Posts tagged ‘writers notebook’

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

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

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