Archive for September, 2014

Ella Enchanted Study Guides and Book Trailers

Click on image to read more about this title

Click on image to read more about this title

Ella Enchanted is a Newbery Honor book written by Gail Carson Levine and published in 1997. The story is a retelling of Cinderella featuring various mythical creatures including fairies, elves, ogres, gnomes, and giants. In 2006, Levine went on to write Fairest, a retelling of the story of Snow White, set in the same world as Ella Enchanted.

At birth, Ella of Frell is given the gift of obedience by the well-meaning but misguided fairy Lucinda. As a result, she cannot disobey a direct order given to her, though her mother Lady Eleanor and the family’s cook Mandy protect Ella throughout her childhood. Ella is close to her mother and they share the same free-spirited nature, but when Ella is nearly fifteen, Eleanor dies. At Eleanor’s funeral, Ella meets and befriends Charmont (Char), the Prince of Kyrria.

First, take a look at this Ella Enchamted Film Study Guide. Here is the link:

And there is:


Not long afterward, Ella’s father Sir Peter sends Ella off to finishing school with Hattie and Olive, the daughters of the wealthy Dame Olga. However, Hattie soon discovers that Ella is unable to disobey direct orders and she takes advantage of Ella. At school, Ella becomes friends with Areida, a girl from the neighboring country Ayortha. When Hattie orders Ella to stop being friends with Areida, Ella runs away and learns that her father is attending a giant’s wedding. After various misadventures, she finds Lucinda at the wedding and tries to persuade her to take back her gift. Instead, Lucinda misunderstands and orders Ella to be happy with her gift. Upon returning home, Mandy reverses the order upon Ella.



After failing to find a rich husband for Ella, Sir Peter decides to marry Dame Olga in order to pay off his debts. Ella renews her friendship with Char at the wedding and they begin writing to each other frequently after Char leaves on a diplomatic mission to Ayortha. When Sir Peter leaves to continue his business, Dame Olga and her daughters quickly reduce Ella to being an obedient servant in their home. Ella and Char fall in love through their letters, but Ella rejects him when she realizes her gift of obedience could be used to harm him. She tricks Char into thinking she has eloped with another man, leaving Char heartbroken.



When Char returns to Kyrria, a three-night homecoming ball is held in his honor. Ella, who still loves him, goes to the ball in disguise with help from Mandy and Lucinda, who now realizes the terrible nature of her gifts. On the third night of the ball, when she is dancing with Char, a jealous Hattie unmasks Ella, forcing her to flee. Returning to the manor, she and Mandy attempt to run away, but are thwarted by Char’s arrival. Char unwittingly orders Ella to marry him, causing Ella to will herself to defy the order out of her desire to protect him and the kingdom from her curse. Her unselfish desire allows her to succeed and refuse his proposal. Free from the spell, she accepts Char’s hand in marriage. A month later they were married and they both lived happily ever after. Review:

Every child longs for the day when he or she will be free from meddling parents and bossy grownups. For young Ella, the heroine of Gail Carson Levine’s Newbury Honor-winning debut novel, this is more than a fanciful wish; it could be a matter of life or death. Placed under the spell of a blundering fairy, she has no choice but to go through life obeying each and every order–no matter what the consequences may be. “If you commanded me to cut off my own head, I’d have to do it.”

Eden Riegel (As the World Turns, Les Miserables) uses her youthful, energetic voice to lead the listener into a familiar world of fairy godmothers, wicked stepsisters, and handsome princes. But this imaginative retelling of the Cinderella story comes with a welcome twist. Instead of a demure heroine patiently awaiting a prince who will carry her off, this Ella is a feisty ball of fire with the courage and ambition to take matters into her own hands.

Riegel narrates in a youthful, energetic tone that is perfectly suited to Ella’s character. Her voice adds charm and immediacy to a wonderful story already rich with excitement, adventure, romance, and mystery. (Running time: 5.5 hours, 4 cassettes) –George Laney


Charlotte’s Web Study Guides

Click on image to read more about this title

Click on image to read more about this title

Charlotte’s Web is a children’s novel by American author E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams; it was published in 1952 by Harper & Brothers. The novel tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur (such as “Some Pig”) in her web in order to persuade the farmer to let him live.

