Category Archives: Educator Resources

Lesson plans, activity guides, and helpful tips from our literacy specialist and guest educators.

Why use thematic text sets?

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.  This is the fourth in a series of posts on thematic text sets.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing some examples of thematic text sets, or groups of books that cover one topic and span multiple genres and multiple reading levels. Many of the coaches and administrators I’ve met with have been really excited by the prospect of planning this way, but have been (understandably) a bit overwhelmed, too.

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Holocaust Picture Books: An Annotated List

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day and, as Marcia Vaughan noted in her guest post last week, books guest bloggercan be a good way to introduce young students to a very difficult topic. Today, with permission, we’re cross-posting educator Keith Schoch’s excellent annotated list of recommended picture books about the Holocaust, originally posted on March 3, 2013 at Teach With Picture Books:

Picture books included in the above annotated book list:

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Poetry Friday: What is a haiku?

Happy National Poetry Month! Today we’re celebrating by looking at one of my favorite forms: haiku. Just a few lines, less than 20 syllables, haiku often appear easy because they’re so short. But, as anyone who has tried to write a picture book can tell you, often the shortest forms are the most difficult!

Haiku (the plural of which is also haiku) originated in Japan. They are short poems that are traditionally 17 syllables, often in three lines. In his afterward to Cool Melons- Turn to Frogs!, Lee & Low’s picture book biography of Japanese haiku master Issa, author Matthew Gollub explains more about what makes a haiku a haiku:

Japanese poets [wrote] haiku for centuries. Traditional haiku describe a single moment in nature, something that the poet observes or discovers. As such, a haiku can refresh or enlighten us by calling to mind life’s passing details.

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Compiling Rigorous Thematic Text Sets: Books About Immigration

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.  This is the third in a series of posts on thematic text sets.

One aspect of the Common Core that I get asked questions about all the time is thematic text sets. What are they? How do you know which books to use? What types of texts should you be pairing together?

Fear not! I’ve compiled some examples of text sets that cover one topic and span multiple genres and reading levels. Some of the titles you may already have in your classroom library, and others I think you’ll enjoy discovering. In my last two posts, I compiled books about the moon and books about Kenya. Today we look at books about immigration:

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Compiling Rigorous Thematic Text Sets: Books About Kenya

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.  This is the second in a series of posts on thematic text sets.

One aspect of the Common Core that I get asked questions about all the time is thematic text sets. What are they? How do you know which books to use? What types of texts should you be pairing together?

Fear not! I’ve compiled some examples of text sets that cover one topic and span multiple genres and reading levels. Some of the titles you may already have in your classroom library, and others I think you’ll enjoy discovering. In my first post, I compiled books about the moon. Today we look at books about Kenya:

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Compiling Rigorous Thematic Text Sets

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

One aspect of the Common Core that I get asked questions about all the time is thematic text sets.  What are they?  How do you know which books to use?  What types of texts should you be pairing together?

Fear not!  I’ve compiled some examples of text sets that cover one topic and span multiple genres and reading levels and over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing these sets with you.  Some of the titles you may already have in your classroom library, and others I think you’ll enjoy discovering.

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Black History Month: Why Remember Arthur Ashe?

guest bloggerEveryone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.

We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.

Today, Crystal Hubbard shares why she wrote about Arthur Ashe in Game, Set, Match, Champion Arthur Ashe:

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UPDATE: A More Multicultural Appendix B

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of meeting with a literacy expert who was SUPER involved with the creation of the Common Core Standards (!!!!!), and she gave me some important feedback about the Appendix B supplement  I posted last week. To refresh your memory, what we’ve done is compiled a supplement to Appendix B that includes both contemporary literature and authors/characters of color, and that also meets the criteria (complexity, quality, range) used by the authors of the Common Core. We were lucky enough to have this literacy expert take a look at our supplement, and she gave some great suggestions:

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“What does this book have to do with me?” Why Mirror and Window Books Are Important for All Readers

guest bloggerKatie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal. 

When we lived in Brooklyn, I knew my sons were growing up in a diverse community. They understood that people have different skin colors. That people speak different languages. That people eat different foods. That people believe different things. That we all share a common humanity. That life is full of complexity.

Now we live in the woods and appreciate the quiet of country living but this is far from a diverse community. For my boys, there is greater diversity in the pages of a book than on the streets of their town. Multicultural children’s literature is a doorway into greater understanding that their cultural background is not the only cultural background. That their way of speaking is not the only way of speaking. That their point of view is not shared by everyone.

When we open a book and start to read a story, we use our imaginations to walk through whatever world the author has created. Children’s literature is full of stories about boys and girls that look like my children. Rudine Sims Bishop uses the terms mirror books and window books to describe how we both see ourselves and see others when we read literature. The characters my sons encounter are often mirrors and they find their life experiences reflected in the books they read. Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but do they have enough access to high-quality stories that represent other cultural backgrounds in a positive way?

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A More Diverse Appendix B

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

When the Common Core Standards were created, the authors included a list of titles in Appendix B that exemplified the level of text complexity (found in Appendix A) and inherent quality for reading materials at each grade level.  This list was intended as a comparative tool, as a way for teachers and administrators to measure current libraries against country-wide expectations for rigorous literature and informational text.  Since its publication, this list, and the titles included and omitted, have created quite a bit of controversy.

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