Discussion & Activity Guide

No Passive Learning Here - WORDPLAY!

WORDPLAY makes grammar studies seem like a day at the waterpark. It is such fun! Author Adam Lehrhaupt personified parts of speech then placed them on a playground to do what kids do. Play hard. Get a little jealous. Bicker a bit. Jockey for social ranking. Take up for each other. And, eventually become good friends. Adam nailed it.

Even though illustrator Jared Chapman’s brilliant use of bright primary and secondary colors suggest that the book is suited only for the very young, I think WORDPLAY is beneficial for any student – young or old – who struggles with the fundamentals of grammar. Teachers, WORDPLAY needs to be on your shelves. Trust me on this one. For real.

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The projects in the Discussion/Activity Guide compliment the active spirit of the story. No passive worksheet coloring in this one. That just wouldn’t be right. Instead, we’ve got kids up and at ‘em, rocking and rolling word cubes, embodying Adam’s personifications by dramatizing the grammatical structure of silly sentences in true Mad Libs fashion. Fun. Fun. Fun.

Character Cards serve to keep the crazy cast members somewhat orderly. These cards are simple to make and are super handy when lining up young actors to participate in an impromptu performance. The WORDPLAY character cards are labeled and color-coded to represent each role.  All a teacher needs to do is trim around the borders, punch a couple of holes in designated spots, and then secure a bit of yarn on the card to create a hanging tag.  Kids love these things. Teachers will, too.

If you’d rather have your students make their own Character Cards, click here to download blank copies. Use them to create a cast for Reader’s Theater productions, imaginative play activities, and anything else you might think of. Let the kids illustrate them; choosing colors and shapes that best represent their characters’ true nature.

No passive worksheet coloring, right? Never! Instead, taking Adam and Jared's lead, let’s make word play lively and fun!

Beautifying Bird Nests - A Simple Craft Idea

I'm excited to include some of my most favorite simple craft ideas in an upcoming guide for a book with an awesome nature theme. One project that I particularly like and will include in the guide is Beautifying Bird Nests (Not that birds need much help in creating their masterpieces, mind you.). This craft is most effective when created in the early spring, when birds are busily building their nests. This project is as simple and simple can be. Kids love it. Birds benefit, too.

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The supply list is short and cheap! All you need to gather is a mesh produce bag, scissors, and an assortment of thin ribbon, yarn, and string.

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Cut ribbon, yarn, and string into short strips about 3 or 4 inches long. 

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Loosely insert bits of ribbon, yarn, and string into the produce bag mesh. Once complete, hang mesh bag outdoors near a tree. Wait and watch. Soon birds will snitch some of the strips to use as construction material for their nests! Truly! I've seen this happen.  

Who would've thought enhancing nature could be such fun!

PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW by Jody Jensen Shaffer, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW (Henry Holt & Company, 2017) is heart-warming, charming story about how a misunderstood cow uses thoughtfulness, consideration, and scientific reasoning to find a special place in the heart of the herd.

Prudence is simply not wired like the other cows. Instead of thinking and acting like a regular member of the herd, she’s preoccupied with engineering projects designed to improve the lives others. Ultimately, her inventions unintentionally create havoc on the farm, leaving her isolated and friendless. Motivated by the desire for acceptance, Prudence draws upon COW POWER inspiration to develop inventions benefiting everyone.  In the end, Prudence finds friendship by caring for others and being true to herself.

STEM enthusiasts will enjoy the lessons included in the Prudence the Part-Time Cow Discussion & Activity Guide. Using Prudence’s projects as inspiration, students analyze her inventions through the use of the Scientific Method. Students are asked to first observe how each project potentially benefits members of the herd. Next, they define the problem that is met by the project. From there, young students learn how to formulate a hypothesis, then describe and analyze the experimentation process. Finally, students are instructed to articulate a conclusion for the overall experimental process. Pretty advanced thinking for the PK-3 crowd, wouldn’t you say?

POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON by Don Tate

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is the story of a man who was born with words inside of him – words full of life and love and wonder. Poetic words. Musical words. Profound and philosophical words. Thoughts and perceptions that had to be expressed. However, young George Moses Horton was enslaved. There would be no formal education for this brilliant boy. And, yet, he was driven to find a way to express the poetry he had composed in his mind.

At first, he learned the alphabet by listening to the white children’s lessons. Then he taught himself how to read his mother’s hymnal.  Eventually, after a series of remarkable events and opportunities, George Moses Horton grew to become the first southern African-American man to be published.

