The Horn Book » Lolly’s Classroom http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Fri, 12 Sep 2014 20:34:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 Music for Alice: a book in the key of life http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/music-alice-book-key-life/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/music-alice-book-key-life/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:01:19 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39962 Since I teach ESL to adults, I have to consider how I can convey some empathy for what my students have experienced, while also risking that some of the material I present may overwhelm them. Since I can never completely know all my students have been through — once a student burst into tears in […]

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say musicforalice 300x225 Music for Alice: a book in the key of lifeSince I teach ESL to adults, I have to consider how I can convey some empathy for what my students have experienced, while also risking that some of the material I present may overwhelm them. Since I can never completely know all my students have been through — once a student burst into tears in the middle of class because it was her son’s birthday and he was still in her native country — I sometimes take the risk of encouraging them to try to discuss the immigrant experience in English because it gets them talking.

Allen Say has produced a body of work that speaks to the immigrant experience in America. Most of his books have beautiful, life-like illustrations and can be appreciated by readers of all ages.

One of these books is Music for Alice. Alice, however, is not an immigrant but the descendant of immigrants. As Japanese Americans, she and her husband were forced to leave their home after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though they can’t believe they are being treated that way by their own government, Alice and her husband take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way in order to rebuild their lives. With much hard work, they build a successful farm. As a child Alice loved dancing, but living through war and life on the farm left her little time for dancing. However, as an older woman, happy memories reignite her passion for dancing.

I’ve used this book with smaller, lower-level adult ESL classes. Students do not understand every word of the text when it is read aloud but they follow the story through the illustrations. And while Alice and Mark are not immigrants, this story of being uprooted and trying to rebuild one’s life resonates with adult ESL students. I imagine the higher-level students would have more questions about the internment camps, so a teacher would need to be prepared to discuss that. When I’ve read this book to lower level classes, I’ve seen a few students get teary-eyed because although they don’t understand each word, they recognize the trials and triumph of the human experience.

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Here we go again! http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/go/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/go/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:01:39 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40510 By now, I’m guessing all the teachers out there are fully back in school — not just in meetings, but standing in a classroom in front of new students. Those of you in southern US states have been back for nearly a month while here in Boston students had their first day last week. I’d […]

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backtoschool 300x296 Here we go again!By now, I’m guessing all the teachers out there are fully back in school — not just in meetings, but standing in a classroom in front of new students. Those of you in southern US states have been back for nearly a month while here in Boston students had their first day last week.

I’d like to thank our diligent bloggers who kept writing all summer, as well as everyone who is reading and sharing this blog. The way I see it, commenting is what breathes life into a blog and allows it to live up to its full potential. In the same way that we want picture books to make full use of their medium — trim size, dust jackets, page turns — blog posts ought to start an online conversation. Since we started in February, we have accumulated 90+ posts and 400+ comments. Excelsior!

I’ll keep putting up posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few more weeks, but if Calling Caldecott changes to a T-Th schedule, I might move us over to M-W-F.

Lauren Adams, my colleague at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will be using this blog for her adolescent lit class book discussions just as I did for my children’s lit class last spring. We hope you will stick with us during that time (Oct. 20 to Dec. 1) adding your opinions in the comments and making our class discussions that much richer.

I’d like to ask all of you to spread the word about the Lolly’s Classroom blog to all your teacher friends. And when you use the blog, be sure to explore the “tags” found at the bottom of each post. Clicking on one of the tags will take you to more posts covering the same ages — e.g. middle school, grade 2 — or topics — common core, ELLs, picture books. (Actually, this post won’t have any tags because it’s not about anything useful. But trust me, all the other posts have them!)

Finally, all of us here wish all teachers everywhere a successful year full of exciting connections between books and children.