Written in White’s dry, low-key manner, Charlotte’s Web is considered a classic of children’s literature, enjoyable to adults as well as children. The description of the experience of swinging on a rope swing at the farm is an often cited example of rhythm in writing, as the pace of the sentences reflects the motion of the swing. Publishers Weekly listed the book as the best-selling children’s paperback of all time as of 2000.

Charlotte’s Web was adapted into an animated feature by Hanna-Barbera Productions and Sagittarius Productions in 1973. Paramount released a direct-to-video sequel, Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure, in the U.S. in 2003 (Universal released the film internationally). A live-action film version of E. B. White’s original story was released in 2006. A video game based on this adaption was also released in 2006.

Study guides divide each literary work into manageable reading assignments, focusing students on vocabulary, elements of literature, the techniques of an author’s style, inferences and theme, according to  Janice Montgomery .
At the conclusion, summary questions help students apply, synthesize, analyze and evaluate each novel. Enrichment activities are listed at the end of in each guide are great for teachers looking for multi-disciplinary extension. Written by teachers such ready to use materials provide an easy vehicle to teach literature appreciation and analysis to all students. Questions are designed to test student comprehension and draw the reader into higher-level thinking. Use of these materials will generate creative and critical thinking and application to the reader’s personal life. The questions are open-ended rather than focused on a definitive answer. These materials make reading and discussing literature stimulating and fun for both the teacher and the students!


This Charlotte’s Web study guide contains a biography of E.B. White, 100 quiz questions, a list of major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

The Charlotte’s Web Summary & Study Guide from  consists of approximately 16 pages of detailed chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more – everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Charlotte’s Web.

With the Charlotte’s Web Teacher’s Guide from, students will:

  • Explore character, setting, and story events, and organize a variety of these elements to construct story-related comic strips
  • Use text, images, and dialogue to reconstruct story events and make up their own storylines or messages
  • Use word analysis skills to identify parts of speech and to identify plural and singular nouns, synonyms, prefixes, and word meanings
  • Learn about and discuss thought and decision processes used to produce a film version of a popular children’s book
  • Cooperatively work with a group of peers to develop a plan for and write a story-based script to perform for others

This Charlotte’s Web novel study is from

The Role of Literature in Language Arts Teaching and Learning: Developing Literary Understanding

A child reading in Brookline Booksmith, an independent bookstore in Boston, Massachusetts.

A child reading in Brookline Booksmith, an independent bookstore in Boston, Massachusetts.

Notes from my ED-LTCY 346 class this semester, Fall 2014 at Boise State University.

Children’s literature is the foundation for a rich and effective language arts program. Children’s literature motivates readers, provides them with invaluable language experience and offers them opportunities to learn about themselves and the world. Effective teachers create classroom libraries that support their whole curriculum.

With a firm  understanding of  a child’s abilities, needs, and interests, future teachers are better prepared to engage individual children and help them develop literary skills. This is the best way for  teachers to foster a lifelong love of reading.

This discussion describes the benefits of a literature-based language arts program, how to build a literature collection, structuring the language arts program by reading aloud, guided reading, independent reading, shared reading and literacy study. As children explore literature through studying the author’s craft, studying a particular author or exploring themes, they continue to have powerful language experiences that help them develop as readers, writers and critical thinkers.

Reading, talking, writing, and drawing about books are the ways in which students learn about literature. Earlier, we presented ideas about looking closely at an author’s works, exploring themes found in literature, and studying the art of writing as examples of ways in which teachers help students learn about literature. Here we add to those ideas by introducing genre study, to which we will return to when we discuss writing across the genres.

 Why is it important to help students understand how literature works? Learning about literature is like learning about mathematics, or any other curriculum area. Literature is an art form worthy of study. Understanding how literature works allows readers full access to the “family of stories” (Family of Stories Anthology of Children’s Literature; Moss and Stott, 1986). This, in turn, makes them more effective readers and writers, able to recognize and appreciate techniques, structures, and artistic representations they encounter in print. At the same time,learning how literature works helps students become more skilled readers and writers. Knowing how a text works enhances both fluency and comprehension, and knowing options for expressing oneself  in print increases one’s options as a writer.
Understanding genre distinctions and conventions, for example, helps student to realize the breadth of reading material available to them, to learn to recognize the hallmarks of excellence,and to understand how genre conventions both support and constrain writers.

