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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

April Pulley Sayre remains one of my favorite authors

Thank you, April Pulley Sayre. You rescued me again! Last week I returned to school after Labor Day announcing to the children that my voice was still on vacation (aka laryngitis). I faced an hour with really squirming kindergartners and half an hour with preschoolers and I was worried. How could I entertain and education when I couldn’t even enunciate?

April Pulley Sayre to the rescue with If You’re Hoppy. Jackie Urbanovic’s illustrations initially drew me to this title and I was convinced to pull it out of my review basket to try out with this crowd when I saw who the author was. Sayre wrote one of my all-time favorite titles for K-1 – VULTURE VIEW – which I have talked about at least 3 different times on the blog. When I first came to my new school, I didn’t have a copy of Vulture View and I was so disappointed. It’s on my MUST order list ASAP.

If You’re Hoppy correlates with the song If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands. I needed a song like that so all the students could sing along (sparing my voice) and could incorporate movement for their restless bodies. Those who knew it were happy to teach others new to the USA. Everyone was enthusiastically participating to make up for my voiceless leadership.

Even better, If You’re Hoppy allowed me to include scientific inquiry and the chance to distinguish animal features and habits. I love science tie-ins at the STEM school. The end pages include footprints of various animals. Only some of my students recognized those at first, so when I turned to the next page – Voila! At the top of the title page were the feet of the animals making those prints.  Teachable moment for me to point out the feet, flip back and have students identify the matching print.

Before even reading, we’d woken their minds to the idea of finding more in the illustrations than simple retellings of the words. Now they were ready to explore animals that were hoppy, sloppy, growly, flappy, or slimy scaley and mean. These descriptive words matched more than just one animal. Suddenly like “a is for” more than just “apple”. Hoppy was for Bunny, frog, cricket, etc.

Without any prompting at all, students began finding motions to act out these animal concepts. They watched each other and tried out different movements. The large illustrations worked well for these groups of 20 students and helped draw them back into our story group so we could turn the page. I didn’t have any voice to recall them and I was worried that I would have 20 flappy birds running through the library. No fear, the surprises in text and the illustrations kept them wanting to know more.

When we reached the end, that important moment occurred that we all wait for. One shy student raised his hand and said, “I’ve never heard of a lemur. Can we find out more about him?”

Oh, joy! They made a connection. They wanted to find out more. And…. since we don’t have a dedicated area for a story time and I keep moving them around the room, they happened to be sitting in the nonfiction section right by the animal books.

When I dramatically tiptoed to the shelves and pointed out the names of various animals they could learn more about, one little girl shivered and said, “I’m so happy to find out these books, I have goosebumps.”

Yes, this was my second lesson of the year with kindergartners and already I was working on the connection between their interests and informational text. Baby Steps to Research Begins!

If only I could afford those visitation fees, I’d be bringing in my favorite nonfiction writers like Elaine Landau, Joanne Ryder, and April Pulley Sayre. Wouldn’t that be a fantastic event for my STEM school? I’ll keep dreaming.