An Old Favorite:
The Gist: Why I love it: The illustrations are adorable. I love the Alfred Hitchcock like twist at the end of the story where the child's friend finds out that the backyard giant is really a sunflower! My students too are amazed as they are thinking the same thing! We review the story and the "lightbulb" comes on for them as they see the little boy who planted the sunflower is really explaining it pretty appropriately! My students LOVE this story.
I share with them about the time my own children planted sunflowers on our land behind our home and made a sunflower house, and then I also read the story Sunflower House by Eve Bunting. This is a nice companion book to My Backyard Giant and offers a graphing opportunity. Click on the link to view/print the storybook graph.
Story telling tips: I ask my students "What do you think will happen next?" while I'm reading the book. Having students make predictions is a great way to get them involved; it's also a good way to improve their listening, comprehension and writing skills as they learn to build their own stories with various plots and endings. Ask them if they were surprised at the ending and if any of them guessed that the giant was really a sunflower. Go back and review how the child described his "giant friend" and see if he really did it appropriately.
Sunflower Magic tricks: Because I don't want to give away the ending of the story, I do one trick after I'm done reading each of the stories. I show my students that the change bag is empty. We review that in order for sunflowers to grow they need seeds. I give each of my students a sunflower seed and have them drop it into my change bag. We say the chant: "Water-soil-seeds & sun, make growing fun!" as magic words and then I produce a string of sunflowers. I made this string by taking the blossoms off a bouquet of sunflowers and hot gluing 10 of them to a green piece of ribbon. This makes for an awesome trick as I pull the string out very slowly and the string of sunflowers is taller than me! We then measure it with a yardstick.
I have a book of sunflower photographs that I show them as I read a few sunflower facts that amaze them. Click on the link to view/print my list of sunflower facts.
Sunflower Magic trick #2: I made icons for the chant above and pass out the 7 pieces. Those children place them in my duck pan as we say the chant. I put the lid on the pan and produce a bouquet of sunflowers. To view my magic videos and see what a change bag and duck/dove pan are, click on the link. I also sell these magic trick products.
Math Extensions: Buy a bag of sunflower seeds with the shells on, and a bag of salted-shelled sunflower seeds. Pass out one of each to the students. Discuss the similarities and differences. Make a Venn diagram on the board, and have the students compare and contrast them. Pass out the Venn diagram sheet and have them make their own copy.
Pass out a few salted and shelled sunflower seeds to each student. Graph whether they like them our not. Click on the link to view/print the sunflower seed Venn diagram and sunflower seed graph activities.
A great companion to this activity is my free easy-reader for the month entitled: The Seeds On My Sunflower. I have another math skill sheet included with that booklet too.
Students TRACE & WRITE the numbers and number words, dot "seeds" on their sunflowers with a marker and then count the groups/sets of sunflower seeds in the boxes and GLUE them to the correct spaces in their booklet.
I've also included a certificate of praise as well as 10 number word wall word-flashcards. The free easy-readers for the month are listed in the article after Books of the Month in the side blog. Click on the link to check out the other freebies, or simply scroll down to the bottom of this article.
Sunflower Skill Sheet: Have students look at the number on the sunflower leaf and make that many dots (seeds) on their sunflowers using a marker. I've provided a blank sheet so that you can make different numbers if you'd like. Click on the link to view/print sunflower skill sheets.
Art Project: To save time, I like to buy sturdy brown 8-inch paper plates for this project, but you can also purchase inexpensive white plates and then have your students cut out brown construction paper circles and glue them to the center of the plate.
Run off copies of the sunflower petals on yellow construction paper, or make a tag board template and trace it. Have students cut out their sunflower and glue it to the back of their brown paper plate.
Put a dollop of Aleene's Tacky Glue on a paper plate and have students use Q-tips to dab dots on the center of their sunflowers and then press a shelled or unshelled sunflower seed to the glue dot. You can use either kind of seeds or a mixture of both.
Pre-cut 2-inch by 12-inch strips of green construction paper for stems. Students glue it to the back of their sunflower and add 2-4 leaves. Click on the link to view/print the sunflower art project templates.
Bibliography for May. Click on the link to view/print a copy. As you can see by the photo, I've added quite a few new books for Mother's Day. Click on the link to view/print a partial new list for books about mom's.
I'm currently revamping my May bibliography as I've purchased more flower and frog books and want to include some books that spill over into the spring-summer category like Ten in the Meadow by John Butler. I also like his Ten in the Den.
The illustrations of these animal are cuddly-cute and offer a great opportunity to sequence animal characters. I usually buy two books and cut up one to laminate and then put magnets on the back of the animals so that my students can put them on the board as we read the story. After the story, I pass the animals out again and we try and sequence the characters.
After story time I choose 10 students to lie on the floor and we chant "There were 10 in the bed and the little one said roll over..." We run through it twice so that everyone has a turn to roll over and fall off the "bed". This is great counting fun and a cute way to review subtraction!
If you're looking for something special, or need a recommendation, feel free to drop me a line. I'd love hearing from you if you have other books that you enjoy sharing with your students at this time. firstname.lastname@example.org!
Something else you might find helpful is the "100 New Book Lists" that just came out by Scholastic. They tell you the grade level equivalent and even list if there's an Accelerated Reader quiz to go with the book. They have lists for animals, biographies, families, folktales, holidays, read-alouds and science fiction with more categories under each one of those. Click on the link to check it out.
Whatever you're reading this month, I hope you have a simply marvelous May!