Skipping Spring


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It has been an inordinately cold spring here in Missouri to the point that our growing season was incredibly shorter. It has finally heated up and stuff is growing.


Just to clarify, the lawnmower was completely turned off when this was taken.

Every Wednesday we have the wonderful opportunity to have Dee for a couple hours after school.  He was given the choice of swimming at the YMCA or going Six Flags for a few rides.  Instead he chose to help his father work on the lawn.


Five years ago when we moved into our house we were gifted by the previous homeowners with a mixture of perennials that I have no idea what they are.  I plan on cleaning things up and adding peppermint, lemon balm, a variety of basil, a variety of thyme, and greek oregano.  I’m not sure how they will do since it is mostly shaded by the house.  I have them planted other places as well, we will see where they grow the best.

I had hoped Chase would join in the outdoor fun, however while we are basking in the humid heat he remained asleep in the horrible air conditioned house. No envy there.  (Have I ever told you how much I hate heat and humidity.  hate, hate, hate.)


Out in the Sunshine


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I read part of a book about 12 years ago called When Your Body Gets the Blues. The only thing I remember is that it recommended a mixture of certain vitamins such as Vitamin D, B1, B2, B6, Folic Acid, and selenium. If you are interested in the exact dosages you can go here. Anyway, what really stuck out at me was the idea of light therapy.  One thing I remember the most happened to be the idea of spending twenty minutes a day outside, when the sun is up.  Even when the sun is clouded over, walk outside.  Even in he rain and snow!

Well, I’m not quite sure if I am a true believer, since I haven’ done the vitamin regimen for over 12 years, bu today I spent 3 hours at a garden owned by a wonderful family at our church.  Grandpa, or papa D (which everyone calls him) teaches us how to garden.  Today I have eaten weeds such as lambsquarter – part of the spinach family, has an arrows head, Oxalis – which is nice and tart, and wild Camille.  I weeded on my hands and knees for a while, and used a hoe when my body couldn’t continue.  I really need to lose 150 pounds.  I got to smell fresh dill, oregano, and thyme.  I observed rows upon rows of strawberries turning pink.  I learned how to find spittle beatles, they are fascinating).  I picked asparagus – we have two more weeks before we let it fern up, spinach and lettuce -the end of he season is here, now I have to wait until the fall for fresh salad greens, sigh, cilantro that voluntarily grew from last year, and chives.  Did you know that you can put the beautiful purple flowers in your sauces for a mild chive taste?  I now have the makings for my Teriyaki Pork, salsa, spinach and fruit smoothies – just need to freeze it and wait for those yummy strawberries, and salads.

Mia at the FarmHOWEVER, the yummy veggies that I left with wasn’t the best part.  It was the sunshine.  For the first time in a couple of weeks I didn’t want to hybernate.  I spent time with other moms, Papa D, and a bunch of kids running free on acres of land.  My daughter  go to play something other then minecraft.

I think I will be finding my copy of When The Body Gets The Blues.  There may be something to it!!!!

Delving into Jewish Culture Through Raisel’s Riddle


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Learning about the different cultural aspects of the different Cinderella stories has been quite rewarding.  There is so much to learn about those that are different from us, and being able to do it while reading a great picture book is awesome.  I know the first time I read Raisel’s Riddle by Erica Silverman.  I had no idea that a holiday remembering the courage of Esther even existed in the Jewish tradition.  Granted, I am a Christian, but I do take note of the different religious holidays from other religions on the calendar and often will look them up because I am curious.  Knowing a bit about religion, culture, beliefs, etc. often helps me prepare a curriculum that builds on diversity.  When I have been in the classroom it helped me incorporate literature that not only taught, but also gave some of my students something that they could personally identify with.  The smiles on their faces was always worth it when they read something that they knew about.

So, what did I learn about Jewish culture as I read Raisel’s Riddle?

The Talmud

The villagers would come to Raisel’s “Zaydeh” for guidance because he was the village wise man.  He was a Talmudic Scholar – which meant he studied the Talmud – a collection of ancient Jewish discussions that previously had been part of their oral tradition.  These ancient writings contain Jewish law, customs, history, ethics, and philosophy.  It is said that “Among religious Jews, talmudic scholars are regarded with the same awe and respect with which secular society regards Nobel laureates” (Telushkin, 2012, para. 16).  Raisel’s grandfather was well learned, and passed this respect for learning to his granddaughter.


