Sunday, December 7, 2008

Title I at Glen Alpine Elementary: 5th Grade

On my last visit to Glen Alpine Elementary, I followed a few of the students after lunch to their Title I class. All the students that worked together were in the fifth grade, and there is five students in the class I observed. The students work on reading sentences and paragraphs, and writing in cursive. The students go to Title I every day except Tuesdays. I went to the lesson with a girl from my class named Kayla. She told me that she really likes going to Title I because it help her to better in all her other classes. She also talked about how she liked how there were only five students and one teacher, and she thought it was better and that she learned more in Title I then in her large, regular class. Another student in the class where I did my practicum was in the Title I program last year, but wasn't invited to it this year. I was told by the other students in Title I that he wasn't aloud back into it because he didn't get enough work done while in Title I. I was a little concerned at what the student was given or put into in place of the Title I program. Obviously there was a reason this student was in the program, and he didn't leave the program because he was caught up to grade level. This particular child was pegged as a problem child, and I have to admit that I didn't view him as that large of a behavioral problem. He asked a lot of questions that seemed a little excessive, but he seemed like he wanted to know why he was doing what he was doing all the time. It seemed that when he asked a question he was regarded as a problem because he didn't listen rather than a student. I really enjoyed my time spend in the Title I program because it allowed me to see the extra help that some of the students needed and were getting. My concentration area is in English, and so Title I programs are something that I am very interested in. I possibly may get my masters in something related to reading. I could definitely see myself being a reading specialist, and this experience really gave me a much better view of what type of skills you need to do this type of job.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Classroom Management Ideas from My Glen Alpine 5th Grade Classroom

I really enjoyed my time in Mrs. Revilla's fifth grade classroom at Glen Alpine Elementary. I had a lot of fun with the students, and I learned more than I thought through teaching, helping, and observing. When I first got to the school, I wasn't sure how I felt about the teacher that I was placed with, but as I got to know her things got a lot better. Mrs. Revilla is an amazing teacher, and I think our first day was probably not the best behavioral day for the class. An idea I learned about for classroom management has to deal with daily behavior and walking laps. Around the outside playground area there is a track. Each day, each fifth grade class starts out with eight laps. If they behave well during transitions and certain parts during the day, then they can erase a lap. The students have eight chances to remove a lap, so if they behave then they will have their full recess time to play. If they don't behave, then they may have to walk laps around the track before getting to play. This type of classroom management worked pretty well. Students were able to line themselves up and stay quiet, most of the time. It seemed that the students made a clear, conscious effort to transition smoothly and quickly. When it was time to switch for math class from reading class, all the students put away their reading books and got out their math supplies and lined up in the hallway waiting to enter Mrs. Osborne's classroom. Some days the students were too excited, and the most laps I ever saw them walk in one day was four. I would definitely consider this type of classroom management if it was evident that it would have an effect on my class. Each group of students is different, and I think that I may have to use different classroom management techniques depending on the likes and dislikes of the current class. Another form of classroom management that the teachers use is signing the students planners. Every day the students write in their homework and important information into their planners. If a student gets in trouble, then the teacher will sign their planner and give he/she an extra lap to walk at recess. The parents have to look at the planner every night, and if your planner gets signed during the day, then your parents have to also sign that they read why you go in trouble. I do like the idea of signing the student's planner and writing what the student did wrong so that the parents can be informed. Sometimes I felt as though the teachers were a little harsh with their planner signing though. It seemed that if the teacher was in a poor mood that certain students were almost watched until they did something wrong. I'm really glad that I saw this type of behavior from a teacher who overall I respect because it makes me realize how hard it must be to control your subconsciousness. I want to be making a conscious effort to be fair to all my students even if they rub me the wrong way sometimes. I also realize that when I am in a bad mood in the classroom, I need to try and let some things roll off my shoulder. Teachers are human and bound to over-react sometimes. As a teacher, I will need to try my hardest to leave my personal baggage at the door because it isn't beneficial to my future students. I've done a lot of researching on many different types of classroom management ideas, and I think that classroom management is the key to a productive classroom. If the students are in order and managed, then as a whole we will be able to accomplish more in the time we are given. A well-behaved classroom can also participate in more hands-on activities, which I think can truly make a difference in a student's comprehension level. A few websites with classroom management ideas are listed below:

ProTeacher's Classroom Management
The Really Big List of Classroom Management Resources
The Teacher's Corner - Classroom Management
SMARTeacher - Classroom Management: Elementary

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spelling Game (Substitue for Word Game)

On Wednesday November 19, 2008, Chantel and I did a spelling lesson instead of a word game lesson. The teacher asked us to do the spelling game/lesson instead of a word game because it went better with what Mrs. Revilla had planned that week and that day. A spelling list with all the words we used in our lesson was given to the students on Monday. The class had already done homework assignments on Monday and Tuesday and a practice quiz on Monday. In other words, the students had seen the words before and were fairly familiar with them. After our lesson the students would be taking their second practice spelling test. Mrs. Revilla has the students take a shot at spelling the words when they first get the fifteen word list on Mondays, and next the students take a second practice spelling test on the words on Wednesday. After the second practice spelling test, Mrs. Revilla assigns each individual student ten words to study for their actual spelling test on Friday. I like the way Mrs. Revilla takes the time to individualize the students spelling lists to the needs of each student. If the student knows how to spell a few of the words already, then Mrs. Revilla makes sure that the students are doing homework and working with the words that they may not know how to spell yet. I also really liked how low-stress the spelling tests were because of the practice quizes. The students knew that the first two practices were not going to effect their grades at all, and I think this allowed the students to really try and take chances when it came to spelling the spelling words for that week. The teacher made a comment to us about how the school didn't have a consistent spelling or vocabulary plan. Mrs. Revilla thinks, and I agree, that the school needs to have a certain standard for words that each grade must master. She says that one of her problems is that the students have a wide range of spelling abilities, and that some of the students don't know how to spell very basic words that they should already know how to spell. This is one reason Mrs. Revilla individualizes each students spelling tests each week because she is trying to get them all up to grade level. The lesson that Chantel and I did was called spelling battleship. Below is the general lesson outline:

Spelling Lesson Plan – Spelling Battleship

· Write the word groups on the board & draw an example battleship board
· Word Group 1: Slogan, honest, Shadow, Eleven, and Radio
· Word Group 2: Minutes, Virus, Humor, Balance, and Basis

· Count off the students by 2’s

· Students with # 1 à use word group 1

· Students with # 2 à use word group 2

· Spelling Battleship Instructions:

o Each will get a game board piece and a folder
-> Use the folder as a divider between the students
o Put your word list into any of the spaces on the game piece (one in each square)
o Take turns guessing squares (B2, C4, etc…)
o If you guess a square that has a word in it, your opponent will tell you what the word is.
Spell the word correctly à get a point … Spell the word wrong à no points and end of turn
o Guess a square with a word and spell it right à get to guess again
o The person to spell the most words correctly wins!

· Handout game boards and folders

After we had explained the game, paired the students up, and passed out all of the materials, we walked around the room doing informal assessments on how well the students were doing. The students were extremely enthusiastic about the game, and every student in the class had played the boardgame Battleship at least once. The students played the game for about fifteen to twenty minutes, or until about all of the students had tried to spell all five of their words. Most students were able to spell between 2-4 words correctly, and most of them were spelling 3 or 4 out of their 5 words correctly. I thought this was a good place to be considering it was in the middle of the week, and the students were still learning the words. The informal assessment allowed me to note that all of the students were on the way to mastering their spelling words for that week. I would definitely use this spelling game in my future upper elementary classrooms because the students really enjoyed it, and they really wanted to spell the words correctly so they could beat their classmate!

