Barcode Scanner

“Scanner, what big eyes you have!”

“The better to see your barcodes with!”

I added some googly eyes to my scanner today (with removable blue painters tape), just for smiles at checkout time.  

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Third grade students’ sense of humor, their growing knowledge of punctuation, and developing awareness of nuance make them the perfect audience for Lynne Truss’ witty book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Why, Commas Really DO Make a Difference!

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You may recall the #1 New York Times bestselling book that Truss also authored, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

Eats Shoots & Leaves1I started out the lesson with sharing both the hoax and actual magazine cover that went viral a few years ago, picturing Rachael Ray. The hoax version, sans commas, seems to declare that she engages in cannibalism and eats dogs. Talk about an immediate attention-getter!


rachelray02Then I asked two students to each read one of the following statements, being careful to pause for the commas. Everyone listened intently to detect the subtle distinction. The power of the comma is exquisitely demonstrated, as poor canines once again become food, if commas are not properly used.

IMG_7081a IMG_7081With only two sentences on each two-page spread, the book relies on it’s simplicity and highly amusing illustrations to make it clear just how important commas can be when conveying meaning in writing. Students eagerly volunteered to stand up and read some of the pages to the class.  The page spread that had the biggest reaction in every class? A combination filling station and store illustration:  “Eat here and get gas,” vs. “Eat here, and get gas.”

I passed out laminated bookmarks that I cut out of black construction paper, shaped like giant commas, and suggested that students take special notice of all the commas in the books they are reading. I also included a link on the back to a comma game students can play later, and test their commas skills.  (Note:  Requires Flash, and does not work on iPads.)



One 3rd grade boy came up to me right afterwards, and rattled off a series of sentences he made up on the spot that would be catastrophic without the comma, such as, “We’re eating Grandma!” vs. “We’re eating, Grandma!” He cracked himself up!

A 4th grade student was so entertained by it last year, that she has asked me several times to re-read it to her class again this year. I believe I will.



Transitional kindergarteners enjoyed hearing the story of Elmer, the colorful, patchwork elephant, and coloring the squares by numbers.  I also gave them a blank elephant to decorate however they wished.


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(Something that makes me smile:  Yes, the TK’s routinely come dressed as princesses, as the mood strikes them.)

1st & 2nd Grade Picture Book Spine Label Scavenger Hunt

I have a goal of enabling students to find their own books by author. To practice the skill of finding picture books in alphabetic order by author, I printed and cut strips of paper as shown below, with various call numbers:
I chose authors that I have multiple books by (Brett, Carle, Numeroff, O’Connor, Shannon, Willems, etc.), to minimize the likelihood that all the books by that author would be checked out. Just in case, I printed some blank spine labels also, for me to write on at the last minute.

I folded the strips, and put them in a bowl for students to pick from.  I thought making it feel like a secret drawing might add some suspense/interest. I set out pencils, and invited 1st and 2nd graders to “earn” a bookmark by locating a picture book with a matching spine label, writing down the title, and bringing it to me when they check out their books.

Most students wrote a book title down, as instructed, but quite a few BROUGHT me the actual book–which I did not want to happen because I didn’t want to make more shelving work.  Oh, well.  We are making progress toward having empowered book searchers!