Posts tagged ‘empathy’

136. Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Retell: This is the biography of Cesar Chavez, the leader of the National Farm Workers Association who worked to organize farm workers to rally together and fight for better pay and working conditions.

Topics: family, Cesar Chavez, conflict, drought, California, farming, Spanish, migrant workers, unions, La Causa, strikes, protests, boycotts, farm workers

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Social Issues

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

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, determining importance, synthesis, empathy

My Thoughts: Back when I taught in California this was required reading–in the Bay Area Cesar Chavez’s birthday is a school holiday.  This book could fit into different types of text sets.  For example, you could include this book when teaching a unit on the labor unit.  You could also choose to read this book as a companion text to Esperanza Rising.

November 29, 2009 at 12:46 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

117. Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin

alfred nobelTopics: Alfred Nobel, Nobel Peace Prize, nitroglycerin, death, literature, art, dynamite, peace, legacy

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits of Mind: persisting, gathering data through all senses, striving for accuracy and precision, questioning and posing problems, applying past knowledge to new situations

Reading Skills: prediction, synthesis, determining importance, interpretation, empathy

My Thoughts: With the announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Barack Obama, you may want to take the opportunity to discuss the history of the prize itself.  It’s a great text for discussing the Habits of Mind.  The illustrations are quite large and are particularly vivid–perfect for classroom read alouds.

October 22, 2009 at 7:48 pm Leave a 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

39. Mama Loves Me From Away by Pat Brisson

mama loves me from awayRetell: Sugar and her mama share the same birthday.  Sugar enjoys listening to her mother’s stories.  She especially misses them now that her mother is in prison.  Her mother finds a way to share her stories even from far away.

Topics: mothers, families, prison, stories, birthdays

Units of Study: Social Issues, Personal Narratives, Realistic Fiction

Tribes: attentive listening

Reading Skills: interpretation, questioning, empathy

Writing Skills: writing with a balance of description and reflection, keeping a writers notebook

My Thoughts: This is a moving story about a girl who is dealing with the fact that her mother is imprisoned.  There aren’t many published stories like this in the world.  It’s a great model to use when you teach your students to write about stories you wish belonged in the world–the ones that show aspects of your life or struggles you are going through.  The author never reveals what the mother did to land her in prison which I think is a nice touch.  The book isn’t about the mother, but about how much her daughter misses her.

August 4, 2009 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

35. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

one green appleRetell: One Green Apple is the story of Farah, a Muslim immigrant, who struggles to fit in.  Despite the language barrier she manages to make friends and participate during the field trip to the apple orchard.

Topics: immigration, language barrier, dupatta, field trips, friendship, Muslim characters

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

Tribes: mutual respect, right to pass

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, empathy

Writing Skills: including metaphors, using sensory details

My Thoughts: I wish I knew about this book last year.  I had two students who recently came from China.  Other students were having difficulty communicating with them.  They got frustrated when the Chinese students didn’t understand their rapid speech.  The Chinese students got frustrated when people spoke too loud to them and ‘dumbed material down’.  I intend to use this book to address language issues.  In the story Farah thinks to herself, “I understand.  It’s not that I am stupid.  It is just that I am lost in this new place.”  I can see using this book as a mentor text for teaching about metaphors.  You could discuss Eve Bunting’s decision to make Farah choose a green apple rather than a red apple like the others.

July 31, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

15. Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

henry's freedom boxRetell: This is the true story of Henry “Box” Brown.  After his family was sold to another plantation, Henry decides to escape to freedom via the postal service.

Topics: underground railroad, slavery, perseverance

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area Reading and Writing, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best

Reading Skills: inference, emapthy

Writing Skills: incorporating symbolism, using setting details

My thoughts: I can see why this won a Caldecott Award.  The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are larger than life.  What’s nice about this book, as well as many biographies written for young readers, is its author’s note.  Reading both the story and the author’s note is a nice way to compare narrative and expository nonfiction.  Though Henry’s Freedom Box is a biography, I could also see reading this book during a unit on historical fiction to examine how an author tucks in historical details.

July 11, 2009 at 9:00 am 1 comment

14. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar

there's a boy in the girls' bathroomRetell: It is easy to dislike Bradley Chalkers.  He beats up other students, lies about everything, and refuses to do his homework.  Bradley’s life begins to change when he meets Carla, the school counselor who inspires him to be a gold star student.

Topics: school, counseling, disagreeing, lying, making excuses, power, trust, friendship, homework, imaginary friends, partnerships, fights, confidence, putdowns, name-calling, safety, sibling issues, self-esteem, rewards, gold stars, asking for help, just right books, love of reading, affirmations, trust

Units of Study: Character, Literary Essay, Talking and Writing about Texts

Tribes: mutual respect, appreciations/no putdowns, right to pass, personal best

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, empathy, making connections, synthesis

My Thoughts: My heart still aches after reading this book.  It’s not a depressing book it’s just that I spent the book fearful that Bradley was going to keep digging himself into holes (not literal holes that’s Sachar’s other book).  As you can see from this post’s tags, there are so many ways that one could use this book during interactive read aloud.  The book lends itself very well to examining character relationships.  Many of the secondary characters make significant changes that affect Bradley.  I think many students will be able to make connections to Bradley’s complex relationship with his sister, Claudia.  Sachar encourages his readers to try and understand the bully rather than demonize him/her.  Bradley reminds me of one of my former students.  I think I’m going to buy this book and send it to him.

July 10, 2009 at 9:00 am 3 comments


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