Posts tagged ‘appreciations/no put-downs’

92. Butterflies for Kiri by Cathryn Falwell

butterflies for kiriRetell: Kiri loves to paint and draw.  When her Auntie Lu sends her a package of origami paper, Kiri begins teaching herself how to fold a paper butterfly.  She gets to a point where her corners are supposed to match up and tears her paper.  She attempts the butterfly the next day but she is scared that she will tear one of her beautiful papers.  Through practice and persistence Kiri eventually folds a successful butterfly.

Topics: origami, art, paper, diagrams, how-to

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: persisting, striving for accuracy, creating-innovating-imagining, thinking flexibly, managing impulsivity, taking responsible risks, remaining open to continuous learning

Writing Skills: including similes, making several drafts before publishing

My Thoughts: I wish I had known about this book years ago when I started a paper crane project with my fourth graders.  We read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, folded 1,000 paper cranes, and sent them to a school in Japan who delivered our cranes to the peace memorial in Hiroshima.  When I had started the project, I didn’t realize how difficult paper crane folding would be for that age.  Some students were able to pick it up quickly while others got really frustrated with the process.  Kiri teaches us how to deal with frustration.  She took a break from the project, practiced with other materials, and tackled the project with new energy.  Throughout this book many ‘habits of mind’ are presented.  Even if you don’t plan on doing origami with your class, it’s great to read during the revising process of any Writing unit.

September 27, 2009 at 8:05 pm 1 comment

81. The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales

the tequila wormRetell: Sophia is an intelligent, hardworking girl from McAllen, Texas.  When she receives a scholarship for a boarding school 400 miles, she must learn to live in two different worlds.  She longs to explore and be accepted by the people at St. Lukes, but she also wishes to be a good comadre and participate in her family’s traditions.

Topics: overcrowding, barrios, family, traditions, Mexican-Americans, friendship, ambition, choices, siblings, Day of the Dead, boarding school, scholarships

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

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: inference, synthesis, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: bringing out the heart of a story

Thoughts: Though I believe this book is probably most appropriate for middle school students, I wouldn’t hesitate reading sections of this book to my fourth graders.   There are great examples of how writers collect stories from their lives and how people become the change they want see in the world.  I love Canales’ description of the various rituals and traditions of Sofia’s family.  The relationship between Sofia and Berta is interesting.  They made very different choices.  Sofia chose to move far away and attend college.  Berta married young, stayed in her hometown and had two children.  Readers could have an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of both characters’ choices.

September 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

79. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

officer buckle and gloriaRetell: Officer Buckle often visits Napville School to give presentations about safety.  Unfortunately, most people do not listen to his advice.  As a result, the accident rate is very high.  When Officer Buckle partners with a show-stealing police dog named Gloria, suddenly his audience sit up and pay attention.

Topics: safety, assemblies, dogs, police

Units of Study: Character, Realistic Fiction

Tribes: attentive listening, appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: reading bold and italicized words

Thoughts: Each year I try and use read alouds to review the agreements of our school.  (These are Tribes agreements plus one we call ‘personal best’.)  It seems that there are many books about mutual respect, but not very many about attentive listening.  Officer Buckle and Gloria is a read aloud I’ve been using for the past two years.  The illustrations are great for showing two types of audiences:  an audience who does not listen and one that shows they are listening.  It also shows how people feel when they are not listened to.  There are many bold and italicized words throughout the book.  When reading the book aloud you may want to ask students to pay attention to how your voice changes when you come across bold and italicized words.

September 14, 2009 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

78. Amelia Writes Again by Marissa Moss

amelia writes againRetell: Amelia is a young girl who collects thoughts, souvenirs, photos and stories in her writer’s notebook.  Through the pages of her notebook we learn about Amelia’s friend Leah, her sister Cleo, and the terrible arsonist who destroyed her school.

Topics: writing, birthdays, siblings, friendship, daydreaming, numbers, arson, symbols, partnerships, writer’s notebooks

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Realistic Fiction, Social Issues, Personal Essay

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, right to pass, personal best

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Writing Skills: generating notebook entries, using pictures and objects to inspire writing, writing about ideas, spelling tricky words by writing it in different ways

Thoughts: This is volume 2 in a series of “Amelia” books.  I use this each year when we relaunch our writer’s notebooks.  The book resembles a composition notebook.  There are many ways that it can be used to teach writing skills, but it also stands alone for discussing other issues.  For example, Amelia writes about how she is reluctant to show her notebook to her friend Leah.  This could be a great time to discuss taking the right to pass.  During a Social Issues or Personal Essay unit you could use this book to analyze the issue of school vandalism.

If  you have used any books from the “Amelia” series please post your ideas in the comments section.

September 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm 1 comment

76. My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman

my best friendRetell: Lily spends each Wednesday at the neighborhood pool.  She has decided that Tamika will be her best friend.  Tamika however does not seem interested in being Lily’s friend.  Lily tries many things to win over Tamika.  She tries to dress the same and she shares her popsicles with her but to no avail.  Lily eventually becomes friends with Keesha who doesn’t need to be impressed.

Topics: summer, pools, friendship, popularity

Units: Character, Social Issues, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect, appreciations/no put-downs, right to pass

Reading Skills: prediction, interpretation

Writing Skills: balancing dialogue with reflection and description

My Thoughts: This book does a great job of addressing the issue of popularity.  Every year I see students going out of their way to impress others who don’t give them the time of day.  It could be an interesting book to use when discussing the ‘right to pass’.  Though Tamika should have been nicer to Lily, she has the right to pass on her offer of friendship.

