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

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

137. When Lightning Comes in a Jar by Patricia Polacco

Retell: Patricia Polacco describes a fun-filled family reunion where the adults challenge the kids to baseball games, the aunties make meatloaf and jello salads, and everyone catches fireflies.

Topics: reunions, family, baseball, curiosity, storytelling, fireflies, tradition, parties

Units of Study: Memoir, Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: incorporating sensory details, storytelling

My Thoughts: When planning read alouds, I have been trying to create text sets, planning books not just by unit of study, but by themes.  I’m thinking of creating a text set with the theme of ‘traditions’ which may include  When Lightning Comes in a Jar, The Keeping Quilt, and When the Relatives Came.  This book could also be great to read when you are teaching students to storytell to their partners.  Storytelling is a Polacco family reunion tradition.

November 30, 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

136. Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Retell: This is the biography of Cesar Chavez, the leader of the National Farm Workers Association who worked to organize farm workers to rally together and fight for better pay and working conditions.

Topics: family, Cesar Chavez, conflict, drought, California, farming, Spanish, migrant workers, unions, La Causa, strikes, protests, boycotts, farm workers

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Social Issues

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

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, determining importance, synthesis, empathy

My Thoughts: Back when I taught in California this was required reading–in the Bay Area Cesar Chavez’s birthday is a school holiday.  This book could fit into different types of text sets.  For example, you could include this book when teaching a unit on the labor unit.  You could also choose to read this book as a companion text to Esperanza Rising.

November 29, 2009 at 12:46 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

134. Between Earth and Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places by Joseph Bruchac

Retell: On the way to a pow-wow Old Bear teaches his nephew Little Turtle about the legends connected to the sacred places of other Native American tribes.

Topics: legends, Native Americans, sacred places, Wampanoag, Seneca, Niagara Falls, Navajo, Cherokee, Papago, Hopewell, Cheyenne, Hopi, Abenaki, Walapai, Grand Canyon

Units of Study: Content-Area, Nonfiction, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, interpretation

My Thoughts: This is a great read aloud for integrating map skills.  Using the clues in each legend, students could try and figure out which place is being described.  A copy of the map in the back of the book could be distributed to students during the read aloud and partners could work together to locate each sacred place on the map.

November 22, 2009 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

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

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