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Touchstone Texts
Touchstone Text Book Choices for Grades K - 5

Amazing Grace   Owl Moon   Twilight Comes Twice   William's Doll   The Important Book

Extended Day Kindergarten
The Other Side   Farfallina and Marcel   The Rainbow Fish   Skin Again   The Little Engine

Reading and Writing Resources to write minilessons

Kindergarten Books

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Synopsis: Grace loves stories, whether they're from books, movies, or the kind her grandmother tells. So when she gets a chance to play a part in "Peter Pan", she knows exactly who she wants to be. Remarkable watercolor illustrations give full expression to Grace's high-flying imagination.

Mary Hoffman - Author Website

Let's Talk About Amazing Grace

Discussion Questions and Guide

Reading Rainbow Activities

Reading Rainbow Teacher's Guide

Owl Moon  

About this title: On a cold winter's night a young girl and her father walk through the woods hoping to see a Great Horned Owl. The girl knows she must be quiet and patient if she hopes to see an owl, and that there's even a chance that no matter how quiet she is or how long she waits, she and her father might not see any owls at all. Then, after a long, cold search, the girl's patience is rewarded. Illustrated with watercolor paintings. Winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal.

Click on the following link to hear the calls of all kinds of owls.
Children can hear and make The Great Horned Owl's call like Pa in the story.
Listen to different owls. They don't all say "hoo!"

Play "Who can be the quietest, the longest?" to practice how long
you would have to be quiet if you were going along with Pa.

Learn about owls and virtually dissect an owl pellet!
Great Horned Owl skull

Owl Crafts

Exploring the Themes of Quiet Times and Hope

Owl Moon Literature Unit

Owl Moon Teacher's Guide

Owl Moon Lesson Plan

Owl Moon PPT

Crafts for Owl Moon

Owl Moon Links

Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher  

A story set in a suburban neighborhood with a girl and her dog doing various activities as the sun rises or sets. The first part of the book is about dusk and the second part is about dawn. Free-verse text describes the transition from day to night and from night to day, revealing the magic in these everyday moments. Poetic prose describes dusk and dawn and some of the activities that take place at those special times.

This story is good for "visualizing."

PreSchool-Grade 2. In spare, poetic prose, Fletcher describes the twilight of mornings and evenings, those two brief times of day that often seem to have magical qualities. He personifies dawn and dusk and uses images and metaphors to evoke their special qualities and events. The full- and double-paged oil paintings depict a suburban community. A young girl and her dog wander through the scenes, adding interest even though they are never mentioned in the text. Various shades of green, orange, and brown are used effectively to show how the colors of things are transformed by twilight. The personification of dawn and dusk seems strained, and the metaphors are sometimes more distracting than illuminating, e.g., dusk "pours/the syrup of darkness/into the forest" and "hisses on the sprinklers." The pictures speak more clearly than the words. Charlotte Zolotow's When the Wind Stops (HarperCollins, 1995) and Jonathan London's I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me (Viking, 1996) successfully use art and text to convey a sense of the wonder of the natural world.?Virginia Golodetz, St. Michael's College, Winooski, VT Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews - A quietly alluring mood piece that focuses on the twilight times when ``night and day stand whispering secrets before they go their separate ways'' at dawn and dusk. Fletcher (Ordinary Things, p. 460, etc.) finds impressionistic images--"Dusk pours the syrup of darkness into the forest" and "dawn erases the stars from the blackboard of night" --that Kiesler makes concrete, by including in her lush, light-drenched paintings a girl and a dog who witness the topical observations of the text. The exploration of how these transitory periods affect the lives of people--from children playing in the park to fishermen casting out in the fading light, from commuters to the girl's family, setting the breakfast table--is achieved through an inclusive sensory range, from dusk's fireflies that swim through air to write "bright messages in secret code," to dawn's smell of doughnuts outside the bakery. Words and art coalesce into an invitation to readers to move beyond the page and into their own explorations of twilight. (Picture book. 4-8) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Creating a Picture with Words
The beautiful language in great books is something to embrace with our students. The 4th graders in Leslie's class were read Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher. The students selected sentences in the story that created vivid images in their minds. They illustrated these sentences and beautifully demonstrated how words can create colorful, rich images in the minds of the reader.

Lesson Plan PDF Page 29 (13 of 20)

Teaching Ideas

Show twilight with a globe

Animals at Twilight Poem

William's Doll  

Charlotte Zolotow - Author Website http://www.charlottezolotow.com/willilams_doll.htm

Words to the song sung by Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas

Sterotypes and Discussion Questions

Points to Consider

Book List Tender Males: Males in Non-Traditional Roles

Related book: Oliver Button Is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola

The Important Book  

The pattern is an easy one to adapt to many subjects. Let children create individual books about things that are important to them, such as family members, pets, friends; or do a cooperative learning project to correlate with a unit or theme being taught in the classroom.

The first line identifies the object and tells why it is important.
The next 3 lines describe the object.
The last line repeats the first line word for word except for the word
But at the beginning of the sentence.

