Posts tagged ‘personal best’

92. Butterflies for Kiri by Cathryn Falwell

butterflies for kiriRetell: Kiri loves to paint and draw.  When her Auntie Lu sends her a package of origami paper, Kiri begins teaching herself how to fold a paper butterfly.  She gets to a point where her corners are supposed to match up and tears her paper.  She attempts the butterfly the next day but she is scared that she will tear one of her beautiful papers.  Through practice and persistence Kiri eventually folds a successful butterfly.

Topics: origami, art, paper, diagrams, how-to

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: persisting, striving for accuracy, creating-innovating-imagining, thinking flexibly, managing impulsivity, taking responsible risks, remaining open to continuous learning

Writing Skills: including similes, making several drafts before publishing

My Thoughts: I wish I had known about this book years ago when I started a paper crane project with my fourth graders.  We read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, folded 1,000 paper cranes, and sent them to a school in Japan who delivered our cranes to the peace memorial in Hiroshima.  When I had started the project, I didn’t realize how difficult paper crane folding would be for that age.  Some students were able to pick it up quickly while others got really frustrated with the process.  Kiri teaches us how to deal with frustration.  She took a break from the project, practiced with other materials, and tackled the project with new energy.  Throughout this book many ‘habits of mind’ are presented.  Even if you don’t plan on doing origami with your class, it’s great to read during the revising process of any Writing unit.

September 27, 2009 at 8:05 pm 1 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

78. Amelia Writes Again by Marissa Moss

amelia writes againRetell: Amelia is a young girl who collects thoughts, souvenirs, photos and stories in her writer’s notebook.  Through the pages of her notebook we learn about Amelia’s friend Leah, her sister Cleo, and the terrible arsonist who destroyed her school.

Topics: writing, birthdays, siblings, friendship, daydreaming, numbers, arson, symbols, partnerships, writer’s notebooks

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Realistic Fiction, Social Issues, Personal Essay

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, right to pass, personal best

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Writing Skills: generating notebook entries, using pictures and objects to inspire writing, writing about ideas, spelling tricky words by writing it in different ways

Thoughts: This is volume 2 in a series of “Amelia” books.  I use this each year when we relaunch our writer’s notebooks.  The book resembles a composition notebook.  There are many ways that it can be used to teach writing skills, but it also stands alone for discussing other issues.  For example, Amelia writes about how she is reluctant to show her notebook to her friend Leah.  This could be a great time to discuss taking the right to pass.  During a Social Issues or Personal Essay unit you could use this book to analyze the issue of school vandalism.

If  you have used any books from the “Amelia” series please post your ideas in the comments section.

September 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm 1 comment

74. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

first day jittersRetell: Sarah Hartwell is nervous about going to her new school.  She hides under the covers while Mr. Hartwell urges her to get out of bed.  Luckily the students, the principal and the staff are friendly to Sarah and she eventually feels ready for the first day of school.  It’s a good thing because Sarah isn’t a kid–she’s the teacher.

Topics: first day of school, nervousness, teachers

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction,

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best, attentive listening

Habits of Mind: perseverance

Reading Skills: making connections, making predictions

Thoughts: I can’t believe tomorrow is the first day of school!   I’m surprised by my own first day jitters.  Last year I looped with my class.  The night before the first day of school I remember feeling more relaxed because I already knew my students.  Tomorrow I will be starting with a new batch of 4th grade learners.  Though I’m not starting at a new school like Sarah Hartwell, I still feel anxious.  I can only imagine how my students feel.  I hope that after reading this book tomorrow my students will think of ways to help each other fight the first day jitters.

Welcome back to school everyone!

September 8, 2009 at 8:33 pm 1 comment

73. David Goes to School by David Shannon

david goes to schoolRetell: David is a rambunctious boy who wreaks havoc at school.  After coloring on the desks he stays in after school to clean them up.

