Rules

Rules

Lord, C. (2006). Rules. New York: Scholastic Press.

Category: Disability/Award Winning Book (Newberry Honor Award and Schneider Family Book Award)

Synopsis of Book: The only thing Catherine wants is a normal life but that is almost impossible with David, her brother with autism.  Catherine has taken the responsibility of looking out for David and coming up with social rules for him to follow.  She does this to limit David embarrassing her in front of Kristi, the new girl next door, who could potentially be a friend.  Catherine spends the summer finding out in unexpected ways about the true meaning of being “normal.”

Use in Classroom: It is important in an elementary classroom setting that every student is respectful to others who are different from them.  As a future teacher, I will not tolerate discrimination in my classroom and I think that the values the children have will develop and they will have those same values when they are older.  This book would be a great to read out loud to my class and have a discussion of what is considered “normal” in our society and why, realistically, we are a little not-normal ourselves.

One of the themes of this book is disability and how the individual with the disability as well as their friends and family cope with it.  Cynthia Lord uses a lot of imagery to help the reader imagine how things look, feel, smell, sound, and even taste.  In Chapter 2 of Rules there are a lot of imagery components that you could have the students analyze and place in a graphic organizer and then have a class discussion on what they found.  The graphic organizer would have three columns with the following titles:

  • Imagery Found In-where you would place the object being described along with the page number
  • Words that Create Imagery- what words the author uses to describe the object
  • The Sense or Senses That the Imagery Appeals to- smell, taste, touch, sound, or look

Storyteller

Storyteller

Giff, P. R. (2010). Storyteller. New York: Random House, Inc.

Category: Historical Fiction

Synopsis of Book: Elizabeth is a young girl whose father has to go out of town and so she is forced to stay with her aunt.  She is not thrilled about “learning about her Mom’s family” until she finds a drawing of her ancestor, who they called Zee, who remarkably, looks a lot like Elizabeth.  The lives of these two girls are intertwined as Elizabeth’s present-day story alternates with Zee’s.  Her story takes place during the American Revolution and shows how it tore her family apart.  Elizabeth becomes increasingly interested in Zee and begins to learn all about the journey she took in becoming free from British rule.

Use in Classroom: Sometimes textbooks can be confusing for elementary students to use because of the advance vocabulary and lack of experience they have using a textbook.  By using picture books to first introduce a topic will help the students gain background knowledge on that specific topic so that they become more familiar with it.  To me, the problem with nonfiction books is that the students do not have an emotional tie with the text, they do not know how the people were feeling at that time in history.  I feel that this book would help the students create that emotional link between them and the people who were alive during the American Revolution.  By having this emotional link, they will then become more interested in the subject, want to learn more about it, and remember the information better.

This book can also be used to show character development and how they can change as the book progresses.  At the beginning of the book, Elizabeth has little self confidence, no friends, and has no interest in getting to know her aunt.  As Zee’s story becomes known to her all of these things change.  It will be interesting to see whether the students recognize this change in Elizabeth as well as their opinions as to why she changed.

Giant Book of Questions and Answers

Giant Book of Questions and Answers

Farndon, J., James, I., Johnson, J., Macdonald, F., Steele, P., Royston, A., Walters, M. (1999). Giant Book of Questions and Answers. China: Barnes & Noble Inc.

Category: Nonfiction

Synopsis of Book: Ever have a question about how things in nature happened or where did the Vikings come from?  This books if filled with more than 1,000 questions and answers about various topics that children (and adults) may have.  There are also beautiful illustrations through out the book that help the reader understand the topic.

Use in Classroom: To me this book is essential to have in an elementary school classroom library because it is filled with questions that young children may have and they are answered in a way that they are able to understand.  It allows children to become more independent in finding the answers to their own questions and help foster new ones.  This book has an index at the end of the book and a table of contents of the topics covered in the entire book as well as one at the beginning of each topic, with more specifics as to what is being covered.  Also at the back of the book is a short quiz on each ‘chapter’ of the book with the answers so if children wanted to find out more about a certain subject, they can look it up.  Because of the elements in the book, it is easy to teach children how to use a nonfiction book to look up information and is a good transition to using a textbook.

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia

Paterson, K. (1977). Bridge to Terabithia. New York, NC: HarperCollins Publishers.

Category: Realistic Fiction/Award Winning Book (Newbery Medal)

Synopsis of Book: Jess Aaron is just a regular grade boy whose only goal in life is to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade.  All of his practicing over summer has finally led up to the first day of school where he is waiting anxiously for recess.  Everything changes when the new girl (Leslie) crosses over to the boys’ side of the playground and beats everyone in the race, including Jess.  Although their friendship did not start out very promising, it turned to be the best kind of friendship a child could ask for: a friendship with imagination.  Together, Jess and Leslie create a magical kingdom in the woods near their houses called Terabithia where they rule as kind and queen.  An unexpected accident occurs and sends Jess into deep despair.  He will then have to use his courage that Leslie has given him to make it through this tragedy, proving how strong the ties of friendship are.

