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Living in 3rd Grade #7 Vocabulary is in the Air

Vocabulary is in the Air


Figurski KIDDLES

(Reposted from Figurski Wiki March 22, 2011)

Our language is made up of many wordsth. Some convey the most simple message.

The dog ran down the street.

Certainly that sentence gives the reader a specific picture, but not a colorful one. It leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader who is expected to fill in the missing parts. The sentence borders on boring.Dog th

By playing with words, children are experimenting with ways to make their language more vivid. They use words to create movies in their heads. This will surely result in more fascinating writing that will  jump off the page. In order to accomplish that task, children need to choose more picturesque words.

Look at this sentence.

                 The brown dogrunninghe9dog galloped down the crooked street. 

It’s more vivid and easily allows a clearer image to be conjured.

I asked my class to play with words. I gave them a set of stimulus words (in bold) and asked to think of more visual words.

Look at their work below.

ran — dashed, raced, rushed, sprinted, zoomed, galloped, bolted
picked — plucked, snatched, yanked, grabbed
jumped — leapt, hopped, skipped
flew — glided
yelled — screamed, scolded, yelped, screeched, hollered, shouted, snapped, barked

For HomeFun, they will work on the following words.


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December 11, 2013 Posted by | Living in 3rd Grade | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teacher’s Pets #5 My Brother Dan’s Delicious


by Steven L. Layne, illustrated by Chuck Galey
Pelican Publishing Company
Ages 6 and Up

“Monster Fear!” We’ve all had it. Come on. Admit it. Remember shadows drifting across your bedroom walls, curtains flapping in the night, or spooky noises bumping behind your closet door? “Quick!” you yell. “Shut it!” Then you jump into bed and dive under the covers. Remember the last time a monster visited you?

Take a memory trip back to when you were eight years old. Remember those especially dark nights when you stayed home alone? You convinced your mom or dad that you were old enough. You even convinced them that you didn’t need a baby sitter. But once the sun went down and the stars came out, remember how hard it was to convince yourself? I know, I do. A little “monster fear” goes a long way for a youngster. Children will definitely empathize with eight year old Joey in My Brother Dan’s Delicious written by Steven L. Layne and illustrated by Chuck Galey. As children turn each page, they will cheer Joey on as he tries to control and outwit his MONSTER . . . or his imagination. What do you think?

Children will love how illustrator, Chuck Galey reveals the “monster’s” presence on every page. They’ll delight in yelling, “Look out! There it is!” Then watch as Mr.Galey paints subtle hints of danger. They are everywhere. No wonder Joey is afraid. Look in the mirror. What do you see? And hey, what’s that under the rug? Are the pictures on the wall trying to give warning? There seem to be eyes everywhere . . . the window on the front door, the bannister, even on Joey’s backpack. Can you find more? So, before you turn off the light tonight, be sure to look under your bed.


FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“I noticed that the boy was really scared staying home alone,” said Hannah.

“Well, he thought there was a monster and he was scared of monsters,” said Greg.

“I thought there was a monster, too,” said Hannah. “And Joey saw a green thing that looked like a monster. I would be really scared.” She shivered and her eyes opened wide.

“Me too!” agreed Kiley. “I’m scared of monsters. Who wouldn’t be?” Then she laughed . .. a nervous laugh.

“The monster in the story was an octopus,” said Philippe, “but it wasn’t real.”

“But that octopus was on almost every page,” said Miguel. “It looked pretty real to me and I bet it looked real to Joey, too.”

“And the boy was scared of it,” said Greg again. “He kept saying, ‘Well, just you stay put!’”

“Well, Joey didn’t want to be eaten.” said Ethan. “Would you?”

Everyone laughed.

Then Hannah said, “Joey was pretty smart. He was trying to distract the monster so he could be safe.” She pondered a moment. “But in order to distract the monster, Joey put his brother, Dan, in danger.”

“Right!” said Emma. “He kept saying, ‘My brother Dan’s delicious.’ But, Joey didn’t really want the monster to eat his brother.”

Jaina shook her head. “It was like Joey was using a secret message,” she said. “And . . . it was kind of like the movie, Home Alone because the boy was alone there, too, and he tried to save himself.”

