Thursday, March 19, 2015

Digital Books for Online Reading: Have you read aloud to your students today?

Have You Tried Engaging Your Students with Digital Books?

This week's literacy post is a sharing of some online book sources that you might wish to incorporate into your daily read aloud, literacy centers, or share with parents as a source for family literacy. If you have additional resources you would like to share, please add them in a comment at the bottom of this post so everyone can see them. If you have photos/videos of your Grasslands classrooms using digital books, please email them to me at I know there are so many awesome things happening in our district so let's share them. Also follow me on Twitter @hersheycrystal as I tweet about literacy using the #gpsd6 hashtag.
Happy Reading and Teaching!
Story Line Online is a website where "The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Foundation records well-known actors reading children’s books and makes graphically dynamic videos so that children around the world can be read to with just the click of a Storyline Online video book image." 

One of my personal favourites from this site is a read aloud by legendary actress Betty White who reads "Harry the Dirty Dog" written by Gene Zion. 
Check out this site regularly as they are always adding more books.

We Give Books is a website that has approximately three hundred books including fiction and non-fiction that can be read online but are not narrated or animated. You have access to more books if you join the site which is free. 

There are a number of popular books such as the Llama Llama series on this site which could easily be used on a SmartBoard for Shared Reading lessons. Don't forget to check out the Resources for Educators section of the website as well.
The International Children's Digital Library is a website that has a lofty goal. "The ICDL Foundation's goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world.  Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children's literature from the world community." 
This website has books in a variety of languages that celebrate the cultures of the world and can be used to engage ELL learners.
The Oxford Owl website out of the UK has a collection of approximately 250 digital ebooks both fiction and non-fiction.  The popular characters, Biff, Chip and friends were  enjoyed by many of my past students have connected with during literacy lessons. Join the website for free to access more of ebook titles for use in your classroom. Also check out their teaching resources.

P.S. If you are an avid reader there are many sites such as that have free books in a variety of genres for adult readers also.These can be downloaded onto a variety of devices, such as iPads, Kobo eReaders, etc. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring into Poetry: Resources for K-12

Even though everyone warns me of an imminent April/May snowstorm, my thoughts cannot help but be distracted by the wonderful spring weather we're seeing here in Southeastern Alberta. Spring, in this part of the world, naturally enables us as humans to feel more inspired as the daylight increases and nature seems to awaken us from the long winter months.

Stockvault - Sparring marmots in Glacier Park
As a literacy teacher, I always loved springtime in the classroom as my emphasis on poetry increased and once I got over my initial fears of  'tackling' poetry early on in my career, I found that my students and I both loved it.

In reflection, I think it somehow seemed far easier for me to use poetry as mentor texts with my students, whereas I was less comfortable doing so with fiction and non-fiction texts.

This post is dedicated to sharing POETRY resources that might inspire teachers in their K-12 classrooms.

Austin Kleon - Blackout Poetry

I recently wrote about one of my new favourite poetry styles called Blackout poetry by Austin Kleon from Texas.  He literally blacks out words on a published text (newspaper/magazine article, etc.) to create his poetry as you can see in this poem titled "100 Things That Made My Year". Learn more about his work at

Edutopia Newsletter

A newsletter from Edutopia highlights National Poetry Month for our neighbours to the south and they have three great links to poetry that will inspire even those who still feel stuck in the snowy world of winter. Check out their website at
If you have poetry resource links you would like me to share, please pass them along and I will get them out asap.

Wishing you all exceptional inspiration as you teach poetry this spring...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sharing Our Literacy Journey: Why & How? Plus an added feature of Blackout Poetry

Over the last two months there have been numerous opportunities to share our literacy journey with other schools, school districts, and organizations. Today I want to explore these and ways that you can personally share your literacy journey or extend your and your students relationships beyond the classroom, school and district.

Sharing Elbow to Elbow:

This has been a traditional method for sharing amongst teachers for many years, but I think what makes it so powerful is that we not only share with each other, but we build relationships and a sense of community. Below is a sample picture of sharing that happened recently between districts. If you have pictures you would like me to add to the blog, please email them and a brief description and let's keep this conversation going.
Tilley Teachers Sharing the LLI Journey in Junior High 
with Wolf Creek Public School Division

Wolf Creek Public Schools also visited Sunrise School
to discuss LLI in Jr High Setting (bottom two pics)


My most recent adventure into sharing our literacy journey has come through the use of Twitter (@hersheycrystal) where for over a year I was a Twitter bystander who couldn't see the purpose of tweeting. After some discussion with Sean Beaton, Grasslands Learning & Innovation Coordinator (@backcountrynut), I was still somewhat unsure of how the Twittersphere could possibly be the best PD for me as an educator, but I forged out into the dark hoping to "fake it until I make it" or stumble across someone who could guide me further. Thankfully I didn't need to stumble for too long as Vince Hill (@vhill01), principal of Bassano School, happened to sit beside me and shine even more light upon my Twitter journey. By now if you're not currently leveraging Twitter for it's wealth of educational benefits, you're probably wondering "Why bother?" Not to mention the fact that you might be pondering, "How can I fit something like this into my already full life?"

