Posts filed under ‘nonfiction’

147. Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela S. Turner

Retell: Everyday Hachiko accompanies his owner,  Dr. Ueno to Shibuya Station and patiently awaits his return.  When Dr. Ueno doesn’t return one day Hachiko continues to wait at the station…for ten years.

Topics:  dogs, Japan, loss, loyalty, Tokyo

Units of Study:  Nonfiction, Memoir

Tribes:  mutual respect, appreciations/no put downs

Habits of Mind:  persistence

Writing Skills:  using imagery, describing setting details

My Thoughts:  A colleague of mine gave me this book as a gift knowing my connection with Japan.  I taught in Japan for three years.  Last summer when I visited Japan again I took a trip to Shibuya Station and learned about the story of Hachiko.

I’m not sure if I’d be able to read this book out loud to my class without crying, or making someone else cry.  It’s such a beautiful book though.  I can see using this as a mentor text for showing how writers describe the setting.  Many of my students have difficulty describing anything but the weather.  This text shows how a writer takes time to describe the ‘action’ of the setting–the movement of the crowd, the clothes the people are wearing, etc.

June 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment

143. Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

Retell: Through a worm’s diary the reader learns about the ups and downs of being an earthworm.

Topics: earthworms, diaries, composting, differences, predators, soil

Units of Study: Content Area, Nonfiction

Habits of Mind: Finding Humor

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, synthesis

My Thoughts: My class has just started a study on earthworms.  Before read aloud each day we check on our worms working hard in our new worm compost bin.  Students are bringing food scraps from their lunches (one student even brought coffee grounds from home).  A colleague of mine referred me to this adorable book that allows readers to look at the world through the humorous perspective of a young earthworm.  I think this book will make an excellent mentor text for students who are deciding to write narrative nonfiction pieces.  It’s a great text for teaching readers to be on the look out for jokes and for teaching writers how to incorporate humor into their writing.

January 31, 2010 at 8:02 pm 1 comment

142. Heroes of the Revolution by David A. Adler

Retell: Heroes of the Revolution presents the stories of 12 people who risked their lives for American independence.

Topics: heroes, spies, bravery, independence, war, revolution, Ethan Allen, Crispus Attucks, Lydia Darragh, Nathan Hale, Molly Pitcher, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Thomas Paine, Paul Revere, Haym Salomon, Deborah Sampson, George Washington

Units: Content Area, Nonfiction

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: interpretation, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: What makes this a great read aloud is that the stories of each hero are quite short.  They make both great read aloud and shared reading texts.  Adler attempts to include stories from people other than just the white male heroes.  Throughout the book you not only learn about what made each person important but each story tells the origin of famous quotes associated with the Revolution.  You will hear the origin of such famous quotes as: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” “Times that try men’s souls,” “I have not yet begun to fight!”

January 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

140. When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz

Retell: A Lenape Indian girl describes how her family has worked, played and celebrated throughout the seasons and throughout the generations.

Topics: Lenni Lenape, generations, past, present, cycles, family, seasons, farming, nature

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, interpretation, synthesis

My Thoughts: This is a great text to support a Social Studies unit on the Lenni Lenape.  In this book, the illustrations really tell the story and support interpretation work.  The narration is illustrated on the right hand pages:  A modern Lenape family farms, weatherizes their house to prepare for winter, fishes for shad, and plays games in the snow.  On the left hand pages, a Lenape family from the past do the same activities.

December 13, 2009 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

138. Jose! Born to Dance by Susanna Reich

Retell: This is the story of Jose Limon, who left his family to move to New York.  Frustrated by his poor artistic talent he fell in love with dance and worked to become a famous dancer and choreographer.

Topics: dance, war, family, Mexico, immigration, art, music, English, Spanish, death, New York, California

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put-downs, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: synthesis, monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using sound effects, zooming in on a small moment

My Thoughts: This text has multiple teaching purposes.  It’s a great text for introducing or reinforcing the habit of mind–persistence.  There are many moments in the story when Jose persists.  He struggles to learn English but persists despite his cruel classmates.  He is determined to become a dancer and shows persistence each day during rehearsal despite sore, aching muscles.  During the read aloud we can hope that students understand that successful people, no matter what their focus, work hard and persist, even when they face adversity.

