At-Home Activities for Families with Preschoolers

Now that I’ve got two sets of activities ready to go, I’m ready to tell you about them!

I’ve been working with a preschool teacher to come up with fun, age-appropriate activities to accompany her weekly newsletters.

She wanted something that was only one page so it could be copied onto the back of her one-page newsletter. The first set includes 14 activities and the second includes 12 activities. This means that downloading both will give you a total of 26 activities to send home with your students (if you’re in a school), patrons (if you’re in a library), or children if you’ll be using these at home yourself.

The activities provide a platform to count, talk, write, draw, color, name, give, and story-tell together.

My organizational advice…
print them all and keep them in a binder (inside those clear sheet protectors). Stick a post-it onto the front of the protector to write the date it was used. This will not only help you in deciding what activity to use next but well also assist in reprinting for a caregiver.As a thank you for following Circulating Knowledge and reading this post, all activities are available to be downloaded for free via the links below.

If you’re able and willing, you can also support these resources by purchasing them on TeachersPayTeachers at:

At-Home Activities for Preschoolers #1
At-Home Activities for Preschoolers #2

Thank you for your support, happy learning!

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have an idea of something you’d like for your classroom or library.

Quality Resource: PBS Learning Media

Are you looking for a free online platform designed to improve not only your effectiveness as a teacher but also the achievement of your students? Check out:

PBS Learning Media

As the site states, “PBS LearningMedia provides PreK-12 educators with access to free digital content and professional development opportunities designed to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement. PBS LearningMedia was developed in partnership with the WGBH Educational Foundation and is offered locally by 155 PBS licensees, representing 356 stations in 55 U.S. states and territories.”

Some of my favorite finds thus far:

Waadookodaading: Ojibwe Language Immersion School (checkout for more videos like this one)

What’s the Deal with Fossil Fuels? 

Earth Days: Rachel Carson & Silent Spring

Happy exploring and happy learning!

Your Librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

What Teachers Need to Know About the “Alt-Right”

Looking to learn more about the “Alt-Right”? Teaching Tolerance held a webinar recently that is excellent for those of you trying to get a grasp of what the “alt-right’ is as well as what you can be doing in your classroom in regards to this group. You can access the webinar via the Teaching Tolerance website at:

What Teachers Need to Know about the “Alt-Right”

As a bonus, you do get a certificate to print out certifying your participation. Ask your administration in advance if it can count toward your continuing education credits. In addition, before attending to the webinar, I would highly recommend reading:

What is the “Alt-Right”?: White nationalism has come out of the basement and entered the mainstream. Would you recognize it if it came to your classroom? (Issue 57, Fall 2017) By Cory Collins

This is the article that spurred the creation of the webinar and is highly useful information going into your learning session. The webinar will also give you all the additional resources but I have linked them here as well:

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

Quality Resource: TED Radio Hour

Do you listen to NPR? Have you listened to the TED Radio Hour? Have your students?

Well, this program (along with many, many others) make for a great addition to middle and high school classrooms. If you’re looking for a new homeroom activity, one focusing on current events, or many other topics. Check out the website for archived audio. Then, use the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) website if you want to watch an entire TED talk. Students, just like you, love listening to stories and learning from others (especially when they are experts in their fields).

Just make sure to listen to the content first before sharing!

For one of my recent favorite episodes, check out:

Rethinking School

Happy listening!

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterious Birth of Children’s Books

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books

Bringing you back to the 1700s, Balderdash! illuminates the life of John Newbery. John was a boy growing up in an England without children’s literature, or at least not children’s literature as we know it today. Written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, this is a book that held up to its expectations. It will keep you entertained while also providing you with a healthy amount of new vocabulary, information about book printing in the mid-1700s, and beautiful illustrations to keep your eyes entertained. Check it out at your local library!

I was especially fond of the marbling in the end pages for giving a nod to classic book printing. This is a book that would fit in well with any elementary classroom learning about the John Newbery award, the history of books, or simply wanting an enjoyable, quality picture book to lay their eyes on. Best of all, after the story there is a history of John Newbery, additional information about the books mentioned in the book, and a bibliography including suggested further reading.

While I would read this book to any elementary-aged students, it would be especially fun with upper elementary students given the amount of projects that could accompany the text. Therefore, I’ve made an extension activities packet aimed at students in grades 3-6 including a menu of project-based assessments as well as one-page activities. It’s accessible to you, for free, just for reading this post. These activities would be best for 4th-6th but I have included third because it would fit in well as an enrichment activity for high-achieving learners.

Balderdash PBA & Extras

If you’d like to purchase the resources you can also find it on Teachers Pay Teachers at:

Balderdash! PBA & Extras on TPT

Additionally, Chronicle Books has provided a teacher’s guide filled with activities to complete prior, during, and after reading. Check it out at:

Teacher’s Guide (Common Core Aligned) 

Thank you for reading!

