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Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution
Author: Nioucha Homayoonfar
Foreward by Firoozeh Dumas
Published January 1st, 2019 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: In the mid 1970’s Nioucha Homayoonfar’s French mother and Iranian father made a decision that would change her life forever. At the age of five, Nioucha and her parents moved from Pittsburgh to her father’s homeland of Iran, at the time a modern, bustling country where people from different religions co-existed peacefully and women and men alike pursued the highest level of education and professional opportunities. A new school, new language, and new friends took some time to get used to.  But none of that compared to the changes that Nioucha experienced during and after the Iranian revolution of 1979. Once the Ayatollah took control, full robes and head scarves were required, religion classes became mandatory and boys were no longer allowed to interact with girls.  Her life continued to be filled with family, friends, pop music and even her first boyfriend (although both the music and the boyfriend were strictly prohibited), but Tehran had become barely recognizable as bombs were dropped on her neighborhood, loved ones and even Nioucha herself were kidnapped, acquaintances were executed and day by day, their freedom was chipped away.

Publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Taking Cover reveals the extraordinary story of Nioucha’s struggle to adjust, to understand and to figure out her place in the world while unrest and oppression swirled around her.  Additionally, this title is a unique blend of coming-of-age storytelling and history. Coupled with a thought-provoking forward by New York Times best-selling author Firoozeh Dumas (Funny in FarsiTaking Cover encourages readers to take a deeper look at the importance of protecting religious, political, and social freedoms while Nioucha’s vivid descriptions of Iranian life — the food, the smells, and its customs — exposes readers to a country and culture rarely written about.

Review: Generally, our system of history education and media focus do not set up Americans with great global information which is evident in the many nonfiction and historical fiction books I’ve encountered in my recent lifetime that have taught me so much about the world. This is one of those books.

This memoir does a special thing in being a beautiful narrative that at its heart is about a young girl growing up but is also addresses the true prejudice against women in Iran as well as teach some basics about the Islam faith and the Iranian Revolution. It is hard to balance these objectives but Taking Cover does it really well which makes it perfect for middle school readers because the story will engage them while they are exposed to a time period and place that they may know little about, as I did.

Side note: Is anyone else really impressed by the vivid memories that some have of their childhood? That is another thing I took away from this book–I remember a lot less than others! Excerpts from the memoir would be wonderful as a mentor text about writing about memories using imagery.

Side note: I would love to do a memoir book club with diverse voices including Taking Cover! I was thinking Born a Crime (the new young reader edition), Hey KiddoOpen Mic, and March Book One-Three. What other titles do you know of that would fit this idea?

Educators’ Guide provided by the publisher:

Flagged Passages: “CHAPTER 1: Fury 1986 (Part 1)

Javabe ablahan khomooshist. -Persian Proverb
Silence is the best answer to fools.

I knew I was in trouble when the white jeep made a U-turn. Driven by the Zeinab Sisters (or the Black Crows, as I called them), it raced toward me and screeched to a stop.

My mother was pushing my brother in a stroller. She had already crossed the street, but I’d lagged behind. So when the ‘Moral Police’ pulled in front of me, I was all alone. Their job was to ensure that all women and girls dressed in a manner dictated by Islam. To set an example, these four were covered head to toe in black chadors, and some even wore gloves.

The Black Crow sitting in the back seat jumped out and grabbed my arm without saying a word. I caught my mother’s eye just as I was being pushed inside the jeep. Maman stood helplessly, screaming across the traffic for the Crows to let me go.” (p. 11)

Read This If You Love: Memoirs, Learning about unreported history, Expanding your knowledge of the world

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing the book for review!**

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Love
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Published December 4, 2018 by Running Press

Summary:From award-winning author Stacy McAnulty comes a sweet story about love and what it’s really all about.

What is love? Can you only express it in fancy meals, greeting cards, and heart-shaped chocolates? Kids will find love everywhere in this delightful book. It can be found in everyday moments such as baking cookies with grandma, notes from Mom in your lunchbox, or a family singing together on a car trip, and it isn’t always what you expect!

