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8 Ways to Improve Your Students’ Writing

Coaching Your Students to Writing Success!

WritingProcessPack_Page_2WritingProcessPack_Page_3

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.

  1. Plan- Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, good writing starts with a good plan. The author needs to know where they are going with their writing.  What is their purpose? Who is their audience? And what is the mood of their writing?  Each of these could be a quick focus lesson.

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 WritingProcessPack_Page_5and 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:

WritingPlanner

 

Creating Literacy Centers, Part 2: Using Multi-Media

Using Multi-Media to Inspire Learning

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Hi Y’all!

   Last time, I discussed (in an example) that many kids were having difficulty understanding the concept of cause and effect in my class. Then, I found some topics from my curriculum that I could use to create centers. Now, I am going to use those topics to find or create multi- media centers that correlate to my fictitious XYZ curriculum.

Glitter Words

Science: Pollution
A Breathe of Fresh Air
http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/c4kairfl11.pdf
New York State Conservationist for Kids magazine

Create a Poster
Print out the pages and place the magazine at a center. In pairs, students read the magazine articles. Each learner finds some reasons for air pollution as well as and pollution’s impact on the Earth. Then, the partners can create a poster together (like the one on page 5) showing good ozone, bad ozone, factories, power plants, fires, trucks and buses.

Social Studies: The Silk Road
The Silk Road Lesson Plan
http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/citi/resources/Rsrc_001878.pdf
Provided by the Art Institute of Chicago Department of Museum Education

Travel Journal
The Silk Road Lesson Plan by the Art Institute of Chicago Department of Museum Education has some great ideas. I loved the idea of a travel journal. I thought having your learners create a travel journal would be another great center.
Learner pretend to travel the Silk Road either as a merchant or a missionary. They can describe and draw their insights and some cases of cause and effect on the trade route. Completed travel journals can be placed on a table or hung on a wall for others to read.

Language Arts: Expository Text on Natural Disasters
Flooding
http://www.watersafetykids.co.uk/pdfs/flooding.pdf
Facts about Hurricanes
http://www.azpbs.org/mastersofdisaster/pdf/Hurricanes/HurricanesLevel2.pdf
Facts about Tornadoes
http://www.azpbs.org/mastersofdisaster/pdf/Tornadoes/TornadoesLevel3.pdf
Gather different natural disaster text at a center, such as the above print outs. Learners can choose one topic for a report. Have individual students pretend they are a newscaster or meteorologist explaining the cause of a faux or real natural disaster, such as a flood happening now, and its effects. Students can create a recording, video, scrap book of photos or PowerPoint in this activity to show to other class members.

Mathematics: Money Problems Involving Interest
Practical Money Skills

    At this center, provide each student with a bank account book. Sometimes, your local bank might donate lined record books to your students. Each students has a weekly allowance which can be drawn out of a hat. The center has catalogs of various merchandise. Students decide how much they will save or spend over the course of two or three weeks. State that the bank will give interest for money saved. If a student saves only 50 cents a day, a savings account could grow to over  $182 in one year. After two weeks, students reflect on their allowance spending or saving and the reasons for the final amounts in their faux bank accounts.

Interventions
 As an intervention, view the following videos and discuss cause and effect.

Ormie the Pig

Cause and Effect Review Lesson for Elementary Students!

If you have any questions or comments about literacy, I’d love, love, love to hear from you!

Best,
Glitter Words
@ TiePlay Educational Resources

For more ideas, freebies and resources, check out Lynn’s blog and stores.

Confessions of a Nine-Year-Old ADHD Reluctant Reader


How one suggestion from an astute school librarian changed my view of history, reading and me

by Jeff Nathan

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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.

1675771How 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

Sixth Grade Superhero

Frogman: The Incredibly True Confessions of a Sixth Grade Superhero

Written by Emily Cosentino

Frogman,pic

Humorous middle grade adventure centering on the life of Alex Addison, who leads a fairly normal life until the day he picks up a frog at the beach. Alex’s family consists of his computer nerd professor, dad, his super nervous mom who is an ex nurse, an annoying eighth grade sister, Libby, and a four year old brother, Sam.

A couple of days after picking up the frog, Alex begins to change. Suddenly he is able to leap great distances, develops webbed feet and the ability to stick to any surface, and grows a super long tongue capable of picking up and flinging objects great distances. Upon returning to school in September, his voice croaks when Alex tries to sing in chorus, and he develops a passion for eating insects. That enables Alex to become a school sensation when he challenges the school bully, Dirk to eating the grossest lunch in the cafeteria on Fear Factor Friday. When Sam discovers Alex’s secret, he promises to keep quiet. Alex’s friend Joel is determined to prove that Big Foot is real, but he soon shifts his attention to studying the strange creature who is hanging out by the pond. Of course that is Alex sneaking off to the pond to keep his skin moist during the drought. Alex will have his ups and downs, becoming a hero when he rescues a cat in trouble, momentarily becoming a football star by punting down the field, and rescuing both friend and foe from a fire. Alex is a sixth grade superhero, whether he likes it or not.

This book is just under two hundred pages and is intended for the middle grade audience ages eight through twelve. Boys especially will appreciate the humor in sibling rivalry relationships. There are lots of laughs as well as a discussion of serious peer issues like bullying, coming of age, and problems at school. Recommended for readers in grades three to six who enjoy tales about characters facing their everyday issues and crises.

Best,

Barbara
Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
Website: Little Miss HISTORY.com

How Has the Role of Children Changed?

The role of children has changed dramatically over time. Children in the twenty-first century are treated as an important, if not central, part of the family unit. That was not always the case!

Circumstance and environment had a lot to do with how children grew up. In the Middle Ages up to one-quarter of infants died before the age of one, mostly due to accidents and diseases. The poorer the family, the less likely medical attention was available. On the other hand, healthy infants were seen as a special gift from God; they were usually named after saints or biblical characters. Babies were often swaddled, which involved strips of linen wrapped around their arms and legs. Parents did this so the limbs would grow straight. The practice had the added benefit of keeping the child out of trouble. Once the child was able to sit up independently, the wrappings would be removed. The mother remained the primary caretaker who fed the baby. If the mother should die, a nurse would be found to feed the baby. Richer families could employ a nurse to provide affection, bathe, sing lullabies, console, and take care of the baby when sick. Some nurses even chewed the meat for the baby before feeding, much like a mother bird. The wealthiest families kept a nurse through early childhood because these women spent much of their time at society events like banquets and court affairs.

A glance at art and literature of the period reveals few references to children. It indicates the prevalent attitude toward children. In general, childhood was simply a period of immaturity when a person was not productive enough to do much useful work. When, and if, a child reached adolescence, he might become an asset. The poorer the family, the more work the children performed. Chores might include feeding the livestock and animals, washing dishes, and caring for younger siblings. There was little time for play. Toys were handmade dolls, blocks or tops. Older children told myths and stories learned from their elders; some of these might include heroes like Robin Hood. The younger children played dress up, perhaps becoming princesses or lord of the castle.

Little formal education was available. Most parents taught their children by word of mouth. Those who had money brought their children to clergy members who could teach the child to read and write in Latin and their native language. Until the end of the eleventh century, clergy were the educators. Later on as the universities sprang up, wealthier male children might have a lay tutor to teach law or the administrative professions. Boys who were interested in learning a trade would be apprenticed with a trade master like a mason or a blacksmith in the profession. Few women were formally educated.

Life for children remained pretty much the same until the twentieth century when technological and medical advances freed the adults from many of the limitations imposed on the family. As societies began to protect the rights of individuals, children began to be seen as important to the future of the family and society and assumed a dignity in their own right.

Time Travel Trouble

Youngtimer: Adventures in Travel Book 1

Written by G.G. Fulton

Youngtimers,pic

First book in a series of middle grade time travel adventures. Carly is a twelve year old sixth grader who is very bright. So bright that her school is determined to skip her two grades. When Carly gets wind of this, she comes up with an ingenious plan to prevent that from happening. Her scheme includes bribing a fellow student to pretend to be her boyfriend by doing his homework for him, and slacking off in school assignments so that she appears to be a love sick preteen incapable of earning her teacher’s trust and unenviable nerd status.

In terms of everyday life, Carly and her best friend Patti are pretty ordinary. Carly is very close to her grandpa who is a bit of an eccentric because he spends lots of time locked up in his workshop. When her grandfather unexpectedly passes away, he leaves her a box of instructions with a letter. He tells Carly not to open the box until she turns eighteen. Patti convinces her to give in to curiosity. After all, who can possibly wait six years, an eternity in a twelve year old’s life.

Now Carly often acts first and thinks second. That will lead the friends into trouble when they start experimenting with using the time machine locked in grandpa’s garage. The friends go back in time to visit a One Direction concert, the filming of their favorite movie on the island of Santorini, and visiting a school bully named Lulu, with unexpected consequences each time. But Carly receives her biggest scare when she attempts to go back in time to prevent her parents from meeting. What was she thinking? Now her life as she knows it won’t exist.

Readers in the middle grades will love the strengths and flaws in both the children and adult characters in this series. Targeted for grades four through eight, boys and girls will find a lot of familiar problems and situations. Good book for classroom discussion. I look forward to examining other books in the series.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Middle Grade Magical Power!

Benjamin Dragon: Awakening (Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon Book 1)

Written by C.G. Cooper

BenjaminDragon,pic

Ten year old Benjamin Dragon is a very bright child who has already skipped two years in school. He is the son of Tanya and Timothy Dragon, a powerful lawyer and businessman. Their frequent moves plus Benjamin’s small statue and last name provide fertile ground for bullies. On the first day of a new school Benjamin is bullied on the playground. Egging him on to fight, Nathan lies on the ground bloodied and injured. But Benjamin is puzzled because he never even touched the boy.

