Monday, December 22, 2014

The Tree of Water

If you've been looking for a spellbinding read-aloud for your class that will have them on the edge of their seats again and again throughout the book, then look no further than The Tree of Water.  You will lose yourself in the believable underwater world the author has created.  The main characters are Ven-a human-like Nain, Char-a human boy, and a merrow-as mermaids are called in the depths.  


This is the fourth volume in Elizabeth Haydon's fantasy series, The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.  Readers of upper elementary level and above will find themselves holding their breath often to see if the trio survives the latest danger they face. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Clifford Says Goodbye

Clifford the Big Red Dog's creation in 1963 by  Norman Bridwell began a half century relationship. That ended Friday with the death of the beloved illustrator and author.

He had been at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital for three weeks following a fall and had other ailments, as well as cancer.  Mr. Bridwell passed away surrounded by his family.  He is survived by his wife of 56 years, his daughter (who was the inspiration for Emily Elizabeth), his son, and three grandchildren.

                                      Norman Bridwell                                    2/15/1928 - 12/12/2014

Norman Bridwell, Clifford the Big Red Dog, 2011.jpg
Bridwell in 2011, holding a copy of the first Clifford the Big Red Dog book.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Moment on Math


Following are some snippets about math I've gleaned from various places on the Internet.  Leave a comment below to add one of your best math procedures or ideas.  

 Oregon teacher, Jane Osborne, uses this game to work with her students to develop understanding of number bonds.  "I ended up taking three hula hoops one year to add in a more kinesthetic approach.  I took 10 students at a time and rolled the dice. 4 of them moved into one hula hoop and the other 6 crowded into the other. Then we got back together as a group of 10, I rolled the dice again, and we split into two pairs again. It really took 4 rounds of this moving in variations of 10 before many of them finally got it. But it sure did pay off in future lessons!"

The National Research Council book, Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics defines procedural fluency as the "knowledge of procedures, knowledge of when and how to use them appropriately, and skill in performing them flexibly, accurately, and efficiently."  Students need to know their math facts and to think in order to apply appropriate procedures when solving math problems.

On the subject of timed math facts tests:  "Do not subject any student to fact drills unless the student has developed an efficient strategy for the fats included in the drill...Drill prior to development of efficient methods is simply a waste of precious instructional time," (Van DeWalle, John A. Elementary and Middle School Math).


Number sense plays a critical role in a student's math development and especially with their success with higher-level mathematics.  Is it really that big a deal?  Consider this.  "Lack of number sense has led to more catastrophic errors, such as the Hubble Telescope missing the stars it was intended to photograph in space. The telescope was looking for stars in a certain cluster but failed due to someone making an arithmetic error in the programming of the telescope" (LA Times, 1990). 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Best of Two Worlds

This graphic combines two of my loves, children's books and Young Living Essential Oils.  If you would like more information on this marvelous oil, click here and scroll down this page.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Giants in the Land: The Prodigals

The second book in author Clark Rich Burbidge's series, Giants in the Land, is a slam dunk.  The Prodigals is one of those flashlight-under-the-covers kind of books you can't put down.  The characters are tested and grow with each crisis they face and come to understand just what it means to become a giant.  You are compelled to keep reading to find out who survives.  I highly recommend this book as a family read-aloud and a springboard for some rich discussions.     

Friday, October 10, 2014

Inside Recess

What do your students do if it is raining during recess?  If your students stay in the classroom and play games and such, here's an idea for a different activity.


It's such a shame paper dolls fell out of fashion.  They provide a quiet, pleasant pastime and great fine motor development.  Plenty of imagination can come into play as the dolls become characters in stories.


I thought this was a clever idea to use the child's picture for the head.


The age span is wider than you think for this kind of activity.  Prek-kinder will do better with precut paper dolls on cardstock weight paper.  Magnetic paper dolls are another genre of paper dolls good for PreK through early grades.  They can be stored in a metal gift card tin.  See the tutorial here.  

As children become more skilled with scissors, they can cut out their own dolls and clothes.  Below is a set of Archie comic book character paper dolls.  I can remember my girl friend and I enjoyed designing clothes for teen paper dolls like the ones below.

Where I am today, it's a rainy, paper doll kind of day.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Giants in the Land: The Way of Things

Did you have giants in your life who trained you, encouraged you?  As you matured and gained skills in various area, did you notice those giants retreated as you stepped forward in your life?  That is the way of things.


