Sunday, November 4, 2018

Boring Sentence Repair Shop

How many times have you looked at your students’ sentences and thought, “These sentences are too short,” or “They don’t give any details?” We experience this quite often in first grade where we constantly see sentences such as, “I like ___” or “___ is nice.” BOR-ING! This is why we created the Boring Sentence Repair Shop.

Just like a car that needs repairing, our boring sentences can go in the shop in shambles and come out like new! The repair shop itself is simply a piece of poster board with a clip-art picture of a repair shop glued to it. Then the entire poster is laminated to last longer. The repair shop process works best when done as a whole group or in small groups. As a class, we brainstorm a simple sentence such as, “I like to eat cookies.” Then we write the boring sentence on a sentence strip and cut off the blank space left at the end to highlight how short it really is. We read it together, shout “BOR-ING!” and we get another strip. (Make sure it’s long!)

We start brainstorming ways to “repair” our sentence. For instance, we might ask, “What are some synonyms for like?” Then we choose or vote on one of those words. We ask questions relevant to our boring sentence topic. “Why do you like to eat cookies?” “What kind of cookies do you eat?” “What is a stronger or better word for ‘eat’?” “Where do you like to eat your cookies?” We go back and forth with ideas eventually settling on the best verbs, adjectives, and nouns we can conjure up. An example might be, “I adore devouring gooey, warm, chocolate chip cookies.” We write our repaired sentence on the long strip; sometimes we even have to tape two strips together.

Here comes the hokey part, but we swear they eat it up every time. We put the new sentence behind the repair shop poster board. Then we say something such as, “Let’s reread our boring sentence.” Afterwards, slide it behind the poster board. Then say, “So we repaired out boring sentence and now it’s ready.” Slide the new sentence out from the other side of the repair shop with a “Ta-da!” and read it together.

After reading, compare the two sentences by getting oral feedback from the students. Create a bulletin board to display your sentences no matter how often you do them. Make sure to organize them with a clear before and after connection. Then sit back, eat a gooey, warm, chocolate chip cookie, and watch the improvement on individual sentence writing.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Haunted Halloween- A Book Bite

Check out our latest Book Bite. We’ve taken HAUNTED HALLOWEEN, by Sue Fliess, and created activities for educators and parents. Download our ideas and have a spooktacular time!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Haunted Halloween with Sue Fliess

The poetically prolific author Sue Fliess has a new book just perfect for young Halloween lovers. We thought this would be the perfect time for another interview with her!

Since this is our second interview with you we are going to dive a little deeper into your life as a writer! What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as an author?
Once I was doing a reading at a bookstore, and when I was done and taking questions from the kids, this one 7-yr old boy asked me if I wrote the book. I said “Yes,” and he looked very puzzled. Then he said, “But, are you alive?” Turns out, he was under the impression that authors are usually dead. So, lucky me, I was the first ‘alive’ author he’d ever met!

Do you prefer to create your stories on paper or on the computer?
Well, actually, I create them in my head first! If they seem like they actually make sense, then depending on where I am, I either type them on my computer, or I might send myself an email with the idea or just jot it down on a small notebook I keep in my purse, for exactly that reason.

You have written two books about Halloween. Why?
I absolutely love Halloween! I own several wigs and costumes and usually go all out on Halloween with decorations. My first Halloween book, Goblin Hood was inspired by my son, who at the time, could not pronounce bow and arrow – he said ‘bone and arrow.’ I immediately asked the question: What type of creature would use that? My brain made a Robin Hood connection, and a creature/goblin character came to mind, and it just fit! For Haunted Halloween, which is my new board book, I wanted to write a very young Halloween story, and I remember trying to challenge myself to use as few words as possible. Believe it or not, I wrote it before I wrote Goblin Hood, which came out in 2016. Sometimes that’s just how it happens. I thought it would be fun to add a counting element to the story of 5 trick-or-treaters, and thankfully it worked!

We love your board book, HAUNTED HALLOWEEN. What’s your favorite page and why?
My favorite page is for the number 8. Eight gargoyles. Cauldron boils. I think I should get a ribbon for getting ‘gargoyle’ in a rhyming picture book, ha!

Tell us about one of your Halloween costumes from your childhood.
I was Casper, the friendly ghost and my sister was Minnie Mouse!

What’s your next book to be released?
My next book is already out, so I’ll tell you about both that one and the one coming in January. Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins (another holiday book!), illustrated by Mark Chambers and published by Amazon/Two Lions Press, came out September 18. It’s about Santa getting a sniffle and deciding to call off Christmas. But Mrs. Claus says she’ll take over the job for the night. It’s fun and funny, and the illustrations are adorable.