When his parents urge him to go to the hospital to apologize, Benjamin discovers that he and Nathan have a lot in common. They become good friends, but Nathan is just as puzzled about what happened. When Benjamin is at the scene of a close-call car crash, and the car swerves away to avoid hitting a young girl, Benjamin begins to suspect he had something to do with it. Weird things begin happening. Benjamin swears Nathan to secrecy.

A strange old man named Kennedy pays a visit to Benjamin and explains that there are certain special people in the world. Some have the gift of healing, some the gift of growing, and others the gift of destruction, which roughly translates to telekinesis. He informs Benjamin that he will be trained in his gifts.

Benjamin is scared, but he is elated that he will be attending Camp Walamalican with his friends Nathan and Aaron. There he meets another gifted one named Wally who is a healer. On the other hand, Benjamin will come face to face with a destructor who threatens to corrupt him and destroy people that he loves. Will Benjamin learn how to use his powers? How can he adjust to living a normal live, while coping with extraordinary power?

Recommended for a middle grade, young adult and adult audience. The characters and plot are well developed. Addresses lots of issues pre teens and teens face like bullying, fitting in with peers, being gifted, and getting along with parents. Look forward to more in the series.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY 12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Young Adult Science Fiction with Special Powers!

Brian: The Helmsworth Project: Book Two

Written by Madison Key

Brian,picI did not read the first book in this science fiction, coming of age series, but I caught on after the first few pages. Sixteen year old Brian has managed to escape after his parents are killed and his home blown up. Brian’s sisters Claire and Jenna are under the protection of the FBI, as were his parents. He is being held off the coast of Mexico. It appears that his captors know of his psionic and pyrokinesis powers. While being held, Brian keeps in mental touch with his sister. But he is having difficulty figuring out who is the real enemy and being forced into submission to do their bidding.

Will Brian be able to untangle the web of deceit in time to get back to his sisters and safety? This book of less than fifty pages moves along quickly. Young adult and adult science fiction and genetic engineering fans who enjoy a light, quick fast moving read will probably like this series.

Sharing is caring! If you liked this book review, please share with the buttons below.

 

 

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Baseball History That Didn’t Hit a Homerun

Comiskey,picHot dogs, popcorn and the crack of a bat hitting the baseball is an iconic image associated with summer. Many of us look forward to watching baseball games at the stadium or on TV. Though we are all too familiar with sports scandals today, almost one hundred years ago, the “Black Sox” scandal rocked America.

The name “Black Sox” may apply to team owner Charles Comiskey’s refusal to pay for the laundering of players’ uniforms when they got dirty. Eventually, he had their uniforms washed and deducted the cost from each player’s salary. Others insist that the name came about due to the World Series scandal of 1919, which blackened the name of the White Sox baseball team.

The 1919 World Series pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Chicago White Sox. Chicago lost to the Reds, but eight Chicago players were accused of intentionally fixing the results and taking money from gamblers. At the time the Chicago team was divided into factions who rarely spoke to each other when not on the field. Players Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, and Red Faber were considered strait-laced, clean team members. By September, 1920, rumors of a fix became widespread so a Grand Jury convened to investigate the charges. Eddie Cicotte and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson confessed to their part in the scandal. All together eight players and five gamblers were indicted. Shortly before the formal trial in June, 1921, some key pieces of evidence mysteriously disappeared. Among these were signed confessions of Cicotte and Jackson, who later recanted his involvement. The baseball players were acquitted. Perhaps Comiskey was not such a miser after all. He issued checks of $1500, the difference between the winners and losers share, to the ten players who were not a part of the scandal.

This scandal led to major changes in governing the sport of baseball. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed the first Commissioner of Baseball. He placed the names of the eight indicted Sox players (Eddie Cicotte, Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles Swede Risberg, George Buck Weaver, Claude “Lefty” Williams) on the ineligible list, banning them from any role in organized baseball. The White Sox team took a nosedive into seventh place. They would not see a pennant race again until 1936.Landis,commissioner, pic

Ironically, the following poem was published in the Philadelphia Bulletin before Game One of the Series on October 2, 1919.

Still it really doesn’t matter
After all who wins the flag.
Good clean sport is what we’re after
And we aim to make our brag
To each other or distant nation
Wherein shines the sporting sun
That of all our games gymnastic
Baseball is the cleanest one!

Get out there and play or enjoy watching a game of baseball, an iconic summertime pastime!

Sharing is caring! If you liked this article please share.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

How to Create Literacy Centers

    When children create and invent, they develop self-esteem and gain a love for learning. Using literacy centers are really ideal for any grade level. Small groups learn to work together, cooperate, and speak in low voices, when needed. Learning centers can be so exciting when mixed with various subject matters.

Analysis of Skills

When looking for literacy center ideas, I first look for skills that need practicing and for most all of the class members. Let say, after an analysis of student skills, that most learners are having difficulty with understanding cause and effect.

Students will understand the concept of cause and effect.

Research Topics

    A teaching team can then look for topics that are introduced in the school’s established curriculum that relate to cause and effect topics. I end up finding some topics that could involve cause and effect quite easily.

 

Cause and Effect Topics in XYZ Curriculum

Science; Pollution/ Waste in Our World
Social Studies: The Silk Road
Language Arts: Expository text on Natural Disasters
Mathematics: Money problems involving interest

Search for Sources

I then look for sources, (worksheets, activities, stories, games, comic strips and hands-on activities) that goes along with the specific topic to introduce to a literacy center.
For an intervention,  I try to incorporate  mini-lessons for students with various learning mode preferences. For the Birds and Cause and Effect with Music are funny, short and wordless videos that can lead to a cause and effect discussion.

 For the Birds

This video was created by Pixar.  Learn more about it at: http://www.pixar.com/short_films/Theatrical-Shorts/For-the-Birds

Cause and Effect with Music

This video was created by KLM videos for schools at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0aO7spGHNCot8Dqq0HIN-g

  In How to Create Literacy Centers Part 2, I will show you what activities I found or created  for each subject matter,  along with some interventions. Until next time….

Best,
Lynn

For more ideas, freebies and resources, check out Lynn’s blog and stores.
http://www.tieplayeducationalresourcellc.com/
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tieplay-Educational-Resources-Llc
https://www.teachersnotebook.com/shop/TiePlay+Educational+Resources

Science, Mystery and Mayhem!

Frankie Dupont AND THE SCIENCE FAIR SABOTAGE (Frankie Dupont Mysteries Book 3)

Written by Julie Ann Grasso

Illustrated by Alexander Avellino

FRankieScienceFair,picEleven 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
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Animal Rescue for The ‘Beary’ Brave

SUGAR AND CLIVE AND THE CIRCUS BEAR (DOGWOOD ISLAND MIDDLE GRADE ADVENTURES Book One)

Written by Alexandra Amor

SugarClive,pic

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.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Dad’s Daily News Project for Father’s Day

Hey all,

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?

  • Write a news event that features Dad in it: Dad Catches Biggest Fish Ever, Dad Invents Magic Golf Ball That Never Gets Lost, etc.   Have fun inventing these!
  • Write a how-to article: How to  Make Dad’s Favorite Pancakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies or Desert, How to Build a Tree House, etc.
  • Write a poem for Dad
  • Write a few jokes for Dad.
  • Make a crossword on grid paper and glue it in one of the empty frames with the clues beside.
  • Add a cartoon in the template provided.

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.

Best,

Sharon

www.questteaching.com

The Benefits of Cooperative Learning

http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/cooperative/howto.html

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
 https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tieplay-Educational-Resources-Llc

by Lynn Horn

Tie-Play Educational Resources

Continue Reading >>

New Release! The Gladiator and the Guard

I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile and now I’m totally thrilled to introduce my readers to the new release, The Gladiator and the Guard, by Annie Douglas Lima. Annie is a fellow teacher and author. I could go on and on about her works and how great they are, but you’ll have to experience them for yourself.  So grab ’em quick with this new release and earn yourself the right to rave to your friends about how good they are! Here’s Annie to tell you more about her new release:
 I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach


First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

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”), a 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.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

 

 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

 

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!



Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 

 

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 twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five 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:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

 

 
Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!
Or find the giveaway at this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ad2fd99a3/?

 

Hippie Happening

What Was Woodstock?

Written by Joan Holub

Illustrated by Gregory Copeland

Woodstock

This book is part of the Who, What, Where series of books written largely for the beginning reader and pre-teen audience. Woodstock is one of the most famous events in the 1960’s, one of the most tumultuous decades in American history. Not only does this book portray in words, drawings and photos, the Woodstock music festival, but it furnishes a birds-eye view of the history of the 1960’s. Well-written concise profiles of the Vietnam War, political and social change, and sixties slang are included. There are timelines of the sixties for the United States as well as one of events happening around the globe. An age appropriate bibliography for additional reading on these topics is also included.

Music promoter, Michael Lang conceived the concert idea. Desiring to open up a recording studio for young artists in Woodstock, about 120 miles north of New York City, he convinced Artie Kornfield of Capitol Records that this was a good idea. While playing a game of pool one night, they decided to raise money for their project by having a giant outdoor music concert. They needed a large space, security, lighting, outdoor toilets, food, water, a stage and lots of music bands. Problem after problem arose. Their plans fell through and the location was changed three times. Eventually, they contracted with a local farmer, Max Yasgur in Bethel, NY. They planned for 50,000 people, but 500,000 came. The roads were so clogged that people had to walk ten miles from their cars, and bands had to be flown in by helicopter. A thunderstorm threatened to destroy it, but the three-day event in August, 1969 became a message of peace and hope for people young and old. Well-known artists like Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez played as well as then unknowns like Santana and Credence Clearwater Revival. The organizers made no money. Despite its success, organizers wound up letting everyone in free because they could not manage to collect tickets.

Young pre-teen readers will love this book. History, music and popular culture are woven together into a mesmerizing look at sixties people, places and things. Readers absorb a great deal of knowledge without even realizing it. Highly recommended for students, teachers, parents and all those baby boomers who lived through or have heard about Woodstock.

