Eats Shoots & Leaves2

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!

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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.)

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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.

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Create-a-Snowman Game

Here’s an easy, no-mess, low-prep story time activity that was plenty of fun.

This activity would work with almost any snowman book you have, but I used Just a Snowman, by Mercer Mayer.  The kids love looking for the little mouse and the spider that Mayer is known for including in not-so-obvious places in his illustrations. (In fact, it became so disruptive when kids continued to point them out on every single page, I suggested that instead they could put their hand on their head to indicate they spotted them.  Much better!)

IMG_6982I used some blank white dice that were leftover in some dusty boxes of math manipulatives.  No one I asked seemed to know what they were originally intended for, so I re-purposed them for this drawing game, by drawing snowman parts on them with Sharpie markers.  Regular dice could be used if you draw on adhesive labels, cut them to fit, and stick them on top of the dots.

DSC04973Each student had one page with a blank snowman outline.  They took turns rolling the three dice together on the tray, and could choose one item to draw on each turn. For some, it was their first experience rolling dice.  Their teacher must be doing a great job teaching them to take turns, because they nailed that part.  They demonstrated great self-control too, drawing only one snowman part on each turn.  In addition to the hat, scarf, arms, buttons, eyes, mouth, sunglasses, carrot nose, and mittens, they really loved having the “?” symbol on the dice, which meant they could add anything they wanted.

IMG_6980 IMG_6981I have so many more of these blank white dice, I’m pondering what other ways I could repurpose them.  Suggestions welcome!

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.”
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4th – 6th Graders Rock the Newbery Game

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BOING!  “The Westing Game!”

HONK HONK!  “Moon over Manifest!”

DING DONG!  “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!”

DING!  “The One and Only Ivan!”

These are a few of the answers the 4th-6th graders excitedly called out when we played a Newbery Award game in the library this week.

I’ll tell you the secret to making answering book title questions so much fun:  It was these answer buzzers that each make a different loud, funny sound. Go to Amazon and order them by Learning Resources. You can do it right now. I’ll wait here.

Buzzers 1A fun-loving colleague from a nearby school district elementary library loaned me these answer buzzers, and gave me the inspiration for creating this game. It cannot be overstated how much fun it is to answer a question when one gets to hit one of these buttons first. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these should be used in court when questioning defendants on the stand. They are just that compelling.

BOING!  I confess, I did it.

HONK HONK!  Yes, I stole those items.

DING DONG!  I had accomplices, and I’ll name names.

DING!  I’ll tell you everything, as long as I get to keep hitting these answer buttons!

I displayed Newbery Award and Honor books on a large table, and gave a short talk about the Newbery Medal. “Who knows what these gold and silver round stickers mean?” I shared some of the eligibility criteria, like the book must have been published in the United States in the preceding year, the author must also be a citizen of or reside in the United States, the book can be fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, and that children up through age 14 are the intended potential audience. I also shared some of the history; it is named for John Newbery, and the first award was given in 1922.  Information can be found right here on the Association for Library Service to Children website.

Students eagerly raised their hands to tell me which books on the table they had read and loved.

Holes was awesome, both the book and the movie!”

“We just read Island of the Blue Dolphins in class!”

The Graveyard Book was soooo good!”

“I’m reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle right now, and it’s the best book I’ve ever read.”

“My teacher read, Carry On Mr. Bowditch out loud to us last year.”

I believe the best advertising for books is from peers, and this was even better than I could have hoped for.

I made a two-page list of selected winners and honor books that best suited my needs for the game, that are in the school library collection, and made enough 2-sided copies for every student.

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To make 4 teams quickly, I randomly set laminated, color-coded cards that matched the buzzers on all the chairs before the classes came in and sat down, to designated what team they were on.  I learned from a teacher that if you say, “You have 30 seconds to get to your team table,” they get there MUCH faster.

Chairs with Color Coded Cards

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Game Table 1
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I read out clues, and teams searched the lists for books that met the description, and rushed to hit the buzzer first, and called out their answers.  Below are some of the clues I came up with, but there are so many other possibilities.

