Posts tagged ‘writers notebook’

104. Postcards from a War by Vanita Oelschlager

postcards from a warRetell: Brian’s mom is in the Air Force.  Brian is sad that she has gone away to war.  To console him, Brian’s grandfather talks about the time his own father fought in World War II.  While he was in Manila he would send letters and postcards to his family to make them feel better.  Brian soon receives digital letters from his mom and begins to feel more connected.

Topics: family, communication, war, World War II, letters, reconstruction, military

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narratives, Memoir

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: writing from another person’s perspective, quoting written material, using photos to inspire notebook entries

My Thoughts: I highly recommend this text for any teacher who may have a student with a family member in the military.  This is a particularly powerful read aloud for Writing.  The text shows how important writing is and how writing can connect a family.  The author includes authentic photographs that were sent by her father during World War II.  It would be great to read this book to students who struggle with generating ideas.  I can imagine this book inspiring young writers to go home and look through family photos in order to generate ideas for personal narratives, memoirs or even realistic fiction.

October 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

78. Amelia Writes Again by Marissa Moss

amelia writes againRetell: Amelia is a young girl who collects thoughts, souvenirs, photos and stories in her writer’s notebook.  Through the pages of her notebook we learn about Amelia’s friend Leah, her sister Cleo, and the terrible arsonist who destroyed her school.

Topics: writing, birthdays, siblings, friendship, daydreaming, numbers, arson, symbols, partnerships, writer’s notebooks

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Realistic Fiction, Social Issues, Personal Essay

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, right to pass, personal best

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Writing Skills: generating notebook entries, using pictures and objects to inspire writing, writing about ideas, spelling tricky words by writing it in different ways

Thoughts: This is volume 2 in a series of “Amelia” books.  I use this each year when we relaunch our writer’s notebooks.  The book resembles a composition notebook.  There are many ways that it can be used to teach writing skills, but it also stands alone for discussing other issues.  For example, Amelia writes about how she is reluctant to show her notebook to her friend Leah.  This could be a great time to discuss taking the right to pass.  During a Social Issues or Personal Essay unit you could use this book to analyze the issue of school vandalism.

If  you have used any books from the “Amelia” series please post your ideas in the comments section.

September 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm 1 comment

73. David Goes to School by David Shannon

david goes to schoolRetell: David is a rambunctious boy who wreaks havoc at school.  After coloring on the desks he stays in after school to clean them up.

Topics: school, rules, behavior, bathroom, calling out

Units of Study: Personal Narrative

Tribes: mutual respect, attentive listening, personal best

Writing Skills: using memories to generate notebook entries

Thoughts: Here is a just-for-fun read aloud for the first day of school.  It’s a great read for beginning a discussion about rules, agreements and norms.  If you have access to Guys Read you may want to share David Shannon’s story about how he created the David books.  The anthology has cool original pictures of the young version of his other book No, David!

September 7, 2009 at 11:03 pm Leave a comment

72. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

love you foreverRetell: A mother starts a tradition of singing a song to her son:  “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”  Through the terrible twos, adolescence and adulthood the mother sings this song to her child.  When the mother becomes old and sick, it is the son’s turn to sing the song.

Topics: family, childhood, parenting

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections, prediction

Writing Skills: using traditions and special moments in your life to create a story

Thoughts: I just got back from my friend’s baby shower.  I’m kicking myself for not adding this book to her other gifts.  This is a book that is sure to make the reader teary-eyed.  If you are strong enough to read it in front of your class, it could be a great mentor text for generating ideas for personal narratives or memoirs.  This book could inspire young authors to think and write about the traditions, the songs, or customs important to their own families.

September 6, 2009 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

59. My Ol’ Man by Patricia Polacco

my ol' manRetell: When she was growing up, Patricia Polacco spent the summers with her father and her grandmother.  In this charming book, Polacco tells the story of the time they found a magical rock that helped them cope with hard times.

Topics: divorce, summer, dads, grandmothers, storytelling, layoffs, magic

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: attentive listening

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: prediction, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using commas in lists, crafting meaningful introductions

My Thoughts: Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors and I often read several of her books during the Personal Narrative unit.  Most of her books are inspired by moments, people, and places in her life.  In the beginning of My Ol’ Man, there are authentic photographs from Polacco’s childhood.  This book would be great to read as you are teaching how writers use artifacts to generate notebook entries.  When writing about people, my students often make lists of what they like about a person.  This book will be great to use as a mentor text to help students move from list writing (“My dad likes tacos.  My dad takes me places.) to narrative writing (“One time my dad brought out this book of stamps.  I’ll never forget the time when my dad took me for a ride in his 1947 GMC truck.”)

August 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm 2 comments

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

39. Mama Loves Me From Away by Pat Brisson

mama loves me from awayRetell: Sugar and her mama share the same birthday.  Sugar enjoys listening to her mother’s stories.  She especially misses them now that her mother is in prison.  Her mother finds a way to share her stories even from far away.

Topics: mothers, families, prison, stories, birthdays

Units of Study: Social Issues, Personal Narratives, Realistic Fiction

Tribes: attentive listening

Reading Skills: interpretation, questioning, empathy

Writing Skills: writing with a balance of description and reflection, keeping a writers notebook

My Thoughts: This is a moving story about a girl who is dealing with the fact that her mother is imprisoned.  There aren’t many published stories like this in the world.  It’s a great model to use when you teach your students to write about stories you wish belonged in the world–the ones that show aspects of your life or struggles you are going through.  The author never reveals what the mother did to land her in prison which I think is a nice touch.  The book isn’t about the mother, but about how much her daughter misses her.

August 4, 2009 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

34. What Will You Do For Peace?: Impact of 9/11 on New York City Youth

what will you do for peaceRetell: Faith Ringgold introduces this collaboration of young artists and poets aged 11-19.  Each page includes responses to the tragic events of 9/11.

Topics: 9/11, peace, children, World Trade Center

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Poetry, Personal Essay

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Writing Skills: collecting notebook entries

My Thoughts: This is a very moving collection of stories, poems and drawings from young children who experienced the events of 9/11 firsthand.    There are accounts of how it felt to be at school when people were going home every few minutes.  There are stories of watching the news for hours and hours.  I plan on reading this book on September 11th this year.  I think it will not only prompt a good discussion about why they day is important but it will also be a good mentor text for generating notebook entries and writing about events that will never be forgotten.

July 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm 2 comments

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

22. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

wilfrid gordon mcdonald partridgeRetell: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge enjoys visiting the old people’s home located next door to his house.  He especially loves visiting Miss Nancy.  When his parents tell him that she has lost her memory, Wilfrid searches for items that may help her remember.

Topics: memories, alzheimer’s disease, small moments, friendship, memory loss

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Realistic Fiction

Reading Skills: inference, making connections

Writing Skills: keeping a writer’s notebook, using objects to get ideas for notebook entries, writing endings that connect to the beginning

My Thoughts: This is the book that I’m going to read when I introduce the concept that writer’s can get ideas for notebook entries by looking at objects.  Mem Fox is the author of several excellent books for children.  She is an advocate for reading aloud and provides videos, recordings, and tips for reading aloud on her website.  Also included on her site is a “stories behind the stories” section where she discusses her inspiration for each of her books.  Check out her website:  http://www.memfox.com/welcome.html

July 18, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

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