Saturday, March 16, 2013

new trailer

Check out the new book trailer for One For The Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt:

Friday, March 15, 2013

hold fast to dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 
This poem, Dreams by Langston Hughes, serves as the inspiration for the book Hold Fast by Blue Balliett. One of the most valuable elements of this book is that it will open your eyes to the issues of homelessness. Daily life for homeless children is especially difficult. Life in the shelter system includes shame, fear, guilt, embarrassment, hopelessness, and anger... just to name a few emotions.

Early Pearl falls into Chicago's shelter system, and from there she must solve the mystery of her father's disappearance. 

One of my favorite passages:
Dashel Pearl offered words to his kids from the day they were born. A man who loved language almost as much as color or taste or air, he explained to his daughter, Early, that words are everywhere and for everyone.
"They're for choosing, admiring, keeping, giving. They are treasures of inestimable value," Early heard him say many times. Even when she didn't know what inestimable meant, she understood from the careful way he said it. 

Early, like Dashel, recorded stuff that made her curious, and the Pearls always had a notebook or two available. They kept a family Quote Book, for collecting wise or delicious things that other people had written, and a Word Book, where any of them could note down a word they liked and include at least part of the dictionary definition.
Early learned from her dad that a dictionary is a powerful and underestimated kind of book. First of all, it has the shorteststories in the world, and thousands of them: stories with sounds, changing shapes, history, and mystery. Open anywhere and you'll find layers of meanings. Choices. And when you put a word in your Word Book, you can pick what you want from the definition, like picking flowers from a garden. You don't have to take everything, and that is fine. 

Dashel Pearl had been gone for four days, and nothing was okay. Jubie whined and asked, "But when is Dash coming home?" again and again; Early felt as though someone had removed her insides, leaving her scooped-out like a melon. She felt as light and strange as the dead might feel if they could tell you about it.

I also loved Early's project Home Dreams. Early had started something amazing and it grew like wildfire. 

Again, don't miss the author's note at the end. It will inspire you to educate yourself on homelessness and the plight of homeless children. In the city of Chicago alone, there are an estimated thirty thousand homeless children. Only one child in ten doesn't qualify for free meal programs in public schools.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Close Reading

The Michigan Reading Association's Annual Conference was held this weekend.

One of the presentations was on the benefits of 'Close Reading'. Close Reading is the careful and purposeful interpretation of a text, wherein readers pay close attention to the way ideas unfold as they read. The purpose of Close Reading is to support our understanding of what an author is really saying, and to gather evidence for Argumentative Writing (which is part of the new Common Core reading and writing standard). It's a skill that prepares for college readiness, career readiness, and informed citizenship.

Close Reading in Action:

  1. Introduce complex vocabulary
  2. Establish purpose
  3. Model higher-order reading
  4. Partner practice
  5. Check for understanding
  6. Independent practice
  7. Discussion or debate
  8. Argumentative Writing

Types of Close Reading Text:

  • Articles and Informational text
  • Excerpts from novels and books
  • Speeches or Primary Documents
  • Lectures and Notes
  • Charts, Graphs, & Political Cartoons
  • Anchor Charts
  • Assignment Instructions
  • Grading Rubrics 

Argumentative Writing:

Argumentative Writing = Template + They Say + I Say

There were several great tweets about Close Reading, but this one caught my eye: Close read Atticus's closing argument in To Kill a Mockingbird...

If you were to listen to Atticus Finch's closing arguments in Tom Robinson's trial and then Close Read the transcript of his speech, would you be able to give an interpretation of the text? Would you come away with a better understanding of what the author is trying to say? Would you be able to gather evidence and write about your findings?


Atticus: To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. The State has not produced one iota of medical evidence that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. Now there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Mayella Ewell was beaten savagely by someone who led, almost exclusively, with his left. And Tom Robinson now sits before you, having taken “The Oath” with the only good hand he possesses – his right.
I have nothing but pity in my heart for the Chief Witness for the State. She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance. But, my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man’s life at stake, which she has done in an effort to get rid of her own guilt. Now I say “guilt,” gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her. She’s committed no crime. She has merely broken a rigid and time-honoured code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. She must destroy the evidence of her offense. But, what was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson, a human being. She must put Tom Robinson away from her. Tom Robinson was to her a daily reminder of what she did.
Now what did she do? She tempted a negro. She was white and she tempted a negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: She kissed a black man. Not an old uncle, but a strong, young negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards.
The witnesses for the State, with the exception of the sheriff of Lincoln County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen – to this Court – in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted; confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption, that all negroes lie; all negroes are basically immoral beings; all negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption that one associates with minds of their calibre, and which is in itself, gentlemen, a lie – which I do not need to point out to you.
And so, a quiet, humble, respectable negro, who has had the unmitigated TEMERITY to feel sorry for a white woman, has had to put his word against two white peoples. The defendant is not guilty. But somebody in this courtroom is.
Now, gentlemen, in this country our courts are the great levelers. In our courts, all men are created equal. I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and of our jury system. That’s no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality!
Now I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence that you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this man to his family.
In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson.

If given a choice, what Close Reading text would you suggest? Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech? Elie Wiesel on The Perils of Indifference? E.B. White's Last Day from Charlotte's Web? Norman Maclean's The Last Fish We Were Ever to See Paul Catch scene from A River Runs Through It?

I like the idea of Close Reading: the idea of complex vocabulary, and of establishing purpose and understanding...
I especially love the idea when it leads to informed citizenship.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

it's all coming together

Today I read The Center of Everything by Linda Urban*

Ruby Pepperdine is an amazing sixth grader who has always been helpful, who never caused too much trouble, and who always did what she was supposed to. But what if there was no such thing as supposed to?

The story takes place during the course of one day, the day of the big parade in Bunning NH. And this year's Bunning Day Essay Girl is Ruby.

This is a beautiful book, told in a series of short vignettes that all circle around to Ruby and her wish on this particular Bunning Day.

I loved so much of this short book, but my favorite bit was the author's note at the end. Be sure not to miss it:
"Sometimes we don't even know how to wish for the things we need most."

*Linda Urban wrote another of my favorite's:  Hound Dog True 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

the anti-hero

Timmy Failure, Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

"I'd ask that you get your "failure" jokes out of the way right now. I am anything but."


The text is funny. The cartoons are funny. And, the part about Molly Moskin's cat, Senior Burrito, made me laugh out loud.

"I do not like Senior Burrito.
She is Molly Moskin's cat. And every time I turn my head, 
she dunks her paw into my tea."

It's the perfect book for readers... 
especially the reluctant type.