Friday, September 30, 2016

Looking Back to July, August, September of 2015

by Susan Stephenson,

A regular feature on The Book Chook is where I look at popular posts from previous months and years. Today my focus will be on posts from July, August and September of 2015. Don't forget you can use the right sidebar to find earlier posts, too. Click Creating, Learning, Reviews, Reading, Writing and Celebrating to explore those themes, or try the Blog Archive to browse by months. The Free PDFs button takes you to my website where you can download any of the free educational PDFs I’ve created.

I hope you find something useful here, and if you do, thanks for sharing it with others.

Creating with Kids and iPad Apps: If you want your children to do more than play games with their iPads, check out this list of apps that encourage them to create in some way.

Listly for Educators: Why I think the curation tool, Listly, works well for me, and might for you too.

A List of Visual Literacy Resources: All my VisLit articles in Listly list format. Try saying that three times fast!

Creating Comics and Cartoons with Kids: Another Listly list worth checking.

A List of Pinners and Boards for Teacher Librarians: If you are a teacher librarian or someone (like me) with an interest in all wonderful things library, here’s a list of great Pinterest resources you might like.

Let’s Celebrate Read a Child a Book You Like Day!: The one day you can push your own agenda, and introduce kids to a book you love/loved.

Children’s iPad App, LEGO Movie Maker: LEGO + iPad +making movies = fun with learning!

Creative Prompt for Kids - Start with a Blob: Lots of creative activities for kids centring around the “blob”.

** My creative prompts for kids series has been very well-received. Another example: In Creative Prompts for Kids - Start with a Box, I suggested kids should try lots of different ways to create around the central theme of “a box”. All my other prompts are embedded in the list below, so if you missed any of this series (30 prompts so far and more coming soon), you can catch up here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Children’s Book Reviews: Introduction to Lois Ehlert

by Susan Stephenson,

My introduction to Lois Ehlert’s books was shared with a young bookworm. We touched the beautiful pages, traced over lines and peeked through holes. We grinned at each other and pointed out special “bits”. We sighed when we’d finished and both of us WISHED we could make whimsical art like Ehlert! Here’s a little about each book we read.

Mice was written by Rose Fyleman, illustrated by Lois Ehlert and published by Simon and Schuster Australia (2012). (Beach Lane Books USA)

From the publisher:

Could it be true that mice are…nice? That’s certainly what the cat thinks in this after-dark romp just perfect for young children. Featuring whimsical, comforting text and vibrant collage illustrations from Caldecott Honor medalist Lois Ehlert, this engaging story puts a fresh spin on the classic cat-and-mouse dynamic.

The classic Mice will be familiar to many early childhood educators as a poem once shared with young students, then recited for an adoring audience. I adored being able to see Ehlert’s interpretation and have the poem take on extra layers of meaning for me. Kids will love it as the mice get into mischief. They actually build a collage of themselves and kids can read the labelled tools and materials. The collage throughout Mice is very textural, yet with those same large brightly coloured elements and contrasting solid colour backgrounds that seem to distinguish Ehlert’s work. Kids will love to see just who the “I” is who states “But I think mice are nice” and roar laughing over the final visual twist. A real winner!

Holy Moley works well both as a read-aloud or a book for young readers. It was written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert, and published by Simon and Schuster in Australia (2015) (Beach Lane Books USA)

From the publisher:

Get to know Mole, the underground protector of the garden, in this fact-filled natural history adventure with vibrant collage artwork from the Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Some might think that Mole is a garden pest, but the truth is, he is a pest-preventer! Mole keeps worms and caterpillars and other crawly bugs from munching up all the growing veggie plants. And so at harvest time, there is a bounty of yummy goodies for the gardeners to enjoy—and Mole is chubby from all the eating he has done and ready to get cozy in his burrow for winter.

The text rhymes and is in a really large font. Although the main part of the story describes a mole’s journey and what he sees, for kids who like non-fiction, there is a a really nice double-page spread glossary with images and labels identifying creatures that make holes. What fun to go back through the book to try to identify them in the story! Then there’s the map on the final end papers of Mole’s home and surroundings - tunnels to the no-no lawn and chambers for worm storage will make kids giggle for sure. Bright, highly coloured and full of energy, Holey Moley makes an outstanding addition to any picture book collection.

Lots of Spots is a board book, written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert and published
by Simon and Schuster Australia (Beach Lane Books USA) (2014).

From the publisher:

Lots of Spots is lots of fun! This cherished collection of illustrated poems from Caldecott Honoree Lois Ehlert is now available as a Classic Board Book.

