Starting Storywalks

We’ve had students back in our building for about 3 weeks now, and even with all of our new procedures and safety routines, it’s been going really well!!! We’re all getting used to staying 6 feet away from each other and making sure we’re not working one on one with a student for longer than a 15 minute period….just in case.

Another thing that we’ve all gotten used to are the multiple mask breaks that we need to take throughout the day. Our students are 8, 9, and 10 years old so our incredible principal has built in time to everyone’s schedules so teachers can bring their class outside multiple times a day to take their mask off. Even as adults, we need these breaks, especially after teaching all day with a mask!

With our playground equipment currently closed, there’s only so many things teachers can do to pass the time and entertain our students, while maintaining distance from each other. After watching everyone just walk up and down our sidewalks day after day, I started to think about opportunities that would engage our students and give our teachers a break from planning something else.

And with that….our Storywalk was created!

I found blank yard signs from Amazon, borrowed lots of packing tape from co-workers, and was ready to begin! I took a couple of my very favorite picture books and shrunk down the pages so I could get 4 on to one sign. Rather than taping each page separately, I put two copies in a sheet protector, and just taped the outsides.

After I had all the pages taped onto my signs, I walked down the sidewalk while evenly spacing them out. I quickly sent out an email to my building to let them know that the story was out and they could begin using it as a mask break.

Within a couple of hours, I saw teachers and students outside on their mask break while incorporating a picture book. Students maintained social distance and traveled from sign to sign reading the story. I also was able to put another story on the other side of the building in order to maximize the number of students that could be enjoying our storywalk!

At the end of each story, I also put a few discussion questions up for students to engage in as they made their way back into the building.

I’ve only done three stories so far, and I hope to continue switching them out before the weather gets too cold to enjoy them! The stories that I have used so far are:

Click on any of the books above to purchase them for yourself!

*This post contains affiliate links

Halloween Picture Books

In my crazy mind, I fully believe the holidays begin on October 1st with Halloween season!! The decorations come out of storage, the stores are decked out for every holiday between now and January, and the themed picture books are amazing!!

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Halloween picture books just in time; my 5 year old recently asked me for some “spooky books” for bedtime. The first book I added to my cart was Creepy Carrots. We had previously read Creepy Pair of Underwear and my son requested it every night for two weeks!! When I saw the carrot book, I knew we had to have it.

My daughter has also recently found the cute Room on the Broom cartoon on Netflix and LOVES it! I added that book to my cart so we could read it after watching the show. Maybe compare and contrast the cartoon and book???……just kidding!!

However you celebrate Halloween, I hope you find some time to get into a great book! Enjoy!

**The post contains affiliate links**

Creepy Carrots: Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.
He eats them on the way to school.
He eats them going to Little League.
He eats them walking home.
Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they?

It’s Halloween Little Monster: Little Monster is going trick-or-treating for the very first time. There are going to be all kinds of creatures about, like witches and vampires and zombies. And lots of spooky noises too! As Little Monster makes his way around the neighborhood, Papa is there to help guide him through his fears as they encounter one scary thing after another…until they reach the last house of the night. It’s the spookiest house of all, and—YIKES!—there might be a surprise waiting for them. Will Little Monster be brave?

Skeletons Are NOT Spooky: For everything that skeletons do for us, why do they have such a bad reputation for being spooky? Maybe they are just like us and want to have a little bit of fun. The creative children’s book duo of Kaine & Duds tries to set the record straight in this entertaining tale for everybody.

Room On The Broom: The witch and her cat are happily flying through the sky on a broomstick when the wind picks up and blows away the witch’s hat, then her bow, and then her wand!  Luckily, three helpful animals find the missing items, and all they want in return is a ride on the broom.  But is there room on the broom for so many friends?  And when disaster strikes, will they be able to save the witch from a hungry dragon?

Pumpkin Jack: The first pumpkin Tim ever carved was fierce and funny, and he named it Jack. When Halloween was over and the pumpkin was beginning to rot, Tim set it out in the garden and throughout the weeks he watched it change.

Creepy Pair of Underwear: Jasper Rabbit is NOT a little bunny anymore. He’s not afraid of the dark, and he’s definitely not afraid of something as silly as underwear. But when the lights go out, suddenly his new big rabbit underwear glows in the dark. A ghoulish, greenish glow. If Jasper didn’t know any better he’d say his undies were a little, well, creepy.

