Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nutrition/Wellness Policies

With school starting soon, children in many school districts will be receiving their “summer letters” in the mail.  These are letters from teachers, welcoming their new students into the classrooms.  This first interaction children have with their upcoming teachers helps alleviate some first day jitters. 

One thing I include in my welcome letter is my Healthy Snack Policy as well as a link to our school district’s Wellness Policy.  My Healthy Snack Policy is: “Bring a healthy snack such as fruit, whole grain crackers with cheese or peanut butter, popcorn, veggies, 100% fruit juice, water, or milk.  JUNK FOOD—candy, chips, soda, or any drink that is not 100% fruit juice is not allowed to be consumed in Room 46.  We will learn the difference between food as a fuel and food as a treat this year.  Being healthy is important.  Please see the school district’s Wellness Program policy:”
I started my Healthy Snack Policy after becoming an ACE certified Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant.  I noticed that my students were eating Doritos at 10 o’clock in the morning!  Eww!  Now I like Doritos as much as the next person but as a treat at a Super Bowl party, for example, not a midmorning snack.
Unfortunately some grownups don’t understand the importance of good nutrition for ultimate brain/body functioning.  Good nutrition contributes to better focus, self-control, and learning.  This is win-win for everyone—the students, their classmates, teachers, and families.
The new USDA dietary guidelines are so easy to follow.  All you have to do is divide your plate.  (See the picture to the right.)  There is a lot of great information on the USDA website with updates scheduled throughout the summer.
Snacking is an important way for children to get all of the nutrients they need each day.  Healthy snacking helps keep blood sugar levels steady.  My Healthy Snack Policy is based on the concept that fueling the brain/body during the school day is crucial in helping kids learn and behave.  I believe in making every calorie count.  Check out some cookbooks to help you get started.  I found some great books HERE.
I’m hoping that this year I can help my students achieve their utmost awesome potential.  I’m hoping I have the help and support of their grownups.
Does your school have a wellness policy?  Leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle

Hamlet and the Magnificent SandcastleTitle: Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle
Author: Brian Lies
Publisher: Moon Mountain Publishing
Pub Date: 2001
ISBN: 0967792924
Concepts: sandcastles and friendship
Audience: Ages 5-8
Reviewer: Patricia Bessette
Review Date: July 21, 2011

Hamlet, a pig with a vision, determines to build the biggest sandcastle in the world. His porcupine friend Quince is his reluctant partner who worries that things will go wrong. And sure enough, when the tide comes in it brings trouble. (

Are you adventurous or a worrywart? Either way, you’ll identify with a character in Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle by Brian Lies (pronounced Lees). Two friends, Hamlet, the adventurous pig, and Quince, a worrywart porcupine, take a train to the beach in this exciting story. Hamlet dreams of building a magnificent sandcastle. Lies’s detail in the illustration of a sandcastle formed in the clouds was just perfect for this scene.

Meanwhile, Quince is determined to remain on the lookout for the dangers of the beach such as driftwood, crabs, jellyfish, sharks and even quicksand. He sets his clock so they don’t miss their train home.

Will Hamlet make a magnificent sandcastle? Will Quince save them from danger lurking at the beach? Will they miss the train home? You’ll just have to read Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle to find out.

I agree with the publisher that Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle has an interest level of ages 5-8. From a teacher’s perspective, I think high second graders/average third graders could independently handle this book. With an ATOS book level of 3.2 (third grade, second month) and 1508 words, it is too wordy for a read aloud. The book size is a bit small for whole class. It could be used in a guided reading group.

As for a one on one read aloud, I think a four year old could sit on a lap and be engaged in this story. The details in the illustrations lend themselves to lots of discussion including prediction and cause/effect.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Brian Lies drew me into the story with his words and pictures from the beginning of the tale right to the very end. The crisp illustrations enhanced the words perfectly. Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle would make a great beach read while on a break from building your very own magnificent sandcastle!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Riding My Bike

My parents were always sticklers for safety when I was growing up.  That included lots of rules for safely riding our bikes (helmets weren’t available for kids, yet or we would’ve worn them).  We didn’t have sidewalks on our street so we learned the rules of the road early. 
My sisters and I had hand-me-down bikes my dad got from the dump and fixed up for us.  The one I remember vividly is “Little Black Bike” (LBB).  It was a small two-wheeler that was our training bike before we “graduated” to a brand new bike a few years later. 

