February 28, 2011

The author’s and illustrator’s notes add a deeper meaning to the beautifully crafted text.  Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier share their passions for Rosa Parks.  I can hear their voices.  Bryan Collier stated that the heat was his first noticing when visiting Alabama.  Thus, in his paintings, you will observe “a yellow, sometimes dark, hue.  I wanted the reader to feel in that heat a foreshadowing….

When I was younger, I just knew that Rosa Parks was famous for not moving from her seat in the bus.  But there is much more to the story.  Rosa had been part of the civil rights movement.  She had been at work and heading home, thinking about supper like most wives.  She had trouble on the bus before and this one time, she decided she would take a stand.  Although life was hard, the unity that her one act created was amazing.

The narrative brings Rosa Parks alive.  When I read it to a class, they had more questions and felt an emotional tug.  The kids connected to the message being shared by Nikki Giovanni.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Rosa:

  • Voice – sense of passion and belief
  • Biography – summarizing crucial points
  • Internal Thinking – “She sighed as she realized she was tired…. Tired of ‘separate’ and definitely tired of ‘not equal‘.
  • Repetition of a word – major emphasis
  • One sentence paragraphs – “Mrs. Parks sat.”

Granddaddy’s Gift

February 26, 2011

I have much admiration for people who have courage under fire.  Too many times, I notice children giving up easily when a task is too hard.  Perseverance and determination are two qualities I want to instill into my own three children and the students I come in contact with.

Margaree King Mitchell and Larry Johnson (illustrator)do just that.  She wrote Granddaddy’s Gift as a model of courage and persistence during the civil rights movement.  In the story, Little Joe, the young female narrator, speaks to the reader.  She shares how her Granddaddy acted with courage.  As she shadow her Granddaddy, Little Joe learns the value of working hard and being persistent.  Granddaddy volunteered to register to vote, a right that was met with great resistance.

“You’re doing all right, Joe.  Just be satisfied with what you have.”

Little Joe met her own resistance.  People didn’t want trouble so her friends couldn’t play with her anymore.

The story Margaree shares provides numerous opportunities for discussion on civil rights.  What a great read for background knowledge.  It lends itself to discuss goals and ambitions, effort and determination for each of us.

“Grandaddy had taught me to stand up for things, even if I was scared, and always to be proud.  His gift never left me.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for Granddaddy’s Gift:

  • Love of Reading –
  • Magic of 3
  • Character introduction – leads to a ‘One day’ story
  • Taking a stand
  • Passage of time

Zak’s Lunch

February 25, 2011

On our snow day yesterday, my oldest son came down around 10:15 a.m. and said, “Is is almost lunch?”  His seventeen year old stomach process food rather quickly and my refrigerator is my witness. 🙂

Margie Palatini adds humor to an ordinary, every day happening – lunch.  I’m sure your student shave plenty of stories about cafeteria food.  I have several lunch stories myself.

In Zak’s Lunch, the scene begins with Mother calling Zak for lunch.  His dog, George, bounds in with him.  Zak is hungry.  But when he sees his sandwich, Zak pouts.  He does not want ham and cheese for lunch.

“This is not a restaurant.  Hmmf! Well, it should be a restaurant.My very own restaurant where I could eat anything I wanted.  As much as I wanted. Anytime I wanted.”

The scene changes as you turn the page and Lou, the waitress, appears.  The neon sign shines Zak’s Place and boy, does Zak’s dreams come true: cheeseburgers with the works, mounds of fries, baseball-sized meatballs, three-tiered chocolate cake.  Mouth-watering illustrations by Howard Fine will have your students drooling.  (I highly recommend not reading this before lunch.)

The story is funny with lots of repeating phrases.  I love the descriptions that will create wild visualizations in each child’s mind.  Have fun with this book.

Side Note: Thanks to a fellow slicer on TwoWritingTeachersOne Literacy Coach mentioned her experience with Sentence Smack Down lesson.  As I was reading Zak’s Lunch, I noticed two-word sentences.  After combing the text again, I found 11 sentences that would work (i.e. Lou laughed).  I’m putting this text in my folder for future lessons.  Thanks for sharing your lesson or I would not have noticed.  (and Thanks to TwoWritingTeachers for encouraging teachers to write about life.  I learn so much from others in this career.  It’s encouraging!)