In the book, Raisel liked to study and learn with her Grandfather because “learning is more precious than rubies, more lasting than gold.  Rubies may be lost and gold stolen, but that which you learn is yours forever.”  I really liked this quote as I read it, and it sounded vaguely familiar to me.  It took about thirty minutes of research on google to finally figure it out.  It is from Proverbs 8:10-11 found in the Old Testament.


When Raisel’s Zaydeh passes away the villagers bring her food.  This follows the custom of Shiva.  I read a great article by Donna Pilato called Funderals and Mourning Rituals for Christians and Jews.  In it she explains beautifully and simplistically how when someone passe they go through a period know as Shiva.
Jewish tradition believes in burying the body as soon after the death as possible, as a mark of respect. After the funeral, a seven-day period of mourning, known as sitting Shiva, is held at the home of the mourners. Friends and community members bring prayers, condolences and support. All normal activities are suspended in order for the mourners to fully concentrate on their grief, so that they will be better prepared to re-enter life at the end of this period.
The first meal upon returning from the cemetery is called the seudat havrach, which is prepared by friends and neighbors for the mourners. Traditionally, the foods include eggs and other round objects, symbolic of life, hope and the full circle of life to death.
Throughout the period of Shiva, friends and relatives bring food to the mourners to eliminate the need for them to think about preparing meals. Those closest to the family will organize dinner preparations for the mourners. Friends and acquaintances will often bring cookies, cakes, fruit and other food.

Is Queen Esther the Jewish Cinderella?

 The Book of Esther in the New Testement tells of how  King Ahasuerus had a beautiful wife named Vashti, and during a celebration in his kingdom he ordered her to come forward and show off her beauty.  In those times it was immodest to show ones self off and Vashti refused to be put on center stage.  The King got mad and wanted to know what his wise men thought of this action.  They told him that not only did she disobey her husband, but wronged all the other princes in the kingdom.  They then suggested that he get rid of her as his wife and replace her.
Esther was an orphan (just like Cinderella) being raised by her uncle Mordicai.  When the king began looking for a new wife Mordicai entered her into the contest (Kind of like trying on the shoe, or coming up with the best riddle to gain the attention of the prince).

And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. Esther 2: 17

Well, Esther kept it quiet from the king that she was a Jew, upon the urging of her Uncle Mordicai.  Mordicai gained ill favor among Haman, one of the chief advisors of the king.  Haman devised a plan to execute all Jews to punish Moridicai for not bowing down to him, and the king was going to go ahead and let him  Mordicai went to Esther and asked her to speak to her husband on behalf of the Jews.  She fasted and prepared herslef and then with great courage approached the king (which could have been the death of her if he didn’t summon her).  Well, she was beautiful, and she did “obtain favour in his sight” Esther 5:2.  She then asked the king if she could serve him and Haman a banquet.  During the banquet the king asked her what she would petition of him.  She then asked for her life and that of her people.  Haman was revealed to be evil, and instead of any Jew perishing – he was the one that was executed.
I love that it was a woman who saved her people.  Is shows when we stand up for what we believe in we eventually gain the respect of those around us.So, back to the question “Is Queen Esther the Jewish Cinderella?” Maybe, the story does have a few Cinderella-esque aspects!  What do you think????


Purim is a celebration that commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people by one of their own, Queen Esther.  During this celebration Jews are commanded (there are 613 commandments) to read The Megillah, or the book of Esther.  They then party it up with feasts, drinking, music, plays, and beauty contests.

Klezmer Bands

Klezmer bands are traditional bands that play fast paced music from Western Europe from about the 15th century (or the 19th) there is some disagreement about when it began.  The bands play at wedding and other celebrations. 
 A pure klezmer band has no vocalist–it just turns up the volume and swings the music faster. Unlike rock, or African-influenced music, klez is made for dancing while holding hands, or dancing with a partner. It doesn’t bounce, it flows. It swings, it cries. Ari Davidow


Raisel prepares beet soup, roast duck, potato pancakes, and noodle pudding for the feast.  I’m gonna have to try some noodle pudding, it sounds yummy.

