Monday, August 8, 2022

You're Finally Here! Read Aloud Lesson

 I’ve created a simple and interactive literacy plan for You’re Finally Here!  It’s intended for Pre-Kindergaten/Kindergarten. I hope this helps with some of your Back-To-School lesson planning.


Purpose: Children work on focusing attention during a read aloud and will be introduced to new vocabulary.

Classroom Culture: crisscross applesauce, peanut butter hands, eyes on the speaker

Targeted Vocabulary: rude, annoyed, impatient

Materials: You’re Finally Here!, stuffed bunny, anchor chart  with “Where Were You?” written on it, sticky notes

Focus Activity: Let’s Meet Bunny

Hide Bunny out of sight.

Would you like to meet my friend? Wait a few seconds before presenting him to the class.

(Look at the clock, etc.) He's late! Where is he? Gosh, that's rude. (Wait a few more seconds.) I'm getting annoyed.

Don't you think it's rude for him to make us wait? It's certainly not very polite.

Pretend to see Bunny and show him to the class. Here he is! This is Bunny. Where were you, Bunny? What took you so long to get here?

Pretend he’s whispering in your ear and tell children what he’s saying.

First, he had to turn three years old and then he had to wait for summer to end, so that school could start.

He's the main character in the story we're going to read today. Bunny is an impatient little guy.

Does anyone know what impatient means? It’s when you don’t want to wait for something or someone. It’s the opposite of patient.

Pre-Reading: Introduce the title, author, illustrator, and front cover

After Reading: I know where Bunny was, but I’ve been waiting a long time for all of you to get here too. Where were you?

Record children’s responses on the sticky notes and have them place them on the anchor chart.

For more ideas, please visit




Friday, May 27, 2022

Common Sense Gun Reform Petition

                                               Image courtesy of Goran Horvat from Pixabay.



That's it! Whose school is next?! Whose child is next?!

We must stand together and raise our voices loudly to STOP the VIOLENCE that PLAGUES our SCHOOLS and safe spaces. Our children deserve better!

We must do all we can to make the changes needed to protect our kiddos in and out of the classroom.

Our elected leaders represent us! The majority of Americans support Common Sense Gun Safety.

School shooters don't care whether you're Independent, Republican, or Democrat. This is an AMERICAN problem!

Common Sense Gun Reform is one small step in 1,000 mile journey. Let's take the first one together right now!

Please click the link to sign the petition and share.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Benefits of Author Classroom Visits

Join professor and author, Anthony Manna and me for our third episode where we discuss the benefits of author classroom visits.

Episode-3-School Visits: The study guides an author creates in tandem with their books are designed to motivate students or patrons to have meaningful engagement with the books.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon Review


Author: Eve Cabanel

Illustrator: Ekaterina Ilchenko

Publisher: Twenty Two House Publishing

Released: October 11, 2021

Format: Kindle, Paperback

ISBN: 978-1777908812

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

 A tale of courage and friendship!



Book Summary:

Strange sugar crystals are coating Cucuruzza forest, the home of Eli the Moon Elf and her friend Luna. Anyone who touches the crystals turns into hard rock candy.

It is said that Hallowshine Dragon’s tears are responsible for this dilemma, and only his saliva can cure it if administered by nightfall the following day.

When Luna’s baby, Doudou, falls victim to the sugar crystals, Eli and Luna set out to find a cure for him. Their quest leads them to the sad and lonely Hallowshine Dragon. 

After befriending the dragon, the trio return to Eli’s house where Hallowshine Dragon gives Doudou a big kiss. But are they too late?



Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon highlights the importance of tenacity and friendship.

Side by side, Eli and Luna overcome impossible odds to find a cure for an illness spreading across their home.

Ilchenko’s iridescent illustrations flow with the magic of childhood whimsy. Their charming soft hued sparkle will delight young readers and their adult counterparts.

I also appreciated the map of Cucuruzza at the beginning of the book. It offers a concrete visual for children as they follow Eli and Luna on their quest.

That being said, the story needs another thorough edit. Although highly imaginative, the story is long-winded and drags because of it.

This wordiness may hinder the attention span of younger readers. When I read the story aloud, I noticed just how long lengthy it is.

If I were to read this to my kindergarten class, I’d definitely paraphrase. There’s a whopping 38 pages of story.