With delightful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and sweetly simple prose by award-winning author Stacy McAnulty, thisis the perfect book to teach children what love means, why it’s important, and how they can spread the love in their daily lives.

My Review: This is a very heart-warming book. I received it on Valentine’s Day, and my kids and I have read it dozens of times. It would make a wonderful gift to a friend or family member because it offers many angles for the power of love. This book offers a lot of teaching potential as students explore abstract concepts and the idea of the metaphor. One thing, in particular, that I like about this book is that it resists the commercialization of love. As readers might see in the spread below, “love needs special presents” but those presents are homemade or expressed with kindness. This is a very touching book, and I think readers will find joy in it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’d love to have students take an abstract concept (hope, grief, etc.) and create their own books to parallel this one. It would require a lot of brain power and would help students explore the idea of metaphors in their writing. I might even offer poetry that does this (e.g. “Hope is a thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson).

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love? Who do you love?
  • How do you express your love?
  • Write your own page to add to this book. How does it fit in with the other pages?

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Read This If You Love: Love. And who doesn’t?

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Jennifer A. Nielsen visited my school on December 4th, 2018, and today her newest book comes out (Deceiver’s Heart, Traitor’s Game #2!!!!), so I thought today would be the best day to share about the amazing experience she brought to my school and the superb person she is!

Jennifer was kind enough to have a very packed day with us! She did an assembly for each grade level where she shared that the secret to being a writer is asking questions:

  • Do you have stories? Do you have dreams? If you have dreams, your brain is creating a story. Are you curious? You can be a writer.
  • Writers do these things: Collect stupid facts but don’t collect stupid. Ask Questions. Gain knowledge. They write. They work to get better. They keep trying.
  • There are two types of people: One who says they are good enough. You’ll be passed by people who won’t quit until it’s great.

She also gave us a sneak peek of the Resistance book trailer that went live the next week!

Every group of students (at over 375 each) were captivated by her stories, her humor, and her truth.

 

During each grade level’s lunch period, she also was kind enough to eat lunch with students who had read two or more of her books. During this time, they could get their books signed and ask exclusive questions.

This lunchtime experience was so inspiring to these students! They still talk about what she shared and (as you’ll see in the last photo below) they helped write a quite hilarious story with her that was cracking everyone up:

  • Story in her head is like an itch that she can’t reach. She is happiest when she is writing because she is reaching the itch.
  • Story is everywhere. Everyone carries story with them. Just ask questions and tell the story.
  • She starts a story with the character in action. Helps the reader and writer get into the character’s head and puts the character into immediate trouble.
  • When she was younger, she didn’t know writing was a choice for something you could do.

 

 

Then Jennifer even stayed with us for the evening for another quick presentation, book signing, and cross-curricular events that tied her book into all the subjects.

 

All in all, the visit was life-changing for our HCMS students.

After the visit, I had my students write letters sharing how the event affected them:

  • Thank you so much! You have made a great impact on my life. I have never liked writing but your story about when you were in 6th grade made me realize that I can do what I put my mind to do. -Olivia M, 6th grade
  • I love reading your books because when I read your books it is so good that I read for hours without stopping. When I found out you were coming I got excited because I wanted to find out more about the author who wrote my favorite books. You taught me never to give up and to keep going for my dream no matter how long it takes. Your books have inspired me to create my own book and to be a writer in the future. -Jacob K, 6th grade
  • The things you said during your visit made me realize I’ll never get better if I don’t try. -Georgia B, 6th grade
  • I loved your assembly. Your stories were hilarious and you inspired me to write down my ideas. -Emily B, 7th grade
  • Thank you so much for visiting us. It was amazing and super fun. Your presentations were incredible and I loved the stories you told. They were sad but so interesting. Your tips for writing were so helpful and I plan on taking them to heart whenever I write. Your encouragement was inspiring. “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it. (Benjamin Mee)” -Duda V, 7th grade
  • Your books are amazing, the plot twists were breath-taking, and your books are meaningful and are powerful. -Molly N, 7th grade
  • I’m a huge fan of your books and it was a dream come true to meet you! I enjoyed making a story with you during my lunch time, and I will always remember your visit. -Mariana S, 8th grade
  • If you were here to inspire, you hit it on the dot. -Julia R, 8th grade
  • Thank you for not quitting and showing us that just because you fail once, or twice, or even hundreds of times, we should keep on trying. -Lorenza M, 8th grade
  • Everything that you said just inspired me to do something that would forever make the world better. -Jordan K, 7th grade
  • Thank you for all the words of wisdom and encouragement to write, and for that I’ll always be grateful. -Monika A, 7th grade
  • You are such a beautiful soul, and I am in denial that I had the chance to meet someone like you. -Amy C, 7th grade
  • You were right – stories are everywhere!.. You are funny and kind, and I love how you add little bits of yourself into your books. -Maelynn A, 7th grade

