Interactive learning quests, book reviews, lesson plans, teacher tools and technology tips for teachers.
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.
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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 this week’s Teacher Treasure Freebie. 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.
To access this great set of templates and get future Teacher Treasure FREEBIES, just click on the gold bar below. Come on back and comment on how they worked in your classroom. We can all learn from each other.
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 a new fabulous freebie every 2 weeks. This template is this week’s freebie! Just sign up by clicking the gold bar below. Not sure? 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!
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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Teachers, I estimate that we only spend one-third of our time actually in the classroom teaching. Would you agree? Long after the students are dismissed, we spend our hours planning, marking, doing professional development and preparing materials for the lessons we planned. Technology is supposed to make things better, faster, and more efficient, but often learning the technology, itself, becomes a burdensome time-consuming chore.
As educators, then, we must constantly evaluate where to spend our time. Which tech tools will actually help us with our profession and which will take a lot of time to learn with limited practical application. Today I want to share with you two tech tools that have changed the way I plan, mark and organize everything. I share these tools because I believe that these tools really will help you and save you time, rather than waste it. Today I’ll introduce them, but over the next few weeks, I will highlight the many uses of these two tools for the classroom.
The first tool is an app called Evernote. Evernote is a web-based application that allows you to make notes that you can then tag, file and have access to, from any device. Whether using your phone, iPad, tablet, home computer and/or any other device you may have, Evernote syncs your information between all devices seamlessly and allows you to find it with ease. You can also record or create information in any format. Here are just a few examples:
Each September I begin by asking my students why we write? I want them to fully understand that the basic purpose of writing is to communicate our ideas. Grasping this concept is a step in the right direction to having them want to improve their skills. After all, if they work at developing good writing skills, it will be easier for them to get their message across.
This leads us to the spelling issue. In this day and age of spellcheckers and technology, do we really need to focus on spelling in school? The answer is yes. Poor spelling leads to miscommunication, so I use an example of poor spelling to get my point across. After seeing the difference that spelling makes to the clarity of a message, students are eager to improve their skills, but the traditional spelling list does little to actually help them achieve their goals. The trick is tailoring the spelling instruction to individual needs of students. This is a summary of how I differentiate to meet the spelling instruction needs of my students. I hope it will help you meet the needs of your students, too.
At the end of these lessons, you will be able to:
*identify and share the different purposes for writing
*identify improving spelling as a way to better communicate in writing
*identify and apply common spelling generalizations in own writing
Write this message to your students on the board or pop this picture up on your smart board. Turn and talk with an elbow partner:
Why was it difficult to read the message?
In a whole-group discussion, share the problems with the message: spelling, punctuation, printing.
What would you do to improve the message?
Give students a copy of the message and see if they can work with a partner to make it better.
Hand out new notebooks that the students will use to improve their spelling of the words they don’t know. Label the book with “My Spelling Words to Study”.
Explain to the students that we all have different spelling skills, just like we all wear different shoe sizes. That’s why we all need to work at learning to spell different words, but first we need to know which words we need to work on.
Follow up with a test of the top 300-500 (depending on grade level) high-frequency words. It may take several sessions to complete this diagnostic assessment. I usually give about 50 words at a time. Higher grades may want to use words 500+. I recommend using Rebecca Sitton’s Spelling Sourcebook
After each test, mark the student’s work and circle each misspelled word and write the correct spelling word beside the misspelled word.
Following the tests, have students transfer the first ten of the correct spelling of the words they need to know to their “Words to Study” list included in this package. We will repeat this each week from the 300 words. After that, I will give a new test of the next 100 high-frequency words and/or use the “problem words from their writing”. Students now have an individualized list of words that they need to work from during the year. Each week they will work on these words during their word work time using a variety of generic spelling games and study activities which have been taught.
For home practice, I give students a recording sheet to make their lists each week. This is how I set mine up:
Each week the students will refer to their “Words to Study” list to make their spelling list to study for that week. If you are teaching specific spelling patterns each week, you may have them choose five words from the list and five words from the spelling pattern you are currently studying. They make two copies of the list. One that goes home to study and one that stays at school for the peer test that students give each other later in the week. If students do not spell every word on their “Word Work/Spelling List Record Sheet” correctly, they must transfer the words they got incorrect, to next week’s list and continue to do so until they have mastered them. Each week that they master their list, they get a coin for their “Master Spellers” certificate. At the beginning of the year, I also send home the “25 Ideas” in two page protectors. Students can post these on their fridge for fun ways to practice their words at home.
Vital to student success and growth in spelling will be the provision of many goal-setting conferences to identify successes in improved spelling in their writing. The connection between good spelling skills and clarity of written messages needs to be continually reinforced during these teacher-student conversations. These conferences should go a long way towards helping students see that their efforts are resulting in progress toward their better spelling and communication goals.