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Open Very Carefully: even quality books can contain stereotypes http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/open-carefully-even-quality-books-can-contain-stereotypes/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/open-carefully-even-quality-books-can-contain-stereotypes/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 10:01:56 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39980 One of the most popular books in my Pre-K class this past year was Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite written by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. The book starts off like it will be a retelling of The Ugly Duckling, but soon a crocodile interloper enters the book. For the rest […]

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bromley openverycarefully 239x300 Open Very Carefully: even quality books can contain stereotypesOne of the most popular books in my Pre-K class this past year was Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite written by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. The book starts off like it will be a retelling of The Ugly Duckling, but soon a crocodile interloper enters the book. For the rest of the story, the book breaks the fourth wall and becomes an interactive tale enlisting the reader of the story to help get the crocodile out of the book. The illustrations and design of the book are engaging to young children throughout and the story keeps the children constantly laughing.

However, there is a scene in the middle of the book that made me question if I should keep it in class. After the crocodile falls asleep, a pink crayon (presumably held by the reader) draws a ballerina outfit on the croc complete with pink tutu. The crocodile is none too pleased when he wakes up in his new outfit. This page got a big laugh from the children in my class. But what are the children laughing at? Essentially the joke is that the big tough crocodile would never willingly be wearing a tutu or doing ballet. In my ten years of teaching, I have seen many  boys who enjoyed putting on tutus or performing ballet which sometimes has led to them being teased by classmates. Thus, the joke in the book is reinforcing the archetype that boys — especially if they want to be perceived as tough — should never be seen wearing pink or doing ballet, and that if they do these things, it is funny and they should be laughed at. For this reason, I considered taking the book out of my classroom library even though the children loved the book.

Instead of taking the book out of circulation, I decided to have a discussion with the children about the offending page starting off by asking why they thought it was funny; not surprisingly, the children thought it was funny because the crocodile who they perceived to be male was wearing a ballet outfit and ballet is for girls. Having anticipated that sentiment, I had printed out some pictures of professional male ballet dancers, football players who do ballet (Hall of Famer Lynn Swann famously started this trend), and pictures of women playing tackle football (this happened during football season) to further the discussion about the perception of boy and girl activities. Like any discussion, some children were more engaged than others, and there probably was not a sea change in children’s perception of gender roles; nevertheless, I hope the discussion made a small dent in children’s perceptions of the roles females and males can partake in.

Now, I turn to Lolly’s Classroom. How do people handle otherwise quality books that contain stereotypes?

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Literature circles: the details http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/lit-circles-details/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/lit-circles-details/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:01:46 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39985 In my first literature circle post, I gave an overall explanation about the purpose and how the initial meeting goes and left a few mini book reviews. In my second lit circle post, I pointed you guys to sources if you wanted to kick off your own. In this last (for now) lit circle post, […]

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In my first literature circle post, I gave an overall explanation about the purpose and how the initial meeting goes and left a few mini book reviews. In my second lit circle post, I pointed you guys to sources if you wanted to kick off your own. In this last (for now) lit circle post, I just want to get into the nitty gritty of how I implement this in my middle school classroom.

In Numbers:

3-5 students per group
4-5 weeks per book
2 independent preparation sessions per week
1 lit circle discussion per week
25 minutes per session
1 role per week
1 reflection per week

In terms of timing, I like to introduce the literature circle after having finished an especially hefty novel.  Currently, I aim to do about two to three literature circles a year, with one of them being thematically aligned with history.

With that said, here is how I introduce literature circles to my class. I use the roles provided to me by my instructor. I’d be happy to send it to you — just tweet me at @JuniaTweets and we can connect from there. The schedule below is based on a 5-days/week schedule. You can adjust in anyway you want!

Preparation Week (0)

Day 1:

  • Read a short story together in class.
  • Pick one that has special meaning. Gary Soto, Langston Hughes, and Sandra Cisneros all provide great short stories.

Day 2:

  • I walk students through the “Reporter” role.
  • We work on the handout together in class, and I model the depth I desire. Then I have students practice in partners “reporting” on the story, as I walk around. At the end of Day 2, students should know how to prepare and present as a Reporter.

