Monday, February 28, 2011

Reader's Bill of Rights

Scholastic is celebrating it's 90th anniversary with a global literacy initiative called "Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life."  

The campaign features a Reading Bill of Rights, which includes eight "beliefs" that affirm every child's right to read and what that means in the 21st century-from access to books and great stories to the ability to understand information. More info found HERE

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Museum Mural

On national public radio, there was a piece of news that caught my attention.  Two years before Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was published in 1961, he illustrated on a bedroom wall, a mural of a parade seen above which has recently been donated to a museum.  Apparently the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philidelphia has a whole Sendak collection seen HERE.  I wanna go!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Leprechaun Trap Ideas

When I was a student teacher years ago in a third grade classroom, my mentor teacher had a little fun with the kids on St. Patricks Day.  They came in the morning to find tiny green footprints all over the room and their desks (a sponge shaped like a foot dipped in green paint) and green jolly ranchers tossed about the room to collect.  They were sure that a visitor had been there the night before.  That wasn't all though.  She had a male friend with a very high tenor voice who recorded on a cassette tape after about 2 hours of blank white noise...different sayings like, "Hey, let me out of here!"  "Who locked me in?"  "Help, someone.  I'm stuck!" etc.  She placed the tape and a tape recorder in a nearby locked cupboard at high volume and went about the day.  We were in reading groups when the recording of the voice kicked in and the kids all freaked out.  We made a big show of now being able to find the key.  It was very fun!

Which is why when I came across these ideas found below I flashbacked to my St. Patty's day experience.  Check out some of these ideas!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cursive Creations

I can remember being in third grade and focusing hard to learn the capital and lower case letters in the new and exciting world of CURSIVE.  Then in fourth grade I was comfortable enough to decide to make my print more rounded and to heart my I's instead of dotting them.  In fifth, I chose to not do the capital Z, T and F the way they were supposed to be and just make up my own version of how I thought they looked better.  Overall, I found great comfort and freedom in cursive.  It was faster, prettier and I would practice it slowly till I liked how it looked.  I was proud of my finished work.  

As an adult I even practiced my new signature before getting married and decided that Flory looked weird with the traditional cursive F and so I changed it to a cursive L with a line through it.  I know.  You're jealous that I'm so cool! :)

My son in third grade comes home with stories everyday of cursive and which letters he's on, which are the easiest and hardest and proudly displays his final drafts in cursive on the fridge.  To a third grader, it's a step up in elementary culture to one of sophistication.  Which is why this article caught my eye as I scanned the online news in education.  Do any of you readers out there have a special connection to penmanship or cursive handwriting?  I know I can't be the only one out there that cares!

"There are no tests for cursive handwriting and today it is taught primarily only in the third grade. In many schools less than one hour a week is spent teaching handwriting. Young teachers graduating today may not know how to write in cursive. Is learning cursive handwriting which was once at the core of education curriculum no longer relevant to America’s students? Cursive handwriting is important because research shows that when children are taught how to do it, they are also being taught how to learn and how to express themselves. Is it a coincidence that as cursive handwriting has gone down illiteracy has gone up? 

Experts agree that handwriting instruction is at the core of excellence in education. “When we teach handwriting, we are sending a message to students that we value legibility, attention to detail, neatness, correctness and excellence,” says, Regie Routman, author of Literacy at the Crossroads: Crucial Talk about Reading, Writing, and Other Teaching Dilemmas. The skill of handwriting involves both mental and physical processes. Those who study handwriting contend that the handwriting process offers powerful advantages to children and that time spent on handwriting development improves student’s abilities across the curriculum. Ignoring handwriting has been shown to retard fine motor coordination and produce less detail-oriented students. Could the improvement in handwriting performance contribute in any way to improvement in the learning process itself?

Neuroscientists are now studying how striking a key and handwriting letters differ in their impact on the brain. Some children are being taught keyboarding as early as Kindergarten. Dr. Frank Wilson, a neuroscientist and author of the book The Hand, How its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture, has said that this is too early and we must be careful and wait for the research to tell us that this is the right course of action. In a lecture he presented at the Institute for Development of Educational Activities (IDEA) Los Angeles he asked a noteworthy question regarding computers and the internet in the education of children. “Are there risks we cannot see? Is it possible that we could for the first time in history produce a whole generation of kids who are-how to say this- perceptually recalibrated or imaginatively diverted in some unforeseen way?” 

We have developed faster ways to communicate and can now communicate quickly with people all over the world. We have also become more disconnected from real human contact. People enjoy receiving a handwritten letter or note because it is more personal. We sense that not only the words, but some intrinsic part of the person who wrote it is there on the paper."  

