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Knock! Knock!

Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

Thank you for leavening the world with wonderful words and phrases:

Leapfrog and Bedazzled and Swagger

          All that glitters is not gold.

          Jealousy is the green eyed Monster.

          It’s a brave new world.

All Shakespeare.

But did you know that he is also the father of the Knock, knock! joke?

Yes! the Knock, knock! joke!

It all began in his famous tragedy.

In Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3,  suddenly there is a knock knocking:

“Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key.


knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ the name of Beelzebub?”

The Bard’s tragic phrasing is far from the little supercilious jokes i told as a child:

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?

You who?
Yoo-hoo! Anybody home?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Canoe who?
Canoe come out now?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Howl who?
Howl you know unless you open the door?

Still, it’s good to remember—especially today—that Shakespeare was a trendsetter!



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Learn with Leonardo





“Whatever you do in life, if you want to be creative and intelligent, and develop your brain, you must do everything with the awareness that everything, in some way, connects to everything else.” ~Leonardo da Vinci


Observation begins with a question: What am I seeing? In a world filled to the brim with stimulation, it is easy to take our senses for granted. Though we are usually quick to have thoughts on things that we taste and smell, sight (of all things) can often be overlooked. We see so many things on a daily basis that it’s easy to forget to stop and really look.



There is nothing like art-making to engage students in active learning. Leonardo da Vinci, the quintessential Renaissance Man, made over 13,000 journal observations during the course of his lifetime, and as he did, he not only gained an enormous body of knowledge, but also created masterworks and made significant discoveries that he generously shared with the world. His influence is far reaching.

Over the course of 20 weeks, students will learn to observe from no other than the Renaissance Man himself! Students will research the life of Leonardo Da Vinci and learn to create observational drawings. Watch for our brand new unit to be released early this summer.



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Words in Context

To LIBERATE is to be free from a state or situation that limits freedom.


The Liberation of Gabriel King is a beautiful story about the power of friendship and the ability of two children who face their fears in order to become liberated during a time of social, racial, economic, and political turmoil.  The story provides a wonderful backdrop for teachers and parents to discuss historical issues that have relevancy today.

This is NOT simply a story of courage.

This is a quest toward becoming fearless!

Jimmy Carter, 39th President and former Georgian peanut farmer, comes to play a significant role in K.L. Going’s historical story about Gabriel King and his best friend Frita Wilson as they spend summer in small town Georgia between fourth and fifth grade. The plan is for each of them to become liberated from a very specific list of fears. Gabe is terrified of spiders and is bullied ruthlessly. But Frita, by far, has the biggest obstacle to overcome—racism and the KKK of the late 70s.

Setting the stage—a word from our Pages teacher and resident historian, Miss Lori:

“Protagonists Gabriel and Frita are children living in a small town in Georgia. It is 1978. America is in a bad place. The country had just been through Watergate. It is the end of the Vietnam War. Jimmy Carter is president.  The economy is down the drain.  Both Gabriel and Frita’s fathers respected fellow Georgian, Jimmy Carter, because he publicly refused to join the White Citizen’s Council in his town. His business was consequently boycotted. David Duke, in 1974, was named the Grand Wizard of the newly formed KKK.”

Note regarding the derogatory word utilized in the context of this story:

The implications of the KKK’s hateful views are exposed contextually through the delivery of a derogatory word spoken by a hateful antagonist. The author’s intention here is to sensitively expose middle-school readers to the extremely demeaning power of this single word. In the context of the story, Frita has just gotten into a fight with Duke and Frankie, a fight which is broken up by Gabriel’s dad.  Duke’s racist father scolds his son, “You got beat up by a n***** girl (page 15)?”   The whole interaction is observed by white adults, but the only person who confronts Duke’s dad is Gabriel’s father.  Later in the story, Frita tells Gabriel about her and Terence’s (her brother) horrible experience with the KKK burning a cross on their front yard. The presentation of the trauma caused to Frita is handled deftly by the author to bring the reader alongside the liberation Frita desires and to cheer her on.
By encouraging students to ask questions in class and encouraging parents to continue difficult conversations at home, we equip our students with the ability to process feelings as they navigate the harsh realities of racism.  Kirkus Review reminds us: “Readers will enjoy following the sometimes-tempestuous friendship of Gabriel and Frita, and they’ll be completely absorbed in watching the friends and their community come together to stand up against the evil within.” The stated purpose of this publications is to support the curation of library collections with both books of literary merit and inclusive content.

