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Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Hooray!  Summer is just around the corner. It's the perfect time for reading to launch kids into action investigating, exploring, and having FUN!!!!

So, one by one, I'm going to share summertime activities inspired by my three 2013 Junior Library Guild books: THE LONG, LONG JOURNEY (Millbrook/Lerner, 2013), SNOW SCHOOL (Charlesbridge, 2013), BATS: BIGGEST! LITTLEST! (Boyds Mills, 2013). And be sure you sign up to be a Google Friend of my blog. That way at the end of June you'll be in to win an autographed copy of THE LONG, LONG JOURNEY.

And it's the book being featured this time.  Share reading it with children, indoors or outside. In an eggshell, this is what it's about.

Crackle! Crackle! Crunch! What's hatching from that egg? It's a young bar-tailed godwit. She will spend the summer in Alaska learning to fly, find her own food, and escape from scary predators. Her long, long journey begins in October when she flies to New Zealand. This 7,000-mile flight is the longest nonstop bird migration ever recorded. Follow along on her amazing voyage!

And after reading the story, take a few minutes to dig a little deeper into this nonfiction book. There are three main kinds of nonfiction books: surveys that share an overview of something like different kind of frogs; concept books that focus on ideas and strands of information, such as life cycles; and specialized books that dig deep into a topic such as solving a problem or a person's research. THE LONG, LONG JOURNEY is a concept book. And it's told in a narration or story-telling style.

Like all of my nonfiction books, THE LONG, LONG JOURNEY also includes special features in the back of the book.  In this book, those features are: 

  • Extra facts: Godwits Are Amazing!
  • Sources of more information: Find Out More
  • And a personal note from me about what inspired me to write this story and what special things I found out while researching the book: Author's Note

One more thing to check out is found in the front of the book, right before the title page. It's the Acknowledgment. That shares information about the experts or scientists who shared information about their research--information that was key to my writing the book. Those people also always read the book first to double-check that all of the facts shared are absolutely correct.

Okay, enough digging deeper. It's time for kids to have fun.  So help them explore your local birds with these fun activities. 

Go Bird Watching

Go for a walk. Or sit quietly outdoors, look and listen.  If you have binoculars, take those along too. A book showing pictures of local birds is great to have handy. So is a notebook and pencil for taking notes and sketching.

  • What are your local birds doing?
  • In what ways are the birds you see different?  
  • Do you see a lot of one kind?  Only a few of another? List the names of any you know or can identify.
  • What activity do you see birds doing most often.
  • Pick a favorite. Sketch it. 
  • Pretend you can understand birds. Write what you think two birds are saying to each other.
  • Think of someone you want to tell about your birdwatching adventure. Plan what you'll say. Then find that person and share.

Check out Mama's Homestead and Bird for more bird watching fun. 

Male Red-winged blackbirds puff and sing to make females notice them.

Listen To The Birds

Outdoors, listen to all the different bird voices. Try mimicking them and listen for them to call back to you.  Once you're back indoors, visit Audubon's website to play the "Guess Who's Squawkin'!" game. It's a great way to discover the sounds some familiar North American birds make.

Try Eating Like A Bird

Then visit this PBS website to have fun, "Eating Like A Bird." You'll explore what it's like to have different kinds of bird beaks when it's time to eat.

Do you know a fun activity for exploring birds? Post it here for everyone to share. Or share a link to your favorite bird website.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Teachers For Teachers

This photo is from the Clutter Free Classroom blog. Who reports: "It is currently the most popular book in our class library." SMILE!!!
I appreciate the creative effort and time teachers spend outside the classroom preparing to make learning meaningful and memorable.  So I want to thank all of you for that work.

I especially want to thank those of you who are developing activities based on my books.  I value the ways you're finding to make my books special discovery experiences for children.

So I want to share a few of the blogs I know are sharing one of my books--WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH? (Scholastic, 2013).  I hope those of you who are also sharing this book or know of blogs with activities based WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH? will Comment. I'd love the sites I'm sharing here to grow, and grow, and grow. SMILE!

Definitely check out Science For Kids: Adventures of An Elementary School Science Teacher by Sue Cahalane.

Sue has created activities based on my book WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH?  She shares patterns for four kinds of teeth (narwhale, elephant, camel, tiger) kids can use while imaging themselves with different kinds of animal teeth.  She also shares worksheets for an animal classification activity based on this book.

At Oceans of First Grade Fun by Yolanda Arnold. You'll find patterns for the other kinds of animal teeth in this book. Like her students, your children can try their hand at a little opinion writing answering these questions:
  • If you could have teeth like any one of the animals in this book, which would you choose?
  • Why would you like to have that kind of animal teeth?

Of course, like the book, also challenge children to think about what's great about having human teeth.

At First Grade W.O.W. (Windows On Wonder) Nancy Vandenberge shared her entire class with their animal teeth.  These kids also examined some cool REAL teeth Nancy brought in to share.

"I love collecting fun things for our science center.  I have a bull skull which includes many of his teeth, a small deer jawbone, and a good friend just gave me an elk skull with teeth.  We had an amazing time examining each one. " Nancy Vandenberge

And what a great chance for children to think about how each animal's teeth are just right for what that animal eats.

Definitely don't miss Homeschool Share. Scroll down to Science Activity 7 and Animal Teeth
You can download a  worksheet with wonderful photos your children can use to match animal teeth to just the right animal.
Or go to Science Kids: Fun Science & Technology For Kids.  There your students can play an interactive game. They're challenged to drag teeth to the right animal, including a human, and click on EAT.  Making a mistake is as much fun (and interesting) as getting it right.

And you'll find more fun at Teach Mentor Texts.  There, Jen gives the book five hearts and suggests this activity.

"Writing Prompts: Imagine that you did have animal teeth - as if they were a super power. What could you do with animal teeth that would help you in your daily life? Write a story where you show how you would put your animal teeth to use. Choose two animals from the book to compare and contrast. How do they use their teeth in similar or different ways?"

Also check out one more activity called One Big Bite. It has lots of action-packed, mind-building fun for your students to chew on. And if you have a special way you're sharing WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH? with kids please click on Comment and share. That'll let us all share the SMILES!!

And while you're sharing how you're building activities around WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH? here are some more teacher created activities you won't want to miss.

Lesson Plan Resource File--Animal Teeth--Estimating Length

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Have you discovered the new game MELT DOWN! 

If not, check it out here.

In this game developed by the German science magazine for children GEOlino, kids first create their own ice floes. The game board is a blue sponge with a mold they fill with water and freeze. Once frozen, the mold is removed and they're left with chunks of ice (ice floes) floating on a sponge sea. The sponge board soaks up the melting ice water as kids roll the dice and race to save the polar bears before all of the ice melts.

It's a fun challenge with a chilling lesson.

And before kids play, share my book WAITING FOR ICE (Charlesbridge, 2012) based on the true story of polar bears, especially one orphaned cub, effected by global warming.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I'm delighted to share that the winner of the autographed copy of my BIGGEST! LITTLEST! Series poster is Kristi Feasel, teacher at Danville North Elementary School in Danville, IN. 


Sunday, May 12, 2013


I just had to share this wonderful photo. It's teacher Nancy VandenBerge's first grade class at Dr. E.T. Boon Elementary School in Allen, TX. She was the winner of a recent contest I ran on my blog. Her prize was an autographed copy of WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH? (plus some bookmarks). And, her thank you note said her students love the book. I love their creativity--and hers--in sharing what kind of teeth they imagine choosing.

WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH  seems to be attracting an enthusiastic following!