Gordon Tanner

Early Years Educator

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This portfolio is a work in progress, as I gather together the lesson plans and the student work from my placements.

English Language Arts

In our writer's workshop at Riverbend School we felt the need for a tool to help students plan out their next story. I created these storyboard worksheets as an organizational tool to help students visualize their stories before they started "writing".

I am a strong believer in reading aloud to students at every opportunity. Research shows that children who are read to regularly stand a much greater chance of developing positive attitudes toward reading, and become avid readers later in life. Below are a collection of Read Aloud lesson plans for various grade levels, click on the link below to view them.

David's Father - Read Aloud

by Robert Munsch illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Grade: Kindergarten

Summary: “David's Father” is the story of the time Julie met the new family that moved in on her street. She knows something isn't normal when she sees the giant sized kitchen utensils being carried in from the moving van. But when she meets David, a boy her own age, he seems completely normal so she agrees to play at his house. But when she meets his father she realizes that this is in her idea of a normal family at all. Through the course of their adventures together Julie discovers that "normal" is all a matter of perspective.

Rationale: I chose this book for two reasons. First, Robert Munsch books are always fun to read, and they're full of kooky action and characters that kids can relate to. Second, this story allows the opportunity to discuss differences, expectations, and finding common ground.


  • Solve Words
  • Figurative Language – Similes and Metaphors
  • Connections (self to world) – meeting new/different people
  • Visualizing & Representing
  • Analyzing Character Traits & Changes – Julie's change of heart.

Follow Up/Activities/Cross-curricular

  • Giants in other literature (fairy tales)
  • Discuss other differences that kids have encountered or might encounter when someone new comes to their class.
  • Social Studies: Food/traditions of different cultures.

I Loathe You - Read Aloud

written and illustrated by David Slonim

Grade: 1

Summary: “I Loathe You” is the traditional parent child, "I love you this much" story told from the point of view of monsters. So love becomes loathe, and all of the traditional images of love and tenderness are replaced with images both gross and unpleasant. And these, of course, are all the things that Little Monster wants to hear.

Rationale: I chose this book for grade 1 because of the fun language and great pictures, but primarily because of the inverted logic, which gives the opportunity to discuss perspective, difference and sameness. This story ties in nicely with the “Single Story” concept presented in Chimamanda Adichie's Ted Talk. We all know that monsters are horrible, and scary, and utterly unlike us. But in this story, even though the monsters are saying “loathe” and describing things we all think of (see how I just said “all”? It's insidious) as gross and unpleasant, what they are describing is an emotion that we can relate to, which is love. They just have a different way of expressing it. Also teaches the concept of unconditional loathing (or loving).


  • Solve Words: loathe,sheepishly, brute
  • Point of view/Perspective: How does POV differ from human?
  • Figurative Language – Similes: “As much as...” is a gentle introduction to similes – rhyming words.
  • Connections (self/world)

Follow Up & Activities:

  • Lists of “loathable” things, draw them!
  • What are other pairings of “opposite emotions”?
  • Compare and contrast to “Guess How Much I Love You?” by Sam McBratney

Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back - Read Aloud

written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein

Grade: 3

Summary: “Lafcadio” is the story of a young lion named Grrrm, or Mrrph, or something like that who does not run away when his pride is attacked by a group of hunters. Instead, he stands his ground, faces (and eventually eats) the hunters, and coming into possession of a rifle, begins an adventure he could not possibly have foreseen. He becomes the best sharpshooter in the world, abandons the lions, and runs away to join the circus. Life as a world famous sharpshooter is very different than life in the jungle, and soon Lafcadio (his new name) learns all about baths and barbershops, limousines and elevators, and most importantly: marshmallows. Lafcadio embraces all of the things that come his way, and eventually becomes more like a human than a lion. While he seems successful and happy on the outside, something isn't right for Lafacadio on the inside, as he feels he no longer fits in with the lions, and he is also definitely not a human. As Lafcadio observes when Uncle Shelby tells him he has everything, “Everything isn't everything!”

