Monday September 23rd, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult reads! The #IMWAYR crowd always has so many fantastic titles to share.


The picture books I adored this week:

The Lonely Book written by Kate Berhheimer and illustrated by Chris Shelban

A story that tells many stories of how relationships with books can be so special. Sometimes a book is beloved by many and passes from hands to hands to hands. Sometimes a book’s qualities are treasured by one for any number of reasons. And sometimes a book, worn and well read, finds the best place to be and the reader who is most in need of its magic.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Sing . . . sing a song . . . lyrics by Joe Raposa, story in pictures by Tom Lichtenheld

Yes, this is a book of that song Sing, Sing a Song. Starts off wordless. Our frustrated little bird demonstrates perseverance and finds some confidence after being serenaded by a joyful guitar player. Full of happiness and smiles. Just a lovely little book.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Worth watching the video on youtube:

Tommaso and the Missing Line by Matteo Pericoli

One sentence summary: Tommaso goes in search of a line that has disappeared from a beloved drawing.

Wow. This is a book that asks to be shared and discussed. In big ways. With big questions. What inspires art? Does a piece of art contain a piece of the inspiration? Do things exist differently in our memories? Can art capture a memory? Can it prevent it from fading? Love this book.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I am the King by Leo Timmers

Part of why I was drawn to this book is that it is very pink but appears to not be a pinkish book (it isn’t) and also because last year my class fell in love with Timmers’ book The Magical Life of Mr. Renny so I was curious. This is an interesting book. Maybe one that on first read might not seem so interesting but then when you think about the potential questions it might inspire, its interest level elevates. Various animals find a golden crown and convinced it fits them perfectly, each announce, “I am the King!” The next animal finds that assertion preposterous, dons the crown (in a totally different way) and claims “King” status for themselves. Finally, the crown lands at the feet of Lion. Lion puts the crown on his head and all of the animals cheer that “Lion is the King.” That is just that.

So back to the questions:

  • Do we see ourselves vastly differently from the way others see us? Better? Worse?
  • Does competition prevent us from celebrating our potential for more?
  • Do some people (lions in this case) just command respect? How?

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Wumbers written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

What an amusing mixture of numbers and words to communicate little stories scattered throughout this book. Lots of fun! I just wished a coherent story ran through the entire book. Still, I passed this to a student last week and he was instantly hooked on deciphering the text.

Wumbers #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

In nonfiction:

Is This Panama? A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim I reviewed this book earlier this week here.

Is this Panama? #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Tushes and Tails by Stephane Frattini

A hugely engaging nonfiction title ideal for an interactive read aloud experience. Who belongs to which tush and/or tail? It is not as easy as it many seem to guess. Under each lift the flap, one is rewarded with more information about each animal – enough to learn something new, not too much to lose the momentum of guessing, checking and discovering.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Queenie:  One Elephant’s Story written by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe 

A story about a gentle elephant captured and put in a zoo. This book tells the story of Queenie, but really forces the readers to think about zoos, animals in captivity and our obligations to them and treatment of them. Made me think of Eve Bunting‘s The Summer of Riley and the questions around whether a dog should be euthanized or not based on its actions in particular circumstances. Can see this book being very powerful shared with an older primary or an intermediate class.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Mimi’s Village And How Health Care Transformed it written by Katie Smith Milway and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

Part of the Citizen Kid series of information story books that talk about real world issues and how they affect children around the world. This book teaches readers all about what life is like when basic health care and disease prevention is limited. Set in Kenya, Mimi’s reality before a village health worker becomes attached to her village is one where she and her family lack clean water, appropriate nutrition, and protection from diseases. Simple things like mosquito netting to sleep under have huge impact.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Other reading:

Bean Dog and Nugget: The Ball, an early graphic novel by Cherise Mericle Harper

Delightfully silly. My class adores this little graphic story.

Bean Dog and Nugget #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Boris Gets a Lizard an early illustrated chapter book by Andrew Joyner – part of the Branches series of books by Scholastic 

Boris desperately wants his own Komodo Dragon. He is what you might call obsessed. What is his clever plan to have his own Komodo Dragon, if even temporarily? And does his plan succeed? I can see my younger readers being interested in this title. Full colour pictures and manageable text.

