Sunday, November 17, 2013

Never Smile at a Monkey

Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins 
Published in 2009  Lexile 920

I had a hard time choosing a nonfiction book by Steve Jenkins.  He's written over 30 children's books with colorful artwork and interesting facts about animals and their habits. He was born in North Carolina but now resides in Colorado.  Steve has won many awards for his books including the  Caldecott Award for the book "What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?"

There are differing opinions about the target audience for this book.   Some reviewers felt that this book was not suitable for younger children because it talks about death or being killed.  In my opinion, that's a good discussion point to have with children. The students in my 3rd through 5th grade classes were very engaged and animated in it as a read aloud.  The format is different telling the reader what they should never do and what may happen if they do, for instance,  to "never pet a platypus" and warning that if they do they may be stung by the animal's hind legs.  

Reasons to read Never Smile at a Monkey:

  • Interesting animal facts
  • Fantastic illustrations
  • Good jumping off point for doing research or nonfiction writing
  • Teaches a respect for animals

Here's the link to the author's blog which tells how he gets his ideas for his books and a short video showing how his collaborator and wife develops the illustrations made from cut paper.  Steve Jenkins

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day

I wanted to take some time today to think about Veterans Day.  It's very fitting to me, that Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day fall in the same month.  I am so grateful for those men and women that have fought for this country.  Thank you for all that you've done for this country and all of us.

I'm not going to forget to share our history and the gratitude I feel for our veterans with the young people in my life.  Here are a few things that I thought were important to share.

I've been researching mentor texts to share with my class this Veterans Day and came across this one.
If you're looking for something to read to your classroom or your children, this is a serious, touching and beautifully told story about the Vietnam Memorial written by Eve Bunting.  It's called "The Wall" and tells the story of a young boy that visits the wall with his father.  They're looking for his grandfather's name on the shiny black memorial.  The illustrations are done by Ronald Himler.  It was published in 2002 and I can't believe I haven't read it before!

Ideas for Lesson Plans for "The Wall"
Teacher Tube Video

Here are some lesson plans and videos to accompany the reading of this text.    
I also found and wanted to share this FREE offering from an informative, creative and well-organized website called the Clutter-Free Classroom.

I also want to thank those men and women with learning differences that have fought for and protected this land. They have done and accomplished much in spite of .... or maybe because of their unique learning differences

Some of our more prominent American military leaders had attention deficit disorder and/or learning disabilities, yet persevered to accomplish great things. General Westmoreland served as the U.S. Superintendent of West Point, the commander of the U.S. military advisors in South Vietnam, and the Army’s Chief of Staff. President John F. Kennedy served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, a U.S. Congressman, a U.S. Senator, and the 35th President of the United States.  (quote taken from
Enjoy, Remember and be Grateful!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nonfiction Connections and Boys

In my journey as a special education instructor, I've noticed that more and more young boys are being identified as having a learning disability.  I can't help but wonder why?  Why are our boys becoming an at risk population?  My hope is that the reintroduction and emphasis on nonfiction text will reengage those boys in reading.

Nonfiction texts are engaging, educational and fun.  Take notice of the men and boys in your life.  What type of reading are they interested in? In my observations, I think that boys and men are more engaged in nonfiction reading materials.

 Literacy standards of the new common core curriculum understands that reading nonfiction materials is important for our students.  The reasoning behind adding more nonfiction reading to the curriculum is that in our student's the workplace, in college and our daily living setting, most of the reading we do is nonfiction or expository reading.  Nonfiction reading is important and there are many excellent books out there.

One example is this  wonderful children's biography of Jaques Cousteau.  This book was written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  (April, 2008) I love to go snorkeling and the illustrations made me feel like I was actually under water.  So fun!  I grew up watching Jaques Cousteau's adventures on television.  Now, that may tell you a little bit about how old I am... Shhhh!
I enjoyed this book and the illustrations.  I learned a lot about the man and his dream.  This book is recommended for children in grades 1-3.  I loved this book that mixes the biography of a man with
science and the sea.  So many of the young people I know want to grow up to be marine biologists and are intrigued with the ocean and the animals that live there.  Therefore, I have put this book in  my repertoire of nonfiction text.  Enjoy!