“My best friend, Frita Wilson, once told me that some people were born chicken.”

“Ain’t nothing gonna make them brave,” she’d said. “But others, they just need a little liberatin’, that’s all.” Least that’s how Frita told it.”

We hope that readers will continue to be inspired by this powerful story to go forth liberated beginning with this wonderful sneak peak from Penguin Random House.
Awards and Honors:
International Reading Association Notable Book, 2005
Top 10 Booksense pick
Book of the Month club selection
IOWA Children’s Choice Award nominee, 2009-2010
Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Master List, 2008
Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Award nominee, 2007-2008
South Carolina Junior Book Award nominee, 2007-2008
Kentucky State Book Award nominee
Rhode Island State Book Award nominee
Children’s Crown Award nominee, Grades 3-5 category, 2007-2008
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Read Aloud Recommendation

Happy Birthday Dick King Smith!

Born in Gloucestershire, England on this day back in 1922, Dick King-Smith was a soldier during WWII, after that he was a farmer, and later a teacher. But he will go down in history as a prolific writer. The say, “write what you know,” and he certainly succeeded! Author of many stories from childhood that we know and love including, The Sheep Pig was turned into the movie Babe! But this is not his only famous story. In fact, during the course of his lifetime he wrote over 100 books!

Yes, Dick King Smith wrote over ONE HUNDRED books!

One of my personal favorites is A Mouse called Wolf because Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse is a big name for such a little mouse! But there are so many that are wonderful. These make wonderful read-alouds, especially for primary and early elementary children.

Pick up a copy to read aloud today or check out the website dedicated to his life and work to learn about the wonderful collection of audiobooks.



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Remember to Read Aloud!

Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, was born on this day in 1859.

I remember taking my four children to Barnes and Noble Story Hour back in the day to listen to this wonderful book being read aloud. They loved a good read aloud. And this book, with its rich language, drew them in for sure:

“Sudden and magnificent, the sun’s broad golden disc showed itself over the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across the level water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.”

Mole, who is friends with Rat (my son, Søren called him “Ratty”), loved adventuring in boats on the river:

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”


Mole and Rat loved boats, that is, until Mr. Toad introduces them to the horse-drawn carriage! But eventually Mr. Toad quickly loses interest and becomes obsessed with the motorcar! The best thing about this wonderful story? The wild rides of course!

Pick up a copy today and read aloud!


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Getting to the HEART of Literacy

What is meant by Core & Application?


Our English Language Arts program is built around a simple structure of Core and Application materials.  When it comes to literacy, integrating the act of reading and the art of writing gets students thinking independently. Our unique scaffolding supports students as they gather information from books, both fiction and non-fiction, and challenges them to respond with original, authentic ideas. Our longitudinal Discovery MethodTM motivates students to work through the processes of writing: brainstorming, drafting, re-reading, editing, conferencing, and polishing of the final work. While engaging in our Discovery Method, students will gain, and put into practice, skills that will make their ideas shine.

Both our CORE + APPLICATION materials provide opportunities for students to:

1. Read to discover
2. Write to catalog thoughts and insights
3. Think to spark curiosity, ideas, and imagination


Our Core offering is literature based, but is much more than just a literature program. Core is an integrated literature & writing program that uses great writing to model, inspire, and springboard students into becoming great readers, writers, and thinkers.


Our Application offerings provide focused opportunities to develop the specific tools and skills needed for successful writing—vocabulary development, sentence construction, parts of speech, punctuation, rhetorical device, etc. These skills are explored alongside the specific domains of writing—narrative, persuasive, descriptive, imaginative—within various forms—paragraphs, micro stories, research, essays, poems.

