Posts tagged ‘right to pass’

133. The Well by Mildred D. Taylor

Retell: During a drought, the Logan family shares water from their well with anyone who needs it, be they white or black.  Hammer, the narrator’s brother, finds it difficult to share with the Simms family who have tormented the Logans for being black.  After Hammer defends his brother David and beats up Charlie Simms, he and David are forced to work on the Simms’ farm to avoid jail.  Hammer, however, never quite manages to swallow his pride and gets involved in another altercation that causes Charlie to take revenge.

Topics: drought, racism, segregation, bullying, fighting, family

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

Tribes: mutual respect, right to pass, appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: managing impulsivity

Reading Strategies: inference, synthesis, interpretation, envisionment

My Thoughts: I’ve been trying to locate shorter chapter books to read aloud.  I’m finding that some of my favorite chapter books are too long to complete before the end of a unit. The Well is short, only 92 pages and can be completed within a month-long unit.  I think this could be a great book to read if a class is struggling with the issue of revenge.  In this story, Hammer cannot control his temper.  The situation is extremely unfair, and you empathize with Hammer for fighting with Charlie.  But on the other hand, his decision to take revenge led to his family’s well getting poisoned.  It raises the question whether or not it’s better to fight back with violence or fight back in other ways.

November 21, 2009 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

115. Tea With Milk by Allen Say

tea with milkRetell: Masako is a Japanese-American who moves to Japan after spending her childhood in America.  Adjusting to life in Japan is rough for Masako.  She must repeat high school in order to learn Japanese, her classmates call her gaijin (a derogatory word for ‘foreigner’), and she must learn how to be a proper Japanese lady.  One day she boards a bus for Osaka and finds work, a companion and a cure for her homesickness.

Topics: English, Japanese-Americans, homesickness, culture shock, matchmaking, individuality

Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: right to pass

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, prediction, empathy

My Thoughts: I especially enjoy Tea With Milk because I have a personal connection to this book.  I taught English for three years in a rural village in Japan.  I can relate to May and her struggle to get used to sitting on the floor (women are expected to sit on their knees–it’s considered rude to sit cross-legged) and missing comfort foods.  When I read this book I thought of my students who often visit the countries where their parents are from and experience an identity crisis similar to the one that May faced.  I hope that this book inspires them to write their stories.  Though this is technically a personal narrative (the main character was the author’s mother) you could angle this to fit in many different units including the current Character unit.  It’s particularly useful for modeling how readers notice subtle changes in a character.

October 19, 2009 at 8:54 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

98. The Bus Ride by William Miller

the bus rideRetell: William Miller recreates the story of Rosa Parks and imagines what would have happened if a young girl refused to give up her seat.

Topics: taking a stand, segregation, laws, civil disobedience, bravery, boycotts, power

Units of Study: Social Issues, Historical Fiction, Character

Tribes: right to pass

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction

Writing Skills: balancing description, reflection and dialogue

My Thoughts: When I read this book I thought back to a unit our fifth grade teachers did last year that was focused on power.  Students looked at power structures in the classroom, in school and at home.  Students looked at times when they were powerless and times when they had the power.  When reading this book it would be interesting to discuss the question, “Who has the power?”  This story inspires children to think about what risks they would be willing to take.  Imagine if an entire classroom decided to boycott McDonalds because they disagreed with how the company targets children.  Or what would happen if a classroom decided to boycott toys made in places that use child labor?

October 4, 2009 at 11:08 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

58. Riding the Tiger by Eve Bunting

riding the tigerRetell: Danny, a new boy in town, is invited to ride on the back of a tiger.  When he notices the fear in the eyes of passersby he tries to get off of the tiger.  He soon realizes that once you get on the tiger it’s difficult to get off.