Santa says,
“I’m stuffy. I’m sneezy. I’m slow as a yeti.
My big ho-ho-ho isn’t holiday-ready.
We must cancel Christmas, oh what a disgrace.”

Mrs. Claus answers:
“I have a solution. I’ll go in your place!”

And in January, I have a rhyming picture book coming from Running Press Kids called Ninja Camp, illustrated by Jen Taylor. In Ninja Camp, a diverse group of girls and boys attend a ninja camp, where they hope to become Ninjas of the Night. As they learn new skills, they are challenged by the rival camp, Ninjas of the Dawn, and must defend their camp’s Shadow Blade. I’m happy to tell you that even though they lose the Shadow Blade briefly, they get it back and become official ninjas as a team.

Do you have a special snack or drink you like to have while writing?
Coffee. Oh, and coffee.

What are you working on right now?
I am working on two stories. A build-upon picture book based on a famous nursery rhyme, and a new—wait for it—holiday book that I’m under contract for that will be out fall of 2019.

How does your dog, Charlie, play a role in your daily writing routine?
He’s my rock. My support system. Okay, that’s not totally true. But he is my faithful housemate while I’m writing. Sometimes I will bounce ideas off of him, and he wags in approval. That said, he did inspire a book that I wrote earlier this year about a boy and his dog as they grow up together, that I’m really hoping will find the right home. It’s like nothing I’ve ever written before.

Out of all of your books, which one do you like the best? Why?
Oh, gosh, this is a tough question! Right now I have 2 favorites, but if you ask me next year, it will likely change: Mary Had a Little Lab and Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins. I think all the women-empowerment activity going on has catapulted them into the lead, and also inspired my writing.

Thank you so much for "hanging out" with us today!!!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Fun Ideas for Testing Time

We know what you’re thinking. How did Ann Marie and Erin ever think they could use the words “fun” and “testing” in the same sentence? Trust us, we have a plan. If you’re like us, you spend an overwhelming amount of time testing your students. Yes, there are standardized tests but what about other school system and state mandated tests, not to mention your own classroom assessments and screeners? Many times these tests must be given one-on-one; so what do you do with the rest of the students? We don’t want to distribute a bunch of worksheets to keep the students away from our testing area. Instead we came up with a list of ideas to keep our students challenged, entertained, and productively occupied.
Try some of these ideas and add your own. Testing occurs all year so grow your list until the last day of school. Then it will be time to make your own list for summer: Fun Ideas for Relaxing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tropical Tuesday

I came back from my vacation on a tropical island and really struggled to let go of the relaxed atmosphere. It was hard to say good-bye to the beach towels, tropical music, and don’t even get me started on the coconut and pineapple. I decided to bring that tropical feel to my classroom every Tuesday with Tropical Tuesday. I give my students permission to bring beach towels (or any towel) and sunglasses if they have them. I also provide towels, (I asked friends and colleagues for donations from their used beach and pool towels) and a couple of beach chairs.
On Tropical Tuesday, the students spread towels all over the room to work on, some wear sunglasses, we play relaxing beach music, and eat tropical snacks. We try food such as dried coconut, plantain chips, and pineapple. We even eat goldfish and mini Mounds candy bars. The students love the change of pace and I enjoy living the island life.

Ann Marie

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Aquarium Filler

I had an empty fish aquarium but didn’t want the hassle of keeping fish, so each week I’d pick a different animal to feature in the aquarium. And by animal I mean a stuffed animal or some other kind of toy. For example, I might put a plastic hermit crab inside. Then I’d add things you’d find in a hermit crab’s habitat: a sandy background (printed and taped to the back of the tank), empty shells, a water supply and maybe even some small pebbles. Outside of the aquarium I’d set up a basket full of books all about hermit crabs. With the exception of some great literature, I try to stick with nonfiction but it depends on my class and their unique interests. No matter what, they consistently love books that tell about wild animals or how to take care of pets (like hermit crabs). If changing your animal each week feels too overwhelming then change once or twice a month. You can turn your aquarium into a center and incorporate themed writing, math or science ideas too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Open a New Chapter Book

Sometimes when we start a new chapter book we like to surprise our students. First we cover the book in wrapping paper, bulletin board paper, or even newspaper comic strips. We set the wrapped book out for all to see and the suspense builds. Students make predictions about the book’s title and subject matter. Sometimes they want to pick the book up and feel it or even shake it! We have a big unveiling, or rather unwrapping, after allowing the students a full day of guessing. Ooohs and aaahs are certain to follow. Don’t forget to reuse or recycle the paper!