Guided Reading Lesson

Chantel and I did our guided reading lesson plan on November 12, 2008. The novel the class was reading is called The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain, and our guided reading lesson was on the epilogue of the book. We split the class into two groups: I led one of the groups in the guided reading lesson plan and Chantel led the other group. Before beginning reading, I led a discussion with my group about what an epilogue is and why it is important to the story; as well as review on what a prologue is. Also before beginning our reading, I led the group of students in a discussion about what all had happened up to that point. I told them to imagine that I had never read the book and collectively as a group the students told me all the important details up to the epilogue. Then I asked the students to share their predictions about what may happen next based on what we already know. I think this is a very important question when it comes to the understanding of a novel. If the students truly understand what they have read so far, they will be able to make an educated guess on what might happen next. I then instructed to the students to read half of the epilogue, on their own (silent reading), and to be looking for clues or details on what might happen next. I informed the students that after they finished reading the assigned pages that we would talk about what just happened, and what is going to happen next. When everyone was done reading the first half of the epilogue, almost all of the students were able to make fairly accurate predictions about how the book was going to end. I was able to feel out the different levels of comprehension from the students as each on shared what they thought was about to happen. Before we finished the book, I told the students to be looking for how the story ended for each character. Did all of the wishes get reversed? Do you think everyone will be satisfied with how the book ends? Then the last few pages of the book we read together in a circle; the students already had reading circles that they used a few times a week. All of the students in the group had a chance to share a few facts about what they remembered happened to a specific character in the book. I was able to get an informal assessment on how well the students comprehended what happened in the book, and also by the students sharing with what they thought about the whole idea of wishing. Our discussion then led into how they felt of the saying 'be careful what you wish for.' I asked the group if they ever met a gentlemen selling wishes at a fair would they buy one, and if so what would they wish? At the end of our group discussions, we asked the students to get out a piece of paper and to do the following: You meet Thadius (the Wish Giver) on a bus, and he leans over and whispers in your ear 'I can give you whatever you want for only 50 cents.' Write how your conversion would go from there. Would you take the wish, and what would it be? If you wouldn't take the wish, how would you get Thadius to leave you alone? Would you move seats, get off the bus, ask for help? The students had a lot of fun with this part of the lesson because they were able to write a short narrative about what they would say to the wish giver. In my own future classroom, I would probably do a longer lesson that consisted of a few activites to assess whether the students understood the chain of events, comprehended the material well, and understood the underlying meaning of the story. A possible assessment could be to give to give a group the written assignment to answer specific questions about the story's plot, characters, chain of events, themes, climax, and other literature concepts. Another thing that I would do differently in my future classroom would be to better choose the groups I put the students into. Because Chantel and I hadn't observed the children in too many group activities, except for their group reading circles, we were unaware of how some children may interact. In a classroom where I know my students well, and I am able to tell who works well with whom, who really helps the children that need the most peer help, which students distract certain others, and which students don't get along. Overall, the guided reading lesson went really well, and the students seemed to have a great understanding of the book The Wish Giver.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Upper Elementary Reading Lesson Plans, Activities, and Ideas for My Future Classroom

I was having a hard time deciding what to write about for my next journal. So, I thought that I would search the web to try and find some great lesson plans, activities, and ideas for reading in the upper elementary level classrooms. I'm pretty sure that that is the grade level area that I would like to teach in, and I also want to have a large archive of different helpful resources by the time I graduate. This blog in particular has been a lot of help because I am able to put links into my blogs with descriptions, and so I am easily able to navigate through the sites I have already found. Below is a long list of lesson plans and activities by subject that involve literature:

The Reading Nook - This website has a list of mathematics related literature sorted by concept: fractions, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, measurement, time, pattern, etc.

ERIC Digests - Literature-Based Mathematics in Elementary School. This article discusses the benefits of a mathemaical literature collection, ways to use mathematics literature in your lessons, the importance of the context, and resources.

Teaching and Learning Elementary Mathematics: Richmond University - This site includes many links for resources in teaching mathematics.

Dr. Seuss - A list of links to lesson plans that involve works by Dr. Seuss.

Literature/Reading Activities and Lesson Plans - This website includes a variety of links to lesson plans based on specific books.

Harper Collins - Reading Groups guides on Harper Collins books.

Scholastic - Lesson plans, activities, games, reading groups, etc. for all the book published through Scholastic.

Terrific Science: Literature-Based Science - According to the site, 'With funding from the Ohio Board of Regents, we developed a professional development program for teachers that promoted the use of children’s literature as a springboard for teaching elementary and middle-school physical science.'

Homeschool Science: Teaching Elementary Science with Great Literature - This website discusses why to use literature to study science, if you don't have a strong background in science, and what books to use and where to find them.

How Do Apples Grow? - An integrated Science, Literature, and Art Sequencing Activity

Social Studies:

Children's Literature with Social Studies Themes - This website has links according to themes and grades.

Opening Doors to Social Studies with Children's Literature - The website was created by students at Utah State University in the Spring of 1997. It has links according to themes, titles, grade level, and author.

Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Glan Alpine

On my second visit to Glen Alpine I think my teacher was a little bit more relaxed. She didn't seem quite as angry and didn't seem to speak with so much attitude in her voice. The students worked on the first paragraph to their stories today. The writing prompt is you're a leaf! The students are supposed to describe their journey as a leaf. Each day the students work on their stories a little bit. I really like the prompt idea as well as the writing schedule the students were on. The first day they brainstormed ideas, the next day they write their first paragraph, then over the next few days they write their body, and then finally their conclusion. For the most part, the students didn't seem to have a problem getting motivated or finding something to write about. One thing that I noted about the day was that the teacher made a good use of her time in the classroom. The students transitions were pretty smooth and quick, something I definitely hope to accomplish. The teacher met in the back of the classroom with students one-on-one while the other students did individual or group work. Another thing that I notcied and also want to incorporate into my classroom is the fact that the students were always doing something constructive. An idea that I thought sounded like fun is that the students are picking poems or stories to memorize and perform as a speech. I helped type up some of the poems and stories that the students had chosen. I definitely want to use this idea or something similar to it in my classroom. The poems and stories usually tended to be funny and were very entertaining. I really hope that I am there on the day of the performances because I can't wait to see the personal touches the students put on their speeches.

There is one activity in the fifth grade class that I would change somewhat. Every day the students either read their guided reading novel independently or in groups. After they read, they answer more questions on the story in their worksheet packet. I just feel like there isn't very much creativity in this guided reading lesson. The students read and answer the questions. There is no creative art project or further research project or anything creative that could add a little interest into the story. The worksheets in the packet definitely provide a hard copy for important parts in the story and help children remember and understand certain details. I just think that there should be something else; something that allows the students to make it relevant to themselves and their interests. I think that if I were to use this type of lesson in my future classrooms I would be sure to take it a step further and add in some creative activities besides the informative worksheets.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

First Day at Glen Alpine

I am at the school Glen Alpine in Burke county, and Chantell and I are in a fifth grade classroom. Both of us are a little unsure about out teacher. The whole first day we didn't really do anything, and we both kind of felt more like a burden than wanted. The teacher told us at the end of the day that next time we would do something, and we arranged all the dates and details for the lessons Chantell and I will be teaching. Our teacher seemed to have a bit of an attitude that she may not have realized was so strong. One of the first things we saw when we got into the classroom was the teacher as a male student a question about the part of the story the students had just read. The boy could answer the first half of the question, but not the second half. Basically, she called him out and made him look stupid in front of the rest of the class. When he told her he couldn't remember she could easily have said something along the lines of next time try paying closer attention to the important details when you read because this is important to the novel. Instead, the teacher rolled her eyes and said something along the lines of didn't you just read? Didn't you remember anything? God try really reading next time, and the went on to ask another student. The student had volunteered to answer the question, and you could tell that he was hurt by her reaction. I'm glad I really got to see this type of situation because I never, ever want to react that way to a student no matter what else has happened that day. I just don't think there is an excuse. The other thing Chantell and I both agreed on was the teacher's interactions with a new girl. Our first day in the class was also a little girls first day in the class as well. On a more positive note, I'm still excited about working with the students and being in the school all day. The teacher could have been having a very stressful day and our later visits may prove much more fruitful and exciting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Incorporating Reading Books and Novels into All Classroom Subjects AND Interactive Websites

I have always loved, and still love, reading, and I want to be able to incorporate them into all different types of subject areas. Books can be such a fun, motivating, and informative tools for all subjects. I want to be able to have a massive classroom library with all types of varieties and genres. I've already started collecting and I have around a hundred to one hundred and fifty books, mostly upper elementary chapter books. I'm constantly on the lookout for great nonfiction picture books, science books, biographical and autobiographical books, etc. The Busy Teacher's Website - Elementary has a variety of great lesson plan links and interactive website links, including science lessons. There is a link to the Cool Science for Curious Kids website which the Busy Teacher Website describes as"Excellent science site explores animal classification, air quality, metamorphosis, and other science topics in a graphical and easy to read format. Includes experiments. Designed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute." The website combines reading and literature with a variety of scientific ideas. The CyberKids website has a reading room, puzzles and games, a launchpad, and a free online magazine. The Kids National Geographic website has a ton of great interactive links, and although it isn't geared toward reading and literature, it is full of exciting text for children to read and relate to real life. I also found a competition called ThinkQuest Junior that allows submission by grade of an educational website, which my future classes could create some type of reading/literature website. It could be interactive poems or stories, the possibilities for the website ideas are endless even when narrowed down to the reading genre. I just want to be able to provide a fun, fresh place to read and incorporate new ideas to get the children more excited about reading. I also searched the web for history related lesson plans that include a variety of literatures. Through that search I found a great lesson unit called Literature Circles for World Theme unit. The unit uses a wide variety of literature to meet the standards for social studies with learning about various cultures. You could follow the lesson exactly, or I would prefer to research all the countries I will be using and choose my own books, although that is a lot of work. However, I think doing it myself is better in the long run when it comes to teaching the subject matter. I'll know the subject inside and out having researched and read all the material instead of having just read an already prepared lesson plan with a select group of books. I also like the idea of personalizing it to the needs of my classroom.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Word Walls