A book title with Mr., Mrs. or Dr. in it
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Carry on Mr. Bowditch
Dear Mr. Henshaw
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (be sure to point out the year this was a winner–1939!)
The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

A one word title
Hoot
Rules
Holes
Saavy
Shiloh
Wringer
Hatchet
Dogsong
Sounder
Whittington

Day of the week in the title
The View from Saturday
The Wednesday Wars

Book title has the word “game” in it
The Westing Game
The Egypt Game

Insect in the title
Cricket in Times Square
House of Scorpion

A sea mammal in the title
Island of the Blue Dolphins

An animal in the title
Julie of the Wolves
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Sign of the Beaver
Turtle in Paradise
Witch of Blackbird Pond
Dogsong

Title includes something to do with space
Sing Down the Moon
Moon Over Manifest
Walk Two Moons
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
A Corner of the Universe
Number the Stars

Book title has a number in it
The One and Only Ivan
26 Fairmount Ave.
Three Times Lucky
One Came Home
One Crazy Summer
The Hundred Dresses
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

The last class of the day went MUCH smoother than the first, and I fine-tuned the process as the day progressed.  One lesson I learned:  We kept score for some classes, but not for others.  Funny thing, it didn’t really matter.  Kids loved playing whether they were earning points or not, and I just kept replenishing the books on the Newbery Award table as they were checked out.

Several students stopped by after school to ask if we could do more games like that, and even brainstormed ideas on what the games could be. (“How about a Wheel of Fortune Game?  You could make a big wheel and send us off searching for books…”)  You can’t buy that kind of excitement.

Oh my goodness, I just checked:  Amazon has a Wheel of Fortune spinner!

Ninja Storytime

Ninja! by Arree Chung

From the moment I finished reading, Ninja! written and illustrated by Arree Chung, I knew I had to create a story time using this picture book about Maxwell, a boy obsessed with ninjas. He silently sneaks around the house, surprising unsuspecting family members, surreptitiously thieving snacks, abruptly ending his dad’s couch nap, and earning both the outrage of his little sister and disapproval from his mother. In the end, he invites the little sister to join him in the ways of the ninja, and one is left to imagine the amusing havoc they will wreak together. The spare narration of Maxwell’s ninja thoughts amusingly contrasts with the illustrations, which show the true picture of what is really happening.

I had a much younger group than usual at the public library storytime, which ranges from K-5, so I highly edited the excerpts I had planned to read from two non-fiction books, to give background information about real 14th century ninjas, not just the ones kids are accustomed to seeing in cartoons and action movies.

Ninja, by Jason Glaser and Don Roley.

Ninja

You Wouldn’t Want to be a Ninja Warrior!  A Secret Job That’s Your Destiny, by John Malam, and illustrated by David Antram.

You Wouldn't Want to be a Ninja Warrior

First Lessons in Ninjutsu, on page 10 of, You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Ninja Warrior, was the inspiration for creating an obstacle course for little ninjas-in-training. The challenge was to create an age 5-10 appropriate, kid-appealing, non-injury-producing, collateral-damage-avoiding, indoor-space-confined way to practice beginner ninja skills. My creative co-workers chimed in with great ideas and supplies to use, and it took many hands and weeks of planning and prepping materials.

After reading, we adjourned to table stations with craft supplies that children rotated through at their own pace, before starting the ninja training course.


Craft Activity Tables:

1)  Assemble a jointed paper ninja puppet

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2)  Color a pre-made origami ninja star (to use on the training course and take home)

     

3)  Assemble nunchucks, using painted cardboard tubes, yarn and hole punches

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Ninja Training Course:

1)  Disguise:  I had new, donated t-shirts leftover from past athletic events (thank you City Parks & Recreation Department!) to make ninja masks. YouTube has many videos on how to turn a t-shirt into a ninja mask.  Alas, the group was young, and none of them wanted to wear a ninja mask.

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Our amazing teen volunteer demonstrated the course.

2)  Balance:  Walk on rocks and a narrow piece of cardboard over water. Participants could make each subsequent trip more challenging for themselves by walking forward, backward, sideways, etc.

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4)  Kicking:  Kick over boxes covered with wood-grain printed paper. We started with one box on each stool, and then stacked them three-high later. Some of our little ninjas were too short to kick them, so they punched them instead.

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 5)  Escape:  Crawl through tunnel

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6)  Weaponry:  Throw paper origami ninja star at target (hula hoop taped to the wall).