The attention to detail found in the illustrations needs to apply to the text. The grammatical errors are simple to fix and would add to the integrity of the finished product.

I give it 3 ½ Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Age Range: Late Kindergarten to 3rd Grade

Targeted Vocabulary: exploring, mysteries, abyss, sync, unease, heebie-jeebies, urgently, enchantment, wailing, saliva

Despite its verbosity, Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon is a book I’d add to my classroom library.

The illustrations are so beautiful. Children will enjoy looking at them over and over again.

After a quick read through, a teacher could summarize the text and focus on the pictures to tell the story. 

The book encapsulates the magic of fairy tales and would make a nice addition to a fairy tale themed lesson.      


Fairy Tale Pinterest Board

About The Author:

One of Eve Cabanel’s fondest childhood memories is when her French grandmother would make up wonderfully imaginative stories for her. 

As a mother, Eve wanted to do the same for her young son, so she created the enchanted fairy tale Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon.


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

7 Turkey Day Book Recommendations

                                Image courtesy of GraphicMama-team from Pixabay 

Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it's time to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving Turkey books. I have a feast of hilarious read aloud suggestions perfect for Turkey Day.

Are you ready for some hilarious turkey fun? These seven books will have you cheering on America’s #1 fowl and reconsidering your menu options on the fourth Thursday of November this year.

From relay races to clever disguises, this flock of desperate turkeys concoct elaborate schemes to avoid being the main course at Thanksgiving Dinner.

After each book suggestion, I’ve included the Amazon purchase link, a read aloud video link, and FREE or inexpensive activity links!

Bon Appetit!

Turkey Trouble

Book Blurb: Turkey is in trouble. Bad trouble. The kind of trouble where it's almost Thanksgiving . . . and you're the main course.

But Turkey has an idea--what if he doesn't look like a turkey? What if he looks like another animal instead?

After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise to make this Thanksgiving the best ever!

Amazon Link

Storyline Online Read Aloud 

Activity Ideas:

Turkey In Disguise Freebie

Free Turkeys In Disguise

Turkey In Disguise Free

Turkey Trouble Literacy Activities


A Plump and Perky Turkey

Book Blurb: Turkeys around Squawk Valley just don't jump into pots anymore—they are way too smart for that.

So, the townspeople hatch a clever plan. They host a turkey-themed arts and crafts fair and lure a vain bird into town by advertising for an artist's model.

Peter the Turkey, proud of his well-stuffed form, takes the bait but doesn't fall for the trap.

Amazon Link

YouTube Read Aloud

Activity Ideas:

A Plump And Perky Turkey Read Aloud Activities

A Plump And Perky Turkey STEAM Activity


How To Catch A Turkey

Book Blurb: A turkey is running loose in a school right before a Thanksgiving play. Can YOU help catch it so the show can go on?

Follow along as students turn their school upside down trying to catch the turkey, ending with a twist that ensures no turkeys are harmed (or eaten!).

This hilariously zany children's picture book combines STEAM concepts and traps with a silly story and fun illustrations, perfect for starting a new holiday family tradition or giving as a Thanksgiving gift for kids ages 4 and up!

Thanksgiving time is here again,
but there's a turkey on the run!
Can you catch this tricky bird
before the school play has begun?

Amazon Link

YouTube Read Aloud

Activity Ideas:

How To Catch A Turkey: STEM Challenge and Writing Craft

How To Catch A Turkey Writing Template And Craft

The Great Turkey Race

Book Blurb: Cassie, Wing, and Ollie all want to be the Thanksgiving Turkey! They decide to have a contest to see which of them Farmer Joe should pick. Is it going to be a happy Thanksgiving for all?

Amazon Link

YouTube Read Aloud

Activity Ideas:

Reader’s Theater The Great Turkey Race

The Great Turkey Race & The Amazing Turkey Rescue Freebies

The Amazing Turkey Rescue

Book Blurb: Cassie, Wing, and Ollie are back on the farm for another wild Thanksgiving adventure! When a fox is spotted prowling around the henhouse, the turkeys smell trouble. Can they help the chickens fly the coop before it is too late?

Amazon Link

YouTube Read Aloud

The Silly Turkey Party

Book Blurb: What happens when Farmer Joe is too sick to host Thanksgiving and the three turkeys need to be very, very quiet? Read on and find out!

Amazon Link

YouTube Read Aloud

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Turkey

Book Blurb: The old lady is at it again, and this time she's swallowing a Turkey . . she's always been quirky!

