Have yourself a crafternoon!

It’s winter and we all know what that means—the weather outside is frightful and staying warm is more than delightful. So why not beat cold by hanging out inside and getting busy with your very own crafternoon? And just what is a crafternoon? It’s a super-fun afternoon of simply awesome DIY craft projects. If you’re looking for a great way to entertain stir-crazy kids (or you’re a kid-at-heart that can’t wait to craft), get ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Klutz has some great books to get you started.

Start your own fashion line

Inspired by the new looks for winter? Getting your Project Runway audition prepared? Kick off your crafternoon by channeling your inner designer. Use My Fabulous Look Book to design your own outfits, make-up, hairstyles and accessories to keep in your portfolio. Then bring your vision to life by creating your own jewelry line with Mini Capsters Jewelry and Beaded Bands. Decorate your digits with Brilliant Bead Rings and make those rings pop by perfecting your manicure with Nail Art. For clothing, make super chic, three dimensional fashions—no sewing required—with Fashion Forms. (All books appropriate for ages 8 and up).

Too cold to go to the zoo? Bring the zoo to you!

Ever dream of surrounding yourself with your very own menagerie? Now you can and all it takes are a few simple pipe cleaners. With Twisted Critters it just takes five easy steps and a few pipe cleaners to create cuddly caterpillars, adorable ducks and more. Or you can use some corrugated cardboard to make irresistible creations with Twirly Q’s. Just wind the cardboard strips into coils, press on to the Klutz-custom shaping tool, and assemble with glue. Soon you’ll have a spunky penguin, a plump bunny, or a sweet mouse, to name a few.  You can also make household pets with Fuzzimal puppies. (All books appropriate for Ages 8 and up).

Continue reading Have yourself a crafternoon!


Keyboarding or cursive? A Q/A with Francie Alexander

In response to the great comments we received on the “Is cursive something kids should learn?” post, we thought it would be fun to have Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer of Scholastic, stop by OOM to answer some cursive questions for us!

Have you seen a decline in schools teaching handwriting? In the early grades, I still see a lot of attention to manuscript printing, the handwriting for early education.  However, there’s not the big “I get to do cursive!” when students are in second or third grade as a recognized passage of early childhood education. Continue reading Keyboarding or cursive? A Q/A with Francie Alexander

Common Core links: Social studies, ‘And vs. Or,’ and some tips for parents

The following is a roundup of news and opinions we’ve read about the Common Core State Standards over the last week.

The Council of Great City Schools has released a report on how the biggest school districts have been rolling out the Common Core. There’s some interesting information on how districts are helping teachers get ready.

This History Tech blog highlights some new resources from the National Council for the Social Studies that can help social studies teachers incorporate more literature and reading instruction into the classroom.

A Colorado teacher encourages her colleagues to think less about the “or” in the Common Core debate (either nonfiction “OR” literature), but to think in terms of “AND.”

And lastly, if you’re a parent and are looking for some things you can do to help get your kids ready to meet the Common Core standards, check out the “Parents” section of our new Common Core website.

Build your CHI with a new LEGO book!

Pokemon, Ninjago, Bakugan, Beyblade…

No, I am not writing in a different language, these are all subjects of Official Guides we sell at The Scholastic Store.

These books are really an interesting hybrid. They are fiction but in the format of a non-fiction book. The cool thing, though, is that some of the most reluctant readers DEVOUR them! The subject matter is high interest and there can be some sophisticated reading inside. There are character descriptions, backstories and even pronunciation guides. (This comes in handy when you have to say ‘Spinjitsu’ three times fast!) While kids are learning those interesting facts about special powers, alliances and scary villains, they are also picking up reading skills so there can be a win all around!

The newest guide we have is LEGO Legends of Chima Origins: A Starter Handbook. It’s an introduction to LEGO’s newest world, Chima. Like Ninjago, it’s full of action and magic. In Chima, there are tribes of animals vying for control of Chima and the mysterious force called CHI. Continue reading Build your CHI with a new LEGO book!