Snowmen at Halloween: After an early snowfall, a few kids build some snowmen before going trick-or-treating. And when the kids go off to bed, the snowmen have their own Halloween festival! There’s candy and apple-bobbing and costume contests and all sorts of autumn activities. When the kids wake up the next morning, the snowmen are gone… but they’ve left a very special message behind.

Election Day Books

Election Day is quickly approaching and it’s never been more important to get out and VOTE!! I’ve already sent in my mail-in ballot and have been talking about the importance of this day with my two kids. They watched my husband and I as we chose our candidates and put the ballot in the mailbox.

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Election Day books in honor of the big day! I have a few in my Amazon cart already and am looking forward to receiving them so we can start reading!

I hope this list helps and make sure you go out to VOTE!!!

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A Vote is a Powerful Things Callie knows there’s a presidential election coming up. Her class is having an election, too, about an issue that affects them all- the class field trip! She’s about to witness first-hand what a difference a vote can make – even a single vote – and along the way will find out about the election process and why people have fought for the right to vote throughout history. A great kids-eye look at the power of the vote!

What’s the Big Deal About Elections? Did you know that we have more than ninety thousand state and local governments in the US? Or that Election Day celebrations two hundred years ago featured marching bands and bonfires? How about that George Washington was our only president who ran unopposed?

The Night Before Election Day. Yes! It’s almost here. And the big question is: Who will be our next president? Will our leader be a he or a she? A young citizen gives her take on politics and Election Day in this charming story (featuring a colorful sticker sheet!), told in the style of Clement C. Moore’s holiday poem.

V is for Voting V Is for Voting is an ABC book that introduces progressive families to concepts like social justice and civil rights and reminds readers that every vote counts!

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
C is for citizens’ rights and our duty.
is for difference, our strength and our beauty.

Democracy for Dinosaurs This essential, kid-friendly nonfiction guide isn’t just for families looking to share genuinely patriotic values during an election year — it’s for everyone. Using accessible dinosaur characters and clear language, Democracy for Dinosaurs explores key civic values on every adult’s mind and helps show young readers how the things they do every single day can be guided by principles we must share in a democratic society: freedom, fairness, the rule of law, equality, respect for free speech, and respect for the truth.

Vote For Our Future Every two years, on the first Tuesday of November, Stanton Elementary School closes for the day. For vacation? Nope! For repairs? No way! Stanton Elementary School closes so that it can transform itself into a polling station. People can come from all over to vote for the people who will make laws for the country. Sure, the Stanton Elementary School students might be too young to vote themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage their parents, friends, and family to vote!

Grace for President. When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she wants to be the nation’s first and immediately jumpstarts her political career by running in her school’s mock election! The race is tougher than she expected: her popular opponent declares that he’s the “best man for the job” and seems to have captured the votes of all of the class’s boys. But Grace is more determined than ever. Even if she can’t be the best man for the job, she can certainly try to be the best person!

If I Ran For President. Imagine starring in commercials and traveling in your own campaign bus! Or seeing your face on bumper stickers and T-shirts! If you ran for president, you would get to do these and other fun things, but you would also have to do a lot of hard work. You would study the nation’s problems, tell the American people about your platform, select a running mate, and debate your opponents on live television. Finally, in November, Election Day would arrive. You would keep your fingers crossed and wait for the results―will you be the next president of the United States?

Curious George Votes. On election day at the elementary school, Curious George and his friend the Man with the Yellow Hat are visiting just in time to see the kids voting for their new school mascot. George can’t resist getting in on the fun. He learns about the candidates, collects campaign stickers, and casts a lot of ballots. But what will happen when his hijinks start to get in the way of the vote? And who will win the big election?

I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference. I Voted explains the concept of choosing, individually, and as a group, from making a simple choice: “Which do you like better, apples or oranges?”, to selecting a class pet, to even more complicated decisions, like electing community representatives.

Election Day Books

Election Day is quickly approaching and it’s never been more important to get out and VOTE!! I’ve already sent in my mail-in ballot and have been talking about the importance of this day with my two kids. They watched my husband and I as we choose our candidates and put the ballot in the mailbox.

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Election Day books in honor of the big day! I have a few in my Amazon cart already and am looking forward to receiving them so we can start reading!

I hope this list helps and make sure you go out to VOTE!!!

