Interactive learning quests, book reviews, lesson plans, teacher tools and technology tips for teachers.
Written by Karin Kaufman
A delightful chapter book consisting of ten stories that revolve around a fearless family of mice facing the dangers and challenges of winter. Geraldine is the protagonist who was born in April, but now in October is facing the end of the gathering season. She and her brother Nigel have much to learn and experience. Readers are introduced to their friends in the forest, Penelope, the sparrow and Cheddar, a white rabbit. The children love to hear their father Nigel read to them stories from the Book of Tales. These adventures teach them about common sense, trust, gratitude, empathy and sharing. As October wanes, the family and friends celebrate Thanksgiving and the joys of Christmas. On the other hand, the children’s curiosity put them in danger of being eaten by wolves and ravens, swept down the river on a log and being destroyed by a forest fire. Charlotte is a sensitive and inquisitive mouse who desires to read, write and explore the world around her. She and her brother share sibling rivalry, but at the same time deeply love and care for one another. Their parents teach them to have faith that Very, Very Big Hands will be there to guide and protect them.
This chapter book is geared toward readers in grades three to six. Some younger children may enjoy individual stories as a read aloud. There are no illustrations; a few simple drawings would add appeal to younger children. I would thoroughly recommend the book as a gentle, sweet read for children who love animals. The many lessons learned and bravery in facing adversity allow for lots of discussion on the topics of developing strong character and interpersonal skills.
Written by Belle Ward
First book in a middle grade short story series. Lilah is about to celebrate her thirteenth birthday. Her father surprises her with her favorite breakfast of pancakes and bacon. As she departs for school with her older brother, Jay, Lilah looks forward to her first class in which she is studying about Ancient Greece. Mr. Fisher is discussing the Olympians. For some reason, Lilah can’t stop thinking about the lesson.
When Lilah gets home she is surprised by the gift of an angel-winged necklace from her dad. But when she prepares for bed, strange things begin to happen. The necklace heats up, her rainbow colored extensions suddenly become attached to her head, and she experiences a strange dream. The next day, Lilah is invited to join a special dream club. She is astonished to learn that the other members are Apollo and Hades. They think she is the goddess who will help them find the Father of the Monsters. A sudden crash, and all must run for their lives…..Will Lilah cast her fate with these strangers? Will she wake up from this nightmare?
This short story is a good length for reluctant readers. The characters are believable and interesting enough. What some readers may not like is that the tale ends in a cliffhanger. Readers will be left disappointed unless they immediately get a hold of Book Two.
Barbara Ann Mojica
If your school has taken on this academic and mental health school adventure, please tell me of your experience. What worked out, what didn’t? If you have any questions, let me know! Contact Lynn
Written and illustrated by Mike Artell
I was provided a copy of this book and voluntarily decided to give my honest, unbiased review.
Artell has written and illustrated more than 35 books for children and adults. This book is much more than an I Can Draw book. It does include step by step instructions for drawing helicopters, prop planes and jets, which are easy to follow and simple enough for the targeted audience of seven to twelve year old plane enthusiasts.
For me even more important is the explanation of letter codes that the military use to describe the function of each machine. For example, A indicates attack fighter and M signifies that the aircraft has multiple functions. Each aircraft is preceded by an actual photograph along with statistics about size, speed, altitude and function. These are followed by several pages of step by step easy to follow drawing instructions. Perhaps the best feature is the QR code available as an app for each plane. Readers can use it to access videos of actual flight and tons of additional information on each of the fifteen selections. At the end of the book, the author supplies an extensive bibliography which the military aircraft aficionado may access for detailed information.
I learned a lot about military aircraft from this easy read. Even though my artistic ability is generally limited to stick figures, this guide is so easy that I am tempted to make a serious try to draw them. Recommended for ages seven and older.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
The move from grade based learning to quality based learning means that we, as educators, need to be consistent in our measures and interpretations of work quality. A lofty goal for sure, but well worth the undertaking. Today we’ll explore the challenges and steps to achieving success.
Our curriculum standards tell us what our students need to learn, but provide little guidance as to what the learning should look like. Perhaps, after many years of teaching the same grade level, a teacher develops a good idea of the appropriate different quality levels of achievement for that grade in any given subject area. The experience of reading many grade three and four narratives over the years, for example, has taught me what to look for, what to expect at this level, and which qualities distinguish good achievement from exemplary. The challenge is , however, that not all teachers have the luxury of remaining in the same grade for several terms in a row. Teaching assignments are shifted, new teachers are hired, etc. . Let’s be honest. As educators, we come to classrooms with a variety of personalities, experiences and biases. Teachers are as varied at the students they teach. How, then, can we be sure that we assign quality based grades fairly and consistently? We definitely need to recognize that we must arrive at consensus about what the “learning should look like” for each subject area and grade level. If we don’t have a clear picture of what successful learning looks like, how can we ever hope to help our students achieve it? Furthermore, how will we know when they have reached it?
What do we need to build bridges of understanding so we can arrive at quality level consensus? We need a process; a blueprint for the bridge that will help us all arrive at the same destination. This process must be actively engaged upon by colleagues with the same intent. Our goal is to provide our students and their parents the assurance that their learning is being evaluated fairly and consistently. This will give them the confidence to put in the effort that it takes to reach their higher learning goals. We are setting the target before them and letting them know clearly what is expected and exactly how it will be judged. Bridges can’t be built in haphazard ways we must all follow the steps to get the job done so let’s get building.
Step 1: Gather samples of student work in that subject area. Each grade teacher brings several sample of work that they feel best represent quality work. Samples can include any form that shows evidence of learning: journal responses, maps, reports, projects, problem solving, videos of student performances or presentations, computer projects, etc..
Step 2: Dive into the collections! Look at the collections and work together with colleagues to develop criteria, rubrics with common, yet age appropriate language. The criteria should provide a clear description of what quality and success look like at each grade level. How? Try this:
Step 3: Create and/or explore the results of common assessments. Using common assessments can also help teachers arrive at consensus of expected levels of quality. Collecting student work on these tasks then allows teachers to select samples that demonstrate certain aspects of learning in each of the different levels of the rubric. These samples can then be annotated and redistributed to all teachers so they clearly illustrate student capabilities.
Teachers then take the samples and score them on the agreed upon rubrics and then compare their scores to those of other teachers and discuss any discrepancies. If needed, the language of the rubric can then be adjusted as necessary. This is a process that needs to take place over time to continue to support and develop consistent teacher professional judgement.
To help you get started, pick up these free rubric descriptors and subscribe for more upcoming teacher resources: CLICK HERE
Step 4: Analyze the Data! According to our expected levels of quality, how many of our students are achieving success? What does that mean for our instruction?
Now we have a benchmark. If the results of any given assessment in relation to the agreed upon benchmark are surprising we have to ask ourselves important questions that will drive us to improve our instruction and/or assessment tools. What do we need to do more? What do we need to do less? Did we emphasize what we needed to while teaching? Did we clearly communicate the expected levels of learning to our students? How should we change our approach? In short, we need to use the data to drive our instruction going forward.
Hopefully, these steps have given you food for thought and some practical steps to take in either your school, or at the district level to structure sessions in which you can come together with the common purpose and goal of developing common levels of quality in relation to the expected standards or learning outcomes. Just remember,
Together, Everyone, Achieves, More
Like this post? Sharing is caring. Comment below, tweet, post or have the conversation with your colleagues. We all learn from each other.
Herbst, Sandra. “Grading, Reporting, and Professional Judgment in Elementary Classrooms.”Connect2learning. Connect2Learning, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.
MAKING THE GRADE will be a regular feature on my blog, highlighting the “take away” ideas from current books, research and readings with the common theme of achieving best practice assessment in our classrooms. Let’s get started with this week’s highlights from the book:
We need to start any learning journey in our classroom by sharing the “big ideas” with our students. Begin with the end in mind. We have to show them the target we want them to hit so they can hit it! Including our students in the process right from the start means they are expected to be and supported as active learners. What does this look like? First we must start with the expect learning outcomes. If you teach younger grades, you will have predetermined these big ideas and have them ready in “kid friendly” language to share with your students. If you teach older grades and time permitting, you can involve your students in the process of organizing them in to bigger topics for the unit, project or lesson. What are the “big ideas” that you want them to understand after participating in these lessons/activities. Making the destination clear from the get go means your students can figure out a way to get there. Going through this process will also help you see how you can group outcomes to teach together.
Second, we need to communicate the expected quality levels with our students at their grade level. This means that prior to the unit, project or lesson, exemplars clearly showing different levels of achievement are shared with students. This is not a passive activity in which students are just “shown” examples of work. Let them explore them, have them work in groups to identify and sort what makes one level superior to another. Have students really dive in and find the qualities that differentiates and demonstrate critical thinking and good work from great work. Use consistent language when creating rubric indicators students clearly know what the expectations are. RUBRICS can help with this if they are crafted to describe what a student can do and what they need to do to move their learning to the next level. However, creating good rubrics is not easy. To help you out with that, I’ve made a FREE poster download for my subscribers. This poster outlines words that you can use at each level. If you’d like your copy and future free teaching resources, then just sign up!
At this stage it is time to decide and communicate to students how they will be expected to show evidence of their learning. Best practice means that to have valid and reliable evidence we must triangulate or collect the evidence from a variety of sources. Our students do not all learn the same, nor should they have to show us evidence of their learning in the same way. We have to plan for that. After all, isn’t the point of assessment and evaluation to really know what they have learned so we can help them to reach their learning goals? As educators, then, we must ask ourselves which products (tests, projects, assignments, etc), interviews/conversations (teacher -student, student-student, etc.), and observations do I need to have so I can make a “no doubt” professional judgement about a student’s level of achievement? This may involve planning several forms of formative assessments throughout a unit of study, gathering data that will inform our direction of assistance with each student, helping them celebrate their learning and address their needs throughout the process. Again, it is best to involve our students in the process of this decision making. Can they actively participate in deciding how to show you that they have learned the outcomes? (More ideas about ways to show evidence of learning in the FREE poster download).
Gathering early evidence of learning is vital to establishing a baseline of achievement. This will establish a helpful reference for both student and teacher to “see” the learning that takes place throughout the course or unit of study. Think of this process as much the same as why a doctor takes your blood pressure and heart rate for your medical records. He or she then has it for referral to monitor your health over time. Having the baseline provides evidence as to whether your health is improving, staying status quo, or declining. In the education process, this baseline can inform our programming choices for a student and help them witness their successes while addressing their needs.
Finally, I can’t stress enough, that the authors of this book make the assertion that best practice assessment is only achieved when evidence is gathered over time and from a variety of sources. Assessment is a process that provides data driven instructional practice, whereas evaluation is the final professional judgement of the process. When approached in this manner, the research clearly shows that higher student learning results. The research of Sandra Herbst and Anne Davies, then, should inspire all of us to evaluate and improve our assessment practices for the good of our students.
Teacher, Author, Assessment Coach, HSD
Herbst-Luedtke, Sandra, and Anne Davies. A Fresh Look at Grading and Reporting in High Schools. Courtenay, BC: Connect21earning., 2014. Print.
An interesting picture book for elementary school children and all those who are interested in unusual animals. African wild dogs are related to canines and wolves. Unlike domesticated dogs they have four claws instead of five. Like wolves they live in packs. They are carnivores and their hunting habits require a rather large habitat area of 1,500 square kilometers. African wild dogs are sometimes called painted dogs because they are covered with patches of red, black, white, yellow, and brown patches. Today their habitat has been largely reduced to South Africa due to rabies, vehicle accidents and the rapid encroachment of farmers upon their territory.
Terry discusses how these creatures communicate and the rituals they perform before the hunt. She explains how the pack is dominated by an alpha male and female, but stresses the fact that all members of the pack understand their roles and are protected and maintained by the rest of the family. The inside photographs are excellent; they capture the spirit and character of the animal. The print is large and easy to read for the younger reader, and the text well-written for the most part. Nice book to put on a classroom reference shelf for those interested in animals or dogs in particular. The author has written other nonfiction books about many other animals living in the past and present. Available in kindle and print format.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
We all know them, perhaps you’ve seen them in your classroom —those students who rarely settle into reading a book. In fact, they would seemingly do anything but read. Are your students intimidated by longer books? They want to read the longer diary type books like Diary of A Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries, that are so popular, but they never seem to finish them. Too many pages and too many words intimidate them. Even if the book looks interesting, they will shy away from a thick novel.
