Archive for February, 2011


I always take time each year to reflect on the true meaning of Black History Month. Martin Luther King Junior paid a monumental price and that is why we can celebrate Black History Month. I am very thankful for that. I often ponder on many other things as well, like how far we have come and where we are going. One thing that always leaves me feeling blue is the number of African American youths who have fallen through the cracks. Most of these youths drop out of school because they do not have the right parental support. How unfortunate is that? There must be a way to make a difference in the lives of these youths.

The sobering truth, as harsh as it may appear, is that unless someone steps in to make a difference most of these youths will end up in jail.

This year of 2011 I am feeling extremely hopeful, because at the school where I currently teach, my principal, Mr. Allen Smith, has taken his leadership to a level I have never seen before. I applaud him very loudly. To start off the school year, Mr. Smith had the faculty return to school two days early. During the two days the staff sat through a very powerful training program called: Education Done the Right Way…Through Relationships.

What do relationships mean to the student? Perhaps school is the only place where he or she feels safe and where an adult actually does care about his or her wellbeing. In order to teach the students at our school, the faculty needs to reach out and build relationships with them. A great leader sees the need and finds ways to help meet those needs. This is why I so appreciate Mr. Allen Smith: he saw a need and made sure to set up his faculty with the necessary training so they can provide the best for all students.

A word of caution: Building relationships does not mean putting into full use the prejudice of low expectations. The last thing we need to do is to feel sorry for these students and let them get away with murder. One can build relationships and still hold the students accountable for their actions. It is the loving thing to do, because anything else will set up these students for failure later on when they become adults. I love Denzel Washington’s statement in the movie Remember the Titans, where he said: “Do not patronize these kids; you will set them up for failure.”

It is never easy to reach every single student. There are a few who are definitely set in their ways and they make it very difficult for the teacher to teach. At the onset of second semester, I had a difficult time with a few students. I had resigned myself to thinking that perhaps there was no way I could help these students. Well, much to my delight, Mr. Allen Smith flew in a guest speaker, Jason L. Perry from Oak Tree Leadership, to speak to the faculty. What Mr. Perry shared infused me with a renewed vigor to reach out to these difficult students. Once again through this training I learned that rules without relationship lead to rebellion. Education is about relationship and friendship. I applied what I learned and thus was able to reach these difficult students.

Mr. Smith has taken his unrelenting desire to help the students at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College to an even higher level by hiring a new assistant principal who in my opinion has the students’ best interest at heart. Mr. Nick Dawkins, a Belfer scholar who also attended a summer programme in literature at Oxford University, is doing an outstanding job helping the teachers with behavioral issues. Just last week, he held a special meeting with a group of boys who were making it extremely difficult to teach.

The meeting proved to be very productive because the boys returned to class with a new attitude. They sat down and completed their work. Today, after a four-day holiday weekend, the same students returned to class, sat down, and did their work.

I am feeling very hopeful that at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Denver, Colorado Martin Luther King’s dream is being realized. As a school we strive to make each day a success. Yes! We do encounter challenges, but we never give up.

So in celebration of Black History Month I want to say thank you to Mr. Allen Smith and Mr. Nick Dawkins for their great leadership.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  – Martin Luther King Jr

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Tradebook Tips for Teachers from Children’s Author Pamela Hamilton

Welcome to day three of Pamela Hamilton’s 6-day NWFCC February Author Showcase tour.

From the time I’d first conceived Snow Day I’d always thought of it as a read-a-loud book to be read as a bedtime story or perhaps as a book that beginning readers could read on their own. I had purposefully kept the story simple and I had never thought about how teachers could use Snow Day in the classroom until I was asked to address that in this blog post.

After some thought, here are some ideas I came up with for incorporating Snow Day into the classroom.

Creative writing: Using Snow Day as a starting point, have students write

  • about what they did the last time school was cancelled for snow. (Or, if the school is not in the snow belt, what did they do on their last day off from school)
  • Pick 5 to 7 words from Snow Day and have the students write a story of their own using them.
  • Write a class story starting with the first line of Snow Day. The teacher writes “It’s a snow day” at the top of the page, then the first student writes the next sentence, the second student the next, and so on until everyone has contributed and the story is completed.
  • Write a class play based on Snow Day.


Art: Illustrations for any of the above with the learning objective to help students identify what makes a good illustration, or, in the case of the play, good set decoration.

Science: Snow Day can be part of a unit on weather.