On in my TPT store, I put together a complete package for you to help get you started. In it, I tried to include everything you’ll need for your word work program this year. Included in this package you’ll find:
* My Word to Study List
*Student Spelling List Record Sheets
* Student Spelling test sheets
* Word Work Activity Ideas
* “Master Speller” coin collector student sheet
I hope this is a valuable resource for you in providing a differentiated spelling program for the students in your classroom. The whole package is on sale this week to give you a chance to get it, and try it, for an introductory low price. Check it out here:
Questions? I’d love to hear from you. What do you do in your classroom to differentiate instruction for students?
Written by G. Papa
Illustrated by Gary McCluskey
An unusual and well-written chapter book featuring six-year-old Ulrich Von Strudel as the protagonist. Ulrich has a major disability; he was born without knees. When the story opens, Ulrich is about to be picked up from boarding school for Christmas vacation. He learns that his parents have been captured by a pygmy tribe in Africa and are presumed dead. To make matters worse, his mean great aunt, Mrs. Lipstick is taking charge of him.
Poor Ulrich learns he will have to sleep in the attic and eat one meal a day. After a difficult struggle to get upstairs, he discovers a furry one-eyed monster named Fing in the closet. Fing will turn out to be an ally when Mrs. Lipstick conspires with the family lawyer to eliminate Ulrich.
This modern fairy tale has a definite dark side, but the author intersperses humor throughout. Ulrich faces his disability with strength of character. How will he survive his parents’ death and the machinations of his nefarious guardian? There are a few surprise twists in this one hundred page chapter book.
I enjoyed this story immensely. The book is an interesting book for early readers who are not disturbed by a bit of the dark side and are not overly sensitive. In general, I would recommend the book for readers age eight and older. The short chapters lend themselves to a class read aloud for discussion. Black and white pencil drawings really bring the characters to life. As a bedtime story, parents need to use their own discretion, though I think adults may enjoy the book as much as a child. Very entertaining read.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
Alexander The Great: The Macedonian Who Conquered the World
Written by Sean Patrick
This book is not a biography or carefully researched book about military history. Rather it is a book with a very specific point of view on how to set out to achieve your goals. In fact, the first quarter of the book deals with the theory that the simplest way to defeat obstacles that stand in your way and to systematically accomplish the goals you set for yourself is to be as determined in your drive as Alexander the Great. Patrick’s theory states that if you do this, you will show your bravery and tenacity to your opponents, who will then lose the will to keep fighting you.
The middle section of this book retells the events of Alexander’s campaigns. Patrick consistently presents Alexander in a favorable light, largely discounting other reasons for success or failure. Finally, the last third of the book explains what the author calls The Power of Purpose. All of us should learn from Alexander’s journey to greatness that to be successful the reader needs to do the following: strengthen her will by having a clear purpose, put that purpose into motion, and then follow through to reach the goal by never relenting or giving up on it.
This is an interesting theory if you are looking for inspiration and motivation. On the other hand, if you are expecting to find a book based on meticulous historical research or an accurate portrait of Alexander’s life, this one will not fill your expectations. At approximately fifty pages, it is a short motivational read for young adults and adult readers.
Barbara Ann Mojica
The Adventures of Zelda
Written by Kristen Otte
Thirteen adventures told in first person by an adorable little pug named Zelda. Poor Zelda begins her life in a kennel and stays there for two years until Hannah and Nate adopt her. Once at home with her two owners and their children, Ben and Lucy, life becomes so much more interesting.
Zelda makes the reader laugh and cry. She relates her struggles and triumphs. Readers learn how she manipulates her owners into rewarding her with treats, how she rescues her family from the mean vacuum cleaner and tackling the skateboard ramps at the park. As one reads on, Zelda takes us to obedience school, and her lonely experience in pet boarding when her family takes a vacation. I laughed at Zelda’s attempt to make friends with Squeaky, the squirrel, and how she discovered what snowmen and leaf piles really contain. Anyone who has a pet knows what an adventure Christmas decorations and trees can be for pets and their owners. Zelda, like most pets, does not relish a trip to the vet, but she learns an important lesson about herself and her owners from her visit.
This book is a perfect choice for animal lovers. Thirteen tales present a first person fictional mix of humor, adventure, family fun, and seasonal cheer. They can be broken up into short chapters for a bedtime story, class read aloud or used as a beginning reader. Recommended for ages seven and up; a great choice for a family read aloud share on a weekend afternoon.
Barbara Ann Mojica
NONSENSE AND NO SENSE AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN Written by Cindi Walton I was not disappointed with this poetry collection. Children will delight in the variety of subjects and clever rhyme. Some of these poems address ordinary objects like lunch and rocks. Others address fears like being sick and cowering in a thunderstorm. One of the funniest poems is the very first, “Confusion.” It addresses the many complexities and anomalies of the English language.