It’s not your fault. As their teacher, you’ve tried everything. You’ve provided extra support, extra time—a lot of extra time. Still, they seem unengaged and uninterested. If only you could hook them into a good reading series. A series that can capture and captivate. A series that introduces a main character with which they can identify, laugh, and adore.
Wait no longer. Lollipop Lisa has arrived! Lisa is the sassy new character that will give your students a new reason to read! Furthermore, Lisa’s short, hilarious, diary accounts of the zany events in her life will have your kids laughing while they learn and learn while they’re laughing!
As an author, and a teacher I’m so excited to finally bring Lisa to life for readers aged 6 – 10 years old. Having taught for over twenty years, I’ve seen plenty of disengaged kids over the years. That’s why I wrote this book series specifically for those hard to engage readers. These stories have all the elements that I know will move and motivate the kids to want to read more. This is a new brand of nonfiction! The Lollipop Lisa series promises to entertain as much as it informs.
What are teachers saying about it?
Where can you get it? Spider Quest, the first in the series, is available at the introductory price of 99¢ at :
To celebrate the new release of Spider Quest, I’ve also got some special giveaways for my readers and teachers. These “Secret Journals” are with comprehension questions, fun activities, mazes, word searches, art activities and secret journal entry pages. You can find out all about them and grab your FREE copy here:
It is my goal, with this book series, to help you turn your reluctant readers into voracious readers! Giving our students A NEW REASON TO READ is the ultimate satisfaction as reading is the gateway to their learning. What greater gift can we give them? Let’s make learning with literature the best experience ever!
Questions? Shoot me an email at: email@example.com
Want access to teaching freebies and lesson plans?
Written by Stephan W. Bigalow
Illustrated by Bill Megenhardt
I received this book from the publisher and decided to voluntarily review giving my honest opinions.
An interesting book that tackles many of the legends associated with Santa Claus using a realistic, straightforward approach. This collection of short chapters containing two to five pages interspersed with full page color illustrations is intended to be an independent read for middle grade students or a read aloud broken up into sections for younger children.
Bigalow introduces Santa as a wealthy farmer living in the North Forest region. Santa enjoys crafting toys for a hobby. Mrs. Claus enjoys cooking; she understands her husband well and is adept at keeping him in tow, while at the same time providing advice and guidance. When their barns become overcrowded with toys, he decides to give his toys away. Not wanting others to feel obligated to repay him, Santa loads up his wagon on a dark winter night and the tradition of the Christmas Eve toy run springs forth. Word of his generosity explodes so Santa and Mrs. Claus set out for a larger more private location.
The following chapters will explore how they discover the Hidden Valley at the North Pole, strike up an improbable working relationship with the elf community, invent candy canes, build an enormous business enterprise, figure out how to use a sleigh and reindeer, and spread the true message of Christmas giving among themselves and others.
I used to read “The Night Before Christmas” each Christmas Eve to my children. This book could be shared as a family tradition during the weeks before Christmas, read together by older and younger siblings, or read independently by older children seeking to reignite the Christmas spirit in their hearts.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Snow Pup: Holiday Heartwarmers (Book2)
Written by Mimi Barbour
This is the second book in Barbour’s holiday series. Well-written plot with realistic characters that has no real connection to the Christmas holiday other than the setting. Deputy Shawna Mallory is a thirty-one year old single cop who lives in the rather sleepy town of Carlton Grove. She has a deep commitment to her job, and moves quickly when she hears an amber alert on the radio for a missing eleven year old boy. Mallory hears a dog barking; she finds the boy under a snow drift being guarded by the pup. The sheriff agrees to take the boy in while he awaits a new foster care family.
Complications arise when the boy’s real father arrives back on the scene from an overseas assignment in Chile. John Reid McCrae appears to have a poor parenting track record, but Shawna’s friend Alice knew him many years ago and offers a different opinion. In the meantime Shawna grows attached to Billy, who is about to be given to a new foster family. Billy runs away once again, but even more puzzling is the strange affect Billy’s dad has upon Shawna. What outcome ensues for Billy, John, and the Deputy Sheriff whose lives have become entangled.
A heartwarming story revolving around coming of age, domestic violence, foster care, romance, pets and peer relationships that will tear at the heart strings of young adult and adult readers. Actually, the book could be a middle grade read if one is willing to look past a few curse words and one or two light romantic scenes. Snow Pup is the kind of story that will put the reader in the mood for the holiday season.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Muhammad Ali: BORN TO WIN
Written by Stephen Croke
The author describes Ali as one who never let others define or limit him. Croke hits the nail on the head. Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay in 1942 in Louisville Kentucky; he was named after his father. Clay changed his name when he later converted to The Nation of Islam. Ali began training for boxing at the age of twelve. His ego prodded him to be arrogant and taunting of his opponents. In 1960, Ali won the Olympic Medal in Boxing for the US. By 1974, he had defeated Sonny Liston and obtained The World Heavyweight Champion. The seventies also witnessed victories over Joe Frazier and George Foreman. After the mid-seventies, Ali’s health began to decline; he would fight a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
Ali is perhaps just as well known for his behavior outside the ring. He became a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and refused to be drafted. He opposed the Soviet War with Afghanistan and sided with Palestinian families in Israel. The boxer took part in the Long March in which Native Americans stood up for their rights. Ali was active in the Black Lives Matter Movement. With his Parkinson’s Disease rapidly progressing, Ali got to carry the Olympic Torch in 2012. After being admitted to the hospital, he died of septic shock in June 2016 and was buried by fans and family in Louisville.
This is a well-written book that presents a non-biased portrait of the man and his times. Available in kindle and paperback, this approximately thirty-page read is appropriate for readers aged eight and older.
Epic Fantasy Adventure: The Sands of Time: Holy Paladin’s Quest: Book 2
Written by Blaine Hart
This is the second book in an epic fantasy series. I did not read the first book, and so it took me a while to get my bearings and catch the drift of what was transpiring. In the opening chapter, a woman in a cistern has taken the form of Anna. She informs Kell, Longo and Wandfala that there will be 99 days and nights of rain. The earth will soon perish. Gavial and Anna are now prisoners; the previous victories over the Bone Dragon are deemed worthless. Master Kell is a Holy Paladin who is in a state of communion. Wandfala tells Longo that it will be up to him to rebuild their ship, Chaos, if they are to continue their quest. The trio will sail to an island where the tree of life resides to seek the blessing from the Angel of Life in order to challenge the witch Monmalla. Along their journey, they will encounter sea creatures with green hair, a swarm of vermin, black crows, and a mysterious young boy with a sense of humor who taunts them for their foolishness and stupidity. Will the three travelers succeed in their mission to rescue Anna? Where will the time travelers land next?
I would strongly suggest reading this epic fantasy, science fiction series in the correct order to understand the nuances of the plot. These tales are short, but require careful reading. Suggested for fantasy and time travel devotees age ten and older.
Ping Poo, the Astronomer: A strange discovery
Written by Pierre Moessinger
Interesting essay of nine pages which presents a discussion of discoveries by Ping Poo, an ancient Chinese astronomer who lived during the Zhou Dynasty in China around 550 A.D. Ping Poo believed that stars held on to the sky like flies on a ceiling. His colleague Li Fu argued that they hung from the sky with strings. One day Ping Poo sees a red glow in his white jade ball. Following a dream, Ping is determined to journey to Mount Yugo to investigate. His friend Li decides to accompany him, When Ping disappears, some peers believe he was pursued by a dragon and drowned in the Yellow River; others theorized that he stole the elixir of immortality and fled to the moon in an effort to escape the anger of the gods. As time passed the two scholars were forgotten. Years later in 1830, two children Lou and Wang discover a linen bundle of paper inscribed with calligraphy. They turn it over to their father, a professor of ancient Chinese. Turns out to be the journals of Ping Poo in which he set forth the hypothesis that the earth is a sphere turning around on its own axis, the first astronomer to do so. At the end of the essay, Moessinger offers some questions for his readers to ponder and answer. As a footnote, the author briefly explains Piaget’s ideas and suggests this book as an introduction to philosophy for children.
Recommended for readers in the eight to thirteen age range, this book is an interesting way to introduce philosophical thought to middle grade children. While the historical backstory is certainly worthwhile, the audience for this book is geared toward the child who likes to apply critical thinking skills to her reading. Youngsters who are looking for a quick read will probably not find this book appealing. Best suited for readers in the ten and up age range.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Cory is an eleven year old fifth grader with a vivid imagination. He loves his three year old brother David who likes to pretend he is a superhero. One day Cory decides to help David fly by taping him with duct tape to the door knob and kicking the chair out from beneath him. His parents don’t think he is funny and ground Corey in his room for one week. What really bothers Corey is that his workaholic father never seems to have time for him anymore. Corey schemes to hide his father’s phone. That gets him grounded again. While in his room, reading Goosebumps, Corey suddenly finds himself in the book. He meets a conch shell, a talking horse, and a purple jelly-like character named Mother Imagination. Nicknamed M.I., Mother Imagination seems to know all about Corey and his family. M. I. reveals a boy in a video who wears a strange costume, sings, and identifies himself as Chocolate Thunder. M.I. informs Corey that this boy is an imaginary friend from his father’s past. With the assistance of his friend Leo and his grandma, Corey conspires to imitate the character in the hopes of jogging his father’s memories, but not before a series of mishaps and adventures ensue. Will Corey embarrass himself or will he succeed in reconnecting with his dad and strengthening their relationship?
This approximately eighty page chapter book with cute black and white illustrations sports a creative plot and is filled with humor and realistic family scenarios. Recommended especially for readers in the seven to ten year age bracket, but it will be enjoyed by younger and slightly older readers as well. Could be an interesting ongoing series.
Rat Books for Kids: Amazing Pictures and Interesting Facts for Kids
Written by Susie Eli
Interesting nonfiction book especially suited for students in the elementary or middle grades. I will readily admit that I learned quite a bit from this thirty page book so I do not hesitate to recommend it for adult readers who have an interest in the subject. Royalty free common stock photos enhance interest and add an additional dimension.
Originally rats came from Australia and Asia, but are now found anywhere in the world. Readers learn that there are 60 types of rats, the brown rat and the house rat being the most common. Topics covered in the book include their behavior and habits, how they eat, grow and multiply, wild and pet rats, and the Gambian Pouched Rat. Some interesting facts that I gleaned from the book include: a group of rats is called a mischief, males are bucks and females are does, rats are smart and make good pets, happy rats might roll their eyes or make grinding sounds with their teeth, and one female may have as many as 2000 babies in one year! While rats are often seen as a nuisance, the Gambian Pouched rat can detect deadly land mines and diagnose a patient with tuberculosis.
Animal lovers will enjoy learning about this often maligned animal. Great resource for a science research project or report. Recommended especially for children in third through fifth grade. Fascinating read for adults as well as children. Available in kindle and paperback.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Written by Adam Maxwell
Cover by Dale Maloney
Charming adventure of Nina and her two friends Ivy and Oswald who frequently meet in her Aunt and Uncle’s bookshop. Doesn’t sound like the place for a real adventure? Well, it turns out there is a hidden room in the bookshop, and once Nina places the key in the lock the children are on their way to a journey into the unknown. This time the children find themselves in the parlor of a gingerbread house. To their chagrin the three friends find themselves transformed into a vampire, ghost, and a werewolf!
They will meet a witch who has a problem using and controlling her powers, a village of strange little people, two kidnapped children, and a magical cat named Izzy. The three friends will have to learn to control their new identities and transform themselves. If they are unable to find Izzy before midnight, Belinda the witch will be unable to undo their spells, and they will be trapped forever. Will they be able find their way back to the bookstore and their families?