Topics: school, rules, behavior, bathroom, calling out

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

Tribes: mutual respect, attentive listening, personal best

Writing Skills: using memories to generate notebook entries

Thoughts: Here is a just-for-fun read aloud for the first day of school.  It’s a great read for beginning a discussion about rules, agreements and norms.  If you have access to Guys Read you may want to share David Shannon’s story about how he created the David books.  The anthology has cool original pictures of the young version of his other book No, David!

September 7, 2009 at 11:03 pm Leave a comment

71. The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

the bee treeRetell: When Mary Ellen becomes bored of reading her grampa takes her on a hunt for a bee tree.  People from the community join them as they run through the Michigan countryside chasing bees.  By the end of the bee tree chase Mary Ellen learns that there are many similarities between chasing knowledge through the pages of a book and chasing bees.

Topics: reading, outdoors, adventure, grandparents, community, knowledge

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narrative, Authoring an Independent Reading Life

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, interpretation

My Thoughts: I like reading this book at the beginning of the year when we author our own independent reading lives.  I think this year I want to keep referring back to the book when we have particularly juicy conversations.  When students ask interesting, provocative questions I could refer to them as ‘honey questions’.  I need to make a banner with Grampa’s words:  “[Adventure, knowledge and wisdom] do not come easily.  You have to pursue them.  Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things through the pages of a book!”

September 5, 2009 at 9:07 pm 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

66. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

amazing graceRetell: Grace loves to act.  When her school puts on a production of Peter Pan she is eager to audition.  Her classmates tell her that she can’t be Peter Pan because she is a girl and she’s black.   After an inspiring visit to the ballet Grace finds confidence to audition.

Topics: reading, stories, acting, school, gender issues, racism, role models, theater, ballet

Units of Study: Social Issues, Realistic Fiction, Character

Tribes: Personal Best

Habits of Mind: persistence, striving for accuracy, thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: Amazing Grace has been a favorite read aloud of mine for introducing the Social Issues unit.  However, I’m thinking of reading it earlier this year when introducing the Habit of Mind–‘persistence’.  Grace is a good example of how one persists when they have a dream.  Grace’s dream is to play Peter Pan.  Despite the discouragement she receives from a few of her classmates, Grace practices over the weekend and ends up getting the part.  However, it’s interesting to note that this persistence didn’t just come from herself–she had to be encouraged by her family.  I wonder if Grace would have succeeded if her Nana hadn’t taken her to the ballet.

August 31, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

65. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

mirette on the high wireRetell: Mirette works at her mother’s boarding house.  When a mysterious stranger asks for a room and takes his meals alone, Mirette is intrigued.  One day she discovers the stranger walking across the clothesline.  The stranger turns out to be the great Bellini, a famous tightrope walker.  Mirette falls in love with the high wire and is determined to walk high above a crowd.

Topics: artists, dreams, Paris

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: persistence, striving for accuracy

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction

Writing Skills: incorporating diaglogue

My Thoughts: Though this book is not a true story, the tightrope walker is based on a real person–a daredevil named Blondin who walked over Niagara Falls on a high wire.  I like it when authors describe their inspiration in the author’s note.  I plan on using this book when we focus on the Habits of Mind ‘persistence’ and ‘ striving for accuracy.’  The author shows the main character making a lot of mistakes and having someone fine tune her every movement.

August 30, 2009 at 8:39 am 1 comment

57. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

the dot

Retell: Vashti is frustrated in art class.  She doesn’t have confidence in her artistic ability.  Her teacher tells her to start with a dot and see where it takes her.  Soon she experiments with dots of different colors, shapes and sizes and becomes pleased with the results.

Topics: art, writer’s block, creativity, experimentation

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

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

Habits of Mind: persisting, creating-imagining-innovating, responding with wonderment and awe, taking responsible risks, thinking interdependently

Writing Skills: dealing with writer’s block, revising

My Thoughts: Though this book is about art, readers will make the obvious connection to writing.  I love the message of this book—experiment and enjoy the process.  If I don’t read this out loud to my entire class, I will definitely use this in small group work to help struggling writers get over their fear of the blank page.  I like how at the end of the book Vashti helps another young artist get over his frustration.  It’s a good example of how learners help one another.

August 23, 2009 at 3:53 am Leave a comment

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