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May 29, 2017 Book Buzz: It’s Hard to Teach Superheroes By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K

    The year is quickly coming to a close, and as is typical when a chapter of life comes to an end, we begin to reflect. Reflecting on the past year is as important as any checklist item that has to be signed off on before a teacher can leave for summer vacation.

    This has been an interesting year. I started teaching in a new school in a new district. I met 16 wonderful kinders in August and I am sad to see them move on, but the year wasn’t always easy. Many of my students face challenges on a daily basis that would bring most adults to their knees and yet they get up and come to school. The challenge I faced was in the diversity of needs amongst my students. I needed to find what each individual child brought to my classroom and how their strengths could help others in the room. This was one of those years where I had to continue to build a better teacher. This was a year where my reflections of what I learned and what I will do better has led me to the idea that this year I taught superheroes.

    To reinforce this idea, I compiled a list of some great superhero books and some superhero activities. My kids loved these books and I loved that the books put the characteristics of superheroes front and center. Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some can save people from burning building and others save the day by making us laugh. I want my kids to not only appreciate their special skills and talents but to see those gifts in others.

    I was fortunate to attend a Scholastic Reading Summit last summer and heard the amazing Donalyn Miller speak. She quoted Bronwyn Davies’ book Frog and Snails and Feminist Tales and that quote has stuck with me. Davies stated that “texts and the literate practices that accompany them, not only reflect, but may also produce, the self.” Perseverance, finding the good in the world, being a problem solver, and being in control of their own choices are just some of the ideas that I use the following books to help kids not only see themselves in books but to also help them produce their future selves.

    Books

    Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker, illustrated by Eda Kaban

    Eda Kaban’s illustrations look like they came out of the latest animated motion picture. My students loved choosing which character they were and what their superpowers would be when I first introduced the book. Shelly Becker’s text does a wonderful job of conveying that everyone has bad days but that our choices — our reactions to a bad day — are still our choices. As I send my kids into the world and onto first grade, I want them to realize that they will have bad days, but they can respond in positive ways. In the book, the superheroes cry, sigh, and frown, but then they get up and continue to make the world a better, safer place.

    LEGO DC Universe Super Heroes Phonics Set by Quinlan B. Lee, illustrated by Dave White

    Here’s the deal with phonics sets: they are super-high interest. There are phonics sets that cover almost all areas: princesses, cars, Pixar movies, Smurfs, Peppa Pig, and, of course, superheroes to name a few. While I find some of these books, especially the older ones, difficult to teach reading from, I do love how they captivate and engage my students. The real proof of the success of these books is their popularity during my “Star of the Week.” Each student gets one week during the school year where they alone get to do something special each day. On Tuesdays, the “Star” gets to bring in a special book from home to share with the class. So many times, the book of choice is one of these phonics books!

     

    Zero the Hero by Joan Holub, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

    Bring your superhero idea to the nearest math lesson near you. I love this book, not for the math aspect, but because it speaks to how everyone has strengths, how everyone is able to help, and how anyone can be a hero! I just love how deep this book is when at first glance it appears to be a simple math book.

    Super Chicken by Rebecca Purcell

    I have several board books in my classroom and this is one of my favorites. This is a super cute book that doesn’t take long to read but the kids love it. And once it’s introduced the kids will revisit it many times over. I use this book to introduce the idea of reading a joke. As they learn to read, many of my students get frustrated and don’t like reading what they aren’t already familiar with. My go-to solution to get these students hooked on reading is a book series. Occasionally, however, I have a kid where I know the hook is a good joke book. That’s where fun little books like this are perfect. I also love using board books because many of my kids still have them at their house and I want them to realize that reading is reading and it doesn’t matter the format of the book.