Day 3: 

  • I walk students through the “Discussion Director” role.
  • We work on this together in class and I model how I would ask a question and wait for responses. Then I have other students try. At the end of Day 3, students should know how to prepare the “DD” role and how to facilitate a discussion.

I spend today doing “book talks” through all the book choices students have.  If I run out of time, I continue the next day.

Day 4: 

  • I walk students through the “Diction Detective” role.
  • This role is especially confusing to students who are not accustomed to focusing on how word choice could affect setting, theme, or mood. I love this role, and I nitpick like crazy! It’s amazing to see how far students grow in their understanding through this role. This is why I focus a day on this.

I then finish my “book talks” and hype students up to let them know that on Day 5, they will be choosing their books!

Day 5: 

  • I walk students through the “Artist” and “Bridge Builder” roles.
  • For the Artist role, I remind students to not just draw a scene but to focus on how color and symbols can reveal a more complicated concept. For the Bridge Builder, I explain the differences of each bridge and that specific instances trump generalizations.

As students work, I have two or three students go to the back of the room and “graze” through three to four books I have put out. (See: Trial and Error for more information about “Choosing Day.”)

Lit Circle Week 1 — The Weird Week

This week is rough and students will be confused. You will have to explain yourself often, and you will need to walk through this with them slowly. I promise, it’s worth the time!

Day 1:

(25 Minutes)  I announce groups, have students get together, and they plan out how they are going to finish the book by the 4th week. Some students divide pages, some students divide chapters, and some students try to pace themselves by reading more in the beginning and less at the end. They also assign roles for the first Book Circle meeting. I write everything down on a large chart, and I hand out role-specific sheets to each person.

Day 2:

(15-20 minutes)  Students get time to read and prepare for their lit circle. Normally, students would do this on Day 1, but since Day 1 was spent preparing for the rest, I give them an extra day to read in class.

Day 3:

(20-25 minutes)  Independent Preparation

Day 4:

Remind students to prepare!

Day 5:

Lit Circle Meeting 1! (25 minutes)  For the first Lit circle meeting, I give class-wide reminders. About every 5-6 minutes, I call out where students should be (“Reporters should be finishing up now.”) I walk around and take copious notes as I listen to students. I give constant positive feedback and suggestions.

At the end, I give students a self-reflection checklist. Then I provide time for students to assign roles for the next week. I remind them that this week, they did not get the weekend to prepare, but they will have more time this upcoming week to prepare. I go over really great contributions as well. I love this part because since each group is specifically prepared so that students are reading their level books and approaching discussions at a level of accessibility, I get to bring up students who are usually more wary or withdrawn and remark on their contributions.

Lit Circle Weeks 2-4: Regular Schedule

Day 1 and 3:

(25 minutes):  Independent Preparation

Day  5:

Discussion Group Meeting (20-30 minutes — depends on your kids!)

The first round of literature circles was definitely exhausting. I spent much time scrutinizing student contributions, encouraging students to ask “higher” questions, and walking around the classroom. It was also important to keep my mouth shut when it came to their discussions.

I am tempted to end this with “there is no single method to run literature circles,” but to be honest, I was taught this method through a mentor teacher and when I followed it step-by-step, it worked! The second time I did my literature circles with my students, I began to add more of what I wanted to see with my students and assign different roles. This was also because I gave this round a historical theme.

So, with that said, I would suggest that beginners should keep everything simple. Pick great books, do not overload on extra work for the students, and make this a privilege! I used DonorsChoose and received an awesome array of books because of the generosity of friends and of a local foundation. DonorsChoose loves literacy-based projects, so I really encourage you to look at these outside sources.

Questions? Comments?  I know this is a lot!  I just wanted to get this all out here though, before the school year begins.

