Category Archives: Educator Resources

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

Book Review: Under the Mesquite

This is such a lovely review of Under the Mesquite!

Unpacking the Common Core Standards, Part 2: Thinking Horizontally

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.  

Last week, I talked about the importance of looking at the standards horizontally as well as vertically, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to do just that as I walk you through what effective close reading questioning can look like, unpacking one strand at a time using texts of varying complexities.  Next up:

Reading Standards for Literature K-3, Craft and Structure, Strand 6

Unpacking the Common Core Standards

In Kindergarten, the strand reads:  With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

Example text:  Elizabeti’s Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrated by Christy Hale

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Books for children with autism: Jay and Ben

Katharine Swanson photoGuest bloggerIn this guest post by special education teacher and Jay and Ben co-author Katharine Swanson, she explains how the book can be used as a tool when reading with children with autism.

During Autism Awareness Month (and all year round), teachers and parents alike think about the importance of educating their child with autism in the most effective way.  The most effective method of instruction varies from student to student and is as wide as the spectrum itself.  However, one universal method revolves around written words being broken down into picture symbols to represent words and sentences.

In my experience in the classroom, students benefit from texts and questions being broken down into pictures to make them more visual and concrete.  People with autism tend to think in visual, concrete ways.  The added visual element enhances their comprehension of the material being presented to them. Therein lies the main benefit of a book like Jay and Ben.  The story is simple and already broken down into manipulative picture symbols to help students of all levels comprehend.  The picture symbols with the book are removable and can be manipulated as needed for different students.

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Unpacking the Common Core Standards, Part 1: Thinking Horizontally

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.  

For many educators across the country, this has been our first full year of adapting our instruction to meet the rigor of the new Common Core standards.  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received lately regarding planning under the new standards is a simple concept that can be a bit challenging to apply:  think horizontally.

It’s so easy to become fixated on the standards *only* for the grade we’re teaching, but thinking horizontally through the strands allows for so much room for "It's so easy to become fixated on the standards only for the grade we're teaching, but thinking horizontally through the strands allows for so much room for differentiation."differentiation.  Most students have only had the benefit of one year of instruction under the new standards, and may not have yet mastered the skills that the Common Core envisions as prerequisites.  For example, the Common Core is written as if this year’s third grader has been receiving Common Core-level instruction since Kindergarten and has mastered all the standards leading up to third grade.  Chances are, this hypothetical third grader probably hasn’t, and may need further instruction around some of the skills and strategies found in the standards. An effective way to fill in the gaps is to work horizontally through the standards using increasingly complex text.

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Children’s Book Press Titles Back In Print

Children's Book Press logoMany of you were fans of Children’s Book Press (CBP), an award-winning multicultural children’s publisher, long before it was acquired last year by Lee & Low Books. If you’ve been wondering which of your favorite titles have made it back to print under our new CBP imprint, I present you with our shiny new 2013 Children’s Book Press catalog:

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Reading Biographies to Reflect on Core Principles and Create Belonging

Katie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, guest bloggerandsupporting 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. 

Spring is here and with that spring fever for many students who will be graduating from a significant milestone and moving on to the next stage of their lives. Graduating students will hear speeches that urge them to seize the day, to work hard, to stand out amongst the crowd, and to answer the question “Who will you be?”. The Common Core State Standards are written with this day in mind. While the standards are designed to raise the level of education that any child receives regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, and language, the standards alone do not put children on the path to college and a career. We cannot overlook that some students see themselves from a very early age as “card carrying members” in college settings while others feel displaced. Before we can ask our students “Who will you be?”, we need to wonder “Who do our students believe they can be?”

Katie Cunningham quoteThe last few springs I’ve hosted seventy-five fifth graders to the college campus where I’m an Assistant Professor. These fifth graders attend a school where 93% are of Latino descent, 85% have reduced or free lunch, and almost 40% have limited English proficiency.  For many of them this experience is their first time on a college campus and the vast majority will be the first generation in their families to attend college. The trip is only five miles by school bus, yet our campus is a world away for many students. The trip is designed to give fifth graders the sense that they are card-carrying members. That they belong here. That they are on the road to college as a pathway to a career.

As educators and parents, we know that college and career-readiness cannot simply be reduced to a series of skills-based standards. Rather, it’s a complex topic with social, cultural and political considerations that go far beyond the classroom. I believe we can enact curriculum that centers the standards in engaging and joyful ways, but what can we do to rewrite history for many of our students who face obstacles inside and outside our classrooms everyday? We can bring them to college campuses and support them to see themselves as members of intellectual communities. We can also support students beyond single events to routinely consider what guides us and what has guided people before us to reach their dreams. Harvard Professor Ronald Ferguson established five core principles I believe our schools must teach long before and alongside any reading, writing, or math lessons:

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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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