The author combines fairy tales, adventure, paranormal and lots of humor to keep the plot interesting. Characters are well-developed and the dialogue crisp and clever. This book is perfect for readers in grades three to six. Chapters are short and vocabulary provides enough challenge while not being overwhelming for the early reader. A few illustrations would have enhanced the book’s appeal. This could be a fun story to share with a family or class around Halloween.
Written by Teri Kanefield
Six precocious teenagers from different backgrounds share one thing in common; they are all members of the San Francisco All Star Chess Club. The ninth graders are on the way home from Germany after a sixth place finish in an international competition when their plane goes down due to an avionics failure. They land on a remote island in the North Atlantic in the subarctic. More than sixty passengers face freezing conditions and lack of food supplies to survive. These six teens take charge and prevent disorder, using their multiple talents to create a source of heat, trap food in the ice, and calm the fears of panicked passengers. They even figure out a way to handle Veronica, a kleptomaniac who keeps stealing food from the other passengers. Thanks to their efforts, the survivors are eventually rescued.
But the story does not end there. These six friends gather together to figure out a solution to a nuclear missile crisis. When an Asian dictatorship threatens to fire a nuclear missile, the teens figure out a way to break into that country’s computer system and bribe them into entering peace negotiations to save face. I am sure the world is in for lots more from these indomitable teens in the next two books of the trilogy. This series is targeted for ages nine and older. While the inevitability of the solutions seems too simplistic in some instances, the characters are well-developed, each having strengths and flaws. Middle grade and young adult readers will find much in common with them. Plot is fast paced and I felt compelled to keep reading. Recommended for readers who enjoy adventure stories with clever protagonists and plots containing thought provoking issues.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
Here is a small little classroom with children’s desks all in rows. The teacher’s desk sits prominently in the front of the classroom and lectures might be given at a podium. Most of the student’s daily work is done here, while being seated in this relatively small space. Does this sound something like your classroom? Probably not, as this is a description of The Oldest Wooden School House in Saint Augustine, Florida, which dates back to the early 18th century. This was the daily life of colonial school children. So, what is wrong with that?
Lynn @ TiePlay Educational Resources
TiePlay Educational Resources LLC
Teach Your Child to Fish: Five Money Habits Every Child Should Master
Written by Holly D. Reid
This is an excellent guide for teaching children how to handle and save money. The book has nothing to do with fishing. Written by a CPA, the language is not complicated but clear and easy to follow. As a bonus, the author includes a downloadable printable workbook to accompany the text. In the first chapter children are introduced to why we work and the kinds of tasks children might find engaging. Chapter Two explains how to be conscious about spending and how to do so wisely, stressing what is worthwhile and how we can help community, Chapter Three encourages children to save and invest and lays out different ways to do so. In the fourth chapter children learn how to be responsible with credit, how it works, and how to minimize debt. In the final chapter the author talks about how give generously to others in their community.
I particularly enjoyed the recommended activities section at the end of each section and the final thoughts in which the chapter is pulled together. While the author is a CPA, she also presents a strong Christian viewpoint and quotes scripture to reinforce her lessons. This book may serve as a reference manual to be implemented at many different stages in a child’s life. I particularly recommend it for parents of children in the eight to twelve age groThis is an excellent guide for teaching children how to handle and save moneyup.
The Angel Knew Papa And The Dog
Written by Douglas Kaine McKelvey
A heartwarming tale of love, faith and heartbreak narrated by a charming, sweet girl named Evangelina Elizabeth Blake. Living at the edge of the woods in a small log cabin by the river, she works hard alongside her father to farm the land, borrowing a neighbor’s mules to help them plow. Evangelina has lost her mother; she takes delight in nature and the few books her father has managed to purchase for her to read. One of her favorite stories from the Bible is Noah’s flood; this foreshadows the adventure that will follow.
When Evangelina is six, a huge dog rescues her from a serpent which appears during a thunderstorm. She names the dog, Lewis and Clark because he likes to explore and frequently disappears. Not long after, a flood overtakes the area and Evangelina’s father is swept away while trying to rescue one of the mules. She is terribly frightened as the cabin is flooded. An angel carrying a lantern appears to guide her. The young girl hears Lewis and Clark barking. A woman named Mary rows to her and pulls her into the boat. Taking her downstream, Evangelina is gratified to learn that her father is alive, but seriously injured. Is Evangelina dreaming? What will her future bring?
This book is well written in almost a lyrical style. The reader empathizes with the carefully crafted characters and is swept up in the adventure. I would consider this less than one hundred page book perfect for middle grade readers, but teens and adults will enjoy it as well. Look forward to reading more by this author.
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY 12521-0112
If You Were Me and Lived in …Ancient Greece
Written by Carole P. Roman
Illustrated by Mateya Arkova
This book is part of a new series which looks at the cultures and customs not of individual countries but about civilizations throughout time. Ancient Greece is the topic of the first release. The author begins by describing the geographical location of Greece and how Greece may have looked in the past contrasting it with the present. Unlike the other series, this book covers a much broader time period, and the author chooses to stage her character as a child living around 350 B.C. in classical Greece. There is no mention of the previous Greek Archaic Period, the rule of the aristocracy or the tyrants which eventually evolved into the establishment of democratic city states. Much of the book discusses everyday life, food, dress, education, family structure, occupations, and religion. Roman ends her discussion with the military conqueror Alexander the Great who established an empire, and whose death would usher in the end of the classical period and the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.
There is a great deal of information simplified and condensed for the elementary school and middle school reader. I would have liked to see more detailed maps showing locations and some actual photographs, though the simple, soft pastel illustrations are lovely and appealing for a younger reader. The glossary and list of gods and goddesses are helpful because readers will need to reference these to keep track of all the information. No doubt this book will open a child’s eyes to the vast legacy of ancient Greece and provide an excellent starting ground for future explorations on the political, social, religious,scientific and educational contributions of ancient Greece.
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY 12521-0112
Well, it’s almost September and time for back to school with a whole new bunch of young learners that will teach us as much as we teach them. If you’re like me, one of the toughest challenges we face each year is to find new ways to help our students improve their writing. It can be a daunting task, but like with anything, if we give our students the right tools for the job, then the path to success is made easier.
What? I can’t just give them a pencil and some writing topics and tell them to write everyday? Okay, Okay, I know you wouldn’t do that anyway, but I do have some tools and tips to share with you that I think will help as you coach young writers.
Once these decisions are made, it’s time to put a plan on paper. It took me a long time (years, in fact) to come up with a story planner and a non-fiction planner that I really like. My kiddos find them easy to follow and fill out. Because of this, they actually follow them as they are writing and that makes a huge difference to the creative process. These planners keep them focused. Yay! ( Don’t worry, I’m going to give you a free copy of these planners with this link and a link at the bottom of the post. Just click here to get it now.
2. Content – All good writing starts with a good idea. Teach your students to ask questions about their character or subject. What would they want to know about him/her/it as the reader? What about personality? Quirks? Habits? etc. Rich details make readers identify with the character and/or subject matter and add to the reading experience. Be careful, though, young authors must be taught to ‘sneak’ the details in context rather than just list them. Otherwise we end up with the dreaded ‘info dump.’ Not good. Modelling is the best teacher here. Show your kiddos how to put in the details without explicitly listing them. Use great examples from authors you love. Kenneth Oppel and Rick Riordan are masters of this.
3. Organization – Kids need to be explicitly taught organization. It doesn’t come naturally to most. Brainstorm ideas about a topic and write them down, then cut them apart and organize them into topics. You can set this up in centers and have students do the same. ‘Sticking to the topic’ is an essential skill in both fiction and non-fiction writing. It’s more obvious in non-fiction, but have you ever read a story that rambled with no clear focus? Teach your students to keep coming back to the plot line /problem so that every detail, every action and every event have something to do with that plot line/problem. If it has nothing to do with the plot, leave it out. Teach them to keep the beginning, middle and end related to the central problem.
4. Sentencing- Ooh this is a big one, grammar is tricky, but start simple by teaching them big ideas concepts like: Good authors never begin two sentences the same way in a paragraph. Then have them use colored crayons to underline their beginnings and read them back. Soon they will be able to spot repetitions and problem beginnings.
5. Word choice – Teach your kiddos that a thesaurus is a writers best friend! Show them how to use it, model using it as you write, and let the kids make a journal/lists of interesting words they’d like to use in their writing during their word work time. Because it’s words they want to use, they will be motivated to find and use those words. Choice is a powerful motivator!
6. Editing – Students need to have a useful rubric for self evaluating and self-editing their work. I always tell my students that ‘They mark it first’ and ‘I mark it second’. I created this rubric that helps them go through the process. I photocopy several and they take them as they finish up their stories and go through, mark, and fix their story before handing it in. It’s also wonderfully handy when addressing the next two goals.
7. Set goals to improve your skills- A student can’t focus on everything at once,but needs guidance to focus on just one area that s/he can improve their writing. During conferencing, I use the boxes in the above rubric/marking guide to set a goal each student. We only focus on one boxed skill area for improvement and set a goal to address that with their next writing project. This keeps students from being overwhelmed and helps them see their progress!
8. Feedback, feedback, feedback. I can’t stress enough how much students need consistent feedback about their writing. They need you to care, to listen, to appreciate what they tried to do, and finally, to model how they can improve it. Give them examples of more interesting ways they could ‘say the same thing.’
Writing is a love of mine, so you can see that I get excited about teaching young people to communicate their ideas more clearly with the written word. I hope these ideas help you in that endeavour, also. Now for your freebie as promised click on the word below:
How one suggestion from an astute school librarian changed my view of history, reading and me
by Jeff Nathan
As a 4th grader with undiagnosed ADHD, I didn’t HATE reading; I just approached it with a very narrow brush. I was unable to find anything non-fiction for which my eyes would travel through the words rather than over them. We were studying the American Revolution. History—I HATED history! Why? Because it required remembering occurrences, dates, and places. I had so much trouble remembering the things that were currently happening in MY life. How could I do it for something so foreign as “the historical past”.
History required regurgitation of the specifics that I never fully consumed. Memorization WAS more difficult for me than my peers so I deemed history too difficult for me to learn—an exercise in futile torture. I went through the motions but absorbed little to nothing because of my perceived incompetence.
How fortunate I was to have so many educators at Craig School in Niskayuna, NY, who did not give up on me as easily as I gave up on myself. One such educator was the school librarian, Ms. Savage. A group from my class was sent to the library so each of us could pick out a book about the American Revolution. I felt like I was being sent to the dentist for some drilling. Who would want to read about history? I wasn’t very good at hiding my disdain for the assignment. As my classmates immediately began looking at potential books to check out, Ms. Savage walked over to me and asked what was wrong.
“Would it be okay to get a book about something else?” I requested. She smiled and asked what I liked. I told her I liked fiction, not history.
“Oh, do I have a book for you,” she exclaimed, just as excited as I was disinterested. From the shelf, she pulled out Paul Revere and I by Robert Lawson. Seeing this historical name in the title, I protested, “But this is history!”
I don’t remember exactly how she got me past my insolence. It could have been the explanation that the story was told by the horse or it could have been the offer she made for me to just read the first page and if I didn’t like it, she would look for something else. Whatever it was, though, I owe her immeasurably. I LOVED this book, and the introduction to historical fiction was a turning point in my education.
I experienced something that could make aspects of history enjoyable, even for a devout history-hater. I found that reading the right book could help me learn what seemed impossible to learn otherwise. This also demonstrated how a spoonful of sugar could work wonders, even for someone as unreachable as I was at that point. To this day, I continue utilizing that lesson in everything that I create for kids, from educational assemblies to books intended to excite reluctant readers into the fold.
Jeff Nathan, “Boston’s Animated Children’s Author,” will be back for the third year in a row at the Reading For the Love Of It Conference in February. He travels internationally sharing his CurricuLaughs in Language Arts programming, applying music, performing arts and heavy doses of HUMOR to the most challenging aspects of language arts at each elementary grade level. (See www.IncredibleAssemblies.com) His most recent book, Sherlock and Me, was just announced as a 2015 Ben Franklin Award winner for innovation in children’s literature. (See www.SherlockAndMe.com)
Image Credits Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited
Brian: The Helmsworth Project: Book Two
Written by Madison Key
I did not read the first book in this science fiction, coming of age series, but I caught on after the first few pages. Sixteen year old Brian has managed to escape after his parents are killed and his home blown up. Brian’s sisters Claire and Jenna are under the protection of the FBI, as were his parents. He is being held off the coast of Mexico. It appears that his captors know of his psionic and pyrokinesis powers. While being held, Brian keeps in mental touch with his sister. But he is having difficulty figuring out who is the real enemy and being forced into submission to do their bidding.