1955 – Making the Best of It

PureTrash, pic
Written by Bette A. Stevens

By way of disclosure let me say that I read this prequel after I read the full-length novel. Some reviewers have indicated they felt the ending abrupt or incomplete, but I loved this short introduction to the characters of Shawn and Willie just as much as I did the full-length novel.

Nine-year-old Shawn and his six-year-old brother Willie live in a run down house without plumbing along with their hard-working mother and alcoholic father. The setting is 1955 when life for two poor boys was hard, but everyday life was simple. On a Saturday morning, the two brothers ride their bikes, play with slingshots, and collect bottles for change they can cash in for candy and soda at the local general store. But the well to do town citizens look down upon them, and they are bullied for being “dirty trash” by children and adults alike. Anyone familiar with the baby boomer generation will enjoy and empathize with these lovable characters. Recommended especially for middle-grade students.

Fun read for a lazy afternoon. Don’t miss the full novel,Dog Bone Soup.

Explore, Identify, Create and Compare Fractions!

“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?”fractionstripdesktopper_Page_2

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?

frontpagefractionstrips_Page_1

Click to grab this at half price.

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!

 

Healthy Schools: Climate Matters

kidsgroupA 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.

studentsbarteal

howdoes schoolrate

  • School buildings and grounds are well maintained and with help of the community
  • Teachers are released from non-teaching tasks (hall duty, bus duty, lunch monitoring, recess, etc.)
  • Reward teachers for innovated teaching skills
  • Materials for teachers are evenly distributed
  • Involve parents in skill building workshops
  • School rules involve kindness, respect for others and personal property, discourage leaving others out and all can contribute to the school rule creation process
  • Provide support for students that need academic, social and guidance assistance
  • Speak to students about their future
  • Allow students to try an assignment over again if they have not succeeded
  • Expect students to do their work and be responsible
  • Older students are expected to help younger students to achieve skills in a buddy system
  • Reward student for academic achievement, talents, and contributions such as kindness and progress
  • Maintain fair school rules and consequences that apply to everyone
  • Staff members avoid teacher cliques, exclusionary behaviors and instead model appropriate kind behaviors toward others and students
  • Collect materials that interest students and provide hands-on and real life projects.
  • Inclusive behaviors involve all staff and community in various school functions in some way

16 = Awesome school!

14 = Getting there, but needs some work

12 = Really, really, really needs work

Below 12 = Needs a new agenda!

References:

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

Blog: http://www.tieplayeducationalresourcellc.com/

 

tieplayWritten by Lynn @Tieplay Educational Resources, LLC, on May 1st, 2016.

Magical Manhattan!

Magical Manhattan

Written by Gregory Hoffman

MagicalManhattan,pic

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.

A Great Family Read Aloud

Whispers of Trees (Mythic Adventures Collection: Book 2)

Written by Ben Woodard

WhispersofTrees,pic

 

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest, non-biased review.

Bridget and Colin are walking through the Irish woods ahead of their parents and ten-year-old brother, Declan. Suddenly Colin disappears; Bridget thinks that he has been eaten by a wolf. A park ranger assures the family Colin will be found. When they go into town to file a report with the town constable, a strange looking lady named Mrs. O’Leary suggests that they must go into the woods so that the trees can guide them to Colin. Colin’s dad angrily puts his foot down, refusing to listen. Declan sneaks out and goes back into the dark woods to find the strange old woman who may be able to lead him to his brother. When Declan finds her in an odd cabin filled with computers and a bubbling cauldron, he is puzzled, but also drawn to follow her. Mrs. O’Leary demands that he go into the woods where the spirits of the trees will speak to him. By taming his fears, not only will he be successful in finding his brother, but he will also bring peace and tranquility to the family.

This mystery set in the mythical woods of Ireland mixes elements of adventure, myth, thriller, and family relationships. Targeted reader audience is age seven through twelve. This is a story with many layers of meaning which are exposed by repeated readings, and one that could definitely be used for guided reading in a classroom discussion on many topics. Perfect as well for a family read aloud and group discussion.

Raspberry Red Goodness from Mother Earth

Raspberry1The sun is shining and the birds are singing. I notice a few wild raspberries blooming among the shrubbery, and it reminds me of walking with my children happily collecting and eating the berries as we ambled through the countryside. Today we don’t find nearly as many bushes growing untamed along the roads as more construction and fewer farms are seen in my area. Still I wondered where did these berries come from and how did they get here.

There is some archaeological evidence that Paleolithic cave dwellers ate raspberries. Red Raspberry, or Rubus idaeus, is native to Turkey and was gathered by the people living in Troy as early as the first century B.C. Rubus idaeus means bramble bush of Ida named for a nursemaid and the mountains on which they grew in Crete. During the Hellenistic Age they were associated with a Greek fertility myth that the berries were white until Ida, the nursemaid of Zeus, pricked her finger on one of their thorns and stained them red. Later on the Romans conquered vast territories and spread the seed of raspberries throughout their empire as evidenced in archaeological ruins of buildings and forts. These berries are mentioned in the fourth-century writings of Palladius, first Christian bishop of Ireland. During the Middle Ages raspberries were used for food and medicine. Artists employed their red juice in paintings.Only the rich could afford them until King Edward I in England encouraged their cultivation and made them popular in the late 13th century.Raspberry2,pic

The red raspberry may have originally come to North America with the prehistoric peoples crossing the Bering Strait. Explorers arriving in North America found Native Americans eating berries of all kinds. They dried them to use while traveling. European settlers brought seeds and new species of hybrid plants. In 1737 William Prince established the first plant nursery on the continent in Flushing, Queens, NY, and raspberry plants were listed for sale. Estate records from George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, dating from 1761, reveal raspberries being cultivated there. One hundred years later, more than forty varieties of raspberries were known throughout America.

Luther Burbank introduced many raspberry hybrids to Americans. He produced a multitude of crosses providing an unlimited variety of qualities. These raspberry plants may be a bush or a vine that grows up to three feet high. Their fruits are ready to eat right off the stems and separate easily by using your fingers, as long as you are careful of the prickly thorns. Wild berries supply food for birds and small animals. Many useful products are gleaned from raspberries: jam, jelly, juice, pies and ice cream. Health benefits are limitless. Raspberries contain high amounts of antioxidants that are believed to fight cancer and heart disease. The high content of Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, B2, and Vitamin C, and Niacin keep our bodies strong. In addition the minerals of calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium benefit all.

Today more than 70 million pounds of raspberries are sold within one year. So take a walk this spring to see if you can find some of these tasty and healthy raspberries.

Barbara Ann Mojica

Little Miss History

The Amazon Rainforest: Animal Facts and Photos

The Amazon Rainforest: Animal Facts and Photos

Written by KC Adams

amazonrainforest,pic

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

Students Make Mind Movies with Graphic Novel Templates

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!

mindpicturetemplatesI 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.

mindpicturetemplates2mindpicturetemplates22mindpicturetemplates21mindpicturetemplates10

 

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.

Best,

Sharon
fabulousfreebie

 

 

Wasted Wood: Will the Bullies & the Boys Survive?

Wasted Wood

Written by Brock Eastman

wASTEDWOOD

I struggled to decide what rating to give this middle-grade novella; I decided to go with four stars because the writing is appropriate for its intended audience. The dialogue is on point for thirteen-year-old Hudson and his friends. Lots of adjectives and onomatopoeia to keep the story interesting as well as those illustrations of the tree troll.

Hudson is a typical teen; he loves to play video games and test the limits with his parents’ rules. Hudson gets grounded when he comes home late because he took a short cut and trespassed on Mr. Gilbert’s property nearly falling off the bridge in the process. Of course that wasn’t the whole story, Mr. Gilbert had called his parents catching Hudson in a lie. Hudson doesn’t take long to decide to sneak out and join his friends for their camp out.

Orin, the neighborhood bully and his friends, come across Hudson with his friends in the woods. They dare them to trespass on Mr. Gilbert’s property to prove that they are not afraid of the legend that a Tree Troll exists. When they take the dare; the real adventure begins. Soon the Dark Demon appears. Is the legend real? All the teens including the bullies must struggle to survive. What will happen to the boys? Will their parents and Mr. Gilbert find out?

Lots of adventure, danger, paranormal and coming of age issues combine to make the novella appealing to the middle-grade audience. Despite the fact that there is lots of passive voice and the writing style could be sharper, this is a tale well worth reading for the eight to twelve-year-old target audience. The author has developed a set of discussion questions for each chapter, which makes the book a good choice for a classroom read aloud and discussion.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Art Lesson: Create Your Own Mandala Art!

What are you doing in your art class this week?

 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!

Mandala Art_Page_1 Mandala Art_Page_2Here’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!

fabulousfreebie

Hieroglyph: Time Travel with a Twist

Hieroghyph (TC’S ADVENTURES BOOK 1)

Written by WJ Scott

Illustrated by John Helle-Nielsen

Hieroglyph,pic

I will be honest in saying that this book was different from what I expected. The cover is a bit of a mystery and the table of contents lists numbers only with no word clues. Once into the book, the reader is quickly drawn into the narrative. Thirteen-year-old TC is sitting in the Vice-Principal’s office trying to explain how she knew where a stolen ring could be found. TC lives with her Aunt Letty in New Zealand since her archaeologist parents were killed in a cave in. Aunt Letty is off on an environmental expedition, and TC will be going off to spend a weekend with her uncle in Australia.

Here is where the book takes a dramatic departure. The reader learns that TC has a special gift. She is able to time travel and connect with past history when she touches hieroglyphs. Her uncle Max is trying to get funding for an archaeological expedition to prove that ancient Egyptians traveled to Australia in search of gold.

I will not reveal details of the plot, but Scott seamlessly takes the reader back and forth as TC alternately explores the shipwreck and explorations of Prince Setka and Prince Kanefer in ancient times and back into the present with TC, her Uncle Max, her friends and enemies who seek to undo their discoveries. Characters are well developed and the narrative carefully written to make the plot believable. TC is a strong-willed female who faces modern problems and crises, while longing to solve the mysteries of the past.

