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

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

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