Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who Doesn't love Amelia Bedelia?

Amelia Bedelia's First Day of SchoolI just love Amelia and was thrilled to see the newest picture book edition.  Since Peggy Parish's passing, her nephew, Herman, has been writing Amelia Bedelia books.  Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School is the newest of three new picture books where we get to see what Amelia was like as a kid!  It's so funny and refreshing to see the same silly, literal Amelia that I remember!  You'll laugh when you read all of the hilarious things that this little girl does in first grade!  My favorite part was when Amelia's teacher tells her to stay glued to her can imagine what Amelia does!  What a great way to get rid of those first day jitters and replace them with some giggles!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's your name again???

My Name Is Elizabeth!
Chrysanthemum Big BookNames!  We spend so much time thinking of names as we prepare for our little ones to enter the world.  We want to find names with meaning, ones that aren't too popular, but not too obscure.  We want to find ones that are easy to pronounce, ones that don't make inappropriate initials. The list goes on and on! As a teacher and a parent, I make it my job to learn students names as soon as possible.  It always makes people feel more comfortable and at ease when you call them by their name.  Several people have cute little stories behind their names that make them even more special.  I love reading Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes on the first day of school.  This book is about a little girl named Chrysanthemum.  She loves her name, but gets teased once she enters school.  She's really having a tough time until she finally goes to music class to find that her pregnant teacher's name is Delphinium and she plans on naming her new baby Chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum's spirits blossom and she begins to love her name once again.  This story gets conversation going about how everybody deserves to be respected, no matter how common or unique their name is.  I just recently stumbled on a new book, available tomorrow, called My Name Is Elizabeth!, by Annika Dunklee.  This book is a perfect couple to Chrysanthemum, as it touches on the use of nicknames...or not!  So often, we abbreviate names and come up with nicknames that WE think are cute.  This Elizabeth wants to be called Elizabeth.  Not Lizzy or Liz or Betsy!  The two-color picture book portrays a little girl who continually sticks up for her name and her independence.  I can't think of a better way to start out the year, discussing the uniqueness of all of us, through our beautifully given names!!  Everybody deserves a little NAME respect!

Lesson Plans/Activities:  If your reading these books at home, have a discussion about how important it is to call people by their proper name.  Teasing someone about their name is hurtful and disrespectful.  It's okay to think that a name is unique.  It's not okay to think that they are weird or ugly.  If your child has a unique name and is struggling at school, they can sure learn a thing or two from these powerful little characters!

After reading these books, go around the circle and have students say what their name is, as well as any nicknames they prefer.  That way, students and teachers learn correct nicknames and pronunciation right off the bat.

Have students design their names on big poster board.  I used to write their names in open block letters and then let them color pictures or designs in them that told a little story about them..their interests, their family, friends, hobbies.  I then hung them right on the wall.  It was our first step towards ownership of our new classroom!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Have you Filled a Bucket Today?

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?As a teacher and mother of two, I am always trying to convey the importance of kindness. We talk about being helpful, following the "golden rule" and friendliness.  But do our kids really get it?  With bullying in schools spiraling out of control, I'm sure this lesson is being missed by many.  In her book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, Carol McCloud talks about kindness in a bit of a metaphor that is easy for kids to understand and relate to.  Everybody has an invisible bucket on top of their head. We can fill our buckets by doing kind deeds, saying nice words and helping others.  We can also become a "bucket dipper" when we use hurtful language or disrespect people.  McCloud does an excellent job of bringing this complicated message down to a child's comprehension level and also stresses the idea that by filling other's buckets, we fill our own.  I  recently read this book to my two little girls and now they talk about filling buckets when they speak kindly. They get it!  We so often read these books to children about what NOT to do.  Now we can stop bullying with positive encouragement that reaches even the tiniest of minds!

Lesson plans/activities:
Fill a bucket in your classroom or your home with kind words or compliments.  Have the children write compliments about others or have them write down things that people did for them to make them feel good.  Offer surprises when your bucket is filled.  Children can express positive feelings and also become aware of how small deeds make big differences.

Have individual buckets for your children and fill them with pom poms each time you catch some bucket filling actions.  When their buckets are full, offer them a sticker to place on the outside of the bucket.  Watch those stickers pile up!

Draw a picture of a bucket and have your child draw pictures inside of the bucket that represent the very things that fill a bucket.  Share your pictures!

Go to the "bucketfillers shop" at  There are lots of cool posters and products relating to bucket filling for your home and classroom.  There are also a number of books related to McCloud's book.  I can't wait to check some of these books out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Looking for a gift for your loved one learning to read?

