Posts tagged ‘personal best’

54. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery

two bobbiesRetell: This is the true story of how a stranded cat and dog survived the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Topics: pets, Hurricane Katrina, survival, friendship, family, homelessness

Units of Study: Social Issues, Nonfiction, Talking and Writing about Texts

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: This is a book that I didn’t mind buying brand new and in hardcover.  I found this in a bookstore in Ashland, Oregon.  The cashier and I spent a few moments cooing over her ridiculously cute it is.  In addition to being an amazingly touching story it’s a great text to read to learn about Hurricane Katrina.   It could also be a great read aloud during an interpretation unit.  On one level it’s a story about survival but it could also be interpreted as a story about friendship between two individuals who come from groups who are normally not friendly to each other.

August 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

53. Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey

dogzillaRetell: Every year the mice in Mousopolis have an annual barbecue cook-off.  The festivities were interrupted one year when the aroma from the cook-off awoke Dogzilla.  The mice band together and eventually defeat Dogzilla by attacking him with a mighty weapon–a dog bath.

Topics: dogs, mice, teamwork

Units of Study: Fantasy

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, thinking interdependently, applying past knowledge

Writing Skills: using dashes, using transitional phrases

My Thoughts: I’ve read this book about five times this summer and each time I read it I giggle to myself.  What makes this a fun and engaging read aloud are the illustrations.  Pilkey created characters out of his pet mice and pet Corgie.  I love how the ferocious monster in the story is a cute cuddly dog who looks so happy in each picture.  I think it will be a good read aloud for introducing Habits of Mind.  When finding a way to beat Dogzilla they ‘persist,’ ‘think flexibly and interdependently’ and ‘apply past knowledge.’  This may also be a good mentor text for students writing fantasy stories.  Students could try generating story ideas by doing what Dav Pilkey did and cast one’s pets as characters in a fantasy story.

August 19, 2009 at 2:46 am 1 comment

49. Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin

fireflies in the darkRetell: Learn about the amazing life of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who taught art to children in the Terezin Camp during the Holocaust.  The book includes several photos, drawings, paintings and writings from her students, many of whom did not survive.

Topics: art, holocaust, ghetto, Terezin, Nazis, school, poetry, drama, resiliency

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Nonfiction, Content Area Reading and Writing, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating, thinking interdependently, remaining open to continuous learning

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance, interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: launching writers notebook, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: One can learn many lessons from this book.  I am impressed by Dicker-Brandeis’ devotion to learning.  When she discovered that she would be sent to Terezin she chose not to bring items for herself, but art supplies for the children she knew would be in the camp.  Through art her students were able to both escape and record the horrors around them.  Though I don’t plan on teaching a unit about the Holocaust this year, I may choose to read a portion of this book when emphasizing how writers notebooks can be powerful places to record our memories, our thoughts and our struggles.  It is important for our students to realize that their experiences, just like those recorded at Terezin, are important and should be recorded.

August 14, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

48. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

the paper bag princessRetell: After a fire-breathing dragon destroys her castle, Elizabeth dons a paper bag and goes off to rescue the ‘charming’ Prince Ronald.  Through cunning wit she tricks the dragon and frees the prince only to realize that perhaps he wasn’t worth saving after all.

Topics: fairy tales, dragons, princesses, princes

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

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

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

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: writing interesting dialogue

My Thoughts: This is a TC read aloud classic that I have seen used in several workshops on planning effective interactive read alouds.  For such a short book, there are many ways you could teach with it.  It’s a great book for discussing gender issues during the Social Issues unit.  After rereading this book for the 20th time I just realized what a great text it is for teaching the Habits of Mind.  Elizabeth uses a lot of them!  For example, her entire castle burns down but she persists and goes to save Prince Ronald.  She has no clothes but thinks flexibly and fashions a dress out of a paper bag.  After competely exhausting the dragon she strives for accuracy and manages impulsivity by checking to make sure the dragon is truly knocked out.

August 13, 2009 at 9:37 am 1 comment

40. Rent Party Jazz by William Miller

rent party jazzRetell: Sonny is worried.  His mom just lost her job at the fish market and is worried that they may not make rent.  Sonny meets the musician Smilin’ Jack who comes up with a solution that turns out to be both profitable and entertaining.

Topics: New Orleans, rent, money, jazz, parties, music, community

Units of Study: Social Issues, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best, attentive listening

Reading Skills: envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: using commas to tuck in details

My Thoughts: Great books teach us something new.  Rent Party Jazz not only tells a story of Sonny and his family, but tells the story of the origin of rent parties throughout African-American communities in the South.  The book will be great to read when your class needs to be reminded of the power a strong, supportive community.  Even something as bleak as not being able to pay rent can be conquered when people work together.

