Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Why this White Teacher Hates Black History Month

It's 2019.

Aren't we beyond this?  Why is our study of African-Americans limited to one month?  Why not introduce our students to important people - with all shades of caramel and coffee and olive and brown and black skin - all year long?

Let's stop this February thing.  And teach our students to honor great people from September to June.

Click here to read an outstanding article about how we need to rethink our perspective.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart

Picture of a dog running for review of Good Dog
Where does this author come up with all of his crazy-wonderful ideas?  From The Honest Truth to Some Kind of Courage to Scar Island (which I reviewed here) to Good Dog.  

This book was not at all what I expected.  Not. At. All.

The story is told in 3rd person.  There's a narrator who tells what's happening: from Brodie running around in heaven, through coming back to earth against almost everyone's advice, to his adventures on earth.  And then, there's a twist at the end where the novel shifts into 1st person.  Cleverly done!

The Scoop

Brodie feels his feet running on the grass and knows that he's in heaven, although the place is never mentioned.  His heart is so big, he knows he has to come back to earth to save his boy.  At first, he can't remember his boy's name, but slowly the memories come back of the deep love between Aiden and Brodie, and the fear they have about his physically abusive, alcoholic father.  

What happens on earth is suspenseful, action-packed, scary, death-defying (although you can't really die if you're already dead.)  Brodie and his new friend, Tuck, come to earth as spirits so they can't be seen.  Except by dogs who've returned to earth and have lost their souls.  So they want a bite of the souls of "fresh" dogs.

Running from these terrifying bullies, through walls, cars, and trucks, Brodie and Tuck, with the help of a mangy cat called Patsy, make difficult decisions that stretch who they are and why they're back on Earth.

The Verdict

Your students will have a hard time putting this book down!  Filled with a positive message about deep friendship between a dog and his boy - that can be applied to friendship anywhere - students will cheer Brodie on as he desperately tries to achieve his goal.

Some tears might even be shed.  

Enjoy your reading this week!

If you like, you can purchase the book through the link below.  You don't pay any extra for it but I earn a few pennies as an amazon affiliate.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Buy these riveting World War II novels for your students!

historical fiction, novels, reading, middle school, The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, Projekt 1065, The War that Saved My Life
Historical fiction is sometimes a tough sell for upper elementary students.  It's not that they don't like the ideas, it's that it often takes a while to establish the setting, and not all students are willing to wait that out to get to "the action."
This summer, I grabbed two unfamiliar books off my classroom shelves to read, hoping to get students as excited about them as they are about The War that Saved My Life.  I hadn't realized until I read them that both of the others were also about World War II.  All three books are very different from each other, but there are some common threads in the ways the characters grow, despite obstacles.
Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by [Gratz, Alan]Michael, born in Ireland, now lives in Germany with his parents because his father is the Ambassador to Germany.  Michael's mother, with his father's blessing, works for the Resistance movement. Having witnessed the cruelty of the Nazis, Michael is willingly pulled into being a spy.  But he has to keep up pretenses, so he goes to school with German boys, burns books, and joins the Hitler Youth. This action-packed book, which may read a little fantastically to adults (it reminded me in some ways of the Alex Rider series) will keep students sitting on the edge of their seats.  Filled with enough suspense, action, and questions about friendships and trust - as well as short chapters! - students will want to keep reading this.
I like that Alan Gratz slips in historical information about World War II without students even knowing it.  For example, I wasn't aware that Projekt 1065 was Germany's plan to build a turbojet plane (all planes were propeller planes up to that point).  The book also provides an accurate depiction of what it was like to be involved in the Hitler Youth program.
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by [Boyne, John]John Boyne has written a complementary story to that of his famous book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.   That one broke my heart.  This one left me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn't like it, but that doesn't mean it didn't move me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Pierrot lives in Paris with his French mother and German father, a man broken by his war experiences in World War I.  Eventually, his parents separate and after several years of living with his mother, she passes away from tuberculosis.  Pierrot goes to live with his father's sister, a woman who works as a housekeeper in a home on top of a mountain, which is used as a retreat house.  
By Adolf Hitler.  

Although he is only there for brief periods of time, Hitler befriends Pierrot (renamed Pieter to sound more German).  And Pieter craves his attention, taking on the zealotry and bigotry that Hitler expounds on.  I couldn't put this book down although I wanted it to go in a very different direction than it did.  There are some powerful lessons here about how easily we can be taught to hate, especially if those messages come to us at a young age.