Topics: danger, choices, excitement, gangs, influence, power, respect, fear, peer pressure

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

Tribes: right to pass, mutual respect

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: using dialogue, incorporating metaphors in to a story

My Thoughts: As the school year approaches I am thinking about the books that I will want to read during the first few weeks of school.  During the first two weeks of school I like to read books that lend themselves well to teaching the five agreements of our school (These agreements are based on Tribes.  Our school added a fifth agreement–‘personal best’)  Riding the Tiger is an excellent book for teaching about the ‘right to pass’.  From the beginning of the story Danny doesn’t feel comfortable accepting a ride from the tiger without first asking his mom for permission.  He accepts the ride anyway and becomes increasingly more conflicted about the ride.  He eventually takes the ‘right to pass’ when he finally gets off the tiger and helps a man who has fallen down.  This book will certainly inspire discussion about peer pressure and gang recruitment.  When introducing this book you will want to set students up to do deep interpretation work.  Some students may not realize that the tiger is metaphorical.

August 23, 2009 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

47. The House That Crack Built by Clark Taylor

the house that crack builtRetell: A serious poem, told in cumulative verse, detailing the many lives affected by crack.

Topics: crack, drug abuse, responsibility

Units of Study: Social Issues

Tribes: right to pass

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, questioning, making connections

Writing Skills: using rhythm and rhyme

My Thoughts: This is an intense book.  I’m trying to decide if I will read it aloud to my students this year or not.  On one hand I think it’s important to have realistic discussions about drugs with elementary school students, but on the other hand I have to be aware that this book may be too heavy for some students.  If I do decide to read it aloud this year I think it could be a great for the Social Issues unit.  Chronicle Books has a great reading guide for the book which provides questions appropriate for both elementary and middle school aged children.

August 13, 2009 at 1:19 am 1 comment

45. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

a bad case of stripesRetell: Camilla Cream is very worried about what other people think of her.  She loves to each lima beans but would never admit that to anyone at school.  One day she wakes up covered in stripes.  No doctor can cure her, people make fun of her and the media is obsessed with her.  In the end her condition improves when she learns to be herself.

Topics: teasing, fitting in, self confidence, first day of school

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

Tribes: right to pass, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting

Reading Skills: interpretation, synthesis

My Thoughts: A Bad Case of Stripes is a great book for encouraging discussion about the importance of individuality.  I think it may also be a good text for modeling how important it is to pay attention to details that may seem small but are actually really important.  For example, if the reader passed over the part about Camilla liking lima beans, the ending of the book could be confusing.  If you are teaching the Habits of Mind, you could ask students to pay attention to how the doctors and specialists ‘persisted’ when trying to solve the problem.

August 11, 2009 at 1:06 am Leave a comment

36. You Can’t Go to School Naked! by Dianne Billstrom

you can't go to school nakedRetell: Parents try to convince their young son to put on clothes for his first day of school.  They manage to come to an interesting compromise.

Topics: clothes, consequences, individuality, decisions

Units of Study: Poetry

Tribes: right to pass

Writing Skills: using rhythm and rhyme

My Thoughts: This is a really cute ‘fun read.’  I can see using this during a discussion about rules and how they are usually implemented for a reason.  “If you went to school naked when the sun’s overhead, you would get a sunburn and turn very RED!”  It also addresses the idea of having the right to pass (even having the right to pass on wearing clothes) but that each decision we make has consequences.

August 1, 2009 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

35. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

one green appleRetell: One Green Apple is the story of Farah, a Muslim immigrant, who struggles to fit in.  Despite the language barrier she manages to make friends and participate during the field trip to the apple orchard.

Topics: immigration, language barrier, dupatta, field trips, friendship, Muslim characters

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

Tribes: mutual respect, right to pass

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference, empathy

Writing Skills: including metaphors, using sensory details

My Thoughts: I wish I knew about this book last year.  I had two students who recently came from China.  Other students were having difficulty communicating with them.  They got frustrated when the Chinese students didn’t understand their rapid speech.  The Chinese students got frustrated when people spoke too loud to them and ‘dumbed material down’.  I intend to use this book to address language issues.  In the story Farah thinks to herself, “I understand.  It’s not that I am stupid.  It is just that I am lost in this new place.”  I can see using this book as a mentor text for teaching about metaphors.  You could discuss Eve Bunting’s decision to make Farah choose a green apple rather than a red apple like the others.

July 31, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

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