Educators’ Guide for The Rock from the Sky by Jon Klassen

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The Rock from the Sky
Author & Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published: April 13, 2021 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Look up!

Turtle really likes standing in his favorite spot. He likes it so much that he asks his friend Armadillo to come over and stand in it, too. But now that Armadillo is standing in that spot, he has a bad feeling about it . . .

Here comes The Rock from the Sky, a meditation on the workings of friendship, fate, shared futuristic visions, and that funny feeling you get that there’s something off somewhere, but you just can’t put your finger on it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Candlewick Press for The Rock from the Sky:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about The Rock in the Sky on Candlewick’s page.

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PlayShifu’s Plugo Letters, Count, and Link

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I am extremely excited to share this virtual-hands on learning system with you because my kids love it. Plugo offers a variety of learning options, and I elected to get their Letters, Count, and Link package. I chose the Letters kit by itself, and it came with a very high quality gameboard and alphabet kit (a lot of letters and a display that allows the app to read the letters). I also chose to get the Count and Link dual package, which also came with the gameboard, a three-spiked device named Spike, a lot of numbers that fit on spike, and magnetic patterned tiles for building. All of the materials are very well-made, and the app is very easy to download and follow (my three-year-old, for instance, figured it out immediately).

One thing I love about this system as opposed to other similar systems is that it adapts to the child’s age level. Each of my children have a profile with their grade level noted, and the app saves their progress.

I also like how well-made the product is. The magnets are strong, and the system feels very sturdy. My three-year-old has dropped several of the activity kits a few times, and they are still doing well.

Below, I share more details about each of the systems, all of which I recommend highly. As a family who is home for the summer (we’ve canceled all summer camps), this is what we’ve needed. The kids used to beg me for television, which we only use as a real treat, but now they beg me to play Plugo. This is much, much more exciting than their workbooks, and they love to engage in the varied games that each of the system offers.

Plugo Letters

An alphabet kit that goes beyond word-building. Develop grammar concepts like verbs, vowels, synonyms & more. Learn to spell & use new words through story-based games.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: language development, comprehension, storytelling

I love how my kids use this system and are reading and developing their language without even knowing it. I can hear them whispering the words as they sound them out. I see them trying out different vowels and experimenting with words.

Here, my 6-year-old spells out words along his pathway.

I thought my 3-year-old would be too young for the game, but sure enough, he played for almost an hour (when I cut him off).

The games are fun, and it goes all the way up to fifth grade. This is going to be a learning system that grows with our kids, and I am glad that they are learning letters and words through story. Rather than a video game, the app is more of a narrative that kids follow and stop at selected points to interact with the story using the letter tiles. If they get tired of a story, there are other games within the app to play!

Plugo Count

Traditional math made fun with an innovative hands-on approach. Plugo Count reinvents math with engaging stories that help kids understand and fall in love with numbers.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: math (+ – x /), problem-solving, logical reasoning

I love, love, love how this system adapts to the age level of the child, too. My 6-year-old loved playing the games and using operators like addition and subtraction. The repetition of the addition phrases is helping strengthen his memory of common equations. He goes through the story and learns math through authentic examples. I am looking forward to him being able to try out the multiplication and division operators in the future.

When my 3-year-old asked to play Count, I hesitated because I didn’t think he’d be able to play it. Imagine my relief when he started playing and the game asked him to count items in the story and complete the missing number (3, 4, 5, ___). I think about all of the worksheets within workbooks that ask kids to do these same skills, but with Count, he is able to count images that go along with a story. This feels more authentic and exciting!

Plugo Link

Classic building blocks meet modern digital play with Plugo Link! Build and balance the magnetic blocks in real world to solve exciting engineering puzzles on the screen.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: engineering, analytical thinking, creative design

My kids are Lego lovers. They could sit at the table for hours with a new Lego kit. So it comes as no surprise that they are obsessed with Link. In the image above, you see my 3-year-old linking up gears to complete an animal. In another game in the app, for instance, He is figuring out how to build pipes to prevent water from flowing out. Older kids can play a game like a word search to connect letters to make words with the patterned tiles. The kids absolutely love Link and enjoy all of the different building games.

Among Letters, Count, and Link, do I have a favorite? No. All three feel very educational and offer something different that is valuable for a child. It would be like asking me if I wanted my kids to attend math, reading, or engineering class. We’ve had a lot of fun with all three of the systems, and we recommend them all. For parents who are looking for more learning options and for parents who are looking to engage kids with hands-on learning, Plugo offers a fun and exciting option that kids will love.

From a teacher perspective, these systems would be really great options for learning stations and fast finishers. I would be really, really excited to see them in my kids’ classrooms because they offer a kinesthetic approach to learning.

**Thank you to PlayShifu for providing Letters and Count for Review!**

Osmo’s Genius Starter Kit: Math, Spelling, Problem Solving, Creativity, and More!

