Saturday, December 15, 2012

Back after a Hiatus... for a Good Reason

I know it has been forever since I posted anything here on Picture Book Lesson. I have been on a hiatus since I got my first full-time teaching job and have had to put all my energy into my own classroom. But after the events at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday, I feel it necessary to come out of hiding to make a very important point and to inform you of a tribute happening tomorrow.

Whenever I hear about horrible tragedies, I always have two questions:

1) Why did this happen? (Something we may never be able to know in this situation.)
2) What can I do to help?

I don't think there is anything huge I can do to help. But if I can do a little bit of good, then at least that's something. I want to do two things in this post.

Teachers, make sure you know your school's emergency procedures, leave them in instructions for a sub if you need to be out, and seriously participate in your school's drills. 
I know it's all a pain, but what I saw in the reports coming out of Sandy Hook was that the teachers there knew them and were able to save many children because they knew those procedures.

Something else you can do to "help" if you are a fellow blogger, is to join in a silent tribute tomorrow. Thank you to Meghan Farley of Oh Boy Fourth Grade for coming up with the idea. All you need to do to join is to grab this button designed by Michelle at 3AM Teacher and place it on your blog Sunday, December 16, 2012. Only post the picture and title your post "Silence for Sandy Hook Elementary." Let's all unite and show those affected how much we care.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Do Unto Otters to Teach the Golden Rule

As promised here are some ideas for my favorite book to read at the start of school to reinforce character education and how to treat others... Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that otters are my favorite animal. They have been ever since I was little growing up in Missouri visiting the St. Louis zoo. I could stand and watch that cute, playful river otter for hours. And we had a family friend who worked at the zoo, so I knew that otter's name was Emmitt. Then as I competed in gymnastics, my good luck charm that I took to every meet was a stuffed otter named (what else) Emmitt. Even now, when I recently ordered a Melonhead from Melonheadz Illustrating, I asked her to add in an otter. After laughing, she did a phenomenal job, don't you think?

So, of course, I was going to gravitate toward a book with an otter pun as the title! And after reading the book, I was hooked. What a cute and clever storyline! Mr. Rabbit is worried because he has new neighbors, and they are otters. Mr. Rabbit knows nothing about otters and is terrified that they will be bad neighbors. So, Mr. Owl teaches Mr. Rabbit about The Golden Rule.

Students love when I read this book... probably because I am one of those wacky teachers who uses silly voices and makes faces while I read. I also use lots of hand gestures. I've been know to pull a muscle when reading. Ha! But because the students love it so much, it becomes part of my classroom management. When a conflict arises, often I simply ask, "Did you do unto otters?" And that can open the discussion of what happened and what different choices could be made the next time. "Do Unto Otters" becomes my classroom mantra.

When I read any book, I always start with a little pre-reading prior knowledge activation. I show the cover and ask for predictions of what the book is about and why they think that. I ask what they know about treating others. And sometimes I even use a graphic organizer such as a Bubble Map or a KWL Chart.

During reading, I reinforce what is said, pointing out some things they may not notice in the pictures and text. We can also clarify any unknown vocabulary words to assist with comprehension. After reading we discuss what we just read, relating it to other things they know, they have read, or they have done (Text-to-World, Text-to-Text, and Text-to-Self connections). Then you can have the students do some sort of comprehension reinforcing activity.

I created a free packet to use with this book. It has six activity suggestions, although there are so many more you could choose. And I created reproducibles for five of those activities. One is a simple reader's response of recalling how I want others to treat me and how I want to treat others.

This one is my favorite. It is a writing prompt for students to write times in their life when they showed "otterly" good manners. As a fun added bonus, you can cut out 2 1/2" circles of students faces to glue on the otter body. I know! Cute, right?

The Remember a Time When Sheet helps reinforce the vocabulary in the book and also encourages students to remember when they showed those good manners.

Also in the packet is a blank Venn diagram and suggestions of things for the students to compare and contrast. And there is a blank poster template for students to create a poster showing one of the manners demonstrated in the book. You can hang those posters in the hall to show your class follows the Golden Rule.

