8.13.2014

Save the Date - All the Calendars You Need to Write Your Long Term Plan

 At the beginning of the school year, it's time to write your long term plan.  This document is an ultra brief summary of what you plan to teach and do throughout the entire school year.  Before you can map out a curricular plan based on the required objectives or units for your class, it's important to know which days you will actually be at school and when major events, including national holidays and local celebrations, will take place.  In some cases, these events will cause interruptions in your normal schedule.  Other times, you will be able to use observances, celebrations, and seasons as a theme for your lessons.  For example, rather than trying to convince students to stop thinking about the Super Bowl, you can just use their interest in football to build investment in your lessons by letting them practice formulas like speed or investigate geography of past events, history of the sport, biographies of football players and so on.  Here are all the calendars you'll need to plan events and thematic lessons in the school year ahead.

District Calendar + Previous Year's Plan
Start by penciling in school holidays, early dismissal days, class parties, and other local events that will affect your planning.  If you are a veteran educator, also get out the previous year's long term plan (you had one, right?), so that you can remember when you did things last school year. 

Anti-Defamation League Calendar of Observances
The Anti-Defamation League provides dates for international observances and holidays for major world religions.  Use these calendars to become aware of religious events that may be important to the students in your community and to introduce students to different culture's traditions.

Days of the Year
This quirky calendar lists major as well as lesser-known observances throughout the year.  If you enjoy planning lessons thematically, this is a great resource to find out about odd celebrations such as Bad Poetry Day and Thank a Mailman Day.

Perma-Bound Author Illustrator Birthday Calendar
This interactive calendar lists birthdays for tons of famous authors and illustrators and provides links to books created by each person.  Every month also includes a mini biography & photo of a featured artist or writer.  These resources can be used for author studies or to create an easy and informative bulletin board featuring different authors each month.

American Library Association Celebration Weeks and Promotional Events
This page lists literacy-centered events including Banned Books Week, Picture Book Month, and Choose Privacy Week.  These celebrations can be the perfect basis for social studies lessons and reading promotions.

Library of Congress Today in History
This site features historical events for every date on the calendar.  Each date offers an article about a significant past event and includes primary documents related to whatever took place on the day.  This resource is one you can come back to throughout the year, even daily, to support social studies lessons.  LOC also provides a searchable archive of the articles which you can access by date or keyword.

Which resources do you use when creating your long term plan?

8.12.2014

Flora & Ulysses

"His brain felt larger, roomier. It was as if several doors in the dark room of his self (doors he hadn't even known existed) had suddenly been flung wide. Everything was shot through with meaning, purpose, light. However, the squirrel was still a squirrel." - Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo & K.G. Campbell

Kate DiCamillo received her second Newbery Award this year for the amazing novel, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, a story about a young comic book fan who is navigating her parents' recent divorce and the general awkwardness of growing up when she witnesses the transformation of a squirrel into a poetry-writing superhero.  (DiCamillo's first award was earned a decade ago for The Tale of Despereaux). As a self-proclaimed cynic, Flora is initially skeptical but becomes cautiously hopeful about the squirrel's hidden abilities. As Flora starts to accept and appreciate the squirrel's unique talents, she also begins to view herself and her life through a less cynical lens.

In addition to offering an adorably quirky and heartwarming story, Flora and Ulysses features an innovative format that appeals to readers of all ages. Most of the book is presented through traditional blocks of text, however, line drawings and strips of comic action by K.G. Campbell are included to illuminate the written story.

This book is wonderful as an independent or small group read, but it also makes a great read-aloud, especially if you are able to show the illustrations using a document camera and projector. If you are sharing this novel with students, check out these resources for further exploring the book and the talents of its creators.

Kate DiCamillo, author
Visit Kate DiCamillo's site to learn more about her, her books, and her role as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Read a Q&A between DiCamillo and publisher Candlewick to learn more about her inspiration for Flora and Ulysses. Then watch an interview of DiCamillo in which she discusses the novel.

K.G. Campbell, illustrator
K.G. Campbell is responsible for the illuminated qualities of this fantastic book as well as many other popular novels and stories. Visit Campbell's site to discover the beautiful illustrations he has contributed to Flora and Ulysses and his other projects including a lovably quirky picture book Campbell wrote and illustrated called Lester's Dreadful Sweaters, which is an enjoyable read-aloud for all ages.

Beyond the Book
Before beginning to read, build anticipation by sharing a Flora & Ulysses book trailer with students. As you delve into the novel, lead students to reflect on the story using the discussion guide provided by Candlewick.  Extend students' learning beyond the book with lesson ideas from The Classroom Bookshelf.  Then let students reenact the novel's opening scene using a reader's theater script from the Texas Bluebonnet Award committee. (Flora and Ulysses and Lester's Dreadful Sweaters are both contenders for this kids' choice award.)  Then, have some squirrel-centered fun in honor of Ulysses with these squirrel stories and crafts.  Finally, allow students to explore their own poetic creativity using the Squirrel Poet Magnetic Poetry Kit.