3-5, Books, K-5, Language Arts

Memoirs of a Tortoise

When I was asked to write curriculum for some picture books, I jumped at the chance. Without a young child at home any longer, I don’t spend as much time in that section of the bookstore very often — and I miss it. I was given a few books to begin the project and pulled one out randomly, settling in happily to immerse myself in the illustrations and simple prose of Memoirs of a Tortoise, by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers.

By the end, there were tears in my eyes.

Memoirs of a Tortoise is a year in the life of Oliver, an 80 year old tortoise, who spends happy days with his human friend, Ike. Though Oliver is comparatively young in tortoise years, Ike is not. One day, Ike does not return to their garden, and Oliver must make a trek to visit his 137 year old mother 10 gardens away to find out why Oliver’s “pet” human couldn’t stay with him.

Though the book gently addresses the theme of loss, it is not sad. There a few humorous lines, and the story’s ending is a reminder of the fact that we may not be able to enjoy someone’s physical presence forever, but we can be grateful for the time we had them and hopeful that we will continue to encounter new friends along our journey.

I love a book that you can repeatedly re-read and discover new delights each time. Memoirs of a Tortoise is one of those books. I need to read the other three “memoirs” by this author/illustrator team, but it’s difficult to imagine they will have the same kind of impact on me as this beautiful story.

To order Memoirs of a Tortoise and learn more about the author, click here. (I did not recall until I looked at the site that Scillian also wrote a book I used frequently with my students, P is for Passport.) I also highly recommend reading Scillian’s bio, which shows him to be quite the Renaissance Man with a variety of interests and talents. Tim Bowers is equally fascinating, and you can learn more about him here.

two teenagers doing jigsaw puzzle
Anti-Racism, Games, K-5

Puzzle Huddle

I really needed a smile today, so I was happy to see the images on the Puzzle Huddle website when I clicked on the bookmark I had saved a few weeks ago. Even more delightful was watching the video in which Matthew Goins, who co-created the Puzzle Huddle company with his wife, Marnel, explains the path that led them to making these adorable puzzles. Although it’s sad that there is a need for more diverse puzzles, I admire that this couple is working to change that. “In my case, I got started because I wanted to make a difference for my three small children, so that now, hopefully, a few years and a lot of puzzles later, we will have made a difference for an entire generation of children.”

If I was still in the elementary classroom, I would absolutely want one or more of these in my room. The illustrations are fabulous, portray young people in inspiring situations, and allow children of color to see themselves in a fun medium that is often limited to white people. You can order from Puzzle Huddle (be sure to check out the Ada Twist series!), but you can also download some free coloring sheets. The company is also looking for Brand Ambassadors if you are interested.

Since I haven’t tried one of their puzzles yet, I can’t include Puzzle Huddle in my Gifts for the Gifted series, but I am going to add it to my Pinterest of recommended Games and Toys. I will also be adding this to my Anti-Racism Wakelet.

jigsaw puzzle
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com
Native Americans in Arizona
Anti-Racism, history, K-5, Language Arts, Social Studies

Native American Heritage Month 2021

Although it is not mentioned in this history of the origins of Native American Heritage Month, I imagine it is not a coincidence that November, the month when we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, has this designation. Traditional stories of the first Thanksgiving are often misleading about the roles played by the Native Americans (who some prefer to refer as Indigenous Peoples) and the Europeans, and the holiday is rife with opportunity for cultural appropriation. Last year, I shared some materials to help teachers honor the rich cultural influences and contributions of our American Indigenous Peoples, and I want to summarize that list and add to it this year. I’ll be adding a link to this post in my Anti-Racist Wakelet, as well as in my Thanksgiving/November Wakelet.

