Teacher Book Club: Episode 1

When we started this blog, one of our first ideas was a teacher book club. We’d ask teachers in the same grade from around the country — each in a different size and type of community — to use the same book in their classrooms and report back. They would then see each other’s responses and have the opportunity to share again. So, now we begin.

Two wonderful teachers agreed to be our first bloggers: Lori Howard (Okeechobee, Florida) and Linda Null (St. Louis, Missouri). We sent them copies of Smelly Bill by Daniel Postgate. Below are their initial reports. Next week, we’ll follow-up with both Lori and Linda for their reactions to each other’s experiences and to see if the kids had anything to say after taking their books home. (Update: Second post)

Lori Howard teaches first grade at Central Elementary School in Okeechobee, FL. She team teaches in a bilingual program, so she has two groups of students — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The kids alternate into a Spanish-only classroom for the other half day. Central Elementary School is a public school with 500 students in grades K-4. The city of Okeechobee has approximately 6,000 residents and an additional 34,000 people live in Okeechobee county.

The Lesson: We began the story by reading and discussing the title. The student’s responses were mostly about a dog that smells.  I asked the students if they ever noticed something smelly. Then, the response was much different. Everyone, raised their hand and wanted to talk about smells! When I turned the page and showed them the picture under the title and asked what this picture was about, several students were able to tell me that the tracks are what the dog makes when he’s dirty.  I asked how many students had a dog and only 2 students raised their hands. We discussed good smells that were like a fragrance and bad smells that “reeked.”

We began reading the story. Every time an unfamiliar word came up I stopped and asked questions about it.  Only 1 or 2 students had ever heard of the words or knew what they meant.  The vocabulary words we pulled out of the story included: rubbish, snout, scent, bleach, abolished, reeking, compost, stink, and stank.  We spent several minutes discussing each word as we read the story.  Once the children understood the vocabulary words then I reread the page to them.  When we got to the page of “Great Aunt Bleach,” I questioned the student’s about her suitcase and her white bag with a duster inside. They decided she must be a cleaning lady.  Our discussion about bleach led to the discovery of one student who explained that her mom puts bleach inside their dishwasher.  The twist at the end of the story where Great Aunt Bleach becomes dirty confused some of the students. One asked why she gets dirty and the dog got clean. I asked the students if they would change the end of the story. One of the students said Great Aunt Bleach needed a shower on the last page.   The compost bin got mixed reactions from the students. Many had never heard of putting scraps of food into dirt with worms to digest. One of the students asked how he could make one for his house. That’s a wonderful opportunity to tie into recycling and earth day in the spring.

Teacher Notes: There are many great things about using this book. The vocabulary within the text is my favorite part. I love to teach first graders “BIG” words.  They seem to remember them and get excited when they use them out loud. It is especially hard to find good books to teach vocabulary from.

This book also had great illustrations. It allowed us to talk about the vocabulary as we looked at the pictures. The pictures of Great Aunt Bleach cleaning on the floor allowed us to discuss each of the cleaning items mentioned on the page. A student noticed that she had on “pink” gloves.

This book has an easy to follow rhythm and rhyme on each page. Through the rhyme the students could finish the next sentence as we read the story. The students were so excited to take their book home. I used the vocabulary words from the story as their homework for the week.  I sent a note home with the parents to help the children learn the vocabulary from their perspective.  The students will return each day for the rest of the week with their books to school. We will read and discuss something different each day. We put the vocabulary words on our wall. The students will try and use the words in their writings this month. We love saying “rubbish” now!

Linda Null is a first grade teacher at St. Catherine Labouré Catholic Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri. The school has 500 students in grades K-8. St. Louis. St. Louis has an estimated population of 356,587 and is the principal municipality of Greater St. Louis, population 2,892,874, the largest urban area in Missouri and 15th-largest in the United States.

When I began looking at this book I saw many opportunities to connect it to the first grade curriculum.

Recently our reading series introduced homonyms. We were able to review prey/pray and add scent to cent/sent. We came up with synonyms for rubbish cans, chap, mammoth, and boast. I was able to tie together the story, Communities, to an upcoming visit from a student’s mother who is a veterinarian, to a discussion about pets. We used our Smartboard to make a tally chart (Math) to answer the question: “What kind of pet do you have?” This led to a discussion about how we care for our pets, and how others help us care for our animals. We came up with ideas of things that a dog would enjoy rolling in, which could result in a trip to a groomer for a bath.

We talked about scents verses odors. I asked the class — Do YOU like to clean? Do you know someone who LOVES to clean? Do you enjoy a “clean house” smell? What about the smell of bleach?

After the initial reading we went back through and talked about the rhyming words, the introduction of Great Aunt Bleach, her perfect name and her fun phrases. The class thought Bleach zipping down the clothes line, with her polka dot undies showing, was the funniest.

The students were thrilled when they received their copy of the book! We used Smelly Bill in our English lesson. In our writing journals, we wrote down the title of the book. Then we composed a sentence about the author and the illustrator, who happens to be the same person! Next, the students searched the book for five nouns to write in their journal.

Teacher Book Club: Episode 1

One thought on “Teacher Book Club: Episode 1

  1. Faybay says:

    These teachers are so amazing. Makes me jealous that they were not my teachers 60 years ago. Not that I am biased, but I do hope this blog grows.

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