Saturday, December 30, 2017


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Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is a 2017 Newbery Honor Book. A great addition to coming of age stories like Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. The story begins with Annabelle, the main character saying “The year I turned 12, I learned how to lie.” It's a touching story where Annabelle learns that even though we may feel insignificant in the world, "The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered." Tons of ways to use this book in your middle grade classroom or as a family read. The New York Times Jennifer Donnelly has written a great review but I encourage you to read the book first.

Friday, December 8, 2017


Last year my 7th and 8th grade Media Class students participated in Hour of Code and we all learned so much. Hour of Code became more than an hour and it was a lot of fun as well. As a teacher or parent you do not need to know how to code to participate and use the Hour of Code materials.  A nonprofit group has put together everything you need to participate and it's FREE. There is something for everyone K-12. Watch the introductory video and then get involved!

Monday, December 4, 2017


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Some of the most meaningful lessons are the ones that come from unexpected people, places and things. Katherine Applegate, author of Newbery-Medal Award winner The One and Only Ivan, continues to distinguish herself for helping young and old readers alike understand complex themes while providing meaningful doable solutions. I particularly enjoyed Dominique Browning's review in The New York Times but only read it after I finished the book. If you are looking for a great read for your classroom to teach tolerance this may be for you. I would plan it for a March/April read culminating in a May 1st wishtree event. However, wishtree is a good read anytime and has many different possible lesson extensions from a science unit on trees to a focus on fact vs. opinion. I also believe this book would be a great family/home schooler read. Check out Common Sense Media's review if you want more information before you read it. I've also included the book trailer below. Email me if you need more ideas to teach with this wonderful story.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


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Fox and the creators of ICE AGE have adapted Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand. The movie has an amazing cast of characters with Ferdinand being played by the one and only John Cena - sure to be a selling point to our kids! Once again I will get on my soapbox and ask you to read the book first! What I can see from the trailers is that they take themes from the original book and embellished them.
I have read the Munro Leaf book to hundreds of children and they love the story. It's a reflective, quiet and touching story. Nearly all of my classes that I read the book with also acted it out in Reader's Theater and we were all amused by the 1938 Academy Award winning short cartoon by Disney that you can also watch here.

The Story of Ferdinand is listed as one of the best children's books of all time and not only allows us to not judge a "book or bull" by it's cover but to accept people for who they are. I also make paper flowers with the students that they can keep. They mimic Ferdinand smelling the flowers.

The movie is coming out at a perfect time for the holidays but why not take a few minutes and read the original book first. Students are often hesitant at first when they see the black and white illustrations but they are quickly captured by the story. We also discuss his understanding mom,  bull fights and find the country of Spain on the map. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


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I've made a few tweets and Facebook posts about the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio and the movie that opens November 17th. Wonder is a fabulous book and the movie looks like it will be similarly fantastic. Those who know me know that I'm a huge fan of reading the book first but you can still check out the movie trailer below. This is a great family read (20 minutes a day!) and perfect for an upper elementary and/or lower middle school class. Ultimately Wonder is a great book that anyone at any age will love.

Monday, October 16, 2017


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Shop your local indie bookstore.
I have had wonderful success with a unit on collections with 2nd graders. You could also use these same materials with different grades, but for me 2nd grade was perfect. I generally started the unit with a brief discussion about collecting and collections. As a whole group we ask ourselves, "What is a collection?" Some of the big ideas this unit explores include how collections benefit people, how collecting and collections help us learn new things, and how we develop personal interests and study something in depth. I always share a few items from some of my collections and then we begin reading about a boy named Donavan who collects words in Donavan's Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross. This unit involves many more books (some listed below) and we transition into 2nd graders first research project where they present their collections to the class. Students also make their own word jars and learn how to use a dictionary. Finally, we graph the entire 2nd grade collections - during my time at Orchard Gardens that meant graphing what 4 classes of 2nd graders collect! Inbox me if you would like more details on how to structure this unit and a detailed list of standards and objectives.

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Shop your local indie bookstore.
Shop your local indie bookstore.

Monday, October 9, 2017


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Today I share a non-fiction book I am currently reading that I LOVE! A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts by Joseph M. Bagley - it's fascinating! Bagley, the current City Archaeologist of Boston was inspired to write this book after hearing an NPR story about the release of a book in 2011 by the British Museum entitled A History of the World in 100 Objects (MacGregor). In addition to being a great read, all the author proceeds of A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts go to the City Archaeology Program. You can follow the City of Boston Archaeology on Facebook or if you prefer their website. Many middle and most high school students could read this book on their own. Younger students would benefit from reading this book with a teacher or parent.

For the record, I am generally reading several books at any one time!

Saturday, October 7, 2017


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I recently had the opportunity to watch the Wonderstruck movie. I loved the casting choices and thought the different actors gave stellar performances. Overall the movie does not flow as well as the book and so once again I say, please read the book first! When I used this book in my classroom the movie was not out yet and I made my own DVD including David Bowie's Space Oddity video. Now you can include viewing the movie as a culminating activity. Here's a link to Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck page.
One of my favorite activities after reading Wonderstruck with my 4th and 5th grade students was making Museum Books. The Museum Books had 4 rooms that they curated to explain their topic. Student topics included New York City in 1977, Lightning Safety, The Panorama Museum and the Gunflint Lake Region. I shared my own model of the book as we read Wonderstruck and they couldn't wait to do their own. Museum Books can be created for many different books or research  projects. Contact me for more information.
One of the rooms in my model.

