Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Books That Support Makerspace Learning

Happy Teacher Book Talk Tuesday! Today I'm sharing three books which launch good makerspace projects. Simply put, a makerspace is a place where people gather to design and create things, sharing ideas and equipment. Makerspaces are closely tied to STEM and STEAM learning and they can be found in more and more classrooms in all grades. As this post is about books to use with kindergarten makerspace projects, I'll not go into makerspace discussion right now. I plan on posting all about what I have set up in my classroom makerspace at a later date. I share just a couple snapshots, so you know where projects happen in our room. We call our makerspace The Lightbulb Lab, as in Kevin Henkes' Lilly and the Purple Plastic Purse... I aim to bring literature to everything we do.

This is a standing table where kids can work

We don't have power tools and 3D printers to use, like older kids often have in their makerspace, but we have a plethora of supplies for what I call paper engineering– paper of all sorts, writing tools of all sorts, and tape... oodles and oodles of tape. We have a lot of miscellaneous things too, like popsicle sticks, chenille stems, paper punches, crimpers... you get the idea. The kids don't need a lot of prompting to get started. Some kids get really comfortable doing a particular "thing" and get a little stuck wanting to do that exclusively, so I introduce new concepts throughout the year. I often use books to teach into a new idea, asking the kids to expand on what they see. Here are three books, which I use to prompt new creations... sort of bends in the road with our yearlong makerspace learning.

My Map Book by Sara Fanelli

Do you know this book? It certainly is not new, but it is a great leaping off point. Maps are part of our math and social studies curriculums. We look at a map of our classroom, using it to find objects I've hidden ahead of time. I put very basic maps of our classroom with only key pieces of furniture on it out in the Lightbulb Lab to get the kids started with making their own maps We use a map of our school, too, and look at real maps of our city, state, country and world. Then I introduce the book.

This is a treasure map from the book. By the time we see it we have seen other treasure maps, and know this one is not typical.

This map of my heart expands the idea of maps further yet again.

We talk about how a real heart pumps blood and does not look like this. When people speak of what is "in my heart" they are talking about things which they love. I point out small details on this map, like the cane and eyeglasses for grandpa and grandma. This naturally leads to the idea of "symbols" to represent real objects and people. I draw a bone for Popeye, a lego hat for Jonathan, and a jet plane for my eldest daughter who can really only be reached in Seattle by plane, and who works at Boeing.

By this time in the year the kids have seen me draw Popeye and Jonathan many times in writers' workshop. I always illustrate them as they "really look" so using symbols instead, piques the children's interest. As kids experiment with symbols they sometimes come up with hilarious things– moms represented by slippers and baby brothers by poop... the explanation was that said brother often had poopy diapers, but I think there may be another layer of meaning when little brothers are drawn as piles of poo... just sayin.
There are lots of other fun maps in this book, too, including a map of a dog, a map of my family, and a map of my day... which is cool as it represents a daily schedule in a new way. I read just one or two maps each day, so it can take over a week to finish the book. Each day kids get new inspiration. We talk about techniques kids could use to make similar maps, and what other things in life could be shown as a map. We discuss 2D and 3D maps, and they learn how to make "pop-up" objects for their maps.

My Map Book hangs out in the Lightbulb Lab for many weeks and becomes great reference that they use again and again. I highly recommend you actually add this book to your classroom, and not just borrow it from the library this time. You can get used copies for really cheap and it is worth the investment.

Open This Little Book
by Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee

This is a special book because it is one story, but with many books within books inside. The book itself is kind of large, but as you turn the pages you find many more books, each one smaller than the next, until you reach the middle and they start getting big again.

The kidpeople are fascinated with how this one fits together and love pouring over this book. I put out some blank versions to begin the projects– getting staples in the middle seam is a bit tricky. When we run out of blanks though, I don't hurry to make more but encourage them to find a way to make a book. This makerspace unit leads to accordion books, lift the flap books, scrolls... you get the idea. And, of course, as no book should go unfilled, they write and illustrate a story in each of their books. I tell you, there is a lot of curriculum support in our makerspace.

