Archive for the ‘Literacy’ Category

Things Your Teachers Taught You That Are Wrong

January 4, 2017


A great list compiled and written by Misty Adoniou:


1. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction

Let’s start with the grammatical sin I have already committed in this article. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

Obviously you can, because I did. And I expect I will do it again before the end of this article. There, I knew I would!

Those who say it is always incorrect to start a sentence with a conjunction, like “and” or “but”, sit in the prescriptivist camp.

However, according to the descriptivists, at this point in our linguistic history, it is fine to start a sentence with a conjunction in an op-ed article like this, or in a novel or a poem.

It is less acceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction in an academic journal article, or in an essay for my son’s high school economics teacher, as it turns out.

But times are changing.

2. You can’t end a sentence with a preposition

Well, in Latin you can’t. In English you can, and we do all the time.

Admittedly a lot of the younger generation don’t even know what a preposition is, so this rule is already obsolete. But let’s have a look at it anyway, for old time’s sake.

According to this rule, it is wrong to say “Who did you go to the movies with?”

Instead, the prescriptivists would have me say “With whom did you go to the movies?”

I’m saving that structure for when I’m making polite chat with the Queen on my next visit to the palace.

That’s not a sarcastic comment, just a fanciful one. I’m glad I know how to structure my sentences for different audiences. It is a powerful tool. It means I usually feel comfortable in whatever social circumstances I find myself in, and I can change my writing style according to purpose and audience.

That is why we should teach grammar in schools. We need to give our children a full repertoire of language so that they can make grammatical choices that will allow them to speak and write for a wide range of audiences.



In Memory of a Teacher’s Best Friend

February 22, 2016

Actors Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in the film 'To Kill a Mockingbird', 1962.  (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)


Harper Lee didn’t just write a classic novel. Her opus, To Kill a Mockingbird, also stands as a treasure for teachers. Finally a book on the curriculum which enthralls young readers, is enjoyable to teach and gets better with every reading.

It is with great sadness that I read of Harper Lee’s passing. On behalf of my fellow teachers, we thank you for giving us such a jewel to share with our students:


Celebrated American writer Harper Lee, best known for penning the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at the age of 89.

The city clerk of Monroeville, Alabama, confirmed Lee’s death to The Huffington Post.

Lee’s seminal novel, which became required reading in many middle and high schools, focused a critical lens on themes of racial injustice and traditional class and gender roles. Published in July 1960, the book was an international bestseller. Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

To Kill a Mockingbird found immediate success in literary circles. Peppered with autobiographical elements, Lee’s debut novel was set in the mid-1930s in small-town Alabama and follows the story of precocious child Scout Finch and her father, Atticus. Atticus, a lawyer reminiscent of Lee’s own father, is appointed by a judge to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman.

To Kill a Mockingbird documents Robinson’s trial and tackles the themes of racial injustice and traditional class and gender roles. The book was enthusiastically received, with the New Yorker touting it as “totally ingenious,” and became an international bestseller.

The film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird was released in 1962 and starred Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. The film won three Academy Awards and earned a spot in the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest American movies of all time.


Click on the link to read 25 Books for Teaching Values

Click on the link to read The Perfect Way to Encourage Kids to Read

Click on the link to read Meet the UK Classroom Where Every Student Speaks English as a Second Language

Click on the link to read Feminist Icons in Children’s and Teen Books

25 Books for Teaching Values

September 9, 2015


Courtesy of



BY: Dr. Seuss
Who better than Dr. Seuss to remind us how lucky we truly are, even when we’re down in the dumps?
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Focus on what you have and don’t dwell on the bad.

BY: Margot Zemach
This Yiddish folktale depicts gratitude in an uproarious light. When an unfortunate man follows the advice from his Rabbi, his life seems to go from bad to worse – or does it?
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Things are not always as bad as they seem.

BY: William Steig
Sylvester the donkey is thrilled to have found a magic pebble! But when he encounters a lion on his way home, he must make a decision that separates him from his family.  When he’s finally reunited with them, he learns a valuable lesson.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Always be grateful for family.

BY: Mr. Meus
Billy Babble is the richest Babble in Babbleland. He begins to feel like something is missing and sets out on a quest to fill his empty heart.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: A grateful heart is a happy heart.