And I’ll end with this beautiful work. My friend, who teaches 8th grade ELA, had her students do a 6 word reflection with a visual to summarize either how they felt or what they learned:


“Good writing takes time and passion.” -Alexa F.


“Don’t let your ideas go away.” -Charlie B.


“Don’t think of ideas, execute them.” -Grace G.


“Failure is the pillar of success.” -Ramia A.


“All failures lead to a success.” -Paola A.


“Catch an ideas, don’t let go.” -Lauren T.


“To write, you mustn’t fear ideas.” -Ishika J.


“The first draft isn’t always perfect.” -Holly C.

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for coming to HCMS and inspiring my students in ways that are life-changing!

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Happy 2019! 

This year, I reread more books than any previous year. I am not including the billions of pictures books that I reread to my children in that statistic, either. 🙂 But for this list, I am focusing on my favorite reads of 2018. These are books that will stick to my bones for years to come!

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Young Adults

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

The Astonishing Color of After by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Upper Elementary and Middle Grade

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

 

Favorite Picture Books

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by John Agee

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell

 

Which were your favorite reads of 2018?

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Happy 2019! 

I had one of my best reading years ever! My GoodReads goal was 300 which I exceeded!

I read 415 books this year!
(Though I will admit GoodReads adding the ability to add rereads really helped with the total; however, I was quite inconsistent with it– I marked re-reads sometimes and other times I didn’t, so I don’t know how accurate the count is, specifically picture books…)

 

It was almost exactly split between picture books and non-picture books with my novel, etc. total being a bit over 200.
My average rating for the year is 4.2 and my top shelves were: realistic fiction, nonfiction, Unleashing Readers, Trent 4-5 years, middle grade, audiobook, mg-ya picture books, picture book, and read to Trent. 

Today, I want to highlight my favorite reads from the year by sharing my 5 star reads from 2018
(the visual includes all while the list includes only newly read in 2018 books): 

Click on the photo above to see my 2018 Goodreads shelf to learn about any of these titles. If I’ve reviewed the book on Unleashing Readers, I’ve also hyperlinked it in the list. 

Picture Books & Early Readers (nonfiction & fiction)

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Windows by Julia Denos
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Trilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon
Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon
Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude by Josh Funk
Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford
Square by Mac Barnett
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk 
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers
Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack by Frank Tra
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët
A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade
Cute as an Axolotl: Discovering the Worlds Most Adorable Animals by Jess Keating
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
One of a Kind by Chris Gorman
The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara
Memphis, Martin, and Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey
Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid
Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton Hughes
Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
We Can’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone
Sun!: One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty
The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayred
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Middle Grade

False Prince trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Granted by John David Anderson
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Bat & the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold
Track Series: Sunny & Lu by Jason Reynolds
Breakout by Kate Messner
Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamura by Pablo Cartaya
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
Garbage Island by Fred Koehler
The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Young Adult

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
What Girls are Made of by Elana K. Arnold
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Dry by Neal Shusterman
Another Day by David Levithan

Graphic Novels

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
The Divided Earth by Erin Faith Hicks
I Am Ghandi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero edited by Brad Meltzer
Illegal by Eoin Colfer
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Monsters Beware by Jorge Aguirre
Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens by John Green
HiLo #4: Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable
Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Nonfiction

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation by Patricia Newman
The Great Rhino Rescue by Patricia Newman
National Geographic: History’s Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past by Kitson Jazynka

All of these books are highly recommended by me, so if you haven’t read them and they interest you, they won’t let you down 🙂 Happy reading!

