Posts tagged ‘making connections’

72. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

love you foreverRetell: A mother starts a tradition of singing a song to her son:  “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”  Through the terrible twos, adolescence and adulthood the mother sings this song to her child.  When the mother becomes old and sick, it is the son’s turn to sing the song.

Topics: family, childhood, parenting

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections, prediction

Writing Skills: using traditions and special moments in your life to create a story

Thoughts: I just got back from my friend’s baby shower.  I’m kicking myself for not adding this book to her other gifts.  This is a book that is sure to make the reader teary-eyed.  If you are strong enough to read it in front of your class, it could be a great mentor text for generating ideas for personal narratives or memoirs.  This book could inspire young authors to think and write about the traditions, the songs, or customs important to their own families.

September 6, 2009 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

68. Old MacDonald Had an Apartment House by Judi Barrett

old macdonald had an apartment houseRetell: A super decides to turn the apartment building he manages into a vegetable garden.  When Mr. Wrental, the owner, finds out he’s furious.  But when he thinks about all the money he could make, the owner has a change of heart.

Topics: gardening, apartments, cities, indoor gardening

Units of Study: Social Issues, Realistic Fiction

Habits: thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: Prediction, making connections

Writing Skills: Using the ‘rule of three’ when listing examples

My Thoughts: This is a very cute book by the author of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  Before reading this book aloud, you may want to find a copy of Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic so students will understand the joke behind the cover illustration.  I can certainly identify with the characters in this book.  Both my apartment and my classroom get little to no light.  My classroom doesn’t have any windows at all so I wrote a grant proposal for a GroLab on Donors Choose and it was funded in three days!  When it arrives I plan on reading this book to the class.  Perhaps after the read aloud we’ll try growing vegetables.

September 3, 2009 at 12:05 am 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

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

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

47. The House That Crack Built by Clark Taylor

the house that crack builtRetell: A serious poem, told in cumulative verse, detailing the many lives affected by crack.

Topics: crack, drug abuse, responsibility

Units of Study: Social Issues

Tribes: right to pass

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, questioning, making connections

Writing Skills: using rhythm and rhyme

My Thoughts: This is an intense book.  I’m trying to decide if I will read it aloud to my students this year or not.  On one hand I think it’s important to have realistic discussions about drugs with elementary school students, but on the other hand I have to be aware that this book may be too heavy for some students.  If I do decide to read it aloud this year I think it could be a great for the Social Issues unit.  Chronicle Books has a great reading guide for the book which provides questions appropriate for both elementary and middle school aged children.

August 13, 2009 at 1:19 am 1 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

29. Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas

saying goodbye to luluRetell: A young girl has difficulty saying goodbye to her beloved dog Lulu.  With help from her parents, she learns how to move on without forgetting the wonderful memories of Lulu.

Topics: loss, dogs, reflection, death, dying, pets, grief, memories, family

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: synthesis, making connections

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

My Thoughts: I shouldn’t have read this book in a cafe.  Let’s just say that my eyes were quite red and puffy after reading this book.  It is however, a great text for discussing various stages of the grieving process.  She goes through denial, anger, sadness, reflection and finally acceptance.  The author zooms in on small but important details (“I missed the sound of her tail going thump, thump while she waited for me at the bottom of the stairs…”) making it a great mentor text for writing narratives.

July 25, 2009 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

27. The Road to Santiago by D.H. Figueredo

the road to santiagoRetell: Every year Figueredo and his family return to Santiago, Cuba for Christmas.  When calls for revolution sounded throughout Cuba the author recalls how his family almost didn’t make it home for his favorite holiday.

Topics: Cuba, Christmas, rebels, family, kindness of strangers, traditions

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, incorporating vocabulary from another language, generating notebook ideas

My Thoughts: A common thread thoughout the story is kindness.  Each scene highlights how people were kind to the author’s family:  a mill worker helps them fix a flat tire, a young man gives up his seat on the bus. Though this is technically a personal narrative I could see reading this book during a unit on writing historical fiction.  The story takes place during the 1950s revolutionary period in Cuba.  He threads details of the time period throughout the story making this a good historical fiction mentor text.

July 23, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

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