I gave up the fight and called it a night It really didn’t matter if write wasn’t right All those words are still in my head I’ve got an idea! I’ll learn German instead!
A few of the poems deal with growing up issues like personal appearance, wanting straight hair instead of curly or “The Joy of Boys.” Some poems illustrate our deepest feelings like the loss of a loved one in “The Legacy, ” or exploring magical memories left to us by a loved one in “Grandma’s Magical Pot.” Children who have never even tried to write down their thoughts in a poem might be encouraged to do so following the simple format of the poem titled simply, “I Like.” I don’t ordinarily read the poetry genre but have to admit I really enjoyed reading these poems. Adults will have just as much reading them as a child being introduced to them for the first time. Recommended for children ages eight and up and for readers of any age who enjoy reflecting on the simple things in life.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
Outback Hero: Max Conquers Outback Australia Book 2 in the Max series
Written by Sally Gould
Max and his family are ready to embark on an adventure vacation, except Max does not really want to go. They are going to the outback; Max is deathly afraid of crocodiles. His older brother Charlie delights in frightening him making matters worse. Mom and Dad insist that he must overcome his fears.
Max’s fears are confirmed when he falls overboard and must escape the crocs. Charlie and his brother will have to flee for their lives more than once, and Max narrowly escapes death when he falls off a cliff. Charlie and Max are typical brothers who are constantly competing with each other, yet deep down love each other to death. On the journey, the boys will meet up with another family who appear to be dauntless and unafraid. Upon their insistence, the two families climb up the Uluru. Will they be able to make it down again safely? Will Max be able to overcome his fears and insecurities?
This is the second book in this series targeted for middle grade readers ages nine through twelve. Lots of adventure, sibling rivalry, competition, and somewhat complicated family relationships keep the plot moving. Boys especially will find the series interesting. Readers unfamiliar with Australia will enjoy learning about the outback. While the text is age appropriate, the vocabulary is not overly difficult and the length at less than 150 pages allow the read to be appealing for reluctant readers. This is a series worth investigating.
Let The Celebrations Begin!
Written by Margaret Wild
Illustrated by Julie Vivas
I received this book as a prize in a book promotion. What a pleasant surprise! The author tackles a subject usually considered verboten for young children and turns it into a beautiful lesson of hope rather than sorrow.
Although the publisher targets the book for readers age four and up, I feel that it is most appropriate for children in grades two and up. Children will immediately have questions when they see the characters depicted wearing rags and little or no hair. Miriam is the narrator who tells the reader she lives in Hut 22, Bed 18. The setting is a Holocaust camp for Polish women in Belsen. She is collecting rags and scraps of clothing from the prisoners to make toys for David and Sarah, two children who have never seen a toy. There’s no food in the camp, but Miriam is sure that the allied soldiers will come to liberate them soon. By the time the soldiers arrive, the toys are finally ready and the celebrations begin.
Wild does a remarkable job of telling her story, tempering the horror with Miriam’s spirit of optimism and courage. Children can be introduced to the Holocaust theme without the horror and violence being graphically displayed. Highly recommended for parents and teachers of children age seven and older.
Sons of the Sphinx
Written by Cheryl Carpinello
I received a copy of this book from Double Decker books as part of a blog launch for the author in exchange for an honest review.
First off, I will openly admit that I am a historian with an avid interest in the field of ancient history. The author has done a marvelous job of negotiating the disputed points of this era and woven them into a seamless time travel historical adventure for middle grade, teen readers, and adults. Her characters are well-developed and manage to appear authentic in both the ancient and modern time periods. Carpinello includes a glossary to assist the reader in understanding the historical figures and background.
Rosa is a fifteen-year-old tenth grader who has inherited a special gift from her grandmother. This teen is able to speak to people of the past, who appear to her at most inconvenient times like during a math test. At the outset of this adventure, King Tut himself not only speaks but appears to her in her room. He urges her to travel back in time with him to find the spirit of his love, Hesena. Rosa has never dated but finds herself falling for Tut. She agrees to help him if they can get back before her parents return from dinner and the movies. Tut assures her that the time wrap will allow them to do so.
Rosa will need to draw upon her inner spirit to connect with Hesena, fight off tomb robbers, traverse the hot sands of the Egyptian desert, and fend off the evil Pharaoh Horemheb in their attempt to complete their quest and right the wrongs that have been done. She will travel back more than 3000 years in time, but never have the opportunity to share her experience with her family and peers. Yet Rosa’s talent and spirit shine through and allow her to fight her fears and grow stronger.