A Vote is a Powerful Things Callie knows there’s a presidential election coming up. Her class is having an election, too, about an issue that affects them all- the class field trip! She’s about to witness first-hand what a difference a vote can make – even a single vote – and along the way will find out about the election process and why people have fought for the right to vote throughout history. A great kids-eye look at the power of the vote!

What’s the Big Deal About Elections? Did you know that we have more than ninety thousand state and local governments in the US? Or that Election Day celebrations two hundred years ago featured marching bands and bonfires? How about that George Washington was our only president who ran unopposed?

The Night Before Election Day. Yes! It’s almost here. And the big question is: Who will be our next president? Will our leader be a he or a she? A young citizen gives her take on politics and Election Day in this charming story (featuring a colorful sticker sheet!), told in the style of Clement C. Moore’s holiday poem.

V is for Voting V Is for Voting is an ABC book that introduces progressive families to concepts like social justice and civil rights and reminds readers that every vote counts!

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
C is for citizens’ rights and our duty.
is for difference, our strength and our beauty.

Democracy for Dinosaurs This essential, kid-friendly nonfiction guide isn’t just for families looking to share genuinely patriotic values during an election year — it’s for everyone. Using accessible dinosaur characters and clear language, Democracy for Dinosaurs explores key civic values on every adult’s mind and helps show young readers how the things they do every single day can be guided by principles we must share in a democratic society: freedom, fairness, the rule of law, equality, respect for free speech, and respect for the truth.

Vote For Our Future Every two years, on the first Tuesday of November, Stanton Elementary School closes for the day. For vacation? Nope! For repairs? No way! Stanton Elementary School closes so that it can transform itself into a polling station. People can come from all over to vote for the people who will make laws for the country. Sure, the Stanton Elementary School students might be too young to vote themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage their parents, friends, and family to vote!

Grace for President. When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she wants to be the nation’s first and immediately jumpstarts her political career by running in her school’s mock election! The race is tougher than she expected: her popular opponent declares that he’s the “best man for the job” and seems to have captured the votes of all of the class’s boys. But Grace is more determined than ever. Even if she can’t be the best man for the job, she can certainly try to be the best person!

If I Ran For President. Imagine starring in commercials and traveling in your own campaign bus! Or seeing your face on bumper stickers and T-shirts! If you ran for president, you would get to do these and other fun things, but you would also have to do a lot of hard work. You would study the nation’s problems, tell the American people about your platform, select a running mate, and debate your opponents on live television. Finally, in November, Election Day would arrive. You would keep your fingers crossed and wait for the results―will you be the next president of the United States?

Curious George Votes. On election day at the elementary school, Curious George and his friend the Man with the Yellow Hat are visiting just in time to see the kids voting for their new school mascot. George can’t resist getting in on the fun. He learns about the candidates, collects campaign stickers, and casts a lot of ballots. But what will happen when his hijinks start to get in the way of the vote? And who will win the big election?

I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference. I Voted explains the concept of choosing, individually, and as a group, from making a simple choice: “Which do you like better, apples or oranges?”, to selecting a class pet, to even more complicated decisions, like electing community representatives.

Remote Teaching Takeaways

Well, we’ve been remote teaching now for 5 weeks and just as we think we’ve gotten a handle on it, we’re switching to hybrid on Monday!

The building has an exciting vibe right now; we’re all ready for those sweet little faces to be back in our building and filling our halls with noise and laughter. Seriously, I get goosebumps thinking about how exciting it will be to see our students in our building!

I’ve been doing a lot of planning for the coming weeks, and reflecting on the past five weeks. Even though we’re hoping not to go back to full remote, I do think the experience has shifted our thinking and we’re all walking away with new practices that we could incorpoate back in our classrooms.

After experiencing remote teaching with our teachers for the past five weeks, I’ve put together 10 tips that have been successful for some of us over here. If your district will continue to be remote teaching for awhile, I hope these help!

Book Report Alternatives

Is there anything more terrible than a traditional book report?! Forcing kids to write a summary and/or reflection about their book seems so boring…the only thing a traditional book report does, is kill a love of reading.

There are so many alternatives out there that are engaging and would provide excitement for students. Any of these can be adapted to work in a book club setting as well. Maybe you decide to have students choose their own culminating activity as they finish their book club. Remember our purpose as teachers: to encourage and help grow our students’ love for reading!