Boris gets a Lizard #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library written by Chris Grabenstein

A fully engaging middle grade mystery/adventure  – even more perfect for book lovers and avid readers. Many have talked about connections to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and certainly this book has those wonderful elements of unexpected adventures set in a fantastical location with twists and turns on every page. I really liked this book. Think I would like it even more if I shared it with a class of children. I can imagine those reading this aloud to a classroom are having a delightful time of it!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Next up ? I am loving the novel Jinx by Sage Blackwood (and I really love saying the name Sage Blackwood, it’s so beautiful). Now that we are settled back into school routine and bedtimes, I am happy to have some dedicated evenings to continue reading The Fire Chronicle by John Stevens to my own children. We have been doing a lot of nonfiction picture book reading over the last few weeks and need to delve back into this novel that we were so excited about at the end of the summer.

Have a great reading week everyone! And if you are so inspired, check out this post and add your #5words: In 2013/2014 I will be . . . Loving the comments 🙂

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Farm Animals

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

There is something about a farm that is just a one stop shop when it comes to learning and observing nature. Fences, stalls and chicken coops might keep the animals safely in but they don’t keep the learning out! Baby animals. Food production. Farmyards. So many things to see. Many city kids get few opportunities to visit farms. But they are always interested in farm animals and love learning more about farm life. Books about the farm are always popular in my primary classroom.

When I discovered Real-size Farm Animals (DK Publishing 2013) at the public library, my family had just been to a farm and spent time with goats, pigs, horses, a donkey and many farm cats. All of these animals and many more are featured in this book.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Farm Animals

This title profiles fourteen animals including the fox, the owl and our favourite, the farm cats! Many pages fold out to reveal life size animals or the true size of ‘parts’ of an animal. Each page has various drawings, photographs and headings to organize specific information. There is a fact box on each two page spread with three or four pieces of interesting facts about each animal. There is also a comparison box featuring the image of a four foot tall child next to the animal described.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Farm Animals

Some interesting facts I learned:

  • A jersey cow can provide up to 80 glasses of milk a day (6 gallons/20 litres)
  • Only female ducks quack; male ducks make a whispery sound.
  • Sheep have a split in their upper lip which helps them to collect their food when grazing.
  • A donkey’s bray can be heard more than 2 miles/3 k.m. away
  • There are more chickens in the world than any other type of bird!

There is a two page glossary of new words in the back and the book even comes with a pull out height chart to post on the wall. An ideal book about farm animals for preschool/early primary.

My students also love the Farm book – one of Scholastic’s Discover More titles. Farm animals are certainly featured in this book but there are also pages that describe how certain farm equipment works and details about food production such as orchards and grain silos.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Farm Animals

These titles have many nonfiction features that make them ideal for independent reading in my Grade 2/3 classroom such as bright colourful photographs, lifecycle diagrams, a detailed glossary and an index. We have all of the Discover More titles in our nonfiction library.

Another beautiful title about life on the farm in Elisha Cooper’s Farm.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Farm Animals

What a book! Details of what happens on a farm day in and day out. Who lives there? The farmers, the cattle, the chickens, countless cats, etc. What do we find? Barns, sheds, tractors, trucks, plenty of equipment . . . And what exactly happens? Enough great details to fill a book that you have to really settle into to finish reading. A great read aloud but also a great book to explore with a friend. Elisha Cooper‘s Farm is a must for the primary classroom.

My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 45/60 complete

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2013! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.


Wonder Inducing Nonfiction Read Alouds

It’s funny how one’s focus can change when looking at the classroom library. For a while, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nonfiction titles in my room. Last summer I started to get anxious about whether or not I had enough books in the room that my Grade 2/3s could pick up and read independently. It seemed like my “best” nonfiction titles were books that I needed to read to my students. Which was wonderful because I had some amazing titles to use as we model strategies, but what about when it was independent reading time? Did I have enough titles that students could read by themselves with success? My book shopping focussed on purchasing titles that I knew my students could manage on their own, especially as we built strategies to read nonfiction text over the year. Some of my favourite books that I added?

