Category Archives: Reading Strategies

Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Schema: What do people say to those who talk and yell often? Can being loud be a good thing? Think of someone who is loud.

Text-to-Self Connection: Can you think of a time when you’ve been told to quiet down?

Text-to-Text Connection: Where the Wild Things Are by Tomie DePaola

First, second, and third graders will identify with and laugh throughout this tall tale about a little boy who is too loud at school, at the movies, while fishing, and even at the town fair until a tornado approaches. Holler is able to yell the tornado into another direction.

Synthesis: Can you think of another situation where being loud would be an asset?

How Tall was a T. Rex? by Alison Limentani

Schema: large animals, think of the largest animal the reader has ever seen, and giraffes

Text-to-Self Connections: Can you think of other books that contain facts? Can you think of fiction books about dinosaurs? This one is a nonfiction one.

This book is all about measurement by comparison. The measurements are based on the skeletons that were discovered of Sue, Thomas, and Stan, real dinosaurs. Baseballs are compared with the eyes, bananas with teeth, and other familiar animals for other comparisons. Students will have a good idea of the size of a T Rex after reading this informative book.

Hoot Owl Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor

Schema: Costumes, camouflage, owls, books where characters are disguised

Text-to-Self-Connections: being sneaky, owls

Text-to-Text Connections: Twig by Aura Parker

Predicting: Repetitive phrases will entertain young readers. “It doesn’t work,” is repeated after each attempt by the owl.

This is a humorous and entertaining book for readers of all ages, but young primary students will love the suspense and repetition the most. The illustrations by Jean Jullien are animated will hold the attention of the youngest of readers.

Compare and Contrast: Find a nonfiction book about owls and pair it with this one for a discussion about what a real owl versus Hoot Owl would do.

Hooray for Books! by Brian Won

Schema: Think about your favorite book. What would you do if you couldn’t find it? Where would you look? Could you have let someone else read it?

Text-to-Self Connections: Favorite book, loaning books to friends, books you would not loan

Synthesis: What would be your pet’s favorite book? Why would your pet like it? What book would you feel sad about if you lost it? What makes the title of Turtle’s favorite book, Friends,  important to the story?

Text-to-Text Connections: Check out all the other books mentioned in the book. The titles and authors are listed on the end papers.

This is such a perfect book for preschool and primary read alouds. Simple illustrations, simple story, and lovely animals.

Max Goes to Jupiter: A Science Adventure with Max the Dog by Jeffrey Bennett

Schema: space, rockets, explorers

Text-to-Self Connections: Studying the solar system

While looking for a good intermediate level read for 5th and 6th graders or a realistic fiction read aloud for 2nd and 3rd grade, I found this book about Max, a dog, who goes into an exploration of Jupiter and its moons. The story is for the younger and the “big kid” fact boxes share nonfiction information that will capture the interest of older young learners.

The captivating full color illustrations on glossy, large pages enhance the enjoyment of reading and sharing this book.

The series, Big Kid Science books aspire to educate, make connections with readers’ lives, and inspire further learning. Check out the website that accompanies the book.

Home by Adam Leitman Bailey

Schema: Think about what is a home. List some places that are homes to people, animals, and things.

Text-to-Self Connections: Visiting different homes such as relatives, friends, and neighbors

Theme: The author is sharing the message that home is where a person feels happy and loved as opposed to a particular place.

In this full color picture book, the main character, a small boy, feels discontented with his home and sets out to explore the world and the way others live.  He visits many places and tells what he does there. He doesn’t make any judgements about each place. Readers may see their own home in the book. Homes include a farm in a rural area, mobile homes, large homes with swimming pools, a bird’s nest, and an igloo.

Synthesis: Ask students what the author is telling them with this story. I think they will be able to synthesize the boy’s experience into their own schema and apply it to where they live and why it’s the best home for them.

Drawing Conclusions: The boy drew the conclusion that his best home is where he is loved. Each place he visited, he was alone. What was missing? His family was missing.

I recommend this as a read aloud for grades 2-5 for a discussion about homes.

 

Kindergarten Parent Tips for First Day of School

stop-crying-mom

Your baby is starting kindergarten or preschool. You’ve bought all the clothes, all the supplies, but what else can you do to make that transition into kindergarten a happy one for you and your child?

