Monday, December 17, 2018


Okay, here it is--the 2018 edition of 


Be sure and check out this video!

FIRST, did you know that spiders are the reason it's traditional to put tinsel on trees?

According to the legend, a long time ago in Germany a mother was cleaning the house for Christmas. All the spiders ran away to the attic to stay safe. But that night they came back downstairs. There, they discovered the Christmas tree all decorated with gleaming balls. 

The spiders were so excited, they scurried up and down the tree, checking out everything. Unfortunately, while doing that the spiders covered the beautiful tree with gray webs.

When Santa arrived with gifts, he saw how happy the spinning spiders were. But he knew how sad the children would be to see their web-covered tree. So he touched the tree and the gray webs changed into silver strands. Now the tree was  more beautiful than before.

That's how tinsel came to be...and why every Christmas tree should have a spider in its branches (at least an ornamental spider).

And, sometimes, spiders really do decorate trees for Christmas!

NOW, it's time for the discovery fun and smiles

inspired by my twelve book series: Arachnid World published by Lerner Publishing. 


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave me to a black widow in a fir tree.

As I watched, that black widow spider dangled upside down from a silk thread. Next, its exoskeleton (armor-like covering) split open along the back. Then the spider pushed and pulled and crawled out of its exoskeleton.

Give one big holiday cheer! 

That spider has a new bigger body for Christmas.

By the way, are you wondering: "What is an ARACHNID?"
It's an animal that always has an exoskeleton and usually has two main body parts: a cephalothoras (like a head/chest) and an abdomen. It also usually has 8 legs.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two striped bark scorpions.

As I watched, the smaller one--the male--grabbed the female's pedipalps (body parts near the mouth). They did a kind of dance, moving forward and backward. Then they went and around and around in circle. They did this over and over for hours.

Did you guess the wind scorpions are doing a mating dance? 
Drink a toast to the happy couple! There will be baby scorpions in the new year. 

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three wolf spiders.

As I watched, a round ball stuck to one spider's spinnerets (the part that gives out silk) split open. Hundreds of tiny spiders crawled out and onto the big spider.

She's a new mother for Christmas!

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four wind scorpions.

Almost at once, one of the wind scorpions ran straight up a nearly vertical rock. How did it keep from falling off? This arachnid has sticky tips on its pedipalps, those long parts you can see at the front of this arachnid.

WHAT A RELIEF!!! The wind scorpion is safe for Christmas!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five tarantulas.

One goliath bird-eater tarantula was holding a gecko. As I watched it sank in its fangs and brought up digestive juices.

Why in the world did it do that? This tarantula was preparing its meal by breaking it down first. Even big spiders, like tarantulas have very small mouths. Next, the spider will suck the juice in. 

This spider is having its Christmas dinner. 

Find some goodies to nibble and spit on them before you pop them in your  mouth. That way you can eat like a spider this season. But only try this when you're alone so you don't spoil anyone's Christmas cheer. SMILE!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six female cross spiders spinning.

Why were they spinning?  As I watched, a fly landed on one spider's web. That female ran to the fly and shots strands of silk over it.

Now, I understood! She was storing food.

So, in a way, she was wrapping up presents 
for herself. 

Doesn't that just put you in the holiday spirit?!

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven fishing spiders.

At just that moment, a bat flew past and all the fishing spiders dived down underwater. 

They stayed down for nearly thirty minutes. How were they able to stay underwater for so long? When a fishing spider dives a layer of air coats its body. The spider is able to draw oxygen from the air-filled coat into its book lungs. Those are thin, flat folds of tissue with slits that open through its armor-like exoskeleton.

And, while they were waiting to safely surface, I'm sure they were making their Christmas wish list.

One little fishy for dinner. 
Two little fishies for dinner.
Three little fishies for dinner.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight crab spiders lurking 
inside flowers.

Some goldenrod crab spiders were inside yellow flowers and they were yellow. But one moved to a white flower. Now how would it blend in and hide to catch insects for dinner?

Luckily, when the spider's eyes detect it's on white, its body sheds the yellow coloring matter with its waste. Then it looks white. 

It takes about a week for the spider to change color. But then it's beautifully white as snow for Christmas.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine bobbing  harvestmen.

Why were these spiders bobbing? To keep from being eaten by a bigger predator.

Harvestmen bob in a group when a predator, like a bird, is nearby. That way they look like a bigger animal--hopefully too big to eat.

Of course, I like to think they're bobbing in time to a Christmas carol they're humming.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten ticks-a-sucking blood 
from their host.

As I watched these female dog ticks over several days, their bodies swelled up until they were nearly six hundred times bigger.

How in the world can they swell so big? It's because the hard part covering their body is made up of layers. They spread, fanning apart, as the tick sucks in blood.

