Classroom Solutions > 142 posts categorized "Reading"

October Read-Alouds: Literacy Fun With Pumpkins, Leaves, and Bats

Pumpkin patch Depending on where you live, you may have recently noticed a chill in the air, and the leaves may be turning from green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. While many of your students may be focusing on how much candy they will receive trick-or-treating at the end of month, here are three of my favorite read-aloud books with accompanying activities that won’t require a trip to the dentist.

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Helping Students Develop a Lifelong Love of Reading

 

Love 2 read We all know that reading is one of the most important skills you can teach a child. It lays the foundation for a child’s success in school and in everyday life. For this reason, one of the most precious gifts we can give our students is a book. Books stir the senses, inspire imagination, and spark a love of reading that will last a lifetime. But how can a book compete in this new age of instant entertainment — with such things as television and video games? Read on as I share ideas to help your students develop a lifelong love of reading despite these distractions.

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Art and Poetry Through the Year: Notebooks and Keepsakes for Your Students

How Do You Do

Students in 1st grade need to have many experiences in language arts to become independent readers and writers. Shared reading is a great way for students to “play” with language to become fluent readers. Fluency is further developed when children have ample opportunities to read text that is familiar and easy for them. In my class, we love to use poetry to build our fluency. Read on to find out more about our poetry notebooks and our yearlong poetry keepsake project.

 

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Take-Home Reading

Child readingTake-Home Reading is a special program for 1st grade that helps each and every child become a better reader. Learning to read takes a lot of practice, and I expect my students to read at home. In just twenty minutes per day, parents and family members help their 1st graders by listening to them read.

Read on to learn more about Take-Home Reading programs and to find out how to set one up in your classroom. 

 

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Proposing the Use of E-readers in the Classroom

KindlepostThe idea of using e-readers in my classroom came to me several years ago. As textbooks become more expensive and school budgets continue to shrink, e-readers and e-books have become a popular option for schools. After researching e-readers and programs at other schools, I decided to put a proposal together for my school. 

Before launching a schoolwide program, I proposed that my school board pilot e-readers in my English classroom. As I prepared my proposal, I realized that my proposal revolved around three key questions: 1) Which e-reader best fits my school's needs? 2) How will e-readers be used? 3) How will e-readers benefit students in my classroom? These questions, along with a discussion of the benefits of e-readers, possible outcomes of the program, and the replacement cost of current materials, were all included in my proposal to use e-readers in the classroom.

 

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Organizing the Classroom Library

BookshelfDo you love children’s literature? I do, and I share this love of books with my students. I display books throughout the entire classroom. Star author books line the chalkboard ledge, weekly read-aloud books are displayed around the easel, and favorite titles and themes are arranged in baskets on the bookshelves. I strive to create a classroom library that is both organized and enticing for my young readers. This week, I will provide a look at the features of our classroom library.

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Organizing my Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story

Library OverviewAs I set up my classroom this year, I was so proud of myself. I had carefully organized when I packed up my room in June, so my room looked “livable” in just a few hours this fall. “Wow, this is smooth sailing,” I thought smugly. Then I approached my classroom library, and I didn’t emerge until 8:30 p.m.! 

The hours disappeared as I labeled book baskets, leveled new books, culled through my collection, and planned new library routines. This was certainly time well spent, but I have to tell you, sometimes my “librarian hat” feels heavier than my “teacher hat.” That said, I feel that much of my success as a reading teacher can be attributed to my classroom library. Join me on a photo tour of my classroom library, as I reflect on my organization systems and what works for me.


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Poetic Beginnings: Four Poetry Lessons to Get to Know Your Students

Amys PoemMany curriculum guides would have us believe that poetry and April are conjoined twins, never to be parted, but we teachers know better. Poetry is powerful stuff, and cramming it into a single month is unfair to our students and to poetry! In my class, we read, write, and publish poetry throughout the year, and I frontload the first two months of school with even more poetry. We gain deep insights about each other while sharing our poetry, we luxuriate in words, and we celebrate creative risks –- important back-to-school practices. Here are four of my back-to-school poetry lessons that I use to get to really know my students.

 

Amy shares one of her published poems.