“Yeah!” agreed Emma. “Joey was just trying to trick the monster.” Then she smiled and said, “I loved when Joey said, ‘My Hero!’ That was a happy ending.”

Then just before the group ended for the afternoon, Tina said, “Do you think the illustrator was trying to trick us, too? Joey looked like him. Maybe this story happened to him when he was little.”

“Hmmm . . .”


I was planning to teach a lesson on contractions, using the segment of the title Dan’s Delicious as a jump point. But as usual, the class diverted me. They do that often and I always follow their lead. Contractions will wait. For now, we will travel down the trail of synonyms. This is how it happened.

I wrote the words, Dan’s Delicious on the board and asked the children what they noticed. I was hoping they’d notice the apostrophe in the word DAN’S and ask me about that. They didn’t.

Chrissy said, “He’s good to eat.” So I went with that. I asked the children for additional definitions for DELICIOUS. Some of the words they called out were, “Yummy,” “Tasty,” and “Mm-good.”Then, I chose several words from the book and listed them in chart form on the chalkboard. The children suggested synonyms to match the words. (See chart below.) This is a great way to increase children’s vocabularies.

WORDS . . . . . . . . . SYNONYMS

FEAR . . . . . . . . . . Scared . . . . . . . . . Afraid . . . . . . . . .Terrified

WEIRD . . . . . . . . . Kind of crazy . . . . Strange . . . . . . . .Mysterious

GLANCE . . . . . . . . Look . . . . . . . . . . .See . . . . . . . . . . Sight

Next, I read the story to them again. This time the children picked words from the story and I listed them on the board. The following is a selection of possible words. As you can see they range in difficulty.

SITUATION . . . . .MOMENT . . . . .DISTRACT . . . . .ALONE . . . . .SUCCULENT
MEAL . . . . . . . . SECRET . . . . . .GOODIES . . . . . PLATTER . . . APPETIZER

The children chose these words because some of the words were unfamiliar to them. They wanted to know their meanings. Then, I placed two to four children in each group. Together, they chose a word from the list and brainstormed as many synonyms as they could think of.

PLATTER . . . dish, plate,

ALONE . . . . . by yourself, no one’s there, on your own, with no one

MEAL . . . . . . food, supper, dinner, breakfast, snack

GOODIES . . . sweets, candy, treats, sugary junk SOMETHING GOOD/Robert Munsch

After fifteen to twenty minutes, the children met together as a whole group. Each group selected one member to read the synonyms for one of their words.

For extra practice the groups looked up their words in the dictionary. This is another fun way to increase vocabulary, as well as work on dictionary skills.

If you like My Brother Dan’s Delicious or books about monsters, you may also like the following books:

Monster Brother by Mary Jane Auch

Shelia Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes

The Very Worst Monster by Pat Hutchins

Disclaimer: Names of child reviewers have been changed to maintain their privacy.

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Teacher's Pets: Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teacher’s Pets #4 The Sundae Scoop

by Stuart J. Murphy, illustrated by
HarperCollins Publishers
Ages 6 and Up

Most kids love ice cream. They love as it drips down their fingers and smears their noses and they love to swirl their tongues around its creamy flavor. So what could be more fun than making ice cream sundaes for the school picnic? In The Sundae Scoop written by Stuart J. Murphy, Emily, Lauren, and James decide to do just that.

They take chocolate and vanilla ice cream, add caramel and hot fudge sauces and two toppings to make a variety of different sundae combinations But when Emily wonders exactly how many combinations they can make, Winnie, the cafeteria lady, pulls out her chalkboard to demonstrate. The use of the chalkboard, as a graphic organizer, makes this difficult math concept easy for youngsters to understand. What a clever technique by Murphy to combine reading fun with math skills.

Cynthia Jabar’s bright, perky illustrations combined with Murphy’s yummy story make this a very inviting book.

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“I liked the book because it was using math and numbers,“ said Pritka.

“It was kind of like math,” agreed Annie. “When they were spilling stuff, they were subtracting. And they were always spilling stuff.” she giggled. “I think they were a little clumsy.”

“It would be fun to have something like that at our school,” said Lucy. “Everyone would come.”

Juan’s eyes lit up. “That’s a super duper idea,” he said.

“Yeah, we could make ice cream sundaes . . . just like they did in the book,” said Zach.