Targeted for readers nine and older, the book will appeal to younger and older audiences. Promises to be a good series for lovers of ancient Egypt, adventure, mystery and intriguing characters.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS FEED button in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

 

A Delicious Change of Mind

Thought Soup: A Story for Youngsters and the Adults Who Love Them

Written by Lyle Olsen

Illustrated by Marnie Webster

ThoughtSoup,pic

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Exploring the Treasure Box – Writing with Self- Assessment

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.

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Take a closer look!

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:

  • Mini-lessons on each box: e.g., Today we are focusing on Content. Take a look at the content box on your marking guide. What are we looking for? What does that look like in a story? Exemplars are great for this. Now look at your story. Focus only on the Content box.  Does your story have quality content?
  • Have the whole class edit their existing story for one of the boxes one checkbox at a time. Break out your blue crayon for one checkbox, a red for another, and so on.  This works especially well when focused on the conventions box.
  • Conferencing and goal setting with a student.  The boxes really allow you to focus in on one specific area that the student needs to work on to improve his/her writing. I use this along with my writing conference sheets. After reviewing a piece of writing, the student and I will discuss a “next step” goal to improve their writing. I ask them which “box” they think they need to work on most.  The process really helps them take ownership for improving their own writing.
  • You Mark, then I mark.  Finally, I love, love, love, the idea that the students always mark their writing first, before I do. Along with all the checklists, there’s a place for them to assign a mark to their work before I mark it.  This gives them the opportunity to evaluate and improve their writing before they come to me with it. It also gives me the opportunity during conferences to point to the checklist and say can you show me where you found examples of this or that in your story?
  • As an added bonus I included new story planners in the package. I was so tired of students trying to navigate the “rising outline” story planner, so I re-invented it with kids in mind. The result is below.  The kids love it.  They are creating much more detailed plans because the spaces direct and focus their thinking.  Several students have all told me that they like it better. It’s definitely a keeper in my writing program.

Writingprocess&planningpackage2_Page_6

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.

Best,

Sharon

Book Review -Wagon Train Kids –

Wagon Train Kids Headed West for Gold

Written by K.B. Shaper

Wagontrainkids,pic

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
LittleMissHistory.com

February 29, 2016

GrassNow that we are approaching March, most of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere are dreaming of warmer weather as we start to see patches of green sprouting up around us.

I sat down to think about the words “everything green” and was amazed at the number of images brought to mind. Some are associated with facial expressions: You look green, meaning one who has lost color and looks ill or “green with envy, one who is sneering with jealousy over another’s possessions. Then there are those phrases that apply to something or someone new, inexperienced or untested. New lumber is “green lumber”; a newcomer to a job is called a “greenhorn.” Not surprisingly, the word green is applied in the plant world. If you have a gift for gardening, you have a “green thumb.” When told to eat her vegetables, a child may be told to “eat your greens.” There is another set of words referring to places. A greenbelt is an area of land that is left largely undeveloped to conserve the environment. A “green room” is a lounge where performers wait before going on stage or television. Even the White House has a green room in which guests gather before a formal state affair begins.

In mid-March our attention turns to St. Patrick’s Day and the “wearing of the green.” Actually, blue waShamrocks the color originally associated with St Patrick. The term “wearing of the green” came from an Irish ballad written in the 18th century. Because the country of Ireland has more than 400 shades of green within it and became known as the “Emerald Isle,” green seems more appropriate. Also, St. Patrick is alleged to have used the green Irish shamrock to explain the Trinity. The Irish flag contains the color green. Over time the color associated with him became green. Today cities like New York and Chicago dye street lines and rivers green for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

What I find especially interesting is the story of the “greenback.” In 1862 after fighting the Civil War for one year, it became evident that war would be long and costly. State banks had already placed paper money in circulation, but the federal government issued gold coins only, which were rapidly disappearing as the war continued. So on February 25, 1862, the United States government approved the issue of paper money not backed with precious metals but with “full faith of the government” to be valid for all public and private debts. To avoid counterfeiting this paper, a patented ink which was difficult to erase and strictly guarded as a secret formula, was used on one side of these notes. The green color was difficult to photograph or copy. Because of this green color, Union soldiers who received them as pay began calling them greenbacks. Soon everyone else followed suit. Similarly, the gray or blue paper money issued by the Confederacy were known as bluebacks or gray backs.Greenback

Throughout the rest of the 60’s and 70’s the federal government issued approximately three to four million of these greenbacks not backed with gold. The increased amounts of cash was attractive to southerners and westerners who did not want to rely on the national banking system of the east which limited their ability to expand. Many of these proponents known as Greenbackers who sprang from agrarian, Jacksonian roots distrusted banking and big business. The debate continued until the Greenback party could not agree on other issues and their opponents succeeded in returning to the gold standard in 1879.

We find ourselves in the same controversy today asking questions about how much money should be in circulation,and how it should be controlled. In any case, the greenbacks are here to stay.

Enjoy the green that is popping up all around us. Happy Spring!

Barbara Ann Mojica

DWARVES AND DRAGONS

Dingo the Dragon Slayer:Master Zarvin’s Action and Adventure Series #1

Written by M.R. Mathias

Dingo,pic

 

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
LittleMissHistory.com

Google Classroom is Calling!

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?

  1. Go to classroom.google.com/
  2. Check the upper right-hand corner of your browser to be sure you are signed into google with your school email address (Your tech department will have set this up.)
  3. Now you are ready to set up your first class. I like to set up a class for each subject area even though I have the same students for all classes. To set up a class, just click on the little + sign up by your name. Then type in the name of the class and a descriptor. That’s it! You’ve made your first class.  Want to see it in more detail? Here’s a great tutorial that shows how!

In Google Classroom, you can STREAM announcements, add assignments, give STUDENTS feedback, and set up information ABOUT your 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.

Book Review: Runaway Smile

Runaway Smile: An unshared smile is a waste of time (Niditales Book 1)

Written by Nicholas C. Rossis

Illustrated by Dimitris Fousekis

RunawaySmile,pic

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review: PotPourri

WILLAKAVILLE: Baffling Ballads of Boisterous Braveness

Written by Bald Guy

Willakaville,pic

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Take Out the Tobaggans! The History of Sledding

Flyer2On 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.Flyer1

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

LittleMissHistory.com

A Little Late, But Still Worth Celebrating!

BloggerMCBD2016

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.

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press,* Bharat Babies

Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers T

Tuttle Publishing ,NY Media Works, LLC/KidLit TV

Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books* Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh* China Institute.org*Live Oak Media

Our CoHosts

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
http://ow.ly/UUy96
The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books
http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/?p=1796

 

 

 

NOW I AM PLEASED TO PRESENT MY BOOK REVIEW

Obstacl
ēs

Written by Gregory E. Ransome

OBSTACLES,pic

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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right hand corner of this post.

HERE IS A GAME THAT PARENTS OR TEACHERS CAN SHARE WITH THEIR CHILDREN TO PROMOTE FEELINGS OF SELF-WORTH:

selfesteemgame

 

 

Barbara Ann Mojica

Book Review: A Tale of Courage

Dearie: A Tale of Courage (Chapter Books Book 1)

Written by Gita V. Reddy

Dearie,pic

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Let Students Tell Their Story with Adobe Voice

Wowza! I was so excited this week to happen across a new tool (new to me, anyway) called Adobe Voice.  Adobe Voice is a free app for the ipad that will make it easy peasy to do any kind of digital storytelling or report presentations with your class. In about 8 – 10 minutes you’ll have a digital story complete with text, music and images. What I like about it most, is that it’s fast and easy to use. Kids  and teachers need that!  Here’s a quick guide on how to use it:

  1. Download the free app onto your ipad.
  2. Hit + Create a New Story. It will prompt you to give a name to your project. Just type it in.
  3. Then it will give you a variety of story structures to choose from: Share an invitation, Promote an Idea, Tell What Happened, Explain Something, Follow a Hero’s Journey, Show and Tell, Teach a Lesson, or Make Up Your Own. Just click on one to get started.
  4. Now you see a screen that lets you add an icon, a photo or text, or any combination ( by clicking on layout at the top you can add more than one). You can choose a photo from your ipad gallery, take a picture, use dropbox, or search for royalty photos on the internet right from the app. Make your choice to add it to the slide.
  5. Then hold down the record button and speak your narration for the picture. There’s a playback button to hear the results. If you don’t like them, just hit record again and try again. It records over your first attempt.  It won’t take long to get it right.
  6. That’s it! That’s all there is to making a slide. The app automatically puts a blank background and background music behind with your slide, but you can easily change all, if you like, by clicking one of the features at the top: Layout, Themes, Music.  All are easily customized with simple clicks.
  7. You are done! Now you can share to Facebook, twitter, etc. or download to the cameral roll to save it to your PC for sharing. It’s just that easy!

Here’s a sample Voice Story that I made in about 10 minutes:

What a powerful tool in teacher’s hands! Now you can have students tell their story in a matter of minutes, use this to create lessons, or modify materials for students. (I can think of so many applications for this app!)

If you’d like to see more tutorial on this, you can find a great one here: How to Tell Your Story with Adobe Voice

Hope this is helpful.

As always, if you have questions, I’m here.

Best,Sharon

Sharon

Book Review: Step into Another World

The Crumbling Brick: The Land of Neo Book 1

Written by JoHannah Reardon

Crumblingbrick,pc

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,

www.LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review: The 3 Monkeys Christmas Treehouse

The 3 Monkeys Christmas Treehouse (Monkey Tales Book 5)

Written by Rob “Nanook” Natiuk

3Monkeys,pic

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.

Best regards,
Barbara
LittleMissHistory.com

Middle Grade Ebooks for FREE!

Hey there teachers, homeschoolers and parents who are looking for ways to get their kids interested in reading,

out of world promo

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 $5.99 to FREE
Kindle Nook  * iTunesAll Jacob wants is to make the basketball team. All the Lorkon want is to control the magical powers Jacob doesn’t know he possesses.

