Archive for December, 2007

Browser Books

I was recently perusing Paul Hamilton’s Blog, The Treasure Chest of Free Stuff, when I came across Browser Books.

 This website was created to allow beginning readers to read books on their web browser. Readers can click on the triangle in the lower right-hand corner of each page to turn the pages. If they are unsure of a word, they can click on it to hear a child’s voice read the word to them.  

The site is easy to use.  Books can be searched by subject or level.  I’ll be adding to this to my computer center after Winter Vacation.


Teaching students writing, story elements and more through comics

Thanks to Bill Zimmerman and Tom Bloom for sharing their website Make Beliefs Comix on FreeReading. This allows users to easily make their own comic strips using the 15 site characters. Users can adjust their characters emotions as well as add speech and thought bubbles. This is a great resource for teachers that want to teach young students about language, story elements, reading, writing, computer skills and more. Check it out!


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Pass the Tissues!

I always find myself repeating the same things in my classroom this time of year. 

Wipe your nose!  Please go get a tissue!  Cover your mouth when you cough! 

It is no wonder I spent last week battling my annual early winter cold.  As it turns out, most teachers are in the same boat as I am this time of year.  Yesterday, as I was looking over my Union Newsletter, I came across a very interesting article: New Website Teaches Children about Proper Hand-Washing.


Scrub Club is a series of interactive games children play to battle the evil “Influenza Enzo.”  There are six “Soaper Heroes”, each of whom represents one of the six steps to washing hands.  Teachers can also download educational materials about proper hand washing to use in their classrooms.

Happy Hand Washing (and nose blowing)!


Brooklyn Firm Offers Up Free Online Lesson Plans for Teachers

FreeReading was featured in the New York Sun today! Check out the article here. -Anna

Elementary School in Rural France (Movie Recommendation)

To Be and To Have

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies, Être et avoir (To Be and To Have). This documentary takes place in a one room elementary school in the heart of rural Auvergne, France where a single teacher (Mr. Lopez) instructs children from ages 4 to 10 how to read, how to multiply, how to make crepes, how to share and find joy in nature and company.

Whether it is the extra scene where little Marie recites a poem about the moon or the episodes when Jojo sticks a pencil up his nose or tries with all his might to figure out the copy machine, this movie reminds us what a joy it is to work with children, plus it brings back a few memories of being in elementary school to boot.

Learn more about the film and see more photos like the one above here.


Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2007

The Frog who wanted to See the Sea

The New York Times just published a slide show of the best illustrated children’s books of 2007! Have a click through! I am particularly fond of the illustration featured above from, “The Frog who wanted to See the Sea” written and illustrated by Guy Billout.  Who doesn’t want to surf and think of turquoise waters when it is 30 degrees outside?!


Using hip hop in your math and reading classrooms!

I am a huge fan of Flocabulary–a hip hop group that writes, produces and performs hip hop music to teach children and teens vocabulary, history, English and math.
Everytime I visit a school district to show teachers FreeReading, teachers go wild when they hear the music Flocabulary contributed to FreeReading. Check out the Chipmunk–a song about a dapper chipmunk named Mr. T that teaches children Tier 2 vocabulary words from books such as Chrysanthemum and Make way for Ducklings.
Recently Flocabulary produced a new song called Know Your Two’s that teaches children their 2 multiplication tables. In addition, they have developed activities that build on the song here. Since this is a new song, Alex and Blake (the founders of Flocabulary) would love to hear your thoughts and feedback! So, over the holidays, why not do a little dancing to the tune of Know Your Two’s, and send Alex and Blake your feedback here. In exchange for your feedback, Blake and Alex will send you a free copy of the completed product to use in your classrooms!
Thanks and happy holidays!

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Free online literacy resource makes the news!

Some New York City students are learning to read in a new way, using lessons that are found online. And if the method takes off, schools could eventually save billions of dollars, because the materials are free.” ( (a free online open source early literacy program) and amazing Achievement First teacher Dixon Deutsch were featured on ABC news tonight. Check out the story and a video clip here.

As a member and contributor to the FreeReading community, you can imagine how exciting this was to see on the news! To learn more about click here.

Literacy Connections

Literacy Connections is a great place to go for general literacy resources. 

