How to Code a Sandcastle Lesson Activity

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How to Code a Sandcastle Summary

Are you teaching learners how to code? If so, you must add How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk to your lesson plans. A young girl, by the name of Pearl, narrates the thought process behind coding.  She begins by introducing her robot friend, Pascal. Readers will see how Pearl directs the robot to build the perfect sandcastle. Terms like “loop” and “sequence” are defined with appealing illustrations. A “Guide to Coding” at the end of the book further defines coding terms.

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How to Code a Sandcastle Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Create V.B.1: Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection by problem solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection.

  • Ask learners the following questions while reading How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk:
    • What big problem did Pearl want to solve? (pg. 5)
    • What does a coder do? (pg. 6)
    • What small problems does Pearl solve? (pg. 7-24)
  • Engage learners by asking if they would like to create code to make a robot to move.
  • Model how to find the “Star Wars” page on (
  • Demonstrate how to navigate through the tutorial.
  • Point out the “</> Show Code” tab so learners can see what code looks like.
  • Invite learners to explore the Star Wars coding activity.

Check out, and consider starting a club in your library!

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I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About A Simple Act of Kindness Lesson

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I Walk With Vanessa Summary

I Walk With Vanessa is wordless book that provokes a conversation about racism. The story begins with a Black girl moving boxes into her new home with her family. Her name is Vanessa. Readers follow Vanessa as she starts her first day of school where everyone ignores her. As she walks home from school, a white boy starts yelling and pointing at her. We can see how scared and upset Vanessa is by this confrontation. A girl of color witnesses this act of aggression. She is shocked and saddened about what happened. After pondering for some time, she comes up with a brilliant plan that is sure to make Vanessa feel better. The wordless platform encourages readers to talk about disrupting racism.

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I Walk With Vanessa Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Create II.B.1 Learners adjust their awareness of the global learning community by interacting with learners who reflect a range of perspectives.

  • Introduce the story by asking learners to look at the cover and read the title. Ask what they can expect to learn from the book.
  • Explain that this is a wordless story, so they will need to look closely at the illustrations and think about what is happening.
  • Ask the following questions as you read the story:
    • What is happening on this page? (title page)
    • What do you notice about Vanessa? (title page)
    • How is Vanessa feeling about being in a new class? How do you know? (pages 1-2)
    • Why do you think the children aren’t including her? How do you know this? (pages 1-4)
    • Why do you suppose the white boy yelling at Vanessa? What makes you think so? (pages 5-6)
    • How is the girl on this page feeling about the boy yelling at Vanessa? (pages 7-8)
    • What is the girl saying to her friends? How do the friends feel about it? (pages 11-12)
    • What do you suppose the girl is thinking about? (pages 13-18).
    • What do you think the girl is saying to Vanessa? (pages 19-20)
    • How does Vanessa feel now? How do you know? (pages 23-28)
  • Invite learners to imagine they are in the pages of the book, watching the boy yell at Vanessa. What would they do in the story? What would they do in real life if they saw someone hurting another person with words or actions?
  • Read more books featuring a protagonist that is treated unfairly because of their race, culture or identity. Learn how the protagonist overcame the injustice. Create an “I can fight injustice by…” poster

Feeling Uncomfortable Talking About Race?

I urge you to follow Liz Kleinrock. She is an antibias antiracist educator. Watch her TedTalk, follow her social media, take her courses, and read her book. Her work will expand your minds and your hearts.

Visit the Learning for Justice website for resources and professional development opportunities. Learning for Justice is an AASL Best Digital Tool for Teaching and Learning.


When looking for books about racism, find books that demonstrate what racism in America looks like today. That way, learners will understand that racism is still happening and not just an atrocity of the past. Take a look at the book resources on

This lesson activity for I Walk With Vanessa supports the Include Shared Foundation. Click here for more lesson activities in this category.

