Posts filed under ‘African-American Authors’

144. Just Us Women by Jeanette Caines

Retell: A niece describes her annual road trip with her favorite aunt.

Topics: road trips, family, freedom, women, bonding

Units of Study: Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: applying past knowledge to new situations, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: I’m beginning a new unit this week–a unit devoted to strengthening my students inference and interpretation skills.  I’m looking for short and engaging texts to read aloud.  This is a great text for modeling how readers can infer a lot of information about a character/relationship from a simple line of text.

February 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

141. Coming On Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson

Retell: Ada Ruth can’t wait for her mom to return home from Chicago.  The story takes place during World War II.  Ada Ruth’s mother has gone North to seek jobs on the railroad.  With help from her grandmother and her new feline friend, Ada Ruth is able to wait patiently for her mom to come on home.

Topics: goodbyes, World War II, Chicago, family, pets, cats, poverty, hunger

Units of Study: Historical Fiction, Talking and Writing About Texts, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best

Reading Skills: inference, prediction, interpretation

Writing Skills: tucking in details about setting, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: This is a great text to read aloud during an Historical Fiction unit.  It’s a useful text for modeling how readers think about symbolism (or alternatively how writers incorporate symbolism).  For example, it would be helpful to point out the meaning of the kitten in the story.  One could read the story without giving much thought about the kitten’s importance.  However, upon closer reading, one could read into the kitten’s significance.  Perhaps the kitten is a symbol that represents Ada Ruth’s hope that her mother will write soon.  Perhaps the kitten symbolizes her loneliness.

January 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm 2 comments

133. The Well by Mildred D. Taylor

Retell: During a drought, the Logan family shares water from their well with anyone who needs it, be they white or black.  Hammer, the narrator’s brother, finds it difficult to share with the Simms family who have tormented the Logans for being black.  After Hammer defends his brother David and beats up Charlie Simms, he and David are forced to work on the Simms’ farm to avoid jail.  Hammer, however, never quite manages to swallow his pride and gets involved in another altercation that causes Charlie to take revenge.

Topics: drought, racism, segregation, bullying, fighting, family

Units of Study: Historical Fiction, Talking and Writing About Texts, Social Issues

Tribes: mutual respect, right to pass, appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: managing impulsivity

Reading Strategies: inference, synthesis, interpretation, envisionment

My Thoughts: I’ve been trying to locate shorter chapter books to read aloud.  I’m finding that some of my favorite chapter books are too long to complete before the end of a unit. The Well is short, only 92 pages and can be completed within a month-long unit.  I think this could be a great book to read if a class is struggling with the issue of revenge.  In this story, Hammer cannot control his temper.  The situation is extremely unfair, and you empathize with Hammer for fighting with Charlie.  But on the other hand, his decision to take revenge led to his family’s well getting poisoned.  It raises the question whether or not it’s better to fight back with violence or fight back in other ways.

November 21, 2009 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

60. In My Momma’s Kitchen by Jerdine Nolen

in my momma's kitchenRetell: This is a heartwarming collection of small moments that all take place in a family’s kitchen:  a daughter receives a music scholarship, children make up stories, women chitchat and a father makes his signature dish.

Topics: family, community, childhood

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: This is a great text to read at different points of the year.  I originally purchased this book thinking it would be a good read aloud for the Personal Narrative unit.  After reading it a second time, I realize that it’s also a great mentor text for the Memoir unit.  Each story is connected by its setting–the kitchen.  Using this text students could try out Nolen’s strategy of thinking of an important place (a room, a park) and write memories associated with that place.  Since this book reads like an anthology of notebook entries, you could use this text when introducing the writer’s notebook.

August 25, 2009 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

25. Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen

hewitt anderson's great big lifeRetell: Hewitt Anderson has it all.  Loving parents, a gorgeous house and fabulous birthday parties.  The only problem is that Hewitt wasn’t the son his parents expected.  Hewitt’s parents, and indeed the entire town, are giants.  This causes a lot of problems but soon they realize that with a few modifications they can still live a ‘normal’ life.

Topics: acceptance, family, giants, differences, size

Units of Study: Fantasy, Character

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: This is a nice twist on “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  When next I teach a Fantasy unit I would like to either read this while immersing students in the genre, or use it as a writing mentor text.  The characters are African-American which students don’t often encounter when reading fantasy or fairy tales.  The language in the book is gorgeous.   Since there are many different words for ‘large’ and ‘small’ throughout the story, one could use this book during a lesson on synonyms.

July 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

21. The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

the skin I'm inRetell: Every day students tease Maleeka Madison.  Whether it be her good grades, her homemade clothes or her dark skin, it seems like the world is against Maleeka.  She does others’ homework in exchange for friendship.  That is until Miss Saunders, a new teacher from the business world, challenges Maleeka to think for herself.

Topics: self-esteem, confidence, body image, race, middle school, peer pressure, money issues, assault, clothing, status, taking a stand, arson, bullying

Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Historical Fiction (Writing), Literary Essay, Talking and Writing About Books

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, right to pass

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, synthesis, making connections

Writing Skills: keeping journals, writing poetry

My Thoughts: This is a fantastic text to read aloud in a middle school classroom.  I’m not sure that I would read the text as a whole to everyone in an upper elementary grade classroom.  I would encourage certain fifth grade book clubs to read and discuss this book.  I plan to read certain sections from this book.  For example, Maleeka keeps a journal which she writes from the perspective of an African girl aboard a slave ship.  There are several scenes throughout the book where Maleeka’s historical fiction writing parallel’s her own life.  This would be a great way to show how writers of historical fiction create characters who struggle with similar issues to their own.  This is an excellent cautionary tale detailing what can happen if you refuse to let others force you into situations that you know are wrong.

July 17, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

4. Neeny Coming, Neeny Going by Karen English

neeny coming, neeny goingRetell: Neeny and her cousin were raised on Daufuskie Island, located off the coast of South Carolina.  Years before, Neeny went back to the mainland to live with her mother.  When Neeny returns to the island, her cousin realizes that Neeny is not the same cousin she grew up with.

Topics: change, family, environmental issues

Units of Study: Social Issues, Character

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, prediction, inference, monitoring for sense, interpretation, making connections

Writing Skills: writing with voice

My Thoughts: This is a great book for the Social Issues unit.  I can imagine a juicy discussion about how much the mainland changed Neeny.  Many of my students travel back to their home countries during vacation.  I think they could make a lot of connections to this book.  I can see using this book as a mentor text for showing how authors write with a distinctive voice.

June 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm 2 comments

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