Product Details My friend's daughter just received this book for her fifth birthday and it was love at first sight!  How Rocket Learned to Read, By Tad Hills is a book about a little dog named Rocket.  He loves to play outside and chase sticks, but he doesn't know how to read.  He stumbles upon a teacher, a little yellow bird, who teaches him to read.  Rocket learns the letter sounds and then starts to sound out and form his own words.   The pictures are engaging and reads as if it's teaching you how to read! I am already in love with Hill's book series, Duck and Goose, and it looks like Rocket will be sneaking his way into our bedtime story collection soon!  I plan to give this book to Kylie the night before her first day of Kindergarten! Check out this video link I found on Amazon about the book! Love it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Day Jitters

First Day JittersWe all get a little nervous for that first day of school. Whether we're the student, the parent or the teacher.  Yes! Teachers get nervous too! I can remember the feeling in my stomach just moments before the students were to arrive on the first day.  I was nervous about how all of my plans would go, how the kids would react to me and the classroom.  But somehow, all of our jitters would subside once I read First Day Jitters, By Julie Danneburg.  Sarah wakes up on the first day of school and seems a bit nervous about attending a new school.  She struggles to wake and fusses over her clothing and breakfast.  All the while, Mr. Hartwell is trying to reassure her.  What the reader doesn't know is that Sarah is really a new teacher in the school, not a new student.  Her face is hidden in all of the pictures until the very end.  Every year, all of my students are shocked to find out that Sarah is really a teacher.  It seems to ease all of their little minds to know that they're not the only anxious ones.

Activities/lesson plans:
After reading the book, have your child or student write about or draw a picture of what makes them nervous about the first day of school.  You'll be amazed by the responses! By talking about and sharing their thoughts, you as a parent or teacher may be able to alter things to help your children become a little more at ease.

Have your students write a letter to themselves about how they are feeling on their first day of school.  Have them include details about what makes them nervous, as well as what activities they are excited about.  Have them place their papers in an envelope (my in-laws own a Hallmark store and give me envelopes! I like to use them whenever I can!) and save them for the end of the year.  The students will laugh at the little things that made them nervous!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Countdown to Kindergarten!

The Kissing Hand
There are only 19 days until my little Kylie starts kindergarten! I must admit that I think that I am more nervous than she is! She is so excited! I'm still wondering where the last five years went! I cannot think of a more perfect book for the both us, than The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn.  This book perfectly captures the love and anxiety shared by both child and mother when it's time to head to kindergarten.  Chester the raccoon does not want to go to school. He wants to stay at home and play.  Mommy tells him all about the wonderful things that happen in school and tries to ease his mind.  She then spreads open his paw and places a kiss right in his palm and tells him that whenever he needs a reminder of how much his mother cares for him, he can just raise his palm to his cheek.  What I love most about this book is when Chester places a kiss in mommy's hand to reassure her while he's gone.  I will definitely need a kissing hand in a few weeks!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Favorite End of Summer Book Pick

With school right around the corner, I am finding myself trying to squeeze in all of those last minute summer activities that I want the girls to experience.  We've been to the beach, we've been to the water parks and we've been on long bike rides.  But what's better than a lemonade stand on these dog days of summer?  We were inspired by the book, Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink, by Victoria Kann.  Everybody loves Pinkalicious and this book is no exception.  Pinkalicious decides to have a lemonade stand to help pay for some gumballs.  She makes some lemonade with the help of her mother, but of course, needs to make it PINK! She ends up adding all sorts of non-traditional items that make her drink look great, but quickly finds that it doesn't taste so refreshing.  Her mommy finds a way to make things better. Kylie decided that she too wanted her own lemonade stand.  We invited a friend over and got to work.  We tried adding strawberries to our lemonade to make it pink.  Our lemonade didn't turn colors, but it did taste pretty good!! We made $4.25 in no time flat! We figured out how to attract customers with bubbles and prepare for the next "rush." We then split our profits into thirds and left 50 cents to the owner for the cost of the lemonade!  We learned so many math concepts without even realizing it!      

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Everything is ALWAYS better with a book!

When I was trying to decide what to name this blog, I kept coming back to the name, better with a book.  I can think of so many things in life that are much more tolerable and relaxing with a book.  For me, the beach, waiting rooms, long plane rides and cozy couches are always more enjoyable with a book. And of course, a lesson plan is always better with a special book introduction!  But what do the kids think?  I asked my two daughters, ages 3 and 5, and some other special people in my life. Here's what we all came up with:

Top Ten Things that are Better with a Book
1.  Bedtime
2.  Long car rides
3.  Indoor recess
4.  Special time spent with grandparents and other relatives
5.  Rainy days
6.  A cup of hot chocolate
7.  A difficult time or situation
8.  A school lesson
9.  A sibling's sports event
10. Quiet time

I'm not sure where this blogging road will take me, or how I will organize my thoughts and ideas about children's books just yet.  However, I do know that I would love for teachers and parents alike to utilize this site to uncover the magic of a book and make all events in life just a little bit BETTER!
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