1. Visit the school before that first day of kindergarten and walk around the building with your child. Visit the cafeteria, the library, the gym, the office, and the playground. Come to the playground several times just for fun before that first day.
2. Read books aloud to your child and show them how to sit on the floor with their feet and hands to themselves while listening like kids do in kindergarten.
3. Write your child’s name inside their lunch box, backpack, and when it gets cold, their coats. At the end of the school year, the school will have about one hundred coats with no name and usually give them to the Salvation Army because the kids don’t remember they have lost them. Kindergarten kids need help keeping up with their coats.
4. Talk about how to eat breakfast and lunch, and how they will feel if they don’t eat it. It’s a long afternoon in kindergarten till 3:00 when you haven’t eaten. Get a school menu and talk about what food they will be serving each day so your baby will be ready to make those choices. When you visit the cafeteria tell them their class will all sit at one of the long tables by whoever they were behind in the line. The teacher will not stay with them during lunch, but will drop them off in the line, and then, after lunch, will be back to line them up. Make sure they know that they don’t need money to eat at school because you will have already paid for it or make arrangements. Some kindergarten students may worry about eating if they don’t know their food has been prepaid.
5. Talk about how to walk in a line, keep their hands to themselves, and to wait to talk until they get back in the room. Tell you child that kindergarten kids have to listen in the hall so that they know where to go.
6. Talk about how your kindergarten child will feel if one of the other kids is crying for their momma. Some kids really lose it and scream at the top of their lungs. It is an incredibly stressful thing to see. I feel so sorry for them. If you think this might be your child, try to comfort them ahead of time about how at the end of the day you or someone they know will be there to take them home.
7. Above all, do not cry in front of your kindergartener. They will sense fear and uncertainty that will make it very hard for them to cope without you, and it will set a pattern that may take weeks to overcome. During the week before school, teachers will be about decorating their rooms. If you feel your child may have a hard time being left, try to meet with your teacher before school starts. Many schools have a night to meet the teacher and see the room before school starts. Look on your school’s website to see when this is and don’t miss it. If you can go to the room, practice having your child stay in the room and wave bye to you as you leave. Then pop right back in and tell them that’s what the first day will be like.
8. Update your child’s contacts so that someone can be reached if your child needs you. Remember to do this when anything changes during the year.
9. Fill out the paperwork to be a school volunteer. During the year there will be times when kindergarten parents are needed for field trips and book fairs. Plan to volunteer a few times to help your child’s teacher or to help the librarian. Your child will love seeing you at school and you will feel much more at ease by seeing how the school teachers and principal interact with children. The school workers will all know you and will remember your child’s name and speak to them more often in passing.
10. Make it a best practice to never say anything negative about the school, other students, the teacher, or principal in hearing range of your child. This practice will help your child to see school as a safe and happy place. Make appointments to visit with your child’s teacher to make sure any misunderstandings can be corrected as soon as possible.

 Now What?

Keep your phone nearby, and get ready for tomorrow! Make a routine each night to be ready for school the next morning.

When you see your child after school or daycare take time to talk with them about their day. Ask them to show you their take home folders and look for notes or papers that have been sent home. Your kindergartener will be excited to tell you about their day. Be excited for their accomplishments!

For the second day of school, urge your kindergarten child to go in without you. Principals will be at the door directing the children to where they need to go.

It’s hard to let them go, but you can’t hold them back. You have to run into the future with your child, taking each step with them, then letting go and watching them run ahead into their future until the next new thing, when you will hold their hands again.

 

Old Wolf by Avi

Schema: hunting, playing video games
Text-to-text Connections: other books where the main characters are animals and the story is told from their point of view such as Charlotte’s Web.
Old Wolf, Nashoba, is challenged as pack leader to find food for his hungry pack.

Casey, a thirteen-year-old boy, loves his video game where he kills animals, and is so excited to receive a bow for his birthday.

The two characters’ stories run parallel to each other and converge at the end of the book.

Merla, a raven, is old like Nashoba, and tries to help him find a herd of elk, and ultimately gives her life to save him from Casey’s bow. When Casey sees that he hit Merla, it changes his way of thinking about killing. He is so changed that afterwards, he never played his animal kill game again. The reader concludes that his bow will be used as a sport in target shooting.

Avi tells the story in a very Zen fashion. Merla asks questions of Nashoba to get him to think about his goals. Merla tells Nashoba, “The bigger you think you are, the smaller you are.” p. 107 Then Nashoba shares with Merla, “There’s a old wolf expression: the smaller you think you are, the bigger you are.” p. 113 Both quotes would lend to an interesting expository paragraph assignment.

Characterization: Nashoba goes through such pain and pushes forward to serve his pack and to save his pride. We read that he is eight years old which is toward the end of his life expectancy. At the end, after he is helped by both Merla and Casey, he is able to push on and to accept what he is, an old wolf.

Theme: Respect life at all times and in all forms, both human and animal. The world is one and kindness can be found in the least likely places.

I enjoyed Avi’s book so much. The feelings that Nashoba feels are shared by leaders everywhere as our time to lead comes to an end.

Procedural or Functional Texts

Procedural texts inform the reader about how to do something. Sometimes it’s presented in a step-by-step format like how to make a recipe or put a toy together. The higher level procedural texts inform the reader about how to carry out goals such as how to begin a new career or learn or perfect a craft.

I often have teachers asking me for books to teach this skill. Here are a few that I have used that show the reader how to synthesize information from procedural or functional texts.

This one is good for kinder, first, and second and students will connect with learning to ride a bicycle.

Continue reading

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall


Schema: drama, acting out a play, crayons

The crayons were going to be in a picture book, but someone has scribbled in the book so the book has been canceled. Pencil is the narrator and the crayons encourage him to tell the reader about what happened. The book was about a mad scientist and his creation like Frankenstein. The crayons each had a part to play similar to a play. They had lines to remember. The three that made up Frankencrayon all practiced on their entrance. Suddenly the lights go out and a red scribble is seen on the next pages. It’s so horrible that the book is canceled.

This book is funny and creative. It can be used to teach drama elements, but also, it is a great example of how to care for books. The crayons try to erase the scribble by scribbling over the red, but only make more scribbles. The stage hand crayons are the ones that are trying to fix the scribbling.

The book characters find some notes taped in the book that say the book has been canceled because of the scribbling and because one of the characters is not in the story any longer. The pencil explains that he dropped the character of the mad scientist from the book because he was hard to get along with. Who could be scribbling and writing these notes in red crayon?

At the end, there’s other note. Students can conclude that the notes were written by the red crayon who was the one who was supposed to be the mad scientist.