  • What is snow?
  • Why does it snow?
  • What is a blizzard?
  • How is a blizzard different than a snowstorm?
  • What is the difference between winter storm warnings. watches, and advisories?
  • With older students, teachers can use Snow Day as a starting point for using the Internet for research. In the story, Tessa, Jake, and Molly have a day off from school because of snow. Students could research and chart:
    • What are the snowiest (rainiest, sunniest) parts of the United States?
    • Track and chart snowfall (rainfall) in the school yard for a week, month, year
    • Follow the weather map/forecast in the local newspaper or TV news for one week. Identify the indicators/patterns the forecasters use for predict the next day’s weather. Give your weather forecast for the next 3 days.



  • Brainstorm a list of winter activities and take a class poll – what is the most popular? Least popular? Make a graph of the results.
  • Expand the poll to the school, charting the results by classroom and by grade.
  • Measure snowfall, rainfall, temperature for a given period of time. Calculate the daily average, weekly average, or monthly average. 


Follow Day 4 of Ms. Hamilton’s tour tomorrow at Leave a comment and your name will automatically be entered to win a Three Angels Gourmet Co mug and a package of Divine Dill Dip Mix – at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.

Tradebook Tips for Teachers from Children’s Author Nancy Sanders

Welcome to day three of Nancy Sanders’ 6-day NWFCC February Author Showcase tour.

Q: This month we celebrate Black History Month. Do you have any resources for helping teachers incorporate African American History into the classroom?

A: Because my husband, Jeff, is a teacher, I understand how teaches can’t just use anything in their classroom. They have to teach to the state and national standards. That’s why many of my books support these standards in a variety of ways.

My book, America’s Black Founders: Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders with 21 Activities, supports the standards for teaching about American history in elementary, middle school, and high school. It is for age 9 and older. The book’s website is

On the book’s website, under the Teachers and Librarians page, educators can download PDF files for a free Teacher’s Guide that has worksheets and fun activities for classroom use.

Teachers and librarians can also visit a special ongoing Virtual Book Tour they can participate in with their students to celebrate Black History all year long. For instructions on how the tour works and also how to incorporate my books into their classroom for the tour, visit my website

Readers Theatre for African American History includes scripts for classroom use about America’s Black Founders as well as other key events and individuals.

Q: Do you write books specifically geared for teachers?

A: My husband, Jeff, and I have worked together on several books for teachers. With his expertise in the classroom as an elementary teacher for over 25 years and my experience as a children’s writer, we’ve teamed up to write books for teachers such as Hello Hi-Lo: Readers Theatre Math and 15 Fun-to-Read American History Mini-Books.

I’ve also written numerous books for teachers with Scholastic Teaching Resources. These books are reproducible mini-books or mini-book plays for classroom use. My book, 25 Read and Write Mini-Books That Teach Word Families (PreK-1) is listed as a bestseller for Scholastic and has sold over 234,000 copies to date!

Q: What other resources to you have for teachers to celebrate Black History Month in the classroom?

A: Along with the overall text of the book, America’s Black Founders contains numerous short biographies of key African Americans who influenced the founding of our nation in powerful ways. These bios are showcased in separate frames throughout the book, often with nearly-lost or hard-to-find historic portraits of these amazing men and women. Students can quickly see at a glance an overview of the lives of these important individuals, start recognizing their faces, and read even more about their lives within the context of the book’s pages of text.

Teachers can reproduce these bios as posters in their class, create a classroom book featuring these bios as the pages of the book, and invite students to post Wikipedia articles based on the information found in these biographies.

For more activities and tips about incorporating my books in the classroom, teachers and librarians can visit my website at

Follow Day 4 of Ms. Sanders’ tour tomorrow at Leave a comment and your name will automatically be entered to win a Three Angels Gourmet Co mug and a package of Divine Dill Dip Mix – at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.


Tradebook Tips for Teachers from Children’s Author Laurie Monopoli

Welcome to day three of Laurie Monopoli’s 6-day NWFCC February Author Showcase tour.

At first glance you will think this is the ideal book to help children overcome their fears of the first day of school.  However, just like the expression, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, there is much more depth in learning encompassed in this little picture book.  First of all, the story is interactive and children are invited to actively participate with the characters.  Through active participation children become engaged in the story and its message; aiding in comprehension, memory and recall.   Additionally, all children have different learning/reading styles.  It is important that we respect these differences in children. Some children can sit for long periods of time for story, after story.   While others may get fidgety after you turn the first page. Some children actually require a level of movement to keep their brains focused.   This story offers restless readers a splash of movement and motion that their brain requires to maintain focus.  Accordingly, The Book About Tony Chestnut attracts the interest of ALL children — even the most reluctant reader.