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Osmo is an add on for your tablet (iPad or Fire) that brings digital learning to life! The Osmo Genius Starter Kit (from Tangible Play, Inc.) comes with materials for 3 of their different apps and with the Osmo stand and reflector, there are 2 other apps availabe to play without any materials.

Osmo knows kids learn by doing, so each game uses physical action. Whether it’s arranging tangrams, zooming number tiles around, or even freehand drawing, Osmo sees and reacts to every real-live move. Users will receive real-time feedback which lets kids learn through experimentation in a stress-free environment.

To date Osmo has been named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions, is a Parents’ Choice award winner, a winner of the prestigious Oppenheim award, and a 2016 finalist for Toy of The Year.

Tangram Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/tangram/tangram-demo-loop.webm

Words Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/words/words-demo-loop.webm

Numbers Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/numbers/numbers-demo-loop.webm

Newton Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/newton/newton-board-demo-loop.webm

Masterpiece Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/masterpiece/masterpiece-demo-loop.webm

Kellee’s Review: What I love about Osmo is that it takes technology and adds kinesthetic aspects to it. It is truly the best of both worlds. This combination of hands-on learning and technology is how we are going to prepare our students for their life journey.

Trent loves Osmo because he thinks everything about it is fun. Even when there is a challenge, he faces it, figures it out, and moves forward because of the engagement he has for the activities. And if it gets too tough, the app is intuitive and helps him out when needed.

It is hard to pick his favorites apps. I think Masterpiece and Newton would be what he picked first to play, but he wouldn’t argue about playing any of them.

Masterpiece shows his paper on the screen and an outline of what he wants to draw. It can be from their gallery, online, or even a picture he took. Then he can look at the screen and follow the lines. He loves drawing, so him loving Masterpiece makes so much sense.

As for Newton, which is a problem-solving physics platform. I found it to be extremely difficult, so I was pleasantly surprised that Trent loved it so much. He figured out so many creative ways to solve the puzzles, past the drawing that it initially instructs the user to do. It was fascinating watching him! (Please note: the Osmo whiteboard in the image is not from the Genius Starter Kit. Trent loved the starter kit so much, we bought other games and it came with another game; however, any white board or paper would work for Newton.)

Words is at this point a bit easy for him, but I know there are ways to up the difficulty, but he is really enjoying it and getting used to searching for the letters, so I don’t want to frustrate him.

Numbers starts with addition which is perfect for Trent and lets him practice his number skills in a low-stakes, fun environment. He is a math fan, so this is another favorite app.

Tangrams is probably the one he struggles with the most. When the tasks get more difficult and do not show which shapes go where, Trent has trouble visualizing which are correct (but I’m the same way, so maybe like mom, like son).

And like I mentioned above, we loved Osmo so much, we’ve purchased other kits which Trent have all enjoyed also! I highly recommend Osmo to parents and teachers as an extension to other learning.

Ricki’s Review: Kellee did an amazing overview of each of the games within the kit, so I will offer more of a holistic overview and perspective from two different kids’ age levels. We have been staying at home pretty much exclusively for three months. My kids are in need of something different. My 3yo is able to read simplistic books and words, and my 6yo is reading fairly fluently now. They are tired of workbooks, they are tired of any book that looks like an early reader, and they are looking for something more interactive. Osmo is the answer.

The kids beg me to play with it during the day. We are pretty strict about screentime in our house, but the Osmo is so interactive that it doesn’t feel like screentime to me. As a parent, it feels remarkably guilt-free as the kids cheer and play the games together.

What intrigues me the most is that Kellee’s son, who is the same age as Henry and has similar interests, has different favorite games than my son. (Although, truly, my kids love ALL of the games.) Tangrams is both of my kids’ favorites. It seems to come naturally to them (which surprises me because I am not very good at spatial recognition). Masterpiece is the hardest for them, and I wonder if they will progress more with it with some time. Regardless, all of the games are huge hits, and they want to play all of them every time they play with the Osmo.

Here, you see my 6yo cheering wildly for himself while he plays numbers. When he met his teacher for a small math group at the end of the school year, she spent a lot of time decomposing numbers. As a parent, I have been focused with addition, subtraction, and number sentences. I hadn’t realized how much decomposing numbers helps their math sense. Osmo’s Numbers does just this. My son is breaking down numbers and figuring out how they work. Using this game in repetition will surely help his math abilities.

Not pictured: the INTENSITY of this shot. Here, the boys are playing two-player Words. They are each tossing letters into the center and hoping to guess the spelling of the word. For the 6yo, it is conscientious. He is able to consider which vowels are the right fit. For the 3yo, it is a lot of guesswork. He focuses on the first and last vowels. The middle is still confusing, as is suspected. I stress here that despite the 3yo being outside of the age level, he is still able to have fun and try out words, which is fun and exciting for him (and for me!).

And lastly, I share a picture of the boys playing Newton together. (Kellee highlights Tangrams and Masterpiece above.) I said earlier that Tangrams is my kids’ favorite, but now I wonder if their favorite might also be Newton. Gosh this game is so fun. They are considering gravity and physics. The game forces them to problem solve. If they mess up, they might slide the paper a little bit.