My dad put training wheels on it at first, raising them up as we got better at balancing, removing them altogether when we were confident.  Ah, the freedom!  We could bike down to the playground at the end of our street.  When we were much older we biked to the library and even to school.

It was during a ride around the neighborhood that I gave my across the street neighbor, Tony, a black eye.  I didn’t do it on purpose but my elbow and his eye collided.

See, he got on the back of LBB and wouldn’t get off.  There was a rule in our house:  never ride double!  I was so afraid I would get in trouble and LBB would be off limits so I nudged backward with my elbow to try and jab Tony off my bike.  Apparently I nudged at eye level with a bit more force than I realized.  Tony went home crying, threatening to tell his dad (whom I was petrified of).

I went home crying, too, afraid of the wrath of Tony’s dad.  It never appeared.  He got in trouble for riding double on my bike after I told him to get off! 
Thus began my love of bike riding.  As a teen, I rode up Provin Mountain (Agawam, MA) before school in the morning.  I even raced on Sunday mornings at Forest Park (Springfield, MA).  The one girl in a sea of men and boys flying around the loop, pedaling as fast as we could!  Then as they loaded their bikes into their vehicles, I biked the ten miles home.  That’s when I started wearing a helmet on every ride (required for bike racing, not for riding on the roads at that time).   

I still love to ride my bike, wearing my helmet and following the rules of the road.  Do you like riding a bike?  Do you have a favorite bike trail?  I'd love to hear about it--leave me a comment!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: The Cats of Mrs. Calamari

The Cats of Mrs. Calamari
The Cats of Mrs. Calamari
Author: John Stadler
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Star Bright Books
Publication Date: 03/01/2010
Pages: 32
Trim Size: 8" x 10"
ISBN: 9781595722577
List Price: $6.95
Category: FICTION - JUVENILE: Animals & Nature: Animals
Reviewer: Patricia Bessette

On Monday morning, Mrs. Calamari and her many, many cats move into a new apartment. On Tuesday, the landlord, Mr. Gangplank, informs her that no cats are allowed. Fortunately he has lost his glasses so when Mrs. Calamari says, "Cats? Of course not! They are visiting relatives," he believes her. But readers know better and will be delighted by the unusual ways Mrs. Calamari ensures that Mr. Gangplank sees no cats. On Saturday, Mr. Gangplank invites Mrs. Calamari and her "relatives" to the beach and when he finds his glasses, is so charmed by Mrs. Calimari (sic) that he happily considers her cats relatives. Finally, on Sunday, all the cats are invited to their wedding. This charming book was a Booklist Editor's Choice, Best of the Best selection by Chicago Public Library and selected for Read Aloud America. The Children's Museum of New Hampshire has a permanent life-size exhibit of Mrs. Calamari and her cats.  (Starbright Books)

In The Cats of Mrs. Calamari, it’s a good thing cats can’t read!  The sign in front of their new apartment building says, “No Cats Allowed.”  Even though the landlord, Mr. Gangplank, keeps predicting dire things will happen on Sunday if there are cats in the building, the cats do not seem worried.  In fact, the cats save the day!  Is this enough to get Mr. Gangplank to change his mind?  Does he enforce the “No Cats” rule and evict the cats?  Even if you’re not a cat person, you’ll cheer for the cats in this delightful romp by JohnStadler.
Suggested grade/age levels listed for The Cats of Mrs. Calamari are grades 2-3 and ages 4-8.  From a teacher’s perspective, preschoolers through second graders would enjoy The Cats of Mrs. Calamari as a read aloud.   The illustrations are adorable and engaging, better suited for small groups, but workable for a whole class read; possibly even a guided reading group.  High second graders and average third graders could read this independently.  There are several opportunities for discussion in The Cats of Mrs. Calamari.  One avenue I would explore with students is Mr. Gangplank and his dislike of cats and how it applies to friendships and biases. 
I highly recommend using this as a parent/child read aloud.  Although there are many words on the pages a cat-search/count on each page would be a fun activity to keep small children interested.  The format of the book lends itself to the use of a powerful reading strategy:  prediction.  Before turning the page, ask your child, “What do you think will happen next.”  I recommend this charming book!
My advanced digital edition of The Cats of Mrs. Calamari was received through NetGalley.