Posts tagged ‘personal essay’

122. Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen

welcome to the green houseRetell: Jane Yolen poetically compares the rainforest to a green house.

Topics: rainforest, animals, birds, nonfiction poetry

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area, Personal Essay

Habits of Mind: gathering data through all senses

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference

Writing Skills: using repetition, incorporating rhythm and rhyme, using sparkling vocabulary, using alliteration

My Thoughts: A few months ago I received a GrowLab through a DonorsChoose grant.  We received support from an educator at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and created corsage box terrariums.  Students planted cuttings from three different plants that thrive in the rainforest.  I plan on reading this book soon to support our gardening experience.  The text in this book is so vivid that as I read it I can actually feel the humidity of the rainforest.  It’s a great text for teaching students how to interpret metaphors.  At the end of the book, the author writes a message to her readers encouraging us to find out more about saving the rapidly disappearing rainforest.  Though it’s not technically a personal essay, you could use sections of the message as a mentor text.

November 2, 2009 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

100. Should There Be Zoos? A Persuasive Text by Tony Stead with Judy Ballester and her fourth grade class

should there be zoosRetell: A collection of persuasive, well-researched essays that explore whether or not we should have zoos.  The anthology includes a glossary and a description of the process they went through to write the book.

Topics: zoos, persuasive text, arguments, endangered species, reintroduction

Units of Study: Content-Area, Personal Essay

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

Writing Skills: defining a word within a sentence, incorporating precise vocabulary, developing a persuasive voice

My Thoughts: Though the unit is a month away, my school’s literacy coach and I are beginning to collect mentor texts for the personal essay unit.  Here is a text that you could use for either Personal Essay or Content-Area writing.  The essays not only make good mentor texts but the description of the writing process is important to share with students as they embark on an essay unit.  The authors included ten steps to writing a persuasive text.  I’m particularly found of number eight: “After doing lots of reading, observing, and note-taking, we put our new information into our arguments to make them stronger.  We constantly conferenced with our teachers.”

October 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm Leave a comment

94. This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie, Paintings by Kathy Jakobsen

this land is your landRetell: Woody Guthrie’s famous song in picture book form.  The book includes a tribute by Pete Seeger and information about Guthrie’s life.

Topics: America, Great Depression, Dust Bowl, traveling, migrant camps

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

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: interpretation, envisionment

My Thoughts: I started a ‘song of the week’ tradition in my classroom this year.  Each day while students enter the classroom and unpack we listen to a song together.  By the end of the song students are expected to have unpacked and come to the rug with their lyrics.  At the end of the week we sing the song together.  This week’s song just happens to be “This Land is Your Land”.  This morning while on my walk I passed by a bookstore which displayed the picture book version of the song in its window.  I was so pleased!  Kathy Jakobsen’s paintings compliment the lyrics well.  (She also illustrated the book, My New York.)  I can’t wait to read this to my students this week.  Seeing the pictures will help them visualize the lyrics of the song.  In the version my students sing there are three verses that are omitted.  This is one of them:

“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people; By the relief office I seen my people; As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking, Is this land made for you and me?”

It made me wonder why I had never heard these lyrics growing up.  I hope to have a lively whole group discussion after reading this book aloud.  I also plan on revisiting this text during the Personal Essay unit when I’ll ask students to observe the world around them and ask difficult questions.

September 28, 2009 at 12:34 pm Leave a comment

91. What’s So Bad About Gasoline? Fossil Fuels and What They Do by Anne Rockwell

what's so bad about gasolineRetell: This book explains how gasoline is made and describes its role in global warming.

Topics: gasoline, carbon emissions, global warming, petroleum, coal

Units of Study: Personal Essay, Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits: Thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: questioning, determining importance, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using repetition to make a thesis stronger, using supporting reasons and examples to support a thesis

My Thoughts: I mentioned before that my students are currently studying earth movements (how mountains are made, volcanoes, etc).  Next week students will examine fossils found in rocks.  This book could be a nice extension of the fossil investigation.  It blew my mind years ago when I learned that petroleum is made from decomposed fossils.  When we are in the Personal Essay unit I plan on rereading parts of this text to show how the writer weaves in her opinions and supports them with facts.

The beginning of the book explains how petroleum is made and how it has been used throughout history.  Throughout this section the phrase, “They still didn’t use much” repeats.  The author argues that gasoline and other petroleum products are not inherently evil.  After all, the reason why we still have forests and whales is connected to the invention of distilled petroleum.  I like how the book ends with the question, “What ways can you think of to help?”  After the read aloud students could brainstorm ways to use less gasoline.

September 26, 2009 at 11:33 am 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

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

30. A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

a young people's history of the united statesRetell: Like the title suggests, this is a young people’s version of his famous book, A People’s History of the United States. Together with Rebecca Stefoff, Zinn manages to tell a version of history that attempts to include the perspectives of groups that are usually left out (women, people of color, Native people, children, etc.)

Topics: United States, history, exploration, racism, slavery, colonialism, rights, justice, revolution, war, emancipation, industrialization, immigration, empire, protests, terrorism, resistance, freedom of speech

Units of Study: Content Area, Nonfiction, Social Issues, Personal Essay, Historical Fiction

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: questioning, synthesis, prediction, determining importance, inference, interpretation

Writing Skills: using evidence to support a thesis or main idea, inserting anecdotes and quotations

My Thoughts: I was so thrilled to find this book on the shelves.  I read A People’s History of the United States several years ago and often reread sections before embarking on Social Studies units.  Though I thought this book was going to present a child’s perspective of historical events, Zinn does manage to tuck in a few stories of young people working to make a difference.  For example, he includes the story about how children started the first milll strike in Paterson, New Jersey.  I intend to read aloud exerpts from this book to support and/or challenge what they may be reading in their own nonfiction texts.  This book is also available in two volumes.  Volume I covers Columbus to the Spanish-American War.  Volume II covers World War I to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

July 26, 2009 at 9:07 am 1 comment

24. Owen and Mzee: The Language of Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu

owen and mzeeRetell: This sequel continues the story of Owen and Mzee, the beloved baby hippo and the anti-social tortoise, who were brought together during the aftermath of the tsunami of 2004.

Topics: tsunami, hippos, tortoises, wildlife, preservation, Kenya, friendship, biology, animal habitats, narrative nonfiction, biography

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Personal Essay, Content-Area Reading and Writing

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, determining importance, inference

Writing Skills: using transitional phrases, using quotation marks that note unusual usage

My Thoughts: Be ready for a chorus of “ahhh”s if you choose to read this book aloud to your students.  Every photograph is absolutely adorable.  A lot can be learned from this pair.  I plan to use this book during my Content Area Reading and Writing units.  Owen and Mzee includes both narrative and expository text making it a good teaching text during the Nonfiction unit as well.  One could even use this during a biography unit since it’s telling a life story.

July 20, 2009 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

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