7)  Stealth:  Maneuver through a series of laser beams (red yarn tied between two rows of chairs).

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8)  Agility:  Jump over bushes made with large, crumpled sheets of green butcher paper.

Repeat as many times as possible, until a parent/guardian insists it’s time to go
for at least the third or fourth time.


Online Resources

Be sure to check out the website, www.arree.com, which has a wealth of fun things to do, including Ninja coloring pages, an activity guide that includes instructions on how to make an origami ninja star, and a hilarious book trailer.

Visit www.ninjefyme.com to upload a photo of yourself, and add a ninja costume.

A few more photos from a shorter 30-minute Ninja Storytime at the elementary school for the transitional kindergarten classes, which included the Ninja! book by Arree Chung, the ninja training course, and no crafts (definitely no ninja stars or nunchucks).  I was able to make the red yarn laser beam section twice as long–and twice as awesome.

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Mind Your Manners

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With Thanksgiving around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to brush up on (or learn) good manners.  I held this story time at both the public library for K-5’s, and the elementary school library for two classes of transitional kindergarteners, omitting the pumpkin craft at the school due to time constraints and skill level.

.Yes Please, No Thank YouSuppose You Meet a DinosaurNo Slurping, No Burping

Students enthusiastically participated in the story, “Yes, Please!  No, Thank You!” by calling out the polite way to answer together throughout the story.

They also were very engaged in guessing well-mannered ways to respond to situations (“thank you,” “excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” “you’re welcome,” etc.) posed in Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur, A First Book of Manners, by Judy Sierra.

No Slurping, No Burping, by Kara LaReau, is a hilarious new picture book, published this year, with a role reversal twist that makes kids giggle.  A brother and sister have to help their father with his mealtime etiquette, and then a special surprise guest comes for dinner.  The students were so eager (and a little nervous, too!) to see if he could remember all the manners he had learned when grandma arrives.  When it’s time to have dessert, it became clear that she could use a little refresher on her manners also, and everyone dissolved into laughter.

 

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We reviewed a picture of a simple place setting, and then had a relay race with 3 teams, each with a bag containing everything needed for one place setting:  plate, cup, fork, knife, spoon, napkin, place mat.  Students had to run up to the table with the bag, one at a time, quickly set a place setting, and once it was correct, put everything back into the bag and run back to the end of the line.  The teams livened up the race by supporting each other, calling out encouragement, chanting names, and chiming in with helpful pointers.  “Put the place mat down first!”  Who knew setting a table could be so exciting?

We finished up this story time by making a paper pumpkin to use as a Thanksgiving table decoration.  The most exciting part of making the pumpkins seemed to be the novelty of getting to use the hole punches.

 

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Supplies:

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orange card stock, cut in 12 strips, 1 1/2″ wide  X 10″ long

green pipe cleaner

pumpkin leaf outline copied onto green card stock

scissors

hole punch

Instructions:

Punch holes at each end of all the orange strips, and in the leaf to put the pipe cleaner through.  Crunch up a small section of the pipe cleaner at the bottom and top of the pumpkin, so the orange paper holds the desired shape.  Spread out the strips of paper in a circle.  Finish by curling the top of the pipe cleaner.

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What Zombies Can Teach About Writing

Book Cover

Why would a zombie just walk, when she could lurch?  Or clomp?  Or even trudgeMonsters Can Mosey–Understanding Shades of Meaning, story by Gillia M. Olson, illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic, is an excellent read aloud choice for upper elementary students to demonstrate how vocabulary choices can make writing more exciting and vivid.

It presents 18 different words with similar but different meanings, as zombie child, Frankie, is encouraged by her zombie mother to select a signature way of walking.

The illustrations are cartoonishly ghoulish, and will captivate a younger audience without frightening them.  Characters have a gray-green pallor, unkempt hair, torn clothing, and have a few stitches holding them together, yet their wide-eyed faces give them a cute, silly appearance.

What did we do after we read the book?  Picture a library full of 3rd graders, performing their best zombie walks with arms outstretched, and vacant expressions.  These were the instructions, as we took 5 slow steps in each style.