Thanks again Beth for another great read aloud.

September 11, 2009 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

57. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

the dot

Retell: Vashti is frustrated in art class.  She doesn’t have confidence in her artistic ability.  Her teacher tells her to start with a dot and see where it takes her.  Soon she experiments with dots of different colors, shapes and sizes and becomes pleased with the results.

Topics: art, writer’s block, creativity, experimentation

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

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

Habits of Mind: persisting, creating-imagining-innovating, responding with wonderment and awe, taking responsible risks, thinking interdependently

Writing Skills: dealing with writer’s block, revising

My Thoughts: Though this book is about art, readers will make the obvious connection to writing.  I love the message of this book—experiment and enjoy the process.  If I don’t read this out loud to my entire class, I will definitely use this in small group work to help struggling writers get over their fear of the blank page.  I like how at the end of the book Vashti helps another young artist get over his frustration.  It’s a good example of how learners help one another.

August 23, 2009 at 3:53 am Leave a comment

56. What Joe Saw by Anna Grossnickle Hines

what joe sawRetell: Joe is always lagging behind the class.  His teacher and his classmates are always telling him to hurry up.  It’s not until a classmate stops to tie his shoes that he realizes why Joe keeps falling behind.

Topics: school, field trips, discovery, curiosity

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Talking and Writing about Texts

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: using repetition, dialogue

My Thoughts: The main character in this book reminds me of my sweetheart.  When we’re on route somewhere he always stops to smell the flowers on butterfly bushes or picks fruit from trees.  If I’m in a hurry it can be frustrating at first, but most of the time it’s worth it to be a few minutes late.  I appreciate how he makes me slow down and notice the world around me.  What Joe Saw is a good book to read when you want your class to discuss the importance of paying attention to small details.  However, you may not want to read this book to your class just before going on a field trip.  It may be good to read during an interpretation unit.  I can imagine having interesting discussions about the  individual vs. the group.

August 22, 2009 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

41. Shanghai Messenger by Andrea Cheng

shanghai messengerRetell: Xiao Mei is invited by her uncle to visit China.  At first she is reluctant to travel by herself and once she arrives she finds the new setting lonely and disorienting.  She eventually adjusts and begins to appreciate her extended Chinese family.

Topics: Chinese, China, poetry, family, mixed-race, language barrier, traveling, homesickness

Units of Study: Character, Personal Narrative, Social Issues

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, envisionment, making connections

Writing Skills: incoporating foreign languages, zooming in on small moments, including sensory details

My Thoughts: I love how this story is told as a series of free verse poems.  I plan on reading this book aloud when I teach how writers zoom in on small moments.  Each poem is a small moment from her trip.  It can be a good mentor text for writers who want to write about a vacation and are tempted to write about the entire vacation.  Cheng incorporates Chinese vocabulary throughout the story.  She even includes a Chinese glossary with a pronunciation guide which will aid readers when they attempt to read it aloud.  It’s also a good book to read when studying character change.  In the beginning, Xiao Mei is afraid to go to China by herself and thinks she will never adjust to life in China.  By the end she develops into a grown-up girl who is both completely American and completely Chinese.

August 6, 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

33. The A+ Custodian by Louise Borden

the a+ custodianRetell: John Carillo is the custodian for Dublin Elementary School.  Everyone in the school thinks he is a great custodian.  A few students decide to find a way to appreciate all his hard work.

Topics: custodians, school, hard work,

Units of Study: personal essay, realistic fiction

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

Reading Skills: inference, envsionment

Writing Skills: incorporating tight lists, elaboration, including sensory details

My Thoughts: This is a fabulous book to take out when you feel the class needs to take more responsiblity picking up after themselves.  The A+ Custodian reminds me that I should take more time thoughout the year to appreciate the janitors and custodians at my school.  I love how the author emphasizes how much Mr. Carillo loves and is proud of the students of Dublin Elementary School.  I plan to use this book when collecting ideas for personal essays.  The text is a great example of the strategy, “Writers think of a person in their life and jot down ideas about him/her.”  In fact the author’s note at the beginning itself makes a good mentor text for personal essay.

July 29, 2009 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

31. The Greatest Power by Demi

the greatest powerRetell: Emperor Ping, the boy emperor of China, appreciates honesty and harmony.  He wants to appoint an honest and wise prime minister so he decides to hold a contest.  The child who can think of the greatest power in the world will become the next prime minister.  Children far and wide prepare presentations for the emperor.  A young girl named Sing sits by a lotus pond and comes up with an answer that is quite different from the rest.

Topics: technology, beauty, military, power, money, life, life cycle, China

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

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put downs

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction

Writing Skills: repetition

My Thoughts: Fifth grade teachers at my school do this great unit on power.  They examine power structures at home, in the neighborhood, in the classroom, at school, and so on.  The Greatest Power could be a great companion to that unit.  It will spark discussions about what makes a powerful group or a powerful nation.  I could also see this book being used during a unit on the life cycle.  Sing after sitting by apond and contemplating a lotus flower is fascinated by its life cycle.  She determines that life is the greatest power on earth.

July 27, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

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