The major content-based genres of children’s literature are: poetry, folklore, fantasy, science fiction, contemporary realistic fiction, historical fiction, biography, and nonfiction. Wthin these eight genres, many other distinctions can be made. Mysteries, for example, are a “subgenre” that contain the conventions of a mystery story, but they may be fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, or historical fiction as well. The same is true for other subgenres such as animal stories, romances, sports stories,and adventure stories. Picture books, a genre based on format in which illustrations have an equal or greater importance in the conveying of meaning as does the text, also appear within all of the eight major genres. Thus, you can approach genre in many different ways, depending on the decisions you make about what you students are interested in, what they already know, and what they need to know.

According to Barbara E. Travers and John F. Travers in Childrens Literature: A Developmental Perspective:

From preschool through high school, young people read whatever genre excites them, and it’s not unusual to find a middle school student devouring the information embedded in Steve Jenkins’ Hottest Coldest Highest Deepest. Even though it’s a picture book, it’s filled with curious facts that children of this age are anxious to explore. An intermediate school child may be fascinated listening to the traditional tale Sundiata as retold by David Wisniewski. Initially, he may be attracted to the book because it is about a lion king, but then he is motivated to continue listening because of the dramatic manner in which Wisniewski presents Sundiata’s strength in overcoming adversity and his courage in facing the enemy. Introducing children to all genres widens their interests and increases their knowledge.


“The secret of selecting the appropriate book for a child is not only the knowledge that teachers, librarians, and parents have about children’s literature, but also what they know about the developmental level of each child they are serving,” Travers and Travers say.

What is the child like? Is she in the middle years, active, curious, and com-petitive? Is he just learning to walk and talk, and is fascinated by sounds and colors? Is the child a dreamer who likes to create her own stories or spend hours building with blocks? What is the child’s cultural background? Has the child had any major traumatic experiences? The secret to leading a child to the right book is not only knowing the books but also knowing the child. Only then can goodness-of- fit be achieved.  In our work, goodness-of-fit refers to the match between a child’s developmental level and appropriate literature and is based on the concept originally developed by the child psychiatrists Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas ( 1987, 1999). It’s a term we use throughout this text. Consequently, the traditional genres ( categories) of children’s literature become more meaningful when viewed through a developmental lens. We believe that understanding development provides teachers, librarians, and parents with a necessary depth of knowledge for selecting appropriate books for children. We also believe that grasping the range and application of develop-mental data provides insights into the problems and triumphs of the children depicted in the literature. In this way, teachers can assist young readers, as well as those in middle and high school, in understanding experiences that they have had or may later encounter in their own lives.

 The authors believe:
that combining developmental knowledge with genres is the key to organizing children’s literature as we enter the twenty- first century. By recog-nizing the characteristics of a specific genre ( biography or historical fiction, for ex-ample), we detect the major elements that make one book different from another. Often teachers and librarians urge children to select different genres to develop a specific theme. While studying Boston and its role in the American Revolution in social studies, children might read Jean Fritz’s biography And Then What Hap-pened, Paul Revere?; and historical fiction such as Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain, about Paul Revere’s apprentice; or Ann Rinaldi’s The Fifth of March, an exciting story of the Boston Massacre. Poetry, such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, could be read aloud, while the picture book Boston Then and Now, about fifty- nine historic sites photographed by Peter Vanderwarker, and the informational book Boston: The Way It Was, by Lorie Conway, are avail-able for students to complete their research.

As I mentioned, I have done extensive research with my mother, who adds:

In a truly balanced literacy program, how you teach is as important as what you teach. That’s one of the conclusions my network of teachers, administrators, and curriculum supervisors has reached.Like most educators today, we’ve been changing our practices to reflect new knowledge about learning and teaching. Our students are reading more, writing more, and learning through themes. Yet we share a mixed bag of excitement and uneasiness — excitement about the learning taking place in our classrooms every day, and uneasiness about the public perception that schools are not as good as they used to be, especially when it comes to teaching reading. We wonder: How can we maintain the good practices of the past without ignoring current evidence about how children learn? Have we gone too far in one direction? What we’re searching for, then, is balance, and in that search, concerns common to all teachers have surfaced. In this article, I focus on some of them — and how we have found middle ground.

Teaching Basic Skills

“Teaching phonics with literature seems so hit or miss. What about a correct sequence of skills?”

