Mrs. Spencer's World of Words


The Story of Ferdinand - Robert Lawson, Munro Leaf

The Story of Ferdinand is a sweet tale of a bull who preferred to smell flowers rather than fight like other young bulls.  Because of unforeseen circumstances, Ferdinand was chosen to go to the city bull fight against his desires.  He did not perform quite like he was expected and was taken back home.

This is a story worth sharing with any age group to push the point that we all need to be who we are.  It is not necessary for us to change who we were made to be just to please others.  For the younger readers, it is a great story of how we can find comfort in 'home', whether that is with our mom or grandparents or.... (this would be a good moment to celebrate the diversity of students and share what 'home' means.  For so many students these days, they may not find comfort in a mother like Ferdinand did.)  For fourth graders, it would be a very cool project to read this story and then have children focus on the history of 'Ferdinand' as it relates to Australian history.


grade level equivalent 4.1

The Three Little Pigs

The Three Little Pigs - Gavin Bishop

Many stories have other stories that are similar but with a twist.  This is true for some of the classic stories that may bore children after some time.  So, when introducing classic literature in the elementary grades, it is fun to introduce several books at once that all originate as the same.  This book is the perfect example!

So many fun activities can be done with this story and those like it.  Have fourth grade students create book covers for each one you present and make a shelf for those. If there are many books, students can choose the three or otherwise, students can work in groups and rotate with one book at each rotation. 

(On the copy paper, have them fold it hamburger style and then write the who, what, when, where, why of the story on the inside.  They should create three of these.)  Then, have students create a 'bookshelf' with a legal size piece of paper by folding it hotdog style but only 2/3 of the way.  The 'books' can then be placed on the 'shelf'.  And if time allows, they can illustrate the covers and the shelf too.) 

As an individual activity, students could be asked to compare and contrast the stories they read and complete a venn diagram.  The title may be The Three Little Pigs but is this the same as the version you have always heard?


grade level equivalent 1.9


Pouch! - David Ezra Stein

This is a cute story about a joey.  It would be a good book for a kindergarten class.  I could see a lesson created from this book on: not being scared to make new friends, diversity, number word recognition, and to introduce new vocabulary pertaining to kangaroos!  Mostly, this is just a cute story for the bookshelf that young readers can enjoy.  Questions to ask the students: 

What is he feeling every time he yells "POUCH!"?

What's a baby kangaroo called?

How many animals does he see as he hops?

Have you ever been nervous or afraid and wanted to run back to your mommy?

How does Joey feel when he makes a new friend?

Do we have to be friends with ONLY the people like us?


grade level equivalent: 0.8


When I Feel Angry

When I Feel Angry (Way I Feel) - Cornelia Maude Spelman

We all feel angry.  We all FEEL lots of emotions.  And that is normal!  As a teacher, it is partly our job to teach youngsters how to handle their emotions and display self- control.  This is a book that can aide in just that.

When I Feel Angry mentions situations in which one may feel angry as well as ways to overcome the anger.  It is a great book to introduce to kindergartners at the beginning of the school year so they can begin right away at learning to control their emotions.  We must model as adults how to do this so it really serves us teachers well too :)

I would have students complete a journal page to follow up with this reading.  I would also have file folder games of different expressions so we could discuss different emotions and what that may really look like!  There's so much to do with this short story but the bottom line is: we must control our anger so that we do not hurt others.  Teachers should reassure students that feelings are understandable but they do not need to affect others at school. 

grade level equivalent: 2

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell!

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell! Book and Audiocassette Tape Set (Paperback Book and Audio Cassette Tape) - Lucille Colandro, Jared Lee, Skip Hinnant

'There was an old lady who' is a great beginning for readers of all ages!  The classroom age range is likely 5-8 which means any class kindergarten through third grade would enjoy this book. 

I would be most likely to use this book at the beginning of the year when we talk about our summer vacations.  There is sure to be mention of the beach and this would fit right in.  I would use it to teach cause and effect, and as a writing prompt for older students.  What is the outcome of swallowing all those things??  A sandcastle?  Well imagine if a farmer swallowed.....  Students could certainly be creative in making their own stories to mimic this one and enjoy it!  This could even be an assessment of writing abilities and styles to kick off the school year.


grade level equivalent: 2.2

The Snatchabook

The Snatchabook - Helen Docherty, Thomas Docherty

The Snatchabook has come to town!  Have no fear though.  This is a good story to promote literacy at home and encourage children to grow a love of books.  I would read this fun story at the beginning of the year to kindergarten, first, or even second grade students when I introduce their reading logs and the expectations of nightly reading.  This is a fun rhyming story with superb illustrations to keep anyone's attention.

grade level equivalent: 3.3

Flay Stanley's Worldwide Adventures, The Mount Rushmore Clamity

Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures #1: The Mount Rushmore Calamity - Jeff Brown, Macky Pamintuan

Flat Stanley is such a fun character to add to any classroom.  I would use this book and others in the series in 2nd grade or 3rd.  Many classes have made their own Stanley's and mailed them to friends or family in far off places.  When the Stanley's return, it is a great individual project to write about or do an oral report on where Stanley went and teach classmates about that state!  Often, participants send back photos of Stanley and his adventures. 