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Read-Alouds to Launch Reader’s Workshop

Reading_on_Rug During the first few weeks of reader’s workshop, the focus is necessarily on introducing routines, building stamina, and exploring the classroom library. At the same time, I need to immerse my students in the culture of reading by getting lost in good books together. There isn’t a moment to waste in initiating my students into our reading cult! How do I accomplish both goals at the same time? I use picture books that celebrate reading as a springboard into our discussions about reader’s workshop routines and expectations. Read on for my favorite picture books about reading and how I use them to launch our reader’s workshop.


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Back-to-School Read Alouds: Favorite Books and First Week Activities

DSC00282Reading aloud to children is one of my favorite activities of the day and it is a critical part of literacy instruction. In my classroom, I integrate children’s literature across the curriculum and read to the children throughout the day. The read-aloud books I choose for the first week of school help set the tone for the year and help begin to build our classroom community. These books feature characters about the same age as my students and allow us to discuss prior knowledge, build thinking skills, and make connections. Here are some of my favorite books and activities that engage my enthusiastic young readers.

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What’s in a Name? A Back-to-School Literacy Unit

NametagDuring the first few weeks of school, I always find it challenging to come up with a meaningful unit of study so that my students can feel as though they are accomplishing something beyond learning a bunch of routines. There’s the obvious imperative to build our classroom community. On top of that, the empty bulletin boards in the classroom are glaring at us, demanding student work so our classroom can begin to look “lived in.”

Last year, I had wonderful results using a name unit as our first shared literacy experience. Read on to find out what my students did. (This post includes a list of read-alouds and graphic organizers to support the unit.)

 

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Promoting Summer Reading

MBlow053111_iStock_000015552020GirlReadingBeachAvoid the summer slide and encourage your students to read this summer. Summer reading is a time to read for fun. Students who read self-selected books are more apt to finish reading the books. So this year, instead of providing my incoming students with a summer reading list composed by teachers, I decided to go to the experts on motivating middle schoolers to read, my 6th grade students. Read on to view their list of books that are sure to hook even the most reluctant readers.  

Photo: iStockphoto © kotengens.

 

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Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 4

Kindergarten Weather Station CenterWhen we study weather in science, our dramatic play center becomes a weather station. With self-made instruments, hands-on experiments, and — as always — plenty of literacy, the weather station inspires the children with a sense of wonder and awe for the natural world.

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Summer Reading Books High School Girls Will Love

IMGA0002Ah, summertime! The beach, the sea, the pool. Long days and hot nights. The perfect time for summer reading. James S. Kim and Thomas G. White (2011) note that one of the reasons that low-income students lose ground to middle-income kids in reading is due, in large part, to different rates of learning during the summer months. Even small differences in summer learning accumulate over the years, resulting in an achievement gap that continues to grow from elementary to high school (p. 64). Kim and White also discovered, however, that it is not enough to just provide books for kids for summer reading. The key is to provide books that are individually matched to the students' interests and reading levels (p. 67).

The books on the list below have already been proven to appeal to teens. Although both genders could certainly enjoy them, these five books are tried and true favorites that will please a decidedly female audience. Books that match a teen's interest can help motivate students to read and help teens continue to improve their reading skills.

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Greek Mythology and Readers Theater

Greek Vasicek Zeus Cake Covering Greek mythology can be very confusing. For one thing, the family tree for the Greek gods makes the family situations on Jerry Springer and The Maury Show look normal and tame. Mythology is not my strong suit, and the end of the year is not necessarily the time to cover topics that you are not completely confident with. So when I stumbled across a Greek mythology readers theater book, I was ecstatic. Read on to find out how to incorporate this activity into your classroom.

Photo: One student made a cake for the "God and Goddess Bake Off" play. This was a great way to celebrate the day!

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Common Core State Standards

MBlow0510_iStock000012975998_tortoisehareThroughout my career, I have done extensive research on world folklore. Aesop, the father of fables, has blessed us with an infamous fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” cautioning against hurrying to reach a goal and suggesting that the slow and steady will win the race. I cling to the wisdom of this fable as we begin our journey toward educational reform. 

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.

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Summer Reading Books High School Boys Will Love

DSC01549Research has shown that summer reading increases literacy and improves academic performance. By reading all summer long, students build their vocabulary and stave off the brain-drain that often occurs during summer months. Although most high schools provide summer reading lists for their students, some kids devour all the books the first week school is out (yes! it happens!) and start looking for more to read. Other kids are just searching for some great reading material. And while most reading is gender inclusive, there are certain books that boys find especially compelling.

