First Friday Freebie: Lending a Helping Hand

Each year as September 11 nears, I begin thinking about the best ways to honor this day, to help people’s sacrifices never be forgotten. For young students who did not live through this day in 2001, it can have little, if any, meaning, but all children can understand the importance of lending others a helping hand. So that has become my focus for this year.

One creative way to help students begin to see the positive effects even seemingly small acts of kindness can have on others is through a study of the life of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Born September 26, 1774, his legacy lives on centuries later and can be explored through texts and resources like these:

Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg


Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh


Johnny Appleseed by Jodie Shepherd

Johnny Appleseed Enchanted Learning activities

Johnny Appleseed biography


Seeing Johnny Appleseed’s impact on the world can help inspire your students to make a difference in the lives of those around them. Even small deeds can make a difference… just like planting one apple seed at a time.

Using this month’s freebie, the Helping Hands activity, students can share ways they plan to use their hands to help others.

helping hands


Need more inspiration? Here are ten other stories that show the power of a helping hand:

Always Copycub by Richard Edwards

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord

The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern and Marni Backer

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Jones

The Three Questions by Jon Muth

Picture Book 10 for 10: My Top Ten Favorite Books About Community

I am excited to participate in this year’s Picture Book 10 for 10 hosted by Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community.

Here’s my list of ten books to share with students as you work to build and strengthen your classroom community throughout the year:


One of my new favorite picture books is Because You Are My Teacher written by Sherry North and illustrated by Marcellus Hall. Throughout this story, the students experience wondrous adventures together as they learn about the world – a learning community at its finest.


Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelusky, & Lane Smith also helps to reinforce the idea of community and its importance in our learning as students and teachers work together to meet their goals.


Each time I read the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, I am inspired by Alice’s dedication to her dreams and her quest to make the world more beautiful. She learns the meaning and value of community in her travels and at home.


The Mitten by Jan Brett is a fun reminder that community members need to share and look out for one another.


The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord is another book that helps students focus on the idea of what a community is. In this story it takes a village to succeed, through cooperation and each person using his/her unique abilities and resources.


Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes illustrates what can happen when there are problems in communities as well as what can happen when those differences are resolved. Communities are strongest when everyone feels valued.


Nora the Nonapus, written and illustrated by fifth-grade students of Estes Hills Elementary in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, provides some unique insights into the feelings various members in our community may have. It covers the insecurities and embarrassment that often come from being “different,” how bullying hurts others, and the bravery it takes to stand up and do what is right.


Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is another favorite. In this story, community is created as a young boy takes time to listen and learn about the people around him, building friendships and sharing memories along the way.


Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is another story that illustrates the importance of sharing our skills and talents with those around us. Just like snowflakes, we are all different. Bentley’s community (and the world!) was blessed by his love of snowflakes through the research and pictures he shared.


The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers is a favorite book to share around President’s Day. However, its message is fitting during any time of year. It’s important to remember those missing from our communities. Communication is key to keeping those bonds strong.

And there you have it, my (current) top ten, which I am sure will change the next time I discover a new favorite book. 🙂

What stories do you like to share with your students to help the community building process in your classroom?

What does your imagination tell you to do?


Over the past year or so, stories about creativity and imagination have caught my eye…

Caine’s arcade creation and Nirvan Mullick‘s video inspiration led to the Imagination Foundation’s yearly Cardboard Challenge which continues to spark imagination and creativity worldwide.

Kid President‘s creativity led to an imaginative way to share his love of life and motivate others to see the good and pass it on.

Martha‘s creativity and imagination impacted students worldwide as she blogged about her school meals and raised money for Mary’s Meals.

An Oregon 5th grader organized a bowling fundraiser for Boston.

and the list goes on…

Where have creativity and imagination taken you lately?

. . .

The poster above is from this Einstein quote:

I believe in intuition and inspiration. …At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.  When the [solar] eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised.  In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” [From A. Einstein, Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms, p. 97 (1931).]   source

. . .

I believe in inspiration, creativity, and imagination, too!

The World is So Full of a Number of Things

If you haven’t seen the “Earth As Art” ebook yet, take time to check it out. The pictures are amazing and offer unique perspectives of views both well-known and as yet undiscovered for many of us. You can learn more about this project here: “Earth as Art” info and resources.

Earth As Art

ideas for use in the classroom:

  • see if students can identify each place from its “artistic view”
  • locate each place on a map/globe
  • compare and contrast the “artistic view” with another photo of the place
  • identify elements and principles of art used in each photograph
  • discuss tone(s) and feelings associated with each photo

additional resources:

What have you helped your students see from a different perspective lately?

Changing the World… one courageous act at a time

On November 14, 1960, Ruby Bridges first took the courageous walk to her new school. I wonder if that six-year-old girl had any idea of the historical importance of her actions that day?
Over the past fifty-two years, our country has continually changed and grown, but we still face issues of rights and problems with bullying. Much can still be learned from a brave girl’s actions and the legacy Ruby Bridges Hall continues to leave today. Your students can learn more about her life and involvements here and in the following books:

Through My Eyes: Ruby Bridges, by Ruby Bridges

The True Story Of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles

.   .   .

Last spring, some 4th graders at a local elementary school were inspired by Ruby Bridges’ life and decided to write letters to thank her for her courage. Read more about their story here and see some of their letters here, here, and here.

What would you say to Ruby if you wrote her a letter?


extension activities:

  • Create a timeline of Ruby’s life. Check out the following timelines for inspiration or to check the accuracy of your own: brief visual timeline and a detailed timeline.
  • Listen to an interview with Ruby Bridges Hall (PBS, 1997) and then view a print of Norman Rockwell’s 1964 painting “The Problem We All Live With.” What details did the artist use to show fear of the new law? What details did the artist use to illustrate bravery? Draw/paint your own picture to illustrate how you stand up for what you believe.
  • Write a letter to someone who has inspired you.
  • Learn more about the Civil Rights Movement with the following texts:

A Taste of Colored Water, by Matt Faulkner

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport


additional resources:

He Gave the World Quite a Fright

With the recent announcement of the 2012 Nobel Laureates and the upcoming award ceremony in December, I thought it was time to pay tribute to a man who has greatly influenced our world.

Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin tells the story of Nobel’s life – from his curiosity and love of science to his experiments and inventions and his lasting legacy of the Nobel Prize.

Want to find out more specifics about this award? Visit the official website of the Nobel Prize. This site also offers a variety of interactive games and other educational resources.

Alfred Nobel also had an element (Nobelium: element 102) named in his honor. Learn more about that at the Interactive Periodic Table.

extension activities:

  • Learn about other Nobel Prize winners like Wangari, Martin Luther King Jr., and Marie Curie.
  • After learning about the various Nobel Prize categories, write or draw about a way you would like to change the world. What are you curious about? What type of invention would you like to create? How would this make the world a better place?
  • Create your own Nobel Prize.

Cardboard Creativity

I love to see the power of imagination in action! And thanks to the creativity and perseverance of a young boy and the thoughtfulness and support of some adults in his life, the Imagination Foundation is now bringing opportunities to children around the globe to dive in and explore the power of their own imaginations.

The Global Cardboard Challenge is scheduled for October 6. You can learn more about that here.

What has your imagination done lately?