    Kung Pow Chicken: Let’s Get Cracking! by Cyndi Marko

    Who knew chickens were such superheroes? There are many titles in the Kung Pow Chicken series. They are part of the Branches line of books and if you don’t know Branches, you should get acquainted! They are the perfect bridge between picture books and chapter books. So many kids are terrified of making that leap because of the lack of pictures and the number of words on each page. The Branches books have plenty of pictures that support the chapters. Also, in many beginning chapter books, the chapters are really unrelated stories that feature the same characters. However, the Branches chapters are related to one big story so it teaches the kids to be patient as it can take several chapter endings to reach the conclusion of these books. Your class will love Kung Pow Chicken and it’s a great end-of-the-year read-aloud.

    Supplies and Activities

    Over the years I have collected several things that can be used to create superhero costumes. I have two favorites that the kids adore.

    The first prop is a pair of insect glasses that helps my students see things like an insect, but I reframe them to enable “superhero vision.” The kids love it and I repeatedly hear how many of Mr. Smiths there are as the glasses get passed around the room for everyone to try on. This activity comes during my insect week and accompanies my instruction to look for clues in the pictures of the books that we read.

      

    My second prop is my red cape. As soon as I walk out wearing the cape, the crowd goes wild! My kids will do anything (such as follow directions) to get to wear the cape.

      

     

    My first favorite activity is to have my class draw themselves as superheroes. My students then write about their superpowers under their picture. I differentiate the writing and have some kids put their superpowers in bulleted list form and others write from two to six sentences. The two sentences are basic, repetitive sentences, but for my super writers, I ask them to write a story about themselves using their superpowers. This activity requires only a white sheet of paper. I find that my kids get more creative with just a blank sheet of paper instead of a “worksheet” that can restrict their creativity. This is one of those activities where I firmly believe it’s the process, not the product.

      

    My second activity is to get my kids to think about how they can be a superhero in their everyday lives. I call them one by one and ask them what they can do to be a superhero now. I put their words in a word bubble and I use those word bubbles to display around the room or create a class book with their pictures next to the word bubbles.

    All kids are superheroes and I love sharing these books and activities with my class so that they have practice using their superpowers. I want all kids to know that they are superheroes and to feel great about being themselves.

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

    I can’t wait to see you next time!

    The year is quickly coming to a close, and as is typical when a chapter of life comes to an end, we begin to reflect. Reflecting on the past year is as important as any checklist item that has to be signed off on before a teacher can leave for summer vacation.

    This has been an interesting year. I started teaching in a new school in a new district. I met 16 wonderful kinders in August and I am sad to see them move on, but the year wasn’t always easy. Many of my students face challenges on a daily basis that would bring most adults to their knees and yet they get up and come to school. The challenge I faced was in the diversity of needs amongst my students. I needed to find what each individual child brought to my classroom and how their strengths could help others in the room. This was one of those years where I had to continue to build a better teacher. This was a year where my reflections of what I learned and what I will do better has led me to the idea that this year I taught superheroes.

    To reinforce this idea, I compiled a list of some great superhero books and some superhero activities. My kids loved these books and I loved that the books put the characteristics of superheroes front and center. Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some can save people from burning building and others save the day by making us laugh. I want my kids to not only appreciate their special skills and talents but to see those gifts in others.

    I was fortunate to attend a Scholastic Reading Summit last summer and heard the amazing Donalyn Miller speak. She quoted Bronwyn Davies’ book Frog and Snails and Feminist Tales and that quote has stuck with me. Davies stated that “texts and the literate practices that accompany them, not only reflect, but may also produce, the self.” Perseverance, finding the good in the world, being a problem solver, and being in control of their own choices are just some of the ideas that I use the following books to help kids not only see themselves in books but to also help them produce their future selves.

    Books

    Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker, illustrated by Eda Kaban

    Eda Kaban’s illustrations look like they came out of the latest animated motion picture. My students loved choosing which character they were and what their superpowers would be when I first introduced the book. Shelly Becker’s text does a wonderful job of conveying that everyone has bad days but that our choices — our reactions to a bad day — are still our choices. As I send my kids into the world and onto first grade, I want them to realize that they will have bad days, but they can respond in positive ways. In the book, the superheroes cry, sigh, and frown, but then they get up and continue to make the world a better, safer place.

