Posts tagged ‘talking and writing about texts’

80. Three Samurai Cats: A Story From Japan by Eric A. Kimmel

three samurai catsRetell: Many years ago, in a castle in Ancient Japan, there lived a powerful lord with a terrible rat problem.  He tried everything in his power to chase the rat away, but the rat would not leave.  He asked the senior monk to send his strongest samurais to defeat the rat.  Both of them were thwarted.  Finally, the senior monk sent his oldest and wisest samurai to the castle.  He beat the rat with his ultimate weapon–patience.

Units of Study: Talking and Writing About Texts

Topics: Japan, rats, power, patience, samurais, monks, bullies

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, managing impulsivity

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, interpretation

Writing Skills: incorporating the rule of three

Thoughts: When I read this book I immediately thought of those situations where we want to fight back.  When someone insults us we want to think of a better insult to ‘squash’ that person.  How often do we see students try and assert power over another with a put-down, a push, a punch?  This book is great for discussing how bullies are truly defeated.

September 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

76. My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman

my best friendRetell: Lily spends each Wednesday at the neighborhood pool.  She has decided that Tamika will be her best friend.  Tamika however does not seem interested in being Lily’s friend.  Lily tries many things to win over Tamika.  She tries to dress the same and she shares her popsicles with her but to no avail.  Lily eventually becomes friends with Keesha who doesn’t need to be impressed.

Topics: summer, pools, friendship, popularity

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

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

Reading Skills: prediction, interpretation

Writing Skills: balancing dialogue with reflection and description

My Thoughts: This book does a great job of addressing the issue of popularity.  Every year I see students going out of their way to impress others who don’t give them the time of day.  It could be an interesting book to use when discussing the ‘right to pass’.  Though Tamika should have been nicer to Lily, she has the right to pass on her offer of friendship.

Thanks again Beth for another great read aloud.

September 11, 2009 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

75. 14 Cows For America by Carmen Agra Deedy

14 cows for americaRetell: To the Maasai people the cow is life.  In June 2002 Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah returned to his Kenyan village with a tragic story from New York.  Kimeli presented a cow for blessing, in honor of those who died during the attacks of September 11th.  13 others offered their own cows for blessing.  The cows remain in Kenya but they continue to be a symbol of hope and compassion to people around the world.

Topics: September 11th, Maasai, Kenya, compassion, cows, hope

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

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, monitoring for sense

Thoughts: The tone of my classroom during this short first week of school has been so positive.  Students are making new friends, and seem excited about school.  I now approach planning my read aloud for the third day of school which happens to also be September 11th.  It feels weird to start a discussion about tragedy and terrorism on the third day of school.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing frightening details of that day but on the other hand I don’t want to ignore the day altogether.  I’ve decided to read 14 Cows For America because it focuses more on the idea of compassion rather than tragedy.  I’m hoping that the last line of the book will prompt an interesting discussion:  “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”

Thanks Beth for recommending this fabulous read aloud!

September 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

69. Big Al by Andrew Clements

big alRetell: Big Al is one scary fish.  He happens to also be the nicest fish you’ll ever meet.  Unfortunately, the other fish in the sea don’t realize that.  Big Al tries to make friends but the others can’t get past the way he looks.  One day the little fish get caught in a net.  Big Al comes to the rescue and the other fish realize what a wonderful fish he really is.

Topics: fish, friendship, respecting differences, appearances, golden rule

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

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly

Thoughts: It’s that time of year again.  I’m exhausted from moving desks from one end of the room to the other, cleaning up after leaks under the sink (disgusting!!), and labeling hundreds of books destined to enter my classroom library.  I was almost too tired to choose a read aloud today.  But then my friend Katie came to my rescue and brought this read aloud which she plans to read during the first week of school.  This is a wonderful book for discussing the meaning of mutual respect.  Some may read this book and think, “Why did Big Al go and save the rest of the fish?  They didn’t give him the time of day.  They don’t deserve his help.”  Even though Big Al was not being respected by the other fish, he didn’t let the fish get caught in the net.  He did what was right and not only gained many friends, but taught the others a valuable lesson.