And once so big, the ticks were ready to jiggle just like Santa's big belly when he laughs, 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven jumping spiders jumping.

As I watched, one leapt from one leaf to another to catch an insect.

How could it possibly jump so far? To leap muscles inside the spider's body contract, instantly forcing blood into its four hind legs. This makes them suddenly stretch. And that launches the spider forward.  As it jumps, the spider continually produces silk. It attached that to the surface just before it leapt. So if the spider falls, it dangles instead of crashing.

What's the record for how far a jumping spider can leap? Some have been recorded leaping 40 times their own body length. 

Oh, those spiders could be perfect for pulling Spider Santa's sleigh!

BTW, How far can you jump? Can you jump farther than your body length (meaning your height)?

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a plant with twelve mites-a-multiplying.

On the first day, I didn't even notice the twelve, tiny two-spotted mites on one of my plant's leaves. After all, each was only 0.02 inch long. However, twelve days later, the plant was nearly covered with web strands dotted with tiny mites. 

Each of the twelve mites was a female and they laid about 10 eggs a day. Soon the young hatched, became adults, mated and the new females started laying eggs too. 

That was a Christmas gift that kept on giving and giving and giving!

One thing for sure, I'll definitely never forget that Christmas, when I received:

12 mites a-multiplying
11 jumping spiders jumping
10 ticks sucking
9 harvestmen bobbing
8 crab spiders lurking
7 fishing spiders fishing
6 orb weavers spinning
4 wind scorpions
3 wolf spiders
2 scorpions
And a black widow in a fir tree

As he drove out of sight, Spider Claus spun a silk web with a message of cheer...

 "Merry Christmas to all and may all the days ahead spin for you a very Happy New Year!"

Monday, November 19, 2018

WHAT IF YOUR HAD!? Share-A-thon


Thank you to all you creative people who are finding COOL ways to turn my WHAT IF YOU HAD!? books into fun learning activities. So here are links to help you share even more WHAT IF YOU HAD!? discovery-fun.

by Genia Connell (grades 3-5)

    I love to pepper my plan book with fun, highly engaging projects that make my students forget about that upcoming summer vacation for just a moment. Last year, when I passed Sandra Markle’s book, What If You Had Animal Hair!?at our school’s book fair, I knew I had to have it, and I knew exactly how I wanted to use it.
    Our class had been studying animal adaptations and this book was a perfect way for students to think about how certain animals’ adaptations could be “adapted” to their own lives. I immediately bought the book, then went back later that day and bought all the others in the series! What followed was a short, captivating project that combined science, technology, and writing that I can hardly wait to do again this year. This week I’m excited to share a step-by-step of my adaptation project.

What Do You Think!?

by First Grade Teacher in Georgia
I wanted to blog about the cutest activities we did this week. We have been working on opinion writing, which normally makes me want to bang my head against the wall and run away screaming, but these activities actually made it fun! Mind you, we still have lots of work to do, but it was a great way to really dive into it. 

We started the week with What If You Had Animal Teeth.  My firsties absolutely loved this one. They laughed so loud as we read it, we actually had to shut the door! Before I read it, I set the purpose by asking them to think about what teeth THEY would choose if they were going to wake up tomorrow with the mouth of an animal. Their choices and reasons were hilarious!

Then, we moved on to our actual opinion writing.  The kids had to state at least 3 reasons why they would choose those teeth.

 Our biggest problem right now is to get them to think past "because I like it".... "because they're cool"... and the like. I really want them to start thinking about the actual REASONS. 
Don't miss the link to the hair template FREEBIE available on this site!

And on you go for more opinions and fun...

by two friends: Amanda and Aylin. a First Grade Teacher and a Reading Specialist
Oh how I love children's books! I always get so very excited to use new read alouds with my little friends and with the Common Core emphasizing the need for more non fiction, it is so great when I find a really wonderful text. What if you had Animal Hair!? by Sandra Markle is exactly that. Her stories are so engaging and full of facts that students just love. The illustrations are outstanding and the comparison to a kid having the same kind of hair really gets my students thinking about what is different from their own hair. 

 While we read the story, we made a list on the board of some of the different animals and facts about those animals.

Common Core Alignment:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.2 With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.2 Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

Then each of my friends chose an animal to focus on and filled out this page about their animal. They drew a picture of themselves and added hair to match the animal. Then they wrote three facts about each animal. After everyone was finished, they shared their pictures and facts with the group.  Their illustrations were so cute and matched right up with the text! 