BY: Dallas Clayton
Filled with whimsical illustrations and quirky characters, this book notes all the things in life to be grateful for. The list spans from simple joys – tree, trains, a nice breeze and rain –  to the extraordinary – skipping jungle cats and alligator acrobats.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: We have so many reasons to give thanks.


BY: Shel Silverstein
A classic by Shel Silverstein, this tender story is that of a boy who learns a lesson about the gift of giving – but only after it’s too late.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Generosity should be appreciated and returned.

BY: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
The Mine-O-Saur is always snatching up all the toys, grabbing all the snacks and hoarding all the blocks, yelling “mine, mine, mine!”  When will he learn the secret to making friends?
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Sharing is caring.

BY: Jeff Brumbeau
The generous Quiltmaker spends all of her time making quilts only to give them away. When she’s approached by the greedy king to make him a quilt, she agrees, but only under certain conditions.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Giving is the true secret to happiness.

: Katie Smith Milway
This is the true story of a mother who gives a little money to her son, Kojo, after receiving a loan from some village families. With this tiny loan, Kojo buys a hen that grows to a large flock and then an entire farm.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Giving even a little can make a big difference.

BY: Vera B. Williams
After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins in hopes of buying a comfortable chair that her hard-working mother deserves.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Generosity is important in hard times.


BY: Demi
A Chinese emperor holds a contest where the child who grows the most beautiful flowers from his seeds will be his successor. On the final day, it appears many children have won the contest, but there is only one true winner.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Honesty is the best policy.

BY: David Shannon
David always has a good excuse ready whenever he gets in trouble for his mischievous antics. Slowly, David realizes that making excuses makes him feel bad, and saying he’s sorry makes him feel better.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: It’s better to own up to your mistakes.

BY: Berkeley Breathed
Fannie Fudwupper’s big brother, Edwurd, spends his time cooking up giant lies. But one day, Edwurd tells such a whopping lie that the army, the air force, and the dogcatcher are called to reverse the damage.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Stick with the truth.

BY: Thierry Robberecht
Sam is so eager to make friends at his new school that he tells them a story that isn’t true. But when the truth comes out, Sam realizes the difference between telling a story and spinning a tale.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Your true self is your best self.

BY: Stan and Jan Berenstain
When Brother and Sister Bear accidentally break Mama’s favorite lamp, their little lie about how it happened grows bigger and bigger. Thankfully, Papa Bear helps them find the words that set everything right again.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: You’ll always feel proud about telling the truth when the  time comes.


By: Lynea Gillen
This colorful picture book contains endearing examples and vibrant illustrations of people doing good to inspire children to be grateful, caring, and kind. Be it the people that build houses, deliver babies, or take care of others, the message is that people are good.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Kindness is always appreciated.

BY: Phillip M. Hoose
This fun book explores life from an ant’s perspective, when an ant strikes up a conversation with the boy who’s about to step on him.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Kindness should extend to all living creatures.

BY: Jacqueline Woodson
New girl, Maya, comes to school and tries to befriend Chloe, but Chloe continually rejects Maya’s attempts at friendship. After Ms. Albert teaches a lesson about kindness, Chloe realizes she has been cruel to Maya. But Maya’s family has moved away, and Chloe is left feeling that she will never have a chance to show Maya kindness.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: You never know how far even a little bit of kindness can go.

BY: Philip C. Stead
Amos McGee, the zookeeper, makes sure to spend a little bit of time with each of his animal friends each day at the zoo. When Amos is too sick to go to work, his animal friends come to him to return the favor.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Be kind to others and they will be kind to you.

BY: Carol McCloud
This award-winning book is based on a beautiful metaphor – that everyone has an invisible bucket that be either be filled or dipped into. Helping others and being kind feels the bucket, while the opposite empties it out.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Helping others and being kind brings happiness to yourself and others.

Click on the link to read The Perfect Way to Encourage Kids to Read

Click on the link to read Meet the UK Classroom Where Every Student Speaks English as a Second Language

Click on the link to read Feminist Icons in Children’s and Teen Books

Click on the link to read Long Lost Dr. Seuss Book Set for Release

The Perfect Way to Encourage Kids to Read

August 17, 2015


I love this initiative!


An Iowa barber has developed a creative way to get kids reading. 