The old lady is at it again, and this time she's swallowing a Turkey . . . she's always been quirky!

You won't believe why this old lady swallowed a turkey, a ball, a hat, a balloon, a boat, some wheels, and a horn of plenty! Read this book and find out why!

Amazon Link

YouTube Read Aloud

Activity Ideas:

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey Boom Cards

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Turkey Sequencing Digital Activity


What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving books?

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Benefits of Author Classroom Visits


Join professor and author, Anthony Manna and me for our second episode where we discuss the benefits of author classroom visits.

Episode-2-School Visits: An author visit can help students learn how a budding or veteran author deals with constructive criticism and suggestions for improving their writing craft.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

20 Back To School Recommendations

                                            Image by Kidaha via Pixabay

It’s taken me over two decades, (yes, I know I’m dating myself), but I’ve compiled a list of my absolute favorite Back-to-School Read Alouds.

Every September, I eagerly pull them off the bookshelf and read them to my new students.

Some titles focus on a classroom procedure or a social skill I want the children to learn; others are just plain fun.

                                    Image by OpenClipart-vectors via Pixabay

A high-quality picture book has certain characteristics that set it apart from others.

Picture books comprise certain essential elements: characters, plot, language, and pictures.

The author’s approach to each element can make or break a story.

The 20 books I’ve compiled achieve the high standards I expect for my classroom library.

(For further reading about Picture Book Elements, please click here.)


Back To School Book List:

1. David Goes to School By David Shannon

2. A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue By Julia Cook

3. My Mouth Is a Volcano By Julia Cook

4. Decibella By Julia Cook

5. I Just Don’t Like the Sound of No By Julia Cook

                                              Image by asi24 via Pixabay

6. Chrysanthemum By Kevin Henkes

7. The Kissing Hand By Audrey Penn

8. If You Take a Mouse to School By Laura Nemeroff

9. Back- to-School Rules By Laurie Friedman

10. The Name Jar By Yangsook Choi

                         Image by Kidaha via Pixabay

11. How Full Is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath

12. Llama Llama Misses Mama By Anna Dewdney

13. Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten By Joseph Slate

14. A Letter from Your Teacher: On The First Day Of School By Shannon Olsen

15. This School Year Will Be the Best By Kay Winters

                               Image by Please Don't Sell My Artwork AS IS via Pixabay

16. Interrupting Chicken David Ezra Stein

17. You Get What You Get By Julie Gassman

18. Hands Are Not or Hitting By Martine Agassi

19. Words Are Not for Hurting By Elizabeth Verdick

20. Voices Are Not for Yelling By Elizabeth Verdick

 What Back-to-School books do you read to your class? 


Saturday, July 31, 2021

5 Ways To Connect With Students Before September


Happy New Year! It’s almost that time again: back-to-school season is few weeks away.

Many of us are still savoring the lazy days of summer. For those of you who’d prefer a head start on prepping for September, let’s discuss a few ways to connect with your kiddos early on.

If you’re one of the lucky few who gained their class lists—CONGRATULATIONS! I’d love to learn how you achieved that.

                                     Image by jacqueline macou via Pixabay

1. Drop your prospective students a postcard introducing yourself and some of your favorite summertime endeavors. Give them a glimpse into your personality.

If, like me, you’re in the dark about who’s on your roster, sit pretty and relax.

Or take some leisure time to browse the dollar stores, Target, Walmart, Lakeshore, Teachers Pay Teachers, Amazon, Etsy, and US Toy Company for a few essential items.

2. When you finally receive your class list, mail your students a welcome message

Introduce yourself, a few tips on what the children can expect this year, and if you have one, a photo of you with your class mascot.

                              Image by Kranich17 via Pixabay

3. Is your Google Classroom set up? If so, invite the kiddos to join and play get-to-know-you games. 

Ask Would You Rather questions, post jokes, or do a daily poll on a specific topic such as, “Who plays baseball?” “Who enjoys going to the beach?” The possibilities are endless.

You could also ask more specific questions like, “What movies did you check out this summer?” “Who’s your favorite superhero?” “Who’s the oldest in their family?”

(Be sure to inform students you’ve invited them to your Google Classroom in your welcome letter.)

Cult Of Pedagogy has some remote Ice Breaker Games for Zoom that look fun.