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Summing It All Up


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Re-read The Books

Students will become “active” readers by having a set purpose for reading, they will make predictions, question what they have read, use context clues to determine meaning, and utilize prior knowledge to build their comprehension skills (Duke & Pearson, 2002,). Repeated reading is an integral part of increasing both fluency and comprehension.  Back in 1979 S. Jay Samuels developed the technique of repeated reading to “improve reading fluency on indicators such as word recognition accuracy, reading speed, and oral reading expression” (Samuels, 2002, p. 175).  Even the National Reading Panel in 2000 agreed that repeated reading positively affected fluency, reading speed, and comprehension among students learning to read.  It totally makes sense.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

When I taught in the school system our district had each teacher place a copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy somewhere in the classroom.  In addition to this we had to incorporate one of the six levels in each of our lesson plans.  I haven’t thought about Bloom’s Taxonomy for almost two years (that is when I took time out of teaching to finish my Masters degree and stay at home with my two kiddos.).  Bloom’s Taxonomy kept flashing through my brain.

I found a great version here.  Now, this isn’t the version they gave us, it was a boring wheel.  I love this one and am planning on printing it out, laminating it, and putting it by my desk to help remind me of a key to getting my three little ones to participate in higher thinking.

Analyzing is an important part of learning.  When we investigate, compare, contrast, explain, identify and examine we participate in a “transactional  process in which students bring meaning to and take meaning from the books they read and discuss” (Tavers & Tavers, 2008, p. 90).

Students will create a matrix comparing and contrasting different aspects of Cinderella stories across cultures to determine understanding.

  1. Review Raisel’s Riddle, The Egyptian Cinderella, The Korean Cinderella, and The Rough-Faced Girl, The Irish Cinderlad. 
  2. Create a matrix including similarities across characters, magic, use of animals, going to a ball, similarity in clothing (the shoe), ect.  Compare matrixCompare Matrix Answer Key(Can I tell you how excited that I figured out that I can include word documents into WordPress????)
  3. Writing down how Cinderella, Yeh-Shen and one of the other stories are similar is a rehearsal activity for students to prepare for an essay.  When they gathers their ideas and put them in a visual format they will be able to recall the information needed.

Write a four paragraph essay

My son Dee doesn’t like to read or write when he is with us.  I think because he only sees his dad and siblings so rarely he thinks the weekend should be going to the movies, swimming at the Y, or the park.  I have started to do “Family Learning Times” so that he sees we are all learning together.  It is important for him to see the connection between reading and writing, and to be an example for his siblings.  I found several great formats for a compare/contrast essay for the kids to work on this summer that is simple to use and includes the chart he needs. Chase will draw a picture and then tell me the story in his own words, as well as attempt to write the story,  which is part of the Language Experience Approach.


Samuels, S.J. (2002) Reading Fluency: Its Development and assessment.  In S. J. Samuels & A. E. Farstrup (Eds.), What Research has to say about reading instruction (3rd ed.)Newark, DE: International Reading Association, Inc.

Tavers, B.E. & Tavers, J.F. (2008).  Children’s literature: A developmental perspective. Boston:  Wiley and Sons

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Activities For the Egyptian Cinderella


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Reading a story is all well and good, however I have found that to broaden the horizons of my children and students I need to make the book come alive, mean more than just the words that they read, show them that literature has a basis in their every day lives.  Here are a couple of activities I have created for The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo.

Anticipation Guides

Providing students with an assessment that is both pre and post reading is ideal.  Anticipation guides allow students to think about what they know about the topic of study and then afterwards review their knowledge and see if they were correct.

  1. Prepare a list of four to six statements.  Provide space for students to write whether they agree or disagree with the statements for both the pre-reading exercise and the post reading exercise.
  2. I often first do a picture walk through the book and then have my younger kids answer the questions as I read them off .  My oldest Dee will read the statements before he reads the book and then mark whether he disagrees or disagrees with the statements.
  3. After they read the book the students review their statements and write whether they still agree/disagree with the statements.
  4. Discuss the statements as a group.


I love learning vocabulary!  I remember in seventh grade my English teacher made us write about five vocabulry words and definitions each day.  I don’t remember the majority of the words, but I do remember superfluous.  I also remember the pain in my hand as I left class each day.  I don’t think this was the way to go!  I like making it fun and interesting.  Do you remember the board game Balderdash?  I love this game so much that I came up with a version of it for my students.  I’m sure I’m not only one who has used this awesome game to make vocabulary fun for their students!!!  When Students are exposed to vocabulary in several different contexts, including context clues and definitions vocabulary lessons become more valuable.

