Friday, November 15, 2013
The children so obviously know how much I adore these books and characters. There is never a behavior problem. All eyes watch me as I read. Giggled and smiles appear when I read about how Winn-Dixie smiled at the preacher. Several students whispered "salutations" after Charlotte said it to Wilbur today. The kids tell me how they can see the story in their minds, like a mental movie. Sometimes important discussions ensue...like why a mom would leave her daughter and why Mr. Zuckerman would butcher Wilbur.
And sometimes, the discussion gets humorous. Like when one person asked what meat came from a pig. "Bacon," said one boy. "Ham," said another. "Lamb chops," said a third. The child next to him gave him a strange look and said, "Seriously? Those come from a lamb." Then one person asked, "Where does chicken come from?" The rest of the children chorused, "Chicken!" And that is where I brought the discussion back to the story.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
* asking questions as you read (using Yoshi's Feast by Kimiko Kajikawa)
* looking for details that make a book historical fiction (using Michael O. Tunnel's Mailing May)
* what it means to be a good group member (with the help of my colleague and three students who comically portrayed an interrupter, a daydreamer, and an off-task speaker)
* making connections (using Cari Best's lovely story Goose's Story)
I love this part of my day. I am in a different person's room most days, and I love the things I learn with these readers. I love the feeling of gathering together on the carpet to share and talk about books. In on classroom, though, I especially love sitting in the little chair. My friend keeps it in the corner of her room, and it is the sturdiest, most comfortable little chair. Just another reason these 17 minutes brighten my school days. Tomorrow's mini-lesson is a book talk about ten historical fiction novels.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust brought the despair of the Dust Bowl to me through the eyes of 14-year-old Billie Jo. Grains of dust blew into every aspect of life! In Don Brown's latest graphic novel, The Great American Dust Bowl, that same despair is echoed in the text and artwork, accompanied by speech bubbles that convey the actual words of folks who lived through the time period. He provides background information about how the plain bordering the Rocky Mountains was formed and describes how so many pioneers came to live there. Eventually, the plain dried up to "dry, pulverized earth." His descriptions of the conditions are gripping, like this about a dust storm in 1932:
"In January 1932, wind blew dirt ten thousand feet into the air, nearly twenty times higher than the Washington Monument. The sky turned brownish gray, sixty-mile-per-hour, dirt-filled winds lashed Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. People called it "awe-inspiring." - p. 21
The variation of panel size, the color palette, the arrangement of text on the pages, and the inclusion of incredible details (like how desperate people believed dead snakes hanging from fence posts would bring rain) make this such a successful book. Despite the grim topic, it is sure to hold readers' interest.
Monday, November 4, 2013
I think I expected Bluffton to be more about vaudeville and The Three Keatons, in which case I probably would not have enjoyed it so much. Instead, it was the story of three summers of Buster's teenage years as told through the eyes of Henry Harrison, a fictional boy who lived in Muskegon, Michigan, and who visited Bluffton and the Actors' Colony. Henry's fascination with the members of the colony draws him there each day (when his own father does not need his help at their store). The young people engage in games of baseball, skip stones, and participate in Buster's ingenious practical jokes and schemes. Though Henry begs Buster to teach him how to fall, how to land, how to avoid getting hurt, the young Keaton clearly just wants to be seen as a person aside from the acts. The author's note tells more of Buster's story and encourages readers to view the man's movies.
The story of how the author acquired the photograph at the end of the book is fascinating: http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/research-gold-by-matt-phelan/
Now I need to watch Phelan's recommendation: The General, starring Buster Keaton (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ilPk-SCHv30&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DilPk-SCHv30).
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Friday, November 1, 2013
Later, I rang the doorbell at their spookily decorated house, and after declining the candy bars they tried to stuff in my pockets, the zombie settled himself in my lap, the fairy princess snuggled against my side, and we started reading about ancient Egypt. The author cleverly assembled the research gathered for the fiction book into these ingeniously designed nonfiction books for readers. Sal Murdocca's illustrations accompany the text, and Jack and Annie present additional information and definitions in sidebars. Potentially unknown words are defined in context without interrupting the flow of the text. The readers with whom I shared the book groaned when their mom declared it was time for bed.