Acrostic Poems: Students can write an acrostic poem that represents a relevant word or message about the text

Character Playlist: Using sites like Grooveshark, students can create playlists of songs that represent each character in their book

Movie Trailers: Students can use iMovie or Animoto to create book trailers to share with the class and recommend their book to their classmates

Travel Brochure: Students can create a travel brochure to “sell” the setting and characters that a potential “vacationer” can experience on this trip into the book’s location

Artifacts: Have students bring in 3-5 artifacts that represent different aspects of the story and have them explain why they choose them

Advice Columns: Students can write an advice column for a character’s problem in the story

Billboards: Students can create a billboard ad that advertises their book. They can use programs such as Big Huge Labs or Canva

Book Jackets: Design an original book cover, complete with a new title and blurb for the back of the book

Blind Date with a Book: Give students plain paper that is not see-through, such as butcher paper, and have them each wrap the book they read like a present. Have them write words or short phrases that describe the book on the paper without giving away the title of the book or its author (and, of course, no spoilers)

Comic Strip: Have students condense the book they read into a comic strip/graphic novel or a picture book. Challenge them to tell the whole story in the new format, not just one section of the book

Back to Basics: 6 Reading Strategies

Our new way of teaching has us going back to basics in a lot of ways. Lessons we used to teach in the classroom are now taking twice as long through a screen.

In addition to building relationships with students through Zoom, answering constant emails, and keeping a pulse on our mental health, teachers are bending over backwards to continue to teach with the same rigor that our kids are used to.

The truth is if you’re feeling stressed about getting every aspect of the reading standards taught this year, give yourself permission. Permission to do less. Permission to go back to basics. Permission to prioritize certain standards over the others.

Every student, no matter the age, will always need to use 6 key reading strategies. Whatever your situation looks like this school year, these 6 strategies you can continue to teach. Each reading standard has these embedded and are the basis of teaching more complex reading skills.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with how to maintain the teaching you’re used to, go back to basics, and work on these strategies with your students. Ensuring that your students can master these reading skills, will set them up for continued success.

Looking for specific text evidence and key details is a skill that students will utilize in multiple content areas year after year.

Modeling for students how to pause while they’re reading and check for understanding is one of those skills that kind of gets forgotten during the school year. Now is the time to bring this skill to the forefront!

This is one skill that will always need continued practice!!

Students as young as preschoolers can practice this strategy! Anytime you read a picture book or novel out loud, pause every once in a while and ask one simple question: “What do you think is going to happen next?” This is a great way to practice making predictions, while working on inferring.

Paying attention to the various characters in your stories and analyzing the different changes they go through, while comparing and contrasting them, is the basis for many of the Common Core reading standards.

Having students summarize what they read helps them become strong, independent readers. After they read a piece of text or a story, encourage them to retell what they read to someone else to practice this skill.

These 6 reading strategies lay the foundation for capable and independent readers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with navigating this new way of teaching, reinforce these strategies through fun and engaging read alouds!

Remembering 9/11

I was in the high school commons laughing about something stupid at a table with my friends. We didn’t have a care in the world and we were just waiting until the last possible second before we had to get to our next class.

All of a sudden, we heard our principal over the intercom telling everyone to hurry up and get into a classroom with a teacher. We thought it was a little strange, but did what we were told. I walked into my next class to find my teacher crying with the tv on. At this time, we all realized what was happening and just sat at our desks…waiting and watching.

Wherever you were on the day 19 years ago, you have a story to tell.

I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite books to share with students, or to just read for myself. Each one of these leaves me with tears by the time I get to the end of them. They are all written with so much care and respect.

Whether you’re in person, hybrid, or remote, I hope you find some time to discuss with your class the day and the impact the events have made on our country and people. If you’re not sure how to do it…grab one of these books and simply have a read aloud.

Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center. But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business.

Towers Falling When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Dèja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?

The Man in the Red Bandana When Welles Crowther was a young boy, his father gave him a red bandanna, which he always carried with him. On September 11, 2001, Welles Remy Crowther saved numerous people from the upper floors of the World Trade Center South Tower. “The Man in the Red Bandanna” recounts and celebrates his heroism on that day. Welles’ story carries an inspirational message that will resonate with adults as well as young children.

I Survived the Attacks of September 11th So the next morning, Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It’s a bright, beautiful day in New York. But just as Lucas arrives at his uncle’s firehouse, everything changes — and nothing will ever be the same again.