I think the general idea of a word wall is a great idea, especially for early elementary classrooms where there is a variety of levels of emergent literacy. In fact, the grade level doesn't really matter because a word wall can be adapted to any educaional level. Word walls also have the ability to be extremely creative and to allow the students to help create the word wall itself. As a class, you can decide what kind of theme you want the word wall to have. What color do you want the background, the border, the background of the words, and the words themselves. Word walls can be used to gain general vocabulary or can be applied to specific books or units. You can create a 'name' word wall at the beginning of the year for a number of great reasons such as simply learning everyone's name in the classroom, to choose the helper of the day, disciplinary measures, etc. I definitely want to have a word wall in my classroom, and a name wall as well. I really want to come up with some creative ideas for a word wall that goes along with an unit or a book. I think that a word wall would be extremely helpful for helping students learn words from particular periods of time, cultures, and specific jargon (i.e. scientific terms). I found a website that is made by a retired California teacher who taught for thirty-two years. She has all kinds of lesson plans and ideas on her website to help teachers. She has a great link to word wall ideas with weeklt word wall ideas and a main word wall and a secondary (smaller) word wall. The idea is to put the general vocabulary building words on the main word wall and have words dealing with a certain book or subject on the secondary word wall. Also, the Teacher's Network website has explicit directions for their version of a word wall. The website gives you step-by-step directions on how to create a word wall (including specific ideas), ideas for practicing the words on the word wall, teacher guided clues to help students find a specific word, and ways to be a 'mind reader.'

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Emergent Literacy

Emergent literacy is something that I was aware of before, but on a very vague level. Now, I feel like I have a real understanding of what emergent literacy is. Children's daily life has everything to do with the knowledge that they bring with them into the classroom. Some children may not see the importance of reading and writing because it is not a part of their life until then. Some children may have evident characteristics that someone reads to them: turning the pages from left to right, pointing at the words, pointing from left to right, telling the story from the pictures, etc. These emergent literacy characteristics are vital to the way the teacher should plan the lessons around the students. Clearly not every student is going to enter into school with the same level of emergent literacy. Therefore, your lesson plans will need to be individualized to the students needs and be flexible. One way to help students who have fewer emergent literacy skills is to pair them with students that have many more emergent literacy skills. Hopefully, the child with more skills will help the other child to pick up and understand certain concepts. On the other side, the student who is helping teach will benefit as well as his or her emergent literacy skills become more concrete. Another way to help students build their emergent literacy skills is to do daily interactive readings. Other ideas that could help are singing the alphabet song, asking comprehension questions during daily readings, creating your own ending to a story, creating some kind of rhyming game with what you're reading, simply talking about what a book is and all the parts to it, etc. The ProTeacher website has some great ideas for helping create emergent literacy skills, some of the ideas above came from this website.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I really enjoy self-selected reading because just a small amount of freedom can lead to a large increase in interests. If the main goal is solely to get students to read, it shouldn't matter what reading level the book is or whether or not they had read it before. I had one teacher that wouldn't allow you to read the same book more than once, and my thought always was, "Well what if I don't like the other books?" If I didn't like the book I wouldn't read, I would pretend to read. I consider myself rather smart, but I'm very sneaky. If I don't want to do something, especially when I was grade school ages, you weren't going to get me to do. I may pretend to stay under your radar, but I will win and I will do what I want. The fact that I was so difficult and sneaky makes me kind of thankful that I am aware of that sort of behavior. Forcing me would get the teacher and I no where, I would just fake it. The Education World website has a great link to a list of 25 ways to motivate young readers. Ideas on this page include musical books, scavenger hunts, book-word search, books on tape, green light - go (peer recommended books), etc. Books with repeated lines and repetition are great for early readers, and there are plenty of interactive websites that glorify repetition. Giving children access to a lot of Caldecott books can help their interests. Usually there is a very clear artistic reason as to why the book won the award. There are so many fun types of media used in the books on the Caldecott list, and it may get your students more interested in art as well! Link to the Caldecott information and book lists. Another great website that I found that could be really useful is a page full of reading/language arts interactive websites.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Round Robin and Popcorn Reading

I did the majority of my elementary schooling in Wilmington, North Carolina at Alderman Elementary School; I went there second through fifth grade. I clearly remember both the round robin and popcorn reading strategies from when I was in school. Round robin reading didn't really bother me much. I would read over what I had to read outloud one time, any more than once and I would make myself nervous, and then I would just listen to what people were reading. Usually, I had a hard time concentrating on what was being read, but I am a much a much more visual learner than oral learner. I would often find myself zoned out in my own head thinking about what had happened at lunch or that morning on the bus. As long as I read along with whom ever was reading than I didn't get distracted. However, when it comes to popcorn reading I dreaded it. I'm not shy, but I hate being called out. I like to know what I need to do ahead of time in order to properly prepare myself. I am very ADD and my mind wanders extremely easy. Popcorn reading was my worst enemy because I always seemed to be called on right after my mind had slipped off to the book I was reading or my favorite tv show. Then I had to scramble to find the place in the reading, and if I wasn't sitting near a friend I was out of luck and had to prepare for embarrassment. I don't think these activities had much effect on my fondness of reading, but I also have a huge imagination and love fantasy and the way you can get lost in a book's world. I can definitely see how multiple dramatic experiences with either round robin or popcorn reading can have negative effects on a child's desire to read. I also remember that my teachers would always make us to do the reading activities for so long. It felts like hours were going by, and you had to read multiple times which meant multiple screw up opportunities! I don't plan on using popcorn reading very often unless it is in a nonthreatening way and for pure assessment. There are better ways to get kids to want to read, not just force them to read.

Friday, May 2, 2008


A. Title: Night

B. Author: Elie Wiesel - 1986 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

C. Publisher: Bantam

D. Genre: Autobiographical, Historical

E. Reading Level: Grades 6+

F. Summary: The narrator, which is Elie Wiesel, is twelve years old when the book starts. The year is 1941, and Elie lives comfortably in the town of Sighet, Transylvania. A few people try to warn the town of Sighet of their impending doom, but no one really pays much attention. In 1944, German troops entered the town and began to set up ghettos for the Jewish people to live in. Soon after the Jews are forced to live in such horrible, cramped conditions, the Nazi's began to ship them off to concentration camps. The Jewish people of Sighet are forced to squish into cattle-cars on a train; eighty people to one cattle wagon. The conditions are beyond inhumane; there are no bathrooms and the people are given no food or water. On board Elie's cattle wagon there is a woman screaming about fires, furnaces, and people burning, but everyone is the car ignores the woman who seems to have gone insane. When the train ride is finally over, they have arrived at Auschwitz, and all they can smell is burning flesh. Right away Elie and his father are separated from the rest of the family, and they lie about their age in order to keep from being further separated. As Elie walks into the concentration camp he is bombarded by the sight of babies being thrown into a massive ditch on fire. Elie is forced to strip down and shower off, get his head shave, get new work clothes, and to get a number; his number is A-7713. Many of the people that were unable to work due to their physical condition were thrown into the crematory. Elie continuously is witness to many terrible events, especially hangings that were common among the prisoners. While at Auschwitz, Elie suffers a foot injury causing him to be sent to the hospital wing and to receive medical treatment. Soon after he begins to recover, the German's decide to move the prisoners due to the approaching troops. The people are forced to walk from one concentration camp to the other in the dead of winter; many do not survive this long, physically draining trip. Both Elie and his father survive the trek by helping each other through it step-by-step. The trek takes them to another train ride where Elie sees a young boy kill his father for his bread and is completely horrified. The new concentration camp he is at is called Buchenweld, and here he watches his father fall ill and eventually die. On April 11, 1945, American tanks roll into Buchenweld to free the remaining prisoners. Elie is transported to a hospital to recover; when he sees himself in the mirror, he swears a corpse is staring back at him.