Give students 10  5×7 index cards.  Have students write down the words: maiden, gather, doze, coax, papyrus, Pharaoh, linen, talons, tunic, din.  On each card have them write a definition of the words.  If they don’t know the definition instruct them to make a guess.  They can get as weird as they want.  Collect the cards.  Go through and pull out the correct answers.  Give those students 1 point on a score card.  Leave one of those cards in the deck.  Have the students vote on the correct definition.  On the score card give the students who correctly guess the word 2 points.  Give one point to the student whose definition had the most votes. Go over the correct definitions of the words before reading The Egyptian Cinderella.  After reading The Egyptian Cinderella give the students a vocabulary quiz using quotes from the book.


In order to become a successful reader, and to read texts successfully children need to build their comprehension skills.  These include being able to determine main ideas and details found throughout the text. Gail E. Tompkins lists these skills and strategies in her book Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach.  These include:

  • Recognizing details
  • noticing similarities and differences
  • identifying topic sentences
  • comparing and contrasting main ideas and details
  • matching causes with effects
  • sequencing details
  • paraphrasing ideas
  • choosing a good title for a text
  • recognizing the author’s purpose
  • detecting propaganda
  • distinguishing between fact and opinion

Obviously one main way of finding out if a child is understanding the text is through questions.  My son Dee HATES answering questions.  Therefore, I have to start getting creative.

  1. create double-entry Journals for each book in the unit.  For the first time doing this I provide two quotes and asked him to find his own quote.  For the reflections I wrote my own reflection for two of the quotes and asked him to write three of his own.  For The Egyptian Cinderella  I provided two quotes and one reflection.  As the unit continues he will end up writing his own quotes and reflections.
  2. I have used a chart in which he will fill out the setting, characters, hero/heroine, villain, problem, solution, magic by, cultural aspects, words.
  3. Have students write questions that they want to have answered or make predictions.
  4. One important activity is to use a venn diagram to notice the similarities and differences between Climo’s version of the Egyptian Cinderella and Starbo’s version.

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Discovering the Mi’kmaq through Rough-faced Girl


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I found some interesting information about the origins of Rafe Martin’s The Rough Face Girl.  Rafe Martin briefly alludes to his version being and Algonquin tale, part of a longer traditional story.  I wish that he had been more specific – however the wonders of the Internet helped me track down the original.  In 1882 Charles G. Leland spent two years traveling among different tribes writing down their oral traditions.  He had some help, though.  A Baptist minister by the name of Reverend S.T. Rand lent him a copy of 85 different tales that Rand had recorded during his time with the Mi’Kmaq.  In 1884 Charles G. Leland published The Algonquin Legends of New England.  He took two years and traveled among the Passamaquoddy (The name of the town in one of my favorite Disney movies Pete’s Dragon), Penobscot tribes of Maine, and the Micmacs of New Brunswick.  Found in his book is a legend called “The Invisible Being”.  After reading the legend it is quite clear that this is where Rafe Martin encountered the Native American Cinderella!!!  The similarity of The Invisible Being and Paurralt’s version of Cinderella is obvious.  There are those that believe that the French trappers told the Mi’kmaq Paurralt’s story, and then the Mi’kmaq took elements of Cinderella and incorporated it with elements of their own legends and myths.  I happen to be one of them!!

Historical Accuracy

Finding literature that adds to historical content in the classroom is essential whether it is in a public school setting or in the home.  Anderson (2010, p. 235) states, “historical fiction presents an accurate portrayal of the historical period depicted, can be woven into the study of history, and can improve children’s knowledge and attitudes toward the subject.”  Rafe Martin does an excellent job incorporating items and customs relative to Mi’Kmac life.


The Mi’Kmaq lived in wigwams, a conical structure made using poles covered with birch bark.  They held in between 10-24 people.  During the winter months women would often decorate the wigwams with pictures of animals. They were built in such a fashion that they could be easily taken down to move to their next area for hunting.


Buckskin cloaks, dresses and leggings were worn by Mi’Kmaq women.  More formal cloaks decorated with beads, and painted were used for marriages and other ceremonies.  Women of distinction in the village wore pointed caps (Mi’Kmaq Spirit, 2012).   Rough-Face Girl takes her fathers moccasins, and some shells to create her wedding ensemble.  The Mi’Kmaq often decorated their formal clothing with birds and animals using pigment made from “red and yellow ochre from the earth, charcoal and ground white shell. These were mixed with fish roe or bird egg yolks” (Nova Scotia Museum, para 7).  It wasn’t until after European influence that the Mi’Kmaq used beads and shells as jewelry.