  • The Discover More Series by Scholastic
  • Nicola Davies Flip the Flap and Find out books which include Who Lives Here? and Who’s Like Me?
  • Laura Hulbert‘s Who Has This Tail? and Who Has These Feet?
  • A huge array of Bobbie Kalman titles
  • The Are you a . . . ? series by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
  • The Amazing Animal Series by Kate Riggs

NonfictionText for Independent Reading There's a Book for That

Now, here I am a year later. Again, thinking about the books in my room . . . What is my focus now? That I want some “Oh, wow!” titles to read aloud. I want to make sure that just as I am reading a variety of picture books and some engaging novels, that I have a real variety of excellent nonfiction picture books to read aloud. Sometimes to model/practice a strategy, sometimes to enhance our learning on a particular subject and sometimes just because, the more we read, the more we know and I want my students to be inspired and curious about learning all year long!

I am fortunate to be looping my Grade 2/3 class into Grade 3/4 and so I have a sense of this group of children, what they wonder about and what I think might inspire them. Last year, I noticed that they were intrigued by stories – folklore, Aboriginal tales, stories from around the world and stories about things that really happened. They were very curious about the stories of people and how these stories connected to us in our classroom. It made me realize that I haven’t been reading enough biographies. I also want to focus on places around the world and the wonder of the world around us. Last year, students loved learning about animals from each continent and had endless questions about habitats.  I know we love art and books and music. So, I have some sense of what kinds of books I need to share.

Knowing how busy school can get and knowing how I sometimes need a one stop shop when I am planning, I decided to take advantage of the time summer has to offer to amass a huge list of amazing nonfiction read alouds. I was looking for titles that my Grade 3/4 class would enjoy. Some are favourites from previous years and some I have yet to read myself. Thank goodness for the wonderful book bloggers out there that I used for inspiration. So here is my list of 25 “wonder inducing” nonfiction read alouds. A reference for me and one that I am sharing here.

The book I plan to use to launch my year: On A Beam of Light- A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky This book made my own thoughts whirl and swirl and race around my head. It has all the perfect themes of wonder, curiousity and thinking outside of the box.

 On a Beam of Light

Based on some picture book biographies I already loved, I grew that list to include:

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant  and illustrated by Melissa Stewart

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Stewart

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon written by Jaqueline Davies illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Biographies - Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet 

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Biographies Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

Some titles to explore amazing places and the world around us:

Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin

The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest by Steve Jenkins

A Rock is Lively written by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

Sea Otter Inlet by Celia Godkin

Fire! by Celia Godkin

Infinity and Me written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Energy Island: How one community harnessed the wind and changed their world by Allan Drummond

The World Around us Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

And to learn about creatures great and small:

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Ape written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland

Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

 And a title to be released this fall:

Is This Panama?: A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill  and illustrated by Soyeon Kim

Is this Panama?

Will I read all of these titles aloud this year? Maybe not. Perhaps interests and passions will take us in different directions. But this list will help keep me on track to make sure I am sharing lots of books that inspire both learning and thinking in my room!

Do you have some other must share nonfiction titles for Grade 3/4 listeners? Would love to hear your suggestions!

I learn so much by reading all of the blog posts that link to the Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday event that KidLit Frenzy hosts. Visit Alyson’s blog to see what books are shared this week.


Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A little guessing

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! Do you have any books to share and discuss? 

I am pleased to participate in Alyson’s (from Kid Lit Frenzy) non-fiction picture book challenge and share the picture books I read this week.

This week I was on the lookout for books that were very interactive and that primary students could read independently. I was also looking for books where students could learn more about animal characteristics including features, habitat and life cycles.

My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 5/60 complete 🙂

Who’s Like me? by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Marc Boutavant (published 2012) This is a fun lift the flap book where children try to guess who is like me from a question and a picture clue Like (with a picture of a rabbit) “Who’s like me? Who’s furry and breathes air like me? Is it . . . ” The next page features four flaps with a clue on the outside  If you flip the picture of feathers, there is a picture of a pigeon and text that reads: “I have feathers not fur.” The next page talks about the fox who is like the rabbit and has fur and breathes air. It is explained that a fox and a rabbit are both mammals. they breathe air, give birth to live babies and feed them milk. Children learn about amphibians, fish, birds and reptiles as well. Colourful and very fun to interact with! Nicola Davies for the younger set!

who's like me

Who Has these feet? by Lara Hulbert and illustrated by Erik Brooks (published 2011) Children love books where they can guess! This title has pictures of different animal feet with the reoccurring question: Who has these feet? When I used this in the classroom this week I had children justify their guess with reasons to back up their answers. When we saw a picture of duck feet, one child guessed it was a chicken because of the skinny legs. Another thought it was a swan because of the skin between the toes. Another student volunteered that that skin was for paddling and so it had to be a bird that swims. One child knew those feet were called webbed feet. A great way to build vocabulary and to sit back and let the students talk and share.