So, get reading to help your students learn good manners.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Big Bad Wolves at School Is Not Exactly What You Would Expect

I just fell for the 'ole "do not judge a book by its cover." I did judge... and I was disappointed. As I was searching for a "new" back-to-school book recently, I came across Big Bad Wolves at School. The cover features a teacher wolf scowling at a student wolf with pencils up his nose. I thought, "Perfect! This one will help reinforce rules. And how did I not know about this book before now?"

When my Amazon order came, I excitedly opened it and read through the book. Things were moving right along. Rufus the wolf is carefree, but his parents decide he must go to school so he can survive in the real world. Of course, Rufus is not fitting in at school. He's not listening, following directions, studying, or learning. When the time for testing comes, Rufus is not prepared. That's all good so far, right? Yea, that's what I thought. That's where it takes a turn I wasn't thrilled with. During the test, the alarm sounds because hunters are attacking. Rufus, because of his carefree life before school is the only one prepared to defend the wolves and saves the day. Rufus is reward, and all the wolves give up school. Yikes! I was not expecting the anti-school message. I am just glad I wasn't in front of a class the first time I read it.

Now, that being said, since I believe that every book has value of some sort, you could turn the book into a teachable moment and lead a discussion about the pros and cons of school. You could discuss the moral of the story, and the importance of maintaining individuality. You could also compare and contrast your school to wolf school.

However, I think I will be sticking with my stand-by for helping learn how to treat one another: Do Unto Otters. The book offers a light-hearted and meaningful look at the Golden Rule. I love it, and I find the students always do too. "Do Unto Otters" becomes our class motto of how to treat each other. Tomorrow, I will share some ways I use my favorite otter book in the classroom.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Summarizing Hokey Pokey: That's What It's All About

Summarizing. We want students to do it all the time. After all, it's one of the most basic ways for a student to demonstrate comprehension of a story. But many times, we just read them a piece of writing or have them read a story and instruct them to summarize it. At best we tell them what a summary is... pulling out the important ideas from a story to tell what it is mostly about. The best way to make sure your students are proficient at summarizing to not only teach them what a summary is, but also how to do it. And to equip them with tools that can help them build a summary.

When you think about it, what we do when we summarize is to pare the story down to its bare bones. I like to tell students it's like writing an ad... or what they see on the back of the book... or to imagine that they only have two minutes on the phone to tell a friend about the book. So, the bottom line is that you only have time and space to give the essential big ideas, events, characters, and settings.

There are lots of strategies and activities out there to use to teach the skill of summarizing. Here are some I have gathered some that have worked for me and put them together in a freebie graphic organizer packet:
Or beginning, middle, end. In this strategy students give one sentence about what happened at the beginning, one for the middle, and one for the end. When you put those sentences together, you get a summary. BME's can be done as flip books, graphic organizers, or just written on a piece of paper.

Or Somebody Wanted But So Then. This one is great for those cause and effect stories or ones with clear problems and solutions.
Story Map
Have students fill in a story map graphic organizer with the main character, setting, problem, three big events, and solution. Again, you put those answers together into a paragraph and you get a summary.
Book Advertisement
Instruct students that they will be writing a commercial or magazine ad for the book. There is not much time or space to get bogged down in all the little details, so you have to only tell the important things that happen.
5 W's + H
Students answer the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) and you can add an H (how) if the story needs it. Those answers can also come together to make a summary.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Desk for Hermit Students Name Tag: A Back-to-School Craftivity for A House for Hermit Crab

For my first lesson post, I thought I would go with a back-to-school theme. I know. I know. What a crazy idea. It's not like anyone is heading back to school right now. Ha!

Anyway, I have seen wonderful lessons and activities all over blogland and Pinterest on books like First Day Jitters, The Kissing Hand, Miss Nelson Is Missing, etc. I wanted something different... that maybe you hadn't seen before. So I tried to think outside the box and brainstorm with my friend Rachel Reyna of Fisher-Reyna Education. Where I ended up was to use a book that you most likely are familiar with, but maybe never thought about using it for back-to-school. I chose to use A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle.