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Kellee’s Reflection

I am sure you can tell from our countdown that this is one of our favorite events of the year. It is like a really big book club that only meets once a year mixed with the best professional development you could ask for. 

During NCTE, my presentations went so well! If you are interested, you can view my resources:

But what I want to focus on in this post are the revitalizing sessions I attended. My goal for NCTE18 was to make sure to attend more sessions to fill my educator heart, and I definitely met that goal! Here are some highlights from four favorite sessions/talks:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie opened up NCTE, and I was blown away by her!

  • “Be courageous enough to say I don’t know.”
  • We need “STEM AND the language arts. It’s not an or, it’s an and.”
  • “To be a good teacher is not just about curriculum, it is about things that can’t be quantified.”
  • Narrow view of intelligence = not valuing arts
  • “The world is not full people like you, so diverse literature is not needed just for the diverse.”
  • “When telling stories well, we’re appealing to what it means to be human.”

The session Latinx Experiences in Classrooms and Communities with educators, Dr. Carla España, Dr. Luz Herrera, and R. Joseph Rodriguez, and authors, Daniel José Older, MoNieqa Ramos, Matt de la Peña, Meg Medina, and Lilliam Rivera.

  • Our Latinx students “move through the world as many identities.” (Medina)
  • Bilingual students “have language resources we should use.” No more English Language Learners, they are “emergent bilinguals.” (España)
  • “Kids have more going on than we want to talk about.” (Ramos)
  • “Acceptance feels like a hug. It is that feeling when you are home because you don’t have to translate yourself.” (Older)
  • “Books are tools to help people save themselves.” (de la Peña)

Kylene Beers, Kelly Gallagher, and Penny Kittle are brilliant. I wish I could do a full day PD with them!

  • “You cannot improve confidence without improving confidence.” (Beers)
  • “No models of good conversation in media. Our democracy needs to have better conversations.” (Beers)
  • “Meaningful talk will not happen without meaningful reading.” (Gallagher)
  • “We are making too many decisions for our students. Turn over the control.” (Kittle)

Peter and Paul Reynolds stand for everything I believe in!

  • “Great teachers breath kindness and love.”
  • We “need to remind humans about the best humanity can do.”
  • “Picture books are efficient. They are a big idea in a small book.”
  • “Everyone is an artist. You’re only not identifying as one because someone told you you weren’t, and you believed them.”
  • “Noticing a kid is the most powerful gift we can give.”
  • “Your brain is beautiful! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

And the ALAN workshop was amazing as always. The ALAN workshop is 1.5 days of authors sharing. It is so much book love and author love and teacher love and kindness love and just love in general. If you ever have the chance to get to this workshop, it is a must!

Some of my favorite author talks/panels/conversations were:

  • Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Bill Konigsberg
  • Kierstin White, Ibi Zoboi, Elana K. Arnold
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Tomi Adeyemi
  • Sara Farizan and Mark Oshiro
  • Jarrett Krosozcka
  • Sharon Flake and Renee Watson
  • Gae Polisner and Chris Crutcher

This was just a SMALL sampling of the amazing authors at the workshop. Check out the schedule to see others who spoke!

Ricki’s Reflection

I had a wonderful time at the NCTE convention and ALAN Workshop. I was sad that I wasn’t able to go to many sessions because I signed on to participate in six sessions and introductions. I won’t be doing that again next year!

One of the highlights for me was sitting with Ibi Zoboi during the YA Lit is Complex session. She’s absolutely brilliant, and her voice added so much to the conversation. The participants at my roundtable asked her thoughtful questions. She talked about the many complex elements within her texts—the ways in which she adapts classic poetry, includes cultural pantheon for readers, etc. I am blown away by her brilliance, and she is among my favorite authors today. Quite frankly, she is a living legend.

The YA Lit is Complex session is my favorite each year. Jennifer Buehler and Cathy Fleischer bring in eight YA authors to talk about text complexity. If you missed this session, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I always leave feeling invigorated.

I also loved presenting with my colleague, Pamela K. Coke. We shared three approaches for using Genius Hour in the classroom to promote equity. The crowd for this presentation was amazing, and a few audience members have stayed in touch with us. There might be a potential research project on the horizon for this session!