4. Make a brief classroom reveal video and include a teaser tour that students and parents can watch. You know the kids are dying to see what their new classroom looks like.

Leave the most exciting feature (student gifts, the classroom library, etc.) for the first day of school. This will build anticipation for the big day.

                                Photo by Peter H via Pixabay

5. Throw an End of Summer or a Back-to-School Eve Zoom party! Create a few fun slides to share, pass along arrival expectations, or just chat for a few moments.

Any positive connection made will help mitigate those first day of school jitters, for you and your students.

However you greet your students this September, I hope your Back-to-School experience is fun!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Pirate Princess Book Review


Author: Alva Sachs

Illustrator: Patricia Krebs

Publisher: Three Wishes Publishing Company

Released: July 22, 2020

Format: Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0979638053

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops 

A celebration of imaginative play at its finest.


Book Summary:

Madison is unhappy. She and her friends’ plans to play outside washed away with the rainstorm. Luckily, Madison’s mother suggests that she invite her friends to their house for the day. Mom even promises to make everyone a special lunch.

The salvaged play date quickly turns into a day full of extravagant fun only a creative group of children could dream up. Grabbing hold of a few laundry baskets that transform into pirate ships, the gang embarks on an extraordinary sea voyage to an island where they find hidden treasure.


The Pirate Princess celebrates imaginative play at its finest. It proves how lively and fruitful a youngster’s creativity is when allowed to flourish unhindered by electronics. Take away your child’s video games, switch them out for a few laundry baskets, and watch where their imaginations take them. 

Krabs’ illustrations are warm and folksy. They add a pleasant down-to-earth element that pleases the eye and puts you in the mood for a child-oriented adventure.

I also appreciated the interactive elements at the end of the book. It encourages each reader to draw a Treasure Island Map and a picture of themselves as a pirate. It’s a warmup for their own pirate experiences.

That being said, I have one teeny criticism I’d like to discuss. I was a little let down when we didn’t get to see what was inside the pirate chest, after traveling with the characters and patiently waiting for them to open it.

I’m guessing this was intentional to encourage children to speculate as to the chest’s mysterious contents, but all the same it disappointed me after all the buildup. I even checked to make certain I hadn’t skipped a page when I read the book.  

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

 Classroom Connection: 

Targeted Vocabulary: mateys, masts, telescope, perched, compass 

The Pirate Princess is an excellent book for a dive into the endless possibilities of imaginative play. It would make a great companion story to any fairytale or pirate unit. After a reading, convert your dramatic play into a pirate ship and let your kiddos imaginations go wild.


Pirate Theme Pinterest Board

About The Author:

lva Sachs was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. After receiving her Bachelor of Science from University of Illinois, and Master's of Education from Northern Illinois University, she taught elementary school for sixteen years. She now resides in Calabasas, California with her husband, Paul, and their Schnoodle, Sadie.

Reading to her classes over those years were some of Alva's most treasured memories. Her love of teaching and raising her own three children led her to follow her dream to write books for children.

About The Illustrator:

Multimedia artist Patricia Krebs talks about life: the complexity of humanity, the connections within ourselves, each other, and to the Earth. Krebs's mixed media pieces combine collage, ink and acrylic on canvas. She then playfully combines gestural painting and line drawing with detailed photos, small pieces of text and three-dimensional objects.

Patricia Krebs grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Throughout her young life she attended art institutions where she participated in group classes of music, art, puppetry, drama, literature, dance and movement. She went to an arts High School and a College of Fine Arts and obtained three degrees in Art, including one in Contemporary Visual Arts from the National University of Art (UNA).

Along with her formal education, Krebs studied guitar and singing lessons at the Walter Malosetti Superior School of Jazz. She moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to work as a full-time visual artist and musician.



Thursday, July 22, 2021

Benefits Of Author Classroom Visits

Join professor and author Anthony Manna and me for our first discussion on the importance of author classroom visits. Author visits provide long term educational benefits to students and the community.

Episode 1 School-Visits:

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Extended School Year Fun


I've never taught Summer School!

I'm a tad nervous. I mean what kid likes Summer School? When I was a child, just considering the idea brought on chills of horror.

I subscribed to the tenet all students believe, Summer Break must not be trifled with. You know the mantra, “No more pencils! No more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks!”

With this refrain in mind, I'm writing lesson plans and trying to pepper in extra doses of fun.