The More Important Book
On the first day of school, read to students a popular favorite -- The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown. It's a wonderful, repetitive book that tells the "important thing" about a variety of things, such as a spoon, an apple, the wind, etc. After we read the book and discover its repetitive form, we write our own More Important Book. Each child tells about himself or herself, following the format of The Important Book." The children end, as the book does, by repeating the first line, "But, the most important thing about (child's name) is that he or she _____." Each child is responsible for a "most important thing" page, which becomes part of the class book. This is a wonderful and fun way to get to know one another, and the book is read throughout the year. Susan Wallace, St. Agatha Academy; Winchester, Kentucky

All About Me Family Homework
This is our first homework and we use the info to get to know each other.

Make a Class Book

My Town is Important: A Collaborative Internet Project

The Important Thing About Our Zoo Animals #14

Pattern Writing from Books and Poems

Extended Day Kdg

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and E. B. Lewis  

Synopsis & Reviews Publisher Comments: Clover has always wondered why a fence separates the black side of town from the white side. But this summer when Annie, a white girl from the other side, begins to sit on the fence, Clover grows more curious about the reason why the fence is there and about the daring girl who sits on it, rain or shine. And one day, feeling very brave, Clover approaches Annie. After all, why should a fence stand in the way of friendship?

Beautifully rendered in Earl B. Lewis's striking, lifelike watercolor illustrations, Jacqueline Woodson gives us a moving, lyrical narrative told in the hopeful voice of a child confused about the fence someone else has built in her yard and the racial tension that divides her world.

K-2 Lesson Plan on Trust

Jacqueline Woodson Author

Using Literature to Teach Tolerance

Social Skills Lesson

Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller  

Farfallina, a charming caterpillar, meets the equally delightful Marcel, a gosling, in a rain storm. The two creatures become instant friends, playing hide and seek and going for rides out on the pond. "But one day, Farfallina was not herself." She climbs up a tree to rest. "I'll wait for you," Marcel called. Poor lonely Marcel waits as the bottom of the tree for weeks, but Farfallina doesn't appear. Finally, he gives up. When Farfallina wakes up with her "beautiful new wings," she has no idea how long she's been asleep and waits for Marcel by the tree. When he doesn't turn up, she flies off to the pond to look for him, but is disappointed to find only a "large, handsome goose." Both creatures hang out by the pond and eventually start a conversation. The goose gives Farfallina a ride around the pond on his back and when she tells him her name, the two realize they are old friends, just a little more grown up.

Everything about this book is delightful - the characters, the watery illustrations, the beautiful wording. Farfallina and Marcel have the cheeriest faces and their friendship is a beautiful example of consideration. When they play hide and seek, Farfallina hides on the ground because she knows Marcel can't climb and Marcel hides nearby because he knows Farfallina moves slowly. The telling of the story is full of freshness:

The rain fell all morning.
It splattered on the pond
and splashed on Farfallina's leaf.
She found a dry spot and ate it.
"Hey" said a little voice.
"You're eating my umbrella."

The illustrations also convey an outdoor freshness in gentle washy greens and blues, with bright spots of orange, red and purple. This engaging, quiet book about friendship and transformation will charm both children and adults and you won't find a more endearing lesson on metamorphosis.

learning about making inferences

Character development

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister  

Plot Summary: A story of the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean, the other fish call him "Rainbow fish." He has beautiful shiny scales on his body that he is very proud of. The other fish ask to have one so that they might be beautiful too. Rainbow Fish says "no", and then the other fish don't want to play with him any more and he is lonely and sad. He seeks the advice of the wise octopus who suggests that he share his scales with the other fish. Though he may no longer be the most beautiful fish, he may find what it means to be happy. Rainbow Fish decides to share his scales, first he starts by giving his smallest scale to the little fish. The rest of the fish see this. Rainbow Fish starts sharing his shimmering scales with the rest of the fish. Rainbow Fish learns the joys of sharing. The fish invite him to play and he feels like he belongs. They all shimmered happily ever after.

Discussion Questions
1. Where did the Rainbow Fish live?
2. What did the Rainbow Fish tell the little blue fish the first time he asked him for a shiny scale?
3. Who did the Rainbow Fish first tell his trouble to?
4. If you were the octopus, what advice would you have given the Rainbow Fish?
5. Besides giving away his scales, what else could the rainbow fish have done to make friends?
6. How did the Rainbow Fish’s feelings change during the story?
7. How many shiny scales did the Rainbow Fish keep at the end of the story?
8. Why do you think the author wrote the story of the Rainbow Fish?
9. Have you ever had an experience like the Rainbow Fish? Explain.
10. How would the story have been different if the octopus had not been in his cave?

Prediction Questions:
*By looking at the cover, what do you think this book is about? (comprehension)

Comprehension Questions:
* Where did the Rainbow Fish live? (knowledge)
* How many scales did the Rainbow Fish keep at the end of the story? (knowledge)
* How did the Rainbow Fish feel at the end of the story? (analysis)

Discussion Questions:
* Have you ever had an experience like the Rainbow Fish? (application, knowledge) Explain? (application)
* Why do you think the author wrote the story of the Rainbow Fish? (application, analysis)
* Besides giving away his scales, what else could the Rainbow Fish have done to make friends? (analysis and application)

Low level questions -
* Did the other fish like Rainbow Fish?
* Why did the little blue fish want one of his scales?
* Was Rainbow Fish sad when he had to give away one of his scales?

