Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ten Beach Bag Books and Games for Teachers

Dear Surfin’  Santa,

Surfin' Santa Claus

Teachers have been working hard all year to make learning challenging, exciting and fun for their students. Although they are awesome at planning lessons to meet the needs of their charges, the standards set by their school districts and the requests of parents, they could use a few presents. This is where you come in, you jolly surfin’ elf.

You see, as educators, their salaries only stretch so far. Please give some serious thought to this list and fill their beach bags with these gifts so they can recharge their creative inspiration while they dig their toes into the sand.  Not only will you be supporting their teaching endeavors, but you will also have a hand in helping today’s youth stretch their brains and increase their comprehension, thinking and writing skills. You can find these on, in Target and in bookstores, just to name a few places, Surfin’ Santa.

Also, Santa, parents, and teachers who are parents, would love it if you filled children’s beach bags with any (or all) of the first five ideas. Not only do teachers want these games for their classrooms, but they know that these delightful diversions will occupy anyone from 6-66 during long summer plane, train or automobile trips. No more “How much longer?” pleas or adult migraines will whine with the winds when bored minds are motivated to win the gaming challenge.

    Rory's Story Cubes
  1.  Rory’s Story Cubes  (Gamewright)This is so cool, Santa! Each side of the dice has a picture and  students can play alone or in groups to create terrific stories. What is so great, is they think that they are just playing a game , but they are actually jump-starting their gray matter with some really creative ideas. You know that often kids say, “I don’t know what to write.” These cubes will wipe that thought from their brains. Plus, Santa, it’s only $6.86.
  2.  Rory’s Story Cubes-Actions  (Gamewright) Santa, every English/Language Arts teacher knows
    Rory's Story Cubes-Actions
    that the backbone of good writing is VERBS! Not only do they show the action of a character, but also the emotions of that person. Without strong, active verbs, students’ writing would collapse, just like a spineless amoeba. I mean, Surfin' Santa, you don’t
    walk into a room! How boring would that be? You glide  over the waves with grace and joy.  Help a teacher out with this $9.99 game.
  3.  Banish Boring Words!: Dozens of Reproducible Word Lists for Helping Students Choose Just-Right Words to Strengthen Their Writin(Leilen Shelton)  All writers, from children to
    Banish Boring Words
    adults, often suffer vapor lock of the brain when mining the depths of their brains for that perfect word. This book will eradicate that dreaded attack, Santa. It offers super synonyms, words to describe any sensory image, and so many more ways to use words wisely, it will most assuredly transform ho hum writing into HO HO HO stories, essays and narratives. Just think how much fun you’ll have reading all of those lists next December, Santa, after millions of children are turned on to these ideas. For $6.49, it’s a great deal!
  4. Bananagrams (Bananagrams) $14.65. Bananagrams takes Words With Friends to the next level  as players form crossword grids with their tiles instead of a single word. Each player must use all of the tiles before time runs out. A heads-up on the Amazon reviews says to be careful you are not
    getting a knockoff by buying from Bananagrams or at a local bookstore where you can check out the quality of the product. 
  5.  Pairsinpears (Bananagrams) $14.95 In this game, players try to make 3-letter word sets around a center vowel. Older players can try to form longer words while still matching the pattern.

The rest of this letter, Surfin’ Santa, will list planning resource books teachers would love to find next to their hammocks or on their patio tables. Teachers will kick back and sigh contentedly because they understand that these flexible resources hit a home run by guaranteeing shorter planning times, by helping them create inspired lessons, by meeting Common Core Standards and district dictates, and, most importantly, by allowing them more time to relax, unwind and recharge their teaching batteries.
  1. Hot Fudge Monday: Tasty Ways to Teach Parts of Speech to Students Who Have a Hard Time Swallowing Anything to Do With Grammar  (Randy Larson)  $15.61. 
    Hot Fudge Monday-Parts of Speech teacher resource
    This resource is written by an English teacher who truly understands how to merge students’ needs within the strictures of a program of studies and the dictates of administrators. Students will learn the basic foundation of grammar-the parts of speech-  through completing quirky handouts, writing assignments and Internet activities. Larson found the grin and not the grim in teaching grammar with this book.
  2. Surviving Last Period on Fridays  (Cheryl Miller Thurston) $10.84. This is a secondary teacher’s go to book on Fridays, the days leading up to vacations and those times when they are acting like
    Surviving Last Period on Friday teacher resource
    impacted wisdom teeth and need to be yanked back to task. Many of this totally engaging activities are ready to be copied and used, while others are easily adaptable with your comprehension, writing and literature plans. A great book to pull out when your rising frustration levels are drowning your creative ideas and patience.
  3. Laura Candler's Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide (Compass) $16.95. Although many reading workshop systems exist, Power Reading Workshop is the cream rising to the top for those who teach 2nd-6th graders.
    Power Reading Workshop teacher resource
    This step-by-step guide turns students in life-long readers by allowing them to 
    take ownership for what they read during independent reading times. The book reaches out to all types of learners-visual, auditory and kinesthetic-while leading them to a lifetime love affair with literature.
  4. The Issy Books (Compass)  ($39.95) Pat Calfee, a former teacher and current educational consultant and her 5-year old granddaughter, Isybilla Gee, joined their talents to create these absolutely marvelous books for children just learning how to read. I bought them for my youngest granddaughter, a kindergartner, and she couldn’t put them down.
    The Issy Books-emerging readers books
    Not only did the carefully chosen vocabulary solidify Hannah’s reading confidence level, but the books fit comfortably in her hands because of their size (5.5” x 5.5”).  Eleven books are included in the combination Set 1 and Set 2 pack.

    5. The House of Comprehension (Compass) ($24.95)

The House of Comprehension teacher resourceHere are the publisher’s words about my teacher resource, The House of Comprehension. “Just like the Three Little Pigs, students need to know how to build strong “houses of comprehension” that expand their knowledge, enhance their perception of the structure of texts, and  develop strong reading skills that will last a lifetime. No Big Bad Wolf can blow down a student’s house of comprehension once a teacher uses the ideas laid out in this book!” 

You can see by this list,  Santa, that teachers just want to help their students to comprehend cogently, to think intensely, to speak effectively and to write dynamically. Over the years they have amassed stacks and stacks of impressive plans, but they always want to add to their repertoire.  Their beach bags are ready and waiting for some of your fascinating summer sizzle, Santa. Surf's Up! 

And to English Language Arts teachers everywhere, I wish you all super summer.

Until next week,


1 comment:

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