Sentence Smack Down lesson by Jeff Anderson:  Jeff has a great lesson to help teach subject and predict, noun and verb, in his book Mechanically Inclined.  I highly recommend his book for work on conventions and grammar.  Zak’s Lunch has several two-word sentences for sentence smack down.  Check it out.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Zak’s Lunch:

  • Everyday happening – it is so important for children to realize that they can write about anything and that the ordinary happenings in life can have meaning and fun too
  • Action scenes – show not tell
  • Voice – you can hear the kid talking!!
  • Slang words – chugalugged, thisaway
  • Descriptive – “chocolate shakes so thick the straws stood straight up
  • 2 word sentence for Sentence Smack Down
  • Interweaving of detail – Palatini does an excellent job of adding a tag on to said that deepens the meaning of the text

A Good Night for Freedom

February 23, 2011

A Good Night for FreedomI love the courage displayed through the lives of Hallie, the Coffins, and the two runaway slaves.  I wonder if I would have been courageous during a time of injustice.  As I read the story to children, I connect it to present day happenings.  Kids can be courageous during bullying situations.

A Good Night for Freedom is based upon true events.  Levi Coffin helped more than 2,000 slaves escape to freedom through the Underground RailroadBarbara Morrow shares her research in her author’s note at the beginning of the book.  Two runaway slaves, Susan and Margaret, are hidden in the Coffin’s home.  Hallie delivered some butter to Aunt Katy’s.  When she went to the cellar, Katy saw the two girls.  As she ponders her meeting, Katy runs into four slave catchers.  You can feel the turmoil of decision.  Leonard Jenkins uses colors to depict the mood of the story, contrasting dark and light.  In the end, Katy chooses to be courageous and aides the escape of the slaves freedom.

Savorings for reading and in writing for A Good Night for Freedom:

  • Voice – the Quaker accent and language is used
  • Tension – “My heart slammed against my chest.”
  • Illustrations – the imagery of dark night supremacy and bright light courage
  • Character traits – discussion on the risks the Coffins chose, Hallie’s conscience
  • Character thinking – “What was I doing? Meddlin’, Pa would say.”

SOL: The Cosby Show

February 22, 2011

One thing I appreciate about the Slice of Life is that it makes me attentive to life around me.  I’m searching for stories.  I want to remember.

Yesterday,  my children and I were watching one of my all-time favorite shows – The Cosby Show.  We were laughing and laughing and laughing.  I love the way Bill Cosby would take ordinary activities and add humor.  One episode would end and my kids would beg, “Please, just one more?!”  I couldn’t resist.  We were enjoying a high level of endorphins that would sputter us into, “Remember when you ….”

During the stressful days of life, I’m going to remember the humor the Cosbys shared and smile.

Presidents’ Day

February 21, 2011

Anne Rockwell along with Lizzy Rockwell created the book Presidents’ Day that explains the holiday through a child’s point of view.  The six-year-old girl in the text is speaking to the reader, explaining the four presidents found on Mount Rushmore.  This book would be good to read in the primary grades.

In the book, students in the class perform a play about Presidents’ Day, explaining each of the four presidents.  The text they quote for their part is concise and an excellent mentor text for students writing a biography.  It reminded me of students who act in a wax museum presentation in school, highlighting the important characteristics.

Savoring for reading and in writing for Presidents’ Day:

To commemorate the holiday, Presidents’ Day shares the background of the presidents celebrated through the eyes of   six year-olds.  The children perform a class play about the four presidents honored on Mt. RushmoreAnne Rockwell along with Lizzy Rockwell share information in a delightful way that will capture your children’s interest.

