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

Lift Off to Literacy: to the ISS and Beyond

Happy International Literacy Day! 🙂

How do you plan on adding an extra minute of literacy today?

What about tweeting an astronaut?  You can connect with them here (astronauts in space now) and here (NASA astronauts).

Your students just might…

twitterpic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • or get one of their own questions answered!

Plus learning to communicate in 140 characters or less could lead to some lessons in creativity and clarity.

The sky really isn’t the limit with this as students read and send messages to the ISS and beyond. 😉

 

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:

1.

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.

2.

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.

3.

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.


4.

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

5.

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.

6.

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.

7.

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.

8.

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.

9.

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.

10.

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?

Exploring the World from Our Classrooms

One of my new favorite picture books is Because You Are My Teacher written by Sherry North and illustrated by Marcellus Hall.

In addition to the catchy lines and beautiful illustrations which kids love, this story shares a great message of what true learning is all about.

When we bring creativity and opportunities for observation, imagination, and “destinations” into the classroom, our students’ learning is enhanced through curiosity and deepened engagement.

So let them…

What creative things have enhanced your students’ learning because you are their teacher?

We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until NowRead more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/we-had-no-idea-what-alexander-graham-bell-sounded-like-until-now-37585123/#yzIiwRdP47QWQjyq.99
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We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until NowRead more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/we-had-no-idea-what-alexander-graham-bell-sounded-like-until-now-37585123/#yzIiwRdP47QWQjyq.99
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We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until NowRead more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/we-had-no-idea-what-alexander-graham-bell-sounded-like-until-now-37585123/#yzIiwRdP47QWQjyq.99
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First Friday Freebie #8: Whether Far or Near, Friends are Dear

Building friendships and community is a big focus at the beginning of the school year as classes are formed and begin the year-long journey of learning together. A story that shares a unique perspective of friendship is Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams. This book, based upon a true story, tells about two girls in a refugee camp who decide to share a pair of sandals even after their lives take them in very different directions. Bonding over shared experiences as well as footwear provides a foundation for a deep and lasting friendship.

How do your students define the word “friends”? This month’s First Friday Freebie provides an opportunity for them to brainstorm how friends should act towards each other.

Get the free graphic organizer here.

friends

 

For more ideas, check out Williams Writes, author Karen Lynn Williams’ website, where you can find a teacher’s guide for this story, see a picture of the sandals that inspired the book, and learn more about the author.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Memories… so much of our lives are tied together with bits and pieces of our past.

Whether they make us laugh or cry or are as precious as gold or are rather forgotten, memories can help us cherish the past, look forward to the future, and sometimes make sense of the present.

One of my favorite stories that explores this topic is this delightful children’s book by Mem Fox:

As little Wilfred comes to discover from his friends at the retirement home, memories are many things but most of all they are meant to be shared.

The Learning to Give site has a five lesson unit entitled Sharing and Caring Across Generations that is based in part on Mem Fox’s story.

 

To further explore this topic with your students, you could incorporate the following books and lessons into your class activities:

Tanya’s Reunion, by Valerie Flournoy

Check out the link here for a lesson plan based on the story.

 

 

 

The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco

Many of Polacco’s stories are based on her memories. Visit her website to learn more about her books and see some activity ideas.

 

All the Places to Love, by Patricia Maclachlan

 

 

 

When I Was Young in the Mountains, by Cynthia Rylant

 

What brings to mind your favorite memory?

Stories of Life

Another successful set of writing prompts to use in the classroom focuses on the students themselves.

What better topic do we know in-depth information about  than our own experiences?

Providing students with prompts that connect to their lives can help to eliminate that feeling of not having anything to write about and instead help students focus on the abundance of life experiences they face each day.

The following autobiographies and biographies provide rich examples of life stories for students and can serve as mentor texts as students take on the task of writing about their own lives:

Bill Peet: An Autobiography, by Bill Peet

 

Flora and Tiger: 19 very short stories from my life, by Eric Carle


When I Was Young in the Mountains, by Cynthia Rylant

 

A Picture Book of Helen Keller, by David Adler

My Name is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter, by Jeanette Winter

 

Rocks in His Head, by Carol Hurst

 

Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

 

Cleopatra, by Peter Vennema and Diane Stanley

 

Additional Resources:

Scholastic: Writing an Autobiography

Telling a Story About Me: Young Children Write Autobiographies

How Do Kids Write an Autobiography About Themselves?