Digging Deep

30 Oct

In fourth grade we are all about digging deep, re-reading to find evidence to back up our ideas and opinions.

In Sam and Dave Dig a Hole  by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, two boys are digging in order to find something spectacular.


There is humor here, lots of dead pan humor, as well as a little dog who is very wise, and a surprise ending. Here’s the trailer Mac & Jon made.

If you have a slightly more Gallic sense of humor, you might enjoy Three Little Peas by Marine Rivoal.


Here, two little peas go on an adventure of a different sort and eventually end up underground. The artwork in this is stupendous and tells more of the story than the text does.

I have a fondness for stories about peas. Seriously. In first grade, I wrote a story called “The Pea Family” and later, in grade seven, I returned to it during a writing unit and wrote “The Pea Family and the Yellow Beans”, a story a bout cultures clashing. I used felt for the peas and beans. Very cutting edge. It was the 70’s after all.


Writing About Reading Begins With Thinking About Reading

29 Oct


Some really good “stuff” here.

Originally posted on TWO WRITING TEACHERS:

Some weeks ago, when the school year was brand new, I wrote about setting up our Reading Journals for a year of writing about our reading.  Now we are approaching the end of the first marking period, and the truth is that we are just beginning to be ready to write about our reading.

I was thinking about this on Sunday night as I participated in Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s Notice and Note webinar. The six signposts of Notice and Note  have anchored our read aloud work as  we’ve made our way through Priscilla Cummings’ Red Kayak; they have helped us identify places where we can notice, pause,  reflect  and deepen our understanding of the text.   The purpose of the signposts, as Kylene and Bob write, is:

to teach our students to be alert for certain features as they read, to take responsibility themselves for pausing and…

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Springing Forward and Falling Back

28 Oct


Somewhere in the late 90’s my clock radio died and I had to get a new one. I purchased the replacement at Montgomery Wards and I was really excited about it. Although not that attractive, it had an amazing feature: a chip that automatically told the clock to Spring forward or Fall back as the season demanded. It was wonderful and I enjoyed this small luxury. Temporarily.

In 2007, a small but mighty amendment to the Uniform Time Act occurred. We changed the dates when the time changes. We would, from now on, Spring forward on the second Sunday of March  instead of on the first Sunday of April and Fall back  on the first Sunday in November, rather than on the last Sunday of October.

So now, I have to change the clocks four times a year. On the last Sunday in October, I have to Spring forward the one hour my awesome clock fell back at 2:00 a.m. Then a week later, I make it Fall back again, along with all the other clocks in the house. In the Spring, I reverse the process, falling back on the second Sunday in March, and then making the clock radio Spring forward along with all the other clocks on the house.

I could get a new clock and send this one to the Island of Misfit Toys, but that would mean admitting defeat. And by gum, I’ll not give in that easily.



Ideas for young writers

27 Oct

I have always loved playing around with words. Jokes, puzzles. rifles, word games are all right up my alley. I was the fastest word searcher in grade 6. My earliest word memory is around age 3 or 4. My Papa used to call people “jackass” all the time so I started to do so, too. My mom finally pulled me inside and told me I had to stop.. I vaguely remember asking her why I couldn’t use it if Papa used it. I recall that she said it wasn’t a really bad word, but it wasn’t a nice word. Funny the lessons you remember from childhood.

If, like me you enjoy playing with language, check this out:


Written by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, Take Away the A is a playful romp through the alphabet.On each page we encounter a word, which becomes a different woe when a letter is removed.

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I can imagine classrooms where kids are reading and discover more words where this can happen, then making their own version.

Oliver Jeffers is in the wordplay game right now, too.


 “If words make up stories, and letters make up words, then stories are made of letters. In this menagerie we have stories, made of words, made for all the letters.”

And so begins a book of 26 short stories, each built around a letter. The book is 112 pages a long and a little dark in places, but still delightful.

Budding writers might be interested in  Any Questions? by Marie Louise Gay.


Many children want to know where stories come from and how a book is made. Marie-Louise Gay’s new picture book provides them with some delightfully inspiring answers in a fictional encounter between an author and some very curious children, who collaborate on writing and illustrating a story.


Thinking about Ottawa

24 Oct

My sister shared this video with me today and it made me cry. I thought I’d share it with you, too.

That’s all I have to say today.

Some more on WWI

23 Oct

I am still reading  The War That Ended Peace,  but that is not the only book related to World War I I’ve read recently. Two newish picture books feature different aspects of “the war to end all wars”.


Harlem Hellfighters tells the story of black Americans from New York who picked up brass instruments—under the leadership of famed bandleader and lieutenant James Reese Europe—to take the musical sound of Harlem into the heart of war. J. Patrick Lewis’ poems are generally short snapshots and are complimented by Gary Kelley’s sepia toned illustrations. Some background knowledge of the war would be helpful, though not necessary. Includes an introduction, bibliography and artist’s notes.


Shooting at the Stars: the Christmas Truce of 1914, by John Hendrix, is a fictionalized account of the eponymous event. I do so love using the word eponymous. In a letter home to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday.This is a compassionate book with lovely illustrations. Includes an author’s note, glossary, bibliography and index.

Henri Matisse

22 Oct


The Iridescence of Birds written by Patricia MacLachlan and marvelously illustrated by Hadley Hooper, is a book about Henri Matisse. It begins with this line

“If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray/ And the days were cold/ And you wanted color and light and sun…”

then goes on to explain the things in young Henri’s life that might have influenced him. It is more speculative than factual biography, but would be a great way to get kids tinkling about what inspires artists and even writers. It end with this line

“Would it be a surprise that you became a fine painter who painted/ Light and Movement/ And the iridescence of birds?”

Fantastique, non? as a french reader might say. MacLachalan’s ponderings are beautifully enhanced by Hooper’s illustrations.

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What inspires you?

andrea gillespie

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