Posts tagged ‘vocabulary’

122. Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen

welcome to the green houseRetell: Jane Yolen poetically compares the rainforest to a green house.

Topics: rainforest, animals, birds, nonfiction poetry

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

Habits of Mind: gathering data through all senses

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference

Writing Skills: using repetition, incorporating rhythm and rhyme, using sparkling vocabulary, using alliteration

My Thoughts: A few months ago I received a GrowLab through a DonorsChoose grant.  We received support from an educator at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and created corsage box terrariums.  Students planted cuttings from three different plants that thrive in the rainforest.  I plan on reading this book soon to support our gardening experience.  The text in this book is so vivid that as I read it I can actually feel the humidity of the rainforest.  It’s a great text for teaching students how to interpret metaphors.  At the end of the book, the author writes a message to her readers encouraging us to find out more about saving the rapidly disappearing rainforest.  Though it’s not technically a personal essay, you could use sections of the message as a mentor text.

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November 2, 2009 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

100. Should There Be Zoos? A Persuasive Text by Tony Stead with Judy Ballester and her fourth grade class

should there be zoosRetell: A collection of persuasive, well-researched essays that explore whether or not we should have zoos.  The anthology includes a glossary and a description of the process they went through to write the book.

Topics: zoos, persuasive text, arguments, endangered species, reintroduction

Units of Study: Content-Area, Personal Essay

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

Writing Skills: defining a word within a sentence, incorporating precise vocabulary, developing a persuasive voice

My Thoughts: Though the unit is a month away, my school’s literacy coach and I are beginning to collect mentor texts for the personal essay unit.  Here is a text that you could use for either Personal Essay or Content-Area writing.  The essays not only make good mentor texts but the description of the writing process is important to share with students as they embark on an essay unit.  The authors included ten steps to writing a persuasive text.  I’m particularly found of number eight: “After doing lots of reading, observing, and note-taking, we put our new information into our arguments to make them stronger.  We constantly conferenced with our teachers.”

October 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm Leave a comment

52. Night of the Gargoyles by Eve Bunting

night of the gargoylesRetell: During the day gargoyles suffer a lot of abuse.  They get rained on, they endure the heat and they tolerate nasty pigeons.  However, during the evening the gargoyles come out to play.

Topics: gargoyles, play, perspectives, night

Units of Study: Fantasy

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using descriptive language, incorporating interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: I never realized how much I love the works of Eve Bunting.  This is the third book of hers that I’ve reviewed.  Night of the Gargoyles might be a nice book to read on or prior to Halloween.  It’s spooky but not too creepy.  It’s also a good book for introducing the idea that there are different perspectives other than our own.  A lot of writers have created fabulous stories by considering the perspective of animals, objects, insects, etc. (ex. James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web).  This could then lead to a discussion about using personification in our writing.

August 18, 2009 at 1:46 am Leave a comment

44. Shrek! by William Steig

shrekRetell: Shrek is proud to be an ugly ogre.  He loves everything disgusting and enjoys scaring people around him.  One day he visits a fortune teller who tells him that he is destined to meet a princess even uglier than he.  With the help of a donkey he travels to the castle, defeats a knight and meets the princess of his dreams.

Topics: ogres, nightmares, monsters, fortune tellers

Units of Study: Fantasy

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using rhyme, including interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: I never realized how different the original story was from the movie.  The movie version has a much stronger moral more lesson but that doesn’t mean Steig’s classic does not have value as a read aloud.  I think this book lends itself quite well to modeling how readers monitor for sense.  Steig writes with rich vocabulary.  His characters never walk, speak, or work.  Rather they, stalk, hiss, and scythe.  Giggle alert:  the story includes the word jackass, which refers of course to the donkey in the story.  Read aloud with discretion.

August 9, 2009 at 9:05 am Leave a comment

27. The Road to Santiago by D.H. Figueredo

the road to santiagoRetell: Every year Figueredo and his family return to Santiago, Cuba for Christmas.  When calls for revolution sounded throughout Cuba the author recalls how his family almost didn’t make it home for his favorite holiday.

Topics: Cuba, Christmas, rebels, family, kindness of strangers, traditions

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, incorporating vocabulary from another language, generating notebook ideas

My Thoughts: A common thread thoughout the story is kindness.  Each scene highlights how people were kind to the author’s family:  a mill worker helps them fix a flat tire, a young man gives up his seat on the bus. Though this is technically a personal narrative I could see reading this book during a unit on writing historical fiction.  The story takes place during the 1950s revolutionary period in Cuba.  He threads details of the time period throughout the story making this a good historical fiction mentor text.

July 23, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

25. Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen

hewitt anderson's great big lifeRetell: Hewitt Anderson has it all.  Loving parents, a gorgeous house and fabulous birthday parties.  The only problem is that Hewitt wasn’t the son his parents expected.  Hewitt’s parents, and indeed the entire town, are giants.  This causes a lot of problems but soon they realize that with a few modifications they can still live a ‘normal’ life.

Topics: acceptance, family, giants, differences, size

Units of Study: Fantasy, Character

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: using interesting vocabulary

My Thoughts: This is a nice twist on “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  When next I teach a Fantasy unit I would like to either read this while immersing students in the genre, or use it as a writing mentor text.  The characters are African-American which students don’t often encounter when reading fantasy or fairy tales.  The language in the book is gorgeous.   Since there are many different words for ‘large’ and ‘small’ throughout the story, one could use this book during a lesson on synonyms.

July 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment


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