Friday, October 6, 2017


Source: The International Federation of
Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
If you are a teacher, parent or involved in education in some way, the "Columbus Day Weekend," is often the first major milestone of the school year. It has nothing to do with Columbus and everything to do with a 3-day weekend. So major congrats to all for making it to this October Milestone. I truly hope you have some downtime and are able to refresh.
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The purpose of Ms. M's Mass Media is to encourage and share my passion about reading but I would be remiss if I did not take the time this month to stress that the power in reading must go hand-in-hand with considering the sources of the materials one reads. We librarians are all about media literacy [click for more info].
When it comes to Columbus or any piece of history since Columbus, reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is a must. There are critiques about the book that I would also encourage you to pursue once you've read the book. If you are an educator, consider the resources found on the Zinn Education Project website. Howard Zinn died in 2010, but the book that originally came out in the 1980's has been updated. Another book, a recent read, is Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. You may recognize Trevor Noah as the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. I did not know what to expect when another, very highly respected librarian I know told me, "this book is amazing, you have to read it!" Not only that, but I got it for FREE as one of my two free books for signing up on Yes, I like to listen to books too! I've provided the link to Audible as well below. Both of these books are available and listening to books is very enjoyable. Happy 3-day weekend to all!
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Saturday, September 30, 2017


Form or join a book group this year to encourage reading and take your friendships to a new level. Think you are too busy? A Book Club can help you focus your time and give you, your child or students a meaningful sense of accomplishment and community.
There are many different types of book clubs to fit all ages and schedules. Readers Circle is a book club networking site where a person "attends" and discusses the book they are reading and it services sites all over the world. Andrew Luck, the Quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, has an book club that can be accessed through Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter. He encourages people of all ages to read, but to participate in his club you must be 13 years of age or older. Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and many others offer ways to connect about books. You can even win copies of books for your group, check out The Book Report Network. If you are looking for a way to connect with other readers in an already established group - check your local library or "google it."
I'm hoping that you will take my challenge and start your own book club with family friends or a group of students. There are plenty of online guides with checklists on how to start your own group and this checklist from ilovelibraries covers the basics. Don't make it chore and focus on fun. For younger children, try a Reading Rocket Adventure Pack that comes in both Spanish and English. Día also offers some great organizing tips and you can always contact me if you have any questions! Take the first step and start your book group today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MS. M'S MATERIALS - 1st Graders From Mars!

One of my favorite units with first graders was our trip to Mars! Many students feel anxious or worried about trying new things and the transition from Kindergarten to First Grade can be daunting for some children. In the series by Shana Corey we make friends with Horus, Pelly, Nergal and Tera and learn that being successful may mean trying new things and forming new friendships. We see that each character has special qualities and none of them is good at doing everything. In the end doing your best most important. The series also helps us talk about how classroom rituals and routines allow ALL students to learn to their potential. These books are great IN the classroom, but are also great family reads that can lead to discussions about the importance of school, being a friend and trying your best. Check out your local library or buy them below.
Buy me here!
Buy me here!
Buy me here!
Buy me here!

In addition to the series by Shana Corey, I also incorporate to nonfiction books about the Solar System, Mars info from NASA and use NASA's Curiosity Rover VideoCheck these out as recommended by The Horn Book. The big ending is our experiment with space sand. I purchase the red because Mars is the "red planet." 

The Rover Perseverance left the United States on July 30, 2020 and landed on February 18, 2021. It was every bit as exciting as the landing of it's predecessor, Curiosity. You can follow Perseverance on the NASA News site. Aboard Perseverance is carrying a drone named Ingenuity that will attempt to fly over Mars. There's more information on the NASAKids web page for Perseverance.

If you are a teacher or home-schooler and would like to learn more about this unit, additional resources and lesson extensions, please contact me through this blog.

Get "space sand" here!

Monday, September 25, 2017


Ms. M's Materials is an opportunity for  me to share some of the amazing books I have read with my students over the years. I'll be sharing them with you by describing in simple form how I used these texts in my classroom. 
What Is Beautiful? - We Are! is an introductory unit I use when teaching Preschool and Kindergarten. The unit was inspired by the book What Is Beautiful? by Maryjean Watson Avery and David Avery.  In this unit we get to know each other as we connect to text with basic body part vocabulary - eye, ear, nose, mouth, smile, hair, hands and arms. Students are able to identify a “favorite” part, we take close up pictures and they create posters. I use software that allows me to outline the sentence they create about their favorite part and they trace their sentences. They also learn each other’s names and it’s a fun unit that builds community and respect in the class. This unit can be modified and expanded for higher level grades and English Language Learners by adding additional texts and making some of the activities more cognitively demanding and age appropriate. 

If you are a teacher or home-schooler and would like to learn more about this unit, additional resources and lesson extensions, please contact me through this blogFeatured books in this unit include;

I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
The Ear Book (Dr. Seuss Bright and Early Books for Beginning Beginners) - Hardcover - First Edition, 44th Printing 2008 by Al Perkins
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb (Bright & Early Books) by Perkins, Al (unknown Edition) [Hardcover(1969)] by Al Perkins