Posts tagged ‘personal narrative’

72. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

love you foreverRetell: A mother starts a tradition of singing a song to her son:  “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”  Through the terrible twos, adolescence and adulthood the mother sings this song to her child.  When the mother becomes old and sick, it is the son’s turn to sing the song.

Topics: family, childhood, parenting

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections, prediction

Writing Skills: using traditions and special moments in your life to create a story

Thoughts: I just got back from my friend’s baby shower.  I’m kicking myself for not adding this book to her other gifts.  This is a book that is sure to make the reader teary-eyed.  If you are strong enough to read it in front of your class, it could be a great mentor text for generating ideas for personal narratives or memoirs.  This book could inspire young authors to think and write about the traditions, the songs, or customs important to their own families.

September 6, 2009 at 5:27 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

61. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

the relatives cameRetell: Every summer the relatives from Virginia drive several hours to visit their family.  There is a lot of hugging, a lot of chatting and a lot of eating.  When they leave, the house feels a bit empty.

Topics: family, summer, reunions

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, making connections

Writing Skills: using sensory details, describing how time passes

My Thoughts: I found this classic for only $2 at a great used bookstore in Mt. Shasta, California.  It used to belong to a library so the bottom of each page is cracked, crinkled and reinforced with tape–a testament to how much we love this book.  This is a wonderful book to use during the Personal Narrative unit.  Though it’s not technically a small moment (the book spans over two weeks) sections of it can be used as a mentor text.  I notice that many of my students struggle when writing about time.  They often spend a lot of energy including each detail because it happened ‘next’.  I see a lot of stories where each sentence begins with ‘then’.  Sections of The Relatives Came could be used to show how authors deal with time.  The relatives drive for a long time but Rylant doesn’t describe every single thing they see or every pit stop they make.  She chooses to focus on a few details only, the strange houses, mountains, and their thoughts of purple grapes back home.  The illustrations also tell a story themselves making it a good book for modeling inference.

August 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm Leave a comment

60. In My Momma’s Kitchen by Jerdine Nolen

in my momma's kitchenRetell: This is a heartwarming collection of small moments that all take place in a family’s kitchen:  a daughter receives a music scholarship, children make up stories, women chitchat and a father makes his signature dish.

Topics: family, community, childhood

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: This is a great text to read at different points of the year.  I originally purchased this book thinking it would be a good read aloud for the Personal Narrative unit.  After reading it a second time, I realize that it’s also a great mentor text for the Memoir unit.  Each story is connected by its setting–the kitchen.  Using this text students could try out Nolen’s strategy of thinking of an important place (a room, a park) and write memories associated with that place.  Since this book reads like an anthology of notebook entries, you could use this text when introducing the writer’s notebook.

August 25, 2009 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

59. My Ol’ Man by Patricia Polacco

my ol' manRetell: When she was growing up, Patricia Polacco spent the summers with her father and her grandmother.  In this charming book, Polacco tells the story of the time they found a magical rock that helped them cope with hard times.

Topics: divorce, summer, dads, grandmothers, storytelling, layoffs, magic

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: attentive listening

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: prediction, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using commas in lists, crafting meaningful introductions

My Thoughts: Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors and I often read several of her books during the Personal Narrative unit.  Most of her books are inspired by moments, people, and places in her life.  In the beginning of My Ol’ Man, there are authentic photographs from Polacco’s childhood.  This book would be great to read as you are teaching how writers use artifacts to generate notebook entries.  When writing about people, my students often make lists of what they like about a person.  This book will be great to use as a mentor text to help students move from list writing (“My dad likes tacos.  My dad takes me places.) to narrative writing (“One time my dad brought out this book of stamps.  I’ll never forget the time when my dad took me for a ride in his 1947 GMC truck.”)

August 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm 2 comments

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

50. Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Distinguished Authors and Illustrators of Children’s Books to Aid the Homeless

homeRetell: An anthology of poetry and prose all based on the subject ‘home’.  Many famous writers and illustrators contributed pieces such as:  Virginia Hamilton, Aliki, Jon Sciszka, Jane Yolen and more.

Topics: home, hiding places, family, children

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Launching the Reading Workshop

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating

Reading Skills: making connections, envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, using sensory details

My Thoughts: This is a handy resource for the Personal Narrative unit.  Many of the poems and stories within the anthology will be great ‘small moment’ mentor texts.  Home contains some great pieces that will encourage students as they author their independent reading lives.  The story “Comfortable Old Chair” by Karla Kuskin features a girl who loves reading in her favorite chair.  In the poem, “Elevator” Lucille Clifton describes a girl who reads in the corner of her building’s elevator.  I plan on using these pieces to show how dedicated readers take charge of their lives at home and find a place that’s entirely theirs.  I knew a student who used to have trouble finding a quiet space to read in his crowded apartment.  He started scheduling bathroom reading time.  He would bring in pillows, blankets and books and make a comfy reading spot in the bathtub.

August 16, 2009 at 1:19 am Leave a 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

46. Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Bloch

butterflies in my stomach and other school hazardsRetell: It’s the first day of school and the narrator is nervous.  Each person he encounters speaks in confusing idioms.

Topics: first day of school, idioms, school

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Realistic Fiction

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

My Thoughts: It’s well into August and that means that my mind is beginning to think more and more about the first weeks of school.  I’m on the hunt for engaging books to start the year out well.  I found this cute book a few days ago during a visit to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.  Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards not only makes for a good read aloud on the first day of school, but it is also great for introducing idioms.  On each page the main character encounters a person who says an idiom.  Each idiom is illustrated literally.  For example, when his teacher said “he was all ears,” the illustration shows the teacher with giant ears.  If you didn’t want to read this book aloud in one sitting, you could read a page or two each day as a warm-up activity.  You could keep a chart of idioms that the class learns each day.

August 12, 2009 at 12:45 am 1 comment

41. Shanghai Messenger by Andrea Cheng

shanghai messengerRetell: Xiao Mei is invited by her uncle to visit China.  At first she is reluctant to travel by herself and once she arrives she finds the new setting lonely and disorienting.  She eventually adjusts and begins to appreciate her extended Chinese family.

Topics: Chinese, China, poetry, family, mixed-race, language barrier, traveling, homesickness

Units of Study: Character, Personal Narrative, Social Issues

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, envisionment, making connections

Writing Skills: incoporating foreign languages, zooming in on small moments, including sensory details

My Thoughts: I love how this story is told as a series of free verse poems.  I plan on reading this book aloud when I teach how writers zoom in on small moments.  Each poem is a small moment from her trip.  It can be a good mentor text for writers who want to write about a vacation and are tempted to write about the entire vacation.  Cheng incorporates Chinese vocabulary throughout the story.  She even includes a Chinese glossary with a pronunciation guide which will aid readers when they attempt to read it aloud.  It’s also a good book to read when studying character change.  In the beginning, Xiao Mei is afraid to go to China by herself and thinks she will never adjust to life in China.  By the end she develops into a grown-up girl who is both completely American and completely Chinese.

August 6, 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

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