Category Archives: Books

Not a Box


I’ve been reading Antoinette Portis’ book, Not a Box, to my kindergarten classes.  Before reading the book I tell them I hope they brought their imagination with them.  I ask them what imagination is and there is usually one or two who can articulate what imagination is.  They really enjoy this book.  After reading the book I explain that they will be receiving a “box” (small square cut from grocery bags) that they will glue onto their paper and make it whatever they want it to be.  After the first class I decided that I needed to brainstorm with them what their box could be as they mostly drew objects that were in the book.  After brainstorming I got a few more varied ideas, but still some just drew what was in the book (race car, rocket ship, building).


It’s a pet store.


It’s a building.


It is a store.

Acting Out the Story

After the finished their drawing each student got inside a box.  I would ask them, “Why are you sitting in a box?”  They would reply, “It’s not a box.  It is a ____.” I placed all their responses into a Google Slide presentation and shared it with their teacher.  They got a huge kick out of sitting in the box.  Lots of smiles and giggling.  Ah, the simple things.


Videotaping students in a box.

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Big Orange Splot and Expressing Ourselves

In their IB Unit of Inquiry: How We Express Ourselves, the central idea for our first grade students is “Our creations persuade, inform and entertain us.”  I looked for ways for the students to express themselves.  We read Daniel Manus Pinkwater’s book, The Big Orange Splot.

914vGHLpd8L I gave them a paper with a quote from the book, “My house is me and I am it.  My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.”  I asked them to design their dream house.  I just stood back and was amazed with their creativity and ideas.



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The Tale of Peter Rabbit and LEGO Garden

Our first grade classes are inquiring into the basic needs of plants and animals.  I’d run through most of my standard read-alouds about plants and animals when I saw a post on Instagram where a librarian had the students design a garden after reading Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  Bingo….never reinvent the wheel when you can borrow a good idea!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

I wasn’t surprised that most of our students had not read/heard this classic book, although several said they had seen the movie!  They were very engaged and were anxious about Peter getting caught.


After the first class I realized that we needed to brainstorm ideas of what they could include in their garden.  I just used a white board to record details they recalled from the text.  Then I turned them loose with the LEGO baseplates and LEGOS.


Fun with LEGOS



This is Mr. McGregor with his hoe!


A carrot!

The most enjoyable part was circulating amongst the students and asking them about what they were creating.  They had all sorts of good ideas and were very articulate about what they were making.  One had a “video camera” (like a Ring) so Mr. McGregor could see if animals were coming into his gardent!

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Third Designs Galimotos

     We read Karen Williams’s book, Galimoto about an African child who builds his toy galimoto from wire he has collected. After designing on paper the students created their galimotos using 10 pipe cleaners. This activity was a good way for students to use creativity and work on those fine motor skills.  Some of them had a more difficult time translating their two dimensional drawing into a three dimensional object.  We also see that some children need more opportunities to practice and develop their fine motor skills (twisting wire, using scissors, etc.). IMG_6841

Students used Flipgrid to describe the process for viewers. Creativity and engineering on display.



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Caps for Sale, Kindergarten and Design

Our kindergarten classes are exploring jobs and I read the classic, Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina which is about a job that is no longer, a peddler.  The students love this book, especially the part where they get to be monkeys-copying the peddler as he shakes his finger at them, etc.


Cap Design-Art in the Library

I drew a cap so that the students could design their own cap with their favorite colors, objects, designs.  The sky was the limit and they really enjoyed it.


Check out the smiling face!



His favorite thing is sharks!



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Makerspace Club Third Grade-KEVA Building

I started an after-school makerspace club for students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade.  Each grade meets once a month for an hour and at their first meeting it was exploratory time at each section: LEGOS, magnet wall, KEVA Planks and Ozobots.  At the second meeting they will each face a specific challenge.

Third grade students were challenged to create a house for their pig (a stand-up paper pig) that could withstand the big, bad wolf (hairdryer with ears and eyes) using only the KEVA planks.

Plan, Design and Reflect

First I read Paul Galdone’s version of The Three Little Pigs.  These days you can’t rely on every student being familiar with traditional folk tales.

Then each student recorded what the problem was and how they would solve the problem and drew their design.Makerspace g-o

Building, Adjust and Test

It was interesting to see the process of the building, adjusting, borrowing of ideas.


