Friday, November 30, 2012

Online Games for Hanukkah Fun

Hanukkah starts in 8 days. Here are some games to play for good Hanukkah fun!

Primary Games
Jumbles, word searches, puzzles

Spot-the-difference pictures, quiz, puzzle

Apples 4 the Teacher
Concentration, dreidel spin, word search, quiz
Anagrams, Hide the Chocolate Gelt, Pin the Shamesh, Unscramble

I hope you have a Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Promoting Literacy with Hanukkah Fun

There are lots of things you can do at home to promote literacy during Hanukkah. Activities include making crafts, coloring pictures, playing games, cooking treats, watching videos, making cards and wrapping paper…the list goes on! For long-time blog readers, the following is a repeat from last year, with a few additions.


6 Hanukkah Crafts (scroll down)







Chanukah Crafts (scroll down for crafts)


Do you have activities to add to the list? Write them in the Comments box!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Great Books for Celebrating Hanukkah

I found lots of books for celebrating Hanukkah. Hanukkah has such a rich history. There are lots of interesting stories here!

 Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by David Harrington
When King Antiochus wanted to impose Greek gods on the faithful Jews, Mattathias, his son Judah Maccabee, and others fought for their freedom. I loved the exciting telling of this story, the outstanding illustrations and the verse that occurs throughout: Sometimes it only takes a few, who know what’s right, and do it, too.

 Hanukkah, Shmanukkah by Esmé Raji Codell, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
This is a Hanukkah version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Old Scroogemacher is a terrible boss to the poor workers in his factory. He works them hard and long, even on the last night of Hanukkah. He is visited by three rabbis and travels from the time of the Maccabees to present day. Yiddish words occur throughout the story – happily, there’s a glossary at the end.

 Hanukkah Sweets and Treats by Ronne Randall
This cookbook has 6 recipes for celebrating Hanukkah, including Luscious Latkes, Fudgy Gelt and Cupcake Menorah. The directions for each recipe are clearly written, with lists for everything you will need.

 Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote
It’s the first night of Hanukkah and Rachel wants to make potato latkes. Her mother says not until the following week. Rachel invites herself to Mrs. Greenberg’s house and talks her into making latkes. But things don’t go smoothly…

Jeremy’s Dreidel by Ellie Gelman, illustrated by Maria Mola (sorry, no link)
Jeremy joins a dreidel-making class. Each student creates a dreidel of his or her own design. Jeremy makes one with Braille dots so his dad, who is blind, can play. In the last pages there are the directions for several different designs, the Braille alphabet and the directions to the Dredel game.

 How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague
Like the other books in this series, this book has two sections. The first tells about what a dinosaur should not do during Chanukah. The second part deals with what he actually does. It simply shows Chanukah traditions and the dinosaurs are quite entertaining.

 It’s Hanukkah Tonight by Santiago Cohen
The rhyming text is based on a Hebrew children's song. It tells of Hanukkah traditions and each rhyme ends with, Do you know the reason why? It’s Hanukkah tonight. The candles on the menorah are lit with shiny foil flames that shine from each page. This would make a great read-aloud for young kids.

 Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Jamel Akib
9-year-old Emanuel is angry that his father is afraid to light the Hanukkah lights. Emanuel decides he needs to do something brave. On the 7th night of Hanukkah, he stows away on a whaling ship. When a storm overtakes the boat, it's his father's change of heart and the family menorah that light the way home.

Hanukkah Ha-Has: Knock-Knock Jokes that are a Latke Fun by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg, illustrated by Stephen Carpenter (sorry, no link)
This is a joke book and a lift-the-flap book, so there is double fun.

 Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkahh traditional song, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov
If you know this Hanukkah song, you'll appreciate the lively illustrations. Actually, you'll appreciate them even if you don't know the song. Not familiar with the tune? If you Google the title, you'll find several to try.

 Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Elizabeth Schlossberg
From getting the house ready, to lighting the first candle, to chocolate coins, to the last night, this book shows a family celebrating Hanukkah. The rhymes are lively and the illustrations show a warm and loving family.

I hope you all have a Happy Hanukkah!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Inspiration! Sites for Kid Inventors

If Monday’s books got your inventor ideas going, these sites will continue you along in the right direction.

Interesting and important facts about famous inventors and inventions.

See the hundreds of inventions that have been submitted by kids.

Sites to inspire you to invent from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Inventions such as Banana Suitcase, Diaper Alarm and Sleep Sponge.

10 sites to get you thinking and inventing.

Site has invention news and games.