To assist educators in their daily planning I developed a comprehensive curriculum that correlates with The Book About Tony Chestnut.   Kindness Counts: Exploring Random Acts of Kindness is a curriculum where children are invited to learn through active; hands-on experiences how their actions affect others.  United they create a kindness tree that beautifully blooms with their expressions of sharing, caring and being kind towards others.

The Kindness Counts curriculum is based on integrated units that allow educators to make certain their children are learning relevant knowledge that they can easily apply to real life situations.  Theme teaching with correlating projects also allows classes to cover a variety of material and effectively teach many concepts and skills. This approach builds on children’s interests, as it allows them to learn at their own individual pace, and connect this knowledge to their daily lives.  A learning environment rich in meaningful opportunities for children to explore is a holistic and natural way for them to learn.  It is vehicle that demonstrates respect for the classrooms diverse learning styles and individual developmental needs. 

Link to Kindness Counts: Exploring Random Acts of Kindness:      

Follow Day 4 of Ms. Monopoli’s tour tomorrow at Leave a comment and your name will automatically be entered to win a Three Angels Gourmet Co mug and a package of Divine Dill Dip Mix – at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.


Music is designed to evoke emotions good or bad, but a good children’s book on the other hand should challenge the imagination of the child. I am an adult, and my imagination was hugely challenged after reading Bill Kirk’s book, A Midsummer’s Dance.

The author uses fireflies in a simple and profound way to teach young readers about the activities of these insects. The story whisked me back to my childhood days. I immediately thought about the hot, humid summers in both my native Haiti and in New York. I could actually hear the cacophony of buzzes that took place way back then.

This delightful tale is sure to ignite curiosity in the minds of the young reader. It is not just that the author is exploring an event that relates to everyday life, but the way in which he delivers the message is very creative and special.

The story is written in a fun rhyme. I found myself reading the book out loud several times just so I could enjoy the sound of each rhyme.

This fun book can be a great resource for elementary teachers to use in the classroom to teach young children about end rhymes. Examples mentioned in the story include: log/bog, chance/dance, night/flight, mist/twist and cricket/thicket.

Artist Clara Batton Smith does an outstanding job bringing the story to full, vivacious life. Her spunky illustrations complement the story very well.

Author: Bill Kirk
Artist: Clara Batton Smith

PRINT ISBN: 978-1-61633-123-8; 1616331232
EBook ISBN: 978-161633-124-5; 1616331240

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Tradebook Tips for Teachers from Children’s Author Michelle Hall

Welcome to day three of Michelle Hall’s 6-day NWFCC February Author Showcase tour.

City Dog and Country Cat “And So We Meet Again” is a very attractive, brightly colored picture book. This book is appropriate for teachers to use in their classrooms as a read to book or for those in their early school years ages 5 – 8, and learning to read on their own. Children’s interest, imagination and comprehension will be heightened by this book because there is as much visual, as well as the textual being offered in it. Children and teachers can discuss many areas that this story opens up for discussion. Such areas as proper pet care, the importance of friendships, going on long journeys, moving away from loved ones and happy reunions are just a few.

Oftentimes we find the child in the classroom, especially the younger ones, who have not yet found reading to be the greatest part of his or her day. A book with many words and few or no pictures can result in the teacher losing the attention of that child. City Dog and Country Cat is quick in getting to its plot, brings characters to life that the children can relate to and follow as the story develops. This book will keep the children in the classroom focused as they look forward to each new page of bright pictures, fun animals, adventure, humor, and surprise.

There is also more that this book brings to our children in the classroom. Teachers can use this book to talk about emotions and feelings. This book brings comfort, love and hope to our children. Sassy and Frisky, two very good friends are separated. Even though far from each other their love holds strong. Frisky is comforted by the love she remembers sharing with her friend and the hope to see her again. In the story Frisky is happily reunited with her best friend Sassy; but the story lets our little ones know that even when they can’t see their friends or be reunited with them, in their hearts and their memories their friends will always and forever remain.

 Follow Day 4 of Ms. Hall’s tour tomorrow at Leave a comment and your name will automatically be entered to win a Three Angels Gourmet Co mug and a package of Divine Dill Dip Mix – at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.


Kai Strand’s debut mid-grade novel The Weaver is a must read. The story is about Mary Wordsmith, whose wish is to be able to weave a tale just like her mother. Mary is a typical teen who wants to be well liked and respected. In her quest to be like her mother she meets a peculiar blue man who is ready to help her achieve her greatest desire.

Mary, her self-esteem at an all time low, allows the little blue man to talk her into granting her wish. Much to her dismay, things did not turn out in her favor. Mary is baffled when there is no major improvement in her storytelling. She feels betrayed by the blue little man.