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

Quality Resource: Book Discussion Guidelines

I’ve posted about the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) in the past but want to highlight a specific resource available on their website. The CCBC Book Discussion Guidelines: 

CCBC Book Discussion Guidelines

Ginny Moore Kruse and Kathleen T. Horning
© 1989 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Look at each book for what it is, rather than what it is not.

  1. Make positive comments first. Try to express what you liked about the book and why. (e.g. “The illustrations are a perfect match for the story because….”)
  2. After everyone has had the opportunity to say what they appreciated about the book, you may talk about difficulties you had with a particular aspect of the book. Try to express difficulties as questions, rather than declarative judgments on the book as a whole. (e.g. “Would Max’s dinner really have still been warm?” rather than “That would never happen.”)
  3. Avoid recapping the story or booktalking the book. There is not time for a summary.
  4. Refrain from relating personal anecdotes. The discussion must focus on the book at hand.
  5. Try to compare the book with others on the discussion list, rather than other books by the same author or other books in your experience.

All perspectives and vocabularies are correct.
There is no “right” answer or single correct response.

  1. Listen openly to what is said, rather than who says it.
  2. Respond to the comments of others, rather than merely waiting for an opportunity to share your comments.
  3. Talk with each other, rather than to the discussion facilitator.
  4. Comment to the group as a whole, rather than to someone seated near you.

Whether it’s with elementary students or adults, I’ve found these guidelines to be extremely successful and refer to them often. I find it’s best to have a copy of the guidelines ready for each new attendee of a book discussion group. In addition, reading over the guidelines before the discussion helps to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Helpful hint for schools and libraries: I keep a set of them within sheet protectors of the same three ring binder used to keep track of books so I can easily distribute them before a discussion. This helps keep down the costs of printing and waste by reusing the guidelines.

Happy discussing!

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

Flying Lessons & Other Stories

Looking for a collection of short stories highlighting the lives of 10 diverse characters from 10 different authors yet all sharing the commonality of being an adolescent? Then you need to take a look at Flying Lessons & Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh, cofounder of We Need Diverse Books.

Dedicated to Walter Dean Myers, Flying Lessons & Other Stories includes stories from Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Ellen Oh, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson. From a boy’s love of basketball to a girl becoming a pirate, these stories will captivate readers by giving them a glimpse into the life of someone else doing their best to live an enjoyable life.

I was lucky enough to meet Meg Medina at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena this past week. I asked if I could take a photo of her with my copy of the book thanks to the Los Angeles Public Library. Here’s her pose 🙂

I would recommend this collection to any 6th -8th grader interested in reading a collection of fictional stories that gives them a glimpse into the lives of a diverse group of characters.

The collection would also be fitting within a classroom setting (or after school program). A teacher could have students jigsaw the text and/or pick and choose stories that interested them and discuss those stories with others interested in the same topics. I’ve made a double-sided activity you are welcome to download via the link below that incorporates each of the stories. Readers will need to draw an image that is representative of each story as well as write an essay answering a question related to the collection as a whole.


If you’re interested in supporting the activity financially, it is also available on Teachers Pay Teachers. Thanks in advance if you’re considering its purchase.

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

Teaching about American Indian Peoples

What better way to teach about American Indian Peoples than invite contemporary American Indian Peoples into your classroom?

Teaching Tolerance recently published an article by Dr. Susan Faircloth, an enrolled member of the Coharie Tribe. She calls on educators and school leaders to become more responsive to Native children and families through her article, With and About: Inviting Contemporary American Indian Peoples Into the Classroom (Issue 56, Summer 2017).

An excerpt, “When American Indian parents and families speak out against culturally inappropriate practices and educators are open to the possibility of new ways of teaching, it benefits not only American Indian students but their peers as well. Professional development and training can help educators adopt culturally relevant practices, but—beyond changing the way we teach—this process also requires attitudinal change. One of the easiest ways to change attitudes is to get to know the families we serve, particularly those whose culture(s) may be different than our own. When educators take the time to do this, they find that American Indian families want what all families want: for (in the words of Dr. Debbie Reese [Nambe Pueblo]) “the air [our children] breathe, and the books that [they] read to nurture [them], not hurt them.” We want the schools American Indian children attend and the lessons they learn to nurture and honor them.”

Don’t just read an excerpt though, read the article! Then, share it with your colleagues and friends. Third, work with your school or library to plan curriculum or programming that adopts culturally relevant practices and broadened perspectives. This is an area in which we can all contribute!

A few more shares…

Are you living in the Great Lakes area of the United States and/or Canada? Make sure to check out The Ways to assist you and your students in gaining a better understanding of some of the Native peoples and communities in and around Wisconsin.