Will Brian be able to untangle the web of deceit in time to get back to his sisters and safety? This book of less than fifty pages moves along quickly. Young adult and adult science fiction and genetic engineering fans who enjoy a light, quick fast moving read will probably like this series.
Sharing is caring! If you liked this book review, please share with the buttons below.
Frankie Dupont AND THE SCIENCE FAIR SABOTAGE (Frankie Dupont Mysteries Book 3)
Written by Julie Ann Grasso
Illustrated by Alexander Avellino
Eleven year old Frankie Dupont’s parents are off for the day to attend an awards ceremony. Frankie’s dad leaves him in charge of his detective agency. Sounds strange? Well, Frankie has already proved his mettle in assisting his father in previous investigations.
Shortly after they leave, Frankie gets a call from his cousin Kat and her friend, Amy Appleby, to assist in solving a mystery at the science fair being held in Enderby Manor. Seven kids are competing in a science contest in which all the entries must be made from recyclable materials. The winner will receive $300 and a ticket to science camp. Seven contestants have employed creativity in projects such as a musical instrument made from drinking cans, Lego blocks made from Stevia, a balloon recycling center and cloned blue salmon. Upon his arrival, Frankie discovers that Angus and Archie Appleby’s robotic chip has been stolen while they were arguing over how to assemble their robot made from household items. Frankie has the scene secured and methodically proceeds to interview each of the contestants in order to collect clues and solve the mystery.
Middle school readers will enjoy the adventure as the clues are revealed by Frankie as he investigates. But things are not as they appear on the surface. Readers may be surprised by the end result of the investigation and the just rewards that follow. Recommended for Encylopedia Brown fans in the eight to twelve-year-old age range.
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY 12521-0112
Written by Alexandra Amor
The format of this book is a bit unusual for a middle-grade adventure. The author begins with a prologue setting the scene for the climax of the book. She ends with an epilogue that answers the questions left in the reader’s minds.
Sugar is an energetic, caramel colored dog who lives a carefree life with her mistress Marion on Dogwood Island. Sugar has a somewhat unusual best friend, a barn swallow named Clive who lives on the farm with her. One day, while traipsing through the island, Clive urges Sugar to come to the library to see a strange site, a bear in a cage in the town square, who apparently has been abandoned on the island. The two friends strike up a conversation with the bear named Sebastian.
Soon it becomes apparent that the circus has closed up shop and Sebastian has been left in his cage to fend for himself. The townspeople decide it would be best to place the bear in a zoo, but Sugar and Clive feel that they would like to help Sebastian find his freedom At first the bear is reluctant, but after his brief separation from the circus, he decides they are right.
Clive and Sugar enlist island animal friends like Larry the Seagull, AnnMay, a Siamese cat, and a human friend, Stewart, to find a way to move the 500 pound bear off the island into a forested area where he could roam free. But the zookeepers are fast approaching, will they be able to carry out their daring plan?
I love the dialogue and clever conversations among the animals, and the ingenious solutions they come up to solve one problem after another. At just over one hundred pages this chapter book is just the right length to hold the interest of young readers and middle grade students with enough interesting plot twists and suspense. This book would be an excellent choice for a class read aloud and discussion book. Young animal and adventure lovers will not be able to put this one down.
Good choice for animal lovers; also good discussion on human vs. animal rights.
Need a really cool class project idea for Father’s Day? Try this one on for size. I just made this ‘Dad’s Daily News’ template that you can use as a great gift for Dad, while encouraging your students to write a variety of different articles and entries that Dad will absolutely love! How about these ideas?
These are just a few of the ways that you can use this fun template. If you find it useful I accept thanks in cold, hard cash. Just kidding. You don’t owe me a thing, but I would appreciate if you would spread the word about Quest Teaching and sign up for futures freebies here : http://questteaching.com/wordpress/go/teacher-treasures-sign/ I’d also love to hear about how you used this in your classroom. Send pictures and add them to the comments below.
Cooperative learning can be so much fun for students and teachers. But, what is cooperative learning, and can it be successful in teaching objectives in the classroom?
Cooperative learning is team work and students working together to complete an assignment. Each team member is expected to do his or her share of the work. Group work in the classroom is known to develop better learning and colleague skills.Students also become better prepared for the work world.
Yes, studies indicate that cooperative learning can be very effective. But, there are methods that teachers should follow in order to develop the maximum student achievement.
Cooperative learning involves may types of skill sets.Group interaction, accountability, social skills, and positive interdependence abilities are encouraged. The teacher is able to see how group members
interact.The instructor is also able to talk to the group or individuals about any difficulties that they are having with the material.
Learners of all ages enjoy cooperative learning. How about your class? For more resources, and a list of cooperative learning how-to’s read on!
For task cards, a form of cooperative learning, visit my store at
by Lynn Horn
Tie-Play Educational Resources
“What did you do to my son?” a mother of one of my grade four students recently commented.
At a loss for reference to any incidents at school, I responded, “What do you mean?”
“Well, he came home from school so excited about fractions! All he wanted to talk about were the discoveries he made about fractions!”
That brought a smile to my face. Is there anything more gratifying than having your student make those connections and experience those aha moments?
So what led to such excitement? It all started last week when I made some new tools ( a fraction number line set ) and let my students take some time to explore and compare. Then I challenged them to find all the fractions that were equivalent to 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 and so on. Well, in no time they were making all kinds of discoveries and asking to find equivalents for other fractions
“Can I do 1/5? How about 1/10?”
“Did you know that 2/5 is like 40/100?”
These were just some of the comments I was getting as I moved around the room with guiding questions. As I observed, I wondered why I had never started our study of fractions in this manner before? In the past I started by showing instead of exploration, but this approach ignited a curiosity in my kids that pushed them on to deeper learning.
This experience is not unique to learning about fractions. I find it to be true whenever I am introducing new math concepts. Exploring first and working toward solving problems is a great motivator and results in deeper understanding. Isn’t that what we want for our students?
Yes! I believe it is. That’s why you can get this Fraction Pack on sale at 50% off this week for only $2.00. That’s less than a coffee and it helps kids learn fractions with ease! Just click on the product photo to grab it before the price goes up!
A healthy school climate is needed for most students to achieve academic success. What is a healthy school climate? A healthy school climate is where all school employees are friendly, kind and considerate. A healthy school climate is where community members feel welcomed into the school. A healthy school climate is where students believe that they are an important member of their class, and are able to contribute in their own way. And more.
Okay, but why should school employees not act indifferently, like in other professions? The fact is education is not a business. The way persons interact within a school district is known to greatly affect students’ academic achievement, emotional well-being and even physical condition (Blum, 2007). When school district professionals are warm, caring, and encourage student triumphs, students are very likely to do well. On the other hand, negative attitudes are known to gravely impact effective teaching and learning, which often results in an overall low staff and student morale (Blum, 2007).
Students need to feel socially united and be of the opinion that they can achieve the academic standards set forth for them (Blum, 2007). Yet a great school environment not only also focuses on the well-being of the whole child but also the community and staff members. An educational system is important for all community members and therefore, should unite the population and encompass equal opportunity for all. In other words, a successful school is one big and happy family.
16 = Awesome school!
14 = Getting there, but needs some work
12 = Really, really, really needs work
Below 12 = Needs a new agenda!
Blum, R.. (2007). Best practice: Building blocks for enhancing a school environment. Retrieved from http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/military-child-initiative/resources/Best_Practices_monograph.pdf
Imagery supplied by Thinkstock.com
Written by Lynn @Tieplay Educational Resources, LLC, on May 1st, 2016.
Written by Gregory Hoffman
An intriguing urban fantasy tale that will appeal to young adult and adult audiences, but one that might be enjoyed by children as young as ten who will “grow into” the meaning of these fantasies as they mature.
Fourteen-year-old Sam has just received a bad report card. On Saturdays, he has a ritual of accompanying his mother to her job in an antique store on 80th street in Manhattan. Once there, he leaves to spend the day walking down to the twin towers in Lower Manhattan and back again. As they leave their apartment, Sam ponders how to break the bad news. He places the report card on the console after they cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Little does he know that he will experience an adventure that changes his life on his walk today.
Sam will meet a homeless man named Elijah who asks Sam for his shoes. Subsequently, they will meet a bicycle messenger a human antenna, a talking train, spirits of artists in the Metropolitan Museum , a princess cloud and many others. The streets of Manhattan are transformed into a water paradise filled with lush vegetation. What does it all mean? Will anyone else believe Sam’s story? Does the experience have an impact on Sam’s future?
The adventure is magical on several levels. It is a wonderful walking tour of Manhattan; the author expertly captures the essence and spirit of New York City. The imagination and allegories presented by the author to the reader as food for thought have many layers of meaning. Clever and creative with no objectionable content. This book could be used for so many topics as a classroom discussion or starter for creative writing assignments.
The Amazon Rainforest: Animal Facts and Photos
Written by KC Adams
Despite the title, this book is not merely a list of facts, but a comprehensive view of the Amazon RainForest and the life within it. I knew that this rainforest was the largest on earth, but I did not realize that this rainforest receives a whopping 52% of the daily precipitation for South America containing 2/3 of the world’s fresh water supply and 20% of the world’s oxygen.
The animals inhabiting this world are diverse and bizarre. Most of us are familiar with tropical birds like the macaw and toucan and monkeys like the squirrel monkey and marmoset. Some of the unusual animals include the sloth who sleep fifteen to eighteen hours a day and the nocturnal maned wolf that is often called a red fox on stilts. Poison dart frogs can be as small as a paper clip, but their poison excreted through their skin is powerful enough to kill a human. Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents, who are friendly to humans. On the other hand, the piranhas living in the river eat their prey alive. Be on the lookout for the anaconda, the largest most powerful snake on earth. Living in the water, these hunters catch their prey with their fangs and drag them under water to drown it before they swallow it alive.
Animal selections are written well even if they are succinct. Pertinent information on diet, habitat and lifestyle is presented. Questions follow the descriptions for discussion. The photos are clear and appealing, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in learning about this intriguing region. Great choice for elementary and middle school students or homeschooling parents.
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
Website: Little Miss HISTORY.com
Tel/Fax: (518) 325-5199
I was thinking the other day about how I write my books and how I read them. The truth is I can’t do either unless I can “see” the action in my mind. Some say I have a vivid imagination. My husband says I have my ‘head in the clouds’, but the truth is, being able to daydream is a vital skill when it comes to formulating deeper understanding.
A key component of our reading instruction, then, must be to teach students to make “mind pictures” or “mind movies” as they read. The ability to do this is vital to their ability to understand what is read. Students who can’t generate pictures struggle to understand. So how do we know if our students can do this? Multiple choice tests and other forms of assessment often fail to give us a fair assessment of this important ability. Have no fear… graphic novels to the rescue!
Now hold on, I know that graphic novels can somewhat limit the skills of our students in that they “provide” the picture for the student already instead of making them generate the picture, it’s already given. However, we can’t deny the popularity of the “beasts” (my favorite name for graphic novels). So why not capitalize on their popularity to motivate your students to show you their picturing process? That was my thinking when I created this week’s Teacher Treasure Freebie.
That was my thinking when I created these Graphic Novel Templates. This package provides 23 pages of different graphic novel templates to spur on the imagination and provide evidence of visualization while reading. Just choose the one most suitable for the current reading activity and you’re all set!
I often assess my students on Content (could you picture X amount of scenes and fill in each picture with details), Accuracy ( do the details match the details presented in the story/chapter/passage) and Presentation (organization and clarity of ideas).
I have used these templates and the students love them. They get to try their hand at creating their own graphic novel pages, and I get a great assessment of how well they can “picture” while they read. I hope you find them as useful as I do. I would love your feedback.