Including this book in a social studies curriculum would be an excellent idea so that literacy is spread to more than just language arts class!


grade level equivalent 4.4

Duck Rabbit

Duck! Rabbit! - Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Tom Lichtenheld

Another favorite of Mrs. Gilmore's!  What a fun book to read to any age group!!  This clever book could be used to introduce art, cloud watching, perspective, pets, getting along and accepting other points of view.... the options are endless.  It is okay to agree to disagree!!

grade level equivalent: 2

Kickers: The Ball Hogs

The Ball Hogs - Rich Wallace, Jimmy Holder

Although I would not choose to use this book as a reading choice for an entire class, it is certainly a book that should be included in a class library for second through fifth graders.  Certainly, it is a book any soccer lover would enjoy!  The back and forth setting between the school day and the soccer games could get confusing to a lower level reader.  But, the message of teamwork is a strong one that children need to hear.  In addition, the main character provides tips for soccer players that young athletes will likely enjoy!

grade level equivalent: 3

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons - Eric Litwin, James Dean

The authors of this book do an excellent job with repetitious words.  That makes Pete the Cat books great books to use for choral reading!  This particular book emphasizes number words so it is a choice that would be super for preK up to 1st grade. 

grade level equivalent: 2

The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein

As well as a end table book in every household, The Giving Tree is an excellent book to be used in classrooms.  With younger children, it gives the perfect example of how to treat friends.  The book can help to open eyes to the fact that some people in our lives will give all they possibly can and we should not take advantage of that.  With older students, the classic story is great to emphasize contentment in life and what they truly means.

The Giving Tree is an awesome book for the young and the old alike. 

grade level equivalent 2.6


Shiloh - Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

In a third grade classroom, Shiloh would be a perfect book to teach so many lessons: never give up, work for what you want, not much in life comes for free, love deeply, be honest.... the lessons are endless!  This is also a great chapter book to study perspective.  To see the adventures of Marty through his eyes can be a bit to get used to since he is a young boy living years ago in the mountains.  But, with the turn of each page, it becomes easier to be immersed in the dialect.  Excerpts from the book would give great opportunities for students to practice proofreading and rewriting sentences as well.  Great read aloud, reading to self, or a good choice for buddy reading!  Shiloh is a different book than what so many of us are used to but it certainly will not disappoint. 

grade level equivalent 4.4

Leo the Late Bloomer

Leo the Late Bloomer - Robert Kraus, José Aruego

Leo is not like his friends.  And in a classroom, no two students will be alike.  We don't look like one another; we don't write like one another; we have different habits and quirky ways like no other.....  This is a brightly illustrated, simple story of Leo, who finally figures some things out that his friends have been doing for a while.  An excellent story to make students aware of the differences within the classroom, Leo the Late Bloomer is sure to be a hit at the beginning of the school year with any elementary grade.  It is always important to remind students that we are all unique in our abilities.


grade level equivalent: 1.7

Mouse Paint

Mouse Paint - Ellen Stoll Walsh

This story of little mice walking through paint is a great tool to use with kindergarten children to say "use lots of colors when we do art!  And, yes, it's okay to mix colors!!  Cool things happen!"  The short story may not follow curriculum aims so much as it is just a nice tool to emphasize using every color in the crayon box.  Many children who are in kindergarten choose one color and stick with it.  We know as teachers that trees, and daddies, and dogs, and cars are not all PINK!  This book would be used best at the beginning of the year or with special art activities. 


(If a teacher knows that the art teacher is focusing on mixing of colors, this would be a good story to read before art class to predict what colors are added to make other colors.)

grade level equivalent: 2.2

A Bad Case of Stripes

A Bad Case of Stripes - David Shannon

So many children are worried about what others think of them.  They limit themselves and become who they are not, because they are not sure others will like who they are!  Not cool.  As a teacher, it is part of our jobs to make sure that students feel included and brave to be themselves too!  This is a great book to use in the classroom at the beginning of the year to express to children how important it is that a classroom is a community, a family of sorts that supports one another and the differences within.  This is crucial to a classroom that is diverse, to explain that diversity is to be celebrated! 


A Bad Case of Stripes would be a good choice of book to read to prompt elementary students to write about a time that they did not want to go to school or some other place and what that felt like. 

grade level equivalent: 3.5

Llama Llama home with mama

Llama Llama Home with Mama - Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama books are some of my favorites.  Perhaps it's because a tactile object to go with a story always made reading more fun for me as a child.  And, I have a stuffed Llama is his red pajamas!!!

For kindergartners and first graders, I may pull this book when we discuss healthy habits and how to avoid getting sick.  But, I may also pull this book when we talk about Mothers in the Spring of the year.  I think a worthwhile writing project each year (for any grade level) is to write about our moms, or those ladies who are like mothers to us.  I would have lots of books about moms and things they do pulled for children to read during their free time to get ideas about why moms are special.  In this book, Llama is taken care of by his mom when he is not feeling well.  How does your mom take care of you?  Oh.  Let's count the ways!

grade level equivalent: 1.7

Currently reading

No More "I'm Done!": Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades
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The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury! Celebrated Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud
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