Monday, February 6, 2017

Exploring Polar Bears: A Cross-Curricular Unit

It’s time to meet our polar bears!
We have created a unit for any classroom from kindergarten to second grade. We have graphic organizers, prompts, and paper to enrich your students’ writing. There are a variety of math activities including measurement, estimation, computation, and lots of skip counting! We offer map, menu, and research project ideas to foster creative science and social studies skills. Best of all, we end our unit with a game, a craft, and a snowy snack recipe. Polar bears are currently a threatened species. One of our best defenses against animal extinction is to bring awareness to the students we teach. Our unit can help facilitate productive conversations, as well as provide you with effective activities to build upon basic abilities. Check it out at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

From Here to There: A Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to Sue Fliess! FROM HERE TO THERE hits stores today!
Our students are going to love this best friend, pen pal story.

Read more about the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Journal groups

Throughout the year, our students do many journal entries. From math to language arts, they speak their minds, demonstrate their knowledge, and extend on our ever-changing curriculum. Their favorite part of journal writing is getting to share with the class. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time in the day to share every entry every time. Journal groups are an easy and student-centered alternative.

The students have access to both the Journal Group Rules and Kind Words You Can Use mini-posters that we created. The students or the teacher can make the groups. They should be flexible, changing often. When we choose to make our groups, we make sure they are heterogeneous to reinforce acceptance and appreciation of various levels and abilities. These groups can meet while the teacher is conducting reading groups, during center times, or any other available time. The students love sharing, being heard, and hearing their classmates’ ideas.

Monday, August 1, 2016

We Love List Books!

Begin this activity by reading the book, Wallace’s Lists by Barbara Bottner and Gerald Kruglik. Make list books for each student using our template (Word or PDF).

The books will be half-sized, and vertical, with staples on the left side. Print a copy of our list book ideas and choose one topic each day so your students can create their own lists. If you want to share but don’t have much time, ask students to put a star next to their favorite item on the list of the day, and share only their favorites. Older students can keep their own copy of the list book ideas and choose which lists they’d like to write each day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Official Scientist Badges

Our students really enjoy science projects. As teachers, we try to create multiple opportunities for conducting experiments in the classroom. After completing whole group instruction or sample experiments, it’s great to follow-up with independent or small group activities. Throughout the year whenever students are making observations, collecting data, suggesting hypotheses, etc., we tell our students that they are scientists. Sometimes to help our students really feel like scientists we give them these badges to wear.

We print these on cardstock and insert them in plastic badge holders (with clips). This allows for extra durability and longevity. They clip the badges on at the start of each experiment and return them to our basket at the conclusion of each experiment. If you are using these at a center or small group, it is fun to add goggles, lab coats and clipboards too! Our students look forward to feeling official and important!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Robots and Fairies and Cars, Oh My! An Interview with Sue Fliess

Looking for a great author study or a new selection of children’s books for your young ones? We have just the solution: Sue Fliess! This talented writer has books about bugs, cars, ballerinas, robots, and more! In a recent interview, we found out all about Sue and the books she has written. Check it out!

How long have you been an author? 
I’ve been a children’s book author since 2009, when I sold my first book, Shoes for Me! Before that, I authored many parenting articles for a company called, and wrote for a travel company called TravelMuse, and a few other online publications.

What made you want to become an author?
It was never this lifelong dream of mine. I always loved writing, and it was really more of an outlet. Sure, I thought publishing something one day would be exciting, but I didn’t set my sights on being an author until I started taking classes to see what writing for children was all about. I had a few stories I was writing, but I didn’t really know how to go about submitting them. I attended conferences and workshops, paid for critiques and joined a writing group and SCBWI. I began to get feedback from industry professionals that I had the talent to get published. That’s when it became a mission!

Tell us about your first book.
Shoes for Me! is the story of a hippo who, upon realizing her feet have grown and she needs new shoes, gets to go on a shoe-shopping outing with her mom.

          Feet got bigger, heel to toe.
          Time for new shoes. Off we go!

She’s a big girl now, so her mom lets her pick out the pair she wants (within reason, of course):

          Shiny zigzags—these are nice.
          Mom says, “No, not at that price!”

After trying nearly every shoe style in the store, she finally finds the perfect pair. This story was rejected nearly 25 times before finding the perfect editor! Whew!

Oh my! We know authors get rejected a lot. What do you do when you get rejected?
I’ve received so many rejections it actually hardly fazes me anymore. Except when I know in my heart ‘this manuscript would be perfect for this editor/publishing house’ and then having to face that it wasn’t. I have a few manuscripts that I still love so much and can’t understand why nobody wants them. But I don’t fall into the pity party thing. I accept it and move on to the new project I’m working on. If I dwelled on every rejection, I wouldn’t have written much by now.

Can you tell us anything about what you are working on now?
I am working on a chapter book, a fractured fairytale, and I’m revisiting a story about a cow that I started almost 7 years ago, for which I am (still) trying to find the right ending!

Where do you get your ideas for books?

This is always so tough to answer because my answer sounds so ‘woo-woo.’ Of course I read a lot of children’s books and news stories, but I’ve also trained myself to be almost hyper-aware of my surroundings. Everything is a possible story. I like playing the “What if?” game and putting everyday things into compromising situations. Just the other day I got an idea for a story when I observed something while I was watering the flowers in my backyard.

Which one of your books is your favorite? 
That’s like choosing my favorite child. I love all of my books because each has a unique backstory. Probably the one that was the most fun to work on, which just recently published, was A Fairy Friend, because I got to research fairies and miniature worlds, and magic. I got to spend time on Pinterest for this book! Writing that story did not feel like work—the whole manuscript flew out onto the page. It was pure joy. And my editor only needed one tiny edit, which was also quite magical!

You have a lot of books written in rhyme. What is it about rhyme that you like so much?
Rhyming comes naturally to me, and I think it may be because I have a musical background. I played instruments, sang in choirs, got singing roles in musicals, and in general love singing and music. Rhyming books are basically songs on a page. And if you lived with me, you’d know I often break out into song at a moment’s notice. My family loves that.

What’s the hardest part about writing?
Discipline for sure. And because I mostly write from my house, it’s easy to use household appointments (garage door repair, A/C inspection, etc.) as a valid excuse for why no writing got done on a given day. When I start to get into one of those cycles, I try to round up some other writers to go to a local writing spot, or I just go there alone, to focus on writing, and not the fact that my dog may need a walk.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
My family likes to go explore our region on the weekends. Parks, wineries, museums, new restaurants. We love entertaining, and hanging out with friends. That is, if we’re not taking turns driving our kids to sports practices. We put in a porch and pool last year and this is the first summer we are enjoying it—so that may be where you find me when I’m not writing this summer.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an author too?
Find/join a writing group to get feedback on your work from other writers. For children’s books, join SCBWI. For adult books, there are other organizations, but join one. Attend conferences. Learn about the industry. Hone your skills by writing as much as you can, or taking classes to practice and try new strategies. Read. Network. Write, write, write! Only when you think you have your best work ready, submit it. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. There will be rejection—it’s part of the process. Embrace it—it means you’re working. It only takes one yes.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Bite #6- Surf’s Up

Have you ever met a reluctant reader? Someone who always wants to play rather than read a good book? There is a character just like that in Surf’s Up, a new book by Kwame Alexander and Daniel Miyares.

Bro and Dude’s adventure perfectly illustrates the power a good book can hold over a reader. It’s also a fantastic model of how to use a cliffhanger. Check out our Book Bite for ten ways to use Surf’s Up to jumpstart social studies, science, writing and engineering activities!