So . . . who has these feet? Intrigued? Find the book!


It’s Moving Day by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Geraldo Valerio (published 2008)  In this book, we “travel” through numerous seasons that focus on a specific hole/burrow under a tree that a variety of animals use for a home. Great introduction to how woodland animals use burrows and change environments during different seasons/when raising young/etc.


Whose Nest in this? by Heidi Bee Roemer and illustrated by Connie McLennan (published 2009) Another fun book to guess from clues given – this time in a rhyming riddle format. This text is longer and more complicated so would be best used as a read aloud with primary students. Young intermediates/late primaries could read it independently. Lots to learn – certainly nests are very diverse and it is not just birds who build nests!


See Me Grow (Scholastic Discover Moreby Penelope Arlon (published 2012) This book has some fantastic nonfiction features like colourful photographs, life cycle charts, an informative glossary, a variety of labelled diagrams, fact boxes, etc. Lots of information about how a variety of animals grow from birth to adulthood. Learn about which animals hatch from an egg, which are born live, how long they stay with their mother/parent, etc. Not too much text on each page makes this perfect for young readers to interact with independently. Part of this Scholastic series.

scholastic title

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2013!


What do we wonder?

On Thursdays, our Grade 2 reading group is beginning to work with non-fiction texts. There is much to teach about how to interact with non-fiction text so that students best understand all of the text features. But generating excitement and the thrill of wondering and discovering new facts is an essential piece of our learning as well. Over the last few weeks we have been picture walking books and sharing all of the things we wonder.

These Pebble Plus books published by Capstone are fantastic for this picture walking exercise as they feature full colour photographs of animals in their habitats along with simple text to share together. I have the African Animals series and the Animals and Their Homes series and found both through Scholastic.

The great thing about Thursdays is that my partner teacher, Ms. Hibbert is in the room for the morning in a Resource Teacher role so we are able to work with small groups and can encourage lots of sharing and discussion.

Day 1: On the first day, we split our group into two groups and had them picture walk a book with us and generate questions about the photographs. We used a book about bears and a book about rabbits as key texts. As the students asked questions, we charted them and pointed out when one question led to another or was an extension of another question so that students could think about how to extend their thinking and how their questions connected to someone else’s questions. After 15 minutes, we switched groups and the second group’s task was to look at the questions that had already been charted and as they looked through the text, to try and extend questions or wonder about things that had yet to be asked.

We then looked at both charts as a whole group and highlighted key question words (Who? Why? Could? Do? Is? etc.). We also talked about what questions were on both lists. A popular one? “How can you tell if it is a boy or a girl?” (although one group used the terms male and female so we helped each other extend the vocabulary being used :-))

Day 2: After reviewing and charting question words, we put the students into partners and had each group choose a book about an African animal. Students then studied the photographs in the books and charted their own questions. We circulated and challenged students to extend their thinking wherever possible.

Working with a partner allowed for a lot of great discussion. Often the partners stopped and shared what they thought an answer might be. There were disagreements, connections to background knowledge and lots of encouragement. (And charting on big chart paper with felts was pretty cool!)

We then had students display their books and charts and partners “travelled along” the display looking at the questions that other groups asked.

Day 3: On this day, students chose their own books and worked independently creating a wonder web. We reminded students to tap into their curiousity and study the pictures carefully. If they finished early, they went back and read the text and/or shared their questions with a peer. One little voice carried book and paper to a table muttering, “Just me  . . . I wonder how many questions I will wonder?”

Here is Heman‘s wonder web about bees:

Sam asked some great questions about giraffes.

We have a long road down the non-fiction path ahead of us this year. But students are pretty excited that non-fiction titles can help us with all of those unanswered questions and even inspire more!

How do you generate excitement over non-fiction titles in your primary classroom? Please share!