G. Response: I love any literature that has to do with the holocaust. Night is incredibly vivid, scary, and shocking. I think it has an excellent mixture of story-telling abilities and real-life horror and shock. There is no sugar-coating the horrible things that happened to the Jewish people during World War II and this book doesn't even attempt to. The images are so shockingly real that this book leaves a lasting impression on every one that reads it. Just the thought of throwing babies into a burning ditch is horrific, but imagine if you're a teenager or a young child; how does one even begin to handle that type of emotional trauma. The most realistic and eye-opening part of the whole book is when the boy kills his father for his bread. The simple idea seems ridiculous, but in the situation those people were placed under how ridiculous was it? I'm sure that type of behavior was common due to the living conditions forced upon these people. Every day was a struggle to survive and Night does an amazing job at bringing that reality into the light it deserves. It's so easy to remember something terrible for a generation or two, but this book will leave a mark on every generation that reads it. I will be teaching in a grade that most likely will not be mature enough to handle this book, but regardless of what grade I teach, I think this book should be a requirement for all fifty states curriculum. Plain and simply, this book has the ability to make a difference in this world and those are rare to come across.

H. Teaching Ideas: Obviously, Night is the perfect candidate when it comes to teaching about World War II and/or the Holocaust. The Web English Teacher website has so many Night and Holocaust resources that you may not even need to find other ideas. There are website links that deal with background information regarding the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp from's "This Day in History" site, a collection of links from the Nobel Archives. Be sure to scroll to the bottom, and an extensive list of links to online sources about several aspects of the Holocaust. Lesson plan links include an entire Holocaust unit project (includes assessment), a project where students create their own Holocaust website, and a poetry unit to remember the Holocaust through poetry. The Holocaust Teacher Resource Center online has a great lesson plan with a pre-reading activity, many discussion questions, additional information about Elie Wiesel, vocabulary, writing topics, and more. A general search in Google produced many great lesson plan ideas; Night is clearly a very classroom friendly novel and an amazing piece of literature on a dark time in human history.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Becoming Naomi Leon

A. Title: Becoming Naomi Leon

B. Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

C. Publisher: Scholastic Press

D. Genre: Realistic Fiction Novel, Multicultural

E. Reading Level: Grades 4-8

G.. Summary: Naomi Leon is an average upper elementary age girl who is half Mexican and half American; the mother was American and the father Mexican. She has a younger brother, named Owen, that has some physical deformities but who is very intelligent. Both Naomi and Owen live with their great-grandmother, who they call Gram. The three of them live happily at Lemon Tree trailer park in their camper, Baby Baluga. Out of no where, Naomi and Owen's mother, Skyla, shows up; Naomi barely remembers her mother and Owen doesn't have any memories of her. She left the two of them with Gram years ago to "go find her own life." Skyla brings Naomi lots of gifts but falls shy when it comes to giving Owen gifts. Skyla has a boyfriend named Clive, who is a tattoo artist in training, and he has been giving Skyla all the money to buy her children presents. Skyla is a drunk and has been in and out rehab for most of her adult life, and after awhile it becomes clear that Skyla is back for her own purposes and not those of her children. First, Skyla promises to go to after school conferences with Naomi and Owen, but instead she leaves them at the school until after dark when Gram goes to pick them up. Naomi, who at first is thrilled that her mother is back, soon realizes that her mother only really wants her and doesn't really want Owen. It even becomes clear that Naomi is only important to her mother because she can get money from the state for having her and so that she can babysit Clive's daughter. One day while Gram is sewing at the neighbors (who are also very close friends of theirs), Skyla takes Owen and Naomi to Owen's doctor visit. The whole time Naomi and Skyla are waiting for Owen, Skyla keeps sneaking off to the bathroom to drink. By the time Owen is through, Skyla is drunk and yells at the doctors for telling her there is nothing they can do for his physical appearance until he grows up a little more. When the three arrive home, Clive calls and tells Skyla they're reading to move away to Las Vegas. Skyla orders Naomi to pack her things and come, but she refuses. Naomi instinctively protects Owen by making sure that she is in between Skyla and him at all times. Skyla hits Naomi for not obeying her and even threatens to hurt Gram if she doesn't listen. Naomi tricks her mother and gets her to go into the other room while Naomi and Owen run through the avocado fields to where Gram and their neighbors are sewing. They protect the children and get her to leave, but Skyla swears that her and Clive will be back the next day to pick her up. Immediately, Gram goes to the court house to get temporary custody of the children in writing, and then before Owen and Naomi know it, they're driving down to Mexico for a little vacation! In Oaxaca, Mexico, there is an annual soap carving festival that a Leon has been entering for the past one hundred years, every year. Not only are they in Mexico to escape Skyla until the custody trial, but they are also there to try and find Naomi and Owen's father, Santiago. While in Mexico, Naomi realizes where she has come from and finally begins to find out who she is as a person. In the end, they find Santiago, who is beyond happy to be reunited with his children, and establish contact for future visits. Santiago can't drop his life and just move to the US, but now at least Naomi and Owen have an established, healthy relationship with their biological father. When it came time for the trial, the judge almost granted full custody to Skyla until she realized that Skyla only wanted Naomi and not Owen. Naomi got on the stand and found enough courage to speak out against her mother and tell the judge everything that had happened. As soon as the judge realized that Skyla had to intent on taking or raising Owen, she awarded Gram custody. By the end of the book, Naomi was back in the same place she started, but with a whole new outlook on life and herself!

H. Response: I have to start off by telling everyone how much I love this book. It is my absolute favorite book that I have read in a long time. Pam Munoz Ryan does an amazing job of capturing the innocence of children forced into adult-like situations. The author does such an amazing job that I showed real emotion while reading this book. I was on an airplane flying to Pennsylvania when I read the book, and I started to cry while I was reading the confrontation of Skyla and her children. I've known people like Skyla, so right from the beginning I had little sympathy with her. I think Skyla's character is a relatively dead-on, stereo-typical deadbeat mother, which makes the book that much easier to relate to for children. When I first set out to read this book, I had a slight prejudice because it just didn't seem like it would be that entertaining, but I stand completely corrected. The story itself was amazing and heartwarming, but from the first page to the last page I was glued to the book; I just felt like I was looking out through Naomi's eyes. Becoming Naomi Leon will absolutely be a book in my classroom, but I will also do everything I can to try and find a curriculum reason for the whole class to read it. This book has the opportunity to bring hope and love to so many children whose lives are in shambles or are experiencing the same things as Owen and Naomi. This type of literature can help children get through really difficult times; imagine how this book could help a quiet student, who never reaches out for help, going through this type of situation (just like Naomi).

I. Teaching Ideas: The first lesson plan that I found online for Becoming Naomi Leon was on Scholastic's website; the lesson even has a printable worksheet. The worksheet included with this lesson plan helps to match the same words in Spanish and English. The lesson plan itself starts off with general discussion questions such as why do you think the author chose to let Naomi tell the story instead of some other character or an outside person?; why did Naomi think that Mr. Marble was the best person at Buena Vista Elementary School?; Naomi thinks it is good and bad that Skyla came back into their lives. What did she mean by this?; and Naomi took Blanca to see Mr. Marble and then to the library to eat lunch. Naomi thought of it as a place where all the leftover kids came. Blanca thought it was some sort of club. What does Naomi mean by being a leftover kid?. The majority of the lesson is for the students to learn about Mexican culture and its language. Other lesson ideas include exploring Naomi's soap carving hobby, general character discussions, list creating, and creating an alter-ending. Another fun, creative, and interactive lesson plan would be to do a soap carving project. Off the top of my head, students could create a soap carving that they thought best captured the book, or maybe even a soap scene with multiple soap carvings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!

A. Title: Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (P.S. So Does May.)

B. Author: Barbara Park

C. Illustrator: Denise Brunkus

D. Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

E. Genre: Realistic Fiction, Novel

F. Reading Level: 1-3

G. Summary: It's time for the holidays, and Junie B. Jones is short by a buck for Secret Santa shopping and stressing. May has a few extra dollars, but the money is for her emergencies and no one elses. Junie tries to convince May for the dollar, but she just ended up telling May how they weren't friends and how she didn't even like her. May and Junie B. Jones did not get along. Each student gets a sack to decorate for their secret santa sack; their secret santa would put their gift in their sack during lunch the next day. When it came time to draw for secret santa, guess who Junie B. Jones got? May, she had to buy May a present! Junie B. plans to give May what she deserves in her secret santa sack. Junie B.'s teacher, Mr. Scary, tries convincing her that if she gives May a good gift that it will make her feel really good inside. In the end, Junie B. decides not to give May exactly what she deserves as her secret santa gift. Instead, Junie B. decides to give a real gift instead of teaching May a lesson.