Lucy thought for a moment. “But, it would be hard to decide which flavors to have,” she said.

“How about Toenail-Fingernail Twist?” said Zach with an impish grin.

“Ewww.” groaned Meg and bopped him on the head with her paper.

“We could make the largest ice cream sundae ever,” said Annie. “And . . . I want a banana and two cherries on mine.”

“This book is making me hungry,” said Zach.

“Me too,” agreed Keisha.

Then Juan stated it very simply, “I like this book because I like ice cream.



Brainstorm a list of ice cream flavor words. Record on chart paper.


Brainstorm a list of ice cream words. Record on chart paper.


Now be inventive. Mix and match the words on the two charts to make some new combinations. For added fun have children work in small groups.

strawberry . . . . swirl
peach . . . . . . . crunch

Go a step farther.

Brainstorm a list of weird words. Record on chart paper.


Now be even more inventive. Mix and match the three charts to make some very unusual combinations.

chocolate . . . . . liver . . . . .dip . . . . chocolate liver dip
strawberry . . . . squirrel . . .swirl . . . strawberry squirrel swirl
banana . . . . . . garbage . . crunch . .banana garbage crunch
orange . . . . . . .mustard . . cluster . .orange mustard cluster
mint . . . . . . . . .pickle . . . .ripple . . .mint pickle ripple

What a delicious way to increase vocabulary.


Make a set of flash cards using the words in the LANGUAGE ARTS FUN lesson.

Write ice cream words on each card.

Use these cards as flash cards. Children can take turns flashing the card other children to read.

This is a great example of kiddles teaching kiddles.


Children will have fun creating sundae combinations with Unifix Cubes. (interlocking cubes)
Assign each flavor, sauce, and topping a Unifix Cube color. Write the following KEY on the chalkboard.


Vanilla . . . . ===> yellow cube
Chocolate . .===> brown cube
Hot Fudge . ===> purple cube
Caramel . . .===> orange cube
Sprinkles . .===> red cube
Nuts . . . . . ===> blue cube

Reproduce the chart on page 15 by writing it on the chalkboard.

Have children use the code on the board to construct their unifix sundaes.

vanilla-hot fudge–sprinkles chocolate-hot fudge–sprinkles

vanilla-hot fudge–nuts chocolate-hot fudge–nuts

vanilla-caramel–sprinkles chocolate-caramel–sprinkles

vanilla-caramel–nuts chocolate-caramel–nuts

If you like The Sundae Scoop, you may also like the following books.

Ice Cream by Elisha Cooper (find out how ice cream is made)
Wemberly’s Ice Cream Star by Kevin Henkes (for the board book crowd)

For a list of wild ice cream flavors visit these sites:

Goodrich Ice Cream Menu

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream – Our Flavors

Hotlicks Ice Cream Flavors

Disclaimer: Names of child reviewers have been changed to maintain their privacy.

November 15, 2011 Posted by | Teacher's Pets: Book Reviews | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Teacher’s Pets #1 A Mud Pie for Mother

A Mud Pie for Mother
by Scott Beck

Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers



Ages 3 to 6

Shop! Shop! Shop ‘til you drop! Race from store to store. Search for the “perfect” gift. Sound familiar? We all do it. In A Mud Pie for Mother, written and illustrated by Scott Beck, Little Pig searches the farm for the perfect birthday present for his mother.

When I was Little Pig’s age, I searched for the perfect gift, too. I dashed through the dime store aisles, two quarters, (my whole allowance) clutched in my hand, hunting for the best gift for Mother’s Day. I found it . . . an orange paisley accordion-pleated apron. It was beautiful!

Little Pig found beautiful presents too, a little flower, a bit of hay, a few seeds, even a clump of dirt . . . all perfect gifts! His mother would love them. But when Little Pig realized that they belonged to his farm friends, he wouldn’t take them. It just wouldn’t be right. Imagine Little Pig’s sadness as he headed home empty-handed. But to his surprise Little Pig’s friends each gave him a special gift for his mother. Children will delight in this story as Little Pig is rewarded for his kindness. They will see that although doing the right thing is not always easy, it is best.

