Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Even More Needs vs. Wants Titles

 Bikes for Rent By Isaac Olaleye

Lateef lives in a poor village in Nigeria. He longs to rent a bike from Babatunde's used bicycle hut, but his family has no spare money to give him. Lateef takes it upon himself to collect firewood and mushrooms in the rainforest so that he can sell them for money at the village market. Through hard work he earns enough money to begin renting bikes and loves riding with his friends. One day he rents a shiny, red new bike with the promise that he will be especially careful. On a dare from his friends he rides downhill without holding the handlebars and damages the bike's front wheel. In order to pay back Babatunde for the repair he begins working at the hut learning to repair bikes. Lateef learns a new trade, how to pay off a debt, and the importance of taking ownership over his actions.

At a time when many students are handed anything they want this is a great story to remind students that in other parts of the world things are very different than in America.

 If You Give a Dog a Donut By Laura Numeroff
Grades K-2

Discussion Seed: I particularly like this newer Numeroff If You Give...story, but any of them would work as a needs and wants book. I like to read the book first. Then I go back and reread it, stopping at each page asking the students if what the dog asks for is a Need or a Want.

 Chicken Sunday By Patricia Polacco
Grades 3-6

Chicken Sunday is a heart-warming tale of inter-faith friendships, inter-racial friendships, and doing what's right.  Patricia Polacco tells a true story about two of her best friends growing up, Winston and Stewart. More than anything they want to buy Eula Mae Walker (Winston and Stewart's gramma) an Easter bonnet from Mr. Kodinski's shop. They can't afford the bonnet and things aren't looking good when they are mistaken for some troublemakers throwing eggs at Mr Kodinski's shop door. It takes guts and a lot of creativity to convince Mr Kodinski that they are good kids who mean truly well. They learn to make decorated eggs using hot wax and dye in the Eastern European tradition and present them to Mr. Kodinski as a peace-offering. He allows them to sell the beautiful eggs in his shop to make enough money to purchase the bonnet for Eula Mae, but Mr. Kodinski has a surprise of his own. He tells them to keep their hard-earned money and gives them the bonnet for free.
Though the Holocaust isn't mentioned in this book, it is alluded to and in one illustration you can see the ID number tatooed on Mr. Kodinki's arm. This book could be used in so many contexts for classroom discussions.

Sam and the Lucky Money By Karen Chinn
Grades 1-3

Sam is excited to go shopping with his mother on Chinese New Year's Day and spend the lucky money in the traditional red envelope that his grandparents have gifted him. On his journey through Chinatown Sam sees many things he wants to buy, but he grows disappointed as he realizes he doesn't have enough lucky money to purchase them. Sam ends up giving his money to a homeless man on the street who has no shoes. He tells the man it isn't enough for shoes, but he can at least purchase socks to keep his feet warm. A great story about charity and selflessness.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wordless Picture Books - Kindergarten Focused

I enjoy using wordless books with my classes on occasion to allow them the chance to offer up their versions of narration. It's fun to see what they come up with from looking at the illustrations. I love it when rather than just giving a running narration they throw in some dialogue. When I do a wordless book I like to sit on the carpet with my students and hold the book in my lap. The class forms a circle around me so they can all see the photos. I make sure to pick books that aren't too confusing and don't have too many details which would be hard to see in a classroom setting. Here are four that work quite nicely for kindergarten.

 Rainstorm By Barbara Lehman
Grades PreK-5
 Lehman makes fabulous wordless picture books, but I find some of them to be a little too cerebral for my kindergarten crew. Rainstorm though fits the bill for this age beautifully. It's got enough twists and turns to keep them interested and excited, but isn't going to leave them asking, "huh?" In Rainstorm a boy finds a key in his house that unlocks a chest and inside the chest is a ladder. As he climbs down the ladder he goes on an adventure that leads to more twists and turns including a lighthouse. He meets some other kids along the way and invites them to play with him so he's not bored anymore.

The Snowman By Raymond Briggs
Grades PreK-3
Depending on the size of your class this one may or may not work. Most of the spreads have numerous smaller pictures so it can be hard to see them all in a big group. If you have a class of less than 15 it should work just fine. It's certainly a favorite to do on a lap at home too with your own child. The kids love this book and how it brings to mind Frosty the Snowman. A boy builds a snowman who magically comes to life. He invites him into his house to show him his room, toys, etc. and then after returning outside the snowman takes the boy's hand and they fly into the sky. The end of the story shows the boy back in his bed asleep and then rushing out in the morning only to find that the snowman has melted. This ending could be upsetting to very young kids so just keep it in mind if your audience is especially sensitive.