Lastly, if you are short on time (as most educators are!), I think this brief summary of “5 Orientations to Support Indigenous Studies Curriculum” is a very helpful reference to aid us in avoiding the harmful language that perpetuates myths and stereotypes surrounding Native Americans.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Child cutting play dough with plastic knife
K-5, Science

Playdough Surgery

I couldn’t believe the brilliance of the Twitter account of @TheBreakfasteur when I came across it during a late night of doom scrolling. According to the bio, the author is a “doctor mom feeding little bodies and brains.” This physician creates elaborate playdough models so that her child can practice surgery. When you listen to the little voice during the videos, you can hear the curiosity and interest as well as the precise vocabulary that rolls off the child’s tongue. It makes me wonder if I had experiences like that as a child if my path in life would have been completely different (doubtful – the “Force” was always strong in me to be a teacher). Watching the child use two spoons as a defibrillator to get the heart pumping after a coronary bypass was almost as inspiring as watching an episode of The Good Doctor — and far less traumatic.

You can see everything from a tonsillectomy to a kidney transplant by visiting The Breakfasteur’s YouTube channel. The videos are short (about 2 minutes or less), and include text showing the proper names of the anatomical parts. The notes in the description often give you references to real surgery videos you can watch, as well as some ideas for recreating the surgical tools with household items. If you have a child intrigued by science, or want to arouse a child’s interest in science, these videos are a fabulous way to do so.

Careers, K-5, Science, Videos

Ada Twist, Scientist is Now a Television Series!

It has been five years since I first reviewed Ada Twist, Scientist on this blog, and I even recommended it back then for my Gifts for the Gifted list in 2016. The book, which is one in a series of collaborations between author, Andrea Beaty, and illustrator, David Roberts, in the Questioneers Series, is a delightful story about a young girl who embodies the curiosity and experimental personality of a S.T.E.M. hero in the making. Now, Ada and her friends (Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck, who also star in their own books by the dynamic duo of Beaty/Roberts ) are featured in a new animated series on Netflix that officially drops on September 28, 2021 — but don’t despair if you don’t have a Netflix subscription. You and your students can watch two episodes right now on YouTube: “Cake Twist” and “Garden Party.” The adorable cast of characters plus the real-life scientists who appear at the end of each episode will engage pre-school and lower elementary students while showing them how to brainstorm, problem-solve, and deal with mistakes. This mixture of fictional and authentic role models that are brought to you by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, are the perfect inspiration for our next generation of change-makers!

Ada Twist, the book, has a website with teaching materials. (Hey, Netflix or Higher Ground, if you want a teacher to write some materials for the animated series, reach out!) And, don’t forget that I have a Wakelet collection of books for Maker Ed and Design Thinking in case you are looking for more resources!

crop chemist holding in hands molecule model
Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com
Back to School SCAMPER final slide
Creative Thinking, K-5

Back to School S.C.A.M.P.E.R. (Digital Versions)

I am slowly updating a lot of my materials, and I just completed my “Back to School S.C.A.M.P.E.R.” A quick recap of S.C.A.M.P.E.R.:  S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is an acronym used to help one remember some great tools for creative thinking. “Substitute” is the first tool, followed by “Combine”, “Adapt”, “Modify”, “Put to Another Use”, “Eliminate”, and “Rearrange.” I originally created a TPT packet several years ago, after being inspired by Miss Trayers in this post. But I am trying to offer more of my materials for free and digitally.

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. makes a great activity any time of the year, and especially during the first few days of school as you try to learn more about your students and how they think. I would often do the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. prompts on my own while they worked so they could learn a little bit about me as well. They can be used as warm-ups, in centers, and even reward activities.

I have developed a few S.C.A.M.P.E.R. products over the years, and my students love it when I pass out the activity pages.  My more recent updates include Google Slides and Jamboard versions, such as this one for the Winter Holidays and my St. Patrick’s Day set.

There are always several students that wow me with their unique responses.  You can see some student examples from a few years ago here.

I used a template from SlidesGo to make my updated Back to School S.C.A.M.P.E.R., as well as illustrations from Storyset.com.

Here is the link to the Google Slides version of Back to School S.C.A.M.P.E.R.

And here is the link to the Jamboard version.

Speaking of Jamboard, I will be adding this to my Wakelet of Jamboard templates. For more Jamboards that promote creativity, I definitely recommend the ones by Julia Dweck, all of which she has linked here.

Click here for the Slides version.