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboat of its time, but by 1995, the city didn’t need old fireboats anymore. So the Harvey retired, until a group of friends decided to save it from the scrap heap. Then, one sunny September day in 2001, something so horrible happened that the whole world shook. And a call came from the fire department, asking if the Harvey could battle the roaring flames. In this inspiring true story, Maira Kalman brings a New York City icon to life and proves that old heroes never die.

What Were the Twin Towers? When the Twin Towers were built in 1973, they were billed as an architectural wonder. At 1,368 feet, they clocked in as the tallest buildings in the world and changed the New York City skyline dramatically. Offices and corporations moved into the towers—also known as the World Trade Center—and the buildings were seen as the economic hub of the world. But on September 11, 2001, a terrorist attack toppled the towers and changed our nation forever.

Offering Choice Through Zoom

With most of our country forced to either teach, or learn through Zoom, the opportunities to give students choice seem less and less. Back in the classrooms, our classrooms were student-led and our teaching was responsive to individual needs. Teachers are amazing, and are still providing those opportunities as much as they can, but our situation provides some limits.

In my district, teachers are teaching a whole group math lesson and a whole group ELA lesson. Then, each student is put into a small reading group and a small math group. When students aren’t meeting during one of these times, they’re expected to be doing some sort of independent work.

I’m part of an extremely large Facebook Bitmoji group and was inspired by a couple of posts that I came across and adapted it for me. For the idea below to work, you need to be able to navigate and use Zoom breakout rooms. Fortunately, they are super easy to organize and pop between while checking in with students.

One way to give students some choice in how they like to work is to utilize a choice board like mine below. After a whole group lesson, share this image with your class and have the type in the chat box which color room they would like to join during independent work time. Based on their responses, you can quickly form breakout rooms to accomodate their choices (if they choose yellow, it requires individual rooms so they are by themselves).

Click on the image to get your own editable copy.

Providing students with choice, even with something as simple as how they want to work, can have a tremendous impact. Students begin to feel in control of their learning and begin to build autonomy. Having students choose if they would like extra time with the teacher, time collaborating with peers, or time working alone, it forces students to become reflective learners. They need to think about their own understanding of a concept and then decide what they need in order to be successful…a tough skill for kids.

Start small…try just two breakout rooms. As you and your students start to get more comfortable, you can always add more. Have fun!

Favorite Fall Picture Books

Fall is my absolute favorite season, and in my crazy mind, September 1 is when fall begins! I start ordering the Pumpkin Creme Cold Brew from Starbucks, I order my new fall candles from Bath and Body Works, and I slowly start pulling out a few fall decorations.

In order to help celebrate my favorite season, I rounded up a few of my favorite fall picture books for you all. These are some classics, and a couple funny ones that your students will love. Enjoy and happy pumpkin everything!!!

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn Join a young girl as she takes a walk through forest and town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with every flower and creature and gust of wind, she says good-bye to summer and welcomes autumn.

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves As the leaves fall from his favorite tree, Fletcher worries that something is terribly wrong. But then winter comes, and with it a wonderful surprise.

Pumpkin Jack The first pumpkin Tim ever carved was fierce and funny, and he named it Jack. When Halloween was over and the pumpkin was beginning to rot, Tim set it out in the garden and throughout the weeks he watched it change.

Fall Leaves Part poem, part silent stage, this luminous picture book puts autumn on display and captures the spirit of change that stays with us long after fall leaves. Unlock the secrets of this busy and beautiful time of year as the natural world makes way for winter.

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever Desmond the field mouse wants to carve the biggest jack-o’-lantern in the neighborhood with his pumpkin. Clayton the house mouse wants to win the Biggest Pumpkin contest with his. But when they discover that their choice pumpkins are actually the same one, Desmond and Clayton decide to work together to grow the biggest pumpkin ever!

The Ugly Pumpkin The Ugly Pumpkin has waited all through October for someone to take him home, but no one wants him. He doesn’t look like other pumpkins. So the lonely Ugly Pumpkin leaves the patch in search of a place where he’ll fit in. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, he discovers the truth about who he is–but it’s not what he expected!

Awesome Autumn Autumn is awesome! Leaves change color. Animals fly south or get ready to hibernate. People harvest crops and dress up as scary creatures for Halloween. And then there are pickup football games to play, Thanksgiving foods to eat, leaf piles to jump in―all the amazing things that happen as the air turns crisp and cool.