Posts tagged ‘determining importance’

103. Steam, Smoke, and Steel: Back in Time with Trains by Patrick O’Brien

steam, smoke,and steelRetell: This is a history of trains told from the perspective of a boy who comes from a long line of engineers.

Topics: trains, generations, generators, steam engines, family

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense, determining importance, reading diagrams

My Thoughts: Though I probably won’t have time to teach a unit on industrialization this year, I think I will just have to insert this book into my read aloud plans anyway.  Though my class isn’t studying trains at the moment, we are doing a unit in Math called, “Ages and Timelines”.  During the introduction to the unit, students had a difficult time understanding the concept of a ‘great-great grandparent’.  Steam, Smoke and Steel could be a book to help them understand this concept.  The main character comes from a family of train engineers.  As he looks back on his family’s history, the reader learns about trains from the past.  His father drives a modern locomotive.  His grandfather drove a diesel-electric locomotive.  His great-grandmother drove a steam locomotive…you get the point.

Yesterday I attended a Social Studies workshop at Teacher’s College, and I’ve become very excited about time lines (I should probably get out more).  In their workshop, Shana Frazin and Kathleen Tolan suggested that teachers should have moveable time lines in their classrooms.  Students and teachers can add important events and visuals to the time line.  After reading Steam, Smoke and Steel I think I may post pictures of the trains and the characters (the boy, the father, the grandfather, the great-grandmother, the great-great grandfather, etc.) in the book on the timeline.  Doing this I think will help enrich students’ understanding of generations and time periods.

Now I just have to find space in my classroom…

October 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

93. Who Pooped in the Zoo? Exploring the Weirdest, Wackiest, Grossest and Most Surprising Facts About Zoo Poop by Caroline Patterson

who pooped in the zooRetell: This book is filled with interesting facts about poop.  It discusses how animals use poop for food, defense, communication, and shelter.

Topics: poop, feces, animals, digestion, bacteria, camouflage

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, determining importance, envisionment

Thoughts: I’ve been chuckling all evening, calling out disgusting facts to my family.  “Hey!  Did you know that a grizzly bear doesn’t poop when he hibernates?  When a grizzly bear wakes up in the Spring its poop is as big as a baseball bat!”  This book is great for demonstrating how readers of nonfiction make a plan before they read the text.  Each section of the book contains blurbs with interesting facts about poop, glossaries and supplemental information.  Readers can choose to read the blurbs first and then read the entire section or vice versa.  A great read before going to the zoo or before you dissect owl pellets.

September 27, 2009 at 10:43 pm Leave a comment

91. What’s So Bad About Gasoline? Fossil Fuels and What They Do by Anne Rockwell

what's so bad about gasolineRetell: This book explains how gasoline is made and describes its role in global warming.

Topics: gasoline, carbon emissions, global warming, petroleum, coal

Units of Study: Personal Essay, Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits: Thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: questioning, determining importance, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using repetition to make a thesis stronger, using supporting reasons and examples to support a thesis

My Thoughts: I mentioned before that my students are currently studying earth movements (how mountains are made, volcanoes, etc).  Next week students will examine fossils found in rocks.  This book could be a nice extension of the fossil investigation.  It blew my mind years ago when I learned that petroleum is made from decomposed fossils.  When we are in the Personal Essay unit I plan on rereading parts of this text to show how the writer weaves in her opinions and supports them with facts.

The beginning of the book explains how petroleum is made and how it has been used throughout history.  Throughout this section the phrase, “They still didn’t use much” repeats.  The author argues that gasoline and other petroleum products are not inherently evil.  After all, the reason why we still have forests and whales is connected to the invention of distilled petroleum.  I like how the book ends with the question, “What ways can you think of to help?”  After the read aloud students could brainstorm ways to use less gasoline.

September 26, 2009 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

88. Volcanoes by Seymour Simon

volcanoesRetell: The title pretty much speaks for itself.  Seymour Simon explains how volcanoes form and why some volcanoes are not as destructive as others.

Topics: volcanoes, magma, lava, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Shasta, plates, Mt. Hood, Surtsey, legends

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Reading Skills: determining importance, envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: supporting a thesis with reasons and examples, including similes in nonfiction writing

My Thoughts: The photographs in Simon’s books draw me in and I find myself becoming interested in subjects I had never cared about before.  Volcanoes is another great nonfiction title that could support the Earth Movements unit.  (See post #87.)  Unlike many nonfiction books for kids, this book doesn’t organize the information into friendly headings.  It’s a great way to model how readers organize expository text, creating our own mental headings and subheadings.

September 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

83. Fake Out! Animals That Play Tricks by Ginjer L. Clarke (All Aboard Science Reader)

fake outRetell: In this book, readers learn how animals ‘play games’ in order to adapt to their habitat.  In order to survive they play hide-and-seek, play dead, and even play pretend.

Topics: animals, adaptations, habitats, marine life, mammals, mimicry, camouflage

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Reading Skills: envisionment, questioning, synthesis, determining importance

Writing Skills: developing voice in expository writing, including conclusions that sum up and release the writer

Thoughts: I’m worried about a boy in my class.  He dropped four reading levels over the summer.  He’s distracted during Reading Workshop and his reading log shows he’s not reading at home.  However, he’s obsessed with the books in the dinosaur bin and carries around a gaming magazine.  He’s a nonfiction reader trapped in a unit of study focused on fiction.  I think of him as I plan my read alouds.  I want to make sure that I’m finding time to tuck in nonfiction read alouds throughout the week, even though we’re not currently in a nonfiction unit.  Fake Out! is a high engagement nonfiction read aloud that just happens to look like a “low level” book.  Reading this book aloud ‘blesses’ this struggling reader’s level and will hopefully make “All Aboard” books cool to read.