An important member of the Mi’Kmaq tribe were the Shamans.  Their role was to heal and to provide spiritual guidance (Multicultural Canada).  The sister to the Invisible Being happened to be the wise woman of the village.  In Rafe Martin’s version the sister gives Rough-Face Girl the finest of buckskin cloaks and tells her to go bath in the lake.  When she comes out she is purified, her skin like new, her hair long and strong.  In the original story recorded by Rand the sister actually “washed her with water from a special jar” which is typical of a shaman.  According to Multicultural Canada


Nature played an important role in the lives of the Mi’kmaq.  Rafe Martin seems to idealize that role as he had Rough-Face Girl ponder the beauty of the earth and sky.  This is kind of the romanticized ideal that Native Americans lived in harmony with the earth.  While it is true, they respected the earth.  Part of it came from necessity.  If you think about it, for them everything came from nature – their food, their shelter, their clothing.  I love how authors of Mi’kmaq Spirit state, “Aboriginal people were pragmatic, and did what was necessary for survival. It was under these harsh realities that they developed the traditions that enabled them to live in harmony with the land.” (para. 4).

The Spirit Road

Both Rafe Martin and the original oral telling of the Invisible One both have the Spirit Road, the Milky Way incorporated in the story as part of the test.  The Spirit Road is the road that the spirit travels when someone has lived a good life.  If they didn’t live their life well, they return to earth to learn more lessons.  Lescarbot, the first historian to write about Arcadian life back in the 1600’s stated, “They believe also that when they die they go up into the stars, and afterwards they go into fair green fields, full and fair trees, flowers, and rare fruits” (pg. 156-7).  He then goes on to tell how he and his fellow missionaries went about showing them the error of their ways and beliefs.


Primary Sources

It is crucial that our students learn to utilize primary sources, and there are several out there that allow our students to learn more about the culture of the Mi’kmaq.  One of my favorite activities in college was taking a picture of an earthen crockery with engravings and writing what it taught me about that society.  At first I balked at the assignment, but as I got into it I noticed so much – such as the picture of barley or wheat, the sheep, etc.  I learned that the culture had a strong agricultural basis.

For The Rough-Face Girl and Mi’kmaq history have your child/students find 2 primary sources.  This can be anything from a photo, journal entry, or notes written by observers (although often very biased) and have them fill out the following information:

  1. Describe the primary sources you have chosen.  What are they?  Where are they from?
  2. What is happening in these primary sources?
  3. What have you learned about the Mi’kmaq from these sources?  

Make a Wigwam

Sometimes getting creative is the key to developing interest in historical subjects.  The wigwam is such an important aspect of Mi’kmaq life, and a huge part of The Rough-Face Girl constructing a wigwam is an ideal activity.  There are so many techniques, and resources on the Internet that show you how to construct a wigwam, or an entire village if you get ambitious.  You can get as simple as using pipe cleaners (my kiddos would love this). You can even make a clay wigwam or during the summer find some space in your backyard and make a lifesized wigwam.

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More Reading

If you are interested in finding out more about the Mi’kmaq there were two websites that I found the most helpful:


Lescarbot, M. (1606) Nova Francia: A Description of Acadia

Mi’Kmaq Spirit (2012).  Dress and Ornamentation.

Multicultural Cananda (n.d.). Culture and Religion.

Nova Scotia Museum. (n.d.). Mi’Kmaq


Rough-Faced Girl Literacy Activities


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One of the things that I truly like about Rafe Martin’s book The Rough-Face Girl is that it is a powerful tool in piquing interest in history. Travers & Travers (2008)  put it eloquently when they state, “Historical fiction plays a major role in motivating students to understand and appreciate their study of history, social studies and current events” (pg. 63).  After reading the book there will be those curious enough to delve more deeply into the topic of Native American History.  Because Martin’s book is based on historical fact I find it to be the perfect opportunity to springboard into content area literature.

There are several ways to approach learning about the Mi’kmaq.  There is a wonderful website that explores the Mi’kmaq community both past and present.  I copy and past their information onto a word document, making sure to cite my source.  I always point this out to my students so that they know how important it is to not plagiarize.

Another website that is more concise is Facts for Kids: Micmac Indians.  One benefit to this website is that it breaks down each cultural section first by a question, followed by a brief summary.  This might be a great place to use for differentiating instruction.  The site breaks down the information into the basics.  It is important to remember that our students all learn at varying levels, and this includes reading levels.  Instruction is for all students, no matter what level they learn at.