Written and illustrated by Don Tate, Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is an inspirational account of man’s determination to become the person he was intended to be, despite the oppression he endured.  To deepen the understanding and appreciation for George Moses Horton’s life and accomplishments, Peachtree Publishers is offering a free, downloadable Teacher’s Guide consisting of discussion questions, an author spotlight, a historical timeline project, and other activities.

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World by Nancy Castaldo

Nancy Castaldo’s incredible The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World (Harcourt Brace and Company) is much more than a mere non-fictional account of cross-pollination and heirloom tomatoes (although she does explain these topics in a logical and comprehensive way). Folks, this book is a call to ACTION and we’d best be heeding that call.

Did you know that, throughout history, people have risked their lives to protect seeds? I mean, like, they died for the cause. And, that seeds are being exploited through biopiracy, and that even Hitler was in on the seed wars, and that there is plenty seedy trouble brewing today? Download the guide to get a sense of rich content covered in The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World. It’s pretty darned amazing, I tell you.

This is exactly the type of text that my upper-elementary Montessori students would have loved. Our class was comprised of young activists, kids that cared about the environment, animal rights, and non-violence. I imagine that, after reading Castaldo’s fine work, we’d be joining heads to find a way to make a difference.

We’d become seed defenders.

I’m sure of it.

The Guides by deb Library is Now Open!

You are invited to take a tour of a collection of the various types of guides I’ve created over the years. Guides for YA, middle grade, picture and chapter books – you name it, I’ve made it.  Access this link and you’ll find discussion questions, games, puzzles, and projects galore for some of the best books in the business!

The experience of organizing this collection of .pdfs was much like the nostalgic feelings one gets when flipping through a stack of old family photographs. Hard to believe that I began creating guides six years ago. Yet the books and the lessons created to compliment them are still as intriguing as they were back then.

I’m grateful to have the honor of partnering with so many great authors and illustrators on such a wide variety of projects. What a joy it is to explore opportunities for readers to connect with their stories in a creative ways. Access the link and see for yourself! Check out the science experiments and reader’s theater scripts and poetry and crafty, paper folding activities and… and… and... Such fun!

So, my friends, welcome to the Guides by deb Library of Reading Guides. Stop by and browse the lists. Additional titles will be added weekly. I’ll be sure to let you know when they arrive.

In the Canyon by Liz Garton Scanlon

Want to learn how to squeeze the Grand Canyon into a water bottle? Download the Discussion & Activity Guide for Liz Garton Scanlon’s latest picture book, In the Canyon, to find out how.

And they said it couldn’t be done.

You’ll find loads of other fun activities in the guide, too. Plenty of great information, projects, and games inspired by a young girl’s hike and the fascinating discoveries she makes along the way. From petroglyphs to condors, big-horned sheep to the tiny ground squirrel, and so much more!

Buy the book, download the guide and enjoy!

Reading Guides: Where Can They Be Found?

Need a reading guide and don’t know where to turn? While I'd love to be of service to you, there are some other options out there for you. Let's take a look at a few.

If you’re very lucky, your publisher will create a reading guide for your book. Publishers such as Peachtree arrange for the guides to be created and then post them on their website. These types of guides are typically formatted with the publisher’s brand and are comprised of discussion questions; writing prompts, and follow-up projects. Occasionally, the guide creator is acknowledged fine print. If you like what you see in the guide, Google them. Perhaps they can make a one for you, too.

Oftentimes, experienced teachers are contracted to create reading guides. Though these guides generally lack the branding pizzazz a publisher’s marketing team adds to a project, they work very well. The key is to find an educator who is able to present the lessons and activities in a lively way. Discussion questions should be structured in an engaging, rhetorical manner. Yes or no questions just won’t do.

A word of caution, though. If you’re considering asking a teacher-friend to help you, have a look at their work beforehand. Compare their content with guides that you admire. I say this because I have redone more guides made by teacher-friends than you’d care to know.

Avoid the heart-ache. Contact a pro. You’ll be better off in the long run.

Reading Guides: When Do You Need One?

Any time is the right time to have Reading Guide created. Whether you’re a multi-published phenom or birthing your first book baby, if you’re hoping to land a niche in the school and library market, it’s time to think about adding a reading guide to your marketing platform.

Speaking of a multi-published phenom, meet author Lisa Wheeler. She’s published well over 30 books and keeps on keeping on. Because Lisa desired to give her Dino-Sports series a little promotional boost, we created a joint CCSS-aligned activity guide for six of the titles. She was wise to do so, in that these books offer more depth than the covers suggest. The guide proves it. Not only do her Dino-Sports series feature hot and fast game action, Lisa presents elements of history, mathematics, geometry, and athletic nomenclature in each book. The guide should help keep her Dino-Sports series on the winning roster for a long time! Score!