Scott Beck’s simple illustrations nearly “pop” off the page. Then they draw you right back onto the farm. Beck presents a sweet and gentle story, which children will easily identify with. I mean . . . what child has not searched for the perfect present? Remember macaroni-studded picture frames and yarn-covered, frozen-orange-juice pencil holders . . . made and presented with love. PERFECT!

This review can also be seen on: SmartWriters

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“The pig wanted to give something to his mother for her birthday,” said Philippe.

“Yeah, Little Pig wanted to give things to his mom just like in real life,” said Kiley. “He went to the bee and the cow and the hen and the old grandma.”

“Because they all had something special,” interrupted Greg. “But even though Little Pig wanted to take them, (flower, hay, seeds, dirt) he didn’t.”

“Right!” said Emma. “He was nice enough to not take them. So when he came back everyone gave him something.”

“He got rewarded,” said Pritka with a smile.

“Yeah,” said Greg. “Little Pig listened to the farmer’s wife and she rewarded him.”

“And every time the pig passed by the animals, they gave Little Pig some things, too,” said Philippe.

“I think the girl farmer and the animals respected the pig,” said Emma.

“Emma ‘s right,” said Greg.

“But even if the pig couldn’t get a present,” said Emma. “His mother would still love him.”

Roberto nodded. “Yeah, what really matters is loving,” he said.

“This book shows how to be kind,” said Annie.

“And the pig was very kind,” said Pritka.

“I think Little Pig was generous, too,” said Annie.

“Yeah,” said Treska. “The moral of the story is don’t take. They’ll give it to you.” Then she grinned. “Then you don’t get in trouble and you feel better too.”

“I liked this book,” said Emma. “I think that Little Pig’s mother wouldn’t really care if he didn’t give her anything because love is the biggest present of all.”



Discuss echoic words . . . words that make their own sounds. Start with the words from the book. List them on chart paper.

Buzz, Moo, Grunt, Cluck, Squawk

Have children act out each animal sound.

As you read books to the children, alert them to be on the lookout for additional echoic words and add these words to the list. A great book to start with is Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern. This book includes many additional animal sounds, as well as fun words like swish and hiss.

Make a list of the farm animals in the story.

Pig, Bee, Cow, Hen

Continue the list by adding as many farm animals as the children can think of.


Make flash cards of the animal names and animal sounds.

Cow – Moo, Sheep – Baa, Pig – Oink,

Children flash the cards to each other for reading/vocabulary practice. When a child successfully reads a card, he/she keeps the card and scores a point. The child with the most cards wins.


Use the same set of cards as for VOCAB/FLASH. (Actually, I prefer to make a separate set, which allows me to have two groups working on an activity at the same time.)

Shuffle all cards and place them face down on playing surface.

Children play in teams or individually against each other. They take turns turning over two cards to make a match. Ex. Sheep – Baa (yes) Sheep – Oink (no) The child or team with the most matching cards wins.


Have children talk about what they would have done if they were in Little Pig’s hooves?

Have children discuss how they think Little Pig was feeling. worried, annoyed, angry, sad, frustrated


(Although I examined this website and found it to be very helpful, please use it at your own discretion.)

Let’s Learn About Pigs


If you like A Mud Pie for Mother or books about pigs, you may also like the following books.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Joffe Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond

Pigs by Robert N. Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

The True Story of the Three Pigs by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

Disclaimer: Names of child reviewers have been changed for privacy.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Teacher's Pets: Book Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On School #17 Cinderella – Tell It Like It Is

Disclaimer: The names in this musing are changed to protect the “infamous.”

Retelling means to tell a story again in a new, different, and fresh way. No retelling will ever be exactly alike. Each reteller brings his or her own experience to the story, but the story should resemble the original tale. Sounds easy, huh? Well try explaining that to six- and seven-year-old first grade students.

My high reading group has already surpassed the goals required of readers for the first grade, so I have to dream up challenges for them. I want to combine their reading and writing abilities with being able to communicate the meaning of a story. Essentially I want them to be able to read a passage, an article, a book and tell about it in their own words. I gave five students a green “Retelling Notebook” and explained what I wanted them to do.

Two days later, I was excited when I opened the first “Retelling Notebook.” I smiled as I glanced at the pages and pages that Allen had written. Kat’s book was overflowing too. How prolific! Yeah! I thought – they are really getting this. But as my eyes moved down the page, I marveled at their sophisticated vocabulary, their correct spelling, and their proper use of quotation marks. (I hadn’t even taught that yet. “So smart!” I thought.) As I continued to read, it dawned. My brow furrowed and the smile eased from my lips. Uh Oh! Now I have to teach about plagiarism.