High level questions -
* Why do you think that sharing made Rainbow Fish so happy?
* If you were Rainbow Fish, would you share a scale or keep it?
* What lesson do you think Rainbow Fish has learned?


The Rainbow Fish at The Virtual Vine

Ocean and Animal Literature Units

Draw on prior knowledge by challenging students to name characteristics of friends. Use A Friend Is for organizing the brainstorming. Use an overhead or transfer the chart to chart paper.

Possible teaching points: summarize story details and relate them to the character trait of generosity, describe characters from a story, explain cause and effect situations, make simple predictions about events, make simple character comparisons

Sharing and Caring Activities and Procedures

Reading Comprehension and Math Patterns

The concept of sharing and its relationship to a harmonious society

The Rainbow Fish Friendship Chain

Skin Again by bell hooks and illustrated by Chris Raschka  

about the author:

Publisher Comments: The skin I'm in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story. The skin I'm in is just a covering. If you want to know who i am You have got to come inside And open your heart way wide. Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much-what's most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free. Skin Again celebrates this freedom.

Simple text, like a poem and bold illustrations repeat the message that skin is just a covering. What’s most important is looking inside each person, being real with one another.

Readers create original insights, perspectives and understandings by reflecting on the text, and by merging elements from the text with their own way of understanding information and the world around them.

In reading the reviews on Skin Again my attention was caught by the descriptions of the way Raschka’s illustrations back up and expand on the text. This is a lovely book about how we are all complex individuals under our skin. hooks (who spells her name with no capitals) says:

If you want to know who I am
you have got to come
Be with me
inside the
me of me,
all made up
of stories present, past,
some true to life
and others all
fun and fantasy,
all the
I imagine me.

The illustrations start out showing children of various hues looking more or less normal, in regular clothing. As the verse progresses you begin to see a patchwork of designs and symbols replacing body parts and growing increasingly complex and interesting. The faces are drawn simply but show real expression in features and hair styles. The more you study these pictures the more you see to think about and discuss. The text is poetic and musical. I find myself reading it over and over and getting more and more into it. I can see primary grade children enjoying it in just that way, and older children using it as a jumping off point for discussion and writing. It presents race and ethnicity as a fascinating and beautiful feature of being human. It gently invites us to move deeper into knowing and celebrating our individuality and our community. hooks dedicated this book to “all the joy of the love community – to knowing each other from the inside!” Her book is a wonderful vehicle to start that journey.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper  

"If you want to get somewhere you have to know where you want to go and how to get there," explained motivational writer Norman Vincent Peale, "then never, never, never give up." In 1930, writer Watty Piper wrote a children's book that is a joy to read aloud and has inspired children... and adults... for generations to never give up.

A simple but powerful tribute to positive thinking, The Little Engine That Could was written around the same time as the stock market crash and Great Depression, a time when the world needed the spiritual propulsion to keep going despite hardships and challenges.

Although not very large, Piper's Little Engine agrees to pull a train full of toys over the mountain for the good boys and girls on the other side. The going uphill was tough, impossibly so, but with a can-do attitude and conviction in ability, the engine made it up and over the top.

From the fruits of perseverance comes heroic success.

Helen Keller, whose life was a metaphor for perseverance, once wrote, "When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another."


A train full of toys needs help to get over the mountain. Several other engines come along, and the toy's ask for their help. But, one after another, they are refused, stating that they were too important to pull "the likes of you." Eventually a small blue engine comes along; she has never crossed the mountain before, but she thought she could do it and wanted to help. The little blue engine tried and was able to pull the train over the mountain. This classic story demonstrates several good qualities that most people overlook in today's fast-paced world: "You won't know if you can do something unless you try," and "Helping others is a true virtue."

Have you ever needed someone else's help to solve a problem? Have you asked for help and been told that the person could not help you or did not want to help you? How did that make you feel? Sad? Upset? Then how did you feel when somebody helped you solve your problem? Happy? Grateful?

In this story, how do you think the toys felt when they were told "NO" over and over again by different engines they had asked to help them? How do you think the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain would have felt if they woke up in the morning and there weren't any toys to play with or good food to eat? How do people benefit from kindness and helping others?

Think about different way the toys could have gotten over the top of the mountain. Can you think of ways to get the other engines to help them? Is there an entirely new way to get over the top? Draw pictures of your ideas. Try to invent at least one good idea that uses a new tool or process to solve the problem.

Vocabulary List

Scholastic Lesson Plan

Train Graphic Organizer for Beginning, Middle and End of Stories

Lesson Plan

Before, During, and After Questions

Family Ideas

Train Lessons: Polar Express, Freight Train and The Little Engine That Could

Fun Facts

Here Comes the Train Lesson Plan


Compare Elmer and The Little Engine Lesson Plan


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