Article found HERE

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Publisher Anyone?

Wondering what publishing houses are out there and what their submission guidelines are?  Here's a great comprehensive list found at:

Friday, February 18, 2011


Have you ever heard of this website...

I've seen quite a few speeches on it over the years.  It is basically a conference where some of the brightest minds come and share ideas.  This years conferences are sold out already in Palm Spring, CA and Los Angeles, CA but there are still openings for the global conference in Scotland in July.  I like to just watch them online.

Some of the speeches I really like are:

Sir Ken Robinson "Schools are killing Creativity"  2010

Sir Ken Robinson "Bring on the Revolution"  2009

Dean Kamen previews a new prosthetic arm 2007

Jamie Oliver's Teach Every Child About Food 2010

Hans Rosling "Global Population Growth" 2010

Hans Rosling "Best Stats"  2006

Hans Rosling "Let My DataSet Change your Mindset"

JK Rowling "Fringe Benefits of Failure" 2008

There are hundreds of varied topics and lot's of interesting ideas exchanged.  When you get an extra 20 minutes in your day, type in a keyword you are interested in like education and see what speeches pop up and grab your attention.  They are wonderful dinner party conversations and I always feel "smarter" after watching them.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Author Matthew Kirby Interview

I'd like to welcome another author friend from my old college days, Matthew Kirby.  I am so happy for his success.  Check out his blog and website to find out the other projects he's got in the works!

Tell me about your book and what types of readers would relate to it.

THE CLOCKWORK THREE is an adventure story with hints of mystery, history, and fantasy.  It tells the story of three children during the late 19th century whose lives are brought together by an enchanted violin, a hidden treasure, and a clockwork man that comes to life.  I wrote it for middle grade readers (ages 8 to 12) but I've had teens and adults tell me they enjoyed it as well.  I tried to include a little something for everyone.

Do you feel that educators make the best authors?  Why or why not?

Interesting question.  I haven't ever stopped to think about that.  I certainly don't think being an educator hurts!  But I don't know that being an educator is a guarantee, either.  I know amazing writers who are educators, and equally amazing writers who aren't, so it's hard for me to say that educators make the best authors.  An advantage educators might have is an awareness of what resonates with kids today, and what gaps might exist in the market, just waiting for the right story to fill them in.  That kind of thing.

What has surprised you about the publishing world?

People often ask me how it feels to be a published author.  Before being published, it's a question I might also have asked, and I would have assumed that it would feel different somehow.  But surprisingly, I feel about the same now as I did before I got published.  Of course, I feel very grateful, and surprised, and amazed, but I also still have the same fears and insecurities about my writing that I always have.  I wonder if the book I'm working on is good enough for my publisher and good enough for my readers.  I actually asked a lot of my writer friends if they experience the same thing, and all of them do.  The business of writing has changed for me since getting published, but the act and craft of writing really hasn't.

Which authors do you know well?  What's your favorite childrens books?

I'm lucky to know and be good friends with several authors here in Utah.  We have a thriving and incredibly supportive community of children's writers, and that's a wonderful thing.

As far as my favorite children's books, I really dislike this question, because it's simply impossible to choose.   I love so many!  The book that made me want to be a writer was Ursula K. Le Guin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA.  I read it when I was 12 or 13, and it was a magical, powerful experience, and I knew I wanted to do what Mrs. Le Guin was doing.

Describe your writing regime. 

During the school year when I'm working, I typically write from about 7 to 9 PM on weeknights.  Hopefully more on the weekends.  During the summer when school's not in session, I try and write a lot more, anywhere from four to eight hours a day.  I'm fortunate that I can write pretty much anywhere, as long as I have a laptop.  I wrote a pretty big chunk of my next book from a lawn chair in my back yard. 

Do you feel that using an agent is helpful rather than going the slush pile route?

In my experience, yes, an agent is extremely helpful.  They know the market, can keep track of who's acquiring what, and open lots of doors that might otherwise be closed to the aspiring writer.  For example, my editor was not someone I knew of or would have thought to submit to if I was trying to break in through the slush pile.  I have to admit she wasn't on my radar at all.  But my agent had met her and heard her speak about her tastes, and he knew she would like my book.  He was right, and she acquired THE CLOCKWORK THREE before she'd even had the manuscript for a week.  Her enthusiasm and support were and are invaluable to me, and we have since developed an amazing working relationship.  My book landed at the perfect home, and my agent is the one who found it.

What have you had to do to help market your book so far?