Author of The Jewel of Peru
I wanted a project that would help reinforce the concept of symmetry with my students. I thought Mandala art would be the perfect project and with the coloring-book craze right now, Mandala is all the rage! Now you can have your class do it with this easy template. I can’t wait to try it out with my class.
“Mandala” is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle” or “completion”. It is often recognized to represent wholeness.Which shapes and colors will you use to express your whole self? The best thing about creating your own Mandala art is that you can choose any shapes and colors you want. Make one or more than one, but the important thing is to have fun!
Here’s how you can have your students create their very own Mandala art in class using this template that I made for you. Good luck! Come back and send me some pictures of your class creations. I’ll post them on the site. It’s fun to share!
Here are the steps:
1. Cut out along the black square lines.
2. Fold in half along the center vertical line and then open and refold along the center horizontal line.
3. Now fold along each straight diagonal line and unfold again.
4. Starting from center make a design in only one “pie-shaped” piece of the circle.
5. Now repeat that same pattern in every other section either by folding the paper and tracing over the original design,
or use a Mirra board along each dotted line and try to duplicate the original design in each section.
6. Once your finished drawing, add colors. Remember to color each section with the same color scheme. Look at the examples
to help you.
Now how do you get the template? Easy. If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, then you get my fabulous freebies. It’s totally free and I promise not to share your email with anyone else. I respect your privacy and I hate spam, too, so I won’t do that to you. The best part about signing up is that you’ll also get all the FUTURE FREEBIES that will come to your inbox with the Quest Teaching Newsletter! I can’t wait to hear from you!
Hieroghyph (TC’S ADVENTURES BOOK 1)
Written by WJ Scott
Illustrated by John Helle-Nielsen
I will be honest in saying that this book was different from what I expected. The cover is a bit of a mystery and the table of contents lists numbers only with no word clues. Once into the book, the reader is quickly drawn into the narrative. Thirteen-year-old TC is sitting in the Vice-Principal’s office trying to explain how she knew where a stolen ring could be found. TC lives with her Aunt Letty in New Zealand since her archaeologist parents were killed in a cave in. Aunt Letty is off on an environmental expedition, and TC will be going off to spend a weekend with her uncle in Australia.
Here is where the book takes a dramatic departure. The reader learns that TC has a special gift. She is able to time travel and connect with past history when she touches hieroglyphs. Her uncle Max is trying to get funding for an archaeological expedition to prove that ancient Egyptians traveled to Australia in search of gold.
I will not reveal details of the plot, but Scott seamlessly takes the reader back and forth as TC alternately explores the shipwreck and explorations of Prince Setka and Prince Kanefer in ancient times and back into the present with TC, her Uncle Max, her friends and enemies who seek to undo their discoveries. Characters are well developed and the narrative carefully written to make the plot believable. TC is a strong-willed female who faces modern problems and crises, while longing to solve the mysteries of the past.
Targeted for readers nine and older, the book will appeal to younger and older audiences. Promises to be a good series for lovers of ancient Egypt, adventure, mystery and intriguing characters.
If you enjoyed reading this post, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS FEED button in the upper right hand corner of this page.
Thought Soup: A Story for Youngsters and the Adults Who Love Them
Written by Lyle Olsen
Illustrated by Marnie Webster
This short ebook packs a lot of punch in a few pages. A stranger ambles into a small town carrying an iron kettle on his back. He unloads it in the middle of the town square and proceeds to set up cooking. The townspeople distrust him, having been tricked into contributing to strangers many times before. When the mayor confronts the stranger as to what he intends to cook; he answers, “thought soup” and offers to demonstrate.
The stranger says that he will solicit thoughts from them and pulls out a large sack from his belongings. He requests each of the townspeople place his head in the sack and deposit his thoughts within. Once they are finished, the stranger empties his sack into the boiling water and asks that each bring a bowl and spoon to taste the soup. Much to their surprise, the soup is so bad that many believe themselves to be poisoned. The stranger admits that the soup tastes bad. All the citizens want to run him out of town, but the stranger convinces them to give him another chance with dinner. If they will only think delicious thoughts, he will produce a wonderful soup. So they throw him into jail until supper.
During that same day, the townsfolk reflect on what could have made that soup taste so bad. Each of these colorful characters remember how negative their thoughts were that morning and think about how to make their lives better. For example, the candlestick maker realizes how greedy she has been and resolves to make better candlesticks quicker using cheaper materials while offering better prices. The town crier admits to himself that he has been spreading gossip and should concentrate on positive things. Even the mayor recognizes that deep inside he has not lived up to his campaign promises and owes it to the citizens to do a better job.
Dinner time arrives and the soup-maker is released. Each of the townspeople once again add their thoughts to the sack. There were so many positive thoughts they had to use a basket to keep the sack from flying away. How do you think the soup will taste? What will happen to the stranger and the members of the town in the future? Our author ends the book with the caveat, “This is Not the End.”
This book is really a delightful read for children and adults. I would recommend it as an independent read for ages eight and up, but parents and teachers can certainly use it as a read aloud and valuable teaching tool to discuss how our negative feelings can poison oneself and others. My one regret is that the pictures were not larger and more detailed because the nostalgic setting and characters are charming, and if illustrated in detail, would really bring this book to life.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Last newsletter, I gave away a treasure box (drop box) full of my teaching resources for free! If you missed out on that, I’m sorry, but be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you never miss out on more fabulous freebies. This week I wanted to take a few moments to explore some of those resources that I spent time putting together for teachers, and how I use them in the classroom.
First up? Let’s talk about a subject I’m passionate about; writing! For a long time, I’ve wanted a student self-evaluation tool in kid-friendly language to give my students more ownership and focus to improving their writing. I could never find a commercially made tool that I liked, so I decided to make one myself. Here it is:
I just run this off on both sides and have my students staple it to their story. Now when they say they are “finished” a piece of writing, I have them go through their story one “box” at a time. By the way, I love the boxes! It makes the evaluation process so flexible, yet target. Here are just a few ways that I use the boxes:
This is just one of the tools I’ll be highlighting from our treasure box over the next few weeks. Do you have ideas for other teacher resources you’d just love to have? Subscribe and shoot me an email about it. It just might become our next fabulous freebie and you’ll get it free! What could be better than that?
Until next keep teaching and “treasuring” our special young people.
Wagon Train Kids Headed West for Gold
Written by K.B. Shaper
Middle-grade historical fiction tale focusing on Jack and his younger sister Mary. The family lives on a farm in Connecticut. One day the children are shocked to learn that their parents are selling everything and heading West on a wagon train in the hopes of finding gold in the California hills. The author traces the journey as the family heads north to Albany and then west to Missouri. There they meet Mr. Booth, the wagon master who will guide them to California.
Shaper goes into detail about the supplies and the preparation needed to prepare for the journey. I do think more time should have been spent describing in detail what the children saw on the journey. In that respect the plot is a bit uneven. One night the members of the wagon train observe someone watching them. Jack and Mary are warned to run if their father signals them. The adventure begins when the children become separated from their parents and are left on their own. A kindly stranger rescues them and brings them into San Francisco, where they work to earn their keep. Will the children be reunited with their parents and what happened to the rest of the members of the wagon train?
The story ends abruptly, if satisfactorily. Some readers may question whether telling the children to run and hide and that they will be found when the danger has passed is a realistic scenario. The plot features a traditional nuclear family story with a bit of history about the mid-nineteenth century, but may be short of adventure for some 21st century readers. I would still recommend it as an easy chapter book for early middle-grade readers. Teachers might use it as a read aloud to supplement this period of American history.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Dingo the Dragon Slayer:Master Zarvin’s Action and Adventure Series #1
Written by M.R. Mathias
This author has written many short stories and young adult tales about dragons and wizards. In this selection of under one hundred pages, Mathias is aiming toward a wider audience, targeting this book for ages seven and older. There are no illustrations and the text might be a stretch for seven and eight year olds, but I do think that middle grade readers who love fantasy will enjoy the book. The characters are well-developed, the reader rapidly feels their strengths and weaknesses.
Plot centers around Dingo, a dwarf who is the great grandson of Dingo, the Dragon Master who succeeded in roping a young blue dragon. Dingo is far less famous. His job is to guard the vent holes of the cave in which the dwarves of Dropull Mountains live. One day Dingo encounters a human heading toward the cave. The old man urges Dingo to abandon his post and follow him. Reluctantly agreeing to do so, Dingo discovers a dragon wants to lay her eggs in their shaft. He must warn the king.
So the adventure is set for Dingo to somehow convince the dragon to abandon her plan. How will the little dwarf succeed in that monumental task to save his people.? Who is the mysterious old man who suddenly appears to warn them.
Readers who enjoy dragons, magic, dwarves and adventure will enjoy this book. Also makes a good classroom read aloud choice as the chapters are fairly short. Reluctant readers will find the book interesting and appealing .
Barbara Ann Mojica
Today we’re going to dive into Google classroom! Let’s take a good look at how to set up your Google classroom and get started with the powerful tools it offers.
What is Google Classroom? Google Classroom allows you to set up an on-line virtual classroom complete with the ability to set up assignments, grade assignments and provide feedback and send out announcements to your students via the internet. No more taking home suitcases full of assignments as your students’ work will be literally at your keyboard “fingertips”.
How do you set up your very own Google Class?
4. Next you can put in some information about your class. Just go to the ABOUT button and tell your students about your class with information like where the class takes place, a description, etc.
5. Now your ready to add some assignments. It’s easy to do . Just watch this tutorial to get you started.
6. Finally, Let’s take a look at what your students will get and how they can open and complete assignments.
First they can attach almost any kind of work to hand in: file, google doc, or link to their work on the web. Here’s how:
If they’re working with a google doc or form that was teacher created, then they can simply complete their copy and hit the “turn in” button. Here’s a good student tutorial to show your students how:
So there you have it, you are ready to set up your google class and get googlin! Have fun, and enjoy the learning journey.
Runaway Smile: An unshared smile is a waste of time (Niditales Book 1)
Written by Nicholas C. Rossis
Illustrated by Dimitris Fousekis
Readers who take the time to read the Prologue will discover the secret of this book. Plot is simple: a little boy wakes up one morning and finds that he has lost his smile. Shortly after, the reader is introduced to a set of quirky characters that will definitely make him smile. The boy’s dog, wears glasses, reads Proust and drives a car. A clothes-eating monster lives in the bedroom closet and ants windsurf across the boy’s breakfast cereal, but the boy is steadfast in his search to find the missing smile.
The boy meets several adult characters on his way to school. A workman, a man walking his gold;-) fish, a king being photographed, the greatest salesman in the world, and a clown, each display smiles that they are unwilling to share with the boy. At school, the boy asks his teacher, but she replies that a classroom is no place for a smile and proceeds to pass out a test! By this time the poor boy is completely disheartened. When he gets home, he asks his mother how to find his smile. She reveals the secret.
The sepia-toned illustrations in this book are done beautifully; they capture the spirit and humor of the tale. A poem, “Ode to a runaway smile,” included at the end portrays the cleverness and wit of the author. Adults will understand all the nuances of this story. The simple illustration on the cover is a bit misleading as to the underlying story. Young children will enjoy the pictures but probably won’t grasp some of the concepts without adult guidance. I feel the book is best suited for independent readers who enjoy different kinds of books with an unusual plot so I would especially recommend it for ages ten and older.
Barbara Ann Mojica
WILLAKAVILLE: Baffling Ballads of Boisterous Braveness
Written by Bald Guy
I was drawn to this book by the mysterious title as well as the pseudonym of the author. The dedication is for anyone trying to follow their dreams. They are strange dreams indeed. Ten stories centering around children learning how to deal with life and its problems. For example, in the first tale, Daisy and her mother are working in the garden when suddenly the plants and garbage are at war with one another. Soon the planet is being overcome: Daisy figures out a war to initiate a truce. She and the residents of Willakaville find a solution to please everyone. In the Lost City, Jeremy receives a mysterious necklace that proves to be his salvation, but he will have to keep what he found a secret forever. Equestrian lovers Kara and Judy get a lot more than they bargained for while riding one day. They are enlisted to help Acknothilus save Snobbleland, meeting dinosaurs, two-headed beasts and a golden nose. Readers will also meet Suzy, who has an overactive imagination, robot insects trying to take over the world, and a boy named Eric who is trapped under the town in a sewer. I think you get the idea. Creative stories involving interesting characters based on real issues that tweens and teens face in real life.