Lois Ehlert is at her Ogden-Nashian best in this lively collection of poems about animal camouflage and adornment. Birds and beasts from all walks of the animal kingdom are gathered here, beautifully illustrated in Lois's signature bold and bright collage style.

Please don’t dismiss this as just for babies because it’s a board book. The poems are all short, but not overly simple - I think they would be appreciated by kids 5-8 at least. The images are aimed at toddlers, being large, colourful and on a stark white background. But again, I think older kids will really appreciate them, and perhaps be inspired to go on and try their own collage pictures. Buy it for kids when they’re young - start them on poetry early! - but with the knowledge it will work for many years.

Here are two examples of poems that invite kids to share the fun of word play:


If a snake
shakes its rattle,
shake a leg -
and skedaddle!



When a turkey
its warty wattle

NB Lots of Spots is also available as a hardcover picture book that is not a board book, if you would prefer it. But just think how robust a board book would be through repeated readings!

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Encourage Kids to Write Poetry with Tools and Apps

Written by Susan Stephenson,

For many children, writing poetry is a daunting task. Adults are daunted too! I believe we shouldn’t ask kids to write poetry, until we have shared LOTS of poetry with them - poetry in all sorts of forms and from many different poets, particularly those who write for kids. Adding a poetry book to your read-aloud stash is one simple, yet enriching way to do this. Another idea I advocate is to check out the videos generously shared by poets who read their own works aloud, like Michael Rosen (see video below) Websites like Giggle Poetry, Scholastic and Poetry4Kids offer kids a lot too.

A regular subscription to The School Magazine means that children will regularly read not only short poems, but encounter fun and exciting stories, articles and word fun. And let's not forget that most magical tool of all - a library card - bringing kids access to all sorts of poetry from near and far.

Once youngsters have read and enjoyed lots of poetry, we can show them how we grown ups go about writing a poem, but remind them that there is no one “right” way. I often ease kids in by finding a short rhyming poem in a book, say four lines, and invite students to change it and make it their own. Nursery rhymes are great for this. Scholastic has a set of videos from US poets who share writing secrets with kids.

Many teachers start children off with the short forms of poetry, particularly those that support young learners by having some sort of template or scaffolding. Some apps and website tools are also specifically designed to encourage poetry creation. These include:

Acrostic: “Acrostic Poem is another free app by generous developers, ReadWriteThink. It’s a great way to introduce children to writing poetry because it supports them and gives them a concrete framework to operate in.”

Haiku: “Haiku concentrates on doing one thing simply and well. It supports and encourages children to create their own haiku. The support means it’s suitable for kids old enough to write, even those hesitant to write poetry. I loved that the result can be saved to the camera roll, emailed and then printed - great idea for a display sometime.”

Diamante: “Again, kids will feel confident because of the scaffolding in place - they are ‘walked’ through each step of the process, including examples of printable diamante poems to use as models.”

Theme Poems: “Theme Poems is an interactive online tool, an iPad app and an Android app. The ReadWriteThink website not only has the tool (Flash Player required) but also has grade appropriate lessons to support it.“

Alphabet Organizer: Not strictly for poetry, this app could be used by kids to make alphabetical collections of vocabulary or word images for poetry.

Lark by Storybird: Storybird is a website where kids can make use of wonderful art work provided as prompts for stories they create. Storybird’s app, Lark, was developed specifically so children could “… make and share art-inspired poetry” using art work as a prompt.

PICLITS: Sometimes, the actual mechanical ask of handwriting or typing is difficult for kids, so word magnets can help. Kids can drag and drop a word, and use a drop-down menu to add different endings to that word. PICLITS also offers a range of image prompts, and a way to add your own words.

Found Poetry with Word Mover: A great way to create blank verse, Word Mover is another app with “word magnets” kids can use.

The wonderful thing is that apps don’t always need to be designed for poem writing, to encourage and enhance it. Don’t forget some of the image editors where kids can create or edit an image that becomes a prompt, or the camera app with which children can make a visual record of something they would like to write a poem about. With any writing, we want our kids to become aware of all their senses so they can hook a reader into a story or poem. So (for instance) even an audio app can help them remember what they’ve heard, and they can ponder later how best to make a word picture of it for a reader. Apps like Adobe Spark provide the means to create video using voice and images, even add soundtracks - an amazing way to share a poem with an audience.

