Posts tagged ‘character’

75. 14 Cows For America by Carmen Agra Deedy

14 cows for americaRetell: To the Maasai people the cow is life.  In June 2002 Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah returned to his Kenyan village with a tragic story from New York.  Kimeli presented a cow for blessing, in honor of those who died during the attacks of September 11th.  13 others offered their own cows for blessing.  The cows remain in Kenya but they continue to be a symbol of hope and compassion to people around the world.

Topics: September 11th, Maasai, Kenya, compassion, cows, hope

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

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, monitoring for sense

Thoughts: The tone of my classroom during this short first week of school has been so positive.  Students are making new friends, and seem excited about school.  I now approach planning my read aloud for the third day of school which happens to also be September 11th.  It feels weird to start a discussion about tragedy and terrorism on the third day of school.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing frightening details of that day but on the other hand I don’t want to ignore the day altogether.  I’ve decided to read 14 Cows For America because it focuses more on the idea of compassion rather than tragedy.  I’m hoping that the last line of the book will prompt an interesting discussion:  “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”

Thanks Beth for recommending this fabulous read aloud!

September 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

67. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

love that dogRetell: “I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry.  Girls do.”  Jack reluctantly keeps a poetry journal.  With encouragement from his teacher he begins to write about his dog.  By using famous poems as mentor texts, Jack learns to be a prolific poet.

Topics: poetry, school, pets, loss, writer’s block

Units of Study: Independent Writing Projects, Poetry, Social Issues, Character

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: striving for accuracy, thinking interdependently, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, making connections

Writing Skills: using mentor texts to improve writing

My Thoughts: This is one of my favorite books by Sharon Creech.  She captures the voice of a young writer so well.  I consider this a read aloud though I often use it as a text for doing shared reading.  Since each entry is dated, one could conceivably read the pages on or close to the dates in the book–a read aloud that lasts all year long.  In the back of the book are poems by:  Walter Dean Meyers, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost and Valerie Worth.  You could use the poems for shared reading at the same time you read the book aloud.

September 1, 2009 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

66. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

amazing graceRetell: Grace loves to act.  When her school puts on a production of Peter Pan she is eager to audition.  Her classmates tell her that she can’t be Peter Pan because she is a girl and she’s black.   After an inspiring visit to the ballet Grace finds confidence to audition.

Topics: reading, stories, acting, school, gender issues, racism, role models, theater, ballet

Units of Study: Social Issues, Realistic Fiction, Character

Tribes: Personal Best

Habits of Mind: persistence, striving for accuracy, thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: Amazing Grace has been a favorite read aloud of mine for introducing the Social Issues unit.  However, I’m thinking of reading it earlier this year when introducing the Habit of Mind–‘persistence’.  Grace is a good example of how one persists when they have a dream.  Grace’s dream is to play Peter Pan.  Despite the discouragement she receives from a few of her classmates, Grace practices over the weekend and ends up getting the part.  However, it’s interesting to note that this persistence didn’t just come from herself–she had to be encouraged by her family.  I wonder if Grace would have succeeded if her Nana hadn’t taken her to the ballet.

August 31, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

45. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

a bad case of stripesRetell: Camilla Cream is very worried about what other people think of her.  She loves to each lima beans but would never admit that to anyone at school.  One day she wakes up covered in stripes.  No doctor can cure her, people make fun of her and the media is obsessed with her.  In the end her condition improves when she learns to be herself.

Topics: teasing, fitting in, self confidence, first day of school

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

Tribes: right to pass, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: interpretation, synthesis

My Thoughts: A Bad Case of Stripes is a great book for encouraging discussion about the importance of individuality.  I think it may also be a good text for modeling how important it is to pay attention to details that may seem small but are actually really important.  For example, if the reader passed over the part about Camilla liking lima beans, the ending of the book could be confusing.  If you are teaching the Habits of Mind, you could ask students to pay attention to how the doctors and specialists ‘persisted’ when trying to solve the problem.

August 11, 2009 at 1:06 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

25. Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen

hewitt anderson's great big lifeRetell: Hewitt Anderson has it all.  Loving parents, a gorgeous house and fabulous birthday parties.  The only problem is that Hewitt wasn’t the son his parents expected.  Hewitt’s parents, and indeed the entire town, are giants.  This causes a lot of problems but soon they realize that with a few modifications they can still live a ‘normal’ life.

Topics: acceptance, family, giants, differences, size

Units of Study: Fantasy, Character

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: This is a nice twist on “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  When next I teach a Fantasy unit I would like to either read this while immersing students in the genre, or use it as a writing mentor text.  The characters are African-American which students don’t often encounter when reading fantasy or fairy tales.  The language in the book is gorgeous.   Since there are many different words for ‘large’ and ‘small’ throughout the story, one could use this book during a lesson on synonyms.