If you are looking for a nonfiction tradebook to add to the classroom library The Mi’kmaq: How Their Ancestors Lived Five Hundred Years Ago by Ruth Holmes Whitehead and Harold McGee is  a perfect choice. This book includes ink drawings, and an overview of their history.  It draws upon their cultural heritage, how they lived, and other fascinating facts about life.

Before having students read The Rough-Face Girl and the information on Mi’Kmaq Indians it is important to activate prior knowledge.  Why?  When a reader first activates prior knowledge they are able to apply what they already know to what they are reading.  This helps make knew ideas more palatable as they are reading

KWL Chart

An activity that I find can be overly used, but when applied in moderation is a powerful tool to help put prior knowledge to work is the KWL chart.  Not only do KWL charts address prior knowledge, they also cover the reading and post reading process as well.

The chart is divided up into three columns.  The first is labeled What I Already Know.  Under this column the student lists things they already know about Mi’Kmaq Indians (or Indians in general).  Under the What I Want to Learn column the students make a list of questions they personally want to learn about the topic.  Finally the What Did I Learn column they write down what they learned, what interested them as they read.


Hand the students sticky notes for each of the questions they put on their KWL chart under W.  Have them write one question on each post it note.  Provide them with 3-5 extra ones to write further questions they have as they are reading.  As they find the answer to their questions in the text have them underline the answer and place the sticky next to the answer.  If the students don’t find the answer in the text, this is a perfect time to teach them about inferences.


I have found that when a child reads a book more than once several things happen:  The words in the text become familiar, increasing fluency; comprehension increases; and vocabulary expands.  Win-win all around.  Repetition can become old, so here are some ways that I use to make each time they read it a different experience.

  • Picture Walk – The Rough-Face Girl is ideal for this, since the pictures are so striking and detailed.  Children are curious – when you show them the front cover ask them what they notice about the girl.  What do they think happened to her?  When do you think this story takes place?  Who do you think the girl is?  What is a clue to that?  What do they think the story will be about?  You can stop with just the cover, or you can choose a few pages to let them take a peek.  I actually like to show the pictures and have the kids make up a story.  After they read the story talk about their story predictions and see how close they were to how the story actually laid out.
  • Interactive Read Aloud – After introducing the book (I always introduce the book, even if I am reading it to my kids back to back) read the book to your students out loud.  This is a perfect time to model fluent reading.  Make sure to pause as you read, as you share what you are thinking about the text.  This prepares students to pause and process what they have read and learned through the reading.  Highlight different vocabulary words – talk about them with the students.  I will go more in depth with Interactive Read Aloud  in another post.
  • Guided Reading – Make sure you set a purpose for reading.
    •  Introduce the title, author, and illustrator.
    • In small groups, or one on one, have the student read softly .  This way you can support your students that need help with decoding unfamiliar words, help with new words they encounter.
    • Talk about the book.  Ask questions, and ask the students to ask each other questions.  Have them make comparisons to the other Cinderella books already read.   Talk about how the book teaches about life among the Native Americans.
  •  Independent Reading – Have the students read it on their own.

 Comprehension Questions

 Some great comprehension questions for The Rough-Face Girl that I use for review include the following:

  1. How do you think Rough-Face Girl felt when her father couldn’t give her the same beautiful things as her older sisters to go courting the Invisible Being?
  2. How would you have felt?
  3. How did Rough-Face Girl show courage?
  4. What does it mean “to see all the way down to your heart”?
  5. Why was Rough-Face Girl able to see the Invisible Being where the other women of the village couldn’t?
  6. Is it more important to look on someones outer beauty or what they are like on the inside?  Why?

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Spring Cleaning

For the next week or so my blog may seem a little all over the place.  The last couple months I have not kept up with my life as much as I should have and every aspect of my life needs some major spring cleaning.  I am going through post drafts and finishing up series that I started and got away from.  I think I have a bit of ADHD because I get an idea and start writing on that idea, then another thought crosses my mind and bam, I now have five million ideas and not enough time – but there is this other part of me that has to finish what I have started.  Unfortunately that means that my thoughts, writing, house, conversations often feel a bit disjointed.  I am back onto my Personal Goal Challenge (it has been about 2 months since I have done anything with it.)  I’ve thought about having different blogs with my different topics, but I’ve decided that instead I am just going to clean things up.  Please bare with me as I clean things up!

