Posts tagged ‘thinking flexibly’

150. Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini

Retell:  Gritch the Witch wakes up one morning with an intense craving for ‘piggie pie’. When she discovers that she is missing the main ingredient she heads to Old MacDonald’s Farm where she meets some crafty pigs.

Topics: witches, pigs, nursery rhymes, cultural literacy, Old MacDonald, wolves, Wizard of Oz

Units of Study:  Fairy Tales, Fantasy

Habits of Mind:  Persisting, Thinking Flexibly

Reading Skills:  Understanding humor, catching cultural references

Writing Skills:  Writing commas in a list, Including alliteration, Using sentence variety

Thoughts:  I can see reading this book during a study of fairy tales and folk tales.  To thoroughly understand the story, students need to have a good understanding of the song “Old Macdonald”, the movie The Wizard of Oz as well as the role of the wolf in fairy tales.  Though this book may be geared to children under 8, this could be a good book to read for older children when teaching readers to analyze cultural references.  The “Spy vs. Spy” endings makes the story.

July 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

144. Just Us Women by Jeanette Caines

Retell: A niece describes her annual road trip with her favorite aunt.

Topics: road trips, family, freedom, women, bonding

Units of Study: Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: applying past knowledge to new situations, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation

My Thoughts: I’m beginning a new unit this week–a unit devoted to strengthening my students inference and interpretation skills.  I’m looking for short and engaging texts to read aloud.  This is a great text for modeling how readers can infer a lot of information about a character/relationship from a simple line of text.

February 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

142. Heroes of the Revolution by David A. Adler

Retell: Heroes of the Revolution presents the stories of 12 people who risked their lives for American independence.

Topics: heroes, spies, bravery, independence, war, revolution, Ethan Allen, Crispus Attucks, Lydia Darragh, Nathan Hale, Molly Pitcher, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Thomas Paine, Paul Revere, Haym Salomon, Deborah Sampson, George Washington

Units: Content Area, Nonfiction

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: interpretation, determining importance, synthesis

My Thoughts: What makes this a great read aloud is that the stories of each hero are quite short.  They make both great read aloud and shared reading texts.  Adler attempts to include stories from people other than just the white male heroes.  Throughout the book you not only learn about what made each person important but each story tells the origin of famous quotes associated with the Revolution.  You will hear the origin of such famous quotes as: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” “Times that try men’s souls,” “I have not yet begun to fight!”

January 18, 2010 at 1:05 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

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

113. They Came from the Bronx: How the Buffalo Were Saved from Extinction by Neil Waldman

they came from the bronxRetell: Told from two perspectives, this book describes how the American Bison Society reintroduced a small herd of bison.

Topics: buffalo, Bronx Zoo, conservation, Native Americans, Comanche Indians, westward expansion, wildlife introduction

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

My Thoughts: This book combines narrative and non-narrative text.  The book begins with a Comanche woman telling her grandson about the days when buffalo roamed the land.  On the next page the author describes how 2,000 miles a way trains with mysterious creatures leave the gates of the Bronx Zoo.  While reading this book it would be great to have a map of the United States displayed so students could see the route the buffalo traveled.

October 17, 2009 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

111. Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter

roberto clementeRetell: This is the rags-to-riches story of Roberto Clemente.  Not only was he an all-star player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was also a humanitarian who donated a great deal of his earnings to charity.

Topics: baseball, Puerto Rico, racism, poetry

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Social Issues, Content-Area

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

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

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: including similes, using commas in lists

My Thoughts: I like sports stories that emphasize the athlete’s character rather than just his/her athletic ability.  This is a good book for showing persistence even in the face of adversity.  The book describes how Clemente grew up playing baseball with a glove made out of a coffee-bean sack and baseballs made from old soup cans.  Written in free verse but organized into two line stanzas, this is a great book to read as a model for students writing nonfiction poetry during the Content-Area unit.

October 17, 2009 at 9:00 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

91. What’s So Bad About Gasoline? Fossil Fuels and What They Do by Anne Rockwell

what's so bad about gasolineRetell: This book explains how gasoline is made and describes its role in global warming.

Topics: gasoline, carbon emissions, global warming, petroleum, coal

Units of Study: Personal Essay, Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits: Thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: questioning, determining importance, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using repetition to make a thesis stronger, using supporting reasons and examples to support a thesis

My Thoughts: I mentioned before that my students are currently studying earth movements (how mountains are made, volcanoes, etc).  Next week students will examine fossils found in rocks.  This book could be a nice extension of the fossil investigation.  It blew my mind years ago when I learned that petroleum is made from decomposed fossils.  When we are in the Personal Essay unit I plan on rereading parts of this text to show how the writer weaves in her opinions and supports them with facts.

The beginning of the book explains how petroleum is made and how it has been used throughout history.  Throughout this section the phrase, “They still didn’t use much” repeats.  The author argues that gasoline and other petroleum products are not inherently evil.  After all, the reason why we still have forests and whales is connected to the invention of distilled petroleum.  I like how the book ends with the question, “What ways can you think of to help?”  After the read aloud students could brainstorm ways to use less gasoline.

September 26, 2009 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

90. Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema

bringing the rain to kapiti plainRetell: In this Nandi folktale a man is worried about the drought that is turning the plains brown and making his cows hungry and dry.  He decides to make an arrow and shoot it into a storm cloud which brings the much needed rain.

Topics: plains, drought, weather, Kenya, folktales

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, managing impulsivity

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: incorporating repetition, rhyme and rhythm

Thoughts: Like “The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” and “The House that Jack Built” (also see The House That Crack Built) Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain is a cumulative rhyme.  The words are composed in a way that it’s easy to find a rhythm when you read.  In addition to being a nice Social Studies read aloud, it’s a great text to use with readers who need help with phrasing and parsing.

September 26, 2009 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

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