Magic, fantasy, science fiction, bullying, coming of age issues, family relationships and ghosts are just a few of the elements woven into the tales. The plots might seem far-fetched but they strike familiar chords. Recommended for readers who like to use their imaginations and enjoy getting lost in a fascinating read. Most appropriate for ages ten and older though younger children will certainly enjoy these stories if read aloud with guidance.
Barbara Ann Mojica
On a recent trip down to my basement, I spotted my old flexible flyer sled. Thinking about winter recreation, I sat down to do some historical research on sledding.
The word sled comes from the Middle English word sledde. That word goes back to the Old Dutch word slee which translates to slider or sliding. The word has a common ancestry with sleigh and sledge. Our neolithic ancestors may have used a variation made of whalebone. Ancient Egyptians are thought to have used a type of sledge to haul the huge stones over the land for their public works. Both sleds and sledges have been found in Viking ship excavations. The sledge appeared to be valuable for an economic reason as well; because it had no wheels it was exempt from toll collection. The British used sledges hauled by men in their early Arctic and Antarctic explorations. Dog sleds were used by other early explorers like Roald Amundsen.
A sled, sledge or sleigh is a land vehicle that has an underside that is smooth or maybe even a separate body that has two narrow long runners supporting it. It moves by sliding across a surface that does not offer much friction like snow or ice. Some of them were used on mud, grass or even smooth stones. Such vehicles might transport passengers, cargo or a combination of the two. A preference for one of the three names depended on the region and climate. Here in America, sled is the general term but this usually refers to a small device used for recreation. Sledge or stone boat is more often used for a heavy sled intended to move heavy objects. The word sleigh usually implies a moderate sized open vehicle having passenger seats used during the cold season as an alternative to a wagon or carriage most often drawn by horses. In the Santa Claus legend, the Scandinavian reference to reindeer supplanted the horses.
As the advances of the Industrial Revolution progressed, men and women found themselves with more leisure time and sleds quickly transformed themselves into a form of recreation. There are several variations geared for downhill sledding. A toboggan is a log sled without runners that is most often made of wood or plastic. That name comes from either the Algonquin word odabaggin or the Anishinabe word nobugidaban. Inuit tribesmen made them out of whalebone. Other tribes used either birch or tamarack wood. These sleds had curved fronts but no runners. The Russians built a toboggan wooden structure to slide down toward the end of the nineteenth century in St. Petersburg. The sport of tobogganing started around the same time in Canada and rapidly gained popularity. Tobogganing also became a fashion event; women wore their best clothes and men their top hats while sliding down the chute. An unknown inventor added a handlebar and a pair or runners to a timber sled, and the kicksled powered by human leg power emerged. They were used on hard, slippery surfaces like lakes and rivers and could reach speeds of eighteen miles per hour. Clippers and cutters were first mass produced in the United States in Maine. The flexible flyer received its patent in 1889. Samuel Leeds Allen developed sleds to keep his workers busy at his factory during the winter. This type of sled had a slatted wooden seat and steel runners with something resembling a hinge near the back that allowed some steering. By the twentieth century, new shapes and materials were introduced for sledding. There are round plastic saucers, inflatable plastic sleds and foam sliders made of durable foam with handles.
A few types of sleds are used competitively in sports: the bobsled, luge and skeleton. An unknown inventor created the bobsled when he added a mechanism for steering to the toboggan. Its name came from the fact that early users thought it helped to “bob” their heads to gain speed. The two variations on the bobsled are the skeleton which is a one person sled ridden lying down head first, and the luge in which one or two people sled feet first steering by pulling straps attached to its runners. Beginning in 1924 as an Olympic sport, today bobsledding is a part of the Winter Olympics for men and women. Whether you enjoy hitting the slopes for fun or watching the Olympics, winter sledding remains a popular winter activity.
Barbara Ann Mojica
I was sent this post from a dear friend who is a part of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day. My bad that I didn’t get it up on Wednesday, but it’s still worth celebrating this wonderful effort to raise awareness! Enjoy.
1. Our Mission: The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld
All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share,Educators Spin on it,Growing Book by Book,Imagination Soup,I’m Not the Nanny,InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen,Mama Smiles,Multicultural Kid Blogs,Spanish Playground
Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife
The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books
NOW I AM PLEASED TO PRESENT MY BOOK REVIEW
Written by Gregory E. Ransome
Obstaclēs has a difficult problem. He is facing his thirteenth year and his prospects of being accepted at Fo Fum Prep, the school for training giants is next to nil. While he has a stout heart, he lacks the size of a giant and he suffers from AED (Attention Elsewhere Disorder). If Obstaclēs is not accepted, he faces banishment from his homeland of Humongopolis. But Obstaclēs has a plan, he will introduce the dreaded Dragonbush Rash and then swoop in with the cure of Saw Grass Tea and become a hero.
Unfortunately, Obstaclēs never gets a chance to implement his plan. His grandmother engages her neighbor Zorgon, the bean giant farmer to whisk Obstaclēs away to Podunkia Educational Academy and Remedy for Lost Sheep (PEARLS). To get there, the travelers will have to cross The Forest of Future Regret,the Lake of Lost Souls, the Willow Hawk Raptors and the lizard kingdom. Obstaclēs,will meet up with a human friend named Griff, and together they will outsmart their enemies. As the adventure unfolds, Obstaclēs learns a lot about himself, those he loves, and how to be true to oneself.
This book is the perfect choice for middle school students coping with issues of bullying,mental or physical disabilities, self-esteem and coming of age. The author artfully combines alliteration, onomatopoeia, and colorful imagery to paint the plot. There are a few well-drawn black and white illustrations inserted at critical junctures of the story line. Combining elements of fantasy, science fiction, fairy tale, and adventure, this fictional account of less than two hundred pages is a good choice for multicultural students ages eight through twelve, reluctant readers, and parents or teachers who want to enjoy a well-written story that hits the mark on addressing so many issues children growing up in today’s complex world.
If you enjoyed reading this post, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS FEED button in the upper
right hand corner of this post.
HERE IS A GAME THAT PARENTS OR TEACHERS CAN SHARE WITH THEIR CHILDREN TO PROMOTE FEELINGS OF SELF-WORTH:
Barbara Ann Mojica
Dearie: A Tale of Courage (Chapter Books Book 1)
Written by Gita V. Reddy
Beginning chapter book of approximately thirty-five pages which is just right for a new or reluctant reader. The protagonist is a deer named Dearie. At first, it appeared that Dearie was too weak and frail to survive. Beating the odds, he soon grew strong and fast. As time went on, a bigger problem surfaced. Whenever danger appeared, Dearie froze. He could not respond to danger. That put the rest of the herd at risk.
Despite the pleadings of his mother, it is agreed that Dearie must leave the herd to learn how to overcome his fears and master the skills needed to survive. Dearie must face wild boar, wolves, lions and crocodiles. Will Dearie find his courage, and more importantly, will he ever rejoin his beloved herd?
This is an animal coming of age story that teaches children we all must not be afraid how to learn to be independent. Simple pen and ink drawings accompany the short chapters. I think the plot begins a bit slowly; the real story unfolds halfway through the book in Chapter 5. Recommended as an independent read for eight to ten-year-olds or for reluctant readers who feel challenged by the length of most middle-grade chapter books. Short enough to be used as a read aloud classroom discussion.
Barbara Ann Mojica
The Crumbling Brick: The Land of Neo Book 1
Written by JoHannah Reardon
This approximately one hundred page book might be likened to a Christian fairy tale. Some reviewers have noted similarities to The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. Targeted for readers age seven and up, I feel that it will appeal most to tweens and young teens. The characters are charming, appealing, and fairly well developed for the length of the story.
Plot involves a twelve-year-old girl named Ella, who lives in her grandmother’s urban house. One rainy day, she is asked to clean the basement. Ella reluctantly agrees; she finds a loose brick behind an old trunk. When she removes it, Ella finds a beautiful fantasy world on the other side. She steps into it and embarks on an adventure that involves a princess, her suitors, a unicorn, some mischievous monkeys, and a bear mentor named Sequor. Ella learns that the wise and all-knowing Kosmeo has chosen her to save the land of Neo. Ward, her unicorn friend, will assist her in warning the princess Onyma that one of her suitors is involved in a plot to overthrow her kingdom. While the story is somewhat predictable, there are enough twists and turns with delightful characters and moral lessons to give the fairy tale a wide appeal to boys and girls alike.
This book is the first of a series. It can be used as bedtime story, an independent chapter book or a classroom read aloud that combines many interesting elements for classroom discussion. If you enjoy fairy tales, give this one a look.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
The 3 Monkeys Christmas Treehouse (Monkey Tales Book 5)
Written by Rob “Nanook” Natiuk
This is my first time reading a book in this series. Delightful story about three monkey siblings, Booey, Fooey and Hooey and their Jungle friends. The book is an interactive reading experience with ample opportunities for the reader to pause and allow the listeners to blurt out their responses by repeating, singing, or animating the sounds and actions of the characters in the stories.
In the first tale the three siblings receive a gift from their Grandpa Monk. At first they are puzzled by the red, white and green Christmas balls and stringed lights. Booey, the female, figures out they must be ornaments for a Christmas tree like the one she saw in the town. So they set off to find the perfect Christmas tree. Readers will meet some of their friends like the gorilla, crocodile and turtle. In the end, they find the perfect tree right under their noses. Tale two finds our friends looking over their Christmas list. As they travel to Coconut Town, they sing clever monkey songs adapted to familiar Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells,” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” They knock on doors of animal friends seeking to find the true meaning of Christmas. Finally, they discover that, “ A friend in need is a friend indeed.” In tale three, wise old Grandpa Monk tells his grandchildren the story of Santa Paws in the Jungle with his circus wagon pulled by eight zebras. Will the siblings find presents under the tree? The fourth tale speaks of the let down feeling many of us experience in the days after Christmas. Our friends have already tired of their presents; they ponder their New Year’s Resolutions. What do they share with their readers?
This book is perfect for elementary school children. Older siblings can read to younger brothers and sisters or the family can share the reading experience. Young children will love the repetition and songs. I will be reading other books in this series. Very entertaining, clever, and highly recommended.
Hey there teachers, homeschoolers and parents who are looking for ways to get their kids interested in reading,
Oh yeah, and did I mention for very little cost? I don’t know about you, but I like getting quality for cheap! So…read on to find out how!
First let me say how exciting it is to have my own novel, The Jewel of Peru, offered for free, alongside so many other talented authors who are also offering their books for just .99 or FREE! But of course you have to act fast, because this is only for a limited time. Yep, it’s time to fill the Kindles and ipads of our middle-grade readers (or those like me who like MG lit) with great reads at very little cost. What have you got to lose? Scroll all the way down and check out the titles, then download away!
Now, a note from the organizer :
I’m excited about this promotion because it’s geared to one of my favorite audiences: middle-grade readers! I’ve always been passionate about books written for kids ages 9 through 12. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, Diary of a Wimpy Kid… all excellent. 🙂 I wrote The Key of Kilenya when my younger brother, Josh, who was 12 at the time, told me there weren’t enough books for him to read. He’d ripped through everything our local library had and was hungry for more.
I dedicate this promotion to him and to all other readers who love and are searching for books written for middle graders!
The Multi-Author Middle-Grade Book Promotion starts January 4, 2016 and ends January 7, 2016.
From $2.99 to $0.99
KindleTwelve-year-old Steven never wondered where the Loch Ness monster or Big Foot came from until he found a stone box with a dangerous secret–one people are willing to kill for!
From $1.99 to $0.99
KindleOne girl with a nightmare to live through; one ghost with a dream to live. With so much to lose, can anything be gained?
From $3.49 to FREE
KindleEnter a world of myth and magic as young English boy Thomas Farrell seeks to discover the identity of his late father, and why he left him a strange glass orb containing a serpent…
From $2.99 to $0.99
KindleWhen eating dog kibble on a dare gives 10-year-old Tawny special powers, her life nearly goes to the dogs!