Literacy Connections provides a wealth of information on reading, teaching, and tutoring techniques, ESL literacy, an adult literacy.  We recommend resources that are useful for teachers, volunteers, and directors of literacy programs.  Topics include the language experience approach, phonics, word study, and the best in children’s literature.


As a teacher on a small budget, I found the article, Books on a Budget particularly useful.  I also took notice of their collection of writing prompts.  I hope you find this site as useful as I have.


Recommended Read: Proust and the Squid, The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf

One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is to catch up on reading that I’ve meant to do all year! During the year, I often read magazines, journals and the paper, but I never quite get through as many books as I intend. So recently, I’ve been on a book kick! After reading Super Crunchers (Check out chapter 7 for a fascinating discussion on direct instruction!) and In the Time of the Butterflies (Don’t you just love Julia Alvarez!), I decided to pick up a book my father gave me at Thanksgiving: Proust and the Squid, The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf.

Proust and the Squid is a fascinating read on how the brain learns to read. Wolf (a professor of child development at Tufts University) manages to cover much of the major research on the science and pedagogy of reading using such engaging prose that you feel like you’re reading a novel–a page-turner at that! She covers the work of Catherine Snow, Irene Fountas, Gay Sue Pinnell, Jeanne Chall and many many more! Part II, How the Brain Learns to Read Over Time should be an essential read for all elementary school teachers as it covers that critical stages a child passes through on his/her way to becoming a reader! One of my favorite things about this book are the quotes from literature that Wolf weaves throughout her discussion. Reading the following quote on the subway yesterday just made me want to curl up and read a book, Wolf’s book!

In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own, I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about my world and myself. But I felt that I, too, existed much of the time in a different dimension from everyone else I knew. There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books, a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but was never really a stranger. My real, true world. My perfect island. -Anna Quindlen (pg. 109 of Proust and the Squid)


Teachnology–Rubrics, Worksheets, Holiday Printouts and More!

Thanks to my colleague and friend Masa for introducing me to Teachnology yesterday. The site about page states:

As a web portal, offers a wide variety of free resources intended to bring educators into the world of teaching with technology. It provides links to valuable and useful information relative to current and best practices in the field of education. A large variety of free classroom materials and support tools are also available.

A team of highly professional educators maintains The team includes a cadre of PreK-12 grade teachers, professors of higher education, leading educational consultants, small business constituencies, and experienced web designers. There is no cost associated with accessing the resources found on

I am particularly fond of the rubric generator pages. For example, check out this classroom participation rubric and this oral expression rubric. If you are looking for some fun activities to do with your students in preparation for the holiday, you may find these activities worth investigating!

- Anna

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Reader’s Theater

I have found that one of the best ways to improve fluency is have my kids do Reader’s Theater.  Not only is great for them, but they also have a blast doing it.  We usually just do it for fun in the classroom.  Occasionally, I’ll invite the first grade class from next door over to see what we have been doing.  My students really enjoy performing for an audience!


Once a year, however, we do a big reader’s theater production for all of the first grade parents.  Each first grade classroom performs their own play, complete with props and costumes.  I just found some really great FREE scripts at Teaching Heart that I wanted to pass along.


Game Goo

Check out Game Goo, a fun site for kids with FREE phonics games!  I just posed a link on my classroom webpage.  Parents are always asking me for creative ideas for enrichment at home.


I just tired out Letter Bugs  – watch out!  The bugs go by quickly…


Happy Letter Hunting.




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Yahoo! for Teachers

I received an e-mail yesterday that the new Yahoo! for Teachers Beta is now up and running.  According to the website, Yahoo! for Teachers is:

 A place for educators to find, create, and share standards-based classroom materials – for FREE 

Yahoo! for Teachers is debuting a new feature: The Gobbler.

 The Gobbler is a unique internet tool that allows you to easily gather and web pages, images, and text clippings from other websites on the Internet.  Once you install the Gobbler, you’ll be able to drag and drop everything right into your Yahoo! for Teachers portfolio without leaving the site you are visiting.  The Gobbler is free and takes less then a minute to install. 

I haven’t had too much time to play around yet, but it looks like each teacher or administrator who sets up a free account will get a portfolio.  You can create projects inside your portfolio, which you can then share with colleagues.  And likewise, you can browse projects create by others.


I’m always in favor of collaboration and taking a peek into what others are doing in their classroom.  Enjoy!


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