An Educator's Guide for Outside In

Making an Educator’s Guide for Outside In was a joy to do. You see, the author, Sarah Ellis, was one of my VCFA advisors.  Not only was I delighted to be of service to someone I consider to a dear friend, I knew I’d be wowed by her work. Sarah did not let me down. Outside In is incredible! It’s no wonder it's been nominated for the prestigious Red Maple Award. Those smart Canadians … they know a good book when they read one.

Outside In explores the notions of community, environmentalism, materialism, honesty, and friendship. Sarah addresses these heavy concepts in the lively, humorous, and  heartfelt manner she’s known for.  Here’s how the publisher, Groundwood Books, synopsizes the story. “Lynn’s life is full — choir practice, school, shopping for the perfect jeans, and dealing with her free-spirited mother. Then one day her life is saved by a mysterious girl named Blossom, who introduces Lynn to her own world and family — both more bizarre, yet somehow more sane, than Lynn’s own.” I say, buy the book. You’ll be glad you did!

When going about creating guides for smart, multi-layered, well-crafted books like this one, I like to look for thematic threads in the storyline to explore. One such thread I found in Outside In was the notion of ‘triangulation’ (A term that, interestingly, rhymes with the word ‘strangulation,’ which comes close to describing the emotionally precarious situation the protagonist must face.). The process of triangulation is the establishment of the distance between two points of a triangle. Lynn is not only studying the process of triangulation in Geometry, she living it in the flesh!

 Lynn’s enactment of triangulation is contrived by three vastly different groups of people she is associated with – Shakti, her nut-case mother; Celia and Kas, her two best friends; and the Underlanders, a strange yet remarkably tender community of people who live in the underbelly of the city. Shakti, her best friends, and the Underlanders serve as triangle endpoints. When these three worlds discover one another, Lynn is pressed at the poigniant center point of the story – pressed in hard!

In the Educator’s Guide you’ll find several really cool graphic organizers that analyze character, theme, and point of view. And, as bonus, there’s a nifty craft project included that requires basically no cash to create. Download the guide, have a look, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

The Graphic Organizer - A God-Send!

As previously posted in

Graphic organizers are some of the most beneficial tools around to teach complicated literary concepts such as theme, text structure, chronology, and sequencing - to name just a few. Also known as knowledge maps, cognitive organizers, or concept diagrams – graphic organizers provide a visual opportunity to grasp complex learning and instruction. And, they’re fun to use!

Here's a graphic organizer made to compliment a lesson in P. J. Hoover's school visit programming document. Click on the image and see how a graphic organizer can be used!Maureen McLaughlin and Brenda J. Overturf have joined forces to create an excellent e-book collection of graphic organizers that address both the narrative and informational text CCSS standards. The collection is entitled The Common Core: Graphic Organizers for Teaching K-12 Students to Meet the Reading Standards.  All of the organizers are developed to support students’ thinking process, and each is sensational.

The authors offer the following tips for the most effective use of graphic organizers. They say that educators should:

·        Clearly explain how the organizer works.

·        Demonstrate how to use it.

·        Engage students in guided practice.

·        Allow students to practice using the graphic organizer on their own.

·        Finally, engage students in reflection regarding how to use the organizer and in the topics and/or skills that they learned.

If you are an educator looking for ways to help your students grasp the expectations of Common Core Reading Standards 1 to 10, consider downloading this insightful e-book. It is loaded with plenty of strand-specific, power-packed graphic organizers, each complete with clear definitions stating the purpose and intent.

I particularly like the ones created to guide the understanding of informational text structures. Then again, I’m kinda geeky that way!

A Simple Saturday Guide Hits the Big Time

 Eileen Meyer, author of the most amazing Who's Faster? Animals on the Move creatively displayed the work that I did for her during a recent Author Showcase hosted by the Illinois School Library Association. There she prominently presented the guide that I created for her, as well as my CCSSI annotated school visit booklet on an attractive foam core poster at her table. According to Eileen, she received lots of "oooohs and aaaahs" for the guide and annotations, plus a number of "envious looks" from author passer-bys.

Note at how cute Eileen looks at her table. But don't let that sweet smile fool you. This lady is nothing short of brilliant. Her presentations are not only academically sound, they're lively and kid-friendly. She knows what kids want and understands the academic soundness that teachers need. Believe me, my Simple Saturday friends, I've unearthed every academic gem that her fine work offers and those jewels dazzle like diamonds!

One Day I Went Rambling Giveaway!

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Parents, teachers, and librarians! Take a moment to consider the absolutely charming premise of One Day I Went Rambling, written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by Terri Murphy, won’t you? If so, you will be ever so glad that you did.

In the story, Zane, the protagonist sees magic in the mundane surrounding him. Pop tops are jeweled rings. Wooden crates hold the daring intrigue of a pirate ship. Nothing is normal. To Zane, everything is fantastical!  And, as life would have it, Zane is surrounded by nay-sayers, peers that poke fun and tease a child who dares to think as a creative individual. Yet, Zane stays true to his individualistic nature, and in turn, influences others to begin to celebrate the wonderful freedom of thinking outside of the boring, common, everyday box.

Kelly and Terri are over-the-top enthusiastic about this important tale. So much so, that they are offering a number of incentives to entice you to climb aboard the Rambling train. One is a discussion/craft guide in which directions for a variety of homemade band instruments are included – instruments that serve as props for a Reader’s Theatre interpretation of this unforgettable story. And, finally, the opportunity to participate in a giveaway! Yes! How wonderful is that? Link away today!

In closing, enjoy an excerpt from Bennett’s and Murphy’s One Day I Went Rambling:

Ahoy, mates, time’s a wasting.

Climb aboard! Let’s sail away!

We’ll explore the world together.

Finding adventure all the way.