Posts tagged ‘synthesis’

123. Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City by Barbara Bush

urban roostsRetell: Barbara Bush zooms in on gothic building structures, bridge towers and overpasses to describe the adaptations of birds who thrive in urban areas.

Topics: birds, pigeons, urban areas, cities, habitats, migration, camouflage, adaptation, roosts, crows, shelter

Units of Study: Content-Area, Nonfiction

Reading Skills: envisionment, questioning, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: I’m currently looking for books that will support the current Nonfiction unit.  I considered reading this book immediately, but I think I’m going to save it for our Content-Area unit.  During that unit we’ll be studying Food Chains and Habitats in Science making this book a perfect fit.  Urban Roosts is a book that will encourage urban readers to reconsider the common pigeon, finch or crow–a great book for modeling envisionment in nonfiction.

November 3, 2009 at 9:12 pm Leave a comment

121. Vote! by Eileen Christelow

voteRetell: This book combines narrative and non-narrative text to describe how and why people vote.

Topics: voting, majority, mayors, elections, democracy, voting age, protests, marches, political parties, media, campaigns, taxes

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, determining importance, synthesis, making connections

My Thoughts: Tomorrow is election day.  My students have the day off and they have no idea why.  Unlike last year’s election day, the buzz around tomorrow’s election is quiet.  Nevertheless, days off from school can be good teaching moments and a great time to tuck in a read aloud.  Vote provides a nice, kid-friendly introduction to the world of voting.  The text in the white space explains how voting works.  Within the illustrations, speech and thought bubbles support a narrative thread:  Chris Smith is running against Bill Brown for mayor and Smith’s family (including the family dog) all participate in the campaign.  You may choose to read all of the non-narrative text and then pick and choose which speech bubbles are the most important to highlight.

If you choose to read this book (or others about voting) please add your comments in the space below.

November 2, 2009 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

118. Hawk, I’m Your Brother by Byrd Baylor

hawk, I'm your brotherRetell: Rudy Soto yearns to fly.  He climbs up a cliff and captures a young hawk in the hope that he will be able to become brothers with the hawk and thus have a sense of what it means to fly.  Eventually he sets the hawk free and is forever changed.

Topics: hawks, dreams, flying, keeping pets, freedom

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

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: questioning, inference, interpretation, synthesis

Writing Skills: using alliteration

My Thoughts: Each year the issue of whether or not to get a class pet comes up.  I have mixed feelings about class pets.  I think they can be very useful for studying life cycles and animal habitats, but I don’t like the idea of animals in cages.  I may read this book the next time the issue arises in my classroom.  It will be an essential text during the interpretation unit and could also be an interesting one to read or reread during Social Issues.

When I was looking for images of this book I came across a website with a fantastic resource.  Through the Magic Door is an online bookstore that has put together some fabulous lists of books that may be very useful when making text sets.  Hawk, I’m Your Brother can be found under the list of books that are all about Flying.

October 24, 2009 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

117. Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin

alfred nobelTopics: Alfred Nobel, Nobel Peace Prize, nitroglycerin, death, literature, art, dynamite, peace, legacy

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits of Mind: persisting, gathering data through all senses, striving for accuracy and precision, questioning and posing problems, applying past knowledge to new situations

Reading Skills: prediction, synthesis, determining importance, interpretation, empathy

My Thoughts: With the announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Barack Obama, you may want to take the opportunity to discuss the history of the prize itself.  It’s a great text for discussing the Habits of Mind.  The illustrations are quite large and are particularly vivid–perfect for classroom read alouds.

October 22, 2009 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

83. Fake Out! Animals That Play Tricks by Ginjer L. Clarke (All Aboard Science Reader)

fake outRetell: In this book, readers learn how animals ‘play games’ in order to adapt to their habitat.  In order to survive they play hide-and-seek, play dead, and even play pretend.

Topics: animals, adaptations, habitats, marine life, mammals, mimicry, camouflage

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Reading Skills: envisionment, questioning, synthesis, determining importance

Writing Skills: developing voice in expository writing, including conclusions that sum up and release the writer

Thoughts: I’m worried about a boy in my class.  He dropped four reading levels over the summer.  He’s distracted during Reading Workshop and his reading log shows he’s not reading at home.  However, he’s obsessed with the books in the dinosaur bin and carries around a gaming magazine.  He’s a nonfiction reader trapped in a unit of study focused on fiction.  I think of him as I plan my read alouds.  I want to make sure that I’m finding time to tuck in nonfiction read alouds throughout the week, even though we’re not currently in a nonfiction unit.  Fake Out! is a high engagement nonfiction read aloud that just happens to look like a “low level” book.  Reading this book aloud ‘blesses’ this struggling reader’s level and will hopefully make “All Aboard” books cool to read.

September 18, 2009 at 10:40 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

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

42. River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River by Hudson Talbott

river of dreamsRetell: A beautifully illustrated history of the Hudson River.

Topics: Hudson River, New York, Native Americans, Henry Hudson, dreamers, Dutch, explorers, British, American Revolution, Robert Fulton, Erie Canal, trade, Hudson River School Painters, Industrial Revolution, environment, Franny Reese, pollution, immigration

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Social Issues, Content Area

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance, questioning, synthesis

Writing Skills: including expository text features

My Thoughts: My eyes grew wide when I spotted this book in Barnes and Noble this afternoon.  This book is treasure for New York 4th grade teachers who will be embarking on a year-long study of New York history.  A timeline painted in the shape of the Hudson River winds throughout the book noting historic events including:  the American Revolution, the commercial success of Fulton’s steamboat, the opening of the Erie Canal, and the Scenic Hudson Decision.  I think I may read this book in September when we discuss what we will be learning in Social Studies this year.  When we get to a new unit, I think I’ll reread corresponding sections of River of Dreams.  Talbott also highlights writers and artists who were inspired by the Hudson River such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper and the Hudson River School Painters.  This is a great book to use when discussing trade and industry.  There is a beautiful painting in the book that shows the Hudson River bursting with steamboats and schooners–“America’s first superhighway.”  I like how the story includes the environmental impact of industrial pollution and the story ends with a strong message–it’s up to us to protect the beauty of this river.

August 7, 2009 at 6:09 pm 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

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

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