My Books

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All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff

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All That Trash Summary

What would you do if you had to get rid of 3,186 tons of trash? This was a problem that Lowell Harrelson thought he could handle. He rented a barge, loaded it with trash from New York City and Long Island, and shipped it to North Carolina. He had an innovative plan for the trash once it reached land, but NC refused the delivery. What was Harrelson to do?
In All That Trash by Meghan McCarthy, we learn about the true story of trash that traveled for two months. McCarthy does an exceptional job making this piece of history fascinating. Readers will enjoy the illustrations that enrich the engaging storyline. Information and pictures at the end of the book answer questions readers may have about the news event.

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Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Curate/Create IV.B.1 Learners gather information appropriate to the task by seeking a variety of sources.

  • Invite learners to ask questions they have about the trash business. Record questions on chart paper.
  • Divide learners into groups to find answers to their questions using books and online resources.
  • Ask learners to share an interesting resource and describe it. Model how to record their ideas with Synth, a podcasting tool learners can contribute to.

My Books

If you like the lesson ideas on this blog, you might want to check out my books!

I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will receive a small percentage of your purchase.

Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter To Our Planet Lesson Activity

Cover of the book Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre. This is a promotional image for a lesson activity based on this book.

Thank You Earth Summary

Think of a time when your whole being fully appreciated nature. What did you see? What did you hear? In Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter To Our Planet, we see incredible images of our beautiful home. Gorgeous photos of plants, animals and landscapes support the story told in poetic form. The message of appreciating Earth will inspire readers. Resources and ideas to make a difference are included at the end of the book.

A page from Thank You, Earth is featured in this image to engage readers in the lesson activity. Snowcapped mountains in the background and red clay rocks in the foreground.

Thank You Earth Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.A.3 Engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.

  • Read the story and simply appreciate the pictures and the poetic storyline.
  • Ask learners to share what gifts of nature they are thankful for.
  • Explain that they will write and publish a love letter to Earth for this lesson activity. They will use the Book Creator app (an AASL Best Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning) to craft their pages.
  • Model how to use the tools in Book Creator to write an electronic book. Learners can go outside and draw pictures or take photos of nature with the app. They can use the text feature to write about what they see or the audio feature to talk about their sightings. Compile their pages to make one book.
  • Share the book with one of the organizations mentioned at the end of the book.

Author April Pulley Sayre has quite a way with words. Readers will be inspired to read more of her books. Be sure to have a collection ready for check-out. Click here to watch Sayre read some of her books.

Pair this lesson with Earth Hour: A Lights-Out Event for Our Planet by Nanette Heffernan and Bao Luu.

My Books

If you like the lesson ideas on this blog, you might want to check out my books!

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A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights

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A Lady Has the Floor Summary

Did you know there was a time when girls were not allowed to speak in front of an audience at school? During the mid 1800’s, Belva Lockwood saw this happening and knew it was wrong. She decided to end this oppression by teaching public speaking courses to girls.

There were other injustices, too, and Belva was not going to stand by and let them happen. When someone told her “no” because she was a woman, she kept persisting until she heard “yes”. When she was not allowed to vote, Belva campaigned and ran for president.

This fascinating story will appeal to all readers as they learn a lesson in speaking up for what’s right. Belva Lockwood’s example in determination inspires readers to persevere when faced with opposition.

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A Lady Has the Floor Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Create II.A.2 Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by adopting a discerning stance toward points of view and opinions expressed in information resources and learning products. 

  • Ask learners to think of a time when they saw something that wasn’t fair. What happened? Were they able to voice their opinion?
  • Introduce the story. Invite learners to raise their hand when they hear something that is unfair. Ask what makes it unfair. Welcome different points of view.
  • Ask, “I wonder if you encounter unfairness at school?” Ask learners to respond by writing unjust scenarios on sticky notes. Collect the notes and read some to the group. Brainstorm ideas to fix problematic situations.
  • Consider grouping students. Give each group one problem to discuss and solve. Students can act out a scene for the class to observe.

Enrich learning with primary resources. Read Pairing Picture Books and Primary Sources: A Lady Has the Floor by Tom Bober. This Knowledge Quest blog post is full of great ideas!

My Books

If you like the lesson ideas on this blog, you might want to check out my books!