Many debut authors are crafting guides for their new releases well before advanced reader’s copies hit their front porch. Debut author and master teacher Dianne White created a sensational Teaching Guide for her stunning picture book, Blue on Blue.  Her years of experience in the classroom came in handy when it came to developing this well-crafted, CCSS-aligned Teaching Guide. She’s made an instructional tool that meets the needs of kindergarteners through 8th grade in clever and creative ways. Best of all, Dianne’s love for poetry resonates in each lesson. This debut author knows what she is doing and she is doing it well.

As you can see, it’s never too late or too early to add a well-crafted Reading Guide to your marketing platform. Wherever you are in the publishing game, think about adding a quality guide to your publicity tool box. It just might give your book the promotional boost it deserves.

Reading Guides: What's the Big Deal, Anyway?

Quality crafted guides connect readers with the text on an emotional level, instructional levels, and developmentally. The best of them use the story as an enticement guiding kids into a deeper, more satisfying reading experience. They should be packed with so much inspiration that a kid can’t resist but to read more and more and more and more…

Early in my teaching career, I was charged with the daunting duty of guiding a novel study group comprised of a pack of 5th grade boys (and I mean ‘a pack’, as in wolves) through the timeless middle-grade novel, Johnny Tremain. The dispiriting aspects of this challenge were that the leader of the pack was a non-reader and the novel’s small-printed text is about as dense as they come. Not an opportune mix, I assure you. We were in for a long six-week study of Esther Forbes’ Newbery Medal winning masterpiece unless I could come up with something creative – fast!

I did what any desperate teacher might do. I bought a boat-load of teacher guides – some better than others. I plowed through them in search of the most insightful lessons I could find, those that might keep the pack interested and engaged. All the while, their alpha male tried his best to derail my plans at every turn. Ah, the joys of teaching.

I insisted that he sit through our weekly novel study discussions, though he hadn’t read a word of the novel.  He was forced to listen to den mates discuss their enthusiastic interpretations of the readings. And then, an incredible thing happened. Top Dog connected with the story. Johnny Tremain came to my rescue! All the talk of fires and muskets and Paul Revere charging into the night captured his imagination.  He was seduced into reading. Not the entire book, mind you. Just the exciting parts.

So, the big deal about good reading guides is that they can make a great reading experience even more intriguing.  Through well-crafted lessons investigating aspects of the text and elements of craft, kids can connect with the story on a more personal level. And, who knows? In the end, maybe the stack of Johnny Tremain teacher guides I bought may have helped to transform my 5th grade wolf-like tyrant into a life-long reader.

Wouldn’t that be something?

The Guide that Found Its Way to the Land Down Under - The Poppy Lady

 Click on image to access the CCSS-aligned Discussion & Activity guide.

Click on image to access the CCSS-aligned Discussion & Activity guide.

On Memorial Day weekend I received an email from Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, a teacher guide client of the most delightful kind. She wrote to say that, not only was the guide we created for her incredible The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans (Calkins Creek) being received very well, she had some very exciting news to share. Teachers in Australia were using the guide as part of a nation-wide project commemorating the Anzac Centenary! Well, what to do know?

Anzac Day is one of Australia's most important national commemorative occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The Australian Government has launched the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience, a special traveling exhibition which will visit 23 locations across the continent.  Apparently, the guide created for Barbara’s Poppy Lady will be rolling along with them!

The good folks at the 5000 Poppies Project state, “Between 2014 and 2018 Australia will commemorate the Anzac Centenary, marking 100 years since Australia’s involvement in the First World War. And in 2015, there will be a large number of activities commemorating 100 years since the Anzac Gallipoli landing.  The 5000 Poppies project is a grass roots community tribute of respect and remembrance, inviting crafters across Australia to participate in this meaningful and heartfelt project.”  Kids across the nation are participating in the project, too. Educators are well equipped with information and curriculum to keep those grass roots spreading.

The 5000 Poppies Project Teacher Guide can be accessed HERE. On page 4, you’ll find a lovely piece about Moina Bell Michael, the beloved Poppy Lady. Beneath the article is information about Barbara’s book and a link to our Discussion and Activity guide. Take a moment to scroll down the 5000 Poppies Project guide to discover a plethora of stunning poppy patterns. Wow! They’re much more intricate than the simple crepe paper pattern offered in our guide. That’s for sure.