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Last but not least, we have Press Here. It is a simple concept with the idea being that if you "press" the dot, something will change with the dots on the next page.

The kids love the idea of a "power button" that can make things happen. Pretty soon it is not just dots that move or change, but all sorts of imaginative action which takes place on the page after the button. One year kids made power buttons to add to their block structures... with the results almost always being some kind of topple and crash. Such great fun... loud fun...  but great fun.

So there you have it. If you are toying with the idea of creating a makerspace in your classroom, or expanding one, I hope these three books give you some ideas and structure for teaching into the creating process. We read these books during regular read aloud time and the kids do the projects during free choice, or an occasional learning center, so everyone rotates through and tries out the new ideas. A class of little paper engineers is a wondrous sight to behold, and you'll love all the multifaceted learning which takes place.

I am so happy you stopped by for Teacher Book Talk Tuesday. Be sure to click below on any other blog links to read more book reviews. You might find books for students, books for teachers, or books for pure adult fun. And bloggers if you have book reviews of your own, just grab the button below and link yours to this post, and then back again.

See you later... and I do mean SEE YOU LATER! Our first of three giveaways starts in just two weeks. We'll be giving away a Flashlight Press book and ten dollar Amazon gift cards for each of the three giveaways that happen for three weeks.... you can buy some of the great books you're reading about, or anything else you want.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A New Video for Mo and Bird Enthusiasts

Hello there. I'm sharing just one new creation today. I made a video for kids this time. I didn't start out to make a video for kids... I didn't start out to make a video at all, actually, but somehow these things just sort of drop on my lap... or my arm, shoulder, or head, I guess.

It started when I noticed a little hopping bird by our front porch... but I'll let the video tell the story. It is quite short– about four minutes. It will be good to use with your students when you teach about text-to-self connections, birds, wrens, or Mo Willems.

It was fun to make and I know my kiddos will get a kick out of it. I hope yours do, too. Just click on the picture up there and you'll go to my YouTube Channel to find it. While there, you can also see my classroom tour video that I just uploaded a couple weeks ago.

Scoot on back to Monday Made It and find MORE. Thanks, Tara, for your Fourth Grade Frolics link-up where I find so many great ideas.

Thanks for stopping by! Pin, Pin, Pin. And do know that I always comment back if you leave one :)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Let Me Eat Cake– Chocolate, Please

Who doesn't like chocolate cake, especially this cake. This recipe has been on the blog for a while now, but it was on the "Other Stuff" page. I had intended to put more topics of interest there, but instead I'm reorganizing, and the "Other Stuff" page will soon become "Classroom Design." I post this chocolate cake recipe so it is not lost.

This is a favorite summer recipe. It can be made any time of year, but for me and my life, summer is the only time I have for random baking. And summer is less stressful than the school year so I can live a bit more healthfully and enjoy a piece of not-too-decadent cake. Like all posts on the blog, this is not written as just a straightforward recipe. Gotta throw in a little fun commentary. Life is lived in the small details after all, right?

Died-and-Went-to-Heaven Chocolate Cake

Yum, yum, yummy chocolate cake

This is a great, easy, low-guilt cake. Great because it is super moist thanks to buttermilk. Easy because it is made in a bundt pan and only needs a glaze to pour over top– not frosting to spread. And Low-Guilt because it only has 220 calories and 5 grams of fat, per slice, which is 1/16 of the cake. Here we go!

Ingredients for cake:
1 3/4 C flour
1 C sugar
3/4 C cocoa powder (Dutch Process)
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 baking powder
1 t salt
1 1/4 C buttermilk
1 C packed brown sugar
2 lg eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 C canola oil
2 t vanilla
1 C strong black coffee

Ingredients for icing:
1 C confectioners sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1 to 2 Tbs buttermilk, as needed so it pours and dribbles

Preheat the oven to 350°

Spray bundt pan with Pam and then flour. I don't have all silicon baking dishes by any means, but with this silicone bundt pan it is super easy to get cakes out.

