The Fun Continues

Some of you readers may know that I love the book “Once Upon an Alphabet.”

It is a book of short stories, very short stories, based on each letter.

Today I finally had an appropriate time to gather my students around the book to read it together.

Although they are upper elementary, grades four through seven, they LOVED the book!

They found little details that I had missed although I have read it several times.

I really appreciated the fact that my students allowed themselves to truly enjoy the book.



It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

Where has this semester gone?

What a ride.

The last official book that I read for class, in addition to our Treasures Series, was the sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Skylark, by Patricia MacLachlan, somehow was a disappointment.


I don’t think it was the story so much as the fact that it was written for a much younger audience than I am. I found myself knowing what was going to happen all along the story, and it seemed as though it was moving quite slow.

I think in reality it solidifies the fact that in order to be a good match, a book needs to be age and interest appropriate for the reader. If that reader is an old lady, or an elementary student, the writing style needs to be appropriate.

If a book is written in such a way that it can’t be followed by a young student, it won’t be a good experience for them. On the other side, if a book is too simple for an older elementary student, it can be worse because it is boring.

Learning the age appropriate books and having ideas for a variety of interests can make or break a good reading experience for anyone of any age.

And with that, I bid you adieu.


Top Ten List

  1. The Night the Bells Rang, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock (This was chosen because of the connections to the author and the additional lessons the book taught.)
  2. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers (Delightful, playful, creative setting of the alphabet.)
  3. Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan (My mom’s story.)
  4. If Wishes Were Horses, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock (I laughed, I cried, I could relate to the girls and know my students will love the story.)
  5. When Marian Sang, by Pam Munoz Ryan (Important lesson in the history of music.)
  6. Norah’s Ark, by Patsey Gray (A long lost friend who I was so happily reunited with.)
  7. Savvy, by Ingrid Law (A delightful assignment from a student.)
  8. Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, by R. L. Stein (I love the enthusiasm of my fourth grade boys.)
  9. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate (An important story behind the story.)
  10. Dave, the Potter, by Laban Carrick Hill (Beautiful story and beautiful art, a true story.)

My choices of my top ten list were varied, but most of the choices had a personal message, or a strong link to other activities at school, which allowed the books to translate more than just a story.

One of the best things about this list is that I have more choices that I would still like to add to it.


It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

This week I had the pleasure of picking up several packages at the Post Office. Three of them were my books which were written by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. We have been communicating through email, and hopefully soon, by Skype.

In class this week we read The Night the Bells Rang.


My students had high praise for the story, and had many interesting comments. We enjoyed a treat of ice cream with real maple syrup after reading the book. It was a fun activity to tie into reading and social studies, where we are studying the New England States.

I received a message back from Natalie, after sending her pictures of my kids with their ice cream treats.

“Oh, what great photos of the kids!  I would very much like to  meet them, and visit them.

The Night the Bells Rang is based on a true story also, about two real boys who lived in Derby Line, VT back in WWI.  I knew Mason as an old man, and he told me about this bully in town who had saved Mason’s Valentine for his mother when Mason had dropped it down on the ice.  The bully went on to the war and was killed.  The townspeople said, “Well, it’s too bad he was killed, but he never did a good thing his whole life,” and Mason told me, “I knew he had done one good thing.”  That’s when I knew I had to write the story.  I made Mason a little older in my story, and that he was carrying a picture he’d done for his father (not the Valentine).

And I’ve done sugaring (making maple syrup) every spring of my life.  It’s hard work, but I can’t imagine NOT doing it.”

Back to me….  While waiting for a few hours at the dentist’s office on Wednesday, I also read “The Bear That Heard Crying,” which was a true story about Natalie’s family. I really enjoyed it. A bear helped save a lost little girl.


Also, to my son’s embarrassment, I read “If Wishes Were Horses,” which is about two sisters, who of course fight as sisters will do. It made me laugh, and of course, before it was over, it made me cry. The historical nature of Natalie’s writing is very enjoyable.
It has been very enjoyable reading something that ties in with many other things we are studying. It’s also very interesting to realize that authors are just normal people, who spend part of their time writing. I would love to be at that point. I used to do a lot of writing at our local newspaper, and I miss having time and a purpose for writing. I have many artistic endeavors that have been put aside in order to be back to teaching now.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

“Greetings, greetings, fellow stargazers.”

