Posts tagged ‘thinking interdependently’

127. The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants by Priscilla Turner

the war between the vowels and the consonantsRetell: The snooty vowels and the rough and tumble consonants have never gotten along with each other.  After a few letters begin to fight with each other, war breaks out between the vowels and the consonants.  When chaos, in the form of squiggly lines, rolls into town the vowels and consonants must work together to defeat it.

Topics: letters, vowels, consonants, war, cooperation, fighting, cliques, power

Units of Study: Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: interpretation

My Thoughts: When I previewed this text I assumed I was going to learn about how vowel sounds are really strong and influence other vowel sounds.  In reality this book is not really about letters at all–it’s about class and cooperation between the classes.  The vowels represent the upper class–there are few of them and they are snooty.  The consonants represent the lower-middle class– the undignified commoners.  They distrust each other, go to war and then eventually must learn how to work together.  I can see reading this in my class in order to have a discussion about cliques within the class and within the grade.  It could be read again when we study industrialization and analyze the struggles between the rich and the poor.

November 8, 2009 at 12:03 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

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

62. “Before New York” by Peter Miller, National Geographic September 2009

Before New YorkRetell: Peter Miller investigates the Mannahatta Project, a group who have analyzed several historical maps in order to create pictures of what Manhattan might have looked like when Henry Hudson spotted the island back in 1609.

Topics: New York, beavers, then & now, New Amsterdam, Hudson, conservation, geography, maps

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Habits of Mind: thinking interdependently, responding with wonderment and awe, striving for accuracy

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance, questioning

My Thoughts: My eyes lit up when I received my monthly National Geographic magazine yesterday afternoon.  The feature article, “Before New York,” is dedicated to presenting a picture of the landscape of New York City before it was the crowded, bustling town it is today.  If you are a 4th grade teacher in New York I highly recommend going out to your local news stand and picking up a copy today.  The article includes several pictures of ‘then and now’ maps and digital renderings.  I plan on reading this article (or a portion of it) when we do our unit on New York geography.  The article highlights how cartographers pose questions, strive for accuracy and work in groups.  I may just reread the beginning of the article where the author tells the story of a beaver named Jose who appeared near the Bronx zoo.  According to the article beaver haven’t been spotted in New York City in over 200 years.  If you don’t have a subscription check out the National Geographic website.  If you have a projector in your classroom you could share the interactive maps of New York after reading the article.

August 27, 2009 at 9:56 am 1 comment

57. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

the dot

Retell: Vashti is frustrated in art class.  She doesn’t have confidence in her artistic ability.  Her teacher tells her to start with a dot and see where it takes her.  Soon she experiments with dots of different colors, shapes and sizes and becomes pleased with the results.

Topics: art, writer’s block, creativity, experimentation

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

Tribes: personal best, appreciations/no put-downs, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, creating-imagining-innovating, responding with wonderment and awe, taking responsible risks, thinking interdependently

Writing Skills: dealing with writer’s block, revising

My Thoughts: Though this book is about art, readers will make the obvious connection to writing.  I love the message of this book—experiment and enjoy the process.  If I don’t read this out loud to my entire class, I will definitely use this in small group work to help struggling writers get over their fear of the blank page.  I like how at the end of the book Vashti helps another young artist get over his frustration.  It’s a good example of how learners help one another.

August 23, 2009 at 3:53 am 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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