Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Backyard Book Club: Ellie McDoodle Overview

We had tons of fun at our Backyard Book Club meeting in July! Once again, here's an overview of everything we did. (Click the links below for detailed instructions and more information.)

For this month's meeting, the kids read The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Have Pen, Will Travel. (Click here for the book spotlight with online resources and other ideas.)

We started with a double art activity, learning to draw Ellie (the kids were really good at this!) and learning to keep a sketch journal.

Then it was time for a science activity. We learned how to distinguish between pine, fir and spruce needles, then went on a leaf hunt. This is just a small sample of what we found!

After the leaf hunt, it was game time! There are so many great games in Ellie McDoodle that we just chose a few. We tried Blob Tag, Human Pretzel, Sardines, and Fing Fang Fooey. So fun, and so much energy burned! :) (You can see one of our casualties in this picture.)

Finally, it was snack time. I set bowls of dried fruit, cereal, nuts, and chocolate chips and let everybody make their own bag of trail mix. Then the kids munched and relaxed while they worked on their sketch journals. Another Backyard Book Club success, thanks to these great kids!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Backyard Book Club: Leaf Hunt

During the month of July, our Backyard Book Club read The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Have Pen, Will Travel. One of the thing I loved most about Ellie is that she's an artist, but she's a scientist too. She's always observing, recording, trying new things, and using all this info to really figure out the world around her.

One of the things Ellie pays attention to is the plant life around her. (She's definitely on the lookout for poison ivy!) So our club did a little leaf hunt right in our own backyard! The challenge was to see who could find the most different kinds of leaves.

Before heading out, we discussed different kinds of leaves. We talked about how things like grass and pine needles are actually leaves. We also talked about conifers and how to tell the difference between three main types of conifers using the handy Square Spruce, Flat Fir, Packet Pine trick (on the last page of the linked pdf). In our yard, we have two out of three kinds of conifers, so I challenged the kids to figure out which one we don't have. (And they totally figured it out!)

Look at all the different kinds of leaves they found! I challenged the kids to do the same thing in their own yard or a local park. Leaves would also make a great thing to add to a sketch journal, wouldn't they?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Backyard Book Club: Sketch Journal

During the month of July, our Backyard Book Club read The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Have Pen, Will Travel. So of course we had to learn how to start our own sketch journals!

The first thing we tried was drawing Ellie from the step-by-step instructions in the book. (If you look closely at the photo above, the Ellie on the whiteboard was drawn by my 6-year-old!) The kids concentrated really hard on this! Then we talked about different ways to show emotions when drawing faces with the help of this great guide.

We read How to Keep a Sketch Journal (from the bonus material of the book) and talked about what the kids would want to include in their own sketch journals as well as some really basic drawing techniques (don't start with super-dark lines, look at the shapes in an object, etc.)

Then we handed out tiny notebooks and pencils and let the kids loose! I'm excited to see what they record in their sketch journals.

Check out some of Ruth McNally Barshaw's own sketch journals here. What a great way to keep a record of all your cool experiences! And learn more about how Ruth's sketches turn into the actual illustrations in Ellie books here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Have Pen, Will Travel (Backyard Book Club)

by Ruth McNally Barshaw

From Goodreads: One girl. One sketchbook. One week with the world's most annoying relatives.

When Ellie McDougal's parents go out of town, she's forced to go on a camping trip with her aunt, uncle, cousins, and baby brother, Ben-Ben. Ellie can handle mosquitos and poison ivy, but sharing a cabin with her crazy relatives? No way! From her aunt's many rules to her cousin Eric's constant teasing, Ellie needs her sketchbook to survive this family vacation.

My Two Cents: My kids and I loved Ellie McDoodle! They laughed out loud and begged for more every night. The text and illustrations work perfectly together, and Ellie is such a realistic and relatable character. My kids were crazy about her, even when she was being naughty, and the book gave us lots of opportunities to talk about sibling and family dynamics and having empathy for each other. We'll definitely be reading the rest of the series!

Grade Level: 1-4

Additional Resources:
  • Check out Ruth McNally Barshaw's wonderful website.
  • Learn how to draw different facial expressions like Ellie can.
  • Ellie is good at identifying plants. Go for a nature walk and see how many you can identify! For the ones you can't, find them in an online field guide for plants or trees.
  • Do the Hokey-Pokey (even if it's not Ellie's favorite.)
  • Ellie draws great maps. See if you can draw a map of your room or your house, or make one online.
  • Play blob tag like Ellie, or play one of these other fun tag variations.
  • Ellie and her cousins caught one kind of amphibian and told a story about another kind. What other kinds of animals were in this book? (Dead or alive...)
  • Start keeping your own sketch journal or nature journal! (There are great ideas for how to do this at the back of Ellie McDoodle, too...)

More to Read:
  • Another creative, artistic kid with realistic family relationships: The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Hardraker
  • Another book about a girl getting to know her cousins better on a camping trip: I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson
  • Another story about a kid who likes to doodle and takes a memorable summer trip: My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian
  • Another funny illustrated journal (although I much prefer Ellie): Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Check back in the coming weeks to see what we did for our Ellie McDoodle meeting of the Backyard Book Club!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Backyard Book Club: Ivy + Bean Overview

We had a great time at our first Backyard Book Club meeting! I'm considering it a success, especially since one of the kids requested that we hold book club every day. :)

Here's an overview of everything we did, all in one place! (Click the links below for detailed instructions and more information.)

For this month's meeting, the kids read Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record. (Click here for the book spotlight with online resources and other ideas.)

After weeks of waiting, it was time to meet in person! We did our fossil-making activity first so the plaster could dry before the kids had to go home.

Then it was time for the Excavation Trivia Challenge! The kids loved digging up "artifacts" from the book and figuring out how each one was connected to the story. (Although they never found the M&M's...)

Next, it was time for physical challenges and relay races! We used some of the items we'd excavated to see who could stick the most spoons on their face, which team could carry an M&M in their spoon (and the spoon in their mouth) the fastest, and which kid could blow a berry across the patio with their straw the quickest.

Finally, it was time for refreshments. Just like Ivy and Bean, we enjoyed some banana bread (and some more M&M's) and played until it was time to go home.

Thanks so much, kids and parents, for making our first meeting such a success! And a special shout-out to one amazing mom, Sherie, for baking the banana bread and helping out! Couldn't have done it without you. :)

Have you held your own Backyard Book Club yet? Do you have questions or suggestions for ours? I'd love to hear them!

Check back next week to see what book we've picked for July!