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 $2.99 to $0.99
Kindle * Nook * KoboMore than anything, Benjamin Ravenspell wants a pet, but when he buys a mouse named Amber, he gets more than he bargained for.

 

From $0.99 to FREE
Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iTunesCassandra’s ordinary life is riddled with hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking mishaps as she guides herself through the world of pre-teens on the brink of adulthood.

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Kindle * Nook * KoboPart Neanderthal, but raised as a human, Arken Freeth finds that he doesn’t fit in either world as he struggles to survive.

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Kindle * Nook * KoboAn eleven-year-old girl discovers she has the power to grant any living thing its one true wish.

 

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Kindle * Nook * KoboWhen a malnourished horse shows up as a rescue at the farm where she volunteers, Jacinda, a bullied girl, takes it on as a project horse, and the mare’s sweet nature inspires her to spread kindness around to make a positive difference in the world.

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Kindle * Nook * KoboJenni Kershaw and her eighth grade science class take a field trip they will never forget. Dragons and goblins and spirits, oh my!

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Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iTunesBed bugs, burglars, and a missing mother. For Doodle, itís just part of a dayís work. A laugh-out-loud mystery for dog lovers of all ages.

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Kindle * Nook * KoboTo save her brother, the banshee Seven must save Atlantis.

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KindleOne girl with a nightmare to live through; one ghost with a dream to live. With so much to lose, can anything be gained?

 

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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…

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Kindle * Nook * KoboTwins Justin and Janine discover a mysterious egg … can they protect the hatchling while lost in Montana’s Absaroka wilderness?

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Kindle * Nook * KoboHarry Potter and The Hobbit rolled into one captivating and humorous epic fantasy series that will have kids begging for more.

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Kindle * Nook * KoboWinner of the Mom’s Choice Award honoring excellence in media for children. Classic fantasy adventure – quirky, funny, sinister, and action-packed

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Kindle * Nook * KoboExplore the magical history of Kendra Kandlestar’s world in this collection of bonus tales from the Land of Een.

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Kindle * Nook * iTunesDREAMS: Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME.

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Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iTunesWhat’s worse than stumbling upon the dead body of the Cat Lady? Being accused of her murder. Sarah Cole and her friends take it upon themselves to catch the Cat Lady Killer.

 

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KindleFelicity, an ordinary sparrow learns that she can do extraordinary things!

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Kindle * Nook * KoboGeorge, the magical basset hound, is on the trail of the mysterious ghosty haunting his Packmate, Tillie.

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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!

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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.

 

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KindleEver wonder what it would be like to be pulled into your computer? Sarah is about to find out.

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Kindle Nook * Kobo * iTunesIt takes more than a school trip to change Christy’s life. It takes murder.

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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!

 

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Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iTunesSemi-autobiographical adventures from a 20th Century Northern California outdoorsman

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Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iTunesThe future looks bleak unless eighteen-year-old Lance and his young New Camelot Earth Warriors can save the planet from catastrophic climate change.

Enjoy your new books! 🙂

photo credit: BlueSpace via photopin (license)

Book Review: Wishapick, Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk

Wishapick Blog Tour Header Image

Book and Soundtrack Review: Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk

HOPE FOR TOMORROW

Wishapick Tickety Boo And The Black Trunk

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
LittleMissHistory.com

The History and Traditions of Celebrating the New Year

TimesSquareHow 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.RoseBowlold

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.Modernparade

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,

Do I Have to Teach Vocabulary in Math?

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.

Research has informed us that semantics, word identification, and vocabulary (e.g., repeated readings, rhymes), as shown in Figure 1, are essential cognitive features in word problem solutions (Capraro, Capraro, & Cifarelli, 2007) just as they are in reading comprehension and understanding (Pressley, 2002; Smagorinsky, Cook, & Reed, 2005).
Figure 1. (Capraro, Robert M., Mary Margaret Capraro, and William H. Rupley. 2010)vocab fig1
Another great resource is the article by Pamela Dunsten and Andrew Tyminski.  I’ll try to summarize some of the important points here, but take a moment to read the full article for a more comprehensive explanation. What’s the Big Deal about Vocabulary?
  • Math vocabulary terms should be taught in the context of learning math concepts.
  • Using a variety of different models/graphic organizers for students to express their understanding, is effective.  (ie. The Freyer model, tables, Four Square model, Feature Analysis tables, etc.)
  • Providing examples of what a term is, and what it is not, leads to deeper understanding.
  • Associating new vocabulary terms with words or concepts that a student already knows helps them to retain the new word with a meaningful context.
  • Having students express their understanding of terms with pictures, numbers and/or words, leads to deeper conceptualization.
 In the meeting, we all agreed that it would be beneficial to come up with a common list of vocabulary assigned according to curriculum standards at each grade level.  This would be an important first step in the process. My many thanks to Rebecca Nelson-Fitzpatrick for sharing the list developed at her school.  Though the list is not comprehensive, it is a great start taken from the AB program of studies.  It definitely is a great first step and one that should be shared in the interest of meeting student needs. The next step is to provide direct instruction and practice.
Can we achieve the dream of weaving good vocabulary instructional practices into our math instruction?  We absolutely must. With that end in mind, this week’s newsletter freebie is a complete word wall of the common words from AB’s Program of Studies for Kindergarten to Grade 6. Not only that, but I’ve put together some printable graphic organizer black-line masters to help you “achieve the dream” in your classroom!
 To get access to this FAB FREEBIE, and others,  just subscribe to my newsletter on the sidebar or in the pop-up.  I can’t wait to connect and share with you.
Best,
Sharon

Sources:

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): 5866. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02702710600642467

Fisher, Douglas, and Nancy Frey. 2008. Word Wise and Content Rich, Grades 712: 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.

Book Review – Saving Christmas

Children’s Book: Saving Christmas (Kids Action Adventure)

Author: Morris Fenris

SavingChristmas,pic

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Middle-Grade Book Review- Egyptian Diary

Egyptian Diary: Journal of a Young Scribe

Written by Richard Platt

Illustrated by David Parkins

eGYPTIAN DIARY2

An unusual picture book, in size and scope. I read the paperback version, written in large print and generous in its approximately 10 X 13 inch size. This book is written in first person diary format. Nakht is a nine-year-old boy living in the reign of Pharaoh Hatshepsut in ancient Egypt. His father has just been given a promotion in the city of Memphis. Nakht writes in his diary about his adventure, including lots of details about daily life in Egypt, cultural mores, religion, farming, hunting, and craftsmen. The plot takes a dramatic turn when Nakht and his sister, Tamyt discover a tomb robber conspiracy which will take them to the city of Thebes and land them in the court of the palace of Hatshepsut. They are astonished to discover that the Pharaoh is a woman.

Illustrated with beautiful color drawings by Parkins, the reader is transported back 3,500 years. These drawings are beautifully done; the expressions of the faces are somewhat exaggerated to display characters’ emotions. The author provides an extensive appendix which includes notes about geography, society, religion, the pyramids and archaeology.

Targeted for children in grades four through seven, the large pictures might even draw the attention of children slightly younger. Generally recommended for children in the eight to twelve-year-old range. Anyone interested in ancient Egyptian history will delight in this book. Great choice for homeschooling parents as a fine introduction to the study of this topic.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS FEED button in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

Barbara Ann Mojica
LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review: An Olde Christmas Carol

An Olde Christmas Carol: A Storm Ketchum Tale

Written by Garrett Dennis

OldeChristmasTale,pic

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.

Book Review: The Secrets of Sinbad’s Cave

The Secrets’s of Sinbad’s Cave (Book 1 in the Natnat Adventures)

Written by Brydie Walker Bain

secretsofsinbad's,jpg

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Writing A Christmas Circle Story

To get my Class in the Christmas mood, we started writing Christmas circle stories last week! (You know, the kind of story that ends in the same place it started).

First we read The Carpenter’s Gift, by David Rubel. This touching story about the huge Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center,  is a great way to introduce the circle story plot.

TheCarpenter'sGift

After reading the story, we used a picture prompt to brainstorm ideas for our own circle story.  Then we used this story planner to plan our stories.  The kids are excited to get writing their stories this week and I am excited to show them how they can develop each story event with “showing” using sensory imagery. I can hardly wait to read the stories they create!

Circlestoryplanner

Free this week only. Click on the pic!

If you’d like a copy of this story planner, just click on the pic!   Also included, are bonus story started pictures to get you started!

If you have some students who would like their stories published online, or would like to share with my class, let me know. I love to celebrate student writing.  Message me to see how we can share!

Have fun creating circle stories in your classroom!

Best,

Sharon
720 × 90

Flipped out over Flippety! Simple Flashcard Review Tool

I just learned about this awesome review/flash card tool called FLIPPETY that I am flipped out for and excited to share with you!  Let me explain.

FLIPPETY  is a tool that let’s you convert a simple Excel doc. into “flippable”—I’m not sure that’s a word, but I’m using it anyway— online flashcards, in a flash!  The tool is a fast easy way to create a review for test, new vocabulary, or any content that you want to go over with students. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Flippety.net.
  2. Read the simple instructions, which are basically:
    1. Make a copy of the template, change the questions and name them.
    2. Go to file ->publish to web ->publish. Then copy the link.
    3. Click on “get the link here” tab. Paste the link into the light blue cell (you’ll see the tab at the bottom of your flippety doc), to get the link to your flashcards.
    4. Click on the link to view your cards.  Be sure to bookmark or post the link, so you can access them easily in the future.
    5. Wallah! You are done.  You can share the link with parents, collaborative teachers, or your students so they can access the review from any device.  Cool, huh?

I made this review for my class in about 5 minutes.  It was easy and fun.

The Rocky Mountain Region Review

You can even color code the flash cards according to question type, or just add color for interest. Check it out!

