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

129. Amos & Boris by William Steig

amos and borisRetell: A mouse named Amos and a whale named Boris become friends after Boris saves Amos from drowning.  When he is returned to land Amos vows to help Boris if he’s ever in need.  Many years later Boris finds himself washed up on the very beach where Amos lives.  Though he is but a tiny mouse, Amos makes good on his promise.

Topics: ocean, adventures, survival, help, mammals, friendship, goodbyes, relationships

Units of Study: Character, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction, monitoring for sense, envisionment

My Thoughts: This story is so heartwarming that you may have to have a box of tissues ready for the end of the read aloud.  Steig’s illustrations are so simple, yet he has a great way of expressing emotion.  Often there is a lot more going on in the text than in the illustrations.  When reading this book aloud, it’s important to show how readers must envision even when illustrations are present.

 

November 8, 2009 at 5:02 pm 1 comment

128. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp

giving thanksRetell: An English and pictorial translation of a Mohawk message of thanksgiving.

Topics: Mother Earth, appreciation, peace, Iroquois, nature, thanksgiving

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, interpretation

My Thoughts: This book is a wonderful November read aloud.  I like reading this book before students head off for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Since this message comes from the Mohawk, it compliments the 4th grade unit on Native Americans of New York State.  Before reading this you may want to ask students to jot down what they are thankful for.  While reading the book they can pay attention to what the Mohawks are thankful for as shown in the address.  After reading, students can add to their lists and discuss what they learned about the Mohawk people.

November 8, 2009 at 3:57 pm Leave a comment

127. The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants by Priscilla Turner

the war between the vowels and the consonantsRetell: The snooty vowels and the rough and tumble consonants have never gotten along with each other.  After a few letters begin to fight with each other, war breaks out between the vowels and the consonants.  When chaos, in the form of squiggly lines, rolls into town the vowels and consonants must work together to defeat it.

Topics: letters, vowels, consonants, war, cooperation, fighting, cliques, power

Units of Study: Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: interpretation

My Thoughts: When I previewed this text I assumed I was going to learn about how vowel sounds are really strong and influence other vowel sounds.  In reality this book is not really about letters at all–it’s about class and cooperation between the classes.  The vowels represent the upper class–there are few of them and they are snooty.  The consonants represent the lower-middle class– the undignified commoners.  They distrust each other, go to war and then eventually must learn how to work together.  I can see reading this in my class in order to have a discussion about cliques within the class and within the grade.  It could be read again when we study industrialization and analyze the struggles between the rich and the poor.

November 8, 2009 at 12:03 pm Leave a comment

126. Strong to the Hoop by John Coy

strong to the hoopRetell: James has always wanted to play basketball on the main court.  Knowing that he’s too young and too small, he practices on the side court.  One day a player gets injured and he volunteers to play.  Though he misses shots and fouls other players, he gains his courage and ends up winning the game.

Topics: basketball, courage, playground, body image, boys

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narrative

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference

Writing Skills: incorporating similes, alliteration, using commas to list action, balancing internal thinking, action and dialogue

My Thoughts: This book was hiding on my read aloud shelf in my classroom.  I forgot all about it and now I’m kicking myself for not reading it to my class during our recent Realistic Fiction unit.  This is a fantastic small moment mentor text.  The events of the story are few:  a boy practices, enters a game, struggles, and wins.  However through a balance of internal thinking, small action and dialogue, the author creates a suspenseful, meaningful story.

November 7, 2009 at 7:34 pm Leave a comment

125. Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine

under the lemon moonRetell: One evening Rosalinda awakes to find a man stealing lemons from her lemon tree.  During the theft, a branch is broken and the tree becomes sick.  Rosalinda searches her village for a cure.  A mysterious woman helps her cure her sick tree and help a family in need.

Topics: theft, family, community, trees, kindness

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

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: empathy, interpretation, inference, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using words to describe sound, using interesting verbs, incorporating foreign languages

My Thoughts: This is a text that can be useful for many units and for many purposes.  As I was reading this text I immediately noticed the beautiful verbs the author uses.  A reader who is unfamiliar with the vocabulary in the text can easily figure out the meaning of the words by thinking about the context.  It’s a great text for teaching the strategy of playing ‘fill in the bank’ when solving tricky words.

November 7, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

124. A Picnic in October by Eve Bunting

a picnic in octoberRetell: Each year Tony’s family boards the ferry to Liberty Island at grandma’s insistence.  They brave the crowds and the cold to celebrate a special birthday.

Topics: New York, family, Statue of Liberty, grandparents, immigration

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

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: prediction, envisionment, inference, questioning

My Thoughts: This book is typically read during an Immigration unit.  However I don’t think I can wait that long to read this book.  A scene that stuck out for me was the part when Tony helps a young woman who pulls on his jacket, worried that the last boat has left.  Apparently no one has been able to help her because she doesn’t speak English.  Tony is patient with her and through gestures explains that another boat is on the way.  When reading this aloud, I plan on emphasizing this moment and hope it will spark a meaningful discussion about how we can help students who have limited English skills.

This is a great text for modeling expression.  Each character has a distinctive personality which may come out best if the reader creates voices for each character.  For example, Rosa talks in “a reading kind of way” and should sound official (or as we say in conferences “like a teacher”).  Mike seems a bit mischievous and should sound like it.

November 3, 2009 at 9:41 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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