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Saturday, January 24, 2015


I love when teachers post activities or share other ways they're making the most of my books in their classrooms. So I'm delighted to share teacher-developed activities built around one of my newest books, WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!?  Plus I'll add my ways to build on these.

Learning to the Core shares a free download where kids are challenged to first choose one of the animals from the book. Next, children are asked to draw a picture of themselves with that animal's hair. Then students research to find out and share more facts about the animal they picked.

FROM ME: I loved when children made masks for WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!? to share themselves with their favorite animal's teeth. How about having kids make masks or even costumes to imagine having their favorite animal's hair. It could even be fun to have a party kids attend as their hairy animals. Encourage each to tell one way their hair helps them survive--even thrive--as that animal.

Nancy Vandenberge's First Grade Windows On Wonder shares encouraging students to imagine how having hair like one of the animals in WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? would help them.

FROM ME: I'd love children to imagine their entire family having hair like their favorite animal from WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!?

  • How would family grooming change?
  • How might this effect how the family is viewed by the neighbors?
  • How might having this hair even change what activities the family does together? offers an idea for WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL TEETH!? for third-graders that will work just as well for WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? It's which animal's hair would you least like to have? And why?  

First Grade Fairytales points out--It's a great way to get kids writing their opinions. Just push them to give more than one reason to really get them thinking. 

FROM ME: Third-graders could imagine giving the animal whose hair they'd least like to have a makeover. What would they do to improve that animal's hair color? Length? Special features?

How could a makeover change a three-toed sloth?

Then challenge kids to imagine how such a makeover is likely to change how that animal lives, including how it stays safe, what it eats, and how it hangs out with others of its own kind.

Could a tiger do as well with any other color or kind of hair?

Have your class decide to add on to WHAT IF YOU HAD ANIMAL HAIR!? Then work as a class or in small groups to choose at least three more animals to include in the book. Use the book's format to first tell something key about that animal's hair and how it helps the animal. Next, have each child brainstorm how having that kind of animal hair might be helpful. Or just plain fun!

Imagine animals in the book being able to trade hair with another animal. Then think about how that would change that animal. And how it would change how they live.  For example, what if a star-nosed mole had porcupine hair?  Or a polar bear had zebra hair?

Or what if a polar bear had reindeer hair?

Now, start brainstorming activities for what's coming soon--


Thursday, January 8, 2015


Today is very special for me.  

My book PENGUINS: GROWING UP WILD was out of print. Today, thanks to Kindle Direct Publishing, it's back as an E-book and, IMHO, better than ever. 

My goal is always to make my books as interactive as possible. In fact, if I had my way every child that opens one of my books would feel like they're right there with me. I'm reading it to them and doing what I always do when I share my books with children.

I share little behind the book stories about things I discovered while I was researching and writing the book--things that influenced my storytelling but maybe didn't make it into the book.

I also like to point out things for kids to notice in photos. Or take time out for a little creative thinking, wondering, even a word game or a photo scavenger hunt.

The popup on this page shares:
Check out all that white stuff on the ground around the penguin nest. That's guano (GWAH-no)--penguin poo.

It's everywhere. I was glad it was cold in Antarctica so the guano stayed frozen. Imagine how stinky it would be if the weather warmed up!

Now, I've been able to do that by adding popups on every page of PENGUINS.  The reason I chose this book as the first book to share this way is that it was born in the first place following my two summers in Antarctica with the National Science Foundation's Artists and Writers Program. 

Each time I camped out with 60,000+ Adelie penguins while they hatched and raised their chicks. 

It was the experience of a lifetime to be in one of the last great frontiers on earth. And to spend time alone with wildlife that wasn't afraid of me--probably had no idea what I was other than one weird-looking bird. So I could, quietly, sit for hours among them as close as I'd sit to someone on a school bus seat. 
Then watch. 
Be amazed.

The popup on this page asks:
What are 3 ways this penguin chick is like an adult Adelie?
What are 3 ways it's different?

The pages of PENGUINS let me share what I discovered and fine-tuned working with penguin researchers. Now, the KDP E-book version with popups lets me share my personal experiences.

Because I taught school for many years, wrote the HANDS-ON, MINDS-ON column for Instructor Magazine for many more and continue to visit classrooms across the U.S. today, I can't help also adding activities for children. I want young readers to compare and contrast, look for POV, dig deeper into the content. But most of all I want what kids learn to just happen while they are having FUN and enjoying this book.

I hope lots and lots of young readers are able to invite me to join them in reading PENGUINS. I promise every time they double tap a page I'll POPUP  a special bit of info or something fun to think about and do.