Courtney Holmes, a barber in Dubuque, offered free haircuts to kids who read out loud to him during an appointment on Saturday, USA Today reported. The initiative was part of a back to school event, and Holmes hopes the storytelling will help young students strengthen their reading skills.

“The kids would come in, and I would say, ‘Go to the table and get a book you might like, and if you can’t read it, I’ll help you understand and we can read it together,'” Holmes told the news outlet.


Click on the link to read Meet the UK Classroom Where Every Student Speaks English as a Second Language

Click on the link to read Feminist Icons in Children’s and Teen Books

Click on the link to read Long Lost Dr. Seuss Book Set for Release

Click on the link to read The Oscars for Children’s Writing Has Been Announced

Meet the UK Classroom Where Every Student Speaks English as a Second Language

May 26, 2015




Wow! I have one student with limited English and find it challenging. This makes me feel much better about my situation:


THIS is the incredible UK primary school where every one of the 859 pupils has English as their SECOND language.

Yet, despite the expected linguistic nightmare and the issue of being in an area at the centre of the ‘Trojan Horse extremism scandal, Greet Primary School in Sparkhill, Birmingham has been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors.

There is also a waiting list to get into every year group.

Joint headteacher Emma Tyler said: “While the majority of our pupils arrive with little to no English, it’s our mission to seek achievement for all.

“We’re a school for the community and so everyone, staff, pupils and parents, works really hard to make the school what it is.”takes 161 staff and 35 volunteers to help children go from no spoken english or limited skills to reach ‘broadly average standards’ according to Ofsted.

It’s also served by an executive headteacher Pat Smart who oversees not just Greet but Conway Primary – a school previously in special measures that has improved to good since Greet took it under its wing.


Click on the link to read Feminist Icons in Children’s and Teen Books

Click on the link to read Long Lost Dr. Seuss Book Set for Release

Click on the link to read The Oscars for Children’s Writing Has Been Announced

Click on the link to read Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension.

Click on the link to read List of Kids Books that Would Make Great Christmas Gifts

Feminist Icons in Children’s and Teen Books

March 8, 2015

Film Review The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1


A list compiled by Sarah Alderson courtesy of


  1. Pirate Girl (Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke)

Our eponymous Pirate Girl, Molly, sets off alone in her boat to visit her grandmother and is set upon by a fierce pirate captain who takes her prisoner and makes her slave away for him, cooking and cleaning. But Molly refuses to be cowed and instead uses her wits to summon her mother – the fiercest pirate of the lot – to rescue her. Together with her mum, Molly turns the tables on her captors and heads off alone once more to visit grandma. Female characters for the under-fives don’t come more brave or bold than this.

2. Matilda (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

My daughter Alula says about Matilda: “She’s really powerful. She refuses to be bullied or watch others being bullied. She shows that being intelligent and reading books, and being kind, is more important than being pretty.” And that says it all really.


3. Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter series by JK Rowling)

Oft overlooked, Luna Lovegood stands out among the pantheon of great female characters Rowling offers us in the Potter series. Yes, Hermione is the classic choice but Luna too is smart, brave and loyal, and more than that, she refuses to bow to bullying or pressure to change. She is who she is – quirky and strange – and is unapologetic about it. She embraces her weirdness, remains compassionate to those who bully her and is unfazed by critics. We love Luna!

4. Malala (I am Malala and the young readers’ edition Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick)

At just 17 years old, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her work in advocating for girls’ education. Shot by the Taliban for speaking up on the right of girls to attend school, she has since started a fund to empower girls to reach their full potential. Her story is incredibly inspiring.

5. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)

Yes, Katniss is strong, brave and can wield a bow and arrow like nobody else. She also becomes the poster child for equality for all, but it isn’t this alone that makes her a feminist, I would argue that the way she forges relationships with others, particularly women and girls, in defiance of a patriarchal society, is why she ultimately triumphs in the arena and what makes her such a special character in the YA world.

6. Celie (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)

Alice Walker’s famous novel tells the story of Celie, a poor black woman in 1900s America. Starting off as a victim of abuse Celie finally learns, through the support, example and sisterhood of other black women, to speak up for herself, and ultimately finds the courage to make her own choices.