  • Lurch:  an awkward staggering walk
  • Trudge:  walk like it is really hard work
  • Lumber:  walk clumsily and heavily
  • Clomp:  walk heavily and noisily
  • Stomp:  walk heavily, noisily and usually angrily
  • Mosey:  walk in an unhurried or aimless manner
  • Stride:  walk with large steps usually with purpose

You can guess how they walked out of the library, after their teacher lined them up.  All monsters need a good walk.

Creepy Carrots!

 Creepy Carrots Book Cover

Need a slightly scary story to read aloud in October, but don’t want to seriously frighten your little listeners?  The 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds is the answer.

Jasper Rabbit had a passion for carrots, and liberally helped himself to the carrots in Crackenhopper Field…until they started following him.  Dun, dun dun!

Readers are led to wonder whether Jasper is imagining the appearance of scowling carrots in various locations. He sees them in the mirror of his bathroom while he is brushing his teeth, but when he turns around, there are only three orange objects sitting on the bath tub ledge.  Were three creepy carrots glowering at him?  Or was it just an orange washcloth, rubber duck, and shampoo bottle?  Each sighting is similarly vague, with a variety of orange objects providing just enough doubt that only at the end of the book do readers learn the delightful truth about the carrots.

Creepy Carrots!

Creepy Carrots!

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After I read the book, students made their own creepy carrots, and had the option to take it home with them, or tape it up in the library anywhere they chose (except ON a book).  If they had time, many made two–one to take home, and one to decorate the library with for the month of October.  The library has creepy carrots peeking out of all the bookshelves, and the students are loving seeing them all around.

Student:  “My sister made one yesterday and hung it up on in the dining room at home!”

Me:  “Was it really a creepy carrot, or was it just an orange vase?”

 

 

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Sometimes, One Crayon is All You Need to Get Out of a Predicament

After reading the 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, Journey, about a bored girl who creates a daring and dangerous adventure for herself using a red crayon, I was reminded of a far simpler version about a footed pajama-wearing, pointy-nosed, wide-eyed, almost hairless little graffiti artist named Harold.

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson, has timeless appeal, as he wields his one and only crayon to both create and solve one problem after another, until he draws himself to bed, and the crayon slips from his sleepy hand to the floor.

I enlarged a b&w picture of Harold from the book, and copied him in various random positions all around 12 X 18″ pieces of white construction paper, and set out purple crayons.

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I read the book to students, then after book checkout, they were able to sit down at the tables and create a picture of Harold drawing an adventure of their own choosing.  After seeing Harold’s imagination run wild with his purple crayon on the pages of the book, the students were excited to let their own imaginations take Harold someplace too.

But don’t forget the moon.  The moon always followed along.

 

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Tag on the back:

Today we went to the library
and Mrs. Foote read
Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson

 

 

No Worries About Back to School!

Worry Stones

Who doesn’t get the jitters about the beginning of school?  Not just students, but parents, teachers, administrators, and support staff too!

I read back-to-school favorite, Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes, with two Special Ed classes, and we read about all of Wemberly’s concerns.  Then we talked about things we might worry about; I went first to break the ice.  I confessed to worrying about whether I would remember teacher and student names (my first year at the school), and if students would like the books I read aloud.  I didn’t know if any students would want to share their own worries, but I was surprised at how candid they were, once we got started.

Worry stones are typically a smooth, hard, polished gemstone with an indentation for rubbing the thumb across, used to relieve anxiety.  They were used in ancient Greece, Tibet, Ireland, and in Native American Tribes.  (What do you suppose they worried about?  I’d love to know!)  Read more about the history of worry stones here.

This website shows excellent pictures on how to make worry stones using Fimo Clay.  Fimo Clay is inexpensive at Michael’s (you never go without your 40% off coupon, right?), and it takes very little.

I divided the clay into small segments in advance, and students selected three colors to make their unique worry stones.  Students carved their initials on the bottom using an opened paper clip.  I brought my little toaster oven from home (perhaps your staff lounge has one already), baked them for 20 minutes, and delivered them to the classrooms later.   When we made them at the hour-long public library story time, children made the worry stones first, and I baked them while I read a few back-to-school books, so they were able to take them home with them right away.

Tip:  You may want to have a few extras made, so students who are absent are able to have one, even though they weren’t able to make their own.