145. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Retell: A boy visits the home of the Once-ler who, for a fee, tells him the story of how he destroyed the pristine Truffula Forest and its inhabitants.

Topics: trees, deforestation, environment, environmentalists, pollution, consumption, greed, factories, habitat, animals, Earth Day

Units of Study: Social Issues, Content Area, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: Mutual Respect

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

Writing Skills: incorporating rhyme and rhythm, connecting the beginning with its ending

My Thoughts: I recently read this book to my class to celebrate Earth Day.  There were misty eyes when the last truffula tree was cut down; I have never heard the room so quiet.  Upon rereading I noticed how well the illustrations supported inferential thinking throughout the story.  Specifically, the color of the illustrations helps support the idea that without trees the world is a dark, miserable place.  In the beginning of the story, the pages are illustrated in dark tones:  navy, burgundy, and gray.  When the Once-ler flashes back to the first days of his Thneed venture, the illustrations are painted in bright, cheerful hues:  magenta, yellow, green and turquoise.  One student pointed out toward the beginning of the story, while the illustrations were still bright and cheery, the Once-ler’s materials were painted in dark tones, a premonition that the environment was going to change for the worse.

May 3, 2010 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

139. Andrew’s Angry Words by Dorothea Lachner

Retell: When Andrew’s sister bumps into him, scattering all of his toys, he screams angry words that travel around the world causing harm to everyone they meet.  The rampage of the angry words is halted by a woman who dumps them into the ocean and replaces them with nice words.

Topics: anger, regret, kindness, mistakes, communication, respect

Units of Study: Fantasy, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, mutual respect

My Thoughts: When teaching the Tribes agreement of appreciations/no put-downs, I usually conduct some sort of funeral for put-downs.  Students write a put-down onto a sheet of paper, tear it up and put it in the trash.  Andrew’s Angry Words is the perfect text to support this lesson.  The illustrator does a good job of making Andrew’s put-downs into something that looks dangerous, even poisonous.  The story gives me a new idea to add to the lesson.  After the funeral for put-downs, students could write an appreciation to replace the angry words or even better have them turn the angry words into I-messages.

December 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

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