    LEGO DC Universe Super Heroes Phonics Set by Quinlan B. Lee, illustrated by Dave White

    Here’s the deal with phonics sets: they are super-high interest. There are phonics sets that cover almost all areas: princesses, cars, Pixar movies, Smurfs, Peppa Pig, and, of course, superheroes to name a few. While I find some of these books, especially the older ones, difficult to teach reading from, I do love how they captivate and engage my students. The real proof of the success of these books is their popularity during my “Star of the Week.” Each student gets one week during the school year where they alone get to do something special each day. On Tuesdays, the “Star” gets to bring in a special book from home to share with the class. So many times, the book of choice is one of these phonics books!

     

    Zero the Hero by Joan Holub, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

    Bring your superhero idea to the nearest math lesson near you. I love this book, not for the math aspect, but because it speaks to how everyone has strengths, how everyone is able to help, and how anyone can be a hero! I just love how deep this book is when at first glance it appears to be a simple math book.

    Super Chicken by Rebecca Purcell

    I have several board books in my classroom and this is one of my favorites. This is a super cute book that doesn’t take long to read but the kids love it. And once it’s introduced the kids will revisit it many times over. I use this book to introduce the idea of reading a joke. As they learn to read, many of my students get frustrated and don’t like reading what they aren’t already familiar with. My go-to solution to get these students hooked on reading is a book series. Occasionally, however, I have a kid where I know the hook is a good joke book. That’s where fun little books like this are perfect. I also love using board books because many of my kids still have them at their house and I want them to realize that reading is reading and it doesn’t matter the format of the book.

    Kung Pow Chicken: Let’s Get Cracking! by Cyndi Marko

    Who knew chickens were such superheroes? There are many titles in the Kung Pow Chicken series. They are part of the Branches line of books and if you don’t know Branches, you should get acquainted! They are the perfect bridge between picture books and chapter books. So many kids are terrified of making that leap because of the lack of pictures and the number of words on each page. The Branches books have plenty of pictures that support the chapters. Also, in many beginning chapter books, the chapters are really unrelated stories that feature the same characters. However, the Branches chapters are related to one big story so it teaches the kids to be patient as it can take several chapter endings to reach the conclusion of these books. Your class will love Kung Pow Chicken and it’s a great end-of-the-year read-aloud.

    Supplies and Activities

    Over the years I have collected several things that can be used to create superhero costumes. I have two favorites that the kids adore.

    The first prop is a pair of insect glasses that helps my students see things like an insect, but I reframe them to enable “superhero vision.” The kids love it and I repeatedly hear how many of Mr. Smiths there are as the glasses get passed around the room for everyone to try on. This activity comes during my insect week and accompanies my instruction to look for clues in the pictures of the books that we read.

      

    My second prop is my red cape. As soon as I walk out wearing the cape, the crowd goes wild! My kids will do anything (such as follow directions) to get to wear the cape.

      

     

    My first favorite activity is to have my class draw themselves as superheroes. My students then write about their superpowers under their picture. I differentiate the writing and have some kids put their superpowers in bulleted list form and others write from two to six sentences. The two sentences are basic, repetitive sentences, but for my super writers, I ask them to write a story about themselves using their superpowers. This activity requires only a white sheet of paper. I find that my kids get more creative with just a blank sheet of paper instead of a “worksheet” that can restrict their creativity. This is one of those activities where I firmly believe it’s the process, not the product.

      

    My second activity is to get my kids to think about how they can be a superhero in their everyday lives. I call them one by one and ask them what they can do to be a superhero now. I put their words in a word bubble and I use those word bubbles to display around the room or create a class book with their pictures next to the word bubbles.

    All kids are superheroes and I love sharing these books and activities with my class so that they have practice using their superpowers. I want all kids to know that they are superheroes and to feel great about being themselves.

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

    I can’t wait to see you next time!

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