One final bonus? Flippety also generates a printable list of the questions/answers, a word cloud, and a printable quiz! And… if you prefer to make it into a Jeopardy type game board, instead of just flashcards, you can! Great just got better! Here’s the link with instructions: Flippety Quizshow Link

This tool is now on my list of “Most useful” for the classroom. I hope you find it useful in your classroom, too!

Sharing is caring! If you found this post useful, please share, like or tweet about it! And before you go, be sure join our weekly newsletter so you’ll never miss another post. Newsletter subscribers also have exclusive access to fabulous freebies.  Each week I give away new resources for your classroom, absolutely free! Sign up to get access to these freebies each week!

Best,

Sharon

Book Review – Bored No More

Jesper Jinx (The Jesper Jinx Series Book 1)

Written and Illustrated by Marko Kit

jesperjink,picInteresting 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

LittleMissHistory.com

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Let the Holidays Begin!

Macys-Thanksgiving-Day-ParadeIt’s beginning….that magical, mystical, bustling time of the year generally referred to as “the holidays.” You have seen evidence spring up long before now, but for me, the holiday season officially begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

The first parade sponsored by the US chain store Macy’s occurred in 1924; the American Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit originated that same year. One holiday parade, today known as 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Parade, began in Philadelphia four years earlier in 1920. Macy’s first parade was known as Macy’s Christmas Parade. It extended from 145th Street to the store at 34th Street. The employees marched in costume. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. Santa Claus arrived at the end just as he does today. But in that first parade, a jolly elf was enthroned and crowned “King of the Kiddies.” An estimated quarter of a million people watched it.

A few years later, Macy’s asked Anthony “Tony” Frederick Sarg, who worked with marionettes, to prepare a window design of a parade. His animal shaped balloons made by Goodyear replaced the live animals in 1927. The Felix the Cat balloon made its debut in 1928. Originally filled with air, balloons with return addresses were released at the finale of the parade. Anyone who returned one was given a free gift from Macy’s. After an incident of balloons bursting, they were fitted with safety valves and filled with helium instead of air.

Popularity of the New York parade continued to grow; the parades were broadcast on radio in the thirties. There were suspensions from 1942-44 because helium could not be spared during World War
II. This parade gained international notoriety when the film, Miracle on 34th Street, was released in 1947, and in 1948 it was broadcast on television for the first time. Today approximately forty-four million people tune in to watch the three-hour spectacle.

Most spectators look forward to the balloons. Actually, there are three types of balloons. Novelty balloons are the small ones that might fit on a performer’s head. There are the full-size balloons that depict larger than life popular culture characters. Lastly, there are “Blue Sky Gallery” balloons that transfer real life contemporary works of art into balloons. Some balloons are float based known as Falloons and others are self-powered vehicles called Balloonicles. New balloons for 2013 include Finn and Jake, Toothless Dragon and Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary, but there are plenty of old favorites like Popeye, Betty Boop and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

If you tire of looking at balloons, there are marching bands and cheerleaders from high schools all over the country. They spend many hours training just for the chance to be chosen to march in the parade.
The Radio City Rockettes perform one of their sparkling holiday dance routines, favorite singers of adults and children alike lip sync songs at the end of the route, which now extends from 77th Street to the Macy’s store on 34th Street. Casts from several Broadway shows perform a number for those who can’t attend the theater. Many performers from popular TV shows also make an appearance. Yet, the whole parade continues to build up to one climatic event—the appearance of Santa and his sleigh as he officially ushers in the holiday season.

Maybe we are all children at heart!

Barbara Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

3 Ways to Use Technology to Build Relationships with Your Students

4249170516_b7c72a309a_nIf 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.Evernotestudentinterest

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.kidblogpage

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.
Best,
Sharon

If you enjoyed this post and would like to get more great teaching ideas and have access to exclusive free teaching materials each week please subscribe to our newsletter! Just enter your name in the sidebar or the pop-up to connect!  I can’t wait to share with you!

photo credit: A teacher looks at a student’s work via photopin (license)

Middle Grade Reading: A Rose by Any Other Name…

Bex Carter #1 Aunt Jeanie’s Revenge

Written by Tiffany Nicole Smith

BexCarter,pic

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review: Nerds and Ninjas

The Secret Path of Ned the Ninja: Reluctant Hero

Written by Kea Alwang and Melissa Mertz

NedtheNinja,pic

Ned is a bright fifth grader who admits to being a nerd and a klutz. He is taunted in school by Jared Beck, appropriately named Beck the Bonebreaker. When his parents can take no longer take the bullying and taunting, they enroll Ned in karate class. Ned paints a pathetic but humorous scene of his first day in class. The only saving grace is finding that he has a crush on one of the students, Adrianna. Ned is thrown into the fray with no leniency for being a new student. At first Ned is tempted to quit, but he changes his mind when the Tora Khan appears in his bedroom to give him a one to one training lesson. Is it a dream?

The next morning, Ned awakes and is still not sure when strange things begin to happen. When Ned gets to school, he discovers that he is no longer the person everyone knows. Ned learns that fears limit our capabilities. If one can take away fear by redirecting thoughts, limitations can be overcome. Our minds can be made to re-channel our fears and weaknesses.

Ned is such a likable character. He is funny, vulnerable, sincere and honest. Middle grade readers will empathize and grow with this character. The details of karate class keep the story line novel and interesting. Both sexes will enjoy the read. Recommended for all ages eight and up. I read the fifty five page book in one sitting.

Barbar Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review: The Halloween Grump

Mr. Boggarty:The Halloween Grump (Spooky Adventure for Kids 9-12)

Written by Tevin Hansen

Mr.Boggarty,pic

 

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

LittleMissHistory.com

Exciting Classroom Presentations with Evernote

logo200Last 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:presentericon 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:

  •  blue, red/pink or green pointer
  •  Light (white) or dark(black) background
  • change the size of the text in your presentation
    Check out this video to see the presentation mode in action.

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.

Best,

Sharon

Book Review: Creepy Crawlers

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

Spider,pic

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
LittleMissHistory.com

Technology for Teachers: Using Evernote for Unit Planning

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.

Best,

Sharon

Book Review – Ghosts, Mystery, and History

Alexandra Fry, Private Eye: The Curse of the Lion’s Heart

Written by Angella Graff

AlexandraFry,pic

This is Book One of the Alexandra Fry detective series. Angella is a pretty ordinary twelve-year-old, who is nervous about starting the first day of seventh grade in a new middle school. She shares time with both of her divorced parents. At the beginning of the tale, readers are introduced to Alexandra’s unique talent. She is able to see the ghosts of famous historical persons, who ask her help in solving mysteries. Alexandra has assisted Magellan in finding his lost compass and Abraham Lincoln in finding his stolen top hat. As if the first day in a new school isn’t difficult enough, Alexandra is contacted by Queen Elizabeth I of England, who insists that if the family locket is not located, a curse will be visited upon the current community. Her classmates and teachers think that she is talking to herself.

Fortunately for Elizabeth, her dad works in the City Museum. Her ability to gain easy access has helped her solve many cases in the past. In this mystery, she will be able to enlist the aid of a new friend, Penelope, and an eighth grader named Jack who at first appears to be more of a suspect than a friend. Alexandra must face the same issues most preteens face: bullying, fitting in with the crowd, negotiating their way with adults and asserting their independence. The author narrates a plot that has lots of twists and turns and combines elements of paranormal, history, mystery and adventure. Characters are believable and use authentic dialogue. The text is easy enough for preteens but also sophisticated enough for a young adult or adult reader. I was totally drawn into the mystery and felt empathy for the young characters.

Readers age eight and older who enjoy history, mystery, detective, paranormal and coming of age books will all find something here to their liking. Look forward to the rest of the series.

Barbara Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

Technology to Save Teachers Time: Part 3

evernoteiconWelcome 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.

Continue Reading >>

Book Review – O.K. is Great!

O.K. IS GREAT

Written and Illustrated by David Tiefenthaler

Cover Design Robin Ludwig, Design, Inc.

O.K., jpg

What a great story for children in middle grades covering so many of the issues facing pre-teens and teens in today’s world. Issues covered are fitting in, cyberbullying, sibling rivalry, peer relationships, and moving. Otis Kashwonkee, (yes, that’s his name) goes by the nickname, O.K. That would be fine if it were not for the fact that Otis doesn’t seem to excel at anything and the O.K. initials indicate to Otis that he is just ordinary. When his parents tell him that they are moving to the suburbs, Otis must add a new problem, adjusting to new friends and a new school.

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Book Review: Drawing For Beginners

Drawing for Beginners: From Dot to Drawing Shapes and Forms

Written by Renee B. Williams

DrawingforBeginners,pic

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.

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Technology Tools To Help Teachers Work Smarter

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.evernoteicon
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.

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Book Review – Juggling the Numbers

The Math Inspectors: Story One-The Case of the Claymore Diamond

Written by Daniel Kenny and Emily Boever

TheMathdetetives,pic

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.

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2 Timesaving Technology Tools for Teachers

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.
evernoteicon  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:

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Easy Steps to a Differentiated Spelling Program

25waysspellingfunEach 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:spellingexemplar

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.easyspelling25ways

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:

easystepsmultisheet* My Word to Study Listwordstostudypic

*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:

EASY STEPS DIFFERENTIATED SPELLINGcoins

Questions? I’d love to hear from you. What do you do in your classroom to differentiate instruction for students?

Best,

Sharon

Book Review – Tough Times

Fing

Written by G. Papa

Illustrated by Gary McCluskey

Fing,pic

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,

littlemisshistory.com

Bringing History Alive for Students!

Babs4BackCover (1)Some people  just have a gift for teaching and sharing new information in unique ways. This week, I want to introduce my readers the author of the Quest Teaching weekly book reviews, Ms. Barbara Ann Mojica.  Barbara definitely has that gift! She is the author of the award-winning Little Miss History Series and I feel so fortunate to feature her wonderful contributions on the Quest Teaching site each week. As you read her bio, I know you’ll be as impressed as I am with her ability to bring history alive!