My hours of reading this week have been concentrated on the Literature Class required reading for my students. From the Treasures Series I have been reading about Pipiolo and the Roof Dogs, with my fifth grade, along with the upcoming story of Shilo. Fourth grade has been reading about Mighty Casey, and studying run-on sentences. It is all so exciting. This week we will concentrate on plurals. Yes, the exciting world of plurals.

Sixth grade has been studying Tio Lolo, and will be going on to the story about a Pomegranate. Seventh grade has been concentrating on informational text, and has been writing feature stories about happenings at our school.

I’m afraid I can’t give too many details on the stories mentioned. I did not haul all my books home this weekend. Suffice to say that I’m trying to stay ahead of my students enough to be able to challenge their reading skills.

Now for the FUN part! My fourth and fifth grades are studying the New England states. They are busy exploring many interesting facts about the states, along with preparing for a Skype visit from the author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, who lives in rural Vermont. The students are so excited!

I ordered three of her books, which feature life in Vermont, for adding to our class reading. The first to arrive is “The Night the Bells Rang.”


It combines the challenge of a bully, the details of daily life in rural Vermont, and the stress of a country at war.

The story is very nicely written, with many details of country life, especially the process of making maple syrup. We will enjoy it as our read aloud book on Monday and Tuesday. The book also includes many lessons of kindness.

I bought a jug of pure maple syrup at the grocery store tonight, to share with my kids. I have never considered buying it before now, but will NEVER buy any other kind again. I’m hoping to try some maple snow candy.

I’m hoping this will be a wonderful memory for my kids. That’s the best part of teaching.


Mock Caldecott Awards

I enjoyed reading the details of how the program was conducted. If I were to do it, it would certainly be helpful to already have a plan laid out. The biggest challenge for me is the fact that I am still learning about the materials that I am using for just our basic classroom work, and the extra projects need to be very simple. My time for more organizing and having the extra energy just isn’t always there. I can see us doing this next year, but I honestly don’t think it will be on the list for this year.

We are doing some interesting projects involving reading in our language classes, science, and also social studies classes. I have been in touch with the author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, who is from Vermont. She was helpful in my finding the book from my own childhood, which has a similar name to a book she wrote, “Nora’s Ark.”

We are planning a Skype-session to visit with Mrs. Warnock. She has sent emails to my class and has answered many questions for my kids. Most importantly….. how many horses do you have?!

I have ordered three of her books, which we will start reading on Monday in class. The first to arrive was “The Night the Bells Rang.” It is set in Vermont in the era of World War 2. It is very good. More details in the Monday post!

I am seeing a trend in my own students in the way they choose their own books to read. A recommendation from a friend is the biggest factor. When one book is finished, someone else is always waiting in line to read the same book.

We are also gaining strides in the opposite end of the reading spectrum…. the writing process! Our Christmas program is in full swing, and is a play which was written by two students. Each year they write a brief script, and choose the play that will be completed. It was an interesting process to watch.

My seventh grade girls are also starting to write a newsletter, with the sixth grade boys asking if they can write articles, too. As a former newspaper writer, it’s one of my favorite projects.

For now, I will look forward to reading the other blogs about creating a mock award, but will need to put mine on hold until next year.



Yikes, Skypes, Beechnut Gum!

Ok, you’ll have to be old to remember that headline…… anyone care to admit?

I think Skying in the classroom is a natural extension of our current technology uses.

I have made two outreaches for Skype visits; one with a friend on the west coast who is an illustrator; and one with an author who lives in New England.

My biggest challenge is getting all the details together to actually get the project done. In the middle of plans for teaching all subjects, the extra things sometimes slip away, and the time is lost.

I really do need time for being mom, too. And a little bit of sleep now and then.

BUT, we are approaching our New England section of Social Studies, and it would be a great time to introduce our books by the author from Maine. I think I need to “make a plan.”

On another note, similar to Skyping, our class has watched many live feeds in our science units. Not long ago we logged on to a site which featured a research submarine and remote diving unit that was doing experiments at the bottom of the ocean. The crew invited watchers to send questions.

One of my fifth grade boys sent a question to them, and about five minutes later, the person at the microphone said “Ryan, from Nebraska, wants to know………” Wow! Our whole room just lit up with excitement!

If you are building readers, scientists, artists, whatever your students may become, using technology to bring other worlds to the classroom is essential to their being excited about learning.