H. Response: I had never before read a Junie B. Jones book before, but I had heard many good things about them. I constantly saw how well they were doing on book lists, and that was part of the reason I decided to read them; I had also seen many elementary school girls reading the Junie B. Jones series during tutoring sessions. Once I picked the book up I couldn't stop reading it because I absolutely love Junie B. Jones; the character's innocense and personality just worked so well for me. She made me laugh with some of her thought process too; for example, when May told Junie that her father said she shouldn't let friends borrow money, Junie told May that that was more than ok because she wasn't May's friend and she wasn't going to pay her back. After May got mad and told her she couldn't have any money, Junie B. couldn't figure out why her best argument skills hadn't worked. The other kids in the class had to explain to Junie B. the few reasons why May would have acted that way. Since reading this book, I definitely plan on purchasing the Junie B., First Grader series, plus the other Junie B. Jones books, for my future classroom library.

I. Teaching Ideas: For all of the Junie B. Jones Series there are many online resources for classroom application. On the Random House's website, there are great Junie B. Jones links including brief information on each Junie B. book in the series, a letter from Junie B. Jones, biographical information on Barbara Parks, activites, and future reading suggestions. Some of the activities included are a Junie B. quiz, coloring with Junie B., word search, picture search, Tic Tac Toad, Junie B. mask, and the list goes on. The website Teachers at Random has a lesson plan specifically for Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (PS So Does May). Before reading the story, the lesson plan suggest discussing with the class the concept of secret santa. After the class reads the story, this website offers excellent discussion questions that are to help students fully understand what they've read: Why do May and Junie B. have such a hard time getting along?, Do you think they'll ever become friends? Are they both to blame? Why or why not?, Why isn't Junie B. excited to be a secret santa?, Mr. Scary tells Junie B. "If you do something nice for May, you'll feel so proud inside. It will feel like a gift that you've given yourself." What does this mean and do you agree?, In the end, why does Junie B. change her mind? This website also has three links to Junie B. worksheets; one of which is a secret santa shopping list and you have $10 to spend. The Junie B. Jones series just seem like alot of fun and something that will be enjoyable to the students for classroom application. There are also holiday and moral lessons that can be applied to the classroom.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems)

A. Title: Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems)

B. Author: Linda Sue Park

C. Illustrator: Istvan Banyai

D. Publisher: Clarion Books a Houghton Mifflin Company Imprint

E. Genre: Children's Poetry; Sijo Poems

F. Reading Level: 2+

G. Summary: The beginning of Tap Dancing on the Roof has an explanation on Sijo poetry. "All the poems in this book are sijo. Sijo is a traditional Korean form of poetry. Like a Japanese haiku, a sijo is written using a syllabic structure. In its most common form, a sijo in English has three lines, each with fourteen to sixteen syllables. Because the lines can be quite long on the page, sijo in English are sometimes divided into six shorter lines..." The sijo poems that are in this book are both three lines and six lines. The poems are all different with varying topics, and the end of sijo poems usually has a suprise, special twist, or joke. Some poem titles include "Long Division," "Brushing, "Ocean Emotion," "Echo," November Thursday," and "Botany Lesson." The illustrations are drawings done in ink with mostly black, but other colors are present throughout the illustrations. Most of the illustrations are single page spreads, but for a few poems, like "October" below, they're double page spreads.

H. Response: I absolutely love this book because I have never even heard of a Sijo Poem before. In school I was taught all about haiku poetry, but I never learned about the Korean form of poetry. The children's poetry in Tap Dancing on the Roof falls into the category of form poems; the haiku poem also falls into this category. The book itself is extremely helpful in understanding what a Sijo is. The beginning has an excellent page devoted to explaining the Sijo, while the end of the book has an author's note, historical background information, furhter reading suggestions, and tips for writing your own Sijo. This book is basically screaming classroom application because everything you need for a lesson plan is in this book. The illustrations in this book are very interesting and vary greatly between poems. Some illustrations have colored ink and others just have black. My favorite illustration goes along with the poem below, "October." It has a two page spread with the branches, leaves and everyone's hair billowing in the wind, all done in a grey color scheme.

I. Teaching Ideas: Straight off the top of my head, this would be an excellent book for a writing poetry lesson plan. Not only is the book full of fun and interesting examples of Sijo poetry, but there is also a very clear explanation of the sijo poem and tips for writing your own. Tap Dancing on the Roof can be read as a class and then the students can experiment writing their own sijo poems. The whole class could write and illustrate their poems and compile a book and each student could have a copy. There could be a unit that combines sijo and haiku poetry that could involve historical information, reading examples of the poetry, and creating their own.

J. Favorite Poem:

The wind rearranges the leaves,
as if to say, "Much better there,"
and coaxes others off their trees:
"It's lots more fun in the air."

Then it plays tag with a plastic bag,
and with on gust uncombs my hair!

I love this poem because it is so playful. My favorite thing about it is how the wind takes on personality and characteristics. There are many fun poems in here that would be great for in class exercises.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's Snowing! It's Snowing!

A. Title: It's Snowing! It's Snowing! Winter Poems

B. Author: Jack Prelutsky

C. Illustrator: Yossi Abolafia

D. Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. & An I Can Read Book

E. Genre: Poetry

F. Reading Level: 2-3

G. Summary: This is a wonderful book of winter and snow poems! A cute short poem in It's Snowing! is called "Stuck in the Snow: Stuck in the snow, - dad's pickup truck. 'Sorry, dad, - that's your bad luck.' - 'Shovel it out!' - he smiled and said. - I guess it's my bad luck instead." The book progresses from the last leaf falling and bird leaving to end autumn through to when the snowman is almost completely melted away as spring is on its way. There are short winter days, snowball fights, and ice skating trips. Some of the poem titles include "It's Snowing! It's Snowing!," "One Last Little Leaf," "Winter Signs," "I am Freezing!," "When Snowflakes are Fluttering," and "The Snowman's Lament." Each poem has illustrations to go along with it that are detailed and a lot of fun. The illustration spreads vary depending on the size of the poem and the poem itself. The illustration sizes are full single page, half page, and one fourth page. The medium appears to be watercolor paints, and they are bright, friendly, fun, and great for younger children's literature.

H. Response: I really enjoyed Jack Prelutsky's poems. They have a perfect combination of an essence of childhood and being a kid mixed with all the feelings that come along with the winter season. The book is an easy read, and I had fun reading the whole thing; each poem was a small story inside the whole story of all the poems. The poems in It's Snowing! fall into the lyric or expressive category because the tell about the different characteristics of winter. Some of the poems were about enjoying the winter perks like snow and snowmen, but some of the poems were about freezing or the strong winds; both of the views on winter made a the poems all together feel like they really captured winter. The illustrations are bright and cherie with the cover being my favorite illustration in the whole book. I love the way the snowflakes looking falling down on the little boy's face with the warm yellow background.

I. Teaching Ideas: It's Snowing! would be such an excellent poetry book for classroom application, especially if you were wanting to incorporate seasonal changes: the end of autumn, winter, and into the the start of spring. In the student activities section of Scholastic's website, there is a great exercise where students can learn about Jack Prelutsky's poetry techniques, get help brainstorming for their own poem, steps to help write the poem, and then the students publish them online. The has a lot of great resources for winter activites and lesson plans, thematic units on Jack Prelutsky, and ice and snow units.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Sone

A. Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

B. Author: J.K. Rowling

C. Pulisher: Scholastic Press

D. Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

E. Reading Level: Grades 3+

F. Characters:
Harry Potter is a twelve year old boy attending school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is an orphan due to the unfortunate death of his parents by Lord Voldemort when he was just a baby; the result of the event left Harry with a scar on his forehead in the shape of a lightening bolt. He has a wild mop of brown hair and glasses. In the wizarding world, Harry is a bit of a celebrity because he is the boy who lived and forced Voldemort from power all because his killing curse backfired onto himself, though Lord Voldemort didn't exactly die.

Ron Weasley is Harry's best friend. The two meet on the Hogwart's Express, the train that takes all the students to Hogwarts for the school year. Ron is also in Gryffindor with Harry, and he is tall, skinny, pale, full of freckles, and one of many children. The Weasley clan of children include Bill, Charlie, Percy, the twins Fred and George, Ron, and the only girl Ginny; the parents are Arthur and Molly. One giant wizard family of flaming redheads!

