Posts tagged ‘thinking flexibly’

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

84. Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

chicken sundayRetell: Easter is around the corner and Miss Eula wants a new hat to wear to church.  Her grandchildren and her young neighbor decide to ask Mr. Kodinski if they could work at his hat shop to earn extra money.  On the way to his shop, he mistakes the children for vandals.  They come up with an interesting way to earn back his trust as well as earn enough money for a new hat.

Topics: reputation, hats, chutzpah, Easter, vandalism, gifts, Holocaust survivors

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

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating, persisting

Reading Skills: questioning, inference

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, repeating powerful lines

My Thoughts: If you follow this blog daily, you’re sick of seeing entries about Patricia Polacco.  I can’t help it.  I love her work.  Since I’m currently in the Personal Narrative mindset, her work naturally comes to mind.  The illustrations in this book can be powerful teaching tools.  Throughout Chicken Sunday, real photographs appear in the background.  This shows that Polacco thinks about significant people in her life and then writes stories about them. I love how Mr. Kodinski’s story can be inferred through the illustrations.  Previously, Miss Eula alluded to the fact that he wanted a peaceful life after suffering so much.  The text never states specifically why he had a difficult life.  The illustrations give you the information.  Tattooed on Mr. Kodinski’s arm are six blue numbers, revealing that he survived the concentration camps.  This book shows students how readers can reread a text and peal a different layer of meaning with each reading.

September 18, 2009 at 11:15 pm Leave a 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

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

70. Agatha’s Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story by Carmen Agra

agatha's feather bedRetell: Agatha is famous for saying, “Everything comes from something.”  One night, as she dreams on her new feather bed she is visited by naked geese who want their feathers back.  Agatha comes up with an interesting compromise.

Topics: origins, fabric, responsibility

Units of Study: Social Issues

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense (understanding idioms and puns), inference

Writing Skills: using first-person narration, including puns

My Thoughts: In her author’s note Deedy writes, “What we choose to discuss with our children concerning ivory, whalebone, or the Brazilian rain forest is a matter of both individual conscience and collective responsibility.  But the first step is to ask.”  This book is all about inspiring people to ask, “Where does it come from?”  Reading these words I’m reminded of a 4th grader who seemed so shocked when she discovered that leather is made from the hides of cows.  The text contains a lot of interesting features.  When describing her old mattress as ‘lumpy’ and ‘bumpy’ the letters actually look lumpy and bumpy.  There are lots of cute idioms, puns and play-on-words.  I know I’ll have to explain to my students why the name of the catalog (B.B. Lean) is so funny.

September 4, 2009 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

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