After reading about Anzac Day and the honorable way Australians and New Zealanders celebrate it, I am over-the-top excited that The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans will be a part of the commemoration. It’s terrific to know that the time-line, poetry prompts, and other lessons in the book’s Discussion and Activity will be a part of the celebration!

I wonder if the 5000 Poppies Project accepts poppies made in Michigan...

Your Mommy Was Just Like You - A Celebration of the Spirit of Mother's Day

I began making guides for folks before the Common Core was cool. Even then, I was creating hands-on, project-based content that is entertaining, yet academically sound - the kind of stuff that both the kids and the folks that care for them would appreciate, and have been enjoying every minute of doing so for a long, long time.

Recently, author Kelly Bennett asked if I would go back and align all of the guides I previously made for her with the Common Core State Standards. I was glad for this opportunity as I would be able to revisit the work I had done almost three years ago in the light of present-day standards. That's kind of exciting, in a nerdy sort of way.

Kelly's Your Mommy was Just like You is just as charming as I remember it being. I love the way it celebrates humanity, in all it's messy forms. In it, tales of a mother's childhood are told to a child. The grown up is presented as an awkward, fantasy-loving, mistake-making kid. This book brings the "nobody's perfect, everybody has an off day" message home, loud and clear.

I encourage you to read this delightful book. Review the guide, too, if you'd like. There are a couple activities in there that will make your Saturday simply delightful, on being creating a Daisy Chain, as demonstrated in the video below.

SWEET DREAMS, WILD ANIMALS: A STORY OF SLEEP by Eileen Meyers

Below is a video showing how to make a Hibernating Bear Craft which is part of a CCSS-Aligned Discussion & Activity guide created for Eileen Meyer’s SWEET DREAMS, WILD ANIMALS: A STORY OF SLEEP.  The book guide can be downloaded at the author’s website at www.eileenmeyerbooks.com or right here!!!!

Synopsis: Fourteen animals, including the cuddly koala, the hairy anteater, and the wise owl, are featured in this lyrical bedtime story about the unusual ways that animals sleep. Natural history notes explain how each animal sleeps, from the magnificent frigate bird, which naps while flying hundreds of feet above the sea, to the walrus, which sleeps with its tusks anchored in floating ice. Whimsical watercolors of dozing animals will help any weary child fall to sleep with a smile.

Book Title: SWEET DREAMS, WILD ANIMALS: A STORY OF SLEEP

Written by: Eileen Meyer

Website: www.eileenmeyerbooks.com   

Illustrated by: Laurie Caple

Website: www.lauriecaple.com      

Published by: Mountain Press Publishing Company

ISBN: 978-0670012855

 

A Celebration of Color - My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood (a re-posting)

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This will be my second Michigan autumn. The vivid colors of the changing leaves, brilliant sunsets, and the rosy-red cheeked children continue to make me smile. Everyday is a celebration of change and color. So, this week, I'd like to focus on a guide I made for Tameka Fryer Brown's charming my cold plum lemon pie bluesy mood. The story explores the connection of the change of mood and its corresponding color. This book is a tribute to sibling rival survival and the tenacity it takes to do so.

 Folks, let me say that the story is lively, entertaining, and very clever. However, if you take a close look at the connection of theme and art, there is a whole lot of shaking going on. It's deep. Really deep. That being said, the guide consists of discussion questions, writing prompts, and basic color theory lessons that lead the reader to an intimate awareness of how color affects and/or reflects emotions.

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One of the most rudimentary-yet-satisfactory activities presented in the guide is Color Mixing. In it, the child experiences the joy of transposing primary colors into secondary and tertiary just by the drip of an eye dropper. It's a very simple activity that lends itself to some profound results.

I encourage you, on this blustery autumn weekend, to take a look at this guide. Better yet, check outmy cold plum lemon pie bluesy mood, the book that inspired the lessons within.

A CCSS/STEM Activity Guide for THE INVENTOR'S SECRET: WHAT THOMAS EDISON TOLD HENRY FORD

 Click on image to purchase book.

Click on image to purchase book.

It is a shame that this great book won't hit the market until September, 2015. I'm just dying to show you the projects, games, and experiments included in the guide.  I must have been channeling my inner Edison, because ideas for activities never stopped coming. This was one of those guides I had to force myself to quit creating projects for! Wait till September and you'll see what I mean.

Not to worry, though. Access the you tube video below to get a sense of the energy, inspiration, and  just plain fun that this great book offers to young readers. 