Chinese Cultural Gems


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Ai-Ling Louie retells the story of Yeh-Shen, which was first recorded in The Miscellaneous Record of Yu Yang dating back to the T’ang dynasty (618-907 A.D.).   Included in his book is a copy of the myth in the original Chinese transcript found in the Hsueh Chin T’ao Yun edition recorded in the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1912).  The story predates the first Italian version of Cinderella written in 1634.
History fascinates me.  There are so many aspects to delve into.  When learning about another country’s history you not only learn about their people, places, and past; you also learn about their culture.  China has a rich history and their culture reflects that wealth.  Their myths and legends inherently contain their culture, and their past.  Yeh-Shen is no different!!!  I thought I would start from the beginning of the story and go through these gems into the past – section by section.  

 “As was the custom in those days, Chief Wu had taken two wives.”

  •  Polygamy was practiced widely up until the Han dynasty, however it continued in Hong Kong 
  • In 1971 Polygamy was banned, although some of the more wealthy business men continue to keep extra wives or concubines.  (Look at Macau Casino magnate Stanley Ho). 

“The only friend that Yeh-Shen had to her name was a fish she had caught and raised.”

  • Fish symbolizes hope and  prosperity. 
  • It is believed that if you eat fish your wishes for the coming year will come true.
  • (Just a side note, when you are reading Yeh-Shen A Cinderella Story from China retold by Ai-Ling Louie take a look at each page and see if you can find the fish.  The illustrator, Ed Young, incorporates a fish on each and every page.  It is phenomenal!!!!) 

 A sage approaches Yeh-Shen and tells her to bury the bones of her fish.  She does not question “kind uncle” but does as he says.

  • Confucian ideology placed men at the top of a very strict hierarchy. 
  •  Men, and older men in particular, were believed to be wise! 

 “Yeh-Shen . . . took comfort in speaking to the bones of her fish”

  • Chinese culture values ancestor worship 
  • They believed in praying to their dearly departed to overcome obstacles.  For Yeh-Shen her fish was her closest friend, and became an ancestor of sorts.

 “Festival time was approaching.  It was the busiest time of the year.  Such cooking and cleaning and sewing there was to be done.  . . . At the spring festival young men and young women from the village hoped to meet and to choose whom they would marry”

  •  Festivals form an important part of Chinese culture.
  •  Festivals are arranged around the lunar calendar.    
  •  The spring festival is also known as the Chinese New Year (Read more about the Chinese New Year here.) 
  •  Prior to the festival the houses are cleaned from top to bottom, much food is prepared, new clothes are worn. (Hmmmm, could this be the advent of spring cleaning????)

The old man makes sure that Yeh-shen knows not to waste the gift given by the fish.  When she loses her shoe the voice of her beloved fish is silenced!

 Chinese adages contain many references to not wasting anything.  Even in cooking!

  • It was then that he took a closer look and noticed that she walked upon the tiniest feet he had ever seen.
  • The advent of foot binding is one of heated debate among historians.  All it comes down to is that small, dainty feet were considered beautiful.  
  • To create this “look” women would bind their feet. 
  • It wasn’t until 1915 that foot binding became illegal in china.  
  • I learned through the San Francisco Museum that in 1991 a shoe factory in China still made tiny shoes meant for the older generation of women who still had tiny feet due to binding. 


The Keys to Unlocking Language – Part V


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Non Linguistic Causes for Struggling readers

These causes include: perception in sequential sounds, sound frequency discrimination, detection of target sounds in noise, visual magnocelluar-deficit hypothesis, motor coordination and the cerebellum, Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder.

Perception in Sequential Sounds

The cause of this disorder is linked to the auditory processing of sound waves.  Struggling readers demonstrate an inablitiy to distinguish sounds when repeated quickly and also find it difficult to place two sounds in the correct order.  It makes sense that researchers believe that the inability to distinguish sounds may be caused by how similar the letters sound, I know that when I have played the “Telephone Game” the way things gets twisted is because of how difficult sounds are distinguished when whispering.  Maybe struggling readers struggle with similar issues.  Hmmm!  Sousa (2005) suggests the following strategies:

  • Begin instruction using continuous sounds such as /s/, /m/, and /f/ that are easier to pronounce and remember
  • Because it is easier for the brain to hear syllables than individual phonemes have students use markers to count out the syllables and identify the words
One of my favorite activities that I do with my kiddos is have them guess the word that I have broken up into syllables.  They love it.  Emma is quite proficient at it and although Chase struggles sometimes, he will often ask to play the syllable game.

