Posts tagged ‘nonfiction’

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.

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

143. Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

Retell: Through a worm’s diary the reader learns about the ups and downs of being an earthworm.

Topics: earthworms, diaries, composting, differences, predators, soil

Units of Study: Content Area, Nonfiction

Habits of Mind: Finding Humor

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, synthesis

My Thoughts: My class has just started a study on earthworms.  Before read aloud each day we check on our worms working hard in our new worm compost bin.  Students are bringing food scraps from their lunches (one student even brought coffee grounds from home).  A colleague of mine referred me to this adorable book that allows readers to look at the world through the humorous perspective of a young earthworm.  I think this book will make an excellent mentor text for students who are deciding to write narrative nonfiction pieces.  It’s a great text for teaching readers to be on the look out for jokes and for teaching writers how to incorporate humor into their writing.

January 31, 2010 at 8:02 pm 1 comment

142. Heroes of the Revolution by David A. Adler

Retell: Heroes of the Revolution presents the stories of 12 people who risked their lives for American independence.

Topics: heroes, spies, bravery, independence, war, revolution, Ethan Allen, Crispus Attucks, Lydia Darragh, Nathan Hale, Molly Pitcher, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Thomas Paine, Paul Revere, Haym Salomon, Deborah Sampson, George Washington

Units: Content Area, Nonfiction

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: interpretation, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: What makes this a great read aloud is that the stories of each hero are quite short.  They make both great read aloud and shared reading texts.  Adler attempts to include stories from people other than just the white male heroes.  Throughout the book you not only learn about what made each person important but each story tells the origin of famous quotes associated with the Revolution.  You will hear the origin of such famous quotes as: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” “Times that try men’s souls,” “I have not yet begun to fight!”

January 18, 2010 at 1:05 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

138. Jose! Born to Dance by Susanna Reich

Retell: This is the story of Jose Limon, who left his family to move to New York.  Frustrated by his poor artistic talent he fell in love with dance and worked to become a famous dancer and choreographer.

Topics: dance, war, family, Mexico, immigration, art, music, English, Spanish, death, New York, California

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Social Issues

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

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: synthesis, monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using sound effects, zooming in on a small moment

My Thoughts: This text has multiple teaching purposes.  It’s a great text for introducing or reinforcing the habit of mind–persistence.  There are many moments in the story when Jose persists.  He struggles to learn English but persists despite his cruel classmates.  He is determined to become a dancer and shows persistence each day during rehearsal despite sore, aching muscles.  During the read aloud we can hope that students understand that successful people, no matter what their focus, work hard and persist, even when they face adversity.

December 5, 2009 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

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

135. Presidential Pets by Laura Driscoll

Retell: A history of presidents and their beloved pets.

Topics: pets, presidents, fun, friendship, dogs, Obama, Bo, family

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Reading Skills: synthesis, making connections, interpretation

Writing Skills: developing voice in nonfiction

My Thoughts: I picked this book up a few days ago at our school’s book fair.  I have a lot of animal lovers in my class who only read nonfiction about animals.  This book combines an interest in animals with an interest in presidential history and current events.  It’s a nice book for demonstrating how readers can often get distracted by seductive details but must work constantly to think about what the author is trying to say about the topic.

November 23, 2009 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

134. Between Earth and Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places by Joseph Bruchac

Retell: On the way to a pow-wow Old Bear teaches his nephew Little Turtle about the legends connected to the sacred places of other Native American tribes.

Topics: legends, Native Americans, sacred places, Wampanoag, Seneca, Niagara Falls, Navajo, Cherokee, Papago, Hopewell, Cheyenne, Hopi, Abenaki, Walapai, Grand Canyon

Units of Study: Content-Area, Nonfiction, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, interpretation

My Thoughts: This is a great read aloud for integrating map skills.  Using the clues in each legend, students could try and figure out which place is being described.  A copy of the map in the back of the book could be distributed to students during the read aloud and partners could work together to locate each sacred place on the map.

November 22, 2009 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

132. The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George

the first thanksgivingRetell: The story of the first Thanksgiving which addresses some former misconceptions.

Topics: Thanksgiving, Cape Cod, Plymouth Rock, Pawtuxets, slavery, Squanto, Puritans, Mayflower, survival, death, cooperation, farming

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: When I was a kid, I learned about how the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.  They toiled through the winter and many people died.  I learned how Squanto helped the Pilgrims plant corn, beans and squash and as a gesture of peace, the Native Americans and the Pilgrims sat together to celebrate the harvest.  What I didn’t learn until I read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen is how Squanto came to learn English–he had been a slave in London.  Several years before the Pilgrims arrival, Squanto had been tricked onto a boat headed for Spain.  He was purchased by a merchant ship owner from London.  Squanto eventually sailed back to the village that he had been stolen from only to find that his entire village had died from smallpox!

This book attempts to tell the story of the first Thanksgiving without glossing over the contributions of the Wampanoag and of Squanto.  I plan on reading this during the few days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.  I also think I want to reread it during our Social Issues unit.

November 15, 2009 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

131. Apple Country by Denise Willi

apple countryRetell: A look into the history of apple-growing in the United States.

Topics: apples, orchards, colonists, Johnny Appleseed, farmers, packing plants, processing plants

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area, Journalism

Reading Skills: determining importance, synthesis, monitoring for sense

My Thoughts: This is a great book for teaching students how to effectively read and synthesize text features.  There are many text features within the book:  a flowchart, an interview, a table, a map, illustrations with captions, etc.  It’s a particularly nice read aloud for New York 4th graders because it ties in natural resources of New York State and Colonial history.

November 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

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