Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How Sweet it is to Be Sorted by You

I’ve got a new favorite unit. Every year when our sorting unit comes up I try to think of ways to keep it interesting with my first graders. Last year one of my coworkers jokingly mentioned that we could sort with Oreos. Because of my deep love for the cookies, I ran with the idea!

In Virginia we have to sort by size, shape, color and thickness. Luckily, Oreos can be used for all of these! I bought both chocolate and golden Oreos of the regular, mini, and thin varieties. I also snagged Oreo Thin Bites and Nabisco’s Oreo Cookie 100 calorie packs (because they’re shaped like hexagons!). I made packs for my students that contained one of each kind of cookie and then called out various ways for them to sort. (Please excuse the messy picture. I took it before I realized I'd write a post about it.)
**Update- I cannot find the 100 calorie packs anywhere this year!! I'm going to grab some chocolate teddy grahams to have a different shape instead.

We started off sorting by one trait and used this chart to keep things organized. Then the students flipped it over and we sorted by two traits. For this, we just made neat piles on the blank back of the paper.
It was a pretty sweet lesson if I do say so myself. ;)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The One & Only Wolfgang

Happy Book Birthday to THE ONE & ONLY WOLFGANG! Steve Greig, Mary Rand Hess and Nadja Sarell have created one incredible book about one incredible family. Here are some activities you can complete after reading to extend the fun!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Alphabet Snack Sorting

Last year I taught summer school for the first time and was looking for a fun, meaningful, and delicious way to wrap up the last day with my soon to be kindergarteners. I began searching Pinterest for snack ideas because, let’s face it, everything is just more fun with food. After a few minutes of coming up empty handed I saw a picture of a snack mix that included Alpha-Bits cereal and it hit me- An alphabet sort using tasty treats!

I immediately began to think of every snack I’ve ever given my son that had letters on them. I created my shopping list and off I went. After searching through eight different stores I had to give up on the idea of Apha-Bits, but still had a good mix of salty and sweet. Here’s what I included in my snack mix:
Mini Alphabet Pretzels (from Wegmans)
Alphabet Cookies (from The Dollar Tree)
Scrabble Cheez-Its
Mini M&Ms (sorted as the letter M)
Cheerios (sorted as the letter O)

I made charts on 17x11 paper and had students get a few spoonfuls of each ingredient in our snack mix. Then they went back to their seat and sorted. I had a few who needed a bit of extra support, but most were able to match the letters to their mat independently. They had so much fun I’m planning to do this activity again with my first graders at the beginning of the year!

Happy Snacking!


Friday, June 28, 2019

Ten Things Teachers Should Do During the Summer and Ten Things You’ll Probably Do Anyway

It’s summer and we still can’t get away from the To Do List phenomenon that seems to plague teachers! We’ve decided to share ours with you. It’s broken in two parts. Choose one or both! If you think of more ideas we’ve forgotten feel free to share them in our comments section! You can download our list and use a fun pen to check off what you’ve done! Happy summer!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

I'm Done! Are You?

“I’m Done!” How many times do teachers and parents hear that phrase? Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan has managed to create a character who sounds exactly like half the kids in my class! Little Beaver thinks he’s done building the dam and continues to join his friends in play. His parents have to keep reminding him that he isn’t quite done yet. This back and forth is so relatable to young readers. My students even started repeating the phrase long after the book ended in a voice they thought Little Beaver might use. I created a few extra ideas if you’d like to extend the story past your reading time. Get your copy of the book here!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale and a Book Bite

Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale, by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Deborah Marcero, is our most favorite fraction book ever! Seriously, our grade level had one copy to start, thought we were going to share it, then –Poof– everyone insisted on having their own copy! This charming math story conquers fractions as parts of a region and parts of a group. We couldn’t ask for more. The text is just the right length and tells a succinct, attention-grabbing fractioned fairytale. We even made a book bite for it so we could extend the use of the book. Have fun!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Perfect Interview

An adorable new picture book just hit the shelves and we have an interview with the author, Jodi McKay. PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE is a great classroom read-aloud and a cozy bedtime story. The illustrator, Juliana Motzko, created an irresistible Pencil and gave life to many other school supplies. After reading the book, we had our students draw their own perfect pictures. Get your copy today!