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Resources for the Differentiated Classroom

Mult-Sensory Teaching In a previous post, I wrote about how you can differentiate your kindergarten classroom. Here you can read up on some of my favorite resources for multisensory teaching.

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Differentiate Your Kindergarten Classroom

Differentiating in KindergartenIt's a fact: every child is unique, and as teachers we know that more than anyone else. So why do we often find ourselves trying to teach every child the same way?

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Stretch Your Dime and Save Your Time

Miss Bindergarten Saves Money and Time Teachers need all the help they can get, financially and otherwise. Use these tips, shortcuts, and dollar store ideas to save your budget and your sanity.

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Simple and Impressive Planet Art

Vasicek Final PlanetMy art skills were arrested at about the 4th grade level: My students can attest to that! So, when I was able to produce a pretty impressive planet scene in under 15 minutes, I was very proud of myself. When I told my students that I used spray paint to do it, they were impressed as well.

 

 

 

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The Art of Literary Criticism

DSC01459 A goal of the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition test, which helps to make sure that students are truly college ready, is the careful reading and critical analysis of literature. Literary criticism requires students to study, evaluate, and interpret what they read — a valuable tool for all students, not just those in an AP class. But what is the best way to do help students develop this skill? How can you get high school students to think deeply and critically about literature?

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Adventures With Books: One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies

One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies
Join my class as we turn the book One Tiny Turtle into a unit of fun and exciting learning experiences. This lyrical and informative look at the elusive and endangered loggerhead turtle is sure to delight young nature lovers.

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Celebrating Eric Carle and The Tiny Seed

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One of my favorite children's book authors and illustrators is Eric Carle. He is one of our classroom favorites as well. A while back, I even had the pleasure of hearing him read The Very Hungry Caterpillar LIVE at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Read on to get some fabulous resources for The Tiny Seed, watch a book trailer featuring Eric Carle, and listen to our Tiny Seed podcast!

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Nonfiction: Getting to Know Rachel Carson

Vasicek Carson CoverReading nonfiction is quite different from reading fiction. I find many upper elementary students have a hard time sorting through the facts and information in a nonfiction text. One series of books, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Inventors & Scientists, is becoming a hit with my students. These books are the perfect size for practicing nonfiction reading strategies, and the content is of high interest to the students.

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Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan

BookcoverThis year, I was blessed to receive a class set of Chu Ju's House by Gloria Whelan, which tells the story of Chu Ju, a 14-year-old Chinese girl struggling to survive in a country where males are traditionally valued more than females. When Chu Ju's parents decide to give her baby sister away because of the One-Child Policy, Chu Ju leaves home with her. Teaching literature from other cultures requires a considerable amount of background knowledge. However, it is exciting learning about different cultures, and that excitement spreads through the class.

After reading Chu Ju’s House, students engage in a mini research project, exploring an aspect of Chinese culture alluded to in the novel. This assists the students in developing a thorough understanding of the legal and cultural conflicts presented in the novel. In this post, you'll find a study guide, instructions for a vocabulary wall mobile, and  SMART Notebook activities.

 

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Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Freakthemighty_xlg
Freak the Mighty is a highly readable book that addresses many serious issues, including domestic violence, alienation, and bullying. Through the story of the main characters, Max and Kevin, students can learn a great deal about themselves and others.

 

 

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Motivating Middle School Students

IMG_5957It takes a special breed to teach middle school students. Teens and preteens thrive on drama, struggle with hormones, and explode with emotions. As if that isn’t enough, this time of year we also have to contend with a spring fever epidemic. Many students shut down as snow banks thaw and the Canada geese return to the North Country. With ten weeks left in the school year and only one month before state tests, we cannot allow students to check out. So, how do we motivate our middle school students and keep them engaged in learning? Celebrate their achievements and give them choice and voice. This post describes some of the ways teachers celebrate student achievement at my school, and a video illustrates what one student chose to do when given voice and choice.

 

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The Read-A-Thon

DSC01434 A few years ago my former mentee, Kelly Andreoni, an English teacher and advisor to our school's book club, came up with a wonderful plan for an event that would not only only encourage students to read, but also raise money in a unique form of community service: a Read-A-Thon. This year, over 150 students took part, raising over $9,200 for a charitable organization called "Raising a Reader MA," which promotes literacy awareness among families in communities across the state, including our own city of Revere. Read on to see how Kelly organizes this fun and worthwhile event.

