Posts tagged ‘memoir’

149. Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

Retell:  The subtitle says it all:  “Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka.”

Topics: boys, brothers, growing up, catholic school, rough-housing, adventure, reading, family

Units of Study:  Memoir, Personal Narrative, Nonfiction

Tribes:  Mutual Respect, Appreciations/No Put-Downs

Habits of Mind:  Finding Humor

Reading Skills:  Understanding figurative language and humor

Writing Skills:  Balancing dialogue with description and inner thinking, including prologues

Thoughts:  This is a must-read for any teacher who plans on doing a Personal Narrative or Memoir unit.  Most stories are short (1-3 pages), hilarious and at times disgusting.  I personally love the story entitled, “Car Trip,” a story about brothers in the back of a car reacting to a cat puking.  Many of the stories end with a reflection making them ideal mentor texts if you’re teaching Memoir. One story, “Random Reading” may be useful during a Nonfiction unit.  In this story he talks about enjoying the diagrams found within the pages of the Golden Book Encyclopedia series.   Jon Scieszka writes particularly with boy readers and writers in mind.  If you haven’t already, check out his website called Guys Read.

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August 27, 2011 at 6:57 pm Leave a comment

146. When I Was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Retell: Rylant beautifully recalls her childhood where she swam in swimming holes and sat on porch swings.

Topics: grandparents, family, rural communities, childhood, country

Units of Study: Memoir, Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

Writing Skills: writing commas in lists, including poignant details

My Thoughts: This is a read aloud classic that I have rediscovered.  My class has just started collecting ideas for their memoirs.  I read this book out loud the other day.  Though half the class had read it previously, there were no groans when I showed the cover and read the title.  During a “turn-and-talk” I over heard one student convincing her partner that the author was trying to show how special rural life can be.  She said, “In the city, you are never allowed to go outside by yourself.  But in this book the girl was allowed to go to the swimming hole all by herself.  I think this book might be about freedom.”  I had never actually read this book in that way before.  I love it when my students make me see a book in a new light.

Read this book when you need the room to go to a peaceful, sentimental silence.

May 9, 2010 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

140. When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz

Retell: A Lenape Indian girl describes how her family has worked, played and celebrated throughout the seasons and throughout the generations.

Topics: Lenni Lenape, generations, past, present, cycles, family, seasons, farming, nature

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, interpretation, synthesis

My Thoughts: This is a great text to support a Social Studies unit on the Lenni Lenape.  In this book, the illustrations really tell the story and support interpretation work.  The narration is illustrated on the right hand pages:  A modern Lenape family farms, weatherizes their house to prepare for winter, fishes for shad, and plays games in the snow.  On the left hand pages, a Lenape family from the past do the same activities.

December 13, 2009 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

137. When Lightning Comes in a Jar by Patricia Polacco

Retell: Patricia Polacco describes a fun-filled family reunion where the adults challenge the kids to baseball games, the aunties make meatloaf and jello salads, and everyone catches fireflies.

Topics: reunions, family, baseball, curiosity, storytelling, fireflies, tradition, parties

Units of Study: Memoir, Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: incorporating sensory details, storytelling

My Thoughts: When planning read alouds, I have been trying to create text sets, planning books not just by unit of study, but by themes.  I’m thinking of creating a text set with the theme of ‘traditions’ which may include  When Lightning Comes in a Jar, The Keeping Quilt, and When the Relatives Came.  This book could also be great to read when you are teaching students to storytell to their partners.  Storytelling is a Polacco family reunion tradition.

November 30, 2009 at 9:10 am 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

104. Postcards from a War by Vanita Oelschlager

postcards from a warRetell: Brian’s mom is in the Air Force.  Brian is sad that she has gone away to war.  To console him, Brian’s grandfather talks about the time his own father fought in World War II.  While he was in Manila he would send letters and postcards to his family to make them feel better.  Brian soon receives digital letters from his mom and begins to feel more connected.

Topics: family, communication, war, World War II, letters, reconstruction, military

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narratives, Memoir

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: writing from another person’s perspective, quoting written material, using photos to inspire notebook entries

My Thoughts: I highly recommend this text for any teacher who may have a student with a family member in the military.  This is a particularly powerful read aloud for Writing.  The text shows how important writing is and how writing can connect a family.  The author includes authentic photographs that were sent by her father during World War II.  It would be great to read this book to students who struggle with generating ideas.  I can imagine this book inspiring young writers to go home and look through family photos in order to generate ideas for personal narratives, memoirs or even realistic fiction.

October 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

84. Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

chicken sundayRetell: Easter is around the corner and Miss Eula wants a new hat to wear to church.  Her grandchildren and her young neighbor decide to ask Mr. Kodinski if they could work at his hat shop to earn extra money.  On the way to his shop, he mistakes the children for vandals.  They come up with an interesting way to earn back his trust as well as earn enough money for a new hat.

Topics: reputation, hats, chutzpah, Easter, vandalism, gifts, Holocaust survivors

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Social Issues, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

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

Reading Skills: questioning, inference

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, repeating powerful lines

My Thoughts: If you follow this blog daily, you’re sick of seeing entries about Patricia Polacco.  I can’t help it.  I love her work.  Since I’m currently in the Personal Narrative mindset, her work naturally comes to mind.  The illustrations in this book can be powerful teaching tools.  Throughout Chicken Sunday, real photographs appear in the background.  This shows that Polacco thinks about significant people in her life and then writes stories about them. I love how Mr. Kodinski’s story can be inferred through the illustrations.  Previously, Miss Eula alluded to the fact that he wanted a peaceful life after suffering so much.  The text never states specifically why he had a difficult life.  The illustrations give you the information.  Tattooed on Mr. Kodinski’s arm are six blue numbers, revealing that he survived the concentration camps.  This book shows students how readers can reread a text and peal a different layer of meaning with each reading.

September 18, 2009 at 11:15 pm Leave a comment

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