Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Long and Short of It

The Long and Short of It by Cheryl Nathan and Lisa McCourt; Illustrated by Cheryl Nathan (BridgeWater Books, 1998)
Yet another book that introduces the math concept of measurement. The Long and Short of It offers comparisons between animals that have things that are long to those of animals that have something that is short (a toucan with a long beak versus a chicken with a short beak). The authors use of describing words allows the reader to visualize just how long and short the item is (ex. "and who can grow its beak longer than a banana? A toucan can! A chicken has a beak too, but guess what? Its beak is as short as a grape.")
This book was recommended through Harcourt Math to introduce the concept of measurement into the younger grades. The use of animals makes the story more enjoyable for its intended audience. Putting the measurement into terms even the youngest student could comprehend is also a good use of this text. My only concern is that some of the animals used are not exactly animals that everyone may be familiar with.
Intended audience: Kindergarten through 1st.

Inch by Inch

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni (Astor/Honor Publishing, 1960)
At the beginning of every math unit, my daughter is sent home with an introduction sheet for the parents on what concept will be worked on. In yet another book by Leo Lionni, we are given another great example to be used across the curriculum.
An adorable story of an "inchworm" and his ability to measure things, Inch by Inch provides the reader with a way to visualize measuring things from a birds beak to a reed of grass. Mr. Lionni once again uses great illustrations and an adorable main character to bring his story to life. The text is once again intended for younger readers but it is the math concept hidden in the story that makes this book fun to read.
Once again, as I strive to introduce literature across the curriculum, I would see myself using a lot of Mr. Lionni's texts. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 1st.

The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat

The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat by Nurit Karlin (Barnes and Noble, 1996)

For this weeks blog I decided to let my oldest daughter pick a book for me to blog about. She had just returned from school and was excited to show me her latest "find" from the school library. Lately I have noticed that the books she chooses have become more complex in text. I have seen her gain more confidence in a reader in just the last few weeks. She is more adventurous in the amount of words that are on each page. Emma sat down and read this book to me as if she has been reading for years.

What I liked about this book was its use of rhyming words. The repetitive nature of words ending in "at" helped assist Emma in her reading. I was surprised however that the illustrations did not appear to follow the text. In fact the pictures were about two ahead of where the text was. I believe this helped Emma move past predicting what would happen next. She was confused at first because "usually the pictures help me with the words." I was happy that this book worked that way. I believe it helped Emma gain more confidence in that she was making the correct choices.

Any book that provides me with multiple teaching strategies is a keeper in my opinion. I would consider having this book as well as other rhyming books in my classroom library. The confidence that this book gives a reader is something that I want to foster in my classroom. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 2nd.

Little Blue and Little Yellow

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni (Astor, 1959)

This book is an example of a book that is old but can still be used in todays academia. While I would probably not offer this book as a staple in my classroom library, the lesson that it teaches would be beneficial in an art curriculum.

Little Blue and Little Yellow is the story of two dots, who have loving families, and can see past their differences. However, when the colors are combined the families worry that the little dots have disappeared. This is not the case however. The dots just combined their colors to form a new color, green.

This book would be useful in introducing color theory to kindergartens. The text is simple and the plot is easy to follow. In an art classroom this book would be useful. However in a regular classroom the text really does not serve a purpose. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 1st.

The Alphabet Tree

The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni (Dragonfly Books, 1968)
I was introduced to Leo Lionni in my Reading and Language Arts class with a book titled Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse. We used this book while completing a mock miscue analysis. I was drawn to his books because I found the illustrations to be very dream like in a sense. The illustrations are whimsical and the colors he chooses are bright and vibrant.
However, what I like about this book the most is its ability to be used across the curriculum. The story is an adventure by letters as they are encouraged to make words and then sentences. The author offers several lesson examples at the beginning of the book. I like that if a teacher sees a beginning reader suffering with language basics like spelling and sentence structure, this book could be used as scaffolding.
I would keep this book and other by Mr. Lionni in my classroom library for a number of reasons: ease of text, creative use of theme and color, and the texts ability to be used across the curriculum. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 2nd.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bamboo Dreams

So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins (Beech Tree, 1986)

A moving journey of the Kawashima family as they try to evade being captured by the Communists. So Far From the Bamboo Grove is a great retelling of Yoko, her mother and her sister Ko as they struggle to make it from their home in Korea back to their Japanese homeland. The strength that these women show while battling nature, human kind and their own personal demons is truly inspiring.

As I was reading this book I was extremely moved. During my junior year of high school, I spent the whole year in Osaka, Japan. I am familiar with the Japanese/American relationships (or lack there of) that occurred during World War II. I was not however familiar with the comings and goings of the Japanese/Korean/Russian relations that were occurring at the same time. I was lucky enough to visit the cities of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo to see the pain and devastation that happened during that horrible time in our worlds history. Yes, as an American I was outraged at Japan's eagerness to include us in the war even when we vowed to stay out. But now, after I have read Ms. Watkins, I see that we all were facing danger during that time. I admire her for being so candid as to what she experienced. It takes courage to speak of such a difficult time in ones life.

So Far From the Bamboo Grove would serve as an excellent book when discussing the complexities of what led to the travesties that occurred during World War II. So many lives were displaced by the decisions of so few, it is a topic that needs to be discussed. This book was a very quick read and offers an insight into the plight of the Japanese toward the end of the war that I was not familiar with.

Intended audience: Fourth through high school

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Where I Am

Where am I? Where am I? That is a good question.

I believe I am standing pretty good at this point in the semester. I am prepared to provide my opinions and concerns in class. I strive to value the opinions of my fellow classmates. As far as the reading goes, it seemed overwhelming at the beginning of the semester. I am surprised at how fast I am able to finish our books. The books are fun to read and each one helps to trigger a memory from my past or bring a topic up that I would like to discuss.

I enjoy reading children's books (and on average read 5 to 7 a day, thanks Emma and Jillian). I will admit that I did not see chapter books as a form of children's literature, but I am starting to see the benefits of expanding into these books. For example: I may have a student who is bored with the picture book scene and needs the extra push to go to the next level. The genre presentations provided me with an abundance of tools to use when selecting age and grade level appropriate texts.

I really like that this class is challenging the way I look at children's literature. I used to solely base my choices on the illustrations inside the book. Rarely did I look at the text of the book. I would only look at the illustrations and whether they would appeal to my daughters tastes. I feel that this class is providing me with the knowledge to choose wisely for my classroom library.

So I guess when you ask the question, "Where am I", I would have to say that I am feeling really good. My confidence in text selection is increasing and I feel that I contribute to the classroom discussion.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Misfits Part 2

The Misfits by James Howe (pages 143 to 274)

The end of The Misfits was not as predictable as I thought it would be. I guess I was choosing to believe that Mr. Howe would have tied everything up in a pretty little bow and the No-name Party would win. Well at least they did not finish last.

I liked the way that the Gang of Five supported each other and listened to each others ideas (even if they had to yell at each other to be heard - mainly over Addie). The lessons that they learned, as well as the rest of their classmates, was one that made me smile. My high school was very similar to Paint Brush Hills Junior High. Unfortunately we never had anyone who was willing to challenge the Britney's and the Collin's.

I believe that The Misfits should be taught in every school. The message is one of hope and belief that someday we all just may get along. With the ever changing landscape that is occurring in the American school system, the early this book is taught, the better prepared our students may be for junior and senior high. I would probably introduce this book to a third grade class with parental consent; fifth grade without parental consent (I would still send a letter advising the parents as to why I was teaching the book).