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Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/engaging-literature-students-charge-syndrome/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/engaging-literature-students-charge-syndrome/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:01:16 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39581 This summer, I was asked by a parent whose child had attended our reading tutoring program in the spring, to work one-on-one with her daughter, a rising middle schooler with CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome involves a number of developmental and medical differences (see www.chargesyndrome.org to learn more), and for this particular child it means profound […]

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This summer, I was asked by a parent whose child had attended our reading tutoring program in the spring, to work one-on-one with her daughter, a rising middle schooler with CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome involves a number of developmental and medical differences (see www.chargesyndrome.org to learn more), and for this particular child it means profound deafness in addition to other factors. Her signs could at times be challenging to understand, and it was not always clear when you asked her a question whether she understood the answer or whether she was repeating what you last said to her. So what was my approach in teaching reading with this student? Pull out all my favorite picture books, naturally.

When my undergraduate student who had been tutoring her in the previous semester pulled out The Red Book by Barbara Lehmann, she was at first confused and later delighted to find this rich story told entirely through pictures. Over the summer, in addition to many others, we have been reading a great deal of Mo Willems (the Knuffle Bunny books and the Elephant and Piggy books) and Jon Klassen (mostly of the hats-being-stolen-by-fish-and-rabbits genre). Halfway through Knuffle Bunny Too, she had the whole story figured out, excitedly signing to me, “Wrong rabbit, wrong rabbit!” The language and understanding that came through when presented with engaging literature was a delight to see.

lehman redbook 300x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    willems knuffle bunny too Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    klassen thisisnotmyhat 414x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome

We do more than read picture books, of course. We work on building vocabulary, we develop American Sign Language (ASL) skills and compare how concepts are conveyed through both languages, and we even examine word order through mixed-up sentences. But these lessons are always underpinned with  marvelous books that are clever and engaging. It is through these books that her abilities come shining through. And although reading tutoring during the summer months would not be the favorite activity of most middle school students, her mother told me that she actually begins laughing and smiling as they approach my building. The joy of reading!

Has anyone out there worked with children with CHARGE syndrome or those with multiple disabilities? I would love to learn about strategies you have used to support their reading!

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Frankly, tired of reading Anne Frank http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/frankly-tired-reading-anne-frank/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/frankly-tired-reading-anne-frank/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 10:01:47 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39579 I’ve hit an academic dilemma at summer camp this year. For the past three years at this gifted students’ camp, my lead instructor has chosen to teach The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). Yes, the book provides an entryway into a very difficult historical topic; yes, it’s pretty amazing to watch Anne’s growth; […]

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frank diary of a young girl Frankly, tired of reading Anne FrankI’ve hit an academic dilemma at summer camp this year. For the past three years at this gifted students’ camp, my lead instructor has chosen to teach The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). Yes, the book provides an entryway into a very difficult historical topic; yes, it’s pretty amazing to watch Anne’s growth; and yes, she is a role model and a hero for multiple reasons. But I’m so tired of reading and teaching Anne’s diary year after year. Though it’s new to my students every time, it’s become monotonous to me. I’m bored!

I encountered the same problem with another lead teacher during the school year, except she couldn’t stand Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  Having been raised in California, I read this book in elementary school because the narrative explained so much about Native American daily life in California. My lead teacher had used the text for over ten years, so it was understandable why she was simply sick of the book. As her assistant now given the task of teaching Island of the Blue Dolphins, I asked her why she didn’t switch Island of the Blue Dolphins out for another book. Her reasoning was that she saw the value in teaching it despite her feelings.

inside out back again thanhha lai hardcover cover art Frankly, tired of reading Anne FrankMy solution so far is to find suitable replacements (Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, in case you were wondering) but recognize that this isn’t feasible for most teachers on a regular basis. To choose a replacement means taking the time to find a book that matches what you find value in the original (now boring) book, write a whole new curriculum, and figure out how to teach it. It’s much easier to pull out familiar curriculum.