This was a perfect read to curl up with on a cold, snowy afternoon. Highly recommended for all lovers of history, adventure, fantasy and fun for all ages ten and older.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
Welcome to Quest Teaching!
This is a website built by a teacher, for teachers. In fact, in my class, I teach from the site every day! It is my hope that it will be as helpful to you as it is for me, so I wanted to just highlight how the site works and how to find a whole treasure store of valuable teacher tips, book reviews, and educational resources to inspire learning. Let’s get started.
Main page: The main page of Quest Teaching includes a collection all the blog posts, in every subject area. Every time there is a new blog post it will be posted on the main page and on the related subject page for easy access.
The sidebar of the main page includes many teacher tools, blog sites, curriculum links, and educational resources. I hope teachers will find these connections useful in their lesson planning and classroom management. It is my goal to put all these useful tools in one place because I know that teachers don’t have time to be constantly searching. That’s why I have done the “quest” for them and included any sites, blogs and tools that I find useful or have been recommended by other teachers. I will keep updating the sidebar as I find new great teacher tools and blog-sites worth following.
Coins: Each coin represents a subject area. By clicking on the coin, the teacher will be taken to a page which highlights all the published blog posts related to that subject. As well, the side blog roll on that page will include websites and tools related to topics in each subject area.
Quest Projects: Woven throughout the Ultimate Treasure Quest are the themes of community and service. This page is the place that your class can become aware of many worthy service projects in which they can get involved. Each project will be highlighted by guests who have a heart for serving others. Every organization is just a click away, found on the sidebar under the type of non-profit organization or cause that it represents. Talk about real-life learning applications!
Quest Teachers: This will be the place to share with other teachers who are using the novels or the many other resources found at Quest Teaching. This is a place to leave your comments, share ideas for how you are using the resources in the classroom, ask authors questions, and connect with other classes. Also, watch for updates, teacher time-saving tips, technology tips and new resources available to teachers. They will all be posted here!
Quest Classes: This is the place that I send my class and I hope you will send yours! Here, your students will find a safe place with links to a variety of kid-friendly websites that can be used to differentiate your classroom learning environment. The sites are arranged by subject area on the side-bar. If you are wanting students to access the site links on iPads, then download the photon app and browse the Quest Teaching site with the app. All the flash websites will work.
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, or homeschool educator, I hope this helps you better navigate the Quest Teaching site and helps you inspire others to keep on in their learning quests.
As always, I’m here for questions and comments.
Book 1: Heroes in a World Reborn (The Mind Trips of S.C.A.M)
Written by Nathan Ritter
First in a series of adventure books for preteens and teens. The author adds an unusual twist by combining music with the story.
The main characters are two seventh grade friends named Rob and Max. Tale begins when Max and Rob enter Max’s uncle’s garage to feed the fish while he is away. At first, it appears to be a pile of junk, but when the boys look closer, they discover two strange looking helmets, an old record player, and some records from the eighties. Curious as to how it works, they randomly select a 1983 record from an artist named Asia and place it on the turntable.
Suddenly, they are transported through a tunnel to a beautiful land which later turns very ugly. An old creature named Falgorg informs them that it is their duty to erase the Black Horizon, defeat the Black-Smeared One, and save their world from extinction. How will two boys accomplish this task? They are soon dressed in swords and shields; their battle will take them through many lands. The boys will meet The Phoenix, who bestows on them golden medallions. Rob and Max slog their way through fire and darkness and are imprisoned by The Rock Beast, but meet a fellow prisoner who inspires them with her special gifts. The two friends are determined to defeat the evil that The Black-Smeared One has imposed upon her world. Will they be strong enough? Do the boys escape and return to the garage? Because this is Book One, the reader can assume there will be lots more of musical adventures.
This is such a creative way to encourage young students to read and develop an appreciation of music at the same time. I think that most readers age ten and older will be able to handle the text, and the tale appeals to young teen audiences both male and female.
Barbara Ann Mojica
Written for a middle grade audience of children ages eight through twelve, this tale is a mixture of fantasy, culture, and history. Main characters are Gracie, a dwarf kangaroo from the thirty-sixth universe, Gibson, a Maine coon cat, and the farmer’s young daughter. One day Gracie is bored and decides to take an adventure to St. Petersburg on Earth to experience the culture of that Russian city renowned for its museums, ballet, architecture, and music. But Gracie makes a mistake and finds the portal opening into a small farm in Pennsylvania instead. Gracie appears to be trapped when she loses her direction card. As Gracie becomes better acquainted with Gibson, who has also been stranded on the farm, they become good friends.
Lots of adventures ensue and the two friends are “skunked,” schemed upon by the jealous farm rats, and become the two darling pets of the farmer’s daughter. Gibson begins to have strange visions. Could he be experiencing life in a parallel universe? How will these two new found friends assist their farm family? Will Gracie ever find her way to St. Petersburg and back to her distant universe? In any case, all the inhabitants of the farm both human and animal will have their lives changed forever.