Pancakes for Breakfast By Tomie DePaola
Grades PreK-2
This is shorter wordless book than The Snowman and has larger pictures which makes it great to do with even a large class. At the crack of down a little woman lying in bed is thinking of a pancake breakfast. She starts gathering her ingredients together only to find out that most of what she needs isn't there. She must go to the henhouse for more eggs, out to the barn to get milk, to the neighbor for maple syrup, etc. As she is finally ready to get cooking she sees that her dog and cat have gotten into the kitchen and made a big mess of everything she had laid out. Just when her hopes of pancakes are crumbling she smells an aroma wafting across the yard and walks over to the neighbor's house. There she sits and gets to finally enjoy a big stack of pancakes. The last picture shows her sitting in her living room with an embroidery sampler framed on the wall which says "If at first you don't succeed try, try again".

The Surprise By Sylvia van Ommen
Grades K-3
The sweetest tale of friendship! Sheep dyes his own wool, shaves it, throws on a sweater so she won't be cold, hops on her moped and brings it to a poodle to be spun into yarn then takes it back home and knits it into a sweater for her best friend giraffe. The best picture is giraffe bending down to give sheep a kiss of appreciation.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Perfect Square

Perfect Square By Michael Hall
Grades PreK-2

It was a perfect square with matching sides and corners. It was perfectly happy. But on Monday it was cut into pieces and poked full of holes. It wasn't a perfect square anymore so it changed itself into a fountain. Each day of the week the square is cut or wrinkled or ripped and it takes the new shapes and turns them into something completely new like a river or a mountain. Beautiful colors and simple text manage to transport you to a creative world.

Discussion Seed: Ask your students why they think at the end of the book the square isn't happy being just a square, though he was at the beginning of the book. With kindergaretn or PreK this book can be used to review days of the week, colors and shapes.

Craft Seed: Have students start with a simple square. Ask them to cut or rip it and then take the pieces and glue them down into something completely new.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Favorite Poetry Books

Technically, It's Not My Fault By John Grandits
Grades 4 and up

These poems are all Robert's thought about the world around him. He is kooky and funny and definitely creative. I love the poem about how every time he tries to skateboard he gets yelled out and told to leave and then when he gives up and goes home his mom yells at him for sitting inside and tells him to go outside with his skateboard. The poems just ring true from a pre-teen perspective. The ways Grandits plays with art, shapes, fonts and words is amazing.

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine
Grades 3 and up 

These false apology poems teach kids that poetry can be dry, sarcastic, funny and have such truth in them all at the same time. Some of the poems are written from the point of view of a nursery rhyme or fairy tale characters, making them perfect for a library unit of study. The more familiar your students are with these stories the more meaningful the poems will be. Asking my classes to write their own false apology poems from the perspective of a book character would be a good jumping off point for this style.

Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word By Bob Raczka
Grades 3 and up

Of these three poetry books I feel like this would be the one that's hardest to emulate. To take a word such as spaghetti and then using only the letters in that word make a whole poem is so difficult! But I sure do love what Rasczka did with it:




The man is a genius. The poems are beautiful in their simplicity.

Lesson Seeds: I would ask my students to try to create poems following the same styles in each of these books. This is not easy to do and while students might enjoy these poems in younger grades, to create this kind of poetry would be more successful with students in grades 5 and up. In  Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine there is a two-page layout that gives some simple directions to create your own false apology poems inspired by William Carlow Williams' poem "This is just to say". She explains the repeating line of forgive me, how many stanzas and how many lines in each stanza. She also encourages the writer to read the poems aloud to make sure it has the proper rhythm. Concrete poems written in certain shapes are fun to do on the computer by using different fonts.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

More Needs vs. Wants Titles

 The Rag Coat By Lauren Mills
Grades 4-6

Minna's father has died from a coal miner's cough and her mother struggles to make ends meet in their Appalachian community. She isn't able to walk to school because the family has no money to buy her a coat. Through the thoughtfulness and generosity of the local women they use their fabric scraps to stitch together a "rag coat." The children at school tease Minna for her "rag coat" until she reminds them of the precious stories that come from each piece of fabric.