Some of the most exciting talks that I saw were from:

  • Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Bill Konigsberg
  • Ibi Zoboi
  • Sara Farizan and Mark Oshiro
  • Tomi Adeyemi
  • Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Emily X. R. Pan
  • David Arnold
  • Sharon Draper
  • David Levithan
  • Randy Ribay

Pictures!

 

     

If you attended, how was your conference?
We look forward to next year 🙂

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Just so we all have the same definition of close reading, I wanted to share how I define it:
The process of close reading is reading a short, worthy text more than once to get deeper into its meaning.
(See “A Secret About Close Reading” for more information.)

Here is a fun close reading activity I did with my reading classes a couple of weeks ago.

Standards for this lesson: RL.1 & RI.1 (Inference & text evidence), RL.2 (Theme), RI.2 (Central Idea), RL.3 (Narrative elements interact)

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is a much more complex text than it first seems, so I really wanted to take this fun text and push my students’ thinking to realize that Tacky teaches us more than they first thought.

First read: For the first read of Tacky the Penguin, I just had my students enjoy the story. I love watching kids see this book for the first time because he is such a ridiculous yet awesome penguin.

Second read: When we read the story again, this time I chunked the text and had them take notes about a different characters’ emotions for each section. They then went on our Canvas discussion board and made an inference about how the character was feeling based on their notes and included evidence.

“The other penguins are much more accepting of Tacky at the end. In the text it shows that all the penguins hugged Tacky since his oddness had scared the hunters away and saved them. This action showed that even though they might disagree on how to do things they were still thankful of him.” -EX, 8th grade

“I think that the other penguins, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect are happy that Tacky is around. In the story it is showing all the penguins celebrating that the hunters were gone. Usually when you are celebrating it is because someone has accomplished something and you feel happy for them. So, you can conclude that the other penguins are happy that Tacky is around because he got rid of the hunters and without Tacky they might’ve died.” -JK, 6th grade

For the final section of the text, I asked them to think about the theme of the story, and they answered their inferred theme with evidence on the discussion board.

“I think the theme of Tacky the penguin is that differences can be good. I think that because at first the other penguins didn’t like Tacky because he was very different in the way he acted. They thought he was annoying and didn’t really include him in their group. At the end, they appreciate him because he saved them from the hunters, so his differences were good.” -AN, 8th grade

“The theme is to treat everyone fairly. Because in the beginning the other penguins treated Tacky badly, by excluding him, being annoyed at his greets, singing, and diving. But when Tacky acted like a hero they all appreciated him like they should of in the beginning.” -AK, 8th grade

“I think the theme of TACKY THE PENGUIN is to always be yourself. In the beginning of the story, the other penguins didn’t seem to really like Tacky because he did things so differently from them. However, as the middle towards end of the story, Tacky uses that to his advantage to scare away the hunters. So really, because Tacky was himself, he saved the day!” -DV, 7th grade

As we know, there are many themes that can be taken from a story, and most of the themes I received were spot on and focused primarily on how Tacky may seem odd but that doesn’t mean being different is bad. But there was one theme that I didn’t have any students pick up on, and I felt it was a big one. So, for the third read, I added in another text.

Third read: For the third read, I had my students read an Aesop Fable to connect with Tacky. “The Lion and the Three Bullocks” has the theme “In Unity is Strength” because the bulls survive the predator because they work together. The students did a wonderful job realizing that this theme connected to Tacky because it was only when all the of the penguins worked together that they were able to ward off the hunters.