Apply the thinking behind good textbooks to trade books. It’s true that some sound-letter patterns are more consistent than others and, therefore, are better to teach early. For example, we know consonants are more consistent than vowels. We also know that certain consonants (such as j, m, r, and v) are more consistent than others. Most teachers and developers of core programs start with those more reliable sound-letter patterns, and you can do the same using literature. As a result, you move students from easy to hard, from the known to the unknown.

“I’d like to teach phonics using trade books, but I worry about abusing the literature.”

Include some literature that naturally lends itself to language study — specifically, stories that contain repetitious language or language patterns, such as Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Start by sharing the literature for its content and overall language qualities, with the intention of going back to look at some aspect of the words more carefully. You might ask, “Have you noticed that there are a number of words in this story that begin the same way? Let’s take a look.” After a while the children will initiate the process independently. Consider other types of whole texts as well, such as brief notes, shopping lists, and even traffic signs. These offer opportunites to anchor phonics in something real.

“Many parents want grammar taught ‘the old-fashioned way.’ What can I tell them?”

Use a whole-part-whole approach. Studies indicate that teaching grammar in isolation has little effect on students’ oral and written language. Start by immersing students in real examples of whatever it is you want to teach. Talk about those passages, guiding students toward recognizing the aspects of language under study. Notice, for example, how the poet uses adjectival phrases to create pictures, or how the novelist conveys action through verbs. Introduce grammar terms and rules during the discussion. Also, encourage students to relate terms and rules to their own writing.

“My administrators want me to return to traditional spelling lists.”

Develop lists inspired by other components of your language arts program. For example, you might select a particular aspect of language to study, such as vowel generalization, inflectional endings, root words, or word families, and choose examples for spelling lists. Words connected to a thematic unit are another option, but choose ones that are appropriate and useful. You can also use misspelled words from the children’s writing. After all, teachers who look for patterns in errors across the work of individuals and groups, and respond with beneficial instruction, are more likely to make an impact on children’s spelling development.

Read the full article: Balanced Literacy Practical strategies to help you build a truly balanced classroom literacy program, by Dorothy Strickland.



1. How can you help a child become an avid reader?

2. Give three reasons why literature is the best material for learning to read.

3. Where can teachers get help in choosing books for use in their classrooms?

 4. What determines the books teachers select for their classrooms?

5. Explain why it is important for students to have the opportunity to share what they have read.

6. Include the importance to both the person who is sharing and the one(s) who is listening.



The benefits of literature-based language arts curriculum Building a literature collection
  1. Selecting children’s books
  2. Evaluating children’s books
  3. Evaluating stories
  4. Evaluating picture books
  5. Evaluating nonfiction
  6. Organizing the classroom library

Structuring the language arts program

  1. Reading aloud
  2. Selecting books for reading aloud
  3. Scheduling and conducting read-aloud sessions
  4. Guided reading
  5. Independent reading
  6. Shared reading
  7. Whole class shared reading
  8. Small group shared reading
  9. Literary study
  10. Studying the art of writing
  11. Studying an author
  12. Exploring themes


Whodunit “Space Case” By Stuart Gibbs is “Smartly Paced and intricately Plotted”

Also posted on

The whodunit space-case-9781442494862_lgis smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track. Fully absorbing.
– Kirkus Reviews

It’s a murder mystery on the moon in Space Case,  the humorous and suspenseful space adventure from the author of Belly Up and Spy School.

Like his fellow lunarnauts—otherwise known as Moonies—living on Moon Base Alpha, twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is famous the world over for being one of the first humans to live on the moon.

And he’s bored out of his mind. Kids aren’t allowed on the lunar surface, meaning they’re trapped inside the tiny moon base with next to nothing to occupy their time—and the only other kid Dash’s age spends all his time hooked into virtual reality games.

Then Moon Base Alpha’s top scientist turns up dead. Dash senses there’s foul play afoot, but no one believes him. Everyone agrees Dr. Holtz went onto the lunar surface without his helmet properly affixed, simple as that. But Dr. Holtz was on the verge of an important new discovery, Dash finds out, and it’s a secret that could change everything for the Moonies—a secret someone just might kill to keep…


Space Case

Excerpt from The Official Residents’ Guide to Moon Base Alpha, © 2040 by National Aeronautics and Space Administration:


Congratulations on your selection as a resident of the first permanent extraterrestrial human habitat! To ease your transition from earth, Moon Base Alpha (referred to from here on as “MBA”) has been designed to feel as comfortable and familiar as any residence on our home planet. Our engineers and designers have spared no expense to provide all MBA residents—or “lunarnauts”—with everything they need for a relaxing, pleasurable existence.