I was married 25 years before I got my Kitchen-Aid Mixer. I only got it as a poor substitute for a spring break vacation, so it was not without it's sacrifice. But I do love it.

Note the Twin Terrors that live in the bowl... why? you ask... I have no idea. My husband got them for me for Valentine's day and threw them in there, and they just sort of took up residence. I think they are mostly there because the bowl was empty and any empty space in our house forms a vacuum which instantly fills itself. The Twin Terrors are not in ANYway reference to my younger identical twin brothers... nope... not at all... never crossed my mind.

BTW, if you have anyone living in your mixer, take them out before the next steps. grin.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder.

Stir together the buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. Then add to dry ingredients and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. This is where I REALLY appreciate the ol' Kitchen-Aid. After 2 minutes whisk in hot coffee until completely incorporated. This will for a very thin batter– not to worry!

Pour the batter into the prepped pan. Note I keep my silicone bundt pan on a small cooling rack as it makes the soft pan easier to handle and keep its shape. I lift the cake and rack and leave both in the oven to bake.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until the tester comes out clean.

Cool cake on rack for ten minutes and then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely.

Whisk the icing ingredients until pourable. Pour over the cake on the plate. I make this cake for my health conscious friends, and my not-so-health conscious friends, too... they get ice cream on top! :)

I would happily give credit to whoever I got this recipe from, but I have had it for a long while now and have no idea of the source. Whoever made it up– Thank you! I really think it is the buttermilk and coffee that give this cake its moist, rich flavor. I never buy buttermilk any other time, and can't really imagine that I'd like it straight up, but in this recipe– yummmm. And coffee? Well, everything in life is better with a little bit of coffee. It's kinda funny though, this cake does not taste like a mocha cake. It is just good, straight-up chocolate.


Thanks so much for stopping by for this non-typical, non-teacher post. I hope you'll swing by again... though you are not likely to find another cake recipe, there is a great oatmeal bake recipe hiding somewhere in these pages if you search. Next up on Monday, will be a new video I made. It's just a short one for the kiddos. Good for viewing to learn about fledgling birds and text-to-self connections, and Mo Willems There's a Bird on Your Head.  You just never know what the next post will hold.

See you next time.

This post first appeared on the Other Stuff page as Died-And-Went-To-Heaven Chocolate Cake on

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ants, Squirrels, and a Little Freebie

Hey ya, hi ya. We are moving right along with our Teacher Book Talk Tuesday posts. Today I have a couple nonfiction goodies to talk about, and a freebie, too.

Squirrels and Their Nests by Martha E. Rustad

Each year we do a science unit on neighborhood animals. Although we talk about many different animals common to our area, we focus on squirrels. I mean, if there is one kind of animal we can count on seeing around school, it is squirrels.

I don't have to go out of my way to give the kids authentic experience with squirrels, but I do. We take a walk in our nearby woods to see them and their nests. We take several walks in our woods but for the squirrel finding walk, I wait until the leaves have fallen because you can see nests so much easier. I put out bird feeders at the classroom window, which never fail to attract a squirrel or two. Usually people don't want squirrels eating from the birdfeeders, but the main reason I put any food out is to let my kiddos observe nature up close, any nature, and I am thrilled when the squirrels stop by. We all are. The first day this guy came calling I didn't think we were going to get anything on our schedule done– teachable moments are worth it.

I have a love/hate relationship with squirrels– they are cute and funny to watch, but oh, how I hate when they pull up newly planted impatiens in my flower boxes. They've been doing it less since I starting sprinkling cayenne red pepper power about– you might try it if you have the same problem. 