Well, in terms of social media, I blog.  I've done several book signings, and I go out and do school visits.  But mostly I've just made myself available and willing for whatever Scholastic has asked of me.  I'm very fortunate in that they have supported THE CLOCKWORK THREE with a book trailer, a website, and sending me to ALA and a few other events to promote the book.

Advice for teachers who want to be authors?

I think my advice would be mostly the same as for anyone who wants to be a writer.  Read everything you can.  Write regularly.  Submit.  And a good critique group is a wonderful thing if you can find one that works for you.  I think if I were to think of something unique to educators, it would be to treat your writing time as sacred.  Carve out whatever time you can, and guard it jealously.  I know first-hand how much time and energy the profession can take if we allow it to, but its important to find balance, even during the school year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

That's What I'm Talking About...

Please, I beg you.  Go see this website with the coolest rap songs that can be used for language arts.  My son did a dance number in school to the one entitled, Character, Setting and Plot all about the elements of fiction.  He knows it word for word and thinks it is very cool!  I agree.  I want every CD on this website!  If you played it in a classroom to supplement a lesson on verbs, grammar, poetry or whatever the topic is, the kids would "dig it."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Master Teacher Passes Away

I was very sad to see that a teacher that amazed me and was praised by the KIPP co-founders passed away last week.  She was known as a "rock star teacher."  I've shown video clips of her in many of my college courses.  She used rhythm, chant and rap to help teach math concepts.  I never got around to buying her CD, but I think I might.   Here is a link to an article about her.

Here's a link to a video of her teaching:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Books

My son has gotten "into" the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney.  I told him earlier this year about them and just knew he'd love the combination of comic/chapter book format of it.

I wanted to be able to talk about them with him, so he's been checking out of the classroom library and his borrowing from friends the books one at a time and passing it to me, and then I pass it to my husband.   Then we all laugh at the same inside jokes like the Cheese Touch, get annoyed at Rodrick the mean big brother, and worry about Manny the little brother.  I'm not sure if we'll see the movie or not, but we sure love the books!  They were originally submitted daily by Jeff Kinney on and then became published into books due to their popularity.

Here is the first one that my husband read in a day.

The one I finished in the bathtub last night.  

The third book none of us have read yet.

This is the one Carter got for Christmas.  

Book number four  and the one I'm going to read once Carter is done with it.

Here is the next one that will be released on November 9th, 2011.

On the authors official website there's a fun spot to "wimp yourself"  found at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentines Day Classroom Activities

I'm in charge of the valentine's day party for my sons third grade room and unfortunately have to work that day and can't make it in person.  But I'm sending along six centers prepared for the other mom volunteers to help out with.  Here are direction cards for each center in case you want a few ideas.  

Activity #1
Decorating Valentine’s Cookies

Activity #2

Couples Match-Up
When your leader says “Go,” you will match as many pairs or “couples” as you can.  If the whole table can match them within 2 minutes, you get to choose a valentine candy.   Once, they are matched, mix them up and play again to beat your time.
Activity #3
Candy Rings

How to make it:
  1. Wrap half a pipe cleaner around the child's finger, and then slide it off. 
  2. Take the end of the pipe cleaner and wrap it around the circle to secure the ring. 
  3. Place a wrapped candy on the table and add some white craft glue.
  4. Place the ring in top of the glue and let dry.  (It might need to dry for a while at their desk.) 
  5. Each child can make as many as they’d like.
                                      Activity #4
Codes and Crosswords

Solve the cryptogram using the ABC Code.  Then complete the crossword puzzle to earn a prize from the Valentine’s bucket.
Activity #5
Valentine’s Wreath

How to make it:
  1. Cut out all the hearts.  Using markers, crayons, or paint pens, write conversation   
candy phrases on the hearts such as "LOVE", "HUBBA HUBBA", "SWEET", "LOVE", "BE MINE", "KISS" and "PAL". 
  1. Arrange your hearts on top of the cardboard wreath shape without gluing them down. Once you have them where you want them, use the glue stick to attach each one.
3.  You can hang the wreath as is or attach a piece of ribbon.

Activity #6
Riddles and Word Search

Using coins, scratch off to see the answers to the riddles, then complete the crossword puzzle to earn a valentine’s candy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Book Store with No Books

 I was very excited to see in a local magazine a new store opening of what looked like a book store.  We ventured out one saturday to check it out.  Ever hear of it?  It's got a cool name.  Blickenstaff's.  Well, there was one or two small shelves of board books but mostly educational toys and a variety of rare candies and things to play with.  It was a pretty cool store and the kids luckily had brought their allowances and chose one toy each.  The train on the ceiling was a favorite.