Hermione Granger becomes friends with both Ron and Harry after a dangerous run in with a mountain troll that was let loose in the Hogwart's castle. She is very into school and grades; she has brown, thick, wavy hair and a cat named Crookshanks. The two didn't previously get alone with Hermione because she was a bit bossy and ended up saying some mean things to make Hermione upset. She was crying in the girls bathroom and was unaware of the troll, which happened to be in the same bathroom as her, and Ron and Harry came to her rescue. The three just barely managed to beat the troll and ultimately save the day. The three have been friends ever since.

Albus Dumbledore is the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He has long, thin, wispy, silver hair and a long, silver beard. He wears half-moon glasses and has a certain connection with Harry that he doesn't have with other students. He is an amazing wizard and the only one that Lord Voldemort is scared of. Harry loves Dumbledore and really looks up to him.

Lord Voldemort is the evil that is present in this novel. He uses dark magic to control and kill people to make them do what they want. His original plan was to take over the wizarding world, but Harry and his mother destroyed his plan when he was at his strongest. In this book, he is not even human, but part of what remains, a wispy, ghost like creature. He overtakes Professor Quirrel and uses him for his body. Ultimately, Voldemort and Professor Quirrel are beaten by Harry at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and the wispy, ghost like Voldemort escape out into the woods once again.

Professor Quirrel is the unfortunate professor that was overtaken by Lord Voldemort. He wore a turban on his head to cover the face of Voldemort and was always very nervous and twitchy. Everyone thought his days out in the field working against the dark arts made him go a little crazy. He is the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, but that clearly didn't help him against the dark lord's power. Most of the book, Harry didn't even suspect professor Quirrel but rather Snape instead.

The Dursleys are Harry's aunt, uncle, and cousin. Aunt Petunia is Harry's mother's sister, her husband Vernon, and their son Dudley. Petunia is skinny, frail looking, pursed lips, dark hair, and a clean freak. Vernon is a large, porky man with bulging eyes and a red face. Dudley is a spoiled rotten, extremely overweight bully. Harry has been living with them since his parents died when he was a baby until the day he goes to Hogwarts, and now he lives there during the summer when Hogwarts is out of school.

Hagrid is the grounds and gamekeeper of Hogwarts. He is a half man, half giant who is very tall in height and large in size with big bushy, brown hair and beard. He has a massive dog named Fang. Hagrid is the one that came to hand deliver Harry's acceptance letter to Hogwarts and officially escort Harry to the train station to ensure he got to school. Hagrid becomes best friends with Harry, Ron, and Hermione over the school year.

Draco Malfoy
is Harry Potter's rival and enemy from Slytherin. He is pasty and pale with almost white blond hair. Draco is constantly looking for a reason to pick on or both Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

G. Summary: Harry Potter is ten going on eleven living with the Dursleys: his aunt, uncle, and cousin. He has a scar in the shape of a lightening bolt on his forehead, an out of control mop of brown hair, and glasses. All of his life they have treated horribly and like an outcast. Harry's room was the closet under the stairs with spiders, and he wore his fat cousin Dudley's hand-me-down clothes that were far too big. They constantly belittled Harry and said nasty things about his parents. A few days before his eleventh birthday, owls started to hangout around the Dursley's and letters began to arrive for him. Uncle Vernon didn't want Harry to read the letters so he did everything possible to keep them away from them; he nailed the mail slot shut, took his family to a hotel, they even went so far as rowing out into the middle of the sea and hiding out in a lighthouse surrounded by the violent ocean. A half giant, half man named Hagrid came to visit them and hand deliver Harry's letter, which happened to be his eleventh birthday. Hagrid told Harry all about how he was a special boy, that he was a wizard. Hagrid also reveals to Harry the truth about his parents death, that they were killed by Lord Voldemort, an evil wizard from the past. The Dursleys protested, Hagrid gave Dudley a tail, and Hagrid and Harry left together to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the way to Hogwarts, Hagrid and Harry stop at Diagon Alley, the wizarding world's shopping strip, to purchase everything Harry needs for the upcoming school year: robes, a wand, an owl, books, etc. Hagrid explains to Harry why everyone around him seems to know his name, because he's the boy who lived, the boy who beat Lord Voldemort. At Hogwarts, Harry finally found a place where he felt like he belonged, home. When the students first arrive, they are assorted into four houses where they live: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. His best friends are Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger; Ron is a tall, skinny, red haired, and freckled kid in a large family, and Hermione Granger is a brainy, school loving, skinny, brown haired, bossy kind of girl. Harry finds out how great he is at seeker and joins the Gryffindor Quidditch team; the premier sport of the wizarding world that involves flying on brooms, a golden snitch that flies, hurtling bludgers, and three goals on each side to score in. A natural rivalry at the school is between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and Harry's rival is Draco Malfoy, a proud Slytherin. Harry and his potions teacher, Professor Snape, immediately find that they do not like one another, and Harry become suspicious of his loyalty to the good side of the wizarding world. Following Snape, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find a room with a large three-headed dog protecting a trap door. Curiousity and the need to save the day led the three to go on the adventure down the trap door by lulling the three-headed dog to sleep; through devil's snare with sunlight; flying through a mass of swarming, flying keys to find the one and only key to open the door that stood in their way; and an intense game of real wizard's chess, where the pieces move and actually fight one another. Injured from the game of chess Ron and Hermione stay behind while Harry goes to face evil. He finds Professor Quirrel a room with the Mirror of Erised, and Harry soon realizes that Lord Voldemort is part of Professor Quirrel. The professor removes the turban on his head to reveal Lord Voldemort's face. The two are trying to get their hands on the Sorcerer's Stone to restore Lord Voldemort's health. Only a person who would use the stone for good and not evil would be able to receive the stone, and soon Harry realized it is in his pocket. Harry and Professor Quirrel struggle and fight for the stone, but as soon as Harry touches Professor Quirrel's skin he begins to burn in agony; because Lord Voldemort is part of him, and Harry's mother sacrificed herself to save her son, Harry is protected by the spell cast by his mother's love, something Lord Voldemort has no defenses against. Waking up in the hospital wing of the school, Harry is greeted like a hero for foiling Lord Voldemort's plan to return and everything is explained to him by Dumbledore, Hogwart's Headmaster and Harry's role model.

H. Response: I absolutely love the Harry Potter book collection. I have them all, and I have read them all. I often find myself rereading the series over and over again. I can't wait to be able to share this amazing series and world with my children and my future students! Trying to fathom how J.K. Rowling created this fantasy just blows my mind. I want to be a children's literature author some day, and I can only dream of having the imagination and natural writing skills that she has. When you read the Harry Potter series, you are completely submerged in a different world. She weaves in the perfect amount of real world things to make the reader wish that much more that Hogwarts could be a real place. I still read the books and secretly hope and wish that maybe J.K. Rowling got it wrong, maybe the school doesn't start until after high school, or maybe after college. Basically, I want to live in her make-believe world. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, along with the other books in the series, has many opportunities for teaching connections and lesson plans. There are many themes that run throughout this novel that would be very appropriate for classroom application.

I. Teaching Ideas: Some of the themes that run through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone are good and evil, love, friendship, bullying, bravery, fear and success, and decision making. The Teacher's Resource File on J.K. Rowling has eight website links to biographical information, ten criticism links, and ten lesson plan ideas for varying Harry Potter books in the series. One lesson plan link has coloring pages/worksheets for the students to incorporate their lives into the Harry Potter world. The worksheets include mazes, both simple and more complex, designing a new crest for Gryffindor, a remembral ball to write everything in about the book that you don't want to forget, and a Bernie Bott's Beans container that allows the students to create their own flavors. At TeAchnology's website is a great resource with twenty-one lesson plan ideas for the Harry Potter series. Lesson plan ideas include a day in the life of Harry Potter, creating a Hogwarts floor map, creative writing exercises, two entire unit lesson plans on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, creating Harry Potter character posters, learning settings with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, make a Harry Potter board game, and the list goes on. With these amount of resources from only two online teacher resource pages gives a pretty good impression about the actual number of classroom application ideas that are available out there. The Web English Teacher website a lesson plan suggestion for every book in the series, discussion topics for each book, an idea for a Harry Potter game show, crafting a Harry Potter Haiku, Harry Potter math stories, and also multiple great resources for each book in the series. With how much children and adults both already love Harry Potter, and that includes me, why would you not use that interest that is present? If you can apply classroom skills and objectives needing to be covered according to the NC Standard Curriculum, or any other state curriculum for that matter, to Harry Potter then the outcome and learning experience is most likely going to be positive. I don't know many children that wouldn't be ecstatic to create a Harry Potter board game or movie posters. If reading the novel together in class, the students could pick their favorite character and keep a first person journal throughout the reading of the novel. The students can decorate the journal cover to show personality about their character, and pretend that they are the character with every journal entry. The possibilities are really almost endless for the classroom connections with Harry Potter novels that to not use them seems like a crime to fun and interactive education.