September 3, 2009 at 11:49 pm Leave a 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

56. What Joe Saw by Anna Grossnickle Hines

what joe sawRetell: Joe is always lagging behind the class.  His teacher and his classmates are always telling him to hurry up.  It’s not until a classmate stops to tie his shoes that he realizes why Joe keeps falling behind.

Topics: school, field trips, discovery, curiosity

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Talking and Writing about Texts

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: using repetition, dialogue

My Thoughts: The main character in this book reminds me of my sweetheart.  When we’re on route somewhere he always stops to smell the flowers on butterfly bushes or picks fruit from trees.  If I’m in a hurry it can be frustrating at first, but most of the time it’s worth it to be a few minutes late.  I appreciate how he makes me slow down and notice the world around me.  What Joe Saw is a good book to read when you want your class to discuss the importance of paying attention to small details.  However, you may not want to read this book to your class just before going on a field trip.  It may be good to read during an interpretation unit.  I can imagine having interesting discussions about the  individual vs. the group.

August 22, 2009 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

54. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery

two bobbiesRetell: This is the true story of how a stranded cat and dog survived the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Topics: pets, Hurricane Katrina, survival, friendship, family, homelessness

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

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: This is a book that I didn’t mind buying brand new and in hardcover.  I found this in a bookstore in Ashland, Oregon.  The cashier and I spent a few moments cooing over her ridiculously cute it is.  In addition to being an amazingly touching story it’s a great text to read to learn about Hurricane Katrina.   It could also be a great read aloud during an interpretation unit.  On one level it’s a story about survival but it could also be interpreted as a story about friendship between two individuals who come from groups who are normally not friendly to each other.

August 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

51. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

skippyjonjonesRetell: Skippyjon Jones is an imaginative Siamese cat.  After catching her son in a bird’s nest she banishes Skippyjon to his room so he can think about what it means to be a cat.  Instead he imagines that he is a chihuahua named Skippito Friskito.

Topics: individuality, creativity, imagination, parents, Spanish

Units of Study: Talking and Writing about Texts, Realistic Fiction

Habits of Mind: creating-imagining-innovating

Reading Skills: envisionment, making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: incorporating rhyme and rhythm, writing stories based on real life

My Thoughts: I purchased this book at JFK while waiting for my flight to Portland.  The rhyming chants in the book caught my eye.  It seems like it will be a fun book to read aloud.  I like how the book promotes having an active imagination.  However, I don’t feel I’d be comfortable reading this book aloud without encouraging my students to think critically about whether or not the book is culturally sensitive.  When Skippyjon becomes a chihuahua he starts speaking in a Spanish accent–which means ending most of his words with -ito.  He doesn’t say ‘big’ he says ‘beeg’.  The author isn’t trying to create an authentic Mexican character.  She’s trying to write a story about a character who likes to play pretend.  At any rate, this book could be great to read or reread during a critical reading study.  If you click on the book image above the link will take you to an interesting comments thread on Powell’s website.

August 17, 2009 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

48. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

the paper bag princessRetell: After a fire-breathing dragon destroys her castle, Elizabeth dons a paper bag and goes off to rescue the ‘charming’ Prince Ronald.  Through cunning wit she tricks the dragon and frees the prince only to realize that perhaps he wasn’t worth saving after all.

Topics: fairy tales, dragons, princesses, princes

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

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, managing impulsivity, thinking flexibly, striving for accuracy

Reading Skills: interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: writing interesting dialogue

My Thoughts: This is a TC read aloud classic that I have seen used in several workshops on planning effective interactive read alouds.  For such a short book, there are many ways you could teach with it.  It’s a great book for discussing gender issues during the Social Issues unit.  After rereading this book for the 20th time I just realized what a great text it is for teaching the Habits of Mind.  Elizabeth uses a lot of them!  For example, her entire castle burns down but she persists and goes to save Prince Ronald.  She has no clothes but thinks flexibly and fashions a dress out of a paper bag.  After competely exhausting the dragon she strives for accuracy and manages impulsivity by checking to make sure the dragon is truly knocked out.

August 13, 2009 at 9:37 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

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