7. Tavi Gevinson (Rookie Yearbook edited by Tavi Gevinson)

At just 18 years old, Tavi Gevinson is hailed as one of her generation’s leading voices. The website she founded and edits, Rookie, tackles subjects from break-ups to politics, with all the content (art and writing) contributed by teenagers as well as influential thinkers, musicians and creatives. The yearbooks (there are three) contain curated highlights from the website.

8. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists by Chimanada Ngozi Adichie)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of the award winning novel Half a Yellow Sun (another recommended teen reading), writes a funny and accessible book (based on her TEDx talk) about what it means to be a feminist today, and entreats everyone to consider the profound ways that inequality affects us all.

9. Melinda Sordino (Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Teenage Melinda is finally set free from her traumatic burden of silence by choosing to speak up against her rapist and by fighting back against the cultural and societal pressure imposed on her to keep quiet about the attack. In doing so she becomes a symbol of courage and power to all victims of abuse.

10. Lena Dunham (Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham)

This is the book I wish I had read as a teenager. Musing on issues including body image, sex, mental health, friendship, career and sexuality with her trademark honesty and wit, Lena Dunham admits she’s a ‘girl who is keen on having it all’ and then humbly offers her own nuggets of wisdom and experience to help others do the same.



Long Lost Dr. Seuss Book Set for Release

February 24, 2015


What a treat! I can’t wait to read this to my son:


Oh, the places Dr. Seuss will go again!

He may have died in 1991, but beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss — real name was Ted Geisel — has a new book on the way.

Titled What Pet Should I Get?, Seuss’ book will be released in July and stars the same brother and sister duo from his 1960 classic One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. This time, the children are deciding on a pet based on its looks — and how easily its name rhymes.

Seuss’ widow, Audrey Geisel, originally found the materials for the book in 1991. She re-discovered them in 2013, at which point she handed them over to Random House, his longtime publisher.

“While undeniably special, it is not surprising to me that we found this because Ted always worked on multiple projects and started new things all the time — he was constantly writing and drawing and coming up with ideas for new stories,” Geisel said in a press release. “It is especially heartwarming for me as this year also marks twenty-five years since the publication of the last book of Ted’s career, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

As for when Seuss actually wrote What Pet Should I Get?, his former art director Cathy Goldsmith believes it was some point between 1958 and 1962, roughly the same time as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. She’ll oversee the editorial and creative process of prepping the new book for publication.

“My connection to Ted remains as vital as it was when we worked closely together years ago,” she said in the press release. “I know he is looking down, watching over the process, and I feel a tremendous responsibility to do everything just as he would have done himself.”

When reached for comment, Random House spokeswoman Lydia Finn said, “We are so excited about it!”

Hey, who isn’t?


Click on the link to read The Oscars for Children’s Writing Has Been Announced

Click on the link to read Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension.

Click on the link to read List of Kids Books that Would Make Great Christmas Gifts

Click on the link to read Helping Children Become Successful Readers

Click on the link to read Children’s Hilariously Inappropriate Spelling Mistakes

The Oscars for Children’s Writing Has Been Announced

February 3, 2015



I love the Newbery Award winning books. Here are some of this years’ winners:


John Newbery Medal for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature

“The Crossover,” written by Kwame Alexander

Honor books:

“El Deafo,” written and illustrated by Cece Bell

“Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children

“The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” illustrated and written by Dan Santat

Honor books:

“Nana in the City,” illustrated and written by Lauren Castillo

“The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art,” illustrated by Mary GrandPré and written by Barb Rosenstock

“Sam and Dave Dig a Hole,” illustrated by Jon Klassen

“Viva Frida,” illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales

“The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus,” written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

“This One Summer,” illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki

Coretta Scott King awards for an African-American author and illustrator

Author award: Jacqueline Woodson for “Brown Girl Dreaming”

Illustrator award: Christopher Myers for “Firebird,” written by Misty Copeland

Honor books:

Illustrator Christian Robinson for “Josephine: The Dazzling life of Josephine Baker,” written by Patricia Powell

Illustrator Frank Morrison for “Little Melba and Her Big Trombone,” written by Katheryn Russell-Brown

Author Kwame Alexander for “The Crossover”

Author Marilyn Nelson for “How I Discovered Poetry,” illustrated by Hadley Cooper

Author Kekla Magoon for “How It Went Down”

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award

Author Jason Reynolds for “When I Was the Greatest”

Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for lifetime achievement for illustrator/author

Deborah D. Taylor

Margaret A. Edwards Award, for an author’s significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature

Sharon M. Draper for “Tears of a Tiger,” “Forged by Fire,” “Darkness Before Dawn,” “The Battle of Jericho,” “November Blues” and “Copper Sun.”