Sound Frequency Discrimination

Sound-frequency discrimination can be caused by hearing loss or deafness. Some people are unable to hear the differences is sound frequency.  This defect makes it difficult for individuals to hear tone and pitch in speech. Wright (2000) explains that recent information leads the idea that sound-frequency discrimination is also a perceptional problem.  To help students hear the words

  • speak clearly and enunciate.
  • Give both spoken and written  directions so that students have an opportunity to have the directions given in a multitude of ways.
  • Use computer programs to help students with sound-segmentation tasks.

Detection of Target Sounds in Noise

Individuals have been diagnosed with hearing impairment and language disorders.  Those exhibiting this disorder find it difficult to hear specific sounds when there is background noise.  Researchers believe that auditory functions play a large role in reading disorders. One strategy that may help students hear tones over background noise is having the teacher speak slowly and clearly through a microphone.

Visual Magnocellular-Deficit Hypothesis 

The hypothesis is that there is a deficit in the visual processing system.  The defict causes poor recognition of visual motion.  Letters on a page may appear to move and bunch up.  Some say that visual impairment is a small cause of dyslexia. Binocular glasses have proven to aide students with their binocular stability.  Not only should instructions be written, but they should also be spoken.  It is imperative that students have their vision tested.

Motor Coordination and the Cerebellum

Some students with dyslexia have smaller lobes on the right side of the brain. These problems could be traced back to visual and auditory deficits. Deficiencies in this part of the brain make it difficult for to for those to read, write, and spell.  Infants with this deficiency may be delayed in sitting up and walking, babbling, and speaking. When someone struggles with motor coordination their articulation and fluency is hampered.  Poor motor coordination leads to  difficulty to understanding onset rime and phonemic structure.  Poor handwriting and spelling are linked to poor motor coordination and the cerebellum.

  • Have students practice skills to strengthen motor coordination.
  • Have students write words on a piece of paper, than have them cut the words out using straight and curved lines.
  • Use pick up sticks to create shapes, numbers, letters.
  • Have students play with dough and spell out words in their unit of study.
Chase struggles big time with motor coordination, both fine and gross.  Although he struggles with his motor coordination he really enjoys the different activities that we work on at home – play dough is a particular favorite.  The day that I brought home wiki sticks and had the kids write their names was an incredible day. I wrote letters and had them make the letters with their favorite color.  Afterwards I had then color in the letter.  They loved taking off the letter and seeing their creation underneath.   Granted, the minute that Chase finished spelling his name he started to make a train out of the plastic strips.  We have done similar activities with play dough.  
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Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder

Genetics seem to have a basis in ADHD, and theorists believe that a parents environment may lead to ADHD. Students find it difficult to focuss or pay attention.  They often have developmental reading problems. Researchers understand that the brain goes through a difficult process as it attempts to learn. Computer based programs may be the wave of the future in not only helping reading comprehension but also in ADHD. It is suggested that teachers and parents may help struggling readers by using computer based programs to help get students attention.  Another powerful strategy is to utilize multiple intelligence activities to help students in all areas of learning.

I remember sitting in the Neurologists office as he gave us the diagnosis of PDD-NOS for Chase.  He then mentioned almost as a side note that our then three year old exhibited extreme ADHD.  He mentioned that eventually we would need to put our son on medication to help him in a classroom setting.  We started Vyvance at four, Adderall at five and this spring we tryed going back to vyvance at a higher dosage.  It sent Chase into a nose dive emotionally and behaviorally.  Although Chase is now on several medications that help his emotions and behaviors I find that it is the differentiated instruction that Mrs. M provides that really helps him improve in reading.  One program that he is working on right now is called Iready.  He doesn’t like to use the computer, but is slowly getting used to it.  


Gay, G. (n.d.) Remediation for Reading Learning Disabilities Resource Community.

Hudson, R., Lane, P., Pullen, P., Torgesen, J., The complex nature of reading

fluency: A multidimensional view.  Reading and Writing Quarterly, 25, 4-32

Frostig, M. and Maslow, P. (1979). Neuropsychological contributions to education.  Journal of Learning Disabilities,(12),8, 40-54.

Moncreiff, D.  (2004)  Temporal Processing Deficits in Children With Dyslexia.  

National Center for Learning Disabilities. (1999). Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders 

Ramos, R.  And Szenkovits, G. (2008) What phonological deficit The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 61, 1, 129-141

Sousa, D. A. (2005). How the brain learns to read. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wright, B. A., Bowen, R. W. and Zecker, S. G. (2000).  Nonlinguiustic perceptual deficits associated with reading and language disorders.  Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 10, 482-486.