Author Clark Burbidge weaves a tale of long ago in which an unlikely hero learns much about himself as he struggles to overcome his fears and doubts to accomplish a task much bigger than himself.  Thomas is the only volunteer for a dangerous quest to save his village and bring back the giants who had always helped them.  Unsure of whether he will even survive the arduous journey, Thomas comes to learn much about himself and life in general.


If you're looking for that special birthday or Christmas gift that will engage and inspire, this is it.  This is a good, clean (rated G) read with plenty of adventure.  Young people, especially boys from 5th grade on, can relate to the life lessons Thomas learns.  You'll enjoy reading it yourself before you give it away! 

Giants in the Land is a two-book series.  I've tempted you a bit with the review above of the first book, The Way of Things.  As soon as I read the second volume, The Prodigals, I'll tell you about it as well. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Dark and Stormy Night

This is the earliest known manuscripts of Key's song.

       A storm raged over Baltimore Harbor in Chesapeake Bay 200 years ago this weekend.  It was a rain-wrapped bombardment of Fort McHenry by British naval forces.  

     On board the British ship, HMS Tonnant, a lawyer called Frank by his friends and the British Prisoner Exchange Agent, Colonel Skinner were trying to arrange the release of some American prisoners.  However, the British refused to allow them to return to their own ship as they had overheard some of the strategies being discussed and know the positions of the enemy.

     Frances Scott Key didn't believe in the war his fledgling nation had declared on Britain.  It was looking very bleak for America as the British had already burned most of the federal buildings in Washington, including the White House, and now were attacking Baltimore.  He was trapped aboard an enemy ship, watching what he assumed to be the demise of his country and hearing bombs exploding all through the night.

     As the skies barely began to lighten on the morning of September 14, 1812, he could just make out a flag flying over the fort--an American flag.  The American victory saved Baltimore from a British takeover and spelling the beginning of the end for them as well.

     Not long after his harrowing experience, Key was inspired to write about it set to the tune of a popular song of the day and entitled, "Defense of Fort McHenry."  It was quickly published in the local newspaper.  

     However, it was not until 1931 that Herbert Hoover signed legislation to make "The Star-Spangled Banner," as it came to be called, our national anthem.  Generally, only the first verse is sung, but Key wrote four verses, each ending with the words
"O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

Fort McHenry's flag is on display at the National Museum of American History.  Read more about it here.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Did you know water is an important tool in your kit of excellent teaching ideas?  If you hadn't thought about it before, consider the following facts.

Water is a vital source of energy in the body.

Dehydration causes the enzyme activity in the body to slow down, causing fatigue.

When dehydrated, the blood thickens, the blood flow slows, and blood pressure increases.

Dehydration causes the body to produce more cholesterol as the body tries to prevent water loss from its cells.

  Toxins and acid waste in urine intensifies due to dehydration, thus creating the perfect environment in the bladder and kidneys for inflammation, infection, and pain.

  Lack of proper hydration impairs focus, as well as long- and short-term memory functions.

  Dehydration can exacerbate allergies and asthma.

  The normal bodily function of excreting toxins through the skin is impaired by dehydration, and makes the skin more susceptible to all types of skin disorders, including premature wrinkling and discoloration.

Encourage your students to drink water as well.

New guidelines tell us women should drink 91 ounces per day, and men should ingest 125 ounces per day.

About 80% of liquid intake should be water and other beverages, while 20% of our liquids should come from foods.

Drink a glass of water upon rising and before retiring each day.

Avoid drinking 30 minutes before until 30 minutes after each meal to avoid washing away enzymes in your mouth and digestive acids in your stomach.

Switching out just one can of regular soda with an 8 oz. glass of water daily saves you 35 grams of sugar and 140 calories.  

Adding 1-2 drops of Young Living Lemon essential oil to your water gives it a refreshing taste and serves to support your immune system.  However, be sure to use a glass or stainless steel container.  The oil draws petrochemicals out of plastic or styrofoam containers, and you don't want to drink this.  I only recommend Young Living essential oils for ingesting because of their purity levels.

Add 4-5 drops or more to taste of your favorite Young Living citrus oil and some stevia to your water for a delicious "ade."