Dog Friday Download

 The dog days of summer are still over a month away, but in Maine...we sort of have winter...a few days of spring sprinkled in with winter, and then BOOM, summer heat. It is tough for a Mainer to adjust, especially when a whole lot of us function best in the 60s. So, I am thinking since I love dogs and know an abundance of really fantastic books with dog characters, maybe I will start a new Dog Friday blog tradition? Today, three picture books.
 Ivan the Terrier is awesome, and the illustrations are better than watching a movie! Peter Catalanotto did both the words and the illustrations, so they communicate and support each other in a way not always possible with publisher picked illustrators. Next is Lauren Child's Who wants to be a Poodle, I don't. This is a treasure and another illustrated master piece. The presentation of this book is one of a kind. I have not come across anyone else who has this book in their collection and it is such a beauty! This is a bargain book on Amazon and sells for $6.80 in hardcover! It sure is a dog eat dog world in the publishing business.
Lastly, I leave you with Widget. A story about a dog who wants to fit in with a pack of cats, so he meows and soaks in the sun and scratches furniture to sharpen his claws. But when it is all said and done, Widget learns that being yourself is what makes you likable and important. That each of us have qualities that contribute to our community and world at large. This is a great model to use to discuss the inner and outer story, or summary vs. theme. The author is Lyn Rossiter McFarland and the illustrator is Jim McFarland. I just looked on Amazon (I swear I do not work for them- although I should) and learned that this team had written a sequel called Widget & the Puppy.

Please email me at for a FREE COMMON CORE ELA Lesson: SUMMARY vs. THEME using the book WIDGET as the mentor text. I am trying to learn how to post a PDF in the meantime! 

Nature Read Alouds

The wood cut watery illustrations in Sea Horse are beautiful. The current of the illustrations and fluent informational text put the reader under the water- up close and personal with the shy and magical Sea Horse. This is the type of book I hope to see in science classrooms for students of all ages to enjoy and learn from.

Some Spotted Salamanders on their way to find a vernal pool might just need some help from a very caring boy, on a big night in nature. A rainy night offers magical experiences and this book will evoke the inner scientist in all of us!

Fantasy Genre & Writing

 My students  had been reading a truckload of fantasies, so they
 naturally wanted to write fantasy novels too. While at a Kelly 
Gallagher Workshop and scanning the books for sale, my eye was drawn to this book that was all alone and within seconds to be all mine! I love when I can find treasure like this. I just saw that it is for sale on Amazon for under $20, in case you are interested. I have bought a lot of dust collectors, and I can vouch that this resource is one that can go right into play!
Now armed with Adventures in Fantasy, I felt I had the tool I needed to move from read aloud to keyboard and the supporting lessons I needed to help my students get there. We made a fantasy genre word wall, looked at fantasy maps, compared our favorite fantasy authors, and talked about the different approaches they could take, from Heroic like Percy Jackson to fairies in the magical Realism of Emily Rodda.

 After lots of conversation and connections, it was time to create our maps. This is the one I was working on (not complete yet). The students (and me) could have worked on the maps forever! The book kept us on track for what our maps should include. After the maps were done, students told their story plans orally, or shared a particular place of conflict; as a way to get peer feedback or further develop their fantasy.

The maps became key in organization. When students were done writing their fantasies, I laminated and bound them. I was able to shrink their maps and turn them into end papers, just like some of their favorite reads. This ended up be such a wonderful fantasy genre writing experience.

Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett has several treasures and Spells reveals another! When a sweet little dreamy frog puts together torn pieces of paper to reveal a spell...will frog become a prince after all? Gravett's illustrations are magical and full of fairy tale moments. Some of the pages are half pages and the reader will have to match the proper top and bottom page to get the spell just right.

As an extension writing activity, students could write their own spells. They can pick a phrase or powerful word (spell) and decide what power the spell beholds. They could make a list of pros and cons of the spell. I had my students do this mini lesson in their Writer's Notebook. Later in the year when we were writing our fantasy novels we referred back to this lesson if we wanted to add a spell to our story.

Writer's Notebook Lesson

photo from

Which would you rather be? A shell or a stone?
A green pepper or a mushroom? A word or a letter? A graphic novel or a fantasy? Coming up with choices is a great way to get the writing brain working and a future writing idea seed planted. For a writing mini lesson, read William Steig's Which Would You Rather Be?. In student's writer's notebooks, they will create their own list of questions. To get students started you might want to brainstorm a list as a group and write 3-4 so students can copy them into their notebooks if they are unable to generate ideas of their own. Allow students 10-15 minutes to make their list. Allow for some sharing. Allow for time for students to add 1-2 ideas they heard from someone and want on their list too. Ask students to highlight their favorite "rather be" and have students free write for a 10-20 minute time period on why they would rather be one over the other. This will come in handy as a reference point and idea bank, for persuasive writing throughout the year.