Barbara’s Bio:  I have always been passionate about history, and during my lifetime have been fortunate to have the opportunity to visit thirty countries and more than half of the states in the USA. Now a retired teacher and school administrator I can go back to my first love, history. I began doing so in 2011 by writing biweekly historical articles for a local news magazine, The Columbia Insider.

I saw an opportunity to make history come alive for children when I married a talented artist and author. He designed the Little Miss HISTORY character, featured in my books, based on my younger self. I then combined my passion for history and extensive travel experience to write picture books that will make learning history fun for children, and as it’s turned out, fun for adults too!

I love watching the faces of children when they first open my books. The illustrations appeal to children as young as age two. The older children immerse themselves in the text, as well as the illustrations, as they learn more about history while having fun traveling with Little Miss HISTORY. Writing the Little Miss HISTORY series has also allowed me to connect to other writers, parents, and teachers via my blog and online media sites like Quest Teaching.

At Quest Teaching, we are proud to  feature Barbara’s thoughtful, honest, and insightful book reviews on Thursdays.  Watch for them so you won’t miss the opportunity to share some great new reads with your class!  At the end of each month, Barbara also provides commentary as to the historical development of present-day customs, events, and practices.  These articles provide interesting input for student discussion and will be of great benefit in any social studies classroom! Her snippets of history are sure to keep your students engaged and spark their interest in learning history!

To check out her prior posts click on the reading coin for book reviews and the social studies coin for the history features. Enjoy!

You will find more of Barbara’s work on her blog  http://www.littlemisshistory.com/

Book Review – Aztecs at a Glance

Legends of History: Fun Learning Facts about the Aztecs

Written by Matt Curtis

AztecHistory,pic

This was my first time reading a book in this series. Other books in this series discuss civilizations such as the Vikings, Egyptians, and Celts. Quite a bit of knowledge packed into thirty-four pages. Curtis uses a conversational approach in discussing what peoples made up the Aztecs, where they originated, who were their leaders, and how they got elected. He includes descriptions of the cities they lived in, the pyramids within them, and their controversial religious views which involved human sacrifice. One of the sections that I found most interesting was Curtis’ explanation of the social stratification system and the erratic system of justice they followed.

Curtis gets down to everyday life when he talks about children, the games they played, their pictograph language, and the type of ornate artwork and clothing worn and displayed, especially among the noble classes. Of course the empire came to a swift end once the Spaniards landed and the welcoming Aztecs realized that Cortes and the Spaniards intended to deplete their economy and rule their lands with an iron fist. Two years later in 1521, the Aztec Empire had been conquered.

These books are targeted for ages five through fifteen. While the text is clearly written, I feel it most appropriate for readers in the eight to twelve age range. The photos included are small but relevant. Parents, teachers, students and librarians will appreciate having this book on their shelves for reference and a good starting point for further exploration of the topic. I look forward to checking out others in the series.

Barbara Ann Mojica,
LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review: Alexander the Great

Alexander The Great: The Macedonian Who Conquered the World

Written by Sean Patrick

Alexthegreat,pic

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
http://www.littlemisshistory.com/

The History of Household Pets

Humans seem to have a need to bond with animal friends. In my own household, we have had experiences with a myriad of pets. Some of these are common choices like dogs, cats, and birds while others are a bit unusual like seahorses and hermit crabs. I thought it would be interesting to explore how the types of pets in households evolved over time.

Most Americans love their pets. Our first settlers came here with dogs, cats and farm animals. During the early days of our country, most pets were both farm workers and pets. They were often known as favorites. By the 18th century, the settlers had also begun to tame wild animals. Visitors to America were shocked to deer wearing fancy collars and kerchiefs walking the streets and even meandering through homes. Ironically, many Americans saw no problem in hunting the very same kinds of animals they kept as pets.

Squirrels on leashes followed their owners and sat placidly on their shoulders. If they were caught when very young, they were easy to tame. Squirrel nests were frequently robbed of their young babies which were sold in the city markets. Because squirrels gnawed wood, tin cages with metal bars were developed. The fact that squirrels liked to run led to cages with mills and waterwheels. Does this sound remarkably similar to pet hamster cages used today? Children particularly loved flying squirrels. The well-known painter, John Singleton Copley painted a portrait of his half-brother, Henry, playing with his pet squirrel in 1766.

Wild songbirds like cardinals and mockingbirds were frequently sold in the city markets for use as pets. Wealthy citizens could be observed playing organs and flutes while standing in front of caged wild birds trying to make them sing songs to classical music. Many owners believed songbirds could be taught to sing to a tune. If a song were played over and over, birds would imitate the music. Peter Kalm, a Swedish-Finish explorer of the 18th century writes in his accounts that turkeys, wild geese, pigeons, and partridges were often let free in the morning being so well tamed that they flew back home in the evening.

Kalm talks about other wild mammals as well. He says beavers were tamed to bring home their fishing catch to their owners. Some otters were observed to follow their masters. When the master went fishing in a boat, otters were seen jumping into the water and coming up with a fish for him. Kalm remarked that raccoons appeared domesticated, yet at night continued to kill poultry. Owners needed to carefully hide sugar and sweets from them. Kalm mentions a deer in New Jersey so tame that it runs into the woods for its own food, but at night brings wild deer home to its master providing him the opportunity to hunt deer at his doorstep! Indeed, the deer was a very common pet in the early to mid 18th century. A 1730 painting in the New York Historical Society depicts a young boy from Manhattan with a pet deer wearing a collar. In Virginia, the Revolutionary War hero, Dr. Benjamin Jones kept more than one hundred deer to amuse the family children and grandchildren. As time went on, Americans learned that as they become older, deer became troublesome. Increases in population and traffic particularly the invention of automobiles led to the elimination of deer as pets.

Today we are attached to more domesticated pets such as cats, dogs, and birds. It is hard to imagine the energy it must have taken to tame the wild mammals most of us now view as animals to hunt or nuisances in the 21st century.

Barbara Ann Mojica

Author of the Little Miss HISTORY Travels to….children’s book series http://LittleMissHISTORY.com

Book Review – A DOG’S LIFE

The Adventures of Zelda

Written by Kristen Otte

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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
LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review – A CONUNDRUM

NONSENSE AND NO SENSE AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN Written by Cindi Walton Nonsenseandsense,pic 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,

LittleMissHistory.com

Book Review – Close Encounters

Outback Hero: Max Conquers Outback Australia Book 2 in the Max series

Written by Sally Gould

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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.

Summer Recreation in Colonial Times

colonnialgames2It’s the “good old summer time” and most of us want to get outdoors to enjoy the warm weather. Many of us do not have the opportunity to work outdoors so we look forward to leisure time activities like swimming, picnicking, barbequing or just taking a long walk down a country lane.
If we could take a step back into colonial times, what would our leisure time look life? Recreation in colonial times was not all that different from what many adults do in leisure time today, but much lower key. All members of the family worked long hours in order to make for themselves many of the necessities we take for granted today. Recreation was synonymous with entertainment. It was also tied to socialization, making it possible to develop friendships and meet eligible mates.
One big difference in recreation in colonial times compared to modern times was that it was mainly for men. Two reasons account for this: most of events took place in taverns and clubs where women were not allowed, and women worked long hours in the home and were also busy attending to children. Women did participate in card games in private homes. Sometimes these were controlled activities intended for bringing together members of the opposite sex for match-making.
Recreation for men involved then popular spectator sports like baiting, boxing and cockfighting. A good number of these games involved a high degree of danger like knife and tomahawk throwing, running, and shooting. Healthier pursuits included walking, swimming and horse racing. Outdoor activities were considered necessary to promote good health. Of course there was no internet, TV or video games that could keep one in the house.
Card games achieved new heights of popularity in colonial times. The three most popular were Piquet and Euchre introduced by the French, and Whist a variation of modern day Bridge. Gambling was practiced widely by men and women, but it was hardly ever abused by the average citizen. Small bets might be placed on who would win the game, who would get the highest score in dice or who would win a board game like chess or dominoes. Most importantly, people did not compete seriously as is commonly done today. All of this was simply fun to escape the everyday chores like cooking, cleaning and farming. Neither was recreation done to stay healthy or remain thin. The sole motivation was enjoyment.colonialgames
Children and teens did not have the elaborate toys of today. Many children succumbed to illness. If a youngster made it to the age of fourteen, he was considered an adult. Younger children played stick ball, rolling hoops and ninepins, a variation of modern day bowling. Little girls entertained themselves with dolls made from corn husks or whittled from wood. Older young ladies practiced sewing with embroidery hoops. Group activities included hayrides, apple-picking and corn shucking contests. Some group recreational activities were used as a means to accomplish a task. Barn raising, butchering and quilting bees were a way for members of a community to pool their resources to get work finished and provide a social outlet at the same time.
Colonials really did mix work with pleasure. Families often spent free time indoors by telling stories and riddles. A lot of churchgoing involved social activities like picnics and dancing. The Puritans were the exception. They outlawed card games, dancing and public outdoor celebrations.
So whatever form of recreation you choose, get outdoors and celebrate during the warm summer weather. Follow the example of the colonials and spend some time with friends and family for no other reason than pure enjoyment!

Barbara Ann Mojica

Little Miss History

Book Review – Hope for Tomorrow

Let The Celebrations Begin!

Written by Margaret Wild

Illustrated by Julie Vivas

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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.

Book Review – Crossing the Sands of Time

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. Sonofthesphinx,picThe 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,

www.LittleMissHistory.com

How to Use the Quest Teaching Site

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.


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2_Garnet 4_Rainbow 1_Diamond 5_peach 6_Emerald 7_Ruby 8_purple 8_purple 9_sapphire

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.

Sharon

Literature Link: Music and Mayhem

Book 1: Heroes in a World Reborn (The Mind Trips of S.C.A.M)

Written by Nathan Ritter

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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

www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

The Thirty-Sixth Dimension

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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

The History of the Picnic

picnic1The calendar says July and we are feeling the heat. On a sunny day, we feel the urge to get outside and relax. Of course we will probably find ourselves hungry so we might want to take along some food for a picnic. Where did the term picnic originate?

