Posts tagged ‘character’

151. The Ant Bully by John Nickle

Retell:  Lucas constantly gets picked on by the neighborhood bully. He takes out his frustration on the ants in front of his house. The ants decide to take revenge and teach Lucas a lesson.

Topics:  bullying, revenge, ants

Units of Study:  Fantasy

Tribes:  mutual respect

Reading Skills:  analyzing character motivation, interpretation

Writing Skills:  experimenting with sentence structure

Thoughts:  Apparently this story was made into an animated movie back in 2006.  I guess I’ve been out of the loop.

This is a great read aloud for teaching about karma, the Golden Rule and the basic concept of treating others (even non-humans) with respect.  It’s also a great mentor text for students writing fantasy stories.  The structure is short and simple enough to mirror the fantasy stories that upper grade students may be writing.  It’s also great for demonstrating how stories can be structured around teaching the reader a lesson.

Unfortunately, it looks like this book is out of print.  Definitely worth a trip to your local library.

August 24, 2012 at 10:29 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

115. Tea With Milk by Allen Say

tea with milkRetell: Masako is a Japanese-American who moves to Japan after spending her childhood in America.  Adjusting to life in Japan is rough for Masako.  She must repeat high school in order to learn Japanese, her classmates call her gaijin (a derogatory word for ‘foreigner’), and she must learn how to be a proper Japanese lady.  One day she boards a bus for Osaka and finds work, a companion and a cure for her homesickness.

Topics: English, Japanese-Americans, homesickness, culture shock, matchmaking, individuality

Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: right to pass

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, prediction, empathy

My Thoughts: I especially enjoy Tea With Milk because I have a personal connection to this book.  I taught English for three years in a rural village in Japan.  I can relate to May and her struggle to get used to sitting on the floor (women are expected to sit on their knees–it’s considered rude to sit cross-legged) and missing comfort foods.  When I read this book I thought of my students who often visit the countries where their parents are from and experience an identity crisis similar to the one that May faced.  I hope that this book inspires them to write their stories.  Though this is technically a personal narrative (the main character was the author’s mother) you could angle this to fit in many different units including the current Character unit.  It’s particularly useful for modeling how readers notice subtle changes in a character.

October 19, 2009 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

114. The Gold Coin by Alma Flor Ada

the gold coinRetell: A thief discovers a woman who claims to be the “richest person in the world.”  He ransacks her hut but fails to find her gold.  He goes on a quest to find the woman and her gold. What he finds instead are people who teach him that being rich has little to do with gold.

Topics: gold, greed, thieves, kindness, hard work, acceptance

Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Talking and Writing about Texts

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: prediction, interpretation, inference, empathy

Writing Skills: incorporating the rule of three

My Thoughts: I first discovered this story when I went to a Great Books training years ago.  I’ve since used it a few times during the Character unit.  It is a great text for examining how people can change because of their relationships with other people.  It’s a great text to use when you are launching whole class conversation during and after read alouds.

October 18, 2009 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

112. Allie’s Basketball Dream by Barbara E. Barber

allie's basketball dreamRetell: Allie wants to be a star basketball player like her cousin Gwen.  After receiving a brand-new basketball from her father, she gives it a test run at the neighborhood playground.  She soon finds out that not everyone is willing to accept a girl on the court.

Topics: basketball, gender issues, friendship

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

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best, right to pass

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, making connections

Writing Skills: planning  a story across 2-3 scenes

My Thoughts: This book is a great read aloud for so many different units.  It’s a particularly good text to read during the Social Issues unit.  It’s nice to read this book before or after reading other books that deal with gender issues such as,  William’s Doll,  or Oliver Button is a Sissy.  It’s a good mentor text for the Realistic Fiction unit because the story takes place across two scenes.

October 17, 2009 at 9:32 pm Leave a comment

98. The Bus Ride by William Miller

the bus rideRetell: William Miller recreates the story of Rosa Parks and imagines what would have happened if a young girl refused to give up her seat.

Topics: taking a stand, segregation, laws, civil disobedience, bravery, boycotts, power

Units of Study: Social Issues, Historical Fiction, Character

Tribes: right to pass

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction

Writing Skills: balancing description, reflection and dialogue

My Thoughts: When I read this book I thought back to a unit our fifth grade teachers did last year that was focused on power.  Students looked at power structures in the classroom, in school and at home.  Students looked at times when they were powerless and times when they had the power.  When reading this book it would be interesting to discuss the question, “Who has the power?”  This story inspires children to think about what risks they would be willing to take.  Imagine if an entire classroom decided to boycott McDonalds because they disagreed with how the company targets children.  Or what would happen if a classroom decided to boycott toys made in places that use child labor?

October 4, 2009 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

89. Mrs. Morgan’s Lawn by Barney Saltzberg

mrs morgan's lawnRetell: Mrs. Morgan does not tolerate anyone or anything treading on her lawn.  Whenever a ball lands on her lawn she confiscates it and it is never seen again.  After some encouragement from his parents, Mrs. Morgan’s neighbor decides to confront her and ask for his ball back.  Even when he asks her nicely Mrs. Morgan refuses to return his ball.  After a few weeks he notices that Mrs. Morgan’s lawn is looking unkempt.  He rakes up leaves for her and discovers that kindness can often change people’s minds.

Topics: kindness, problem-solving

Units of Study: Character, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: I like to read this story when students start having conflicts with each other.  Giving “I-Messages” solves many of these conflicts but sometimes something more is needed to solve a problem.  Creating peace often starts by attempting to understand the person you have a conflict with.  In this story, the neighbor changes from thinking Mrs. Morgan is mean to understanding how she feels about her lawn and eventually helps her, despite the fact that she has not been kind in return.  When I read this out loud to my class last year, a student pointed out that “sometimes bullies act mean because they don’t feel that people are nice to them.”  She was talking about a particular bully in the class who had been absent during the read aloud.  She suggested to the class that they should say nice things to the student and compliment him when he did something well.

September 24, 2009 at 6:39 pm Leave a 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

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

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