When they said they were ready I brought out the “wolf” and began blowing, getting progressively closer and closer.  If there was structural failure most of them decided to make changes to see if they could improve their design.IMG_6338


Afterwards they wrote about what worked and didn’t and how they might improve the next time.

They had such a good time.  Lots of conversation, sharing and laughing.  Next week second graders will take up the challenge.

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Fourth Grade Reflects with Padlet

I wanted to share the book, The Wolf, The Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett (illustrated by Jon Klassen) with students.  It’s a quirky, interesting book that can spur discussion. It has some different points of view for them to consider. I read it to the fourth grade classes and then asked them to reflect on it.

We used Padlet as I wanted to expose the students to the choices available for expression.  I encouraged them to explore the voice and video recording options and many did!IMG_6173

IB PYP Learner Profile and Reflection

I asked the students to consider the attributes of the IB PYP Learner Profile and if they woud have made the same decision as the duck and mouse to remain inside the wolf.

Students wrote their answers out on index cards before accessing Padlet.  Having the students write in advance really helps the process when they start using Padlet.


Padlet-Tool for Reflection

Part of the motivation for using Padlet with students in the library is to expose teachers so they can feel comfortable using it in the classroom.   Padlet is also very easy to use for both the creator as well as the students.



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Second Grade Assembling Structures-Skeletons

One of second grade’s standards is about assembling and disassembling structures, and reversible and irreversible changes.  All you need for this makerspace activity is a copy of the book, The Bones of Fred McFee by Eve Bunting and a bunch of popsicles sticks.

The Bones of Fred McFee and Skeletal System Non-Fiction Book

I started by reviewing a short non-fiction book about skeletons, noting the features of non-fiction, such as table of contents, labels, diagrams, glossary and index.

I then read The Bones of Fred McFee with the wonderfully rich illustrations by Kurt Cyrus.  Students love this book with its engaging rhyming text and slightly spooky storyline.


Assembling and Disassembling a Structure: The Challenge

Students were then challenged to assemble a skeleton with a pile of popsicle sticks.  I always hear, “I don’t know how to make a skeleton” or “How can we make a skull?”  I put out some encyclopedias or non-fiction books that contain diagrams of skeletons so they would have some idea of what a skeleton looks like.  They always have a good time and assemble very some creative skeletons (despite some occasional early whining).


Team works makes the dream work!

Lastly, the students were instructed to “disassemble” the structure.  Georgia Standards of Excellence-Physical Science  S2P1. b. Construct an explanation for how structures made from small pieces (linking cubes, building blocks) can be disassembled and then rearranged to make new and different structures.IMG_3685

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International Dot Day 2019

2019 International Dot Day is in the books at International Studies Elementary Charter School.  I started the week before reading Peter Reynolds’ book, The Dot, to all of my classes, explaining that they may have heard this book before, but that they are not exactly the same person as they were the last time.  The may have a different perspective as they have grown, physically, socially, intellectually and experientially.

As I did last year, every student (all 420+) colored in a dot, which was used to create a large mural in the central hall.  It turned out beautifully and the students and staff are loving it.  Several have said they wished it would stay up all year.  It does have a great textural quality to it, in addition to the amazing designs and color scheme.  It goes to show how much of an impact individual pieces have when pulled together.




Promoting Dot Day and IB Learner Profile Connection

On September 16th we celebrated Dot Day by encouraging faculty and students to wear dots.  We kicked off the day having students read a brief history of Dot Day and the global phenomenom it has become.  I made small posters with a couple of the IB Learner Profile attributes that are seen in the story (along with quotes from the book to make that connection visible).


Dots Everywhere!


At dismissal I recruited a couple of students to display a large poster and the IB Learner Profile posters so that parents could get a deeper appreciation of the themes and concepts of the book.  It was HOT but the students were troopers to stand out there!





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Harry the Dirty Dog and Kindergarten

I really like reading Gene Zion’s Harry the Dirty Dog to our kindergarten students.  They love the story.  I think they enjoy the fact that Harry has such a good time getting dirty.  I’ve never done any activity with the book  before but this year I want to provide more opportunities for the kindergarten classes to draw (and eventually write) and participate in hands-on activities.

Drawing Harry Getting Dirty

This year I asked them to draw a picture to show  what they think  Harry will do to get dirty.  This early in the school year, I mostly got drawings of Harry without much background or action.  That’s okay.  They had fun drawing Harry and talking about what they were drawing.



These drawings show the WIDE range of development in the classes.

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