J. The Mirror of Erised - The Mirror Erised is hidden in the castle away from people. The mirror has the ability to allow whomever looks in it the pleasure of seeing what their heart most desires. For Harry, the Mirror of Erised shows him his dead mother and father because what Harry wants the most is to belong to a loving family instead of the cruel and often thoughtless family of the Dursleys. Dumbledore comes to Harry's side in an attempt to comfort him because Harry had become slightly obsessed with the image in the mirror. Harry spent more time than he should have longingly looking into the mirror of what could be. He needed Dumbledore to bring him back to reality, even if that is a sad reality. Voldemort tries to use the mirror to get the Sorcerer's Stone and cannot understand why the Mirror of Erised is not showing/giving him what he wants. The Mirror Erised is an object that has the potential to be dangerous; its purpose is to show the looker what their heart most desires, but often the onlookers find it hard to look away. The mirror causes them to wish and will the conveyed image to be real; Maybe the onlooker is looking at something in their past, something that never happened, or something that they wish might not have happened. Whatever you see in the mirror is a false image though, almost a false premise of hope because what is in the mirror normally cannot come true. If I was to look into the Mirror of Erised, I think it would show me a childhood where I got to stay put in Wilmington, NC and not have to move around. When I was growing up that is all I wanted, even though now I realize the amount moving enabled me to grow as a person. I don't think that I would be who I am today if I hadn't moved around so much growing up.

Monday, April 7, 2008


A. Title: Rosa

B. Author: Nikki Giovanni

C. Illustrator: Bryon Collier

D. Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.

E. Genre: Biographical Picture Book

F. Reading Level: 4-6

G. Awards: Coretta Scott King Book Award

H. Summary: Rosa is the story of Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks is the African-American woman who refused to give up her seat on a public bus. This picture book takes you through Rosa Parks' day to show her side of the story. She didn't get onto the bus intending to cause a huge scene and be remembered throughout history. Rather, Rosa was tired and just didn't want to have to get up to give someone else the seat just because he was white, or just because she was black. The March on Washington, NAACP, and Martain Luther King's speech were amoung the Civil Rights events that were also discussed in Rosa. About a year after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, the Supreme Court ruled it illegal to segregate on a bus.

I. Response: I really enjoy any picture book that has a lot of historical and educational value. I am a huge history geek, and I think in the classroom is the perfect place to share that passion. We can learn so much from what we have already accomplished or failed to accomplish. This book about Rosa Parks' life really would be a great addition for any elementary classroom library. I really liked the combined use of collages and watercolors to illustrate the different feelings and emotions going on during the heated times. The collages had a neat touch with what looked like small, torn pieces of paper that were used to create some of the illustrations. I also loved the details of the faces and the way the light and shadows fell on them; they are truly gorgeous.

J. Teaching Ideas: The number of resources to go along with Rosa are amazing. I can come up with numerous history lesson plans involving Civil Rights, African American History, empathy, etc. A simple search on Google pulled up so many ideas from credible sources. Scholastic's website has a great resource that has an activity sheet to go along with it. The activity sheet has a list of events that happen during the book Rosa and the students are supposed to fill in the order the events took place in. The lesson plan aims to reinforce the comprehension and understanding of the story and the Civil Rights Movement. Some recommended discussion questions include discuss the jobs Mr. & Mrs. Parks had and were they wealthy, segregation, the typical bus rides for African Americans, what helped Rosa to be so brave and remain in her seat, the term boycott, why does MLK Jr. take the bus boycott to a national level, etc.

Informational Texts

Not many books come into my mind when I think about informational text picture books. I know that some stories I read before that were informational were really cute and creative, but I think the classification of informational text almost labels it scary or boring. I'm a big history geek and I love to learn things about nature, animals, and the environment, so I think that informational picture books would absolutely interest me. I think children that read informational text are great and responding to the wonderful illustrations and the new information that they're discovering. I think at the age for picture books, most any of them can have positive learning experiences pulled from them.

Saint Patrick

A. Title: Saint Patrick

B. Author: Ann Tompert

C. Illustrator: Michael Garland

D. Pushlisher: Boyds Mills Press

E. Genre: Biography Picture Book

F. Reading Level: 3-4

G. Summary: Saint Patrick starts off with a forward, which is a prayer by Saint Patrick. A long time ago a boy was born near the Irish sea named Succat, but he would later be known as Patrick. Patrick's father was a well-off man who was also a deacon in the church, but Patrick wasn't a religious child. Patrick also grew up very comfortable with educated parents, but he wasn't very into his studies and so he was kind of bad at school. When he was sixteen, Irish pirates attacked their village and looted and killed. He was captured and sold into slavery. He was sold to a chieftain in Northwast Ireland, and there he took care of his master's cattle and sheep; his master never treated him poorly. While out in the fields, Patrick had alot of time to think, and he thought about he never really payed attention to the teachings of the church; so Patrick decided to fast and pray. At night he heard a voice telling him he would go to his own country and that his boat was waiting for him. Patrick set off toward the Irish sea some two hundred miles away. Along the way Patrick suffered many hardships but he never lost his drive or his hope. He made it to the port and asked the departing ship to go and they said no. Patrick prayed as he walked away and the captain changed his mind. The boat landed and then men wandered for a month in the woods, starving. The men on the ship were pagons and asked Patrick for help; he told them to pray to his god for food, and then the pigs arrived. Patrick made it back home, and he realized that he needed to live his life for God and to teach the Irish heathens. Next, Patrick sailed to France, spent several years preparing for a mission, studied to become a deacon, and later was ordained a priest. Eventually, Patrick was made a bishop, and he and his followers set out on his mission to convert/save many barbaric Irish peoples. The illustrations in this book are done in mixed media.
H. Response: The thing that I love most about Saint Patrick is that the illustrations are so colorful that you just can't take your eyes off of them. They're clearly done in mixed media with what appears to be digetal imagery, collages, different styles and types of papers and materials, etc. Each illustration is full of different types of media, and they all create these bright, eye-poping, vivid images. They're very cool, and I definitely suggest checking them out. The story itself was really interesting to read because I am Irish and Catholic and sadly, I didn't really know the story of Saint Patrick. The story has a lot to do with god and religious topics, but it also had other themes including beating the odds, and never giving up. This isn't my favorite children's picture book, but it definitely had some really great aspects to it.
I. Teaching Ideas: This book doesn't have as many classroom teaching opportunities as many of the others that I've read. One idea would be when discussing or teaching about other countries or religions using this book as a way to start the lesson. Saint Patrick could be used to introduce a unit on Christianity or Irish history.
J. Bio Poem:
Devout, Compassionate, Trusting, and Brave
Friend of sailor Pagans
Lover of God, faith, and Praying
Who feels scared, nervous, and under prepared
Who finds happiness in spreading the word of God
Who needs God to guide him and protect him
Who gives the knowledge of Christianity to those in need
Who fears the barbaric lands of Ireland, failing, and being killed
Who would like to see the Pagans enlightened to Christianity
Who enjoys fasting
Who like to wear a simple, brown robe when I preach Christianity
Resident of Southwest Britain near the Irish Sea

The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth

A. Title: The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth

B. Author: Joanna Cole

C. Illustrator: Bruce Degen

D. Publisher: Scholastic

E. Genre: Informational Picture Book

F. Reading Level: 3-4

G. Summary: The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth is about Ms. Frizzle's class adventure to collect rocks and go to the center of the Earth. The class and the magic school bus go out to a field and start digging. Ms. Frizzle teaches them about the different layers: soil, sandstorm, shale, limestone, marble, granite. On their adventure to the Earth's core, the students learn about fossils, stalagmites and stalactites, crust, melted rock, mantle (solid rock), outer core (melted metal), inner core (solid metal), and volcanoes. The rock collection at the end includes limestone, marble, shale, granite, slate, sandstone, basalt, obsidian, pumice, and quartzite. The illustrations in this book take up the entire page with the text worked in, and the page spread has both single and double page spreads. The illustrations are line drawings with watercolor and a cartoon format.