However, life on the moon will not be without challenges. There are obviously many differences between this residence and one on earth—many of which you may be pleasantly surprised by! To that end, please take the necessary time to read this helpful, informative manual in its entirety, as it will likely answer any questions you have about your new home (and perhaps a few questions you hadn’t even thought to ask yet)!

Once again, congratulations on your selection. Welcome to the moon. Enjoy your new home!

According to School Library Journal, the books is “recommended as a breezy read, especially for the budding space scientist.”

Meet Danitra Brown, “the most splendiferous girl in town”

 “Choose whatever box you like, Mike. Just don’t put me in one, son. Believe me, I won’t fit.”  ― Nikki Grimes, Bronx Masquerade 

Nindexamed a Coretta Scott King Honor Book as well as an ALA Notable Book, this touching collection of 13 poems about two African American girls named Zuri Jackson and Danitra Brown, is a refreshing and illuminating way to convey a portrait of friendship.

From the point of view of Zuri, readers are introduced to Danitra Brown, “the most splendiferous girl in town,” who wears purple, from her head down to her toes, every single day. There are reasons why this is so, Zuri tells readers: Danitra might be a princess, she can take bullies on with no sweat, she’s the fastest bike rider on the whole block, she helps Zuri with her chores, and she’s going to win the Nobel Prize someday. Through Zuri’s proud, but unsentimental voice, Danitra is portrayed as a spirited, spunky kid who can deal with whatever life has to give her. In turn, Danitra is also very considerate of emotional Zuri’s vulnerability. The two make a wonderful pair: they both have qualities that bring out the best in each another.

Not everything is perfect, however: Danitra is taunted for wearing thick glasses; Zuri feels bad that her dad is never around to care for her, and some neighborhood kids tease Danitra about her dark skin. But although these girls live in a world filled with problems and prejudices, Danitra and Zuri deal well with each as they happen. The lovely and lush oil-wash illustrations by Floyd Cooper capture and complement energy of the poems, and capture the characters’ emotions. Although these characters are African-American, the theme of friendship through struggle that Grimes conveys is universal, and, in this book, is brought to vibrant life.

Nikki Grimes was well received this evening in my children’s literature class at Boise State University. Since many people here in Idaho are from small towns, they especially liked the part in the video below, where she spoke about the fact that there is no better, or safer place to learn about another culture than in the pages of a book. The students asked me to share Meet Danitra Brown.

A lesson plan for this book is found here:

Below is an excerpt:

Discuss friendship by charting qualities that are needed to build friendships and by charting qualities that tear down friendships.  Introduce Danitra Brown as the main character and read the story.  Discuss poetry and what makes this writing poetry.  Allow time for the students to share what is special about their friends.  Talk with students about the characteristics and structural elements of poetry in the book (e.g., imagery, rhyme, verse, rhythm, meter) With these elements in mind have students write a short poem about a friend.  The poem could be given as a gift or shared in the classroom.  Make sure everyone gets a poem.  Refer to qualities chart for ideas.  Have the class do one or more Venn diagrams.   Follow up with a discussion. The Venn diagram activity gives students a chance to find out more about each other.  The closure to this lesson is to create a Circle of Friends poster, including every member of the class.

Nikki Grimes conveyed the fire-in-the-belly fervor of a Harlem girl who knows she was born to write in Jazmin’s Notebook, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. In My Man Blue, a Booklist Editor’s Choice and Newsweek Children’s Books of the Year selection, her artful words expressed a boy’s journey from skepticism to trust. In Bronx Masquerade she presents a rich chorus of eighteen voices, singing openly about ideas, feelings, and questions–things that open minds, invite debate, provide release. A recent Booklist review proclaims: “As always, Grimes gives young people exactly what they’re looking for–real characters who show them they are not alone.”An accomplished poet, novelist, journalist, and educator, Ms. Grimes was born and raised in New York City and now lives in the Los Angeles area.

“Readers will enjoy the lively, smart voices that talk bravely, about real issues and secret fears. A fantastic choice.”


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