Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Great Read Alouds and Engaging Students in the School Library

Literacy Day at Mackenzie Elementary School

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mary Locke, Teacher Librarian Mentor for the VSB and Teacher Librarian at Gordon, and I are hosting a workshop this Tuesday afternoon. Below you will find all of the documents we distributed at the workshop.

Great Read Alouds Slide Show

Piazza Reading List

jens book list 2016

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod

Story Summary Gordon

Story Pyramid

Jeffers booklet Yamashita

Elements of a Story Tornroos

Dan Bar-El Author Shepherd

Character Pawagi (1)

Character Map

Can Have Are (1)

Book Review DS 2

Venn Diagram

Read Full Post »

One of the best parts of my week is co-teaching Writer’s Workshop with Caroline Lay, the Literacy Teacher at Strathcona. I’ve been so lucky to work with Ms. Lay and the kids from Mr. Sherrett’s class. We’ve been working on character development as one way to begin writing. Here’s some of our work so far:




fred monster



Read Full Post »

A hilarious read aloud about Michael, a boy who collects words. One day, he collects a very inappropriate word which creates quite a stir at school. Great for learning vocabulary and talking about triple-scoop words.

Read Full Post »

pop up library house

Inspired by this pop up library, my colleague Mr. Janicas and I cooked up a little pop up library plan of our own…

My first exposure to free little libraries, was on the popular bike route of east 10th avenue, where I had stopped one day to admire the offerings and thank you notes and was randomly interviewed by Andrea Woo of the Globe and Mail. Such guerilla community building greatly appeals to me. Low cost, low maintenance, no bylaws and regulations to hinder the spontaneity, the creativity, the sharing, and the increased interest of reading and the improving access to text. Alternative library spaces. Community engagement.

While the construction or purchase of such lovely little book holding structures was much beyond Mr. Janicas and I, we decided to offer books to his grade4/5 class in paper shopping bags, strewn throughout Maclean Park, with hints about the contents of each bag on the outside. Each student would select a bag, spend the afternoon reading the books within, and then take the lot home with them. Alas, the weather did not cooperate in the last week of school, which resulted in a pop up library within the library. While not ideal, and certainly a tad confusing to some of the more questioning students, the kids enjoyed romping around the library, reading the clues, comparing the bags. I just love how the kids sorted the books and wrote clues for each group.


Strathcona’s first pop up library was a great success! The kids enthusiastically read and traded, shared and borrowed. What’s next for pop up libraries around here? I’m now thinking mini books. Have you been to the Regional Assembly of Text on Main Street? They have a lovely little reading room tucked in a closet that contains a library of mini books and zines. Ah, mini books. There’s just something so satisfying about them. I made a pile with some lovely neon paper. They were highly appealing to the children, especially the tiniest of them all – those the size of staple.


Here are a few mini books I left on East 10th the other week (not authored by me):


Read Full Post »

Each two page spread is beautifully illustrated, inspiring us to overcome challenges and to follow our dreams to make our world a better place, with a reference to a great role model.

The book ends with one phrase:

What’s your next step going to be?

Perfect for discussion, goal setting, writing activity…

Read Full Post »


Mo Willems is one of my favourite picture book authors/illustrators, but not for those deep, heart wrenching stories that transform your life or way of seeing the world. Mo Willems writes hilarious stories for read aloud, ones that fly off the library shelves, ones that kids ask me for every single day. Mo Willems wrote Knuffle Bunny (one, two and free), and the Pigeon books. Both series are have kids laughing, participating, and reading in their free time.

Elephant and Piggie are a very funny, cute pair in a reader format, entirely written in speech bubbles, inviting participation (shouting, even). There are many Elephant and Piggie titles, which are also translated into French (Emile et Lili).

Highly recommended for read alouds for younger students, choral reading, dialogue/play writing.

Read Full Post »

Start with a book

A walk Through the Rainforest: free verse

While every learning experiences do not have to start with a book, many of mine do. Even when we are heading outside to do something hands on or physically challenging, I will often begin with a book. We may not have a tropical rainforest outside our school library doors to go exploring in, but we can read a great book, close our eyes and visualize (and smell, hear, taste, and feel). Books can transport us through time, across lands, and even into fantastical worlds we may never actually experience first hand. But no matter, our imaginations, if tapped into and cultivated and valued, can be vast and wonderfully entertaining.

One of the most interesting, challenging and fun aspects of being a teacher librarian is collaborative planning and teaching.  It is such a privilege to be able to work with so many amazing teachers and their classes.

When one of the grade 2 teachers asked me to do poetry with her class, I jumped at the chance. And after she mentioned their upcoming rainforest unit, I knew we had to tie the two together. Since the children had not yet begun their exploration of the rainforest, we had to do some front loading. After all, the tropical rainforest isn’t a common thing kids from the inner city have personal experience with.

Where to start? The shelves of course! I hit the shelves looking for a beautifully illustrated information book with a strong narrative. It could not be too long and yet needed to describe a tropical rainforest with enough detail that they could visualize being there.



Lessons 1 & 2

“Let’s visualize being in the rainforest,” I told the children gathered at the carpet. “Close your eyes. Imagine yourself walking through the rainforest as I read. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Feel? Taste?”

After reading and thinking aloud, we looked at the Rainforest Walk template I had prepared and filled one out together as a class. Encouraging descriptive and interesting words, we wrote a class poem. the students then filled out their own Rainforest Walk sheets, wrote poems, and decorated them with gorgeous illustrations.

Here is the Rainforest Walk 2 – version 2. I modified it after learning what was confusing and what was effective.

Lesson 3

Rainforest Haiku

Continuing our Rainforest theme, Ms. L suggested teaching the children to write Haikus. But haikus, delightful little poems, require an understanding of syllables. Do grade twos know this? I had no idea! Hoping for the best, I asked them what a syllable was. They knew! Then I asked who had a one syllable name. Some hands went up and we clapped their names. I asked who has a two syllable name and we clapped those too. Then we asked for three or more syllable names and luckily we had a few.

Feeling confident that they understood syllables, I moved onto the poems I had written on the chart. We read and clapped them, counting the syllables, looking at the descriptive words. Then we had a look at the Rainforest Haiku template: brainstorming at the top, writing the draft at the bottom. For our example we wrote  about the Giant Anteater. Fascinating fellow. Did you know he has tiny spikes on his tongue that point upwards? Then the students wrote their poems on plain paper and illustrated them. In retrospect, I didn’t have enough information for the students to work with. They had to share books which was a little frustrating. Next time I would make this into two lessons, this one being the second and the first one reading about our animal. Still, the poems were wonderful!

Student Haikus

Sharp and little teeth
They are skinny and slither
They have little eyes
Hummingbirds are bright
Her eggs are the size of peas
Love to eat nectar
Drinking lots of blood
It looks like a dragonfly
Coming out at night
They are very strong
Sleeping, walking on the ground
Peaceful and gentle

Read Full Post »