Posts tagged ‘thinking flexibly’

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

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

68. Old MacDonald Had an Apartment House by Judi Barrett

old macdonald had an apartment houseRetell: A super decides to turn the apartment building he manages into a vegetable garden.  When Mr. Wrental, the owner, finds out he’s furious.  But when he thinks about all the money he could make, the owner has a change of heart.

Topics: gardening, apartments, cities, indoor gardening

Units of Study: Social Issues, Realistic Fiction

Habits: thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: Prediction, making connections

Writing Skills: Using the ‘rule of three’ when listing examples

My Thoughts: This is a very cute book by the author of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  Before reading this book aloud, you may want to find a copy of Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic so students will understand the joke behind the cover illustration.  I can certainly identify with the characters in this book.  Both my apartment and my classroom get little to no light.  My classroom doesn’t have any windows at all so I wrote a grant proposal for a GroLab on Donors Choose and it was funded in three days!  When it arrives I plan on reading this book to the class.  Perhaps after the read aloud we’ll try growing vegetables.

September 3, 2009 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

67. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

love that dogRetell: “I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry.  Girls do.”  Jack reluctantly keeps a poetry journal.  With encouragement from his teacher he begins to write about his dog.  By using famous poems as mentor texts, Jack learns to be a prolific poet.

Topics: poetry, school, pets, loss, writer’s block

Units of Study: Independent Writing Projects, Poetry, Social Issues, Character

Tribes: personal best

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

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, making connections

Writing Skills: using mentor texts to improve writing

My Thoughts: This is one of my favorite books by Sharon Creech.  She captures the voice of a young writer so well.  I consider this a read aloud though I often use it as a text for doing shared reading.  Since each entry is dated, one could conceivably read the pages on or close to the dates in the book–a read aloud that lasts all year long.  In the back of the book are poems by:  Walter Dean Meyers, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost and Valerie Worth.  You could use the poems for shared reading at the same time you read the book aloud.

September 1, 2009 at 11:14 pm 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

53. Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey

dogzillaRetell: Every year the mice in Mousopolis have an annual barbecue cook-off.  The festivities were interrupted one year when the aroma from the cook-off awoke Dogzilla.  The mice band together and eventually defeat Dogzilla by attacking him with a mighty weapon–a dog bath.

Topics: dogs, mice, teamwork

Units of Study: Fantasy

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, thinking interdependently, applying past knowledge

Writing Skills: using dashes, using transitional phrases

My Thoughts: I’ve read this book about five times this summer and each time I read it I giggle to myself.  What makes this a fun and engaging read aloud are the illustrations.  Pilkey created characters out of his pet mice and pet Corgie.  I love how the ferocious monster in the story is a cute cuddly dog who looks so happy in each picture.  I think it will be a good read aloud for introducing Habits of Mind.  When finding a way to beat Dogzilla they ‘persist,’ ‘think flexibly and interdependently’ and ‘apply past knowledge.’  This may also be a good mentor text for students writing fantasy stories.  Students could try generating story ideas by doing what Dav Pilkey did and cast one’s pets as characters in a fantasy story.

August 19, 2009 at 2:46 am 1 comment

49. Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin

fireflies in the darkRetell: Learn about the amazing life of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who taught art to children in the Terezin Camp during the Holocaust.  The book includes several photos, drawings, paintings and writings from her students, many of whom did not survive.

Topics: art, holocaust, ghetto, Terezin, Nazis, school, poetry, drama, resiliency

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Nonfiction, Content Area Reading and Writing, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating, thinking interdependently, remaining open to continuous learning

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance, interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: launching writers notebook, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: One can learn many lessons from this book.  I am impressed by Dicker-Brandeis’ devotion to learning.  When she discovered that she would be sent to Terezin she chose not to bring items for herself, but art supplies for the children she knew would be in the camp.  Through art her students were able to both escape and record the horrors around them.  Though I don’t plan on teaching a unit about the Holocaust this year, I may choose to read a portion of this book when emphasizing how writers notebooks can be powerful places to record our memories, our thoughts and our struggles.  It is important for our students to realize that their experiences, just like those recorded at Terezin, are important and should be recorded.

August 14, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment

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