5 questions with our intern, Erin!

We’re thrilled to have a new crackerjack intern here in the Corporate Communications team! Her name is Erin Williams and she’s joining us from Seton Hall, where she’s working towards a BA in Journalism and a minor in Diplomacy. We’re impressed.

As we do with all of our interns, we asked her five questions so our readers can get to know her a little better. Let’s see what she has to say! Continue reading 5 questions with our intern, Erin!

Do you have a literary best friend?

Jo, Beth, Amy, or Meg?

Last night I was reading a creepy, haunting book on my subway ride home — it was so scary, and so real, that I walked home covered in a layer of fear, as though the book were real, and all the ghost-y things were happening not to the characters, but to me.

When a book is good, it feels real. And the same is true with literary characters — when they’re written so well, they feel like actual people. And sometimes, our favorites are just the friends we need.

Do you have a literary best friend? I asked all the OOMers who there’s would be. (You know, if they were real.) Here’s what they said:

  • Megan: Jo from Little Women. She’s got spunk. (“Though she makes her sisters dress up as men, which I’m not that excited about,” says Megan.)
  • Michael: It’s a toss-up between Neville Longbottom (from the Harry Potter series), Meg Murry (from A Wrinkle in Time), or Marley Sandelski (from Lisa Yee’s Warp Speed). Neville because of his loyalty and bravery; Meg for showing those same qualities; and Marley for geeking out on Star Trek!
  • Alex: Willy Wonka. Because CHOCOLATE.
  • Dante: Encyclopedia Brown for being smart, cool, and taking down bullies, or Jay Gatsby, because PARTIES.
  • Lauren: the Wakefield twins! Elizabeth is the perfect bestie to have for studying and hosting book clubs, but Jessica is the best for hanging out at the mall.
  • Nadia: all of the members of The Baby-sitters Club, because they’re fun, loyal, trustworthy girls — just what every pre-teen needs.

I definitely have some literary besties, too. Ellen Olenska from The Age of Innocence for her world experience and empathy; Rachel and Hilary from Dancing Shoes for their thoughtfulness and deep sisterly love; and Massie Block from The Clique series (because everyone needs a frenemy). How about you?



The power of words

When poet Richard Blanco took the stage at President Obama’s inauguration last week, it was a momentous occasion. For one thing, Blanco is Latino and gay, not exactly a typical guest of honor at a presidential inauguration.

Here was the immigrant son of working-class Cuban exiles, an openly gay man, celebrating a people united “under one sky,” while the second term of the nation’s first African-American President dawned.

Would poet Langston Hughes even recognize the place? I think he might. In his 1935 poem, “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes wrote:

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

Hughes, who died in 1967, encountered racial prejudice throughout his life. Yet he was lauded as one of the most important writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Blanco, by contrast, worked anonymously as a civil engineer while publishing three collections of poetry.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that poets toil in obscurity,” writes Eric Sasson in a Wall Street Journal blog. “You can probably count the number of ‘household name’ living poets in the United States on one hand. (Perhaps just two fingers: Billy Collins and Maya Angelou.)”

Why does America give so little attention to its poets? You could pose that question to your students as you explore this wonderful New York Times lesson, “Reading ‘One Today’ and Other Inaugural Poems.” It comes from Carol Jago, a distinguished English teacher, author, and editor. Jago’s lesson presents a great opportunity for middle and high school teachers implementing the Common Core to go beyond the sample texts in Appendix B with contemporary, relevant poetry.

When reading the last lines of Blanco’s poem, challenge your students not just to learn to decode poetry—but also to write it:

hope—a new constellation

waiting for us to map it,

waiting for us to name it—together.

Why do the words of a poet—or a novelist or an essayist—matter? They have power. “You could see it in the faces of the people,” Sasson writes, “as the camera panned across them: Richard’s words were moving them. And this is why most of us write: to connect with others, to attempt, in however small or personal a way, to illuminate the human condition.”

Image via Photo Phiend