Jack Gantos

A Day with Authors at the University of Maine

Jack Gantos is a fantastic speaker and writer. My stomach ached from laughing so hard at all his wit and honesty. I just started reading his memoir a Hole In My Life.

Thank you Jack!

The one and only Katie Wood Ray. Amazing!

Lester Laminack is a gem from the south.

If I Built a House

Jack is back. Revealing his plans for...a house! Here in Maine (and probably the state you live in too) we love Chris Van Dusen. The photos below are homes that 4th and 5th graders built in preparation for an author visit from Chris. They used cardboard and various found objects. Also visit THIS PREVIOUS BLOG POST for more information on Chris Van Dusen and his book The Circus Ship. STEM to STEAM to STREAM!


Enhancing prior knowledge with fiction and nonfiction read aloud choices.

I have yet to meet a teacher or student who does not LOVE sticky notes as much as a snow day in Maine. I am trying to find the original source of this Sticky Note Codes page, as the creator deserves full credit for this useful and meaningful tool. It is the sticky note model I use during read aloud time and students apply to their independent reading.
Students document information about salamanders with Acadia National Park Rangers.

Reading and Field Experience become a combination that deepens student's schema and enhances their vocabulary.

Spilling Ink

What took me so long to buy and read this book? It is a perfect nonfiction read aloud to share with writing students, a tool to enhance teacher's practice, or as a recommended independent read for students. I highly recommend this book. More information here: http://www.spillinginkthebook.com/

Wynton Marsalis

An example of writer and illustrator being matched to perfection in telling this story...a true sonic adventure indeed. The colors, fonts, vocabulary, fluency, diversity, and voice debate and agree to share the attention, as they are all that satisfying in this book. I think readers and viewers will really appreciate the extra touches of text in the illustrations, such as Slims Cement Mixer on the side of the cement truck to the field trip tomorrow sticky note next to the alarm clock, as much as I did. There is diversity celebrated through race, music, and religion in a seamless way. I love all the onomatopoeias and text that flows throughout the pages and off the readers lips as fluent and loud as instruments and life should. A Fantastic book!

Persuasive Writing

Haunted Houses For Sale. Students completed crayon resist with water colors to illustrate their Haunted Houses for sale. They then wrote real estate ads geared towards monsters as a way to practice real life persuasive writing. This first eerie property for sale offers a spectacular view of a graveyard from the kitchen window, and lots of signs warning you of dangerous things.

Lots of broken windows and cob webs grace this haunted real estate. The wind howls through the creaky floors.The neighborhood boasts sounds of werewolves and goblins from dusk to dawn too.

A fire breath fueled sauna, a swimming pool filled with snakes and blood, and coffin bunk beds are sure to meet the fancy of a monster family with monster kids!

A gargoyle wrought iron fence surrounds this haunted Victorian.

Beware and Keep Out...looks like an Open Haunted House.


Shades of Intensity

A vocabulary lesson favorite called Shades of Intensity, has students using paint samplers and synonyms to think about word choice and degrees of intensity when using them in their writing.

cool, frosty, icy, frigid, freezing, arctic

Students used a variety of resources to find just the right word and they put them in order of intensity. For the above colors we did nice, shy, warm, and sad.

Yo! Yes?

Chris Raschka's Yo! Yes? serves as a model for conventions
Practicing conventions and illustrating a double page spread.

Popular Humor Authors

Dan Gutman: The Genius Files, My Weird School Series

Katherine Applegate: Roscoe Riley Series

Nancy Krulik: George Brown Series    

Trudi Trueit: Secrets of a Lab Rat Series

Tommy Greenwald

Andy Griffiths


The Tooth Mouse

I suppose I never thought much about tooth tradition and especially about the fairy being a rodent! In Tooth Mouse the reader is introduced to the mouse who delivers money to French children in exchange for their baby teeth. I love how the author Susan Hood uses French words and sayings throughout the text in context, not requiring French skills to understand the words. The pencil and watercolor illustrations are beautiful. Using warm and romantic natural light greens, browns, and pinks, give the illustrations a dreamy and soothing feel. The pink and white tooth littered end papers feel decedent and I appreciate the list of various global tooth traditions on the last end page.

Cynthia Lord Visit

Cynthia shares her childhood book influences and explains that writers develop their craft from reading a lot.
Newbery Honor Medal recipient Cynthia Lord talks about her book Rules.

Signing RULES for 4th and 5th graders. They read it as a summer read and were so excited to talk to her about it.
 Students in grades K-3 enjoyed Hot Rod Hamster and a sneak peak at her new Hamster book coming out next year! Thank you Island Readers & Writers and Catherine Johnson Fund for making these kind of events possible.

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray is a historical novel for young adults, and the d├ębut of Ruta Sepetys, an American author, and daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. Her father fled from Stalin, while many of his countrymen were deported to labor camps, and their homeland, along with other Baltic states, was assimilated into the Soviet empire. This story tells a story that demands to be told, because it can, and that means something. Love, as the narrator uncoils, and hope, will be the traits that protect and fuel the human heart and experience through times of trial and triumph.. This story reminds me to remember all the humans before me, now, and in the future who will really have to dig deep to survive the circumstances that find them.

Schema Trees

My 5th graders made "Schema Trees" to welcome fall, and to share their knowledge and love for particular people, objects, and the natural wonders of their worlds. The trees are their arms and hands and the leaves were made by leaf rubbings with bees wax crayons and a watercolor resist.

September Read Aloud Picks

My 5th grade students are all enjoying Wonder. They agree that the main character Auggie exhibits a sense of strength and poise through tough moments, and that they admire him for it.

I am reading Lawn Boy to my 4th and 5th grade students as a way to meet some of the Economics standards. This read aloud is a fantastic way to introduce vocabulary and concepts such as, supply and demand, monopoly, gross income, and capital. Gary Paulsen uses humor and realistic experiences to hook the reader and learn topics in context.

I always seem to be reading aloud books that are told in an animal's voice. I love animals and believe that when kids are taught to think about experiences from an animal's perspective, they develop an empathetic and respectful attitude about them. I read The One and Only Ivan in one day this summer (it was that kind of book) and am thrilled to be sharing it with my 4th graders (5th graders are requesting this book next too). This book is special and when I read it aloud my students chant "Don't stop reading!", when they sense I am about to stop.

Writer's Notebook & Jason Spooner

I am sorry for the delay in a new post. My first week of school and start of my doctorate studies has been twirling and swirling me around in circles in all directions! It is Sunday night, I finished my plans for next week, am celebrating a New England Patriots win, and settling back home after a visit to Portland....I really think society needs to think about a 4 day work week...Mondays should be included in the weekend.

Jason Spooner

Starting Writer's Notebook last week was a highlight. We worked on the strategy of writing from a list.

Students developed their own Which would you be questions and recorded them on their notebook page.

  • A word or a sentence?
  • A sweet pickle or dill pickle?
  • A poem or a novel?
  • A spot or a stripe?
  • A hammer or a nail?
  • Denim or cotton?
  • Cheddar cheese or Swiss?
Students also made a list of "Bad things" (Things they would NEVER want to write about).