If you’re interested in my articles about poetry and children, check out the embedded Listly list below.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Reviews: Graphic Novels about Greek Legends

by Susan Stephenson,

If you would love books that introduce your tweens (perhaps) and teens to all the drama, the tragedy, the over-the-top excesses that are the Greek Legends, let me introduce you to George O’Connor. O’Connor is an author/illustrator who has created a series called Olympians, published by First Second (Macmillan). Currently at eight volumes, the series consists of Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Ares, and Apollo. Artemis is due out in 2017.

The three graphic novels I’ve read for the purpose of this review are:
Zeus: King of the Gods
Hera: The Goddess and her Glory
Poseidon: Earth Shaker

Zeus: King of the Gods (Olympians Volume 1) is a great introduction to Greek legends because it starts at the start: out of Kaos comes Gaea, and then Gaea makes Ouranos. Eventually Kronos kills Ouranos, and then proceeds to swallow all his children, except for Zeus.

From the publisher:

Volume 1 of OLYMPIANS, ZEUS: King OF THE GODS, introduces readers to the ruler of the Olympian Pantheon, telling his story from his boyhood to his ascendance to supreme power.

Hera: The Goddess and her Glory (Olympians Volume 3)

From the publisher:

Volume 3 of Olympians, Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, introduces readers to the Queen of the Gods and Goddesses in the Pantheon. This volume tells the tales of the many heroes who sought and won Hera's patronage, most notably Hercules.

Poseidon: Earth Shaker (Olympians Volume 5)

From the publisher:

In the fifth installment of the Olympians series of graphic novels, author/artist George O'Connor turns the spotlight on that most mysterious and misunderstood of the Greek gods, Poseidon: Earth Shaker. Thrill to such famous myths as Theseus and the Minotaur, Odysseus and Polyphemos, and the founding of Athens—and learn how the tempestuous Poseidon became the King of the Seas.

O’Connor has the clever knack of sticking to the “facts” of these Greek tales, but also bringing them to life for us. The art work in particular will appeal to kids - sometimes dark and mysterious, often violent and from a perspective that enhances the power and brutality of the characters. Some panels are full sized, others are smaller, focussed on a detail perhaps - so much variety and drama that kids will certainly want to read and re-read. Lots of comic book elements are used in this graphic novel - there are plenty of the exclamations and noises in speech bubbles, as well as the art work so often found in superhero tales, to make kids feel comfortably that this is like a comic. But there’s quite a lot of reading as well, and these books will make a great introduction to more research and reading of the Greek legends in other media.

I really like the way O’Connor reveals the Olympians characters through their thoughts and dialogue as well as their actions. Here is Poseidon, declaiming his powers: “I am Poseidon, earth shaker, ruler of the boundless sea, creator of storms, swallower of ships”. Often, the formality of the language used underscores that readers are learning about something momentous that happened long ago. Here is a caption just after Odysseus has blinded Polyphemos: “But for all his cunning, this Odysseus was a foolish and prideful man.” There are great touches of humour too like when Hera finds her husband, Zeus having a romantic picnic with a cow. Zeus blurts out that the cow is a gift for her, so Hera leads him to implicate himself more deeply, looking coy and exclaiming” Whatever made you think to get me such a romantic gift?” The shenanigans the gods get up to are handled carefully by O'Connor, with all scenes I read suitable in my opinion for kids 11/12+. However, it's always best to make your own decision before introducing books to students/your own children.

Not just a great introduction to Greek legends, but also a wonderful way to lure reluctant readers away from the dark side, I believe these graphic novels would be an asset to any home or library.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Useful GIF Tool at Picasion

Useful GIF Tool at Picasion
by Susan Stephenson,

Picasion turns images into GIF animations. There’s no need to register, but there are advertisements you may need to be aware of if you use it with kids. Maximum outcome width is 450 px, but you can choose a couple of different sizes and speeds. I tried a test with some LEGO type people from Reasonably Clever's Minimizer. At first I thought I needed to have images of the same size.  I deliberately popped a bigger image in, and Picasion modified it to match the rest. It looks like you can only have a sequence of three, but just keep clicking on “add one more image” for more. The result is a scrolling set of images that can be embedded on a blog the way I did below.

This could be a very useful tool! You could have GIFs of new book covers in your library blog or web page, screenshots you want kids to see, rotated samples of student work etc. Teachers could use it to share work with parents via the class blog, or publish a collaborative class story. A child could add text to images to compile a short narrative or ad for an event or cause, tell a short story, or show classmates work he is proud of. The embed function is great, but you can get other sharing options too.

If you want to avoid Flash or HTML, GIFs are an excellent alternative. There are other tools at Picasion, glitter text and avatar makers etc, but the GIF animation tool seems the most useful to educators. And easy to use is my kind of web tool!
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