That is not such as easy question to answer. Most historians agree that picnics evolved from the traditions of outdoor feasts the wealthy classes entertained. There were medieval hunting feasts, banquets in Renaissance times, and garden parties in the Victorian era. In America picnics only go back as far as the middle of the nineteenth century.

Earliest picnics in England were medieval hunting feasts. The convention of having a feast before the hunt started as early as the fourteenth century. Participants would have eaten foods like hams, pastries, and baked meats. Picnicking outdoors, as we know it, became popular during the Victorian era. There are many examples of picnics in the writings of Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Jane Austen. Likewise, European painters such as Monet, Cezanne and Renoir depict many scenes of picnics.picnic2

It seems likely that the French invented the word picnic. The French word piquenique combines the French verb piquer which means to pick and the word nique which means something that is worth little or has no value. By1800 the word appears to be widely accepted throughout Europe. The term picnic originally meant a contribution by every guest for a meal. Every invited guest was expected to show up with a dish. The success of the social gathering depended on everyone bringing food. We use the phrase “pot luck” supper to describe such a gathering in America today. Over a period of time the word picnic’s meaning shifted to a gathering that was always held outdoors in a peaceful setting rather than a a meal in which everyone needed to make a contribution. Today a picnic means an excursion that includes sharing a meal outdoors in a pleasant area like a park or garden. A picnic might include two people sharing wine and cheese or a picnic basket with sandwiches and fruit or pastries and home baked goods. It might even be a large community event like a church social or town community day. What distinguishes it from a barbeque is the fact that the meal is already prepared and ready to enjoy outdoors not one that requires the cooking outdoors.

No matter which of these outdoor pastimes you prefer, here’s hoping that the summer will bring us many opportunities to enjoy sharing food with family and friends in the beautiful countryside. Bon Appetit!

Barbara Ann Mojica,

http://www.littlemisshistory.com/

PINT-SIZED MYTHOLOGY

Greek Mythology: The complete guide to Greek Mythology, Ancient Greece, Greek Gods, Zeus, Hercules, Titans, and more!

Written by Nick Plesiotis

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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,

http://www.littlemisshistory.com/

Subways to Scotland

The Camelot Kids: Part One

Written by Ben Zackheim

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First book in a new middle grade series that mixes medieval history, knights, castles, adventure and coming of age with a modern twist. Protagonist Simon Sharp is a fourteen year old who becomes an orphan at the age of twelve when his archaeologist parents die in an airplane crash over Scotland. Simon finds himself in a New York City orphanage and foster care. He is clever, smart and streetwise, though he is bullied by Brad. When strangers ask how his parents died, he replies, “King Arthur killed them.” Their lifelong mission had been to find Camelot.

Simon’s unlucky situation becomes more mysterious, when he gets a letter from an uncle in Scotland who claims that he has just found out about the accident and will assume responsibility for Simon. The boy is soon on a plane to Scotland and a new life in a mysterious castle. Though he now attends a private school, the bullying situation is the same. Simon will discover hidden passages and meet mysterious creatures like gargoyles, trolls, and magicians. Who are they and what is his connection to them?

This book of slightly less than one hundred pages has charming black and white illustrations that add to the depth of the characters and setting of the tale. The writing of the plot is well-executed and the characters are interesting and endearing. Zackheim seems to have found the right combination of modern day grit and medieval fantasy in setting the right tone for the series. I think tweens and teens will want to get involved with this story. I know that many adults like me have fond memories of Camelot.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author

LittleMissHistory.com

Best Friends … Forever?

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. 
BestfriendforeverbannerwebsiteBest 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.

Excerpt:

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 closeknit 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.

Book Trailer:

 

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.”

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Best-Friends-Forever-Landrys-Colors-ebook/dp/B00UIP1N5S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426663576&sr=8-1&keywords=krysten

Amazon international: http://authl.it/B00UIP1N5S

Barnesandnoble.com: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/krysten-lindsay-hager

itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/krysten-lindsay-hager/id890673226?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/search?query=Krysten%20Lindsay%20Hager&fcsearchfield=Author&fclanguages=all

Connect with Krysten:

Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/krystenlindsay

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

Hold On To Your Reins

Keeping Secrets (Timber Ridge Riders Book 1)

Written by Maggie Dana

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First in a series of books featuring young teens and their love of horses. Kate is fourteen and spending her summer with her aunt because her father is a lepidopterist who is busy chasing butterflies in Brazil. Looking for something to keep her occupied, Kate applies for a summer job as a companion for a teen named Holly. Holly is now wheelchair bound as a result of a horseback riding accident.

Kate has a dark secret. She was blamed for the death of a horse in her care. Now she is petrified to go near a horse stall. Holly’s mom gives riding lessons and coaches an equestrian team. Kate hopes to steer clear of the barn, but she is gradually drawn to it. She must overcome the bullying of Angela, a spoiled brat whose wealthy mother accepts nothing less than first place. Quite a few shenanigans involved in the plot. Dana succeeds in making the reader identify with her characters. The love of horses and its power on the main characters are carefully woven into the plot. Just a hint of romance with the introduction of a young teen male character.

This story is just under two hundred pages with vocabulary and plot lines that are suitable for readers age nine and older. The book is well-written with a nice mix of descriptive language and dialogue. Teachers might break the book up into chapters for read aloud and class discussion.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author

www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

King of the Fifth Grade

Myth Catchers: Book 1 Dad’s Pants

Written by Alan Riehl

MythCatchers

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
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Detective Debut

Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar

Written by Tommy Davey

CoraFlash,pic

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
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Opposites Attract

The Rescue Team

Written by Billi Tiner

REscueTeam,pic

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

www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

The Collar and the Cavvarach – New Release!

sword isolated on white background; Shutterstock ID 109466807

sword isolated on white background; Shutterstock ID 109466807

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

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:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnieDouglassLima

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

Google Plus: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Literature Link – A Restless Soul

Jonathan’s Locket

Written by Lorraine Carey

Jonathan's Locket, pic

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!

Barbara Mojica
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
WWW.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Barefoot and Beautiful

The Girl With No Shoes

Written by B.J. Rand

girlwithnoshoes,pic

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.

Barbara Mojica
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
WWW.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Inspire Us and We Will Inspire Others

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.

FullSizeRender-1

Ms. Barnes with Gabriel, just one of her many 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:

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Waiting to perform at the gala!

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.1427464822386

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:1427421999023

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.

A Mother Who Made a Difference

Image from http://claudiotomassini.blogspot.ca/2013/12/anna-mary-robertson-moses-grandma-moses.html

Image from http://claudiotomassini.blogspot.ca/2013/12/anna-mary-robertson-moses-grandma-moses.html

For many of us living in the Western Hemisphere, we will soon be celebrating Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. Thought that I would share with you, the story of one of my favorites. Many mothers have continued to make significant contributions in later life, but few have embarked on a successful career after passing the three quarters of a century mark. That is the case with an artist affectionately known as Grandma Moses.

Anna Mary Robertson was born on September 7, 1860 on a farm in Greenwich, New York. She was the third child of ten children, all of whom worked hard on the family farm. As a child Anna Mary drew happy, carefree scenes of her life on the farm. She only attended school during the summers because she did not have the warm clothes required to go out for the winter. At the age of twenty seven she married Thomas S. Moses who was also a farm worker. They also had ten children, but only five of them survived. A popular story says that one day Anna was wallpapering the living room in her house, when she realized that she would not have enough paper. The clever Anna painted a rustic scene on white paper and hung it up to fill in the gap. This incident was not the beginning of her famous career. That would not happen until many years later.

At the age of seventy six, Anna was stricken with arthritis. She was forced to discontinue many of the things she loved, but she did return to one of her childhood pursuits, painting. Anna began her career by imitating illustrations in books and also the popular Currier and Ives prints. She was inspired by her memories of rural life on the farm and the bucolic countryside. Her paintings showed a longing to return to the past and a simpler life style. They were famous for their brilliant color. She used light greens to depict spring, darker greens for summer, brown to symbolize autumn and white for winter. Despite her advanced age, none of paintings displayed a hint of suffering or despair, she painted scenes of joy and happiness. Her family and friends began to call her Mother or Grandma Moses. The press soon adopted Grandma Moses. Her paintings were used to publicize many American holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mother’s Day. She was rapidly becoming famous. Among her most popular paintings are The Old Oaken Bucket, Over the River to Grandma’s House, Catching the Turkey, and Sugaring Off.

http://claudiotomassini.blogspot.ca/2013/12/anna-mary-robertson-moses-grandma-moses.html

http://claudiotomassini.blogspot.ca/2013/12/anna-mary-robertson-moses-grandma-moses.html

image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/boscdanjou/6122314400/

image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/boscdanjou/6122314400/

The first public exhibition of her work was in an unknown painters show at the New York Museum of Art. In 1946 the Women’s National Press Club acknowledged her artistic accomplishments. As early as 1949 she appeared on television. Her autobiography was published in 1952. On her one hundredth birthday in 1960 Governor Nelson Rockefeller proclaimed that day as “Grandma Moses Day” to honor her. Shortly after, she died on December 13, 1961, at the age of 101 from hardening of the arteries. The significance and importance of her works survive her. In 2006, her painting “Sugaring Off” sold for 1.2 million dollars. Her work titled “Fourth of July” painted to honor President Eisenhower is still hanging in the White House. Anna’s makeshift solution to solve a shortage of wallpaper is displayed in a museum in Vermont.

I would suggest that Grandma Moses is an example of “senior living” at its best!

Barbara Ann Mojica – April, 2015

Opposites Attract

What A Pair! Mattie and Mark Miller:Double Trouble Series

Written by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Whatapair,pic

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.

Barbara Mojica
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
WWW.LittleMissHISTORY.com