This first book in the series will entertain tweens with lots of their favorite themes and reward them with lots of real life issues to ponder as well. Nice read aloud for the classroom or entertaining individual read. It reminds me of Charlotte’s Web.
Barbar Ann Mojica
Little Miss History
Greek Mythology: The complete guide to Greek Mythology, Ancient Greece, Greek Gods, Zeus, Hercules, Titans, and more!
Written by Nick Plesiotis
That title is quite a mouthful! This kindle book will give the reader a bird’s eye view of Greek mythology, its history, and a few examples. Greek myths have been around since approximately 900 B.C. They played an extraordinary role in the growth of politics, religion, and social life of the ancient world. Much of our modern day literature reflects their influence.
The author divides the Greek mythological world into three periods: the age of the Gods, the age of Gods and Mortals, and the Age of Heroes. He explains the ancient Greek religion and gives a brief summary of the gods and their equivalents in later Roman mythology. Then Plesiotis goes into detail about some of the more popular heroes like Hercules and the twelve labors he was forced to perform. One chapter explores the Trojan War and the famous Trojan horse ploy used to defeat the Spartans. Prometheus is a Titan who was particularly close to mankind. The author describes how this Titan bestowed the gifts of fire, husbandry, and metalwork upon man.
This twenty some odd page digital book is my no means a definitive guide, but is a great reference for a middle grade school report or introduction to further exploration of Greek and Roman mythology. It would have benefited from a few illustrations to accompany the stories, but I would still recommend this book as a well-written clear reference guide for children and adults age eight and up who have an interest in the subject.
Barbara Ann Mojica,
Today we welcome award winning author, Krysten Lindsay Hager, to our site to talk about her latest book, Best Friends… Forever. This is a novel with which many tweens and teens will be able to identify as they deal with the many issues surrounding true friendship.
Best Friends…Forever? (Landry’s True Colors Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hager
I have always loved reading books that use humor and have realistic (and relatable) characters. I decided to write the book I wanted to read when I was in middle school and I’m overjoyed it’s now a series where people can follow along on Landry’s journey through dealing with friendships, the ups and downs of school, crushes, and insecurities. Sure, going back to that time in my own life was a little crazy, but lucky for me there weren’t camera phones to capture me dancing in the grade school talent show…while wearing jean shorts. If you’re not cringing yet, let’s just say I also had a moment of “genius” where I thought my super dark brown hair would look amazing with “Sun-In” highlights that actually turned my hair a lovely shade of copper. Sigh.
The Landry’s True Colors Series is a clean reads young adult/middle grade series about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image. Best Friends…Forever? was ranked at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Children’s Books on Values and #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values & Virtues Fiction. True Colors is an international bestselling book. Her new book, Next Door to a Star, will be released on September 1st.
Tag line: Good friends have your back, but some go behind it.
Blurb: Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.
Landry gets her first boyfriend, but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue modeling competition.
I got ready for bed and then stopped to check my social media page one more time and that’s when I saw it — another picture of Peyton, India, and Devon hanging out. They were sitting on the couch with their heads scrunched close together and laughing. It was a cute picture, but then I saw the caption: So glad we could all be together for the holidays. Love these guys soooo much! Best friends forever. #Alltogether #Threemusketeers #BestFriendsForever #ThreeBestFriends #ThreesCompany.
My heart sank. It was India’s caption and anyone who read it would think what a close‑knit group of friends and not realize anyone was missing from that photo. Sure, I was in another state, so naturally I couldn’t be there for it, but the way India wrote that made me feel so left out. I mean, what did she mean by the “ʺThree’s Company”ʺ hashtag? And sometimes people tagged friends who weren’t there in pictures and added, “ʺWish you were here,”ʺ but there was no mention of a fourth member of the group.
“Ready for bed, hon?” Mom asked coming into my room.
“Yeah, just signing off.”
“Okay, sleep well.”
I got into bed and hoped I was reading into things, but the knot in my stomach wouldn’t go away.
Author bio: Krysten Lindsay Hager is a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.
What people are saying about True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series Book One):
From Teenage Book Recommendations in the UK: “This is a fantastically relatable and real book which I feel captures all of the insecurities and troubles which haunt the modern teenage girl. It is about a young model who has to go through tough times when she is torn between a life as a model and managing her friendships. You learn which friends she can most trust and which will create the drama typical of teenage life. Follow the life of Landry and try to see if you can find out which are her true friends before their true colours are revealed. This book is all about relationships, hopes and truth. I loved this book!”
From Books & Authors Spot: “This book is such an inspiration for those who just care about their looks and are tensed about them. This thing is looks aren’t everything. This book is related to every teen’s problem. Hager has written a very inspiring novel.”