What good ideas do you have? Write them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Guest Post: Using Music to Make Learning Sing

Today’s guest post is from Mr. A, Mr. C and Mr. D, 3 teachers from North Tyneside in England. Their website is Mr A, Mr C and Mr D Present KS2 SongsKS2 Songs and Primary School Curriculum Music to support teaching and learning in maths, literacy and science.

A brief bio from their website:
We are three Key Stage 2 teachers obsessed with teaching the best we can, often using music as a tool for learning. Not in any way being professional musicians, we still have a passion to create, share and support children's learning however we can.

I love their creativity and enthusiasm, as you are sure to catch…

Using Music to Make Learning Sing

As three English Junior School teachers (ages 7-11), we have always used music and singing as a tool to engage children. I like to see what my children know and try to learn it on guitar to sing as a class or whole school (we've done Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire and Amy Winehouse in the last year).

We found that classroom warm-ups and silly games could help re-focus children's attention or give them a break if they suddenly became fidgety. Clapping and playground games work well.

We realised there wasn't much in the way of child-friendly classroom songs which help teach maths, literacy or science so we decided to write our own. They are not patronising and we wanted them to be musically interesting too. Enough for them to make their way to children's ipods!

GarageBand, Audacity or SongSmith  all have loops built in, so if you can't play an instrument, you can still create songs. Kids love to make up lyrics, so we've done our own WWII 'Dig for victory' songs, e-safety songs or even an Eco-song. They love the process and we have a performance at the end, giving children opportunities to play percussion, rap, harmonise or just clap along. We love it!

Tips for the classroom and creative parents:
  • Try using mnemonics or spelling rhymes to come up with short, simple songs to help memory.
  • Try turning a simple story into a song with actions representing keywords.
  • Use percussion or clapping to aid the understanding of syllables and to promote rhythm in poetry.
  • Use music or soundscapes to help children write atmospheric stories.
  • When making children complete a sustained piece of writing, play classical or repetitive, relaxing music to create a peaceful, safe environment. Using a candle in the middle of the room also adds to the mood.
Mr A, Mr C and Mr D

Thanks so much to Mr A, Mr C and Mr D for inspiring us to add more music to classrooms and homes :)

How do you add music to your lives to promote learning and smiles? Write your ideas in the Comments Box!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Inventors and Inventions: It's Good to be Clever and Patient!

Ever wonder how something came to be? Toilets? Paper bags? X-rays? Bubble gum? Today I have books about inventors and inventions. Perhaps reading about these inventors and inventions will inspire you to invent something yourself. It's worth trying!

 Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy
This story is a perfect example of how cleverness, and especially patience, can lead to something brand new. Walter Diemer worked for a candy company in the early 1900s. He didn't make candy, he was their money person. But he was the one who figured out how to create bubble gum. As always, Meghan McCarty's illustrations are perfect.

 Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo daVinciby Gene Barretta
Leonardo daVinci lived in the 1400s and was a man way ahead of his time. This book shows some pages from daVinci's notebooks. They contained drawings of many inventions (hang glider, contact lenses...) that were never made in his time. But these same ideas were made by inventors hundreds of years later. Be sure to check out the words in his drawings - an explanation is in the author's note. Also by this author:
Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin
Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives

 My Brothers' Flying Machine: Wilbur, Orville, and Me by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jim Burke
This is the story of  Orville and Wilbur Wright, as told by their younger sister, Katharine. She is the one who provided support and encouragement as they worked on their many inventions, including their famous flying machine. The story is told beautifully and the paintings are just right.

 Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully
In the mid-1800s, women were not expected to know anything about anything mechanical. Margaret Knight not only knew about mechanical things, she worked to fix and improve them. This story follows her early life and goes on to show how she invented a machine that made the square-bottom paper bags we still use today. This book has made me want to learn more about Margaret Knight.

 How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning by Rosalyn Schanzer
Like Leonardo daVinci, Benjamin Franklin was a man of many talents and often ahead of his time. This book tells about how Franklin discovered important things about lightning and electricity. It also tells about lots of his other discoveries. The pictures and text are pretty funny.

 Household Inventions: From Toilet to Toaster by Natalie Lunis
I love how this book is set up. On one page it asks which of 2 inventions came first (Shower or toilet? Dishwasher or vacuum cleaner?) Turn the page and find out the answer, with an explanation. I hate to tell you how many times I guessed wrong!

 Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions by Don Wulffson, illustrations by Laurie Keller
Have you ever played with Play-Doh? Legos? A Slinky? Mr. Potato Had? Ever wondered who invented them? This book tells about the beginnings of 25 different toys and games. It's hard to put down once you get started.