Don't miss the Freebie to download on this site!

by Words Alive

Use these before reading the story to help students activate background knowledge and make predictions:
  • What do you wonder about when you look at this cover?
  • Thumbs up if you think this book is fiction, down if you think it's non fiction,
    side ways if you don't know. Why do you think that?
  • Look at the dedication page and read the dedication. Ask: who knows what a
    dedication is? Help define. Why do you think authors put dedications in their books?
    Use these while reading the story to help students interpret the action and content.
    Emergent Literacy (Comprehension - connections to world/self - print referencing -
    open ended questions - phonological awareness).
  • p.6 why do you think flies have taste buds on their feet?
  • p.10. What are ridges? Can you think of anything else that has ridges?
  • p.12 What are snowshoes used for?
  • Why does the wolf need his paws to act like snowshoes? Why do you think so?
  • p. 16. Why do you think the owl needs to have such a strong grip?
  • p.18. What does predator mean? What does prey mean?

    Use these after reading the story to help students understand what they just read.
  • In the beginning of the book, you thought this book was fiction or non-fiction or you weren't sure. If you think it's fiction now, thumbs up, non-fiction, thumbs down, sideways if you're not sure.
  • Did you change your mind? Why do you think That?
  • What features in the book make it fiction/ non-fiction.
• p. 25. Why do you think all these animals have such different feet? (lead discussion to conclusion that their types of feet help them to survive and live in their environment). Changes in animals that allow them to survive in their environment are called adaptations.
• p.23. Turn and talk to your neighbor about what you would climb if you had goat feet (have students share back with the group)

Plus I have to add this fun extension activity.

Trace around your foot/shoe. Cut out the shape, can you find objects in the room that are smaller than your foot? Larger than your foot? The very same size? 

And still more ideas teachers are sharing to make reading WHAT IF YOU HAD!? FUN.

By Deedee Willis (Kindergarten-First Grade)


This book series is filled with text details.  It can be used almost like a reference book.   You can hop to any page you wish to read the information you are seeking.
What if you had animal parts lesson plans for kindergarten and first grade. We focused on learning about text details with these great books from Sandra Markle. Activites for What if you had animal hair?, What if you had animal feet?, What if you had animal teeth? and What if you had animal ears? Crafts and text detail anchor charts are also included.
Then we ask students to use the information from the text to answer a few questions.  This cause/effect structure is repeated throughout each book.
What if you had animal parts lesson plans for kindergarten and first grade. We focused on learning about text details with these great books from Sandra Markle. Activites for What if you had animal hair?, What if you had animal feet?, What if you had animal teeth? and What if you had animal ears? Crafts and text detail anchor charts are also included.
We also create anchor charts to support the student learning.  This anchor chart is obvious for the book, What If You Had Animal Teeth?
What if you had animal parts lesson plans for kindergarten and first grade. We focused on learning about text details with these great books from Sandra Markle. Activites for What if you had animal hair?, What if you had animal feet?, What if you had animal teeth? and What if you had animal ears? Crafts and text detail anchor charts are also included.


The What If You Had Animal Parts series of books really lends themselves to looking at the author’s purpose. So two of the book lesson plans really focus on author’s purpose.
What if you had animal parts lesson plans for kindergarten and first grade. We focused on learning about text details with these great books from Sandra Markle. Activites for What if you had animal hair?, What if you had animal feet?, What if you had animal teeth? and What if you had animal ears? Crafts and text detail anchor charts are also included.

I loved seeing my author's purpose studied. :-) But I'll tell you what my purpose really is with each of my books-- STEALTH LEARNING. My goal is to make reading my books so much fun learning just slips in--and sticks!
Now I've only shared a few of the on-line sites packed full of activities to go along with reading one of my WHAT IF YOU HAD!? books. Just Google search What If You Had book activities. You'll be on your way to lots and lots more.

I'll finish with this one because it always makes me smile. Build Your Wild Self.  Young readers can assemble their parts from every book...and then some. Just GO WILD!

Saturday, November 3, 2018



I love this season! Whether you live where autumn brings lots of changes or only a few, it's still a great time for seasonal fun. So let's jump in and get started.


There are thousands of kinds of apples. However, only the most popular are grown and harvested. Even that changes as new varieties emerge. Today, the top ten are most often listed as the following:
Pink Lady 
Golden Delicious
Cox's Orange Pippin
Red Delicious

Collect samples of any three then compare. 
Do the apples look different? 
Check color. 

Now wash and slice. Then taste one sample. Rate it from 1 to 4 on crispness with 1 being the softest and 4 being the crispest.
Also rate it on sweetness with 1 being the least sweet and 4 being the sweetest.

Have a swig of water. Next, repeat these two tests with the second apple. Then with the third. 

Now create an advertisement for your favorite kind of apple. Tell why that's the best kind to buy, eat, and enjoy. Share something that will make people who've never tasted that kind of apple really want to try it.

If you can, share your findings on sweet taste with at least five friends and build a bar graph to compare the kinds of apples. 