So what to do about Anne Frank? I still haven’t decided if I want to say goodbye to her forever. But the question still stands: what do you do when you have a book of value and you don’t have the passion for teaching it anymore? Do you continue to teach it because of its merit, or shelve it?

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Happiness and high school humanities http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/happiness-high-school-humanities/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/happiness-high-school-humanities/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:01:55 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39416 I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say […]

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I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say “Philosophy: Happiness” on their covers to pull me directly down this path.

But as I thought about it, I got more and more excited about how this topic is tackled in the YA world. The first set of books I considered were titles that dealt with “the meaning of life” in a variety of ways. Titles like Nothing by Janne Teller, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, and one of my personal favorites, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp give lots of food for thought about where we expend our energy and the wisdom of how we prioritize our attention in life.

 teller nothing 213x300 Happiness and high school humanities    maas jeremyfink 201x300 Happiness and high school humanities    tharp spectacularnow 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities

This, of course, led to stories about facing challenges and finding happiness despite (or because) of the circumstances in our lives.  So we pulled texts like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, which all deal with characters finding ways to deal with and even prosper alongside difficult circumstances.

green faultinourstars Happiness and high school humanities     vizzini kindofFunnyStory 204x300 Happiness and high school humanities     stork marcelo 195x300 Happiness and high school humanities

Then we happened upon a set of titles that raise questions about whether you can be “happy” if you are or are not being yourself. We pulled segments of titles like Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Rapture Practice, which I’ve talked about here before.

openly straight Happiness and high school humanities     saenz aristotleanddante 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities     keshni tinasmouth 234x300 Happiness and high school humanities     hartzler rapturepractice 203x300 Happiness and high school humanities

And then there were a world of nonfiction possibilities, those written for young people and those not — picture books by Demi about various figures, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about work and play, and any number of great series texts about philosophers and religions and such.

So I guess the (happy) moral of this story is that it was much easier than I thought to revisit old texts with these new eyes of philosophies of happiness. I left the work feeling as though every text is about this very important topic in one way or another, and I can’t wait to see how the BGA curriculum around it continues to evolve!

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Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/read-female-pilots-national-aviation-day/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/read-female-pilots-national-aviation-day/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:01:00 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39380 Today, August 19th, the U.S. is celebrating National Aviation Day. This day was first established by a presidential proclamation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to celebrate advances in aviation. The date was chosen to coincide with Orville Wright’s birthday to recognize his contribution, together with his brother Wilbur, to the field of aviation — […]

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Today, August 19th, the U.S. is celebrating National Aviation Day. This day was first established by a presidential proclamation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to celebrate advances in aviation. The date was chosen to coincide with Orville Wright’s birthday to recognize his contribution, together with his brother Wilbur, to the field of aviation — but it is a holiday meant to recognize all aviators who have advanced the field through their efforts. While the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart come to mind as the premier pioneering pilots, there are many unsung aviators. The books below highlight the stories of some of the most famous early female aviators and are the perfect way to celebrate National Aviation Day!

Burleigh NightFlight 300x300 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayNight Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Wendell Minor (K-3)
This book tells the story of Amelia Earhart’s historic crossing of the Atlantic on May 20, 1932, which made her the first woman to complete a solo flight across that ocean. The flight was a dramatic one, including both mechanical difficulties and fierce weather and both the prose and the paintings of this book capture the tension of the flight and the elation when Earhart touches down in Ireland. The book also includes a brief biography of Earhart, a list of additional sources on the subject and a fascinating collection of quotations from Earhart’s speeches and publications.

Moss SkyHigh 300x272 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DaySky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Carl Angel (K-3)
Maggie Gee knew from a young age that she wanted to fly planes. It was a dream that stayed with her throughout her childhood and when World War II started, she leapt at the chance to serve her country by flying for the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs. Despite stiff competition for a limited number of spots amongst the WASPs, Maggie succeeded, becoming one of only two Chinese American pilots in the organization. This book traces her path from her childhood dreams to her work as a WASP. An author’s note at the end fills in more details about her life after World War II and includes pictures of Maggie and her family throughout the time covered in the book.