Amazon international: http://authl.it/B00UIP1N5S
Connect with Krysten:
Myth Catchers: Book 1 Dad’s Pants
Written by Alan Riehl
This short book of less than sixty pages is the first in a series exploring the trials and tribulations of a ten year old boy named Curtis Armstrong. Curtis misses his father so much that he desperately hangs on to the one thing remaining to remind him of his dad, a pair of worn jeans. To make matters worse, his divorced mother works long hours and his older sister has a roomful of unicorns that he hates. To make matters worse, Christy loves to use her imagination and is considered “Miss Popularity” at school.
But now Curtis has an opportunity to start fresh with a move to Myth, New Mexico. He is determined to be the king of his new fifth grade class. Of course that dream does not materialize. On the first day he gets into trouble with the principal when he breaks her picture frame decorated with unicorns, his most despised symbol. A new threat appears in the form of the school’s most popular and clever student, Darla.
Curtis cannot understand what is happening to him as his usually logical and stable personality becomes overwhelmed with strange dreams and incidents that he cannot distinguish as real or imagined. Lots of twists and turns in the plot as Curtis struggles to figure out what is really going on, and how his father’s pants are suddenly the vehicle to catch some very scary things.
This first book does contain a few editing errors, but is filled with the kind of humor and absurdities that tweens love in their fiction. Short length makes the book a good choice for a reluctant reader. I must say that I was disappointed in the abrupt ending which left more questions than answers. No doubt that many readers will be waiting to see Book 2 in the hopes that their curiosity will be satisfied.
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar
Written by Tommy Davey
Cora is a spunky preteen who is traveling alone for the first time on a overnight train from the city to Topaz Mountain to spend some time in the country with her Uncle Andre. She meets a colorful cast of characters including a single woman, Mrs. Bronwyn, and her dog, Calvin. Almost immediately she notices a man named Mr. Sloane, who is being overprotective of a silver briefcase that he does not let out of his sight. It turns out that he has good reason for that because Mr. Sloane is carrying a valuable gemstone. The stone disappears from his sleeping car; Cora, a honeymoon couple, Mrs. Bronwyn, a college student, and the railroad porter will all be suspects interrogated by an undercover detective on the train.
The inspector is determined to solve the mystery by interrogation, but Cora has a few plans of her own. Will they be able to unravel the mystery to find out the identify of the thief? Cora proves her cleverness and keeps her cool. All the action takes place in less than two hundred pages before the passengers disembark from the train. Certainly this is a first ride that Cora will long remember and the beginning of her interest in solving many mysteries to follow.
Great story for tweens. It has the elements of a good mystery, colorful characters, and a respectful, intelligent strong female role model. This is a quick, fast moving read that will appeal to reluctant readers. Recommended highly for boys and girls eight years up and older.
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
The Rescue Team
Written by Billi Tiner
The author of this heartwarming tale told from the point of view of a dog and a cat is a veterinarian who understandably has a great kinship with animals. Targeted for children in the eight to twelve year age range, the chapter book has no sex, violence or profanity which makes it a nice choice for a family read aloud. This book will take you on a series of adventures that will put you in their shoes.
The adventure begins when Ellie, who is a one year old Border Collie, suddenly finds herself in an animal shelter when her owners become pregnant. After what seems like an eternity, a kind woman named Anne adopts her. Ellie soon discovers that her new owner loves animals; Ellie begins to bring animals in trouble home. Soon she is sharing her home with Toby, a six-month old kitten who becomes her best friend. Together they will form an improbable but talented rescue team.
When Anne is hurt in an automobile accident, she meets a fireman named Brent and their lives become even more involved in animal and human rescue. They will all face adventures and disasters that hit close to home. The plot is simple and predictable, but the author has a real knack for using first person to get the reader in the head of the animal characters. Text level of difficulty is suitable for middle grade independent readers; younger children will enjoy listening to the story read aloud. Nice book to curl up with on a rainy weekend afternoon.
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
About the Story:
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?
The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences. One is that slavery is legal there. Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).
Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil. It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), an unsharpened weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge. Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades. You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.
Want to Find out a Little More?
Click here to read a description of the setting and what life is like for slaves and others in that world.
Click here to read chapter 1 for free!
Click here to download The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon.
Click here to download The Collar and the Cavvarach from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats).
About the Author:
Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published ten books (one YA action and adventure novel, four fantasies, a puppet script, and four anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.
Connect with the Author Online:
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon
Google Plus: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus
Written by Lorraine Carey
I was immediately captured by this short work of historical fiction. It is based on an actual shipwreck called The Wreck of the Ten Sails which took place in 1794. Carey has managed to portray the setting of the past and the setting of the future two hundred years later in one enjoyable tale.