$3.99 to $0.99
KindleDaniel doesn’t think there’s anything worse than spending a week at Camp Bigfoot . . . until he loses his prized possession: a pencil that brings his drawings to life.
From $3.99 to FREE
KindleWhen a blast from the past shows up and makes her BFF go nutburgers, Ginnie is torn between helping her friend and getting some very important questions answered.
From $2.99 to $0.99
KindleFelicity, an ordinary sparrow learns that she can do extraordinary things!
From $2.99 to $0.99
KindleThe legend of the little red hen, as told by the acorn that smacked her in the head. NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO CHANGE THE WORLD!
From $2.99 to FREE
KindleCarter’s life changes when an old man entrusts him with a book of magical spells, one of which grants the power to raise people from the dead.
From $0.99 to FREE
KindleEver wonder what it would be like to be pulled into your computer? Sarah is about to find out.
From $2.99 to FREE
Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iTunesWhen a savage pirate and a corrupt businessman join forces to steal the treasure for themselves, Christopher and his crew get caught up in pirate chases, time travel, and an underground network of spies!
Enjoy your new books! 🙂
Written by M.M. Allen
Wishapick Music and Lyrics by Deborah Wynne
I agreed to review this book as part of a blog tour, and was really delighted once I opened it. Targeted for a middle-grade audience of 9-12 year old children, this well-written book contains elements of adventure, fantasy, magic and humor in just the right combination.
Jack and his younger sister Lilly are the main protagonists. Since his father’s death two years before, Jack has remained angry and sullen. In the opening scene, readers feel this tension between them when Lilly accidentally breaks the spy drone Jack has built for a science project. But Lilly has a surprise for Jack; she has overheard their mother talking on the phone and now knows the location of the key that will open the mysterious black trunk his father left behind. Their mother has expressly forbidden them to open it. Jack cannot contain his curiosity. When he opens the trunk he falls inside, and down into a black hole surrounded by snakes. Unknown to Jack, Lilly follows him inside. So the adventure begins….
The siblings will meet a fascinating cast of animal characters including snakes, possums, skunks, and wolves. They will learn the meaning of their mother’s mantra, “Breath of all good things.” The mystery of their father’s death will be revealed, and they will discover the value of embracing hope versus despair while displaying courage and teamwork.
This book reminds me a bit of Charlotte’s Web and Alice through the Looking Glass, but this plot is unique and the language colorful. Length of the book is under 150 pages, one that I feel is just right for a middle-grade audience. As a bonus, readers may purchase a companion CD with music that matches the various moods and scenarios presented in the book. Listening to the music and closing one’s eyes, the reader can easily feel transported inside a Disney movie.
I highly recommend this Five Star Readers’ Favorite book to middle-grade readers interested in a humorous, imaginative adventure fusing realistic and magical elements with characters with whom they can easily empathize. Librarians and teachers could use this book as a read aloud to open up discussion on many topics relevant to this audience.
Barbara Ann Mojica
How did you ring in the New Year? Were you dining out on New Year’s Eve with loved ones, watching the ball drop in Times Square, watching The Rose Ball Parade and football on TV or enjoying a traditional family dinner with friends on New Year’s Day?
Our New Year traditions can be traced back to the Romans. Parties to celebrate the New Year were rowdy and boisterous with much drinking and partying. They probably are the source of the New Year’s kiss tradition. In medieval and Renaissance times the wealthier Europeans held masked balls believed to help purify the New Year. The masks that they wore symbolized the bad spirits; only after midnight could their masks be removed. After the mask was discarded, people were permitted to kiss. This kiss was a sign of purification for the New Year.
The song “Auld Lang Syne” is popular in many countries. A Scotsman named Robert Burns restored the song based on an old ballad and added some of his own verses. The song was first published in1796 after his death, and soon became a popular tune to be sung as the clock struck midnight.
A historical event occurred on January 1, 1863, which ushered in the New Year’s tradition of Watch Services. President Abraham Lincoln had warned the Confederacy that if they did not return to the Union by that date, he would release the slaves. They did nothing; so on January 1, 1863, his famous Emancipation Proclamation became effective. Americans throughout the country began the tradition of Watch Services, which was a celebration of that Proclamation becoming the law of the land. Today many Americans still gather in homes and churches as they did on that first “Freedom’s Eve.” They celebrate with prayers and joyful songs.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, members of an organization in Pasadena, California known as The Hunt Club arranged an event with their former friends on the East Coast. It consisted of chariot races, foot races, polo, jousting, and tug of war games. Because of the warm California weather and the availability of flowers, they introduced a pre-event parade in which the contestants decorated carriages with flowers. Later on, they added marching bands, floats and viewing stands. This parade grew so fast that by 1895 the Tournament of Roses Association was set up to organize it. Recently it has evolved to include computerized animation and professional float building companies. The Rose Bowl Football game was added in 1902. Today millions of people view the Rose Parade and football game which follows.
Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, Alfred Oaks, owner of the New York Times building, began the tradition of dropping the New Year ball on a pole in Times Square, New York City exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve.The original ball was made of iron and wood. It took one minute to descend down the pole, and arrived exactly at midnight. Today that ball is made of Waterford Crystal six feet in diameter and weighs 1070 pounds. More than a million people often crowd intoTimes Square on New Year’s Eve. They party as the celebration is televised throughout the world. No matter which of these traditions or any other your family celebrates, I wish you health, happiness and prosperity for the coming New Year!
Barbara Ann Mojica,
As a member of the numeracy committee for my school division, I get the chance to listen and learn from many gifted math teachers in our division. I love the collaborative nature of the meetings, designed to move us in the direction of better instruction for our students. This week one of the important topics of discussion stemmed around our desire for continuity in the teaching of math vocabulary.
So what’s the deal? Would teaching common terms to our students really make a big difference? Should we be taking our math time to address vocabulary? Yes! The research is clear. Math vocabulary instruction is effective and vital to support deeper math understanding.
Capraro, Robert M., Mary Margaret Capraro, and William H. Rupley. 2010. “Semantics and Syntax: A Theoretical Model for How Students May Build Mathematical Misunderstandings.” Journal of Mathematics Education 3 (2): 58–66. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02702710600642467
Fisher, Douglas, and Nancy Frey. 2008. Word Wise and Content Rich, Grades 7–12: Five Essential Steps to Teaching Academic Vocabulary. Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.
Dunsten, Pamela J. and Tyminski, Andrew M., “What’s the Big Deal about Vocabulary?” Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. Vol.19, No. 1, August 2013, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. .www.nctm.org.
Children’s Book: Saving Christmas (Kids Action Adventure)
Author: Morris Fenris
The book description, cover, and reviews suggest that this book is appropriate for children of all ages. Some parents might argue that it is not at all appropriate for children, but rather suited to young adults and adults.
There are four parts. In the first, readers meet a girl named Mary who generally spends Christmas alone. On Christmas Eve, she is out for a ride on her horse when she hears a strange noise and meets with an accident resulting in her being thrown from her horse. When she wakes up, Mary finds herself in a strange cabin with a white haired man. She is surrounded by unfamiliar sights and sounds. The second story features Mrs. Claus at the North Pole many years later supervising the elves on Christmas Eve. She experiences a strange sense of foreboding and a dramatic change in Santa’s personality. Part Three leads Mary to a sleigh ride in order to find Santa’s mother. The reindeer Vixen knows that she will be able to save Christmas. Finally in the fourth part, Mary realizes her true role and the reader learns what happened to Mary’s horse on the night of her accident.
The stories contain many run on sentences and grammar that needs some editing. It is difficult to classify the genre of these stories. Elements of romance, mystery, and adventure, but definitely not a kids book. This book contains some familiar characters and symbols, but adults should be aware of multiple layers of meaning and some inappropriate language.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Egyptian Diary: Journal of a Young Scribe
Written by Richard Platt
Illustrated by David Parkins
An unusual picture book, in size and scope. I read the paperback version, written in large print and generous in its approximately 10 X 13 inch size. This book is written in first person diary format. Nakht is a nine-year-old boy living in the reign of Pharaoh Hatshepsut in ancient Egypt. His father has just been given a promotion in the city of Memphis. Nakht writes in his diary about his adventure, including lots of details about daily life in Egypt, cultural mores, religion, farming, hunting, and craftsmen. The plot takes a dramatic turn when Nakht and his sister, Tamyt discover a tomb robber conspiracy which will take them to the city of Thebes and land them in the court of the palace of Hatshepsut. They are astonished to discover that the Pharaoh is a woman.
Illustrated with beautiful color drawings by Parkins, the reader is transported back 3,500 years. These drawings are beautifully done; the expressions of the faces are somewhat exaggerated to display characters’ emotions. The author provides an extensive appendix which includes notes about geography, society, religion, the pyramids and archaeology.
Targeted for children in grades four through seven, the large pictures might even draw the attention of children slightly younger. Generally recommended for children in the eight to twelve-year-old range. Anyone interested in ancient Egyptian history will delight in this book. Great choice for homeschooling parents as a fine introduction to the study of this topic.
If you enjoyed reading this post, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS FEED button in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
Barbara Ann Mojica
An Olde Christmas Carol: A Storm Ketchum Tale
Written by Garrett Dennis
Part of a series of books focusing on the character of Storm Ketchum and a series of mysteries which take place on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This particular short story is an introduction or a companion piece to that series.
Ketch is sitting in his rocking chair on the porch of a rented cottage on a cold January morning with his beagle named Jack; he is about to retire to Cape Hatteras. Thinking about what to do, he vacillates between staying put or attending the Rodanthe celebration. Following a strange feeling pulling Ketch to drive there, he is startled to meet his ex-wife with whom he reminisces about the past, confront the ghost Old Buck, and together with Jack, solve a crime. Did Ketch imagine all these things, or did they really happen?
There are echoes of Dickens in this short story, a chance at redemption and a new beginning. A pleasant read for teens and adults and a great way to get into the mood for the Christmas season.
The Secrets’s of Sinbad’s Cave (Book 1 in the Natnat Adventures)
Written by Brydie Walker Bain
The first book in this adventure series combines myths, legends, fantasy, magic and treasure hunting into an exciting read not only for tweens and teens but for adult readers as well. Set in New Zealand, the book also offers a glimpse into a part of the world unknown to many.
As the story opens, readers meet Drake and Cortez, who are professional thieves seeking to find a long lost treasure hidden in the caves. In the second chapter, we meet Mike and his children, Nat, Jack, Kathleen who are struggling to save the farm and their beloved horses, which they are about to lose due to financial troubles. When Kathleen falls through a hole in the roof of the attic, she finds a hidden room complete with a treasure box of clues, and the adventure begins. The children have only two weeks left of summer vacation to solve the mystery and save the farm before they have to return to their mother living in the city.
Assisted by their friends, Elijah and Barnaby they set off on their quest. Their clues lead them to seek help from the Maori, Abraham Te Kaitiaki and his niece, Riki. When thieves break into the children’s home seeking the box, all realize the danger. But the children and their Maori guides are relentless. A giant eagle, pixies (Patupaiarehe), and a tiny magic bird encourage the children not to give up. Where did this legend come from and how is it connected to this family? Will they be able to unravel the clues ahead of the professional thieves and save the family farm?
The author does a great job of moving the plot along and introduces enough complications to keep the story interesting. I read the book in one sitting, but the book could easily be used in a classroom as a read aloud or link to many subject different areas of curriculum. Bain entices the reader by giving a preview of the next adventure, which sounds just as exciting as the first. Highly recommended for treasure hunters age nine and older.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Jesper Jinx (The Jesper Jinx Series Book 1)
Written and Illustrated by Marko Kit
Interesting series of short stories exploring the hijinks of eleven year old Jesper, who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesper has a twelve-year-old sister, who is often the victim of his shenanigans. Jesper introduces himself by relating an episode in which he sabotages his sister’s favorite drink. Then the book switches to the voice of a children’s book author and his narration of what happens when he literally bumps into Jesper. It turns out that Jesper wants that author to record his strange experiences. There is a catch; the author can never publish them or allow anyone else to read them. Do you think that author keeps his promise? Will you, as the reader, keep that secrecy promise?
