Posts tagged ‘writers notebook’

21. The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

the skin I'm inRetell: Every day students tease Maleeka Madison.  Whether it be her good grades, her homemade clothes or her dark skin, it seems like the world is against Maleeka.  She does others’ homework in exchange for friendship.  That is until Miss Saunders, a new teacher from the business world, challenges Maleeka to think for herself.

Topics: self-esteem, confidence, body image, race, middle school, peer pressure, money issues, assault, clothing, status, taking a stand, arson, bullying

Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Historical Fiction (Writing), Literary Essay, Talking and Writing About Books

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

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, synthesis, making connections

Writing Skills: keeping journals, writing poetry

My Thoughts: This is a fantastic text to read aloud in a middle school classroom.  I’m not sure that I would read the text as a whole to everyone in an upper elementary grade classroom.  I would encourage certain fifth grade book clubs to read and discuss this book.  I plan to read certain sections from this book.  For example, Maleeka keeps a journal which she writes from the perspective of an African girl aboard a slave ship.  There are several scenes throughout the book where Maleeka’s historical fiction writing parallel’s her own life.  This would be a great way to show how writers of historical fiction create characters who struggle with similar issues to their own.  This is an excellent cautionary tale detailing what can happen if you refuse to let others force you into situations that you know are wrong.

July 17, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

16. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

ishRetell: A young boy loses confidence on his artwork after his brother insults his work.

Topics: art, interests, self esteem, confidence, sibling issues

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Launching the Writers Workshop, Character

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: inference, making connections

Writing Skills: using a mixture of dialogue and description

My Thoughts: A friend of mine who is an art teacher once told me that between the ages of 8 and 10 many kids give up artistic pursuits.  Apparently this age group becomes obsessed with making their art look realistic.  Many people, myself included, stopped drawing and painting at this age because they lost confidence in their artistic ability.  Ish is a story that addresses this issue in an adorable way.  During read aloud students can analzye the role of the narrator’s sister who helps encourage him to recognize the beauty in his work.  This book lends itself well to a discussion on personal best.  Later in the book, the young artist starts a writers notebook making this a great book to launch classroom writers notebooks.

July 12, 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

12. Families are Different by Nina Pellegrini

families are differentRetell: Nico is an adopted girl from Korea who begins to feel different from her friends because she doesn’t resemble her parents.  After closer observation, Nico realizes that there are many different types of families.

Topics: adoption, divorce, families

Units of Study: memoir, personal narrative, social issues

Tribes: appreciations/no putdowns (appreciating our loved ones), mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections

Writing Skills: developing the heart of a story

My Thoughts: Do not expect subtlety when reading this book.  The title hits you over the head with the book’s message.  I can’t imagine using this book for higher level reading work.  However, I think it could be a good mentor text when teaching writers to revise by developing the heart of a story.  Families are Different is written in a style similar to some of the notebook entries my students tend to write:  “Hello, my name is______.  I live in ______.  I’m going to tell you all about my friends.”  Halfway through the story, however the narrator begins to reveal some of her thoughts and emotions about being adopted.  I can see reading this story and asking students to identify when the author started getting to the heart of the story.  I would also read this during a community circle to encourage discussion about respecting differences.

July 8, 2009 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

7. Guys Write for Guys Read

guys readRetell: Jon Scieszka edits this fabulous collection of stories, comics, essays, illustrations and vignettes contributed by prominent male authors and illustrators.  Contributors include:  Stephen King, Matt Groening, Jerry Spinelli, Seymour Simon, James Howe, Neil Gaiman, Gary Paulsen and many more.  Royalties from the book are used to support Scieszka’s Guys Read Program.

Topics: boys, family, growing up, reading, writing, art

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Launching the Reading and Writing Workshop, Character, Personal Essay, Content-Area Reading and Writing, Nonfiction, Memoir, Social Issues, Fantasy, Preparing for the ELA

Tribes: Mutual Respect, Personal Best, Appreciations/No Putdowns, Right to Pass

Reading Skills: inference, making connections, interpretation

Writing Skills: writing with voice, zooming in on a small moment, observing the world for stories

My Thoughts: This book is teacher gold!  Guys Write for Guys Read has a plethora of short stories that can be used for mentor texts in almost every Reading and Writing unit.  One of the stories, “Reading Can Be Dangerous” by Tedd Arnold was featured on the 5th grade ELA test last year.  James Howe, author of Bunnicula, writes a personal narrative about getting help from a friend on how to be a boy–a great text for personal essay or discussing gender issues.  Many authors write about how they came to love reading and writing.  Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, writes about how he fell in love with fantasy–great to read when you launch a unit on Fantasy reading and writing.  Patrick Jones, a librarian, writes about how being interested in wrestling inspired him to become a voracious reader.  Many entries include samples of famous authors childhood work alongside their adult work.  For example, Dav Pilkey, author/illustrator of the infamous Captain Underpants series, writes about a comic strip he started when he was 11.  I will probably use this book for almost every unit I teach this year.

If you don’t pick up a copy of this book you must go to Scieska’s website, Guys Read.  The site is dedicated to inspiring more young boys to fall in love with reading.  Mr. Scieszka, you’re my hero.

July 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm 4 comments

3. Uptown by Bryan Collier

uptownRetell: A young boy writes about his observations of Harlem.

Topics: neighborhoods, Harlem, community

Units of Study: Personal Narratives, Geography of New York

Reading Skills: envisionment

Writing Skills: writing small moments, including setting details, writing metaphors and similes

My Thoughts: This beautiful book shows that writers observe the world around them.  Each observation is something that can turn into powerful writing.  I plan on using this book as a mentor text for teaching about metaphors and similes.  Collier writes, “Uptown is a caterpillar.  Well, it’s really the Metro-North train as it eases over the Harlem River.”  Though my students don’t live in Harlem, I’m hoping that reading this book together will show them that they need to share their world with others through writing.  The world needs more books about Sunset Park, Brooklyn!  For 4th grade teachers in New York, I can see using this book during a Geography unit.  Perhaps after reading Uptown, students could locate the landmarks in the book on a subway map.

June 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

2. Three Days on a River In a Red Canoe by Vera B. Williams

three days on a river in a red canoe

Retell: After purchasing a red canoe at a yard sale, a family goes on a three-day canoe trip.

Topics: Family, adventure, camping

Units of Study: Personal Narratives, Launching the Writers Notebook

Tribes: Personal Best

Reading Skills: envisionment, making connections, inference

Writing Skills: incorporating details about setting, using transition words, including sensory details, writing endings that connect to the beginning

My thoughts: This book has great teaching potential.  As the marbled cover suggests it reads like someone’s writers notebook.  Each page describes a scene from the camping trip.  I can imagine using this book when I introduce writers notebooks to my students.  Each page is a small moment that could be stretched into a larger story.  The colorful, colored pencil drawings will be inspiring for young artists who like to draw pictures with each notebook entry.  I plan on using this as a mentor text for students who want to write endings that connect to an earlier scene.

June 28, 2009 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment

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