Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

As I write this post, I am trying to contain my excitement!!!  Lots of new things are happening with Harris Burdick and I can't wait to share them with you!!  However, before I share the most recent news, let's start from the beginning.  For those of you who are not familiar with Harris Burdick, please get your hands on a copy of Chris Van Alsburg's, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  Harris Burdick is a character who has written a series of stories that go along with various drawings.  He brings them to a publisher, Mr. Wenders, who plans to paruse through the items to determine whether he will publish them.  Ironically, Burdick is never seen or heard from again and the stories that go along with the drawings are never found.  Page through Burdick's vivid, eerie pictures which include a title and just one caption.  For example, turn to the picture of a man about to hit an identifiable object under the rug titled, "Under the Rug."  I promise will get your imagination churning!  What is that under the rug?  What does Harris Burdick mean by the caption, "Two weeks passed and it happened again?"    What are we to do?  Yep.  You guessed correctly.  It's up to you, as writers to complete these stories!  My second graders couldn't get enough of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Portfolio Edition, a poster sized version of the book.  Right around Halloween, I'd post a bunch of the drawings around the room and let the children create their own stories using the captions as their opening sentences.  One of our favorites was the glowing pumpkin...perfect for the season!  I can't think of another book that inspires a writer  more.  As you look through the drawings, it's as if you MUST finish the story!  This leads me to my most recent Van Alsburg finding.  On Tuesday, a new book, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket was released.  Van Alsburg has inspired a collection of short stories based on Burdick's drawings, including works by authors Stephen King, Lois Lowry, Louis Sachar and Lemony Snicket, to name a few.  Each famous author shares their own interpretation of the drawings.  This is a lovely companion to the portfolio and book!  What young writer wouldn't want to hear about how an established author interpreted the same drawing.  Were their thoughts similar?  Completely different?  I'm really excited to read through these short stories.  Just do me a favor...don't ruin the energy and inspiration of Harris Burdick.  Do NOT share The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket until the masterpieces in your classroom are complete!  Have fun!

Lesson Plans/Activities:
1.  Purchase the book or portfolio and get inspired!  Encourage children to use the captions as the first line of their story.  Use the captions as the last line of the story.  Display the stories with the drawings.
2.  Compare your student's stories with the Chronicles.  What aspects were similar? Different?
3.  Visit  and submit your student's stories.    Apparently, the New Yorker started a writing contest! I'm not sure if it is still going, but they are still encouraging you to submit your stories! Who knows?  You may have a winner!  Also, get tips from author Chris Van Alsburg himself.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Pumpkin Circle

                                     Travel through the entire life cycle of a pumpkin from a seed, all the way to a jack-o-lantern and back again to a seed.  George Levinson's book, Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden, takes us through each stage with a rhyme-like text coupled with amazing photography by Shmuel Thaler.  My daughter was quick to point out that the words didn't quite rhyme, but was soon distracted by the fun photography taking us right inside a pumpkin and up close to the budding flowers soon to become pumpkins.  What a great way to toss an educational lesson into our candy-filled, costume wearing holiday! Enjoy!

Lesson Plans/Activities: 
1. Read through the book and follow the directions in the end to grow your own pumpkin!
2.  Work on sequencing with your little one and after reading the story,  have them fold a piece of paper into fifths, drawing a picture or writing a sentence about each stage of the life cycle of a pumpkin.  
3.  Use this book as an introduction or conclusion to a trip to the pumpkin patch!!  Your children will appreciate all that went into preparing that jack-o-lantern!  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Four 4 Friday: Standing up to Bullies

As we round up Anti-bullying month, I wanted to share four of my favorite books dealing with bullying.  All of these books help to initiate conversation about bullying.  Additionally, each of these books touches on a different strategy not only dealing with bullying, but ridding of it forever.                  
In Spaghetti in A Hot Dog Bun, Maria Dismondy discusses the golden rule.  Even when kids are mean and nasty, kids need to be true to themselves and be kind in order to stop the damaging cycle.  Patty Lovell's book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon teaches children that standing up to bully behavior and staying confident causes bullies to lose interest in his victims, ending the vicious cycle.  In her book, One, Kathryn Otoshi sends a message that when you become an ally to a victim of bullying, you create strength in numbers. Ignoring a bully's behavior shows that his behavior is acceptable, but standing tall together shows power in numbers, causing a bully much difficulty.  The Recess Queen simply states that befriending a bully is often what it takes to stop hurtful behavior.  Sometimes bullies just need a little love and acceptance.  All of these books coupled together prove as a wonderful resource to      stomp out bullying for good.  Let's make it happen!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 13 Nights of Halloween!

                                         The countdown to halloween has begun!  Check out this new holiday book that mirrors the twelve days of Christmas to get you geared up for halloween!  The 13 Nights of Halloween, by Guy Vasolovich,  spooks us through 13 nights of scary, slimey, and disgusting gifts.  Mummy gives us everything from singing skulls to demons dancing and icky eyeballs!  Sing along and enjoy the fresh, vivid illustrations from Vasolovich's first children's book.  We're loving this new addition to our halloween book stash!