 Thomas Edison: A Brilliant Inventor by the editors of Time for Kids and Lisa DeMauro
You may know that Thomas Edison developed the light bulb. But there is a lot more to know about Edison. I learned from this book that Edison: was a terrible student  in school, published a newspaper when he was 12, created a talking doll and lots more interesting things. I love this quote, "I have not failed. I've found 10,000 ways that won't work." Also about Thomas Edison:
Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives by Gene Barretta (excellent picture book)

 Imaginative Inventions: The Who, What, Where, When, and Why of Roller Skates, Potato Chips, Marbles, and Pie by Charise Mericle Harper
Such outstanding illustrations! Each page is a riot of color and yet never seems cluttered or confusing. The text is in rhyme, making this a great read-aloud.

 10 Inventors Who Changed the World by Clive Gifford, illustrated by David Cousens
This book has a real graphic novel feel to it. Some of the inventors are familiar ones, like Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie and Thomas Edison. But several of them are new to me, such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Sergei Korolev and Glenn Curtiss.

 So You Want to be an Inventor? by Judith St. George and David Small
I like how this book is set up. It starts with a statement about what an inventor should do and then tells about inventors who did it. If you want to be an inventor, be a dreamer. Alexander Graham Bell dreamed of people talking across distances, and then invented the telephone. Igor Sikorsky dreamed of flying up, down, forward, backway and sideways, and then invented a helocopter. It's an inspiring book.

Does reading about inventors and inventions get you psyched about trying inventing yourself? I hope so. What do you have in mind? Write your ideas in the Comments Box!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Celebrating Thanksgiving with MORE Books

Thanksgiving is less than 2 weeks away! Just enough time to read a few more Thanksgiving books...

  Thanksgiving Graces by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by David Wenzel
A boy helps his family prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Every few moments, someone new comes to join them. How will they feed all of them? The rhymes and pictures make this a great read-aloud.

Fat Chance Thanksgiving by Patricia Lakin, illustrated by Stacey Schuett (sorry, no link)
When Carla and her mother had a fire in their apartment building, they moved into a hotel room. After a year, just before Thanksgiving, a new apartment opened up. It was small and there seemed to be no way they could have a Thanksgiving feast. Carla figures out a way.

  ‘Twas the Night before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
Based on ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, this story tells about a field trip to a turkey farm. In the end, Farmer Mack Nuggett is confused and the turkeys are enjoying their new homes. Fun!

An Outlaw Thanksgiving by Emily Arnold McCully (sorry, no link)
Have you ever heard of the famous outlaw Butch Cassidy? This book is based on a true story when Cassidy and his gang gave a Thanksgiving feast. In 1896, Clara and her mother are traveling west by train when snow blocks the tracks.  They a re stranded until the train can be dug out. While they wait, another passenger invites them to celebrate Thanksgiving with his friends. The host is Butch Cassidy. This a true Thanksgiving story of generosity.

  Thanksgiving Mice by Bethany Roberts, illustrated by Doug Cushman
A group of young mice are putting on a Thanksgiving play. They tell a simply told version of the Thanksgiving story. Make sure you take a careful look at the illustrations. They’re pretty funny.

 Don’t Know Much about: The Pilgrims by Kenneth C. Davis, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Set up in question-and-answer form, this book tells a lot of interesting information about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. I certainly learned some new stuff. The illustrations are fun and helpful.

 Thanksgiving Day at Our House: Thanksgiving Poems for the Very Young by Nancy White Carlson, illustrated by R.W. Alley
The poems range from serious to silly. All are illustrated by pictures that perfectly match the poems.

 Junie B. Jones, First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) by Barbara Park
Junie B.’s class is entering the school’s Thankful List contest. The class that writes the best list of things they are thankful for wins. What is Junie B.’s class thankful for? Cranberry sauce that’s shaped like a can, exploding biscuits and other things her teacher would never have thought of.

Have a joyful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lots of Thanksgiving Jokes

Time for Thanksgiving jokes! Enjoy!

What sound does a space turkey make?
Hubble, Hubble, Hubble.

 Who is not hungry at Thanksgiving? 
The turkey because he's already stuffed!

After Thanksgiving dinner was finished, Mort saw his little brother Sid in the backyard, poking holes in the dirt and filling them in with birdseed.
"Why are you planting birdseed?" Mort asked.
"I'm growing next year's turkey," Sid replied.

 What sound does a turkey's phone make?
 Wing! Wing!