Cummins FlyingSolo300x294 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayFlying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins with illustrations by Malene R. Laugesen (K-3)
While many know the story of Amelia Earhart’s flight across the Atlantic, fewer people know that Ruth Elder attempted to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic years earlier in 1927. Though her attempt was cut short by a malfunction over the ocean, she nevertheless became famous, not only for her attempt but also for her later aviation exploits. This book tells her life story, focusing primarily on her attempt to fly across the Atlantic and her participation in a cross-country air race in 1929. Ruth’s story will excite fans of planes and flying and the illustrations will transport readers back to the 1920’s through their vivid details. The book also includes further sources of information about Ruth’s life as well as a final illustration that highlights a number of other important female aviators.

Borden FlyHigh 238x300 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayFly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger with illustrations by Teresa Flavin (4-6)
This book tells the story of Bessie Coleman, an African American woman who grew up in the south in the late 1800’s with a dream to get an education. When she moved to Chicago in 1915 for a chance at a better life, she discovered aviation and decided to head to France to pursue an opportunity to learn to fly. Once she had her license, Bessie returned to the U.S. where she flew in air shows and gave speeches encouraging others to follow her path. Though the book ends with the tragic tale of her death in a flying accident, the story is sure to inspire those interested in learning to fly.

Tanaka AmeliaEarhart 300x298 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayAmelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka with illustrations by David Craig (4-6)
Illustrated with a combination of paintings and photographs from Amelia Earhart’s life, this book is an impressive biography of a woman who is arguably the most famous female aviator in American history. Starting in her childhood and continuing until her disappearance in 1937, it offers a look into Amelia’s entire life, including aspects that are often glossed over in other books, such as her time as a nurse’s aide in Toronto and her work with two early commercial airlines. Both the pictures and the illustrations bring Amelia to life for readers and a list of source notes and other resources at the end of the book provide lots of options for further reading.

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What’s the media Feeding us? http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/whats-media-feeding-us/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/whats-media-feeding-us/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:01:23 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39978 For the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of teaching an English course to a group of highly motivated high school students enrolled in the summer session of an Upward Bound program. This summer’s book selection — Feed by M. T. Anderson — has spurred a campus conversation that I keep catching snippets […]

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feed Whats the media Feeding us?For the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of teaching an English course to a group of highly motivated high school students enrolled in the summer session of an Upward Bound program. This summer’s book selection — Feed by M. T. Anderson — has spurred a campus conversation that I keep catching snippets of while I wait in line in the cafeteria or when I walk down the halls in the dorm. (I’m serious — a large group of teenagers, in school in the summer, are really talking about a book in their free time!)

Feed never fails to generate intense feelings and is also one of those books that could be suited to almost any theme or purpose that a course might cover. It lends itself to discussions of identity, social class, gender roles and expectations, conformity, language, as well as the topics around which I organized my summer course: media and technology.

The overarching question my students and I have been grappling with over the course of the summer is “Does the media create or reflect reality?” Feed is the perfect title to use as a case study for exploring this question, as it presents a dystopian world where the majority of people have a device — the “feed” — implanted directly into their brains. The feed constantly bombards its users with advertisements that are responsive to their locations and emotional states and also offers seemingly unlimited access to information. Of course, it also leads the users to have tremendous blind spots in terms of their understanding of the world around them and is controlled by powerful corporations who may or may not have the best interests of their users at heart.

Feed is the perfect choice for a course focused on media literacy. The book itself articulates and reinforces the need for precisely the skills learned in media literacy exercises: how to think critically about the content present in media messages, how to actively engage with information rather than passively accepting it, and how to uncover who creates the media and what their agendas might be.