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Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer

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Ada Lovelace Poet of Science Summary

Where does creativity come from? Steve Jobs once said it evolves from “connecting things.” The story of Ada Lovelace supports this idea. Energized by a curious imagination as a child, Ada designed fantastic creations. Her mother worried about Ada’s wild notions and sent her to school to study science. Ada thrived at the school. She was especially interested in learning about machines. One machine in particular caught her eye; the loom. Punch cards full of holes told the machine what to do, and this fascinated Ada. She wanted to apply this technology to create something new. One day, she did. She wrote the first computer program.

This is the perfect book to introduce computer programming. The fanciful illustrations work well with the enjoyable narrative to describe the technology. Readers will appreciate this story and remember Ada Lovelace’s contribution to programming.

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Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Share V.C.1 Learners engage with the learning community by expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

  • Explain that code tells a computer what to do. Everything they see on a website or a game was created by code. The placement of the paragraphs, the flash of a video, the size of an image is all made with code.
  • Show learners what code looks like. Find a favorite website and view the websites source code. Learn how to do this by reading How to Read Your Website Source Code and Why It’s Important for SEO.
  • Invite learners to share what they notice about the source code.
  • Watch What Most Schools Don’t Teach to inspire coding. Show learners the code for the video by clicking the share button on the bottom right hand side. Explain that people use that code to embed the video on their websites or blogs.
  • Ask if they would like to give coding a try.
  • Go to and model how to find courses that are just right for their age group.
  • Assess learning by asking what fascinated them the most about what they learned about coding.

Web Resources:

How to Read Your Website Source Code and Why It’s Important for SEO

Steve Jobs: The Next Insanely Great Thing (

What Most Schools Don’t Teach (

My Books

If you like the lesson ideas on this blog, you might want to check out my books!

I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will receive a small percentage of your purchase.

Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs

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Walking in the City with Jane Summary

When was the last time you paid attention to the activities in your town? What did you notice? What did you appreciate? Jane Jacobs, an author and an activist, was fascinated by the intricacies of city life. As a child, she wondered how cities sustained daily activity. She had questions about man holes, sewer systems and street design. Jacobs loved her neighborhood, and when city planners threatened to tear down her community to build a highway, she protested. She wrote letters and involved neighbors to challenge the plan. She made a difference. The highway was never built.

Jane Jacob’s story will compel readers to take a new interest in their neighborhoods. What do they appreciate about their town? How can they stay informed about proposals? Prepare learners to get involved by trying the lesson below.

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Walking in the City with Jane Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Share II.C.1 Learners exhibit empathy with and tolerance for diverse ideas by engaging in informed conversation and active debate.

  • Introduce the story by asking learners what it takes to make a difference. Write responses on chart paper.
  • Explain that you are going to read a story about a woman who made a difference in her community. Their job is to notice what she did. Compare her actions with the traits listed on the chart paper.
  • Ask learners what they love about their community. Read a local news article or minutes from the latest town meeting to spark debate. Ask learners what they think about the proposed changes. Do they like the idea? Why or why not? What questions do they have about the proposal?
  • Gather questions for further research and consider inviting guest speakers to answer questions.
  • Prepare learners for a debate by giving them time to research and discuss the topic. Learners will state their position and support their ideas with detailed points. They will ask questions and respond to ideas they hear during the discussion.
  • End the lesson by asking learners if their position changed after the discussion. Reflect on the importance of sharing ideas and being open to hearing opposing points of view.

There’s a Jane Jacobs doll! Click on this link to purchase one for your book display!

My Books

If you like the lesson ideas on this blog, you might want to check out my books!

I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will receive a small percentage of your purchase.

Let the Children March Lesson Activity



It’s eerie to think that Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison was published two months before the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.

The stories are the same; courageous children taking monumental risks to draw attention to atrocities.

This powerful story, illustrated with remarkable images, will inspire readers to make a difference. The Afterword provides ideas to encourage children to volunteer and learn more about important topics.

Illustrator Frank Morrison is extremely talented at illuminating the feelings of each character in the story. We clearly see worry, pain, fear, satisfaction, courage and pride in the facial expressions of the characters.

The back matter includes images of children being arrested and sprayed by a powerful hose.