Summer Reads

SUMMER READS should be fun books that bring you independent joy. At the same time, they are a very important part of feeding your brain. READ at least five complete books over the summer, as a way to keep your spelling, vocabulary, writing, and story telling skills active and ready for school next fall.
·      Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings
·      Invasion of the Dognappers by Patrick Jennings
·      Stick Dog by Tom Watson
·      Dork Diaries #6 by Rachel Renee Russell
·      Charlie Joe Jackson’s guide to Not Reading by Tom Greenwald
·      The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin
·      The Legend of Diamond Lil by Doreen Cronin
·      The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
·      Wonder by R.J. Palacio
·      Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
·      Paperboy by Vince Vawter
·      Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
·      Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
·      The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
·      Kenny & the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi
·      Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen
·      Explorer the Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi

Pterosaur Trouble

This tale of prehistoric life introduced me to the Quetzalcoatlus, which is "distantly related to the dinosaurs, but they were not dinosaurs. Nor were they birds. They were giant flying reptiles." This is juvenile literature at its finest,  provoking wonder and questions, resulting in an interest to know more. I appreciate the final page after the narrative that offers an explanation of the inspiration of the story and some extended information about the creature in the book. The manipulated photographic like images are striking and really support a lens from before any readers time.

Kelly Cunnane

Beautiful illustrations and fluent text break the reader out of their own shoes, and into the role of a barefoot Kenyan child. A peak into the life  of one little boy, who is a curious about the world as they are.

Kelly's workshops are high energy and students really felt the soul of East Africa through artifacts, fabrics, and objects made from local wood. Kelly uses drama and free writing as a scaffold into exploring thinking around cultures.
After the Kelly Cunnane author visit, Island Readers & Writers and The Catherine Johnson Fund, purchased a copy of The White Giraffe for each 4th and 5th grader to read over the summer. Island Readers & Writers / Friends Over Books,  provided some discussion questions too. Our hope was to provide a cultural transaction with text, sparking an interest in knowing more.

Wiener Wolf & Common Core

Wiener Wolf by Jeff Crosby

A Dachshund is leading a boring and predictable life with Granny, until one day when he sees a pack of wolves on TV. This leads him to run to the woods to live with the exciting and unpredictable wolves. Life with his new friends is not anything like the domestic dream that he truly yearns. The call of the wild may not be all that it seems. Lots of places for predictions and inferences throughout the pages. I have shared this read aloud with students from kindergarten through 5th grade and they shared a common chant, for me to read on from the cover and title alone.

I love what Jeff does with the illustrations and appreciate the tension and drama they induce. The surprise double page spread with appropriate white space or a moment when Wiener Wolf breaks through the illustration's border, are meaty details that enhance the narrative. Conversations around the illustrations and purpose provide ample opportunity to comprehension building discourse.

Common Core Standards Opportunities:
Reading Literature
Key Ideas & Details
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Craft & Structure
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.5 Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action. 
Integration of Knowledge & Ideas
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting) 

Cats & Dogs

I am enrolled in what is called "May term", although it goes through the month of June too. I am kind of liking this idea of then having no course work all summer. I just finished a course where I was deep into Reader Response and Louise Rosenblatt and now I am heading into conversations around Plato and what it means to be educated. My near future holds statistics, so I am going to relish my current bliss in comparison. 

Summer time means an opportunity for students to read for pleasure, and I encourage my students to set a goal of at least 5 books over summer. For my dog and cat fans...

The CATWINGS series by Ursula K. Le Guin are exciting, quick read animal fantasies that even reluctant readers seem to devour. Some readers have a hard time keeping interest in what they are reading and they never seem to finish an entire book, so I am always looking for books that they are interested in giving a try (and that result in them completing). This series is perfect for that goal. Dreamy illustrations too.

I am a huge fan of Patrick Jennings and my students love it when I read his books aloud. Visit his website, for more information about his books. We Can't All be Rattlesnakes and Guinea Dog were two of their favorite this year. I see there is a Guinea Dog 2 being released in the fall, which will be exciting for all the fans.
Flawed Dogs is such a sweet story of love, loyalty, and imperfections. Most readers will laugh, cry, and talk out loud before they finish this book. If this is not a movie yet, it should be. Berkeley Breathed is a genius.
Big Nate and Greg are not the only guys keeping a diary. Stick Dog makes the perfect summer read for diary, humor, and dog fans.


Cut Paper Insects help students understand the parts and features of their favorite insects, while enhancing their fine motor skills too.

Counting and coloring lady bugs in a jar and putting them in order 1-10.

Students did a search to fill their insect box with 5 different specimens.

Cut Paper Bee with Labels