Posts tagged ‘sensory details’

137. When Lightning Comes in a Jar by Patricia Polacco

Retell: Patricia Polacco describes a fun-filled family reunion where the adults challenge the kids to baseball games, the aunties make meatloaf and jello salads, and everyone catches fireflies.

Topics: reunions, family, baseball, curiosity, storytelling, fireflies, tradition, parties

Units of Study: Memoir, Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: incorporating sensory details, storytelling

My Thoughts: When planning read alouds, I have been trying to create text sets, planning books not just by unit of study, but by themes.  I’m thinking of creating a text set with the theme of ‘traditions’ which may include  When Lightning Comes in a Jar, The Keeping Quilt, and When the Relatives Came.  This book could also be great to read when you are teaching students to storytell to their partners.  Storytelling is a Polacco family reunion tradition.

November 30, 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

82. Flying Over Brooklyn by Myron Uhlberg

flying over brooklynRetell: On a snowy, winter’s evening a boy dreams of flying over Brooklyn.  He visits many of his favorite places:  Prospect Park, The Brooklyn Bridge and of course, Coney Island.

Topics: Brooklyn, birds-eye view, dreams, flying, imagination, winter

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading skills: envisionment, making connections

Writing Skills: using sensory details, using observation to generate entries, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: This book is beautifully written.  I think it will be an excellent book to use as a mentor text for using descriptive language.  When I read this aloud, I plan on pointing out how the author makes you feel the snow and sense the quiet throughout the snowy city.  4th grade teachers in New York may want to read this during a Geography unit.  After reading the book aloud, students could find each place on a map or make their own map based on places visited throughout the text.

September 16, 2009 at 7:57 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

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

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

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

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

29. Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas

saying goodbye to luluRetell: A young girl has difficulty saying goodbye to her beloved dog Lulu.  With help from her parents, she learns how to move on without forgetting the wonderful memories of Lulu.

Topics: loss, dogs, reflection, death, dying, pets, grief, memories, family

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

Reading Skills: synthesis, making connections

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

My Thoughts: I shouldn’t have read this book in a cafe.  Let’s just say that my eyes were quite red and puffy after reading this book.  It is however, a great text for discussing various stages of the grieving process.  She goes through denial, anger, sadness, reflection and finally acceptance.  The author zooms in on small but important details (“I missed the sound of her tail going thump, thump while she waited for me at the bottom of the stairs…”) making it a great mentor text for writing narratives.

July 25, 2009 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

23. Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest

mr. george bakerRetell: Hundred-year-old George Baker and his young neighbor Harry are friends.  Each day they wait for the school bus that brings them both to school.

Topics: friendship, reading, literacy, growing old, learning, music, small moments, friendship

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, interpretation

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

My Thoughts: This is a slow-paced story that easily lends itself to teaching small moments.  Though you could also read this book aloud with a social issues lens, the author spends most of the story describing the moments just before going to school.  It would be a good mentor text for paying attention to how authors incorporate sound into their writing.

July 19, 2009 at 9:08 am Leave a comment

9. Dogteam by Gary Paulsen

dogteamRetell: A moonlit night inspires the narrator to take his dogs on an exciting night ride.

Topics: dogs, dog sledding

Units of Study: personal narrative, content-area writing

Reading Skills: envisionment

Writing Skills: using active verbs, zooming in on a small moment, incorporating sensory details, adding suspense, inserting commas and semicolons, repetition

My Thoughts: Dogteam reads more like prose.  In addition to including beautiful imagery, Paulsen’s book has many examples of how writers use all senses to describe a moment in time.  Though I would categorize this as a personal narrative, one could also use this as a mentor text for writing nonfiction poetry.

July 5, 2009 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

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