1. How long have you been an author?
I feel like I’ve always been an author. I was the kid who wrote stories and plays for my friends, and then as a teen and eventually as an adult I always managed to add creative writing into my school work and career. I started to write seriously though in 2013 when my son went to kindergarten and I had a little more time on my hands to learn the craft of writing and practice those skills.

2. What made you want to become an author?
When I first gave writing a shot I was 19 and at that point I wanted to be an author because of the way writing made me feel. When I started really writing at 35 I wanted to become an author because I saw how reading made my son feel. He loved (and still does) to read and so reading books and telling stories became an important part of how we connected and how he explored his own imagination. I had to be part of something that had such a significant effect on him.

3. Tell us about your most recent book, PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE. Where did you get this idea?
Pencil’s Perfect Picture started out as a companion book to Where Are The Words?, my first book. In the end of Where Are The Words? the Period says that Pencil can help finish the story by drawing the perfect pictures. While my editor liked the story, she suggested that we make it a stand-alone and add a family touch. I definitely agreed with that vision and so I gave Pencil the goal of drawing a perfect picture for his dad. The rest of the story takes Pencil through art school where he asks the other artists like Paintbrush, Marker, and Pastel what makes their pictures perfect. His inability to get a straight answer combined with his dad’s reaction to Pencil’s picture was my way of telling kids that art is meant to be fun and there is no standard of perfection. What makes art perfect is that it comes from the heart.

4. Authors get rejected a lot. What do you do when you get rejected?
Ugh, rejection can really hurt sometimes! I usually give myself a minute to deal with the loss of the excitement and hope that comes with submitting a beloved manuscript. After that I move on to the next story that makes me feel just as excited and hopeful.

5. Both of your picture books have a pencil as a character. What’s up with you and pencils?
Hahaha! I know, right? I promise that I am done with the pencil, and probably art supplies as well. I have to keep the punctuation going though, can’t have a story without punctuation.

6. What’s the hardest part about writing picture books? What’s the easiest?
For me, the hardest part of writing a picture book is making sure that I don’t get so wrapped up in the plot that I forget to include the heart of the story. It’s really easy to create the superficial stakes behind the character’s main goal, but adding in the underlying emotional risk or motivation takes a little more thought, actually a lot more thought. What comes easiest is probably the story structure. I’m not sure if it’s because of my relatively organized nature, but I know how to structure a story pretty well and well enough to be able to break from it occasionally and still have it work. It’s the first thing I look at when I revise and the first thing I talk about when I give critiques.

7. Describe what it’s like to hear the news that you’ve just gotten a book contract.

8. Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now?
I am in the final stages of revising a story with my agent that I really like even though I can’t stand to think about the main character. It’s… a spider (*gags*). I know, “why would you write about such a disgusting character?” Well, sometimes we have to push ourselves a bit. I just hope it goes out on submission soon so that I don’t have to keep thinking about it. (Blech)

9. What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read a ton! Thank goodness for the library or we would be in some massive book debt. I also try to stay active to counter the hours spent writing or reading and I have a ten year-old and a goofy dog who keep me out and about.

10. What advice would you give someone who wants to become an author?
Embrace patience; patience with the process of writing, patience with publishing, and patience with yourself. There really isn’t much that happens quickly in this world of writing and if you expect it to be then it will become more frustrating than rewarding. So, while you are in the midst of practicing patience, find ways to take your mind off of what you are waiting for. Go for a walk, spend time in the children’s section of the library or bookstore, be creative in other ways, or write about something other than a story- like answers to interview questions :0)

Bio: Jodi McKay lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI, and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and the forthcoming picture book, PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019).
Jodi is represented by Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency.
Want to chat with Jodi? You can find her here: