of Study

This week my colleagues and I are writing posts that we hope will make your life a little easier. We’re sharing some ways to work smarter, not harder.

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21. Work Smarter: How To Wrap Up A Unit of Study

This week my colleagues and I are writing posts that we hope will make your life a little easier. We’re sharing some ways to work smarter, not harder.

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22. So what do we think? The Wild West: 365 days


 The Wild West: 365 days


 Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.

 Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.

 Our thoughts:

 This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!

 Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures.  But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift.  I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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23. So what do we think? The End of the Line

End of the Line: A Parker Noble Mystery


Manno, Mike (2010) End of the Line: A Parker Noble Mystery. Five Star Publishing of Gale, Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1594148637. Litland recommends of interest to adults, acceptable for older teens.

 Publisher description:  When former banker R. J. Butler is found murdered on a city transit bus, police take little time making a connection with the embezzlement at his former bank. But is that the motive for his murder? State police detective Sergeant Jerome Stankowski and his persnickety “partner,” Parker Noble, are called to investigate and run into a host of possibilities including a trophy wife on drugs and an ex-wife desperately needing a church annulment R. J. was blocking..

 Our thoughts:

 The second installment of the Parker Noble series, End of the Line, is a fun yet engaging, quick-paced detective mystery. Parker Noble may be the genius who solves the crimes, but it is Detective “Stan” Stankowski’s antics both on and off the job that lighten the story. Truly a man’s man, Stankowski enjoys girl watching while being easily manipulated by his somewhat-girlfriend Buffy the reporter.  He  tries to juggle dating 3 girls at the same time, each end up having a role in solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the contrast of Parker’s rigidly-ordered life to Stan’s adds color, and both humor and clues surface throughout the story just often enough to keep the reader alert. My favorite dialogue pertains to Parker’s dog, Buckwheat Bob the basset hound, who listens to talk radio while Parker is at work:

(Stan) “I take it that the human voice is soothing for him?”…(Parker) ”Not really, he likes to listen to the political talk”…”You don’t think he understands all of that, do you?”…”Don’t know, Stanley. All I can tell you is that he’s turned into quite a Republican.” LOL!

 A cozy mystery written for adults, it would probably have a PG rating if a movie: use of the bird finger; one suspect referred to as tramp, hussy, nude model; Buffy pressuring Stan into taking a vacation together. However, Stan remains chaste in his girl-chasing and the story is focused on the relationships between all the characters, which adds depth, interest and a few chuckles along the way. A fun story available in the Litland.com Bookstore.

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24. So what do we think? The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Flavia de Luce)

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

 Bradley, Alan. (2010) The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. (The Flavia de Luce Series) Bantam, division of Random House. ISBN 978-0385343459. Litland recommends ages 14-100!

 Publisher’s description:  Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (Bantam Books)

 Our thoughts:

 Flavia De Luce is back and in full force! Still precocious. Still brilliant. Still holding an unfortunate fascination with poisons…

 As with the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we begin with a seemingly urgent, if not sheer emergency, situation that once again turns out to be Flavia’s form of play.  We also see the depth of her sister’s cruelty as they emotionally badger their little sister, and Flavia’s immediate plan for the most cruel of poisoned deaths as revenge. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the book!

 And while the family does not present the best of role models (smile), our little heroine does demonstrate good character here and there as she progresses through this adventure. As explained in my first review on this series, the protagonist may be 11 but that doesn’t mean the book was written for 11-year olds :>) For readers who are parents, however (myself included), we shudder to wonder what might have happened if we had bought that chemistry kit for our own kids!

 Alas, the story has much more to it than mere chemistry. The author’s writing style is incredibly rich and entertaining, with too many amusing moments to even give example of here. From page 1 the reader is engaged and intrigued, and our imagination is easily transported into  the 1950’s Post WWII England village. In this edition of the series, we have more perspective of Flavia as filled in by what the neighbors know and think of her. Quite the manipulative character as she flits  around Bishop’s Lacy on her mother’s old bike, Flavia may think she goes unnoticed but begins to learn not all are fooled…

 The interesting treatment of perceptions around German prisoners of war from WWII add historical perspective, and Flavia’s critical view of villagers, such as the Vicar’s mean wife and their sad relationship, fill in character profiles with deep colors. Coupled with her attention to detail that helps her unveil the little white lies told by antagonists, not a word is wasted in this story.

 I admit to being enviou

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25. BOOK OF THE DAY: The January list!


Here it is! The book of the day challenge, to recommend a new book or related media every day in 2012. January is complete, and attached for handy download–just click on the above link. February is on the way! “Friend” Litland Reviews on Facebook to see daily recommendations as they post. http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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