While interleaved instruction is used throughout our materials, our Application offerings fall into two broad categories:

• Application 1: Grammar, Mechanics, Style
• Application 2: Research, Composition, Creative Writing

When applied over time, our Core & Application materials lay solid foundations and build strong students that not only have the ability to read well, write well, and think well, but also have the desire to do so.


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More Leaves for a Friendly Letter

Accentuate your friendly letter with a fall-themed crafty insert!

This project began with a package of fall leaf table confetti. But you can just as easily begin by tracing real leaf shapes on colored craft paper, cutting out the shapes, and drawing. From there, all you need is imagination and a fine-point marker. Fill each leaf with a repetitive design of lines! You might even add a little message to your design! These handcrafted fall leaves, inserted into your friendly letter, will be a delightful surprise to the recipient and a fresh addition to any fall table.

Don’t forget to check out our FREE resources on letter writing and letter forms by hand!


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The Friendly Letter is a Gift

Let’s start a tradition!

Let’s write friendly letters!

Composing a letter by hand—a non-electronic letter—is a relational, social activity that teaches generosity, idea making, and the nature of beauty.

Once upon a time there was no such thing as email, text messages, and social media. Back then there was mail. The art of letter writing began way before Pony Express.  I love watching movies where fancy-dressed people are sitting together after a lovely meal sharing news from friends and relatives living in far reaches of the wide world. Letters. They called them letters.

Ephemera is a wonderful word. Say it aloud. Ephemera.

But ephemera is something that is not meant to be preserved. I would argue that letters, the thoughtfully crafted kind, are not ephemera but rather lasting gifts!

  1. Letter writing, like all writing, begins with an idea. It’s November. And November is the season of gratitude. So why not write an idea tied to the theme of gratitude? Starting with a list is always a good idea. Brainstorm! What are you thankful for?
  2. Hone in: Once there is some fodder on the page, focus in on a specific topic that you can develop. Encourage student writers to keep ideas simple, being grateful for finding that favorite lost sock,  watching the goldfish swimming in the backyard pond, or accomplishing a difficult task like mastering a new math concept. Brainstorm some more.
  3. With a topic nailed down, begin crafting the rough draft. Time to pick up the pencil and tell the story—yes the story! Narrative writing (a story of gratitude is no exception) is an opportunity to share. Write a first draft.
  4. Lay down the pencil when all the ideas are on the page. Set the writing aside for up to 24 hours. Let the story simmer.
  5. Re-read what was written. Now is the time to make edits, to re-arrange, to add wonderful words and phrases and to read again! Once satisfied, copy the gratitude narrative into the card you have chosen. You can certainly add some “pleasantries” to introduce the purpose of your gratitude narrative (’tis the season, after all), and you can share a bit of personal news after your narrative, but however you shape your letter, don’t forget to mark it with a date, create a salutation, and a friendly closing.

Check out our FREE letter writing worksheet here.

Well-told stories encourage people to see things in new ways.

Snail Mail is not archaic!

To write a letter is to offer a generosity.

To receive a letter is a gift.

Heres to a month of letter writing! Let’s put a stamp on it!

“A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.” ~Emily Dickinson

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Speaking of Apples

Cézanne said: “Everything is about to disappear. You’ve got to hurry up if you still want to see things.”

What does he mean?

I think he means: “LOOK!”

This little painting by 9th grader, Kingsley, was accomplished during Session 1 of Pages online live! Under the expert tutelage of Mr. Taylor,  inspired by the colorful still life paintings of Paul Cézanne, in five happy, peaceful hours over the course of five weeks, this student painting took shape.

How did she accomplish this beautiful feat?

By engaging in the slow work of observation.

The skill of observation enables us to recognize, slow down, perceive, decide, appreciate, and ultimately, to know.  Observation engages all the senses. Yes, we can see with our hands. And it is through the senses, that we will make sense of the world. But don’t take my word for it, Da Vinci, master of observation says it with eloquence:  “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”

Art making is academic.