This would be a great read for someone interested in this time period but it does require a more mature, thoughtful student.  There's nothing graphic.  It just takes a different point of view from many other historical fiction novels about the Holocaust.
Product DetailsThis book has become one of my favorite read-alouds the past few years.  Unlike other historical fiction books which take time to develop the setting first, this one starts off with a bang!  Students will be horror-struck by the way Ada's mother treats her because she was born with a clubfoot.                                                                                                                                                                       This perfect book to teach Growth Mindset is filled with adventures of a new kind.  Ada has been kept a virtual prisoner in her apartment and she emerges (spoiler alert!) by running away with her younger brother Jamie, who's being evacuated from London when the fears of London being bombed by Germany caused many children to be sent to the country to live with relatives.  Or strangers.

Ada and Jamie end up with Susan, a woman who doesn't really want to take them in, and declares herself "not nice."  And yet, her actions prove otherwise, and slowly but surely, each of the characters grows a little more friendly, a little more vulnerable, and a little more compassionate.  Ada's slow evolution from frightened child to more confident young woman is one that will have your students cheering her on.  What a beautiful book! 

There is a scene late in the book that always surprises my students (it did me too, the first time I read it.)  Honestly, it's worth reading out loud just to see the look on your students' faces at that point.  The fact that they're so hooked into Ada at that point shows what a brilliantly written, honestly felt book this is.

I have create a novel study, and a word search and crossword puzzle for this book, which you can find at my TpT store.

If you like, you can purchase the books through the links below.  You don't pay any extra for it but I earn a few pennies as an amazon affiliate.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Powerful Compare and Contrast Ancestry Project (part 2)

Several weeks ago, I wrote about helping students learn the five different styles of nonfiction writing.  This is so helpful for them to understand what they're reading.

Students needed to demonstrate that they understood the concepts, so they received this project a week or two before Thanksgiving.

They were to interview someone - hopefully a grandparent or great-grandparent - but someone from a generation older than theirs.  We developed some questions they would all ask and they could also add some questions of their own.

Explicit Instruction Needed

It is easy, with an assignment like this, for students to write about their "Person A" and then write about themselves.  What you get is two contrasting passages, two silos of information, with no real way to compare them, other than perhaps, "we're related."

So, we looked at comparing events instead:  "How did your grandfather meet his best friend?"  and "How did you meet yours? were compared and contrasted.

In retrospect, I wish I'd been clearer on that early on; as students started writing, some realized they hadn't probed enough to do a true comparison, but they couldn't get back to that person to ask more.  Had they known that going in, they might have probed more.       

You Need to Infer to Compare      

This is not easy for students.  Contrasting is easy, comparing is not.  But as students start to do it, with your help, they learn to look for common themes, giving them the confidence to keep looking.

I Didn't Know That!

It warmed my heart to hear students talk about how they thought they knew the person they were interviewing, but this project opened their eyes to new experiences.  It was especially heart-warming to hear them find commonalities between themselves, and especially, their grandparents.

I'm so glad we did this project!  Students became so much more familiar with comparing and contrasting information as a text structure, and they learned new and interesting things about their relatives!

Click here if you'd like to take a closer look at the project in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Or join my email list to receive it free!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

New Years Dollar Deals

A group of teachers and I are each taking two products apiece and putting them on sale on December 30th and 31st.  Click on either of the two products below and buy them for only $1! 

Winter Puzzlers focuses on singular and plural possessive nouns; compound and complex sentences; tricky spellings, and tricky contractions.

The Boys in the Boat is about a rag-tag group of college students from the University of Washington who make it to the Olympics in 1936.  Use the chapter comprehension questions to guide students' reading!
        Winter Riddles for Grammar Skills Review              The Boys in the Boat Young Readers' Edition Comprehension Questions

Go to Teachers Pay Teachers and type #Ringin2019 to find other quality products!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Funny Winter Riddles for Grammar Review

Winter riddles for grammar review
Remember doing math pages in school where you solved some kind of riddle?  I loved those!  They were fun and challenging, and you didn't have to wait for the teacher to tell you if you'd gotten them all correct or not.

I've created two sets that review grammar skills my students needed to review.  Take a look here and here.  Want to try a freebie before you buy?  Click here!

These are all WINTER, not Christmas themed, so they're good before or after the holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Giveaway!

As you prepare your classroom  with Winter resources for next year (gulp! Will it really be 2019?) you're going to want to buy some things from TpT!  What better way to do it than with a TpT gift card?

A group of amazing teachers and I have grouped together to gift ONE awesome, lucky teacher with a $250 gift card to TpT!  You read that right!

Just join the rafflecopter below!  And remember, each entry counts as one vote.  The more you enter, the better your chances.  The contest will run from today until Saturday, December 22nd!

a Rafflecopter giveaway