How to Swallow a Pig

March 15, 2016

How to Swallow a Pig
by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Step-By-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom

Click for more information on this title

Want a fun way to spice up your how-to unit?  Want to incorporate research into that writing unit?  Use How to Swallow a Pig as a mentor text next time!

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page write simple how-to instructions, then add details under their topic sentence.

  • For example the first page is “How to Trap Fish Like a Humpback Whale”.
  • Step 1: Find some fish (written in bold).
  • The subtext then reads: The first step is locating a school of fish.  Some of these schools include millions of herring or sardines.
  • Step 2: Tell your friends.
  • The subtext then reads: Call any humpbacks in the area and let them know you’ve located dinner.
  • Step 3: Slap the surface.
  • The subtext then reads: Whacking the water with your tail frightens the fish and makes them swim closer together.  If you don’t have a tail, ask one of the whales for help.

Each situation will definitely intrigue the animal lover!

Use this book to teach:

  • How to units
  • Enhance your animal research units (think about how students can research their animal to create their own how-to page)
  • Topic sentences and supporting details
  • Sequencing


Capstone Press: A Primary Source History Series

February 23, 2016

Primary Source History

Capstone Publishing has an excellent new nonfiction series showing how researchers incorporate primary sources into their writing.

Quoted on the Table of Contents of each book: “Primary sources are newspaper articles, photographs, speeches, or other documents that were created during an event.  They are great ways to see how people spoke and felt during that time.  You’ll find primary sources…throughout this book.  Within the text [of the book], primary source quotations are colored red and set in italic type.”

With instruction, students begin to see how nonfiction authors incorporate primary sources into their writing.  Lessons can surround how the primary sources add to the understanding of new information and feel of nonfiction writing.

Primary Source History books in the Lowell library:

  • Slavery in the United States
  • Dust Bowl
  • Westward Expansion
  • U.S. Independence
  • Gold Rush
  • American Revolution
  • War of 1812
  • U.S.  Civil War

These topics touch fourth and fifth grade social studies standards.
Meets the Common Core State Standards for analyzing multiple accounts of an event.

Separate is Never Equal

January 5, 2016

Separate is Never Equal

Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

by Duncan Tonatiuh

Book Blurb: Describes how the Hispanic American Mendez family challenged the segregated California school system in 1947 after their daughter Sylvia was denied entry to Westminster School due to her ethnicity. Includes an author’s note, photographs, and a glossary.

Robert F Sibert Honor Medal for outstanding nonfiction
Pura Belpre Honor Medal for an outstanding Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth

This book is a great supplement to units on:

  • Civil Rights
  • Martin Luther King Jr. study
  • Discrimination
  • Brown vs. Board of Education
  • Latino Americans
  • Acceptance

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming soon, consider this book for a read aloud experience in 3rd – 5th grade!

Flight School

December 11, 2015

Flight School

by Lita Judge

Penguin has the soul of an eagle and wants to fly.  But, as we know, penguins cannot fly.  Penguin shows up to Flight School anyway and listens to the lessons of Teacher.  All of the other birds learn how to fly, but Penguin does not.  Teacher figures out a way to make Penguin fly and he tethers Penguin to himself and allows Penguin to feel like the wind.  Penguin is ecstatic; he got to fly!  The funny ending has Penguin bringing his friend Ostrich to Flight School and says “My friend Ostrich has the soul of a swallow” to which Teacher responds “Gulp”. 🙂

Building classroom community?  Setting goals?  This is the book for you!  Help teach your students that even though others are different, or say that you can’t do something, teamwork can produce amazing results!  A quick read, Flight School is bound to delight your students and inspire them to work together to achieve great things!

Flight School is also great for Beginning, Middle, and End.

Or if you are looking for a book that makes the reader infer what is happening through the illustrations, this is the book for your lesson!

This book could also be a jump off point researching about different birds.  The reader can infer that penguins and ostriches do not fly, while other birds at flight school could.  Students could research birds on PebbleGO and tell whether or not their type of bird can or cannot fly.

A lesson idea found from!delivery/cl1h


1. Read “Flight School” to the class.

2. Discuss. What did the penguin demonstrate in this story (perseverance, effort, hard work, never giving up, etc.)?

3. Discuss. What are some things that you have done in the past that you never gave up on (i.e., maybe tying your shoes, riding a bike, writing my name, etc.)?

4. Relate this discussion and theme to academics and everyday life. What are some ways that we can we persevere in school?

5. Pass out the “Easy vs. Difficult” Worksheet. Have the students list things that are easy for them to do and difficult for them to do.

6. Discuss that everyone has strengths and weaknesses; if the child continues to work hard and persevere on their “Difficult” list, then they can eventually achieve it!

7. Use the list as an exit pass and a plan to achieve some of the tasks in the “Difficult” section.

8. At the end of the year/in a few weeks or months, follow up on any progress that the students have made in the “Difficult” section.