One day on my way out of school I stumbled upon this guy and happened to have my phone in hand. He had found some student's uneaten sandwich and managed to get it out of the baggie. Cheeky little thing kept right on munching as I stood taking photos, which I later turned into this gif.

That squirrel is eating some child's lunch!

Anyway, by the time we start our animal unit in class my kidpeople are quite familiar with squirrels and it is time to focus on recall and new science learning. Squirrels and Their Nests is a great informational book. There are engaging photos.

Awwww... say all the children

And just the right amount of text with picture support throughout.

Martha E. Rustad is a very prolific writer. You can find one of her books on SO many different nonfiction topics. Here is a list of titles in the Pebble Plus series alone.

If you don't have this on your shelf now, I recommend getting your hands on it. It could even already be in your school library just waiting for you. I like it so much I did an interactive read aloud with it for an observation. It was easy for me to find content and process goals to teach to. And I focused on the vocabulary word hollow. Our district went deeper into interactive read alouds and vocabulary instruction last year so this observation went really well. I found a great two minute video clip to go with it, and had my poor husband scrounging around in the wood pile for a hollow piece of lilac trunk that I knew was back there. The kids loved playing with it and some beanie baby squirrels afterward. All early childhood students benefit from rich and extended language activities. With a third of my class being beginning English Learners, it was a daily goal to build in as many opportunities to use academic language whenever I could, including play.

Quick tip: When doing an Interactive Read Aloud, put sticky notes on the outside back cover of the book. With just a fast glance they can help you remember the points you want to teach, and the language you want to use. Transfer them to the inside back cover when you reshelve the book so you have a quick refresher the next time you get the book out.

You may download the lesson plan I wrote if you like. Even if you don't use it exactly as is, it may prove useful to you. It includes the link to the BBC Squirrel video snippet, too. Click on the thumbnail to get it.

Are You An Ant? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries

Most years we do a mini-unit on at least one insect. I found this book on ants and both I and the kids love it. Even though this one reads like a story, written from the ant's perspective, mind you, it has lots of factual information about those fascinating little creatures. It also has beautifully rendered scientific illustrations. They speak for themselves.

I like this book so much that I have another one from the Backyard Books series on spiders, too. There are many titles on common bugs– Lady Bug, Bee, Butterfly, Dragonfly, Grasshopper and Snail... is a snail a bug? Well, no, but you know what I mean.

I would be remiss not to mention here that our bug mini-unit begins in April when the bugs just start to come out, and it kicks off with my April Showers June Bug informational poetry packet. Yes, I combine science with a new twist on an old poem for some learning and fun. You can pick it up for a tiny price on my tiny TPT store. You will find all sorts of free stuff– I literally have more free than fee resources there, and I think you'll find it worthwhile to stop by. Click on the button to go.

Whew. If you hung on through the post to this point, you get a little reward! There are only five more posts to the Teacher Book Talk Tuesday summer series. The last THREE posts, August 8, 15, and 22, will each have a book and Amazon gift card giveaway. Yep. I'm going in with some of my faithful book review blogger friends to give away prizes. You'll get as many chances to win as ways you choose to follow us.

In the giveaway posts I'll be highlighting three books from Flash Light Press– one of my FAVORITE children's publishers. Some of you might remember the book reviews I've already written for them and you can find them by clicking on Flash Light Press in the right sidebar searches. THANKS to Flashlight Press for donating the books to be given away!

And teacher bloggers, here's special news for you. If you link-up to this Teacher Book Talk Tuesday linky THIS WEEK, you can get in on the giveaway, too. Wouldn't your readers like to win a book and an Amazon gift card? Just use the link-up link below, then grab the Teacher Book Talk button and put it on your post with a link back to this post. If you can't join us this week to get in on the giveaway, still consider linking a book review in the last three posts of the series as we are likely to have a few more readers.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope the freebie and the book information you picked up today is helpful to you. Be sure to check out the other book reviews from my fellow bloggers below.

 See you later!

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