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?

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Snow Art

Looking for more ways to explore snow crystals?

Try these art projects:

Salty Snow Silhouette (grades 4-12) – by Crayola

Snow Science Art (grades K-8) – by KinderArt

 

Feeling creative?

Make some block prints of snow scenes like artist Mary Azarian did for her woodcut print illustrations in Snowflake Bentley.

 

And because spring will soon be here, take some time to explore a few more books about winter and Libbrecht‘s snowflake pictures before your thoughts turn to warmer weather.

Magical “Gardens”

If you are like me and live where the snow rarely falls, then you will have a hard time exploring snow crystals like Wilson Bentley did. But never fear, there are many other types of crystals out there just waiting for you to observe, photograph, and possibly even “grow”!

When I taught 3rd grade, my students and I grew salt and alum crystals every year as part of a science unit. We also experimented with sugar and borax crystals a few times. However, my favorite kind of crystal to grow is alum because of its unique shape.

Salt crystals also have an interesting design and can be grown quite easily.

If you are curious about how this works and would like to create your own “magical garden,” check out these links for information on growing your own crystals:

Science Club Website: Crystal Growing

The Best Crystal Project

Crystal Science Fair Projects

Then sit back, watch them grow, and don’t forget to take some pictures.

Taller than a newborn calf…

Vocabulary… such an essential part of comprehension.

When readers cannot connect meanings to words in a story and/or lack prior knowledge to truly understand key details, comprehension suffers. Pictures and videos can help to fill in these blanks for readers, making the reading experience richer and more meaningful. With the use of the Internet, opportunities for helping our students expand their vocabulary and understanding abound.

Programs like Picnik (which sadly is closing in April) make it easy to create vocabulary cards like these for some of the key words in the picture book Snowflake Bentley:

For more complex concepts like evaporation and the photography process, there are a variety of videos available:     Evaporation     Water Cycle

And if your students want to see a photo of the camera that was “taller than a newborn calf and cost as much as [Bentley’s] father’s herd of ten cows,” visit this site and then check out this page for more info on bellows cameras from the 1800s.

As time and resources allow, students could also search for examples to expand their own vocabularies and knowledge, having fun along the way learning what a difference a picture can make.

Butterflies, Apple Blossoms, and Snowflakes

As the first snowflakes of 2012 fell here earlier this week, I thought again about Snowflake Bentley. I love that story and find his curiosity and love of nature along with his patience, persistence, and determination to be both insightful and inspiring. His camera and microscope have impacted the world for over a century.

Bentley once said, “Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.

Want to explore the world like Wilson Bentley? Check out the following sites to learn about using a microscope and the amazing views this tool can provide:

Home Science Tools: Introductory Microscope Experiments

eHow: Kids’ Microscope Activities

Yahoo Kids! Microscopic Images

MicroAngela’s Electron Microscope Image Gallery

FotoSearch: Microscopic stock photos and images

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?

Vermont should be beautiful this time of year…

… with all that snow!

Although we may have already had our few snowfalls of the season here in the valley in western Oregon, January always brings to mind snowflakes: icy, pure white real ones floating down from the sky as well as the larger variety intricately cut from paper.

Snow is a fun topic to learn about this time of year, and Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a great place to start! This story provides a unique look at snowflakes through the life of Wilson Bentley, a farmer and photographer from Vermont.

Additional information about Bentley can be found at

and for fun, you can also visit the Make-a-Flake website to create your own unique virtual snowflakes.

Happy New Year!