If you aren't familiar with the book, it is about a crab who has outgrown his shell and finds a new, bigger shell to move into. But his bigger shell doesn't feel like home, so with the help of other sea creature friends, he decorates it to make it his. The book is often used with the littles because it goes through the months of the year. But (one reason I love picture books) it has so many other teaching possibilities!

What, you may ask, does this book have to do with going back to school? Well, why not draw parallels between the crab outgrowing the shell and students “outgrowing” their previous classroom. Like the crab’s new shell, their new classroom and desk may not feel quite right at first. But there are things they can do to make the new classroom feel right. Now, this lesson would probably be better for grades 3 and up since the book is not a direct reference to school. I had my own son who will be a third grader do the lesson, and he got totally into it.

Before you do any activity, read the book aloud and discuss the parallels between it and school. Make sure students notice that on the August page, hermit crab and his shell friends wander into a seaweed forest that they describe as “dark,” “dim,” “gloomy,” and “murky.” Then in September “a school of lanternfish” light up the darkness. If students don't see the symbolism, point out this is similar to how school provides the light of education.

You may want to start by doing a lesson on main idea or summary to make sure the students comprehend the story before starting the craftivity.

A Desk for Hermit Students Name Tag Craftivity
Students will create an all-about-me desk name tag while interacting with other classmates to share supplies.

You will need these materials: 
Shell Pattern copied onto cardstock or a sentence strip for each student
• Art supplies, including scissors, markers, crayons, glue, pompoms, sequins, buttons, chenille sticks, etc. if you choose

To start, set up stations with the art supplies around the room. If possible, put some at each table group of desks. Instruct the students that they will be creating a personalized name tag to decorate their new desk in their new classroom. The only requirement for this name tag it that it have the student's name and be decorated in such a way as to tell others a little about who they are are and what they like.

A table at a time, have students rotate around the room, gathering supplies they choose to use to decorate their name tag. When all students have supplies, they can begin decorating. At the completion of the decorating, you could choose to have students share their name tags and why they chose to decorate them the way they did. 

Finally, when everyone has shared, the name tags can be taped to their desks to decorate their “new shell” just like hermit crab.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Welcome to Picture Book Lessons!

When starting this blog, I first went through a process of reflection. I asked myself:
1) What am I passionate about in teaching?
2) What do I have plenty of knowledge in?

While I came up with several answers, I went with picture books. I love them. I love to buy them. I love to read them. I love to share them with my children and my students. I love to teach with them. Most of all, I love when students love them too.

Every time a new unit starts in any subject, the first thing I do is look through my picture book library and pull the books that relate. So, I thought I would share that passion with anyone would like to listen.

Who am I? I am Rachel Friedrich, a teacher, wife, mother of two, and blogger. Many of you may know me as the creator of Sub Hub, which I started a year ago as a resource for teachers preparing for subs and subs themselves. I always say teaching is my second life since I was a career changer and lived my previous life as a journalist. Reading and writing have always been important in my life, so what better topic for a blog?

My thoughts for Picture Book Lessons are pretty broad. I want to share how I use picture books in the classroom. There will be lessons with mentor texts, activities, craftivities, writing ideas, science ideas, social studies ideas, etc. I plan to host guest bloggers and linkies so you can get other perspectives as well. And note the Mentor Texts tab at the top of the blog. It is sparse right now, but I will be adding topics and books along the way with the goal of compiling a mega list of mentor texts!

Some of you may ask why picture books and not chapter books too? I mean, shouldn't older students be reading chapter books when they are ready. Well, of course. But that doesn't mean picture books lose their place in the classroom. My main reason for focusing on picture books is practicality. Picture books don't take too much time to read, so it's very feasible to read a book and do the lesson/activity in one day or over the course of a couple of days. Plus, who doesn't love to be read to and look at pictures? Even my husband's high school AP biology students adore when he reads them The Lorax every year. Picture books are not just for littles. They can be used to teach concepts of every level. And I will do my best to share that with you.

So, in short, my goals are two-fold — to share a passion of mine and help some other teachers in the process. I am always open to suggestions as well. If there is something you need, cannot find, or want to share, let me know through the Contact Me tab. So, remember, if you can,

"Teach It With a Book!"