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Let the Children March Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Share III.C.2 Learners work productively with others to solve problems by involving diverse perspectives in their own inquiry processes.

Pair Let the Children March with I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët. Read both stories. Compare and contrast the problems and solutions presented in both stories. How are they the same? How are they different?

Discuss injustices that learners experienced. Explain that people stand up to racism in different ways. Brainstorm ideas on different ways to stand up for what is fair.

More Lesson Activities

This lesson activity for Let the Children March supports the Collaborate Shared Foundation in the AASL Standards. If you are looking for more lesson activities that support the Collaborate Shared Foundation, click on this link.

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Where’s Rodney? Lesson Activity

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Where’s Rodney Summary

Rodney can’t sit still in class. His curiosity about the natural world draws his focus to the window to see birds, bugs and dogs. The outside world fascinates him. Being in school does not. His classmates laugh at Rodney when he fools around. His teacher can only sigh with resignation. But when Rodney visits a park during a school field trip, he is finally in a classroom that feels right. The realistic illustrations add movement to the story, inviting us to see an intimate side of Rodney with close-up images. Where’s Rodney? is a story we can all connect with because we all know someone who itching to get outside.

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Where’s Rodney Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Create III.B.2 Learners participate in personal, social, and intellectual networks by establishing connections with other learners to build on their own prior knowledge and create new knowledge.

  • Invite learners to imagine what school would be like if classes were held outside. What could they learn from the outdoors?
  • Challenge learners to write a lesson plan for Rodney. The creative constraints are as follows:
    • The lesson will take place outside.
    • There is no Internet.
    • The lesson must contain a learning outcome, a list of materials and a way to assess learning.
  • Divide learners into collaborative groups. Facilitate the conversation by asking learners to consider what is important to learn in school. How can they learn these skills in nature? Encourage all learners to share their ideas.
  • Welcome groups to present their lesson ideas when they finish.

Fun Fact

Traditional schooling was not a good fit for Ansel Adams. His father pulled him out of school and the let the world be his new classroom. He spent most of his time playing the piano and taking pictures of nature.

Pair Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, a Life in Nature with Where’s Rodney? Compare and contrast the stories of the two boys.

My Books

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The Field Lesson Activity

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The Field Summary

What does a pick-up game of soccer look like in your neighborhood? Where do the children play? What sounds do you hear? In The Field, by Baptiste Paul, the reader has a front row seat to watch an exciting game that takes place on a Caribbean island. Extraordinary action shots from different vantage points illustrate the story. You’ll watch the game from the top of a hill and behind large tropical leaves. A double page spread brings you close to the action where the players look like they could skid out of the book. Each illustration compels readers to wonder about the setting. Where do the players live? Why are the children playing around farm animals? Why are some houses on stilts? What materials did they use to make the soccer goal? Readers will also ask questions about the Creole words tucked in throughout the story. A guide at the end of the book offers the translations. Children who love sports and free play of any kind will enjoy this book. Curious learners will appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Saint Lucia, the Creole language, and soccer. Enjoy the book trailer.

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The Field Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Think 1.A.1 Learners display curiosity and initiative by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.

  • Ask learners what questions they have about the illustrations and dialogue as you read the story. Record answers on an anchor chart.
  • Model how to find answers to their questions using books, databases, and online resources.
  • Enrich learning by asking students to create a Venn Diagram that illustrates the similarities and differences between a local pick-up game of soccer and a game in Saint Lucia. The circles in the diagram can take the shape of a soccer ball.
  • Watch this unforgettable TMB Panyee FC short film to learn about a remarkable group of boys in Thailand who love soccer. They solve a problem by creating an interesting space to play.
  • Add a third circle to the Venn Diagram to compare and contrast soccer in Thailand with soccer that is close by and in Saint Lucia.

Mentioned Resources

Paul, Baptiste. 2018. The Field. United States: NorthSouth Books Inc.

“The Field” by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jackie Alcantara (

TMB Panyee FC short film (

My Books

If you like the lesson ideas on this blog, you might want to check out my books!

I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will receive a small percentage of your purchase.

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