Rationale: I chose this book for a grade three read-aloud as what might be a first book that doesn't have a simple, straightforward “message”. It is complex, but in a way that a grade three can begin to understand. What does it mean to “be yourself”? What does it mean to be unhappy even though you got what you thought you wanted? Why do people want things? Because other people tell them they should, or for more meaningful, personal reason? These are great “deep thinking” questions. In addition, Shel Silverstein's use of language is so delightful and inventive, there are countless language strategies available.


  • Figurative Language: Similes and Metaphors, rhyming, made-up words
  • Solve words: Silverstein has a large vocabulary, with lots of opportunities for solving words from contexts and roots
  • Point of View & Voice: Who is the narrator? How is he connected to Lafcadio?
  • Connections (self/world) – think about a time we got something we wanted, and it didn't make us happy.
  • Visualizing & Representing: What does a marshmallow suit look like?
  • Analyzing Character Traits & Changes – Lafacadio's character journey.

Follow Up & Activities:

  • I would like to be “The World's Greatest...”
  • Marshmallow science
  • Learn about lions. Habitat, traits, captivity.

The Twits - Read Aloud

by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake

Grade: 4

Summary: As is often the case in Roald Dahl's books, the grown-ups are truly awful human beings. The Twits are a hideous, vindictive, spiteful couple who continuously play the most mean spirited practical jokes imaginable on each other, out of pure hatred. They have a caged family of monkeys, whom they treat abysmally, and they regularly capture birds by spreading glue the branches of a nearby dead tree. The monkeys try to warn the birds but because they are from Africa and don't speak English, the birds are unable to understand them and continue to be trapped. But when the Roly-Poly bird arrives from Africa, and is able to translate, the tables are turned. Together, the animals come up with a brilliant plan to achieve their own freedom and finally have revenge on the horrible, horrible Twits.

Rationale: I chose this book for grade four partly because I love everything Roald Dahl ever wrote, the stories are pure works a very powerful imagination. And as in all Roald Dahl books, there are some terrible, terrible (terrible)terrible grown-ups. The cooperation between the monkeys and birds gives the opportunity to discuss cooperation, and how together we can achieve things we could not achieve alone. Also, I was intrigued to read that the impetus for writing the book came from a single line in Roald Dahl's notebook, "do something against beards". This gives a great launching point for talking about how a single idea can lead us in directions we never would have imagined.


  • Figurative Language – Similes and Metaphors
  • Connections (self/world): What is a time you have witnessed or experienced being treated badly? What did you do?
  • Analyzing Character Traits & Changes: Do the Twits change during the course of the story? The monkeys? The birds?
  • Predicting: When characters in the story “come up with a plan”,can we predict what those plans are? What clues can we use?
  • Evaluating: Even though the Twits are extemely exaggerated, do they represnt types of people who actually exist?

Follow Up/Activities/Cross-Curricular

  • Art: Make and wear “Mr. Twit” beards
  • Science: Study adhesives, is there glue as strong as “Hugtight”?
  • Social Studies: distance and migration routes between Africa and England.


Below is a link to a thematic cross-curricular Math unit designed created for Early Years Math Methods. It incorporates subject area material from the ELA, Science and Social Studies curricula.

Below is a link to a math lesson for the great math book Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar

Math Book Take Home Bag

At Riverbend School we worked on Arrays. Students brought in their precious collections from home, and as a class we worked on how many different arrays (or "groups of") we could make with each one. Students wrote about their collections and shared their collecitons and their writing with the rest of the class.


Below are lessons and units from my placements and from university coursesunpacking various aspects of the science curriculum. I love Science, and find it easy to get kids excited about experiments and design challenges.

Our unit on the Five Senses began with a game of "What's in the Box?" Where what was in the box was a hot air popcorn maker, and the class had to use their senses (other than sight) to determine what was in the box. This led to a great discussion about how our senses provide us with the information we need to survive, and was a fun start to the unit!

In our writer's workshop at Riverbend School we felt the need for a tool to help students plan out their next story. I created these storyboard worksheets as an organizational tool to help students visualize their stories before they started "writing".

Social Studies

Below are a selection of Social Studies projects I've worked on. Some at University, some during my field placements.