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Explore Childhood Themes With a Kevin Henkes Author Study

Kevin Henkes Author StudyTo strengthen my students as readers and writers, I had them take to the Reader's Chair and the Author's Chair to share their responses to a study on Kevin Henkes, who writes and illustrates books about lovable mouse characters who express common childhood feelings, fears, and fantasies. After evaluating his writing style and comparing the characters, settings, and themes of four of his books, my students showed off their own reading, writing, artistic, and critical-thinking skills.

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Tyranny and Prometheus Bound

DSC01364Helping students make real world connections to the works they read is an important part of teaching literature. When students comprehend the contemporary and historical links to literature, they have a much greater understanding of what they read. This year my sophomore class and I were fortunate enough to be part of a collaboration between the American Repertory Theater and Amnesty International in the Prometheus Project, a partnership designed to put the theater arts to the service of human rights advocacy.

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Middle School Literature Circles

IMG_5890Okay, I confess: I thrive on organization and structure in my classroom. My students like routines, and I like to know what progress each student is making on a daily basis. If you are like me, then your first experience with literature circles may just put you over the edge. Relinquishing control of my classroom was not easy. Read how I learned to let go and guide my students through the organized chaos of literature circles. 

 

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Children of the Holocaust

IMG_5864 I recently received my February 28, 2011, issue of Time magazine. On the cover was a picture of youths from around the world with the subtitle, “The Generation Changing the World.” In my classroom, we are transitioning from the protests in the Middle East to the Holocaust. After introducing the literature circle books for the unit, I held up the Time issue and Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy and posed the question, “Why would Hitler fear the youth?” The question set my students on fire. The biggest problem of the day was tracking all the books that started flying out of my room. The resources below will help you create an English language arts and social studies integrated unit on the Holocaust.

 

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The Good Old Book Report

DSC01391 Book reports seem part of the realm of middle school and elementary school. You don't often hear of students doing book reports in high school, but I feel much can be learned by doing such an assignment in the higher grades. A book report can challenge the student to use higher order thinking skills in order to understand and interpret literature.

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Easy Writing Ideas for Early Writers

Writing in PreK and Kindergarten“Easy writing ideas?” you ask. “But my students don’t even know how to write!” You’re in luck. These ideas are suitable for children with limited word and print knowledge, in the beginning stages of reading and writing. Each can be adapted for any ability level, from prewriter to fluent writer. By providing options for students at different stages in their literacy journey, you help them build confidence and set every child up for success in writing.

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Celebrate Reading With Dr. Seuss

DSC00415Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss's birthday are great reasons to celebrate reading. In the primary grades, we are all learning to read and love Dr. Seuss's colorful, wacky rhymes and imaginative illustrations. I have compiled tons of great articles, resources, and ideas to help you celebrate Dr. Seuss and reading. Go grab a book and join my class as we celebrate reading and Dr. Seuss all week long.

 

 

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Kid-Recommended Reading Series

DSC01090Spring break will soon be here. If it is anything like the winter break, students are bound to come back a bit rusty. To avoid this, I use the power of positive peer pressure and have the students recommend their favorite series books to each other. I find that once a student connects with a series, they tend to go to the school library each week with a positive attitude, knowing exactly which book they want to borrow next. Below is a list of book series recommended by 4th and 5th graders for some spring break reading enjoyment.   

 

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Analyzing Characters with WALTeR

Lead_photo_walter
One day, I was driving to school, pondering my frustration over the impending state test dates that were approaching, yet my students were still struggling with identifying specific details to support a character trait. It was apparent they needed another approach. They needed a mnemonic device to help them remember the type of details that would help them succeed, so I created WALTeR, a guide for identifying text-based relevant details that BEST support their claim. Walter needed to be memorable, someone they could visualize and remember. (Clip art created with ToonDoo.com by Mary Blow)

 

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Books That Inspire Teens

DSC01294 I recently attended the College Board New England Regional Forum and had the pleasure of introducing the guest speaker, Wes Moore, author of the book, The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates. I had not read Wes' book yet, but I was certainly impressed with the author's background and his ability to ignite a room of about four hundred educators (no small task, as we all know). Through preparing my introduction, I learned that Wes Moore is a youth advocate, an Army combat veteran, a businessman, and a non-profit leader, as well as an author.