Are you specifically interested in critical reviews of children’s literature by or about American Indians? Check out Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature blog or Oyate’s website.

And finally, there is a wonderful piece titled, “Open Letter to Non-Indian Teacher,” that I first read it as part of the first pages of A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. Lucky for you, you can read it via Google Books (pages 8 and 9) or you can buy the book!

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

Teaching about Black Lives Matter

Following up on the previous post about The Hate U Give and text complexity, I wanted to share a few resources I recently came across thanks to Teaching Tolerance. The first gives a history of the beginning, information on the hashtag, myths, criticisms, and a perspective on “All Lives Matter.” The second article gives elementary applications, middle school approaches, and teaching about Black Lives Matter in a High School. But enough of me telling you…read them for yourselves and share with anyone and everyone who may benefit from them:

Why Teaching Black Lives Matter Matters: Part 1 (Issue 56, Summer 2017, by Jamilah Pitts)

An excerpt from Why Teaching Black Lives Matter Matters: “Not all of us are like Thompson; the students who sit in front of us daily are not always directly affected by the killing of unarmed black people or any of the other injustices that plague our nation. But as teachers who function as caretakers, truth-seekers and advocates of justice, we can acknowledge how the threat of justice in one community is, to borrow from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a threat to justice in every community. We have a civic responsibility to be educated about Black Lives Matter and, as we learn, we must teach.”

Bringing Black Lives Matter Into the Classroom: Part 2 (Issue 56, Summer 2017, by Jamilah Pitts)

An excerpt from Bringing Black Lives Matter Into the Classroom: “Teaching about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement allows each of us to chew on multiple injustices simultaneously. We are able to teach not only about racism, its history and its present manifestations, but we also are able to point to solutions and methods of action so our students don’t become disillusioned. When students are overcome with doubt, we can draw parallels to Standing Rock and say to them, “This is how people are fighting for change in spite of the obstacles they are experiencing.” We can talk about sexism and patriarchy, but we can also leverage conversations about sexuality using gender-neutral and affirming language.”

A note on Teaching Tolerance…

Teaching Tolerance is one of the best resources if you’re in the worlds of education and/or libraries. If you’re not already on their list or are unfamiliar with their work, just check them out at:

You can sign up for their newsletter by scrolling to the bottom of the home page. You can sign up for their magazine by visiting:

And when you read the magazines, make sure to keep an eye on their “what we’re reading” section that is a part of each issue. I’ve found some awesome books both for use with students and for professional development by reading through the latest staff picks. Black Lives Matter.

Your Librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez

The Hate U Give

Ever since I finished The Hate U Give, I’ve been meaning to write a post about it. This is an important novel recommended for 8th graders through adults.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, is a complex, relevant novel about 16-year-old Starr Carter who is living in two worlds…her home neighborhood of Garden Heights (mostly Black) and her school neighborhood at Williamson Prep (mostly White). Mimicking contemporary society, Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of unarmed Khalil, her childhood friend, by a white police officer. The media explodes however both the police and journalists lack the information necessary to give an honest portrayal of Khalil. Starr needs to decide if and how she will stand up against the systemic racism present in her life. Grounded in family, friendship, reality, humor, and enjoyable nods to Harry Potter, Angie Thomas gives readers an intimate look into an all-too-familiar reality for far-too-many Americans.

Read the book and check out a few interviews with the author:

NPR Interview

School Library Journal Interview

HarperStacks Interview

The Booklist Reader

After reading, I used TeachingBooks to see the Lexile level and what other resources were available to connect to the text. It may or may not surprise you to learn that this book has a Lexile level of 590L and an ATOS level of 3.9. The Lexile is in the 420L-820L band meaning it is at a 2nd to 3rd grade reading level. Yet, the novel is intended for 7-12th grade students. This contradiction is why I appreciate the way the Common Core determines the complexity of a text.

While the graphics and package may be new. This is not new information to skilled teachers and librarians.

Choosing a text for a reader is more complex than simply matching it to a reader’s level (quantitative). There are three, equally important, factors to consider when choosing a book. The quantitative measure is often connected to computer measurements of readability and provides a number for the text (ex; Lexile, Atos). The qualitative measure is all about the meaning, structure, conventionality, clarity, and knowledge demands. Qualitative measures are best made by human readers (ex: intended audience is 7-12th grade). Finally, the reader and task considerations are all about the background knowledge of the reader, the motivations, interests, and complexity generated by tasks assigned. This measurement is best made by educators and librarians. Putting all these factors together is what makes for great book recommendations.

Head on over to the Teaching Books site ( to see if you’ve got access to this quality resource (and if not, try out the free trial).

Additionally, here are a few extra resources related to The Hate U Give:

Your librarian,

Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez