Who is? Who was?

Amelia Earhart index

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Third graders are starting their biography reports, so to build excitement and to celebrate the addition of 20 new biographies from the wildly popular Who Is…? and Who Was…? series, published by Penguin, we played a quick, fun game in the library before checking out books, using the Apple TV.

Here’s a link to the game:  http://www.whowasbookseries.com/trivia-challenge/

Students were divided into four teams, and each had my new favorite toy to use:  the answer buzzers from Learning Resources.  Then they challenged themselves to choose the correct answer first.  Because it is multiple choice, even if they don’t know the answer, they are able to figure it out by the process of elimination.  Everyone was engaged.

Examples from the game:

This man was a home run king.

Who was Neil Armstrong?
Who was Babe Ruth?
Who was John F. Kennedy?
Who was Daniel Boone?



This woman is a world famous scientist and animal rights activist.

Who is Dolly Parton?
Who is Michelle Obama?
Who is Jane Goodall?
Who is J.K. Rowling?


There are 10 questions in each round, and if your students are having fun, they can play it a second time, and the most of the questions change.

The books are widely available in paperback, but after some searching, I found the books in hardback with library binding on Amazon.  They are easily identifiable by the over-sized heads on the covers, they are all about 100 pages long, include a timeline in the back, and, most importantly, kids love to read them, even when they don’t have a biography report assignment.  

Also, Penguin just announced the contest results to name the 100th book in the Who Was series.  Over 67,000 votes were tallied and winner was STEVE IRWIN.  Look for the book in Summer 2015.



The Book with No Pictures

Book with No Pictures

“Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say.  No matter what.”

Define a rule, and then proceed to show kids how they can manipulate it to their advantage.  Everyone knows, kids delight in that kind of power. This book makes adults who are reading it say very silly things. Because, well, that’s the rule.

I read The Book with No Pictures, by standup comedian, actor, writer, director, and executive producer, B.J. Novak, aloud to all the kindergarten through 3rd grade classes before the winter break, and it was a ridiculous amount of fun. For inspiration, I watched this video of the author reading his book to a group of kids, and I’m so glad I did.  How else would I know how to sing the page about how I eat ants right off the rug for breakfast?

When I reached the marathon gibberish page that starts with “Gluur Ga-wocko ma grumph a-doo…” for about the 10th time, I decided to ask for student volunteers to try it. It’s a challenge! The kids loved getting to attempt it, so I used more volunteers for other silly pages.

At the end of the story, I asked, “What would happen if you handed this book to your dad and asked him to read to you?” (chuckles)  “Or your grandma?” (guffaws) “Or how about the principal?” (completely lost it) They howled, naming all the people they’d like to make read it to them. Let that sink in for a moment–early elementary kids gleefully plotting what adults they will make read a book to them. That’s a win on so many levels.

Does this book foster a positive connection to the printed word? Does it ever.

Will adult curmudgeons sniff their noses and declare it is too silly? Maybe.

Do I wish it didn’t include the words “Boo Boo Butt?” Yes, so I whisper those words.

Is it ever going to be on the shelf again this year? Not likely.

One adorable little boy wanted it so earnestly, he stopped in the library nearly every day to see if I was done reading it to the other classes so he could check it out. When he returned it, he told me all about reading it with his dad, his mom, and his grandma. One of them may now be a recovering curmudgeon.

Next time, I think I’ll add a coloring page activity after reading this book.  I downloaded these two PDF’s from the Bryce Don’t Play blog.

More info about the book and the author can be found here, http://thebookwithnopictures.com/. On the Teacher page, there’s a link to a 10-minute excerpt from B.J. Novak’s keynote address to the American Library Association, including the inspiration for the book, his process of testing it, and (my favorite part) about his epiphany that when a child hands you a book to read them, they are essentially a little producer, handing you a script:

“Here’s what you’ll be performing tonight.
These are your lines.
Be yourself.
Feel free to make it your own, but stick to the script.
I may ask you to do it a second time.”