If all accords to my master plan, here's what we’ll be doing in my Summer School Classroom:

*Desk Pets: Obviously! They're so darn cute and the kiddos love them!! FYI: Desk Pets are 3-D erasers. Teacher Marissa Begay introduced them on Tik-Tok and they’ve taken the world by storm.

*Random Volleyball: Every so often we'll take a minute (or two or three) to pass around a beach ball.

*Pool Noodle Drumming: In addition to Desk Pets, this is another terrific and entertaining thing I discovered this school year!

                                            Image by Ashley Ladroma via Pixabay

Pool noodle drumming uses pool noodles to drum on the desks while dancing to music. (As per the photograph above, there are many clever ways to use foam noodles.)

Virtual students can drum on a table at home and use pencils or whatever else they can find that’s gentle on the furniture. (With parental permission, of course.)

I must send a shout out to #KentHamilton who makes Cardio Desk Drumming videos on YouTube. Best thing ever!!

If you're searching for something super-duper fun to do with your kiddos, I highly recommend checking out his channel.

*Teachers Pay Teachers resources: I’ve been hunting for engaging curriculum related worksheets for the children to complete.

*Scouring Pinterest and adding loads of neato ideas to my Summer Time board. Oh my gosh, there are so many!!

                                                 Image courtesy of

I’d love to hear your Summer School Fun suggestions. Please comment below!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Daddy Donkey and His Little Son Book Review


                                                           Available on Amazon

Authors: Vedika Agrawal and Kunal Das

Illustrator: Creative Concepts

Publisher: Independently Published

Released: February 9, 2021

Format: Kindle, Paperback

ISBN: 979-8706543822

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

Love is love, no matter what!


Book Summary:

Louie’s son, Zozo, is a little different from the rest of Louie’s herd. For starters he’s a lion cub, but Louie adopts him anyway, showering the cub with love and protection.

After rescuing the solitary cub, Louie brings Zozo home and soon deals with Zozo’s disruptive behavior and carnivorous diet. As you might expect, the other donkeys aren’t fond of Zozo or his preferred source of food—meat.

Afraid they will end up on Zozo’s personal dinner menu, the other donkeys try to get rid of him, but Louie saves his son, until the cub’s mother returns for him.

Many years later, a much older Louie is rescued from a pack of foxes by a mighty lion. The two recognize each other and father and son have a happy reunion.


Daddy Donkey and His Little Son is an adorable tale that demonstrates how family transcends societal boundaries and unites us. In a child-friendly way, Agrawal and Das, have introduced youngsters to the concepts of compassion and unconditional love.

Diversity is another important topic addressed in the story. Louie looks passed Zozo’s differences and sees only a helpless cub in need of help. As our world becomes more interconnected, children (and adults) must accept and embrace the mixed bag that is humanity.    

I appreciated the activities and the World’s Best Dad certificate at the end of the book. Parents and educators will find the extension activities enjoyable. They’ll also make a great Father’s Day gift.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Targeted Vocabulary: outskirts, different, adamant, herd, mischievous, transformed, amusing, defensive, tactics, revenge, frequent, cautions, mighty

Daddy Donkey and His Little Son is tailor made for a thematic unit on family, interracial families, and adoption. It might be nice to send the book home through a Classroom Lending Library and ask families to take a picture of themselves with the book. These photographs can be displayed on a bulletin board or a quilt style display.  

After a reading, students can complete the “All About My Dad” activity for Father’s Day.


Families Theme Pinterest Board

About The Authors:

Dr. Vedika Agrawal is an engineering doctorate from IIT Delhi, India with an inclination towards children's literature. With a good understanding of kids' way of learning, she has written several children storybooks with an aim to imbibe reading habits and values in children through the magic of books. She is also a quick learner and a sharp critic. She has a unique ability to give the raw stories, the shape of a masterpiece. Other than writing, she likes playing sports.

Dr. Kunal Das is a pediatric oncologist and stem cell transplant physician by profession. His art of telling children stories inspired the compilation of stories in Doon Tales. He is a patient listener and an avid writer. He penned down many stories for children and enjoys writing novels in Hindi as well. He can explain any topic in interesting narratives and has the art of engaging children in that subject. Apart from writing skills, he is a good painter, a good orator, and an excellent professional in his field. He lives in Dehradun, a beautiful green city at the foothills of the Himalayas.