Saturday, February 16, 2019

Yes, Dragons Get Colds Too!

This book, DRAGONS GET COLDS TOO, is hot off the press, dragon breath and scales included. The hilarious Rebecca Roan has written an irresistible book full of laughs and tips for taking care of your sick dragon. The illustrations from Charles Santoso are eye-catching, and endearing. We’ve created some hands-on fun that will go right along with your copy of the book. Tip: Your dragon will not get well without this step-by-step advice!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Staff Motivators to Survive the Winter Doldrums

If you are an educator, then you already know that January and February are looooong months. Especially if you live in a region where you don’t get any snow (i.e. SNOW DAYS)! We’ve created some ways for you and your staff to escape the winter blues.
-Fill snack size baggies with mini-marshmallows and make sticker or paper labels that say “Snowman Poop,” “Marshmallow Kisses,” or “Cloud Fluff.” Pinterest has lots of label ideas! Place them in staff mailboxes when no one is around to see you!

-Decorate the staff bathrooms. Hang snowflakes (made by your students) and quotes about happiness and being inspired. Ask your students to give you some quotes of their own. (These usually get lots of laughs from staff members.)

-Sponsor a staff scarf exchange. Invite everyone to clean through their closet or drawers looking for that scarf (or scarves) they never wear anymore. Encourage everyone to wash the scarf before the exchange. Pick a day to bring in the scarves and display them on the table. Then go shopping for a new scarf! (Also, you get to keep a scarf for every scarf you bring in. If you bring in three scarves you take three!) You can also do it anonymously where each participant chooses a name and gives a scarf to the person they choose. No matter which way you exchange, pick a day where everyone wears their new scarf to school. Take a group picture as a keepsake for everyone. If you happen to have any leftover scarves, donate them to a local charity.

-Hot Chocolate Friday: Meet up in the lounge or library to drink hot chocolate. Everyone can bring their favorite kind or ask your PTO or social committee to sponsor the event. Use your hot chocolate Friday to talk about your weekend plans NOT the stressors of work.

-Host a book exchange. Encourage staff members to clean out their bookshelves looking for books for both children and adults. Bring the books in and display them on tables. Have some browsing time then choose your new book(s). For every book you bring in you take home the same amount. Post pictures on social media to spread the book love and to inspire others to have book exchanges too.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Chat with Laurie Wallmark

We are extremely lucky to have the talented Laurie Wallmark on our blog! She has wowed us with her books, ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE and GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE, and now she has another must-read. Thank you, Laurie, for giving us an inside look into your writing life and your most recent book.
How long have you been an author?
I’ve been writing for about twenty years now. My first book wasn’t published until 2015, though.

What made you want to become an author?
Unlike many of my kidlit author friends, I wasn’t interested in writing as a child. I was a math and science kid all the way. Other than a few poems and songs, the only writing I did was for school assignments. One day, I had an idea for a middle grade novel, so I decided to see if I could transform that idea into an actual book. I did, and that book became the first step on my path to being a writer. It’s now one of my trunk novels, hidden away, never again to see the light of day.

I’m always on the lookout for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) whose achievements have been overlooked. In fact, I keep a list of possible subjects for future biographies. Hedy co-invented a vital piece of technology that helps keep our electronic communications safe from hacking, yet most people only know her as a movie star with a pretty face. I wanted to share the achievements of this amazing inventor with the world.

Authors get rejected a lot. What do you do when you get rejected?
It’s hard to have your work rejected, but I try to tell myself that a rejection is only one person’s opinion. Somewhere out there is an editor who will love my book as much as I do. She just hasn’t met my book yet.

All of your published books are about women. Do you have more women-centered books yet to be written?
I have two more women in STEM books coming out in the next two years. The first, Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Mathematician, tells about the life and achievements whose work solves problems as different as calculating the path of a planet or a spinning football. The second book hasn’t been announced yet, so all I can say is it’s another unsung woman in STEM.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
Read. Read. Read.

Describe what it’s like to hear the news that you’ve just gotten a book contract.
It’s incredibly exciting to receive a call that says an editor has fallen in love with your book. (See my previous answer about rejection). Together, you will work to bring out a book that hopefully kids will love, too.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an author?
A writer writes. You need to work at your craft if you want to become an author. In addition, it helps to develop a thick skin to cope with those inevitable rejections.


Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and many national awards including Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book. Her picture book biography, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star, is a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner, and is on several public libraries’ “best of” lists, including New York. Her recently released book is HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE (Sterling Children’s Books, 2019). Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. You can find Laurie on the Web at and @lauriewallmark.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Staff Valentines: An Act of Kindness

Valentines Day is quickly approaching. I love the little notes and cards my students make for me. I’ve had one in particular hanging by wardrobe for seven years now. This year, my class will be spreading kindness across the school by making valentines for the entire staff! It’s been a few years since I’ve done this, and I’m excited to revisit the idea.

First, I get a current staff list from the office to make sure I don’t leave anyone out! From specialists to custodians, cafeteria helpers to gen. ed. classroom teachers, everyone goes on the list! Then I make a Word Doc for the SMARTBoard so that we can all read it easily from around the room. I make sure there’s enough space next to each staff member’s name for me to write the name of the student who chooses to make a valentine for that person. (This helps kids with spelling and provides me with a way to keep track of who’s working on what.) As students pick various teachers, I try to look for connections (She was my sister’s fourth grade teacher! I go to his classroom for reading!) to make the valentines as meaningful as possible. Students trace and cut out hearts using construction paper, write a message and decorate the valentines. Then it’s time to deliver some smiles!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Do You Want to be a Ninja?

Sue Fliess ( has done it again! She’s written another can’t-resist, must-have, children’s book called, Ninja Camp. Her talented illustrator, Jen Taylor, has created the perfect pictures to take every reader on an authentic ninja camping experience. We wrote a Book Bite to help you and the kids in your life, can become “ninjas of the night” too!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins

We are in the final stretch to Winter Break and desperately trying to hold the attention of our excited students. Thank you, Sue Fliess for coming to the rescue with your new book, Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins!
If you have kids in your life, put on your Santa hat, grab your boots, and go get your copy today. Then try our activities to go along with the story. This book and these ideas are our survival kit for the next couple of days! Ho, ho, go Mrs Claus!

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.