It's estimated that each person in the United States eats about 50 apples a year. So while your investigating, you'll be on your way to eating your fair share of this year's crop.

RIDDLE: What kind of fruit do ghosts like?


In pioneering times, apples were carved and allowed to shrink and dry to make heads for dolls. You can carve an apple head to create a spooky shrunken head. Just follow the easy steps.

1.  First, peel the apple. Leave some peel on top for "hair". 

2.  Plan what you want the face to look like.

3.  Pour 4 cups of water into a bowl and stir in a teaspoon of salt.  Place the carved apple in this for about two hours.
That soften's the apple's flesh. 

4.  Next, use an unsharpened pencil or a popsicle stick to push in eye sockets. Also carve the shape for a nose and mouth.

5.  Push raisins into the eye sockets for eyes. You may also want to poke unpopped popcorn kernels into the mouth for teeth.

6.  Set your complete apple head on a plate. Check daily to see how the face changes as the apple dries.

The dried apple head usually won't mold. That's why people used to preserve food, like apples, for winter by drying it.  The lower water content helps prevent bacteria and mold growth.

Now, create a doll body for your apple head. It could be made out of poster board. It could be made out of paint stirring stick and have cloth clothes. Or something else. Whatever you make, make a list of the steps to follow. That way, others can make an apple head doll just the way you did.

RIDDLE: What's a vampire's favorite fruit?


In ancient times, Celts and Romans thought apples were magical fruit. So a popular tradition in Great Britain was apple-snapping. In those long ago times, a rope was tied to the center of a stick that was hung from the ceiling. Next, an apple was stuck on one end of the stick. A candle was attached to the other end. Once the candle was lit the stick was started twirling. Contestants then tried to snatch the apple without getting burned. This was a very dangerous game. Later, it was turned into bobbing for apples.

To bob for apples, fill a large plastic storage tub or child's plastic wading pool nearly full of water. Wash the apples--one for each contestant. Set these afloat. To play each person, in turn, bends over the tub with their hands behind their back. Have someone time each person working to snatch an apple in their teeth. The fastest snatcher wins. Only each person wins a tasty apple snack. 

Write a short story about a bobbing-for-apples contest.

RIDDLE: What kind of horses do ghosts ride?


You're not done yet.

Twist and Shout--Find an apple with a stem. Twist it around and around saying a letter of the alphabet with each complete turn. How many letter can you say before the stem separates?

Cut and Print--Apples make great print blocks. Cut a nice firm apple in half. Use a sturdy plastic knife or popsicle stick to cut away parts of flesh. Pour tempera or finger paint on a sturdy paper plate. Touch the cut apple to this to coat. Then press firmly on paper. Repeat to "stamp" your design all over the paper. If you want more than one color, wash off the apple and pat dry with a paper towel. Then keep on stamping with a new color of paint.

Johnny Did It--Look up Johnny Appleseed on-line. Then make up a short play about his real life (at least what people think may be real). Or let children work together to make up a short play about something that Johnny Appleseed could have done--maybe even in your home town. Then invite visitors to see them act out this play.

Sunday, September 30, 2018


October is International DINOSAUR Month!

How cool that my next new Scholastic WHAT IF YOU HAD!? book is about DINOSAURS!

And, while you're waiting to have fun with this book, here's a peek at one of the book's featured dinosaurs........ STEGOSAURUS!

This focuses on the Stegosaurus' tail. But scientists have discovered things about other parts of this dino's body. Check in books and on-line to find out something else interesting to share about it. Write 3 to 4 sentences to tell what's WILD about that Stegosaurus body part.

Now look at the imagination page for having a Stegosaurus tail.


But imagine one other way you could have a blast if you had a Stegosaurus tail?

Now, imagine you had that other Stegosaurus body part you wrote about. What could you do if you had that dino's other special feature?!

Here are some more ways to enjoy dinosaurs this month.

Breaking News: Dinosaur Egg Discovered

Check out this picture of the latest discovery of real fossil (remains in rock form) dinosaur eggs. 

NOW, IMAGINE dinosaur eggs were discovered in your backyard. 

What would you do?
Who would you tell first?
What if one of those eggs was so well preserved it hatched!? What kind of dinosaur would you want it to be? 

Could that baby dinosaur become your family's pet? What do you think might happen if it was your pet dinosaur?

Have Dino Dreams

Dinosaurs are perfect for all sorts of creative thinking. Look at this picture and.....

Imagine living in that city. 
Write an adventure you have living on a dinosaur.

And NEVER FEAR--there will be lots more DINOSAUR FUN in  WHAT IF YOU HAD T. rex Teeth and Other Dinosaur Parts!? 
...Coming this DECEMBER, 2019


February brings us Valentine's Day but so much more! It's a month for discovering, exploring, inventing...playing! And a monthful ...