Posts tagged ‘realistic fiction’

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

116. “Could Be Worse!” by James Stevenson

could be worseRetell: Day in, day out Grandpa always says the same thing:  “Could be worse.”  One day Grandpa tells his grandchildren about a wacky adventure he had the night before.  At the end of the rambling story his grandchildren surprise him by delivering his favorite phrase.

Topics: imagination, grandparents, family

Units of Study: Fantasy, Realistic Fiction

Habits of Mind: Creating-imagining-innovating

Writing Skills: storytelling

My Thoughts: This month our TC staff developer (Colleen Cruz) will be working with the upper grades on planning interactive read alouds.  She reiterated that interactive read aloud is THE most important part of the school day and should never be cut out.  She also mentioned that teachers should try and tuck in different kinds of read alouds throughout the day whenever possible.  This has inspired me to find quick, fun texts that I can read during transitions or during times when kids are riled up. 

“Could Be Worse!” is a cute, short read aloud that can be used to connect to the storytelling work that students are doing during Writing.  I think I’m going to read this next week as students get in line.  The next day, I could work in fluency practice by having students say the grandkids’ line while I say Grandpa’s lines and on the next day vice versa.

October 20, 2009 at 7:03 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

104. Postcards from a War by Vanita Oelschlager

postcards from a warRetell: Brian’s mom is in the Air Force.  Brian is sad that she has gone away to war.  To console him, Brian’s grandfather talks about the time his own father fought in World War II.  While he was in Manila he would send letters and postcards to his family to make them feel better.  Brian soon receives digital letters from his mom and begins to feel more connected.

Topics: family, communication, war, World War II, letters, reconstruction, military

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narratives, Memoir

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: writing from another person’s perspective, quoting written material, using photos to inspire notebook entries

My Thoughts: I highly recommend this text for any teacher who may have a student with a family member in the military.  This is a particularly powerful read aloud for Writing.  The text shows how important writing is and how writing can connect a family.  The author includes authentic photographs that were sent by her father during World War II.  It would be great to read this book to students who struggle with generating ideas.  I can imagine this book inspiring young writers to go home and look through family photos in order to generate ideas for personal narratives, memoirs or even realistic fiction.

October 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

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

81. The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales

the tequila wormRetell: Sophia is an intelligent, hardworking girl from McAllen, Texas.  When she receives a scholarship for a boarding school 400 miles, she must learn to live in two different worlds.  She longs to explore and be accepted by the people at St. Lukes, but she also wishes to be a good comadre and participate in her family’s traditions.

Topics: overcrowding, barrios, family, traditions, Mexican-Americans, friendship, ambition, choices, siblings, Day of the Dead, boarding school, scholarships

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

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: inference, synthesis, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: bringing out the heart of a story

Thoughts: Though I believe this book is probably most appropriate for middle school students, I wouldn’t hesitate reading sections of this book to my fourth graders.   There are great examples of how writers collect stories from their lives and how people become the change they want see in the world.  I love Canales’ description of the various rituals and traditions of Sofia’s family.  The relationship between Sofia and Berta is interesting.  They made very different choices.  Sofia chose to move far away and attend college.  Berta married young, stayed in her hometown and had two children.  Readers could have an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of both characters’ choices.

September 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

79. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

officer buckle and gloriaRetell: Officer Buckle often visits Napville School to give presentations about safety.  Unfortunately, most people do not listen to his advice.  As a result, the accident rate is very high.  When Officer Buckle partners with a show-stealing police dog named Gloria, suddenly his audience sit up and pay attention.

Topics: safety, assemblies, dogs, police

Units of Study: Character, Realistic Fiction

Tribes: attentive listening, appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: reading bold and italicized words

Thoughts: Each year I try and use read alouds to review the agreements of our school.  (These are Tribes agreements plus one we call ‘personal best’.)  It seems that there are many books about mutual respect, but not very many about attentive listening.  Officer Buckle and Gloria is a read aloud I’ve been using for the past two years.  The illustrations are great for showing two types of audiences:  an audience who does not listen and one that shows they are listening.  It also shows how people feel when they are not listened to.  There are many bold and italicized words throughout the book.  When reading the book aloud you may want to ask students to pay attention to how your voice changes when you come across bold and italicized words.

September 14, 2009 at 10:00 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

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