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I Love to Read! Surefire Ways to Create Lifelong Book Lovers

I Love to Read Month February is “I Love to Read Month,” the perfect time to assess if your students do, in fact, love to read. Are they captivated by good stories? Does reading fill them with excitement and enthusiasm? Do they play with the sounds of language in a literature-rich environment that promotes active learning through highly engaging activities? If the answer to any of these questions is no (and even if it’s yes!), it may be time to arm yourself with a repertoire of techniques guaranteed to get every child in your class saying “I love to read!”

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Reading Month

DSC01095March is reading month. Each year our school tries to come up with a theme and activities to help promote the vital skill of reading. It can be tough to keep the ideas fresh, so I thought I would share the latest ideas from Miami Elementary here in good ole Clinton Township, Michigan.

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Character Education in PreK & Kindergarten

Character Education in PreK and KindergartenWhat children learn about character in the early childhood classroom can shape their character for the rest of their lives. So how do you teach it?

 

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Updates: Opera, High School Uncut SAT Vocab

DSC_0249On Friday, February 4, 2011, five sophomore boys from Revere High School had a most extraordinary experience: they got to be extras in Teatro Lirico D'Europa's performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston. I've told you all before how lucky we are that Jenny Kelly, director, provides us with sixty to one hundred free tickets for each of her performances in Boston, but this was straight-up-over-the-top! Teatro operas are quite the extravaganza: there is a full orchestra, and the opera is sung in Italian with English subtitles provided on a screen above the stage. Lucia di Lammermoor features one of the most famous mad scenes in all of opera — and this was the scene in which our boys appeared as extras, as seen in the photo, standing perfectly at attention.

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Valentine's Day Sweets & Heartbeats Across the Curriculum

The Heart on Valentine's DayValentine's Day is my favorite holiday at school. It's easy for kids to understand.  The decorations are pretty hearts and flowers, and the focus is on friendship, love, and kindness. I like to extend the easygoing and cheerful atmosphere all day and all across the curriculum. Read on to find activities in every subject area that center around my favorite thing: the heart.

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Educating Teens About Drugs — The National Institute on Drug Abuse

DSC01340Drug and alcohol abuse continues to plague teenagers, and parents and teachers are often at a loss about how to handle this important issue. I grew up in the '70s, when there was a great deal of glorification of drug use in the media and very little information about the dark, dangerous side of drug use and addiction. With the advent of the information age, however, there are plenty of resources to help educate and inform students about the dangers of drug use.

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Teaching about the Tension in Egypt

Deserto___There is a lot of excitement going on in Egypt these days. What is it all about? What would an elementary student need to know? What could you possibly connect it to? What lessons can be learned by discussing the situation? Below are some ways you might incorporate Egypt into your curriculum.

 

Photo courtesy m_bartosch.

  

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Hitting a Home Run With Civil Rights

IMG_5793When I first started teaching a Civil Rights unit, my goal was to have my students write an essay for the Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers Essay Contest. This writing activity has grown into a multigenre thematic unit because my students are so engaged in the topics of baseball and Civil Rights. Jackie is famous for breaking the color barrier in baseball; however, he is also renowned for overcoming the barriers in his life by remaining faithful to his values: courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment, and excellence.

 

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Children of the River

DSC01310[1]I teach in an urban school system that is considered a "gateway" community. We are, after all, about five minutes away from Logan Airport. There are over forty-six languages spoken at our school, and most students speak a language other than English as their first language. Many of these are Cambodian Americans. A large number of Cambodian refugees settled in Revere in the 1980s and 1990s, and many of my students' families experienced the horrors of the Khmer Rouge firsthand. For this reason and others, Children of the River is perfect for my classes. 

 

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Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 2

Kindergarten Literacy CentersOne of my students' favorite dramatic play centers is a bakery. It's not only fun, it's also full of ways to practice literacy. And with a good name and logo, all it costs is a little effort.

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Comments: 4

Nonfiction Reading Sources and Strategies

Scholastic NewsHow on earth did elementary school teachers ever survive in the BG (Before Google) era? I am constantly looking to the Internet for informational text for my lessons or just my own general knowledge. Back in the day you had to actually go to the library, consult the card catalog, find the book, use the index, read the appropriate pages, and then cry because it was not the information for which you were searching. Okay, maybe that was just me, but even so today Google finds you millions of sources in under one second. Amazing!    

 

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Solutions are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Scholastic Inc.