July 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

21. The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

the skin I'm inRetell: Every day students tease Maleeka Madison.  Whether it be her good grades, her homemade clothes or her dark skin, it seems like the world is against Maleeka.  She does others’ homework in exchange for friendship.  That is until Miss Saunders, a new teacher from the business world, challenges Maleeka to think for herself.

Topics: self-esteem, confidence, body image, race, middle school, peer pressure, money issues, assault, clothing, status, taking a stand, arson, bullying

Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Historical Fiction (Writing), Literary Essay, Talking and Writing About Books

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

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, synthesis, making connections

Writing Skills: keeping journals, writing poetry

My Thoughts: This is a fantastic text to read aloud in a middle school classroom.  I’m not sure that I would read the text as a whole to everyone in an upper elementary grade classroom.  I would encourage certain fifth grade book clubs to read and discuss this book.  I plan to read certain sections from this book.  For example, Maleeka keeps a journal which she writes from the perspective of an African girl aboard a slave ship.  There are several scenes throughout the book where Maleeka’s historical fiction writing parallel’s her own life.  This would be a great way to show how writers of historical fiction create characters who struggle with similar issues to their own.  This is an excellent cautionary tale detailing what can happen if you refuse to let others force you into situations that you know are wrong.

July 17, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

20. Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler

kindness is cooler mrs. rulerRetell: Mrs. Cooler’s class is getting antsy and cranky.  She asks a few misbehaving students to do 10 acts of kindness at home.  The next day during show and tell, others are inspired to do random acts of kindness.  Eventually the project includes acts of kindness at school and throughout the community.

Topics: kindness, school, community, helping, volunteering, 100th day of school

Units of Study: Character, Realistic Fiction

Tribes: appreciations/no putdowns, mutual respect, community building, personal best

Writing Skills: using rhyme and rhythm

My Thoughts: I think I just found my 100th day of school read aloud.  The 100th day of school always creeps up on me and I end up doing a last minute project.  This year, I think I’ll use Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler to launch a Random Acts of Kindness Campaign.  In the book Mrs. Ruler’s class tries to do 100 kind acts at home, school, or in the community.  She puts each act on a paper heart and they have a celebration when they reach 100.  Since the 100th day of school usually falls close to Valentine’s Day, a Kindness Campaign could be a good way to turn a commercialized holiday into one that promotes a good cause.  Thanks Ms. Cuyler.

July 16, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

19. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

those shoesRetell: It seems like everyone in school has a pair of black high tops with white stripes–everyone but Jeremy.  Jeremy’s grandmother only has enough money for a pair of boots.  When they spot a pair of “those shoes” at a thrift shop, Jeremy buys them with his own money, only to find out that they’re too small.  He is then faced with a difficult decision–does he keep his blister-causing shoes or give them to a friend.

Topics: shoes, needs and wants, fads, money, grandparents, decisions, friendship, generosity

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

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best, community building

Reading Skills: inference, prediction, making connections

Writing Skills: using dashes, transitional phrases, incorporating a balance of dialogue and summary

My Thoughts: My fabulous student teacher introduced this book to me last year.  Every year it seems there is some sort of expensive fad:  Tech decks, sidekicks, iphones, sneakers, smencils.  My heart breaks when I think about the students who are being teased just because they don’t have the latest fad.  Those Shoes is a book to address this issue.  It is an ideal book to read aloud to discuss the differences between need and want.  I can see reading this book aloud during a Social Issues unit.  I could also see using this as a text to analyze during a literary essay unit.

July 15, 2009 at 9:00 am 1 comment

18. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

library lionRetell: Miss Merriweather, the librarian, is obsessed with enforcing the rules.  One day a lion walks into her library and becomes a regular helper.  Later, he proves to be a lifesaver.

Topics: libraries, librarians, lions, rules, work, volunteering, books, storytime, breaking the rules

Units of Study: Fantasy, Character

Tribes: attentive listening, personal best, mutual respect, appreciations/no putdowns

Reading Skills: inference, prediction, making connections

Writing Skills: using interesting verbs (ex. padded instead of walked)

My Thoughts: This book is obviously a good book to read before a trip to the public library.  By focusing on the actions of the lion, the reader is also getting to know the features of a public library, such as storytime, new books, the circulation desk, etc.  The story highlights the importance and reciprocal benefits of volunteering.  Library Lion is also a good read aloud for reviewing agreements and rules in the classroom.  For example, to model attentive listening, you could ask students to notice what the students in the illustrations are doing during storytime.  Later in the book, you could discuss how the lion feels hearing all of the appreciations he is receiving. The lion in this story is so cute.  I love its facial expression when he is admonished by Miss Merriweather.

July 14, 2009 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

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