At the outset we meet Jonathan Palmer, an orphan living in Port Royal, Jamaica, who desperately seeks to learn the identity of his mother. He has been befriended by a seaman named Peter who assists him in becoming a stowaway on a British merchant ship. Jonathan hopes to get to England to find his birth mother. His most valuable possession is a gold locket with a wisp of her blonde hair that has somehow found its way to him at the orphanage. Once aboard the ship, Peter surreptitiously reveals the truth to Jonathan just before the ship named the Convert strikes a reef and sinks off the shores of the Cayman Islands.
The story shifts to modern times and a new protagonist named Brandon Wallace who lives on Cayman Island. He is a fifteen year old who loves diving, but seems to have all the problems of a teen struggling to grow up. His friend Jason is moving in on his girl, he is in trouble at school and with his parents for cutting class, his sister, Murielle smugly taunts him while remaining the favorite child. But suddenly Jonathan experiences a tugging toward investigating the story of the wreck. Then he begins to feel a choking sensation around his neck, and unexplained physical visions around the site. A sea turtle named Mallock guides him to swim to the old wreck. What is happening to Brandon and why does he feel such a compelling need to solve a two hundred year old mystery?
This book combines the elements of adventure, fantasy, folklore, history and the problems of a teen coming of age. Tweens, teens and adults will all find a unique interweaving of these elements. I could not put the book down and had to read it in one sitting and could not wait to see what would happen next. One hundred pages that are definitely worth reading!
Author of the Little Miss HISTORY series:
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to The STATUE of LIBERTY
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to FORD’S THEATER
The Girl With No Shoes
Written by B.J. Rand
Charming and delightful book, the first in a series of books based on the character Arielle, written for children ages nine through twelve. This is a longer length chapter book based on Arielle and her two pets, Britches, the dog, and Nosy, the black cat. Arielle and her pets love to take walks in the hollow. Britches and Nosy are unusual in the fact that they both communicate in English with their mistress.
One day the three friends come upon a little girl sitting by a tree crying and barefoot. Upon hearing a loud man’s voice, she runs away. Arielle and her pets are mystified and worried for the stranger’s safety. They want to meet her again and agree to find a pair of shoes for her to wear. In the meantime, Nosy finds a pair of ballet slippers that fell out of a box near a neighbor’s house. They bring the shoes to the hollow, but cannot find the girl. Eventually one day the shoes disappear, and after repeated trips to the hollow, the girl appears and tells them her name, Francesca. She thanks them and promises to dance for them one day.
On Halloween night a stranger comes to the door and beckons them. Nosy lives up to her reputation and decides to investigate by following her home. That initiates a trail to another mystery that the three friends will have to solve. Will they ever learn the true identity of Francesca and why she has chosen Arielle and her pet family? No spoilers here, but children will learn it is better to give unselfishly and always be true to your own passion in life.
While it may seem difficult for tweens to accept this story line, it works seamlessly. You want to believe in all the characters and empathize with them. The vocabulary of the text is challenging enough but not overwhelming for the average reader. I had to finish reading it one sitting. Can’t wait to see the rest of the series.
Author of the Little Miss HISTORY series:
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to The STATUE of LIBERTY
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to FORD’S THEATER
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to INTREPID Sea, Air & Space Museum
The sign at the front of our school reads:
Include Us and We Will Understand, Inspire Us and We Will Inspire Others
As educators, I believe that each of us aspire to be a role-model and a source of inspiration for our students. Today I’d like to share with you the story of one teacher who more than achieves this goal. Maybe her story will incite you to keep on making every effort to inspire your students.
A young boy stands waiting in the wings, legs shaking as his name is announced through loudspeakers. His palms run up and down the sides of his thighs, trying to keep them dry. This is the moment he’s been thinking about, preparing for, and anticipating for months. Here it is. Is he ready?
You can do this, you’ve got this, he hears her encouraging words repeating over and over in his head. His shoulders rise in a deep breath as he shakes his hands at his sides one last time. The adrenaline forces his legs up the stairs, onto the stage and over to the mic. The audience stares, waiting. Panic. Can he do this? Another deep breath and a shake of his hands to calm his nerves. He spins around to see her sitting there, behind her keyboard. She smiles, gives him a nod, and mouths the words, “You’ve got this!” He nods and the music plays. In that moment, all the hours of preparation come together and his performance takes flight.
As his ears fill with applause and cheers, he takes a bow, knowing that he will never forget this moment. Exiting the stage, he glances back at the one who believed in him, and gave him the wings to soar. This smile is just for her, his mentor, his teacher, and his inspiration. She smiles back and bows. Her pride in his performance written all over her face. But this night, and this moment, didn’t just happen. It is the culmination of vision and sacrifice.