H. Response: I loved watching The Magic School Bus growing up, and I always thought the cool adventures they went on looked like so much fun. I think it is a perfect example of a tv show that got me excited about learning. This particular The Magic School Bus book made learning about rocks, fossils, and the Earth's makeup in a fun and interesting way. I love the illustrations and text in this book. There is the story text, but then there are also dialouge bubbles with text so you can read what everyone is saying to one another while they're digging down to the Earth's core. The illustrations have great color and detail; I especially like the way the black ink outlines everything. Ms. Frizzle's dresses really add to the fun and goofiness of the book and do a good job at keeping interest.

I. Teaching Ideas: Right away it is clear that The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth can be used to introduce or teach a lesson or unit on what the Earth is made of, rocks, fossils, etc. One lesson plan that I found for it actually had multiple objectives: mastering/improving computer basics and science concepts. The lesson plan involved an online internet website hunt and learning more facts about what was covered in the book. There are many other possible lesson plans possibilities such as bringing examples of the different types of rocks (ex. limestone, granite, marble, etc.), creating a type of Grand Canyon type of diagram, and the list goes on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China

A. Title: Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China

B. Author: Ai-Ling Louie

C. Illustrator: Ed Young

D. Publisher: Philomel Books, a division of The Putnam
Publishing Group

E. Genre: Folktale/Fairytale

F. Reading Level: 2-3

G. Summary: Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China has the same illustrator as the author/illustrator of Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. The illustrations in Yeh-Shen are done in the same style and media as Lon Po Po: oil pastels and water color with a panel layout. In Yeh-Shen, a long time ago, a cave chief had two wives, which was the custom, and each produced a daughter. Unfortunately the chief and one of the wives died leaving the lone wife to raise both daughters. The stepmother was a very angry, bitter woman because her daughter was not very beautiful, especially in comparison her step-daughter Yeh-Shen. Yeh-Shen was forced to do all of the hard labor chores and had no friends. One day Yeh-Shen caught a small fish to keep in her pond, and every day she would save some of whatever small ration of food her stepmother would give her to give to her fish. The fish grew massive in size, and when the stepmother found out that Yeh-Shen had a secret friend she became furious, caught the fish, killed it, and cooked it for dinner. Yeh-Shen was so devistated when she found her only friend missing that she cried over the pond. Suddenly a old man appeared and told her not to cry; the old man told Yeh-Shen that her fish was a magic fish, and to ask the fish bones for favors but to be very careful with them. Everyday Yeh-Shen would ask the fish bones for enough food to live on, until one day she asked the fish for a gown suitable enough to go to the village feast. This feast is where all of the men and women come together to try and find someone to marry, and Yeh-Shen desperately wanted to go. The fish gave her a gorgeous dress, headdress, and slippers and told her to be very careful with the slippers. Yeh-Shen went to the feast and everyone talked about her beauty; then just before anyone realized who she was she ran away, losing a slipper in the process. When she got home, the fish no longer talked to her and she was once again wearing rags. The slipper ended up in the hands of a prince who was determined to find the owner of the tiny, fragile slipper. Once he found Yeh-Shen he knew that he had found his one true love.

H. Response: Right away I could tell the illustrations in Yeh-Shen were done by an illustrator I had seen before, and that the illustrations were done in the same kind of layout/spread, panel layout. The story itself was a lot of fun to read, and right from the beginning I could see classroom connections with the Cinderella story and with the time the story took place, before the Ch'in and Han dynasties. I really enjoyed this version of Cinderella, but I have to admit that I like the Chinese Red Riding Hood tale, Lon Po Po, better than Yeh-Shen. I also think I like the Irish tale of Cinderella better than the Chinese because in Yeh-Shen the Prince never sees her before searching for her. The Prince come into possession of her gorgeous slipper and wants to find its owner; only after finding out that the slipper belongs to Yeh-Shen does he fall in love with her. Unlike the Disney and Irish versions of Cinderella where the prince falls in love with her at first site and then has to find her by the slipper she left behind. The similarities between the Irish Cinderella and the Chinese Cinderella include a widower parent, each Cinderella has a man or woman help them by giving them the right clothes to wear to the occasion, both Cinderellas being forced to do chores and stay in because of their beauty, happy endings, and the ugly, mean stepsister(s) and stepmother paid for the way they treated the poor Cinderella-like characters. Some of the differences between Yeh-Shen and Fair, Brown & Trembling were the number of stepsisters, one widow was a man and the other a woman, one 'fairy godmother,' AKA the person who helped the main characters get their dresses, that was a woman and one was an old man, one had a church and one had a feast, one had a Prince searching for the owner of a shoe and one had the prince searching for Cinderella herself.

I. Teaching Ideas: Just like in the post below, there a thousands of option for ideas, lesson plans, or units on multicultural Cinderella stories. has a whole list of ideas for incorporating fairytales and the Cinderella story into multiple subjects. The ideas on this page are mostly for higher grade levels, including upper middle school and high schools levels. Some ideas include writing a short paragraph on a fairytale character (like Cinderella) in the first person perspective, dramatize by having students dress up like a character and read aloud, introduce inventors/explorers who had ideas most people originally thought were only imagination, include geography by discussing different castles around the world and where they're located, and the list goes on to include ideas for math, art, spelling, and Cinderella specific lesson ideas.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Fair, Brown & Trembling: An Irish Cinderella Story

A. Title: Fair, Brown & Trembling: An Irish Cinderella Story

B. Author: Jude Daly

C. Illustrator: Jude Daly

D. Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

E. Genre: Traditional Irish Folktale

F. Reading Level: 2-3

G. Summary: In Fair, Brown & Trembling, in a castle in Erin lived a widower and his three daughters: Fair, Brown, and Trembling. Every Sunday Fair and Brown wore a new dress to church while Trembling stayed home to cook the meals. Trembling's two older sisters didn't want to let her out of the house because she was very beautiful, and they thought that she would marry before they would. The old henwife came up to Trembling and told her she should be at church. The henwife asked her what she wanted to wear, a white gown and shamrock-green slippers, and the henwife put on her cloak of darkness, chanted some words, and created the most beautiful gown and slippers for Trembling. The henwife also gave her a white horse and told her to stand in the doorway of the church but never go in and be sure to leave before the end of church to make it home in time. Next Sunday the henwife gave Trembling a dress of the finest black satan with scarlet shoes and a black horse. The next Sunday, Trembling wore a dress with a snow-white bodice and rose-red skirt and blue slippers, and she rode a white mare with blue and gold diamonds. Each Sunday everyone in church would wonder who she was, especially all the single men and princes. The last Sunday, the Prince of Emania stayed outside the church and as Trembling tried to ride away he grabbed her slipper off her foot. He searched all over for the foot that fit the slipper. Finally the Prince of Emania found Trembling locked in a closet in her Castle. After that the Prince fought off every other gentleman caller that Trembling had, and the two were married, lived happily ever after, and they had fourteen kids. The illustrations appear to be done in an oil pastel.

H. Response: I really wanted to read the Irish Cinderella tale because I have a lot of Irish decent, and I really enjoyed this version. There are a lot of similarities between the Disney Cinderella story and this Irish folktale: three sisters, one sister is forced to do the work while the other sisters enjoyed the spoils of life, a widower parent, a women who by some type of magic helped the Cinderella of the story, a prince, a slipper, a search for the woman's foot that fits the slipper, and a happily ever after ending. The differences include the fact that the widower is a man, the Cinderella went to church not a ball, the Prince took her slipper off her foot instead of finding it after she ran away, and at the end they have fourteen kids. The illustrations have really deep, rich colors, and the pictures seem very real and deep.

I. Teaching Ideas: There are so many ideas for lesson plans and lesson units on multi-cultural Cinderella stories. One unit plan that I found online had the purpose for students to recognize fairy tales/legends as literature genre and to identify positive and negative character traits. The unit objectives include being able to recall the story elements of the Cinderella story, orally retell the story of Cinderella, listen to different versions of Cinderella (book and video), discuss the univeral themes and traits of fairy tales, make a plan for a service project involving clothes for families in need, recall and make inferences about story events, compare/contrast Cinderella stories from different cultures, compare/contrast character traits, describe and compare character traits of the main characters, review characteristics of fairy tales, role-play a scene from one of the stories studied, and to write an original fairy tale. This is an example of a lesson plan for second grade. This is just one of the thousands of available materials for creating a lesson plan to teach multicultural story of Cinderella.