Lesson Plans/Activities:
1.  Mix math and art together and create a halloween scene of your own, following the rules of the book.  Draw the same amount of dancing demons, icky eyeballs and singing skulls that were given by Mummy!  Practice counting and create some spooky scenes for the fridge!
2.  Create your own "days of" book!  Relate the book idea to a certain theme in class or an upcoming holiday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yes Day!

                                     I just spotted Yes Day, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal at the Scholastic fair at Kylie's school and it made me laugh!  How many of you feel like every other word out of your mouth is NO?  What if there was a YES day!  What fun!!!  Can I clean my room later? YES! May I have pizza for breakfast? YES!  Can we buy all of the junk food at the grocery store today?  YES!  This book happily goes through a bunch of activities that us teachers and moms usually answer with a big, fat NO!  I love the illustrations that go along with the silly kid requests and especially like the endpapers that look like a calendar filled with all of the other common ways to answer NO.  No way Jose, over my dead body, go ask your father, and the list goes on!  Yes Day! is a YES in my book!  I will definitely be adding it to our home collection!!

Lesson Plans/Activities:
1.  Make your own Yes Day book and fill it with illustrations and requests that are usually answered with a NO!  You never may inspire you to have a YES day for a change!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Good-bye Bully Machine

                                                                      October is National Anti-bullying Awareness month.  I can't think of a better way to spread awareness than reading Debbie Fox and Allan Beane's book, Good-Bye Bully Machine.  In their book, Fry and Beane compare bullying to a machine.  A big machine is loud, scary and not fun to be around.  Like a machine, bullying is dangerous to be around and makes you feel lonely and sad.  What I love about Good-Bye Bully Machine is the way that Fox and Beane, not only identify the definition of a bully, they also discuss the ways that you can help to keep the bully machine running.  Ignoring a bully is supporting a bully. Laughing at a bully's behavior adds fuel to the machine.  Bullies strike in in many ways.  Some are silent and some are violent, but all types are damaging.  Good-Bye Bully Machine encourages discussion on how to stop this hurtful, degrading behavior. Fox's scrapbook style illusttrations and metaphor to a machine make it easy for students to understand and react to the powerful message. She gives ideas on how students can stand up to bullies to stop the nasty machine.  The book encourages higher order thinking skills and questioning, leaving a meaningful impact on all who read it.  Educate your children.  Unplug the monster machine!

Check out this powerful video supporting Good-Bye Bully Machine:

Lesson Plans/Activities:
1.  Purchase the Good-Bye Bully Machine Card Game.  These cards encourage children to talk about what defines a bully, how it feels to be bullied and how to stop bullying from happening.  It is important to discuss strategies so that children are prepared to stop bullies, not support them.

2.  Create machine parts out of construction paper and have students write down mean, hurtful behaviors.  Create hammers out of construction paper and instruct students to write down ways to stop bullying.  Create a poster or bulletin board with the bully machine parts.  Surround the machine with the hammers, waiting to break apart the machine.  This will serve as a constant reminder of appropriate, helpful behavior.

Visit for guided questions, discussion topics and activities written for Good-Bye Bully Machine by Free Spirit publishing.  It's free!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: The Magic of Milky Way

What an amazing day we had at the Milky Way Farm in Chester Springs, Pa this past weekend. We walked through a corn maize, pet some cows and sheep, picked pumpkins, took a hay ride and topped it off with some ice cream made right on the farm! Even better was this keepsake, The Magic of Milky Way Farm by Carolyn Matthews Eaglehouse. This book takes us through a day in the life of a dairy farmer. A mother and baby cow tour their home while explaining the operations of a modern, computerized dairy farm. The kid friendly illustrations and simple facts about milk machines and production on each page provide an excellent recap of that special trip you just took to the dairy farm, or serve as a wonderful introduction to some of the things that you may see and talk about when visiting a dairy farm. In these hard economic times, it is even more important to support your local farms and educate your children about the importance of them. Visit your local farm and show your support soon! What a great way to spend some quality, family time on a beautiful, autumn day!

Click on the title of the book to order from or visit

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Map Book

Looking for a great book to introduce the use of maps?  Still trying to find a way to get to know your students inside and out?  Trying to get your little ones to turn into writers?  Complete all of these tasks by reading My Map Book, by Sara Fanelli.  This book consists of a bunch of maps that look to be drawn by a young child.  They offer tons of information regarding the author's internal and external life.  Flip through pages of some maps that include a bedroom, a neighborhood and a road.  Then look at a map of the author's heart to see the things that are cherished most,  a stomach to find out favorite types of food and a map of a typical day that helps us learn so much more! The book jacket opens to an empty map canvas for your students to jump right into!  Take a peek at just a few of the lessons that can be introduced with the use of this unique book of maps.

Lesson Plans/Activities:
1.  Get a look inside your student's lives and have them create a map of their hearts.  Use the heart map as an example and have them include 7 to 8 of their favorite things or people.  Have them draw pictures and write names of people and items.  Turn this into a writing lesson by having the students write about what they care about.  The heart serves as a graphic organizer of the most important things in life.  Display the maps of their hearts with their writing.

2.  Introduce the "Star of the Week" idea with this book and have your students create their own map book to share with the class when it is their turn to be a star!
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