Over the course of the summer, I have watched my students develop an increasing awareness of the challenges and implications of growing up in a media-saturated world. In addition to reading Feed, we have analyzed videos, advertisements, and contemporary songs to see what is under the surface of the media messages that we too often accept without question — and with which we even find ourselves singing along! I can see my students’ blinders beginning to come off as they think more critically about the world around them and how media impacts their own lives.

While Feed projects a vision of a dystopian future and was published back in 2002, I am struck each time I reread the book by how close the world Anderson describes seems to our own. The media and technology are increasingly influential and already play a key role in shaping our reality. The time to think about the implications of a media feeding us constant messages that may or may not reflect the world we want to inhabit is now and Feed is a wonderful title to use to engage young people in these critical conservations.

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Back-to-school books http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/back-school-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/back-school-books/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 10:01:38 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39966 Down South sometimes we do things a little differently… like starting back to school in early August. So while many a teacher is still enjoying their summer vacation until after Labor Day, my first day of school was a week ago. To me, the first days of school are some of the richest times for […]

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Down South sometimes we do things a little differently… like starting back to school in early August. So while many a teacher is still enjoying their summer vacation until after Labor Day, my first day of school was a week ago.

To me, the first days of school are some of the richest times for the development of classroom culture. One easy way to help instill the character and traits you envision for your classroom community is by reading aloud picture books. Which led me to wonder, What are some of my favorite back-to-school books?

While every teacher has a few of these character-building books in their arsenal, these are some of my favorites for the first days of school:

Henkes Chrysanthemum 246x300 Back to school booksChrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
The story of a little mouse with a big name, this classic back-to-school tale reveals to students the power of words. As students arrive for their first day of Kindergarten, Henkes highlights through witty dialogue the influence of others on the main character, Chrysanthemum’s, confidence. When the other animals start to make fun of Chrysanthemum’s name, she crumples and wilts. It is only after a kind music teacher praises her name, that Chrysanthemum begins to feel reinvigorated and proud of who she is. This is a great story to help highlight the power of kind and unkind words in your classroom, as well as the importance of having confidence in yourself.

pfister Rainbowfish 300x284 Back to school booksThe Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister; translated by J. Alison James
Rainbow Fish is not like the other fish. He has beautiful, sparkly fins that are highlighted through the addition of iridescent foil scales by Pfister. Rainbow Fish is also lonely and selfish. It is not until he begins to share his scales that he discovers the power of sharing and friendship. Students are typically immediately drawn in by the eye-catching sparkle of this book’s illustrations. When reading comes to a close, however, they are also able to discuss strategies for making friends and how to build relationships with their peers.

seuss GreenEggsHam 219x300 Back to school booksGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
At first, this silly, easy reader might seem like an odd choice for culture building. I’ve found, however, that the easy plotline of this tale allows students to understand the benefit of trying something new. Dr. Seuss’ ability to draw students in through his funny rhyming scheme immediately captures students. As the readers witness I-am-Sam’s relentless attempts to get the main character to try green eggs and ham, they can also be introduced to the idea of bravery. In school students will be asked to take on challenging tasks that often they have never been exposed to, however, just like in Green Eggs and Ham, they might also find that sometimes they like new things.

kraus leolatebloomer 215x300 Back to school booksLeo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus; illustrated by Jose Aruego
This simple story tells the tale of Leo, a small lion who struggles to complete the same tasks as his animal peers. While they can read, write and eat neatly. Leo cannot. His father becomes concerned, yet Leo’s mother remains confident that Leo will complete these tasks in his own time. By the end of story Leo has “bloomed!” and is able to keep up with his animal friends. The bright illustrations of this story engage students, as does the relatable story line. Ultimately students are able to walk away able to discuss ideas of persistence and grit.

Editor’s note: for more back-to-school books, check out Martha’s piece in our August Notes from the Horn Book, our free monthly newsletter for parents and teachers.

 

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