Posts tagged ‘envisionment’

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

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

61. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

the relatives cameRetell: Every summer the relatives from Virginia drive several hours to visit their family.  There is a lot of hugging, a lot of chatting and a lot of eating.  When they leave, the house feels a bit empty.

Topics: family, summer, reunions

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, making connections

Writing Skills: using sensory details, describing how time passes

My Thoughts: I found this classic for only $2 at a great used bookstore in Mt. Shasta, California.  It used to belong to a library so the bottom of each page is cracked, crinkled and reinforced with tape–a testament to how much we love this book.  This is a wonderful book to use during the Personal Narrative unit.  Though it’s not technically a small moment (the book spans over two weeks) sections of it can be used as a mentor text.  I notice that many of my students struggle when writing about time.  They often spend a lot of energy including each detail because it happened ‘next’.  I see a lot of stories where each sentence begins with ‘then’.  Sections of The Relatives Came could be used to show how authors deal with time.  The relatives drive for a long time but Rylant doesn’t describe every single thing they see or every pit stop they make.  She chooses to focus on a few details only, the strange houses, mountains, and their thoughts of purple grapes back home.  The illustrations also tell a story themselves making it a good book for modeling inference.

August 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm Leave a comment

60. In My Momma’s Kitchen by Jerdine Nolen

in my momma's kitchenRetell: This is a heartwarming collection of small moments that all take place in a family’s kitchen:  a daughter receives a music scholarship, children make up stories, women chitchat and a father makes his signature dish.

Topics: family, community, childhood

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: This is a great text to read at different points of the year.  I originally purchased this book thinking it would be a good read aloud for the Personal Narrative unit.  After reading it a second time, I realize that it’s also a great mentor text for the Memoir unit.  Each story is connected by its setting–the kitchen.  Using this text students could try out Nolen’s strategy of thinking of an important place (a room, a park) and write memories associated with that place.  Since this book reads like an anthology of notebook entries, you could use this text when introducing the writer’s notebook.

August 25, 2009 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

58. Riding the Tiger by Eve Bunting

riding the tigerRetell: Danny, a new boy in town, is invited to ride on the back of a tiger.  When he notices the fear in the eyes of passersby he tries to get off of the tiger.  He soon realizes that once you get on the tiger it’s difficult to get off.

Topics: danger, choices, excitement, gangs, influence, power, respect, fear, peer pressure

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

Tribes: right to pass, mutual respect

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: using dialogue, incorporating metaphors in to a story

My Thoughts: As the school year approaches I am thinking about the books that I will want to read during the first few weeks of school.  During the first two weeks of school I like to read books that lend themselves well to teaching the five agreements of our school (These agreements are based on Tribes.  Our school added a fifth agreement–‘personal best’)  Riding the Tiger is an excellent book for teaching about the ‘right to pass’.  From the beginning of the story Danny doesn’t feel comfortable accepting a ride from the tiger without first asking his mom for permission.  He accepts the ride anyway and becomes increasingly more conflicted about the ride.  He eventually takes the ‘right to pass’ when he finally gets off the tiger and helps a man who has fallen down.  This book will certainly inspire discussion about peer pressure and gang recruitment.  When introducing this book you will want to set students up to do deep interpretation work.  Some students may not realize that the tiger is metaphorical.

August 23, 2009 at 3:56 pm Leave a 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

54. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery

two bobbiesRetell: This is the true story of how a stranded cat and dog survived the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Topics: pets, Hurricane Katrina, survival, friendship, family, homelessness

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

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: This is a book that I didn’t mind buying brand new and in hardcover.  I found this in a bookstore in Ashland, Oregon.  The cashier and I spent a few moments cooing over her ridiculously cute it is.  In addition to being an amazingly touching story it’s a great text to read to learn about Hurricane Katrina.   It could also be a great read aloud during an interpretation unit.  On one level it’s a story about survival but it could also be interpreted as a story about friendship between two individuals who come from groups who are normally not friendly to each other.

August 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

52. Night of the Gargoyles by Eve Bunting

night of the gargoylesRetell: During the day gargoyles suffer a lot of abuse.  They get rained on, they endure the heat and they tolerate nasty pigeons.  However, during the evening the gargoyles come out to play.

Topics: gargoyles, play, perspectives, night

Units of Study: Fantasy

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using descriptive language, incorporating interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: I never realized how much I love the works of Eve Bunting.  This is the third book of hers that I’ve reviewed.  Night of the Gargoyles might be a nice book to read on or prior to Halloween.  It’s spooky but not too creepy.  It’s also a good book for introducing the idea that there are different perspectives other than our own.  A lot of writers have created fabulous stories by considering the perspective of animals, objects, insects, etc. (ex. James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web).  This could then lead to a discussion about using personification in our writing.

August 18, 2009 at 1:46 am Leave a comment

51. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

skippyjonjonesRetell: Skippyjon Jones is an imaginative Siamese cat.  After catching her son in a bird’s nest she banishes Skippyjon to his room so he can think about what it means to be a cat.  Instead he imagines that he is a chihuahua named Skippito Friskito.

Topics: individuality, creativity, imagination, parents, Spanish

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

Habits of Mind: creating-imagining-innovating

Reading Skills: envisionment, making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: incorporating rhyme and rhythm, writing stories based on real life

My Thoughts: I purchased this book at JFK while waiting for my flight to Portland.  The rhyming chants in the book caught my eye.  It seems like it will be a fun book to read aloud.  I like how the book promotes having an active imagination.  However, I don’t feel I’d be comfortable reading this book aloud without encouraging my students to think critically about whether or not the book is culturally sensitive.  When Skippyjon becomes a chihuahua he starts speaking in a Spanish accent–which means ending most of his words with -ito.  He doesn’t say ‘big’ he says ‘beeg’.  The author isn’t trying to create an authentic Mexican character.  She’s trying to write a story about a character who likes to play pretend.  At any rate, this book could be great to read or reread during a critical reading study.  If you click on the book image above the link will take you to an interesting comments thread on Powell’s website.

August 17, 2009 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

50. Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Distinguished Authors and Illustrators of Children’s Books to Aid the Homeless

homeRetell: An anthology of poetry and prose all based on the subject ‘home’.  Many famous writers and illustrators contributed pieces such as:  Virginia Hamilton, Aliki, Jon Sciszka, Jane Yolen and more.

Topics: home, hiding places, family, children

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Launching the Reading Workshop

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating

Reading Skills: making connections, envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, using sensory details

My Thoughts: This is a handy resource for the Personal Narrative unit.  Many of the poems and stories within the anthology will be great ‘small moment’ mentor texts.  Home contains some great pieces that will encourage students as they author their independent reading lives.  The story “Comfortable Old Chair” by Karla Kuskin features a girl who loves reading in her favorite chair.  In the poem, “Elevator” Lucille Clifton describes a girl who reads in the corner of her building’s elevator.  I plan on using these pieces to show how dedicated readers take charge of their lives at home and find a place that’s entirely theirs.  I knew a student who used to have trouble finding a quiet space to read in his crowded apartment.  He started scheduling bathroom reading time.  He would bring in pillows, blankets and books and make a comfy reading spot in the bathtub.

August 16, 2009 at 1:19 am Leave a comment

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