December 5, 2009 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

135. Presidential Pets by Laura Driscoll

Retell: A history of presidents and their beloved pets.

Topics: pets, presidents, fun, friendship, dogs, Obama, Bo, family

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Reading Skills: synthesis, making connections, interpretation

Writing Skills: developing voice in nonfiction

My Thoughts: I picked this book up a few days ago at our school’s book fair.  I have a lot of animal lovers in my class who only read nonfiction about animals.  This book combines an interest in animals with an interest in presidential history and current events.  It’s a nice book for demonstrating how readers can often get distracted by seductive details but must work constantly to think about what the author is trying to say about the topic.

November 23, 2009 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

132. The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George

the first thanksgivingRetell: The story of the first Thanksgiving which addresses some former misconceptions.

Topics: Thanksgiving, Cape Cod, Plymouth Rock, Pawtuxets, slavery, Squanto, Puritans, Mayflower, survival, death, cooperation, farming

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: When I was a kid, I learned about how the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.  They toiled through the winter and many people died.  I learned how Squanto helped the Pilgrims plant corn, beans and squash and as a gesture of peace, the Native Americans and the Pilgrims sat together to celebrate the harvest.  What I didn’t learn until I read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen is how Squanto came to learn English–he had been a slave in London.  Several years before the Pilgrims arrival, Squanto had been tricked onto a boat headed for Spain.  He was purchased by a merchant ship owner from London.  Squanto eventually sailed back to the village that he had been stolen from only to find that his entire village had died from smallpox!

This book attempts to tell the story of the first Thanksgiving without glossing over the contributions of the Wampanoag and of Squanto.  I plan on reading this during the few days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.  I also think I want to reread it during our Social Issues unit.

November 15, 2009 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

131. Apple Country by Denise Willi

apple countryRetell: A look into the history of apple-growing in the United States.

Topics: apples, orchards, colonists, Johnny Appleseed, farmers, packing plants, processing plants

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area, Journalism

Reading Skills: determining importance, synthesis, monitoring for sense

My Thoughts: This is a great book for teaching students how to effectively read and synthesize text features.  There are many text features within the book:  a flowchart, an interview, a table, a map, illustrations with captions, etc.  It’s a particularly nice read aloud for New York 4th graders because it ties in natural resources of New York State and Colonial history.

November 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

130. Planet Earth/Inside Out by Gail Gibbons

planet earth_inside outRetell: Gail Gibbons imagines what we would see if we looked inside the earth.

Topics: earth, gravity, ocean, Pangaea, equator, continents, earth model, fossils, plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, islands

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: We are wrapping up our Science unit on Earth Movements this Friday and I was looking for a text to end with.  This book ties in a lot of subjects within this unit:  the earth model, Pangaea, plate tectonics, faults, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.  The illustrations, which contain clear and useful diagrams, help readers comprehend the text.  However, in some parts, readers most add to the illustrations with details from their own mental picture and think about what is not in the illustrations.

November 9, 2009 at 9:09 pm Leave a comment

123. Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City by Barbara Bush

urban roostsRetell: Barbara Bush zooms in on gothic building structures, bridge towers and overpasses to describe the adaptations of birds who thrive in urban areas.

Topics: birds, pigeons, urban areas, cities, habitats, migration, camouflage, adaptation, roosts, crows, shelter

Units of Study: Content-Area, Nonfiction

Reading Skills: envisionment, questioning, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: I’m currently looking for books that will support the current Nonfiction unit.  I considered reading this book immediately, but I think I’m going to save it for our Content-Area unit.  During that unit we’ll be studying Food Chains and Habitats in Science making this book a perfect fit.  Urban Roosts is a book that will encourage urban readers to reconsider the common pigeon, finch or crow–a great book for modeling envisionment in nonfiction.

November 3, 2009 at 9:12 pm Leave a comment

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