This book is a great example for teaching summarizing.  It reminded me of students’ wax museum performances.  Each child studies his/her famous person and then shares an important finding.  The children in the book share the highlights through a school program.  In the end, the class has a vote for class president, linking their learning through practice.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Presidents’ Day:

  • Summarizing
  • Singular vs. Plural possessive – Pablo’s name versus Presidents’ Day
  • Wax Museum for history and biographies
  • Proper nouns – several examples are given to demonstrate the capitalization rule: names, places, holiday
  • Hyphenated numbers – twenty-two


Abe Lincoln’s Hat

February 19, 2011

Martha Brenner shares a unique view of Abraham Lincoln in Abe Lincoln’s Hat.  The focal point of the book is Abe’s hat.  Martha does not just describe the hat, but she shapes Abe’s character through stories of the hat.  I find the biography to be refreshing.  The stories shape his character, not just facts and stages of his life.

He made trials easy to understand.  He told jokes and stories.”

The author connects with children by sharing how Abe was human, making mistakes and working hard.  The hat becomes a solution.  Reading the book was fun.  I learned something.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Abe Lincoln’s Hat:

  • Biography
  • President’s Day
  • Voice within an informational text
  • Character traits – stories of his wisdom
  1. perseverance through defeat
  2. humor – tells jokes; boys played a joke on him
  3. spoke to the common man
  4. gratitude – remembered Hannah Armstrong’s kindness are returned a favor
  5. weakness – not organized
  6. purposeful actions – circuit lawyer allowed him to meet many people; top hat purchased so he would be noticed

Guess What is Growing Inside

February 17, 2011

Guess What Is Growing Inside This Egg by Mia Posada: Book CoverMia Posada’s illustrations fascinate me in her book, Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg.  I am drawn to the two-page layout of a zoomed egg.  Using a rhyming riddle, nonfiction information is shared with the reader.  A repeating question follows each riddle,

Can you guess what is growing inside these eggs?”

On the next page layout, the answer is given in big bold words with an adorable baby standing by.  Mia Posada then writes a paragraph of extending facts regarding the baby animal.  She explains the science of incubation.  One of the featured animals is a duck.  Four stages of a duckling gives the reader an inner view of how the yolk begins and develops.  The other featured creatures are as follows:  penguin, octopus, sea turtle, alligator, and spider.

Her illustrations are textured.  I’m not sure what paper consistency she uses, but my fingers are drawn like a magnet to touch the page.  The scene is almost 3D like.  I think children will just want to read and reread this book.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Guess What is Growing Inside:

  • Background knowledge – incubation
  • Settings – where each creature begins life
  • Question/Answer Structure
  • Poetic Riddle –  to capture children’s attention
  • Math & Science connection – comparison of egg sizes

SOL: An Epiphany in the Laundry Room

February 15, 2011

Laundry.  Just saying the word creates a sigh.  A young mother once asked me, “Does it (the laundry) ever end?”  I smiled and shook my head.

As a veteran mother of three children, I have often wondered how many hours aI spend in the laundry room.  Darks, whites, baseball uniforms, gym clothes, work shirts, socks.  Over and over and over, the laundry is gathered, sorted, washed, dried, folded, and put away.  Just writing the words creates the routine.  A routine that is so necessary in running a household of five.

If I ever build a new home, I’m making the laundry room a priority.  Better Homes and Garden magazine shows elaborate, well-organized laundry rooms.  I do not consider that a luxury anymore.  Rather, I see it as being a necessity.

As I was once again sorting laundry one morning, I decided that listening to my favorite music might improve my attitude.  And it has.

When I begin my laundry routine, I flip the radio on, and my favorite station begins playing music.  The music is very inspiring.  It lifts my spirits and energizes me.  Yes, it boosts my mood.  It’s not like I want to do more laundry, but I have decided to make the situation better.

So until my dream laundry room is built, I will renovate my thoughts by turning on the music.

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2011

One of my favorite books is Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli I love the fact that someone was inspired by a kind word and act.  That belief that someone loved him spurred Mr. Hatch into doing daily acts of bucketfilling – or kindness.  We need to be like Mr. Hatch, helping others in need.  We need to be saying the kind word or sending the quick note.  Today is Valentine’s Day.  Make someone feel special.