A Chair for My Mother By Vera B. Williams
Grades 2-5

Rosa and her mother's apartment is burned in a fire and they lose all their belongings. Her mother works hard in the diner earning tips so that they can buy a new comfy chair. It takes a long time and some help from family to fill her tip jar, but eventually they do. This is a story about working hard to reach a goal, about the love of a tight-knit community, and about the generosity and bonds of a family.

 Something Special for Me By Vera B. Williams
Grades 2-5

This is the second book in the series about Rosa and her mother. In the first book the money in the tip jar is spent so her mother can have a nice chair. In this story, mother and grandmother want the money in the jar to go to Rosa for her birthday so that she may have something special. It is hard for her to decide what to get. She doesn't want to be frivolous because she understands the value of hard-earned money. When money is tight decisions become more weighty and this is an important underlying message in the book. A loving non-nuclear family is highlighted once again.

Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
Grades 2-4

 Alexander gets a dollar when his grandparents come to visit. He intends to save it up for some new walkie-talkies. Before he knows what's happened it's been fiddled away for chewing gums, bets with his mom, being fined by his dad for fighting, eating his brother's chocolate bar, etc. A good lesson in spending and saving and thinking carefully about what we want in the moment vs. we need in the long-term.

I Really Absolutely Must Have Glasses By Lauren Child
Grades K-2

My students adore the Charlie and Lola series and this is no exception. In typical fashion Lola decides she NEEDS glasses because her friend Mini has a great flowery pair. Unfortunately, the
optician tells Lola she has strong eyesight and is in no need of correction. Charlie is there to save his little sister's day and together they make a pair of sparkly glasses out of paper much to Lola's delight.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Needs vs. Wants

Those Shoes By Maribeth Boelts
Grades 2-5

An urban boy wants the same sneakers he sees his classmates wearing, but his grandmother can't afford to buy them. He ends up finding a pair in the thrift shop and even though they're too small he buys them anyway. They squeeze his feet and cause him pain and eventually he does a such a big-hearted thing with those shoes. The end of this book makes your heart swell.

 Something Beautiful By Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Grades 3-6

A little girl lives in the inner city and is hard-pressed to find much beauty around her. As she speaks to her neighbors and friends they point out that which is beautiful to them. She begins to see beauty in the small every day things and starts to make some changes in her neighborhood to erase the ugly. Touching and so real.

 Owen By Kevin Henkes
Grades K-2

A funny book about security and family and growing up. Owen wants to bring his security blanket everywhere, he needs the comfort that it provides. His parents worry that maybe he is getting too old for such nonsense and with the nosy neighbor's input start trying some methods to part Owen from his blankie. The twist at the end shown only in the picture clue reminds us that we all need comforting.

 Joseph Had a Little Overcoat By Simms Taback
Grades K-2

When Joseph has an overcoat that gets old and worn he doesn't throw it out. He turns it into something else again and again. A good book to teach about reusing and not being wasteful. Beautiful illustrations in this die-cut Caldecott winning book.


 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble By William Steig
Grades 2-5

When Sylvester finds a magic pebble and realizes it grants wishes he is overjoyed. Before he can bring it home to show his parents however a lion creeps up on him and afraid of being attacked Sylvester wishes to be a rock. Unable to wish himself back to being himself Sylvester is stuck being a rock for a very long time. His parents search and search for their beloved son, but are unable to find him. One spring day they decide that in order to cheer themselves up they will go on a picnic. While they are eating on the rock (that also just happens to be Sylvester) they notice the magic red pebble on the ground nearby and after picking it up they wish that Sylvester could be there with them. Instantly the rock turns back into Sylvester and the family is reunited. They tuck the magic pebble away in a safe place and realize they have nothing else to wish for because they have all they could really need, each other.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Diary (The Totally True Story of Me!)

My Diary (The Totally True Story of Me!) By Gilles Tibo
Grades 2-4

I will hand this to my students who like reading diaries or books that deal with heavier topics, but aren't ready to tackle something too long or deep. This diary written by Marilou is filled with her thoughts and poetry dealing with issues such as her goldfish dying, her parents announcing they're having a baby boy and fighting with her best friend. It's sectioned into themes like death, sadness, courage, freedom and hope. I think her entries are very relate-able for a younger child.