“The theme “Unity is Strength” works for both books because together they defeated the enemy(ies). In Tacky the Penguin it says, “ Tacky began to sing, and from behind the block of ice came the voices of his companions, all singing as loudly and dreadfully as they could.” This shows that together the penguins can work together to be strong. The next page says “The hunters could not stand the horrible singing” This evidence illustrates that together as a team they can do anything. In Aesop For Children (Three Bullocks and a Lion), it says that a hungry lion is looking for his next meal. He was only sitting and watching because all of them were together so he would lose. In a little bit the bullocks separated and it was the lion’s time to strike (He ate them). This shows that when you are together you can be even stronger then when you were alone.” -EN, 7th grade

At this point, I was so proud of the connections my students were making, but it was still on a level where they were not connecting it to life–they saw it as a penguin and bullocks lesson mostly. This meant that I added in another text that I had them close read:

Scila Elworthy’s TED Talk is titled “Fighting with Nonviolence” and shares how fighting violence with violence is not successful while using nonviolence has been successful. I love TED Talks because you have the video and the transcript! What a great text for the classroom! (And thank you Jennifer Shettel for pointing me in this direction!)

First read: We watched the first 5 minutes and 11 seconds of the TED talk, and I gave each student a Post-It note. I asked them to write down words that stuck out to them. We then shared the words and defined any words they didn’t know.

Second read: For their second read of the text, they went to the transcript and were to focus on the central idea of this section of the text. Each person wrote down their own central idea.

Then I did a variety on one of the discussion ideas that Ricki shared in her Engaging Classroom Discussion Techniques post. Kind of like in Facts of Five, I had students then go into groups of three and come up with a consensus of a central idea together. They then wrote these on sentences strips to display in the room. We also discussed each one and talked about the supporting evidence for each central idea. I called it “Most Important Point.”

“As a group for the “most important point activity” we came up with the point that “solving a problem with violence only ever causes more violence”. Toward the end of the ted talk the speaker gives an example of when her ‘heroine’ was faced with guns during a protest and solved it by walking up to them and getting them to put their guns down. Had she not solved that problem this way it can be assumed that the soldiers would have shot them. By solving a situation with non violence she avoided the problem all together. We concluded from this, and the other points she made in ted talk including Nelson Mandela and her own personal anecdote about non violence, that that was the central point.” -KA, 8th grade

Third read: For the culminating task for all of these texts, I added in one more text to truly make all of this connect to reality. I knew I wanted to pick an image from the Civil Rights Movement because it is a true example of this idea at work. I introduced my students to sit-ins.

I then asked, “Why did we watch this TED Talk and why did I share the Sit-In images after reading Tacky the Penguin and the Aesop Fable? How do they all connect? Write a short paragraph explaining the connection, and remember to Restate, Answer, have Text evidence, and Explain/elaborate.”

All of these connect because they all show them going against things together. In “Tacky the Penguin” all of the penguins started singing in the end together, driving them away. If it was only Tacky singing, the hunters might not have gone away if the other penguins had not shown up.  In “Three Bullocks and a Lion”, the lion would not attack them when they were together because he knew he was no match for all three of them combined. In the Sit- In photo, there are four people sitting at a counter, and in the other photo, it shows them getting drinks poured on them from other people in the restaurant. If there was only one person sitting at the counter, the point would not have been proven as well as it would if there were four. All of them show that when they are together, they are stronger.” -MA, 7th grade

The Ted Talk, Sit-in images, Tacky the Penguin, and Aesop Fable connect because they show how if we stick together and try to solve conflict in nonviolent ways, we will not have to resolve problems with more fighting.  The Ted Talk says that bullies use violence to intimidate, terrorize, and undermine, but “only very rarely in few cases does it work to use more violence.” This just makes people more and more violent. An example is when the “Students who participated in sit-ins refused to become violent” even when people were not treating them fair by not serving them or even pouring a drink on them. Tacky the Penguin helped save all the penguins from being taken away by hunters because he had the attitude that people should be friendly and kind to each other and because he acted like this, it scared the hunters and they ran away. In the Aesop Fable, the bulls were able to keep the lion from eating them by staying close and being strong together. When they began to argue and separated from each other, they were not strong enough alone to keep from being attacked. “It was now an easy matter for the lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.” This shows that we need each other to be strong and reach our goals and when we begin to fight, we lose our strength against enemies. We can control all of this, like she says, “It’s my response, my attitude, to oppression that I’ve got control over, and that I can do something about.” -DA, 6th grade

I was so impressed with my students’ deep thinking, connections, inferences, and elaboration! And overall they truly loved the activity, and I think that it truly shows that a text to analyze can be more than the canon!

 

 

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