If you are on the fence, we recommend the Osmo highly. The kids have been having a BLAST, and it makes learning really fun. As an educator who doesn’t believe much in worksheets, this is a phenomenal system that has brought a lot of joy to our house.

The kids have been making big plans for which kits they are going to put on their wishlists for birthdays and holidays! I am very intrigued by the Pizza kit, so that might be next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We highly recommend Osmo for centers in classrooms. There are ways to set up multiple profiles which will make it so students can each have their own progress and with the hands-on + technology, students will have so much fun while learning!

Here are the subjects that the Genius Starter Kit compliments:

  • Math: Tangram and Numbers
  • Reading: Words
  • Handwriting: Masterpiece
  • Science: Newton
  • Basic geography (maps): Masterpiece
  • Spatial relationships: Tangram

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**Thank you to Tangible Play, Inc. for providing starter kits for review!**

Teachers’ Guide for Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

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Beverly, Right Here
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Published: September, 2019 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.

Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly.

View my post about Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana’s Way Home to learn about the two companion books to Beverly.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Beverly, Right Here:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Beverly, Right Here on Candlewick’s page.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland Into a Home by Barb Rosenstock

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Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland Into a Home
Author: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
Published: September 10th, 2019 by Calkins Creek

Summary: The early life and creative genius of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, as a maker of American buildings—highlighting his passion, imagination and creativity.

Frank Lloyd Wright loved the Wisconsin prairie where he was born, with its wide-open sky and waves of tall grass. As his family moved across the United States, young Frank found his own home in shapes: rectangles, triangles, half-moons, and circles. So, Frank pursued a career in architecture. Unlike everyone else, he didn’t think the Victorian homes fit the beauty of the land. Using his love of shapes, Frank redesigned the American home inside and out, developing a unique architecture, the Prairie House.

Author Barb Rosenstock and artist Christopher Silas Neal explore the early life and creative genius of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, highlighting his passion, imagination, and ingenuity.

Backmatter includes historical photos, author’s note, quotations, sources, source notes, architectural plans and a photo gallery of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings across America.

About the Creators: 

Author Barb Rosenstock is the author of many picture book biographies, including Otis and Will Discover the Deep, Secret Kingdom, Dorothea’s Eyes, Ben Franklin’s Big Splash, and The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero. Her picture book about Kandinsky, The Noisy Paint Box, won the 2015 Caldecott Medal.

Illustrator Christopher Silas Neal is the author and illustrator of multiple picture books, including I Won’t Eat That and Everyone. He is also the illustrator of Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Pond, Over and Under the Snow, and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.

Book Trailer: 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ and discussion guide I created for Prairie Boy: 

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about the book on Barb Rosenstock’s Prairie Boy page.

Recommended For: 

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Terrible Times Tables by Michelle Markel

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Terrible Times Tables
Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
Published August 6, 2019 by Cameron Kids

Goodreads Summary: Inspired by a Victorian math primer, Terrible Times Tables is a modern take on learning one’s multiplication tables, from numbers 2 to 10, featuring elementary school themes of homeroom, field trips, cafeteria food, holidays, and recitals. Featuring a reluctant narrator and a few unwitting critters, learning math has never been so much fun or amusing.

My Review: Ah! This book is so charming. The art and the words feel simultaneously old-fashioned and contemporary! It feels just like an older Victorian math primer, but yet the words make it relevant to children today! I read this with my son (who is in kindergarten and too young for multiplication), and we were giggling away at the rhymes and illustration. I’d love to see this book in classrooms. It makes math genuinely fun!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Elementary school math teachers will find great joy in this book. Students might write and illustrate their own math primer with a theme. In this book, each number has a different theme, and I think students would love to create their own! This text is very inspiring for me as an adult, and I wanted to play with words, too! 🙂 I can’t wait for my sons to be old enough to use this book.

I’d also love to compare this with an older, Victorian math primer. Kids would get a kick out of that!

Discussion Questions: Which theme was your favorite, and why?; How do the words and art work together to make this book so successful?; How does the author integrate clever rhymes to make readers enjoy math?

We Flagged: “4 x 1 is 4

Sam pukes. Same pukes some more.”

Read This If You Love: I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton; On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne; Math 

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Teachers’ Guide for Charlie & Mouse updated with Charlie & Mouse Even Better by Laurel Snyder

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Charlie & Mouse Even Better
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Emily Hughes
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Chronicle Books

Summary: It is Mom’s birthday, and Charlie and Mouse and their Dad want everything to be perfect–so when the cake gets burnt the boys have to come up with a new plan, pronto.

View my post about Charlie & Mouse and Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy to learn about the first two books in the series.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for the Charlie & Mouse series:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Charlie and Mouse on Chronicle Book’s Charlie & Mouse Even Better page.

Recommended For: 

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