The next two stories reveal what happens when the family’s white cat meets Jesper’s watercolors, and a mysterious new student from Spain becomes a willing protege. Jose Maria studies the pranks Jesper and his friend Oliver commit in their classroom. Middle school readers will love the pranks and the humorous dialogue as well as the clever names like Miss Parrot, Mr. Llawandorder and Mr. Playfair-Eales.
Simple line drawings are a bonus and add appeal to early advanced readers or reluctant readers. I think fans of the Wimpy Kid series will also enjoy this one. Recommended for middle school readers. Look forward to reading more of this series.
Barbara Ann Mojica
If someone were to ask you, what would you say is the number one thing that makes you an effective teacher?
One word makes all the difference. Relationship.
Oh, I know, I need to be tough in the first half of the year so I will have control of my class, right? Wrong! I am not teaching robots. I am teaching children. They do not look the same, act the same, or have the same likes and dislikes. Some like pizza with pineapple, while others spit it out. There’s the class clown, the shy one who will never ask a question, and the one who constantly trips over his own feet. I love them all. It is not my job to control them so they will learn. It’s my job to watch each of them, get to know them and find out what makes them tick. With each, I need to develop the kind of relationship that builds a bridge of trust between us. They need to know I am here for them and I am always on their side. Then, they can take risks in my classroom. Then, they can learn.
“Wait a minute,” you say . “I thought this post was about technology. What does technology have to do with relationship?”
Stay tuned. In today’s world we need to use every available tool to inspire our students. Here are three tech tools that I love because they help me know my students better and communicate with them more effectively even outside to the classroom.
1. Email: even though I teach elementary school, writing emails back and forth with my students, not only teaches them a valuable technology skill. It also allows them to ask me questions they might be afraid to tell me in class. It gives them a voice to tell me about things that are troubling them. Perhaps they are getting bullied or are nervous about their grades. I’ve had students share these kinds of things with me via email and it provides me great insight so I can help them deal with the problem. The one-on-one nature of email lends itself to some privacy in conversation which allows students to feel they can share.
2. Evernote: As you can tell by my previous posts, I’m a bit of an Evernote FREAK! I love the way I can set up student notebooks and collect assessments to build a profile for their learning. In addition to assessment, Evernote also allows me to collect tidbits of information that I think will interest my students. For example, if I know that one of my students is interested in horses, I can easily capture and keep articles, photos, web games, etc. That I think will interest that child. Then I can show them quickly and easily. I can also share the notes by email with the student and their parents. Just another beam supporting the bridge of trust.
3. Kidblog: I love Kidblog! Kidblog gives kids a reason to write. Beyond class writing assignments, students can research and share their interests, just like real bloggers do! Kidblog allows you, the teacher, to have your kids give and receive feedback in a safe environment. You control who can and cannot comments as well as the privacy of the posts. Best of all, you can access their posts anywhere so you can interact with their posts at home on your laptop. I have learned so much about my students by reading their Kidblog posts. We’ve also had the chance to connect with other classes around the world, which provides even greater reason for Kids to write! I can’t say enough about the benefits of getting your class on Kidblog.
There you have it, three ways to connect with kids on a personal level, beyond the classroom. Of course with each of these tools there is the added benefit of teaching them about safe on-line practices and etiquette.
If you want to know more about any of these, I’m here and I’d love to help! Shoot me a message via Facebook, Twitter, email or in the comments below. Do you have any favourite tech tools that help you build stronger relationships with students? I’d love to hear about them.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to get more great teaching ideas and have access to exclusive free teaching materials each week please subscribe to our newsletter! Just enter your name in the sidebar or the pop-up to connect! I can’t wait to share with you!
Bex Carter #1 Aunt Jeanie’s Revenge
Written by Tiffany Nicole Smith
First book in the series about twelve-year-old Bex and her struggle to fit in a difficult situation. Not only is Beth having the usual coming of age issues with school and peers, but she is living with Aunt Jeanie and her family because Bex’s mother disappeared long ago and her father is in prison. While her aunt is obsessively concerned with “fitting in with society,” Bex enjoys sports and really wishes to be left alone. Things get tough for Bex when she is forced to audition for the “Silver Rose” group. Bex hates the idea, but she really needs to have her own space, the bribe her aunt holds in front of her.
Much of the story involves the adventures and pranks that Bex must endure, and her struggle to walk the line between what is truly right and wrong. Middle school and young teen readers will be sure to find many situations that parallel their own at home and school. Throughout the tale, many of the characters grow and change. The book is both serious and humorous with a good mix of the traditional and modern.
This book will appeal to readers nine and older. There is just the right mix of dialogue, shift from first person to third person narrative is well done. Can’t wait to see what happens in Bex’s next adventure.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Mr. Boggarty:The Halloween Grump (Spooky Adventure for Kids 9-12)
Written by Tevin Hansen
The question on the cover sets the main plot. Can Trix and her friends escape the Lime Green Ghost of Lincoln County? At first, I found the layout strange. The author chose to introduce each of the main characters in a separate chapter. Then he proceeds to explain Halloween customs in different countries. Finally, he gets to the subject of eggs and the plot that the five friends have hatched for this upcoming Halloween. Last, bit not least he sets the scene with each of their customs and moves to Mr. Boggarty’s house on Halloween night.
Trixie, Frank, Darby, Darren, and Preston crouch behind the tree in Mr. Boggarty’s front yard and prepare to ring the doorbell. When Darren “chickens out,” Trix cautiously turns the doorknob and the five friends find themselves inside. At first the house seems normal, but soon they see a lit jack-o-lantern on the table. Deciding to throw their rotten eggs inside the house, they are paralyzed with fear when the door slams shut and the lights go out.
Suddenly the fifth-graders are confronted with a bright green flying ghost. He orders them to kneel down and informs them he has just stolen the soul of Mr. Boggarty. He gives them a history lesson about the Great Depression But the worse news is yet to come. The children have been selected to be the new Demons of Lincoln County; they will be sent to school to learn how to be ruthless, evil and diabolical creatures who prey on poor farming communities like the one they live in now. The ghost’s brothers and sisters will arrive at six o’clock to whisk them away forever. As a thunderstorm rages outside the house, the five friends await their fate.
The plot has a ending with a surprise twist. Hansen takes his time building up to the main plot, but keeps the suspense going once the children arrive in the house. Middle grade students will enjoy the diversity of the characters, the humor, and the scary story line. Good choice for a Halloween party or a classroom read aloud. The dialogue is easy to read and the length of just over 130 pages is a good fit for reluctant readers.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Last week I shared how to use Evernote for unit planning. Now it’s time to turn our efforts into great classroom lessons! Believe or not, Evernote can help with that, too!
Remember all the great resources you gathered for your unit by using the handy, dandy web clipper to save sites, videos, articles, etc? Now it’s time to present those resources to your students in your lesson plan. Evernote has a great little feature that allows you to do the teaching right from your Evernote notebook. It’s called the presentation mode and it’s so easy to use. When you’re in your Evernote workspace, just open up the note you want and click on the presenter icon that looks like this:￼ You’ll find it in the upper toolbar.
Wallah! You are now in presenter mode and can present the document, web page or whatever else you’ve clipped. While in presentation mode, you have the following choices in the settings at the top right of the screen:
There you have it! Evernote can help you gather resources, organize them, and present them with ease. I hope this tutorial proves helpful to you in bringing exciting learning opportunities to your students. Sharing is caring! If you found this helpful please share with other teachers, or homeschoolers that might benefit.
Questions? Anything, I’m here to help and would love to hear from you.
This weeks’ book review is just in time for Halloween!
Spiders: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos of Animals in Nature Book 6
Written by Emma Child
Another entry in the Amazing Animals series of kindle books. The photos can be enlarged for closer inspection by young readers. I enjoyed this nonfiction book; facts were presented in an easy to read and interesting format.
Readers learn what a spider looks like, how they spin webs, the venom they engender, what they eat, and the families in which they live. The book is packed with little-known information. I learned that crab spiders often live in tree trunks and that the diving bell spider lives entirely underwater. Tarantula spiders are even kept as house pets. Some spiders actually live in colonies with as many as 50,000 spiders who hunt and share food together.
The books in this series are targeted for children ages six through twelve. I would recommend collecting them as good nonfiction resource for the study of animals. Teachers and parents can use them as a starting point in research study. Too bad they are not currently available in print versions.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about using the Evernote in my classroom. This is the fourth in a series of posts so if you haven’t had a chance to read the previous posts on how to set up your class in Evernote, then you might want to take a moment to do that before reading this one. Today I’m going to highlight how to use Evernote for unit planning. Evernote is fabulous for gathering and organizing your resources for unit planning. This short tutorial will show you how to add documents from your computer and from the web, in a flash.
1) Unit Planning: Evernote is fabulous for unit planning! Be sure that you have installed the Evernote clipper onto your PC or MAC, then set up a notebook for your unit plan. For example, if I wanted to plan a unit about Rocks and Minerals, this is what I would do:
A. First make a notebook for the unit in Evernote. I make a stack labeled SCIENCE, and then make a notebook for each science topic. Take a look at this short video clip to see how:
B. The next step is to put everything (documents, websites, videos, etc.) into each notebook.
Here’s how to add documents from your computer:
Here’s how to clip information from a website or YouTube. Using the web clipper makes it easy to clip any web resource in just about any format. Here’s how to clip:
Once you’re done with the fun of clipping and adding your resources, it’s time to take a look at your resources in Evernote. See how beautiful everything is organized? The SCIENCE STACK holds the NOTEBOOK called WASTE IN OUR WORLD, and inside that notebook are all the documents: pdfs, jpegs, websites (saved as articles, bookmarks or screenshots), and videos. Neat and tidy in one place!
I hope that this tutorial has helped you see how easy it would be to set up your own organizational system in Evernote. Next week I’ll share how you can use the “presenter” mode to bring those resources to life in your lessons. Presenting lessons to the students in fun new ways will excite and engage young learners and that’s why we teach!
Until next time,
Work smarter, not harder… and enjoy time with your loved ones.
Welcome to the third, in a series of posts, in which I’ll share ways for teachers to work smarter, not harder, using technology tools that will actually “save” time. Today we’re going to take a look at EVERNOTE.
One of our primary challenges as teachers is to provide feedback to our students in a timely, consistent manner. We know that keeping up with marking assignments and then giving the students the feedback they need to grow as learners, is paramount to their success. In fact, in John Haddie’s (http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/) research on how classroom practices are related to student achievement, he ranks formative evaluation and student feedback as very effective means to increase student learning. The problem, however, is that the mountains of marking quickly add up. How do we keep up, keep our sanity, and get some sleep, too? Have no fear, Evernote can help.
Drawing for Beginners: From Dot to Drawing Shapes and Forms
Written by Renee B. Williams
This author has a passion for explaining how to do things, and she displays a definite talent in this area. Adults who have always wanted to learn how to draw or those interested in helping children learn will find value in this book. The step by step approach laid out in the Table of Contents sets the tone for this book of approximately fifty pages.
As promised, this is the second in a series of posts in which I’ll share ways for teachers to work smarter, not harder, using technology tools that will actually “save” you time. Today we’re going to take a look at setting up notebooks and tags in EVERNOTE.
First of all, if you haven’t done so, yet, download the Evernote app to your desktop and all your devices. It’s free for the first 60 MB of notes. You can find the various links here: Evernote. Note – I’m using a Mac, so it might look slightly different on a Windows PC, but the same features are in both versions.
Once you have Evernote, it’s time to set it up for your classroom.
The Math Inspectors: Story One-The Case of the Claymore Diamond
Written by Daniel Kenny and Emily Boever
Clever, humorous and well-written detective mystery targeted for late elementary and middle school readers. I must admit the plot kept me guessing and entertained. Chapters are short and easy to read. Pencil sketches are an added bonus. I particularly enjoyed the way that the authors found a way to integrate those dreaded hard to solve math word problems right into the story line. As a bonus, the reader is presented with a few more problems to solve at the conclusion of the mystery. They can check their answers on the authors’ website.