Title: The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

Author: Suzanne Slade

Illustrator: Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Synopsis:  Both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford started off as insatiably curious tinkerers. That curiosity led them to become inventors—with very different results. As Edison invented hit after commercial hit, gaining fame and fortune, Henry struggled to make a single invention (an affordable car) work. Witnessing Thomas's glorious career from afar, a frustrated Henry wondered about the secret to his success.

This little-known story is a fresh, kid-friendly way to show how Thomas Edison and Henry Ford grew up to be the most famous inventors in the world—and best friends, too.

Survival Secrets of Turkey Vultures by Deb Toor

Title: Survival Secrets of Turkey Vultures

Author: Debra Toor

ISBN: 978-1616335717

Synopsis: Join mother vulture on a day-long hunt to feed her hungry chicks. Will she survive? She can't defend herself, kill her own prey, or hunt without thermals. Up-to-date science, photos and activities will help kids understand this gentle vulture's adaptations and its biological role in nature. Suggested age range for readers: 9-11

Educator's Discussion & Activity Guide: Vetted by a number of scientists and experts in the field, this guide consists of an extensive research activity, writing lessons, a puzzle, and a fact-based bingo game. Deb Toor is passionate about this subject and has gone well beyond the extra mile to create a website packed with everything you'd like to know about the turkey vulture - and then some!

How to Make a Robotic Hand in 10 Easy Steps

Simple Saturday has returned - new and improved!

Check out this video inspired by Kersten Hamilton's most awesome Gadgets and Gears series. The robotic hand activity featured in the video below is part of the guide created for her newest book in the series, Ire of Iron Claw,  which will hit the market in July.  In the meantime, start reading the book that started all the buzz, The Mesmer Menace. While you're at it, check out the cool educator's guide that was created to compliment that book!

Y'all, this series is PERFECT for the bright child who owns a love of language, suspense, drama, and science! Just thinking about it makes me want to do a little hand jive!

Princess Posey an the Tiny Treasure

Title: Princess Posey and the Tiny Treasure

Author: Stephanie Greene

Illustrator: Stephanie Roth Sisson

ISBN: 9780142424155

Synopsis: When Gramps buys Posey the most adorable stuffed animal-a pink piglet named Poinky who can perch on the top of her pencil-Posey can’t wait to show him to all her friends. But when Poinky mistakenly ends up in Miss Lee’s Consequence Drawer Posey is heartbroken. Will the Pink Princess be able to find her courage and explain things to Miss Lee?

Discussion & Activity Guide Download: Guide consists of discussion questions, instructions to craft an narrative and an opinion piece, lessons to construct the numerical sequencing of a clock face and an o-clock booklet, and a box-making craft.

Princess Posey and the Next Door Dog

Title: Princess Posey and the Next Door Dog

Author: Stephanie Greene

Illustrator: Stephanie Roth Sisson

ISBN: 9780399254635

Synopsis: When Posey puts on her tutu, she turns into brave Princess Posey who can face anything. But when she has to write a story about a pet, the only one around is the new next-door dog who has a loud bark. Also, Posey has a secret. When she was little, a dog knocked her over to lick her ice cream and she’s been afraid of dogs ever since. Can her tutu help her tackle this challenge?

Discussion & Activity Guide Download: Consists of discussion questions, letter boxes, a character wheel manipulative (based on Joesph Campbell's archetypical study), and instructions to make a homemade dog toy!

Follow-up Guide for Picture Day Perfection

Don’t let this silly face on the Picture Day Perfection cover fool you in any way. Author Deb Diesen’s hilarious book is picture perfect to teach advanced elements of story and that’s just what we did in a follow-up guide crafted for grades 3 to 5. This book, pared with the attached guide, will make teaching the complicated (and sometimes kind of - yawn - boring) topic of elements of story fun, as well as unforgettable!

Practice comprehending literary terms with Picture Day Perfection Bingo.This guide is rich with literary terminology such as rising and falling action, exposition, climax, resolution, and aspects of the three act structure. Being that Picture Day Perfection’s intriguing circular plot line has such a clever twist at the end; students of all ages will delight in returning to the text with the intent of connecting the action on the page to the classic story arc.  And, for the ultimate opportunity to practice the application of skills, students can participate in a Readers’ Theatre production. The script is divided into specific acts and scenes, all correlating with the elevated concepts presented in the guide.

I have to say that creating two age-appropriate guides for the same book was a fascinating experience. We went from sequencing the months of the year in the proper ordinal pattern to chatting it up using high-level literary lingo.  Please take a moment to download the guide and see what I mean.