New Spring books from Scholastic

Our New Books display has had a lot of traffic recently with many students enjoying some recent purchases that I’ve ordered for the class through Scholastic book clubs.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake written by Michael B. Kaplan and illustrated by Stephane Jorisch (one of my favourite Canadian illustrators) has been a favourite to read and reread especially with a buddy. Betty Bunny is very dramatic and says some very out there stuff like “I am going to marry chocolate cake!” and “I am a handful and I love chocolate cake.” Comments made all the better when read out loud. With huge sighs, gasps and artistic flair. We appreciated Betty’s chocolate cake obsession, loved her spunk and giggled over her decision to keep her cake in her pocket and the resulting brown, goopy mess! Betty Bunny shows us that you shouldn’t mess with a little bunny and her love for chocolate cake. Go Betty!

Another favourite story to read and share during buddy reading (also made a fantastic read aloud) is Huck Runs Amuck! This charming story about a flower obsessed goat is written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Poor Huck is a goat of rather discerning tastes. Yes he will eat run of the mill goat things, which means basically anything, but . . . If he had his way, he would eat flowers all day long. But flowers in his end of the world are also readily enjoyed by other goats and in short supply. Thank goodness Huck is a climbing sensation. He can find flowers in the strangest of places, high up places that seem out of reach. But what happens when his stomach and his morals face off? What will a flower loving goat do? A hilarious fast paced story.

Books by Steve Jenkins never disappoint. Many are favourites in our classroom library. The newest book in our collection is Bones. Not only is it great to look at the illustrations o bones (many of which are actual size) but we also love the comparison of bones from multiples species like all of the skulls pictured in a fantastic pull out page spread. This is also a fun book to fact collect. There is something about learning that a small python has 200 pairs of ribs that makes you want to ask everyone you know: “So how many pairs of ribs do you think a python has?” (Humans have 12 pairs just to give you some perspective) This book frequently has to be coaxed out of someone’s book box to be passed onto the next person who can’t wait to explore it!

We adore Marie-Louise Gay. Stella, Sam, and Caramba are all well loved characters! So, we were very happy to meet Rosyln Rutabaga and read about her plan to dig an enormous hole in the story: Rosyln Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth. Some days you just wake up with a plan. So when Rosyln announces her plan to dig an enormous hole and gets a calm, but positive response from her father, this little bunny begins to dig. Her all day digging brings her many interesting interactions, big piles of dirt and an experience about what it is to follow your determination. Wonderfully imaginative illustrations.

Little holiday reads

I purchased these books from Scholastic and shared them with my class in the last week of school. Some were quick reads, others warranted more discussion. All were enjoyed.

It’s Christmas David by David Shannon

Everyone always says No David at Christmas . . .

One can only imagine what David gets up to at Christmas! Yes it involves peeking at hidden gifts and trying to sneak off with baked treats. The favourite in our room? Well David wrote his name in the snow. It was yellow . . . Yes, yuck!

Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton

Who doesn’t love Splat the Cat?

Earlier this week we read this book and we shared our discussion in a blog post. Can Splat be too helpful? Was he really good all year? Worries keep him awake as does waiting up for a certain man in red. . .

The Greatest Snowman in the World by Peter Hannan

Did you know a chinchilla and his friends could build a snowman?

I shared this funny little book by Peter Hannan with our K-3 primary gathering. Last week of school and excitement was high but this book definitely held the attention of close to 60 kids. Lots of giggles as Charles Chinchilla, Elvis Wormly and Babs McBoid attempted to build an amazing snowman. Even as problem after problem happens, Charles remains optimistic and full of ideas. We were pretty impressed by his idea in the freezer at the end! (Hint more to do with ice cream than snow. . . )

Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving: A Christmas Story by Howard Binkow and Susan F Cornelison

Howard learns about the power of giving.

My students always adore the character of Howard B Wigglebottom. As he learns, we learn and there is always much discussion as the story unfolds. In this story, Howard is forced to confront that his stuff brings him more harm than good. In the end, he realizes that he hasn’t valued what is most important after all – his family. My students realized that stuff made Howard lost and that family is more important than all of the toys in the world. There was sure a lot of discussion about whether or not T.V. commercials that gave you ideas for toys you wanted were a good thing or a bad thing. . . More discussion needed!

Canada From Above

We spent time in the last week of school interacting with this amazing book, Canada from Above, by Heather Patterson.