Use in Classroom: This book has such a deep connection with friendship as Jess Aaron and Leslie Burke become friends.  In my future classroom, I want each student to have at least one special friend that they can rely on and by using this book, I can show students to understand and explore the value of friendship.  Students will make predictions about the book and its main characters.  They will also complete an in-depth analysis at Jess and Leslie’s friendship and relate the characters’ experiences to their own as they define friendship and identify ways to make and keep friends.  I feel that this lesson is very important in the upper elementary grades because the students are moving to the age where their friends become a very important aspect of their lives and who they surround themselves with will effect the decisions they may make.

Frindle

Frindle

Clements, A. (1996). Frindle. Boston, MA: Harcourt.

Category: Realistic Fiction/Award Winning Book (The Christopher Award)

Synopsis of Book: Nick Allen always has a creative way of getting things done.  When has to give a report on the dictionary, his teacher points out that the meaning of words are made by the individual.  This inspires Nick to do his most creative act yet, inventing the word “frindle,” which has replaced the word “pen.”  This innocent word use causes a large uproar in the school, and Nick has created a word war between him and his fifth grade language arts teacher.  Everyone int he school begins using “frindle” and Nick then realizes that the entire town even the country is using “frindle,” which means that it no longer belongs to him anymore.

Use in Classroom: This book was awarded The Christopher Award because it encourages creativity.  As children grow up, their creativity seems to decrease and as a teacher I want to encourage creativity in my classroom.  This can be difficult because older students tend to strive to be the best which may or may not always be the most creative.  To encourage creativity I will have a “Creative Wall” in my classroom where I will take pictures or post student’s work that was origional and unique.  The assignments on the wall will not be critiqued on spelling or grammer, but simply on creativity.  This will help decrease the anxiety  that students may have when it comes to certain subjects and increase their self confidence in those subjects that are difficult for them.

Feathers

Feathers

Woodson, J. (2007). Feathers. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Category: Disability/Award Winning Book (Newberry Honor)/Multicultural Literature

Synopsis of Book: Dive into the life of Frannie, who is a young girl just trying to make sense of her life and begins seeing things from a new perspective.  She begins thinking about hope and what it actually means, her friend Samantha is always bugging Frannie to go to church with her and becoming more holy, her brother’s deafness, as well as the new kid in her call who everyone calls “Jesus Boy.”  What everyone keeps wondering is although he looks white, but he claims to not be white, who is he then?  Join Frannie’s journey for “the thing with feathers” and how it can be life changing.

Use in Classroom: Sean, Frannie’s brother, has been deaf every since he was a baby and had to learn how to speak by using American Sign Language (ASL).  Frannie was born with perfectly good hearing and was able to learn both English and ASL.  Sean compares Frannie’s knowledge of both languages like a bridged that she can go on to travel to the different worlds and that she “can walk wherever you want.”  Having a student or child with any sort of deafness can be a challenge but it can also be a huge learning opportunity for students.  After reading this book, I would challenge my students to learn at least 10 signs in ASL.  Since each student has different interests, I want the students to be able to pick whatever they would like to learn in ASL.  Subjects such as everyday speech (hello, goodbye), sports, food, and spelling your name are things that I would encourage my students to learn.  Learning this language is completely different from learning a foreign vocal language and I think the students would really enjoy it!

Below is a Wordle of the poem “Hope” by Emily Dickinson. This poem was used throughout the book Feathers.

The Wish Giver

The Wish Giver

Brittain, B. (1983). The Wish Giver. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Category: Fiction/Award Winning Book (Newbery Honor Book)

Synopsis of Book: Thaddeus Blinn came to the Coven Tree Church Social and claimed that he has the ability to give people what they wish for.  Only four people are curious to see whether Blinn’s claim is true.  They pay $0.50 and receive a card with a red spot in the center and are told to press their thumb on the red spot and make their wish.  He warns them that each card can only grant one wish and that they will be granted exactly as you ask for it.  Each chapter unfolds the story of each person who was given a card, what they wished for, and how that wish changed their lives.

Use in Classroom: The students can discuss the characters in the novel and how they changed overtime.  They will identify and analyze the cause/effect relationship and its importance in reading comprehension.  Have the students complete a cause and effect organizer (similar to the one below) and model for the students how to use it (I would recommend using Polly as an example since  chronologically, she was the first one who used her wish in the book).  Ask the students some of the following questions to help them fill out the graphic organizer:

  • What happened in this part of the novel?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What caused the main character to act as he or  she did?
  • What effect did these action have on others?

Once the students see how this is done, they can then complete a graphic organizer for the remaining three characters.  One of the most crucial points to this lesson is concerning Stew Meat and his influence on all of the other characters in the novel.  Another activity students could do is having each individual student select a character that they think had the greatest influence (positive or negative) on the other characters and write (a letter or paragraph) explaining why they think this character had such an effect on the other characters.

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