Things get even more complex when trinkets start to appear after practicing weaving a story.

You have to read the book to find out what happens to Mary. Will her storytelling improve? Will the trinkets continue to appear? The story held me captive; I had to finish reading the book in one sitting.

Kai Strand is a master at storytelling. Her book is very unique in that adults and children can learn a very valuable lesson. Each one of us is special and we should strive to celebrate and accept each other for who we are. I also loved the way Mary’s friend gives her unrelenting support. We all need friends to support us in the times of our greatest challenges.

Chapbooks for Tweens
Author: Kai Strand
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61633-121-4; 1616331216
Paperback ISBN: 9781-61633-122-1; 1616331224
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61633-127-6; 1616331275


In a town of word weavers, Mary suffers through her third year of Novice Word Weaving. Mary thinks her troubles are over when she meets a gnome-elf who grants her a wish. But instead of weaving a better story, she’s weaving strange yarn charms to accompany her still pathetic tales.


The Weaver
Chapter 1
A Mother’s Shadow 
Given ample sun and water, a flower grows strong and blooms full
But grown in shade it is spindly, weak, and off color .
     On a balmy spring morning, Mary Wordsmith and her mother, Abigail, made their weekly visit to the produce market.
     Thumping an acorn squash, Abigail said, “At last, here’s one that isn’t going soft.” She handed the squash to Mary who absently dropped it in the basket on her arm.

Tucked in a lush valley between two snow-capped mountains was the village of The Tales. Those who lived in the village were known as Weavers. Each person in The Tales could tell stories about anything at anytime, and they often did. Prose, poetry, limericks or yarns; they told stories of all types and styles.     “Mother, must I recite today?” Mary grimaced at the thought.

     Abigail placed a bunch of fresh spring carrots in Mary’s basket and offered a reassuring smile before turning back to the vegetable displays.

     “A child once stood at the side of Main Street watching carts and horses pass her by. On the far side of the street the front window of the candy shop gleamed and beckoned, and her pocket strained with the weight of coins.”

     Mary blinked back tears and shifted behind Abigail, who scooped snap peas into a brown bag as she wove her story. A knot of shoppers stopped to listen.

    “Yet, the child never ventured across the street for fear of the traffic. Her pocket eventually tore, its contents trampled, kicked and snatched away. And her tongue never knew the sweet salty taste of fresh pulled taffy.” Abigail placed the bag of pea pods in the basket and lovingly lifted Mary’s chin. “You can do it, dear.”

   Mary felt sure her mother was oblivious to the appreciative murmurs of the dispersing crowd.

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Welcome to day three of L.S. Cauldwell’s 6-day NWFCC February Author Showcase tour.

The Anna Mae Mysteries: The Golden Treasure is set in rural Georgia with two distinct ethnic groups:  Hispanics and African Americans.  In rural Georgia during the mid-90’s segregation still ruled the classroom.  Teachers can discuss segregation, peer pressure, racial equality, grandparents bringing up children, rural versus city education, superstition, beliefs, rejection, equality, and most importantly, remaining true to yourself–to your nature.


Follow Day 4 of Ms. Cauldwell’s tour tomorrow at Leave a comment and your name will automatically be entered to win a Three Angels Gourmet Co mug and a package of Divine Dill Dip Mix – at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.


I hope everyone did well on completing the puzzle.  Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!  Below is the answer key I promised. I have also included the vocabulary list I used to make the puzzle.

French Valentine Vocabulary
French answer key


I love using crossword puzzles in my classroom for the following reasons: crossword solving involves several useful skills including vocabulary, reasoning, spelling, and word attack skills. To solve any crossword puzzle, a student must be able to identify and understand the terms being used. Another benefit of using crossword puzzles in the classroom is that they are associated with recreation, and can be less intimidating for students as review tools.

  Puzzle solving is a much more active type of learning, and will engage students with the material more than passive types of review techniques do. Crossword puzzles have the advantage of appealing to many different learning styles.  Visual learners are known to have strong puzzle-solving skills, and completing a puzzle encourages great satisfaction and help with self-esteem. Auditory learners enjoy step-by-step reasoning, so they also benefit from the sequential steps of completing a crossword.  Kinesthetic learners derive great joy from the multi-task strategies required to solve a crossword.

I often use crossword puzzles as a warm-up activity.  I love the fact that the puzzles can be customized to the study content.  If you would like to create your own puzzles here is a site where you can do so free of charge.  I use this site all the time to create all of my puzzles.

Happy Puzzle making!