Posts tagged ‘personal best’

141. Coming On Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson

Retell: Ada Ruth can’t wait for her mom to return home from Chicago.  The story takes place during World War II.  Ada Ruth’s mother has gone North to seek jobs on the railroad.  With help from her grandmother and her new feline friend, Ada Ruth is able to wait patiently for her mom to come on home.

Topics: goodbyes, World War II, Chicago, family, pets, cats, poverty, hunger

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

Tribes: personal best

Reading Skills: inference, prediction, interpretation

Writing Skills: tucking in details about setting, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: This is a great text to read aloud during an Historical Fiction unit.  It’s a useful text for modeling how readers think about symbolism (or alternatively how writers incorporate symbolism).  For example, it would be helpful to point out the meaning of the kitten in the story.  One could read the story without giving much thought about the kitten’s importance.  However, upon closer reading, one could read into the kitten’s significance.  Perhaps the kitten is a symbol that represents Ada Ruth’s hope that her mother will write soon.  Perhaps the kitten symbolizes her loneliness.

January 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm 2 comments

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

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

126. Strong to the Hoop by John Coy

strong to the hoopRetell: James has always wanted to play basketball on the main court.  Knowing that he’s too young and too small, he practices on the side court.  One day a player gets injured and he volunteers to play.  Though he misses shots and fouls other players, he gains his courage and ends up winning the game.

Topics: basketball, courage, playground, body image, boys

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narrative

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference

Writing Skills: incorporating similes, alliteration, using commas to list action, balancing internal thinking, action and dialogue

My Thoughts: This book was hiding on my read aloud shelf in my classroom.  I forgot all about it and now I’m kicking myself for not reading it to my class during our recent Realistic Fiction unit.  This is a fantastic small moment mentor text.  The events of the story are few:  a boy practices, enters a game, struggles, and wins.  However through a balance of internal thinking, small action and dialogue, the author creates a suspenseful, meaningful story.

November 7, 2009 at 7:34 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

112. Allie’s Basketball Dream by Barbara E. Barber

allie's basketball dreamRetell: Allie wants to be a star basketball player like her cousin Gwen.  After receiving a brand-new basketball from her father, she gives it a test run at the neighborhood playground.  She soon finds out that not everyone is willing to accept a girl on the court.

Topics: basketball, gender issues, friendship

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

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best, right to pass

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, making connections

Writing Skills: planning  a story across 2-3 scenes

My Thoughts: This book is a great read aloud for so many different units.  It’s a particularly good text to read during the Social Issues unit.  It’s nice to read this book before or after reading other books that deal with gender issues such as,  William’s Doll,  or Oliver Button is a Sissy.  It’s a good mentor text for the Realistic Fiction unit because the story takes place across two scenes.

October 17, 2009 at 9:32 pm Leave a comment

111. Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter

roberto clementeRetell: This is the rags-to-riches story of Roberto Clemente.  Not only was he an all-star player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was also a humanitarian who donated a great deal of his earnings to charity.

Topics: baseball, Puerto Rico, racism, poetry

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

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, striving for accuracy

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: including similes, using commas in lists

My Thoughts: I like sports stories that emphasize the athlete’s character rather than just his/her athletic ability.  This is a good book for showing persistence even in the face of adversity.  The book describes how Clemente grew up playing baseball with a glove made out of a coffee-bean sack and baseballs made from old soup cans.  Written in free verse but organized into two line stanzas, this is a great book to read as a model for students writing nonfiction poetry during the Content-Area unit.

October 17, 2009 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

105. Twenty-Odd Ducks: Why, Every Punctuation Mark Counts! by Lynne Truss

twenty-odd ducksRetell: Lynne Truss presents illustrated examples of how the meaning of a sentence changes when a writer makes poor choices about punctuation.

Topics: punctuation

Units of Study: Any Writing  unit

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

My Thoughts: This is the companion to her book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. This book, however doesn’t just focus on commas.  When students started to edit their personal narratives during our last Writing unit, I taught a lesson about how writers make important choices about end punctuation (for more fabulous lessons about teaching grammar and punctuation consult The Power of Grammar).  I plan on reading this book in a few weeks when I review this concept with students.  I hope this inspires students to experiment with punctuation.

October 11, 2009 at 9:12 pm Leave a comment

97. A Family Guide to House Monsters by Stanislov Marijanovic

a family guide to house monstersRetell: This book explains many things including:  why we look in the mirror, why we spill things and why we are afraid of the dark.  It turns out we can blame everything on house monsters.

Topics: monsters, behavior, forgetfulness, laziness, vanity, clumsiness

Units of Study: Fantasy

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: finding humor

Reading Skills: making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using alliteration

My Thoughts: I thought I was feeling exhausted from the hectic day.  It turns out I’m being followed by Doze-A-Log, the house monster of fatigue.  One of the great things about doing this blog is that I’ve been receiving gifts of books.  (Thanks Jess!)  Just last week I had a reading celebration where students brought in artifacts that represent a positive reading moment.  I’m so thankful to the people in my life who are sharing their favorite reading moments with me.  Keep sending recommendations!

This book may be difficult to obtain, but I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy.  It has many teaching purposes.  It could be a great mentor text during the Fantasy unit for developing quirky characters.  Each monster’s name is either a play-on-words or contains a Greek or Latin root that is connected to the monster’s behavior.  What a wonderful addition to word work!  With my more advanced students I plan on having them read a monster’s name and make a prediction about its behavior based on information from the word itself.  We’ll then read the text together and discuss if there are other words that may be connected to the word.  For example, I may show students the name, “Instantania”.  I would expect that they could recognize “instant” and guess that the monster is impatient.  We may then brainstorm other words with that base, (instantly, instantaneous, etc.)

October 1, 2009 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

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