 What's a turkey's favorite song?
 "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas"

 What was the turkey suspected of?
 Fowl play.

 What's the best way to stuff a turkey?
 Serve him lots of pizza and ice cream!

 What did the turkey say to the turkey hunter?
 "Quack! Quack! Quack!"

 Which side of the turkey has the most feathers?
 The outside!

Why did the turkey sit on the tomahawk?
 To hatchet.

 What did the mama turkey say to her naughty son?
 If your papa could see you now, he'd turn over in his gravy!

 Why can't you take a turkey to church?
 Because they use such FOWL language.

 What are the feathers on a turkey's wings called?
 Turkey feathers.

 Can a turkey jump higher than the Empire State Building?
 Yes – a building can't jump at all.

 What do you get when you cross a turkey with an octopus?
 Enough drumsticks for Thanksgiving.

 How can you make a turkey float?
 You need 2 scoops of ice cream, some root beer, and a turkey.

 Why did they let the turkey join the band?
 Because he had the drumsticks.

Burglar + Turkey = “Robble, Robble!”

Corn + Turkey = “Cobble, Cobble!”

Dizzy person + Turkey = “Wobble, Wobble!”

What are unhappy cranberries called?

What's blue and covered with feathers?
A turkey holding its breath!

What do you get when you cross a turkey with a centipede?
Lots of drumsticks!

When the Pilgrims landed, where did they stand?
On their feet!

What's round, red, and wears a diaper?
A baby cranberry!

What kind of music did the Pilgrims listen to?
Plymouth Rock!

What always comes at the end of Thanksgiving?
The letter "g"!

 Today's jokes were found on these sites:

I hope you have a laughing day!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thanksgiving Activities to Promote Literacy

In addition to reading a variety of Thanksgiving-related books, consider trying some other activities that promote literacy. The first activities involve following directions – excellent for building literacy skills!

This week I’ll give several suggestions for getting ready for Thanksgiving Day. Next week, I’ll offer several ideas and sites for using family cooking to promote literacy.


Many kids love making cards for family, friends and neighbors. Here are some ideas to get started.


Let your kids help make the Thanksgiving table festive.


Kaboose Thanksgiving Crafts  (click arrow to right of picture)
Artists Helping Artists Thanksgiving Crafts (scroll down to see list of crafts)

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday for family cooking. Come back next week for using Thanksgiving cooking to promote literacy!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Books

I have found a bunch of new (at least for me) books for celebrating Thanksgiving this year. Next week there will be a few more. 

 Minnie and Moo and the Thanksgiving Tree by Denys Cazet
Every time I read a Minnie and Moo book, I laugh. And this one is so absurd, I laughed several times.  When the turkeys on the farm want to hide on Thanksgiving morning, Minnie and Moo suggest they hide in the tree – a logical suggestion. After this, things get a lot less logical…

The Thanksgiving Mystery by Joan Lowery Nixon (sorry, no link)
The apartment building Mike and Susan live in has a ghost. With the help of a neighbor and a kitten, they trick it into revealing itself. This is part of the First Read-Alone Mysteries series.

  Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Martha Sewall
What a joyful book! It tells the story of the Narragansett people as they celebrate the harvest. The illustrations a perfectly wonderful woodcuts and the text just dances. I want to read it aloud!

  Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
Even though I've watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV since I was a little kid, I never considered who thought up the wonderful balloons. This book tells about how the balloons came to be in the parade. It’s a fun story with great illustrations.

  Give Thanks to the Lord by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Amy June Bates
A young boy gives thanks for all the good things in his life. Told in rhyme, it would be perfect for a different way of saying grace at Thanksgiving dinner.

  Annie and Snowball and the Thankful Friends by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Suçie Stevenson
Annie wants to fill her table with guests for Thanksgiving dinner. But her family has only Annie, her dad and her bunny, Snowball. So, Annie gets to work and sends out invitations. This is a Ready-to-Read Level 2 book.

  Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra, illustrated by David Gardner
Sarah Josepha Hale was a pretty amazing woman. Born in the late 1700s, she was not expected to do much. However, she raised 5 children on her own, wrote poems and books (including Mary had a Little Lamb), and was the editor of a magazine. When she decided that Thanksgiving should be made a national holiday, she wrote to 4 different presidents over 36 years, trying to convince them. Her story is well told, with excellent illustrations. Other books about Sarah Josepha Hale:
Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pardon that Turkey by Susan Sloate

I hope you will check out last year's book lists for more Thanksgiving book ideas. And of course, return for next week's list!