Well here's what I've learned about WHY Twitter so far...

  1. Twitter has connected me to educators and other people across Canada & the globe in one week of  beginning to tweet and retweet in those ubiquitous 140 characters. 
  2. None of these educators are constantly tweeting about their breakfast or other mundane, useless pieces of information like I initially feared. 
  3. I've participated in a twitter chat with other educators and been linked up to articles, lesson plans, pictures, quotes, blogs and cool ideas (here's a link to artist Austin Kleon in TEXAS who creates BLACKOUT POETRY which is a way of recycling others printed words and turning them into ART/POETRY- Very awesome!)
  4. I can pose questions on Twitter to help link me to other educators, projects, information, etc. that I couldn't begin to do with Google or Email Contacts.
  5. Twitter has expanded my Personal Learning Network (PLN) to speed up my connection to relevant information as well as allowing me to stay connected with new people I meet at conferences or to stay connected to educators within our district. 


Although new to blogging myself, I'm actively seeking out new blogs to follow and read because I can learn so much from other's journeys. Blogs aren't an overly interactive tool, but as a reflective tool, they can't be beat and now that I've seen them as an effective classroom tool I count them to be an even more glorious tool. What better way to connect to a greater audience and again build relationships than through sharing our writing. If you want to connect to a teacher outside our division who really excels at this check out Terra-Lee Gratton, Gr 4 teacher in St. Paul, AB. She not only connects her classes to many others but she recently presented at the Alberta Rural Education Symposium where she shared her wealth of experiences with Discovery If you would like me to arrange an introduction, please let me know.

There are many other ways to share but these two have recently expanded and opened my world. I hope you'll share with me your journey and consider trying some of these ideas.

I hope you forge ahead with some new connections today.

Second Round of Cenovus Literacy Resources Arrive: What does this look like and mean for Grasslands Students?

The Second Cenovus Cheque for $200,000 was received in January and the literacy resources began arriving at Central Office last week before the ATA teachers convention. 

8 pallets  or 326.4 cubic feet of Grade Four - Six classroom resources
seen here in the carpentry bay at Grasslands Central Office

 What does this mean for our Grasslands students? Every student in Grades 4-6 has access to more books to read, talk about, learn from, and write about.
Thank you Cenovus Energy Inc.!
Inside these boxes are Scholastic Moving Up with Literacy Place resources for Grades 4, 5 & 6
1 Strategy Units Box and 4 Book Club Boxes (2 Social Studies themed and 2 Science themed)
1 Strategy Units Box and 4 Book Club Boxes (2 Social Studies themed and 2 Science themed)
1 Strategy Units Box and 4 Book Club Boxes (2 Social Studies themed and 2 Science themed) 
Scholastic Moving Up with Literacy Place training will take place for all Grasslands division 2 teachers after Easter break:

        • Gr. 4 Teachers - April 15, 2015
        • Gr. 5 Teachers - April 16, 2015
        • Gr. 6 Teachers - April 17, 2015

Teachers please don't hesitate to open up the boxes and dive in for a look before the training sessions and/or to get your students excited about the books/texts contained within them. Remember that your enthusiasm for books can be one of the best motivators for students enthusiasm for books.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you at the training sessions.

Rolling Hills K-9 Family Literacy Night in Action

Highlighting the recent efforts of Rolling Hills K-9 school to host a Family Literacy Night in Rolling Hills, Alberta on February 11, 2015. 

Congratulations Rolling Hills School on a successful evening!

Principal Short's Welcome

Each Milk Crate Represents a Scene/Setting in Class Project

Mrs. Frisby's House

Making Connections - One of Eight Comprehension Strategies

School Board Trustee Getting Ready to Read: A Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Students also created cakes about their books

Popcorn as a snack to relate to their books and ghostbusters cake

Three siblings proud of their efforts

Friends proudly recommending a book  

Class Project on the Arctic tied to "Yuit" by Yvette Edmonds

Student sketch books - Future book illustrators?

The Lorax by Dr. Suess complete with truffula trees and cupcakes

Sugar cookie decorating station - Yum! Yum!