Rewind three months:
The anticipated event is the annual Fine Arts Gala. Each year a dedicated group of educators in our school put on the event to help celebrate the fine arts talents of the students at our elementary school. The evening is billed as a fancy gala. It’s really quite a sight to see; tickets sold to raise money for a charity of choice, h’orderves served by students dressed in their finest, tables and walls filled with the stunning art of students. Yet, the event’s appeal goes well beyond the atmosphere and display; the gala performances are some of the most anticipated events of the year.
The crowd will take their seats, the lights will dim, and the spotlight will shine on each young star. And who is in the background, hiding behind the keyboard, making sure that each student has that spotlight for the evening? Ms. Barnes, that’s who. For the last three months there’s been practices sessions with students every recess break, and after school. If one would take note, many youngsters would’ve be seen going to her home to practice into the evening hours. Her commitment doesn’t end there. Hours of planning and preparation are put in by Ms. Barnes and her committee: meetings, contacting parents, labelling and mounting art, setting up displays, decorating, sound equipment, lights, readying the stage and making sure everything is perfect. All must be ready for the special evening. Ms. Barnes leads her committee to make sure it is.
Why? Because Ms. Barnes loves music and art, but most of all, she loves her students! Whether it’s for the Fine Arts Gala, Christmas concert, or the annual spring musical, her love is evident and played out in the countless hours she donates freely to encourage, inspire and give her students wings. In an age when the importance of the arts may sometimes be downplayed, Ms. Barnes seeks to inspire her young students to have no fear when it comes to sharing their talents with the world. She’s not only an extraordinary keyboardist, piano player and teacher; she’s a mentor. By giving her students wings, she hopes that they, in turn, will inspire others to share their gifts. Watching the dedication and love she gives freely, inspires me to be a better teacher, too. Thank you, Ms. Barnes for sharing your gifts with all of us!
Want to set up a Fine Arts Gala to inspire the students in your school? Feel free to contact me for more information about how. Here are the steps we follow to put on the FA Gala at our school:
1) Set up auditions. Students must be committed to a giving a practiced well rehearsed performance. If they don’t practice, they don’t perform.
2) Art club: teachers on the committee agree to supervise art club once/week and guide students to put sketches into the gala. They are provided with pencils, a sketchbook, and an art eraser. They will choose one best piece that they want to enter. That will be mounted and displayed in the gala with their name.
3) Open up and supervise the music room for practice and feedback times during recesses and lunch hours.
4) Enlist the older students as servers for the evening.
5) Get the help of parents to make h’orderves ahead of time and bring them to school on the date.
6) Have classes contribute class art projects to the gala displays.
7) Arrange for sound equipment and someone to do sound for the evening (we have the high school band teacher help out with this.)
8) Invite other schools to participate. Our high school student contribute both art and performances for the evening.
Finally, the preparation is done. It’s time to sit back, and watch the students fly! It really is inspiring!
Listen to Ms. Barnes in action! Here she is working (playing and providing harmony) with a young student, inspiring her to love music and performing.
What A Pair! Mattie and Mark Miller:Double Trouble Series
Written by Wanda E. Brunstetter
This is the first in a series focused on the Amish way of life and nine year old twins, Mattie and Mark. Targeted for middle grade readers ages eight through twelve, the book is a fun and educational introduction to a way of life misunderstood by most observers.
Brunstetter begins by explaining that the Amish are group of people who live a plain life without using many modern things; a simple plausible way to explain to children why they are different but not strange. The author goes on to give examples as to how they live and work both in the past and present.
She provides a glossary of the Amish language words which are used liberally throughout the story. Readers will love these feisty twins with diametrically opposed personalities. What they do have in common is a love of life, family, and kind hearts. For example, Mattie is a dreamer, Mark a scholar, Mattie is cautious, Mark an adventurer, Mattie loves dogs, and Mark loves cats. Mattie is a great baseball player, while Mark cringes when he sees a bat and ball. As the reader follows one humorous adventure after another, what comes through is deep commitment to family, society and community, and a story about two children experiencing the same problems any tween faces. The book will appeal to both genders.
On their birthday, the twins receive an unexpected gift from their grandparents. This gift will require them to learn how to work together. When an unexpected emergency arises, the twins learn the real value of teamwork. The plot has lots of twists and turns and many different scenarios to appeal to a wide variety of reader interests. Text is interesting and challenging, yet not too overwhelming. Lots of humor, adventure, family fun, good values and the benefit of learning about a culture few have experienced first hand. Highly recommended for tweens and young adult readers or anyone interested in understanding Amish society.
Author of the Little Miss HISTORY series:
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to The STATUE of LIBERTY
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to FORD’S THEATER
Little Miss HISTORY Travels to INTREPID Sea, Air & Space Museum