August 5, 2009 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

38. Ling Cho and His Three Friends by V.J. Pacilio

ling cho and his three friendsRetell: Ling Cho is a successful farmer.  He feels sorry for his three friends who do not share his success.  He thinks of a way to help his friends without making them feel bad.  Unfortunately things do not go as planned.  His friends learn that it is more wise to ask for help than to take advantage of people.

Topics: harvest, farming, China, asking for help, honesty, friendship

Units of Study: Folk Tales, Talking and Writing About Texts, Social Issues, Poetry

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: using rhyme and rhythm,  incorporating alliteration

My Thoughts: This beautiful book teaches an interesting lesson on asking for help.  It also seems to caution against involving friends in business matters.  Ling Cho does a favor for his friends by asking them to sell his bumper crop of wheat at market.  They were supposed to split the profits.  However, each friend ended up keeping the profits or keeping the wheat.  The story is told in rhyming verse making it an engaging read.

August 3, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

37. Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief with Rosemary Wells

tallchief america's prima ballerinaRetell: This is an autobiographical story of Maria Tallchief, one of the greatest American-born ballerinas of her time.

Topics: native americans, Osage, Oklahoma, ballet, Westward Expansion, music, interests, biographies, narrative nonfiction

Units of Study: Social Issues, Nonfiction

Tribes: personal best

Reading Skills: inference, determining importance, envisionment

Writing Skills: seeing the world as a writer, using interesting transitional phrases

My Thoughts: This story is great to read when discussing what it means to put your all into something.  Maria Tallchief lived, breathed, and ate music and dance.  She writes about how her teacher told her to live like a dancer “When you sleep, you must sleep like a dancer.  When you stand and wait for the bus, you must wait for the bus like a dancer.”  This particular scene reminds me how we often challenge our students to live like writers.  Perhaps now we can tell students, “When you wait for the bus, you must wait for the bus like a writer–notebook in hand, waiting to collect stories.”

August 2, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

34. What Will You Do For Peace?: Impact of 9/11 on New York City Youth

what will you do for peaceRetell: Faith Ringgold introduces this collaboration of young artists and poets aged 11-19.  Each page includes responses to the tragic events of 9/11.

Topics: 9/11, peace, children, World Trade Center

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Poetry, Personal Essay

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Writing Skills: collecting notebook entries

My Thoughts: This is a very moving collection of stories, poems and drawings from young children who experienced the events of 9/11 firsthand.    There are accounts of how it felt to be at school when people were going home every few minutes.  There are stories of watching the news for hours and hours.  I plan on reading this book on September 11th this year.  I think it will not only prompt a good discussion about why they day is important but it will also be a good mentor text for generating notebook entries and writing about events that will never be forgotten.

July 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm 2 comments

33. The A+ Custodian by Louise Borden

the a+ custodianRetell: John Carillo is the custodian for Dublin Elementary School.  Everyone in the school thinks he is a great custodian.  A few students decide to find a way to appreciate all his hard work.

Topics: custodians, school, hard work,

Units of Study: personal essay, realistic fiction

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

Reading Skills: inference, envsionment

Writing Skills: incorporating tight lists, elaboration, including sensory details

My Thoughts: This is a fabulous book to take out when you feel the class needs to take more responsiblity picking up after themselves.  The A+ Custodian reminds me that I should take more time thoughout the year to appreciate the janitors and custodians at my school.  I love how the author emphasizes how much Mr. Carillo loves and is proud of the students of Dublin Elementary School.  I plan to use this book when collecting ideas for personal essays.  The text is a great example of the strategy, “Writers think of a person in their life and jot down ideas about him/her.”  In fact the author’s note at the beginning itself makes a good mentor text for personal essay.

July 29, 2009 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

32. Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

team moonRetell: Thimmesh tells the story of the Apollo 11 mission.  It includes several quotes, interviews and amazing photographs from the moon landing.

Topics: moon landing, space, Apollo 11, teamwork, goals, problem-solving, perseverance

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area, Personal Essay

Tribes: attentive listening, mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, interpretation, determining importance

Writing Skills: using descriptive language, inserting quotations, using dashes, using ellipses

My Thoughts: To commemorate its 40th anniversary I plan to read at least one book about the moon landing this year.  What I love about this particular book is its emphasis on teamwork.  As the title suggests, Apollo 11 was successful because of the dilligence of several hundred-thousand people working together in teams trying to accomplish one goal.  It’s a dense book so I can see reading only a few sections at a time.  This could be used as a rich mentor text for writing nonfiction.  Thimmesh writes with excitement and enthusiasm making the text very engaging.

July 28, 2009 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

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