September 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm 1 comment

55. The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre

the bumblebee queenRetell: This book describes the life cycle of a bumblebee queen.

Topics: bumblebees, life cycles, habitats, pollination

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area Reading and Writing

Reading Skills: envisionment, questioning, determining importance

Writing Skills: using commas to separate clauses

My Thoughts: I like how this book is structured.  It has two threads–a narrative thread and an expository thread.  In bold letters the text tells a story about the amazing work of a bumblebee queen.  On every other page or so there are fact bubbles that give more detailed information about bumblebees.  I plan on using this book when we do our Content Area unit which will focus on life cycles and habitats.

August 20, 2009 at 9:42 am Leave a comment

49. Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin

fireflies in the darkRetell: Learn about the amazing life of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who taught art to children in the Terezin Camp during the Holocaust.  The book includes several photos, drawings, paintings and writings from her students, many of whom did not survive.

Topics: art, holocaust, ghetto, Terezin, Nazis, school, poetry, drama, resiliency

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Nonfiction, Content Area Reading and Writing, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating, thinking interdependently, remaining open to continuous learning

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance, interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: launching writers notebook, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: One can learn many lessons from this book.  I am impressed by Dicker-Brandeis’ devotion to learning.  When she discovered that she would be sent to Terezin she chose not to bring items for herself, but art supplies for the children she knew would be in the camp.  Through art her students were able to both escape and record the horrors around them.  Though I don’t plan on teaching a unit about the Holocaust this year, I may choose to read a portion of this book when emphasizing how writers notebooks can be powerful places to record our memories, our thoughts and our struggles.  It is important for our students to realize that their experiences, just like those recorded at Terezin, are important and should be recorded.

August 14, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

42. River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River by Hudson Talbott

river of dreamsRetell: A beautifully illustrated history of the Hudson River.

Topics: Hudson River, New York, Native Americans, Henry Hudson, dreamers, Dutch, explorers, British, American Revolution, Robert Fulton, Erie Canal, trade, Hudson River School Painters, Industrial Revolution, environment, Franny Reese, pollution, immigration

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Social Issues, Content Area

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance, questioning, synthesis

Writing Skills: including expository text features

My Thoughts: My eyes grew wide when I spotted this book in Barnes and Noble this afternoon.  This book is treasure for New York 4th grade teachers who will be embarking on a year-long study of New York history.  A timeline painted in the shape of the Hudson River winds throughout the book noting historic events including:  the American Revolution, the commercial success of Fulton’s steamboat, the opening of the Erie Canal, and the Scenic Hudson Decision.  I think I may read this book in September when we discuss what we will be learning in Social Studies this year.  When we get to a new unit, I think I’ll reread corresponding sections of River of Dreams.  Talbott also highlights writers and artists who were inspired by the Hudson River such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper and the Hudson River School Painters.  This is a great book to use when discussing trade and industry.  There is a beautiful painting in the book that shows the Hudson River bursting with steamboats and schooners–“America’s first superhighway.”  I like how the story includes the environmental impact of industrial pollution and the story ends with a strong message–it’s up to us to protect the beauty of this river.

August 7, 2009 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

37. Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief with Rosemary Wells

tallchief america's prima ballerinaRetell: This is an autobiographical story of Maria Tallchief, one of the greatest American-born ballerinas of her time.

Topics: native americans, Osage, Oklahoma, ballet, Westward Expansion, music, interests, biographies, narrative nonfiction

Units of Study: Social Issues, Nonfiction

Tribes: personal best

Reading Skills: inference, determining importance, envisionment

Writing Skills: seeing the world as a writer, using interesting transitional phrases

My Thoughts: This story is great to read when discussing what it means to put your all into something.  Maria Tallchief lived, breathed, and ate music and dance.  She writes about how her teacher told her to live like a dancer “When you sleep, you must sleep like a dancer.  When you stand and wait for the bus, you must wait for the bus like a dancer.”  This particular scene reminds me how we often challenge our students to live like writers.  Perhaps now we can tell students, “When you wait for the bus, you must wait for the bus like a writer–notebook in hand, waiting to collect stories.”

August 2, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

32. Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

team moonRetell: Thimmesh tells the story of the Apollo 11 mission.  It includes several quotes, interviews and amazing photographs from the moon landing.

Topics: moon landing, space, Apollo 11, teamwork, goals, problem-solving, perseverance

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area, Personal Essay

Tribes: attentive listening, mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, interpretation, determining importance

Writing Skills: using descriptive language, inserting quotations, using dashes, using ellipses

My Thoughts: To commemorate its 40th anniversary I plan to read at least one book about the moon landing this year.  What I love about this particular book is its emphasis on teamwork.  As the title suggests, Apollo 11 was successful because of the dilligence of several hundred-thousand people working together in teams trying to accomplish one goal.  It’s a dense book so I can see reading only a few sections at a time.  This could be used as a rich mentor text for writing nonfiction.  Thimmesh writes with excitement and enthusiasm making the text very engaging.

July 28, 2009 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

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