I again explained to the children that a retelling is telling something in your own words. I told them that the author had already worked really hard to drag the words from her head. Now they had to drag words from their brains and tell their version of the story.

All right so we had a false start. So I had to reteach. Reteach means to teach the same thing, but in a new, different, and fresh way.

I decided to use the story of Cinderella. Everyone knows that story. So it was the perfect fairytale to demonstrate the skill of retelling. With just the six children sitting around my table, I began the tale. I, of course, played Cinderella. As Cinderella, I introduced my nasty step-mother and mean step-sisters. But being the nice person that Cinderella is, I did not tell my audience that my steps were nasty and mean. I simply said that they were my step-mother and my step-sisters and that they were going to the ball – AND they refused to allow me to go. I repeat – I never said they were mean and nasty.

After the step-mother and step-sisters left for the ball, Cinderella began to weep uncontrollably. She was sad beyond hope that she was not able to go to the ball. But, just then her fairy godmother swept in. (I played the part of  the fairy godmother, too. Actually, I played most of the parts.) What is the matter?” the fairy godmother asked Cinderella. Between sobs, Cinderella said that she was too ugly to go to the ball. Cinderella’s fairy godmother told her to stop crying. She patted her hand. She told Cinderella that she would go to the ball. That’s when I jumped from my seat and turned into a real, live Cinderella.

The rest of the class quickly gathered around the table holding in their giggles. They did not want to be left out of watching their teacher morph into Cinderella.

“Look,” I cried as I held my dress out for my fairy godmother to see. “I am a mess. My dress is dirty. It is ripped. And my hair! Just look at my hair!” I dragged my fingers through my straggly locks pulling them out to each side. “How can I go to the ball like this?” I wailed. “My step-sisters are right! I am a mess!” I repeated. My fairy godmother, “Tsked-tsked. “No worries, my dear,” she said with a laugh. I looked at her as though she had lost her mind. Then she waved her wand over my tattered dress. Blue and lace and satin flowed from my shoulders. I twirled and the dress swirled around me. Glass slippers as dainty as crystal vases encased my feet. I pinched myself and yelped. This was not a dream. Then my fairy godmother pointed her wand at the pumpkin (Linney) growing by the door. That pumpkin swelled and ballooned until it was a beautiful coach. The mouse (Jute) hiding in the garden turned into a footman and the rats (Charlie, Kat, Halia, and Allen) into four beautiful, white horses.

I was ready! My fairy godmother warned me to return home by the strike of twelve. I promised and then I climbed into my coach and was off behind my horses. The horses, the coach, and I went galloping around the classroom. When we arrived at the ball, I saw the prince. He was as handsome as my step-sisters had proclaimed. I took his hand (Andy’s) and we waltzed around the room swirling and dipping as I held my pretend gown. (Andy went right into character and played the prince well – hamming it up for his audience of fellow classmates.) Oh the night was magical. We danced under the shining moon, but it was to end too soon. With no warning, the clock began to chime . . . one, two, three. I stared at its hands. Six, seven, eight, I  dropped the prince’s hand and ran. Eleven … twelve o’clock struck! Panic! I dashed down the stairs – not even noticing that my glass slipper fell from my foot. (I kicked my own shoe off and the kids hooted as I hobbled across the room with one shoe missing.)

As I wended my way back home, the prince, (Andy) picked up my shoe. Soon he knocked on my door. I held my breath. He tried the shoe on the fat toes of my step-mother. No fit! He tried the shoe on the smelly feet of my step-sisters. No fit! He tried the shoe on my dainty foot. The shoe fit! You can guess the ending.

That summer the prince and I were married and we lived happily ever after.

With fresh ideas and a new outlook on retelling a story, the kids set off to rewrite. Rewrite means to rework the same words, but in a new, different, and fresh way.

When I next read their work I was re-excited. Re-exicited means … well it really means nothing. It’s not even a word … but you know what I mean. This time their retellings were remarkable.

(Clip Art compliments of

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Anything Writing, On School | , , , | 2 Comments


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