We have been studying maps of Canada to learn about the provinces, territories and major bodies of water. But this book was something different. It took us off the page – high above Canada on a photographic journey from a bird’s eye view. Stunning photography of a majestic country. We liked guessing if a photo showed something natural or made by humans. Lots of times we had no idea what a photo was until we read the accompanying text. Belugas in Hudson Bay that looked like birds flying through the trees. Ice roads through the northern territories like nothing we had ever seen. A visual treat.

Predator Showdown

Yes, of course we know that predators have few reasons to fight each other. They are too busy hunting for prey to ensure their survival. But if they did battle each other . . . Well, wouldn’t we all just love to know what would happen? Lucky for us, Scholastic has published this very cool book about exactly that: Predator Showdown (30 Unbelievably Awesome Predator vs. Predator Face-offs!)

We are currently exploring this book with our Reading Group. It allows us to interact with non-fiction text features such as bar graphs to compare stats about speed, strength, defence, brains, etc or charts that tell us about predator style, range and sample prey. Students are asked to decide between two predators – First Instinct: Who would win? Justify. Some students are very familiar with the predators and find this easy, others are guessing just by looking at the pictures. Either way, it’s okay. There will be an opportunity to read more and make a more informed decision.

Today Catriona was thinking about a battle between a lion and a spotted hyena. Her first instinct? Who would win? She wrote:  “A hyena because male lions are lazy. Female lions do all of the work. And this is a picture of a male lion.”  She shared this thinking with me and then went on to explain, “I happen to know this. I’m taking my background knowledge and putting it into the paper.” (How much do I love when students are able to articulate exactly what they are thinking like this?)

We have been looking at three Predator Showdowns in more detail.

  • The Lion vs. Spotted Hyena
  • The Raccoon vs. North American River Otter
  • Tasmanian Devil vs. Dingo

After students have a chance to read the information page, they answer specific questions. Some questions have answers easily found on the page like: Look at the Stats section. Where is the raccoon superior? Other questions ask the students to include their own thinking. Can you think of a real life situation where these two animals might actually battle each other? Explain why you think this might happen?

We are also asking students to read a section and identify what was important to them about what they just read. For example, What is something you found particularly interesting about otters? Student answers varied. Some were intrigued that otters can stay underwater for up to 8 minutes. Others thought it was interesting that otters could dive up to 60 feet in search of prey.

After reading, students are asked to again think about who would win in a showdown. Many students changed their initial answers and provided lots of evidence from the text to support their thinking.

An inside page from Predator Showdown

Such a great book to engage children in learning and discussions. Answering questions allowed the students to build their confidence about forming an opinion based on evidence. Everyone wants to read this book when I put it out on the new non-fiction shelf! It will be a battle – a Student vs Student Showdown. Who will win and get to read it first?

Spilling Pickles (Idioms Division 5 style)

We have continued to learn about new idioms using the fantastic series of Idiom Tales published by Scholastic. Yesterday, we finished Over the Moon (Sayings about Feelings) written by Justin McCory Martin and illustrated by Kelly Kennedy.

I recorded the new idioms we had learned: happy as a clam; pleased as punch and green with envy on cards to tack up on top of the board. Students love trying to insert these idioms into everyday speech as often as possible and feel quite delighted when someone manages to use an idiom in the appropriate context.  It is quite fun! So as I was writing, students were reading various idioms to each other and giggling at how funny some are.

Don't spill the beans!

A few Grade 3 students were in our class last year when we also studied idioms. Every so often they remember one they learned and want to share it. Suddenly Hajhare got all exctied and called out:

“Ms. Gelson, tell me a secret and I will spill the pickles!”

Obviously, his memory didn’t quite serve him right as he was searching for the expression spill the beans. But said so excitedly and so earnestly this was pretty funny. Well, actually hilarious. Everyone, including Hajhare, burst out laughing.

I was probably laughing most of all and someone called “Ms. Gelson is in stitches!” Yes, idiom success – used correctly in context – yet, somehow we all laughed even more!

Then Catriona (looking at my red face from laughing) shouts out, “Ms. Gelson really is tickled pink!”

Such joyful moments sharing laughter, word play and connections.

Sergio had walked in during all of this quite tired and was a few beats behind.

“So what is it then – Spill the onions?”

Oh how I love these kids!