Click on the link to read Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension.

Click on the link to read List of Kids Books that Would Make Great Christmas Gifts

Click on the link to read Helping Children Become Successful Readers

Click on the link to read Children’s Hilariously Inappropriate Spelling Mistakes

Click on the link to read How Spelling Mistakes can Turn a Compliment into Something Quite Different.

Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension.

December 28, 2014


Via Mark Barnes



Click on the link to read List of Kids Books that Would Make Great Christmas Gifts

Click on the link to read Helping Children Become Successful Readers

Click on the link to read Children’s Hilariously Inappropriate Spelling Mistakes

Click on the link to read How Spelling Mistakes can Turn a Compliment into Something Quite Different.

Click on the link to read Why Spelling is Important at Starbucks

List of Kids Books that Would Make Great Christmas Gifts

December 20, 2014


List courtesy of The Huffington Post:



  • Up & Down by Britta Teckentrup
    Sometimes the simplest books are the best, and this story about two penguins trying to reach each other across a great divide is lovely. The youngest readers will love learning about directions as they lift flaps that take the penguins inside and outside of dark tunnels, in front of dolphins and behind sharks, and up and down icebergs until they’re together at last.


  • Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Arégui
    An enormous book of paired illustrations each showing a different before and after will keep your children entertained for hours. The absence of text allows them to tell their own stories, and you may be surprised with what they come up with.


  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
    Poor Red. It says red on his label, so he must be red. Except Red isn’t. He’s blue. Everyone tries to help him be a better red, until one day he makes a new friend who likes him just the way he is. Funny and clever, with a wonderful message about embracing who we are, Red is a great addition to anyone’s holiday list.


  • Kid Sheriff And The Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, Illustrated by Lane Smith
    There is only one thing that can save Drywater Gulch from the outlaws: 7-year old Sheriff Ryan, paleontologist and lawman extraordinaire. He may ride a tortoise, but he’s quick on the draw when it comes to capturing criminals.


  • Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
    In another boldly illustrated book, Chris Haughton introduces us to four bumbling friends with a plan to capture a beautiful bird. After a night of disasters, you’d think they’d learn their lesson, and they do. Until they see a squirrel.


  • I Wanna Go Home by Karen Kaufman Orloff, Illustrated by David Catrow
    Not everyone likes to go stay with their grandparents when their parents fly off to Bora Bora. I’ve never been to Bora Bora, but I hear it’s lovely and definitely better than playing bridge for a week at Happy Hills Retirement Community. That’s what young Alex thinks, until he discovers that grandparents can be surprisingly cool, like when they let you use their bingo winnings to buy ice cream — or fingerpaint the kitchen. Sometimes, the best trips are those you dread most.




  • Animalium, Curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom
    This book is an extraordinary collection of information about the vast variety of Earth’s animals, from the smallest insect to the largest whale. It’s a portable museum, open anytime you want to visit. The book is glorious — full of oversized drawings reminiscent of old-fashioned botany or Audubon prints you can only find in rare book shops. The pages are luxurious — weighty in your hands and demanding long hours of uninterrupted attention. You’ll be enchanted, and so will your kids. (Originally featured in “26 Entertaining And Educational Books For Back-To-School Season”)


  • With the rate of deforestation and habitat destruction, it probably isn’t long before many of the gorgeous birds we know and love go the way of the Dodo or the Roc. But never fear, Aviary Wonders Inc.’s Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual is here to help! Design your own birds (mix ‘n’ match wings, bodies, beaks and tails), and Aviary Wonders will provide you with parts, assembly instructions and troubleshooting should your new bird fail to perform as expected. Pointed, wry, and completely original, Kate Samworth’s debut picture book is as disturbing as it is memorable. (Originally featured in “20 Terrific Books To Read With Your Kids This Spring”)


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