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Literacy Now

Putting Books to Work
Making a Case for Reading Joy
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Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
  • ONE IS A FEAST FOR A MOUSE: A THANKSGIVING TALE is a story about the aftermath of a Thanksgiving dinner from the mouse’s point of view. The mouse comes out of his hiding place and surveys the left-overs from the family’s dinner. He chooses one green pea to be his feast and decides to give thanks for what he has to enjoy.
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    Putting Books to Work: Judy Cox's ONE IS A FEAST FOR A MOUSE: A THANKSGIVING TALE

    by Kathy Prater
     | Nov 22, 2011
    ONE IS A FEAST FOR A MOUSE: A THANKSGIVING TALE (Scholastic, 2008) Pre-K through Third Grade

    ONE IS A FEAST FOR A MOUSE: A THANKSGIVING TALE is a story about the aftermath of a Thanksgiving dinner from the mouse’s point of view. The mouse comes out of his hiding place and surveys the left-overs from the family’s dinner. He chooses one green pea to be his feast and decides to give thanks for what he has to enjoy. He then looks further across the table and spots cranberries that look like jewels.

    Of course he has to have one of those as well and balances it on top of the green pea. He then spots an olive and adds it to the pile and then a carrot stick. By the time he gets done crossing the table, he has a balanced mountain of food that is enough for several feasts. He turns to make his way back to his hiding place and meets face to face with the cat. Chaos ensues and the mouse gets safely to his hiding place.

    In choosing to be greedy, the mouse nearly lost everything he had collected and his life. He, however, was pleasantly surprised when peeking out of his hiding place at the end of the story and was able to give thanks for a feast after all.

    Cross-curricular Connections: Social Studies, Science, Reading, Art

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Balancing Objects (Pre-K through Third Grade)

    The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to use mathematical and physics skills to balance a number of objects. After reading the story, the teacher will go back through the book and lead a discussion based on the illustrations for the food the mouse has balanced. Lead a discussion about the reality of the mouse’s ability to balance these specific objects. Talk about gravity and center of balance to the level applicable to your student’s grade.

    Encourage the students to use objects to find a number of items that will balance on each other and a number of items that will not. Some suggestions for available items are plastic cups, bowls, silverware, balls, small cars, small blocks, etc. After the experimental phase of balancing, have students discuss their findings about what is balanceable and what is not. Record findings on chart paper or in journals.

    Feast of Imagination (PreK through Third Grade)

    The purpose of this activity is to engage students’ imaginations in designing a feast for themselves. Have students focus on what would be a “just enough” feast. Review the story after reading to discuss how much the mouse thought was enough for a feast and then how much he attempted to collect. Discuss the differences between “needs” and “wants.” As a closing activity, have students design a multi-part picture by folding a paper in half. On one side of the paper, draw a picture of a “feast” that would be enough to be thankful for and meet the needs of a student. On the opposing side, have the students draw a picture of a feast of everything they would “want” like the mouse chose. Have the student dictate or write their thoughts on the pictures as appropriate to the grade level.

    Feasts Around the World (Second through Third Grade)

    After reading the story, discuss the traditional feast the family ate and compare it to the meager feast of the mouse. Discuss the difference between traditional American feasts and feasts of other cultures. In small groups assign the students to research different feasts from around the world online or in library books. Some suggestions for searching are Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia Day, Sukkot, La Posados, Diwali, etc. After the children have researched the feast day, have them illustrate and write information explaining their holiday. Have students present their findings to each other or to family, friends, and guests as part of a school feast.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Christmas Around the World

    This website lists holiday celebrations by country and gives an explanation of each celebration. The site also includes links to activities, songs, and many other topics specific to Christmas around the world. The countries included here range from Japan to Croatia. The site has easy to understand explanations for how Christmas has been accepted or changed in different parts of the world.

    Celebrate Winter Holidays

    This is a Scholastic web resource for many holidays around the world. The focus of the page is on Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The site provides activities, links to book lists, and explanations for each holiday. For each holiday, there is a teacher guide, links to online content, and student activities. This page would be a good starting place for learning about many different holidays.

    Celebrations Around the World: A Multicultural Handbook (Fulcrum Publishing, 1996)

    This book is a 236 page reference book for festivals and celebrations from countries around the world. The book begins with celebrations in January and looks at celebrations for each month in countries in all parts of the world. This book would be a great resource to help build multicultural understanding all year long and boost acceptance for student differences.

    Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist and Pre-Kindergarten teacher in Starkville, Mississippi. She tutors students with dyslexia and teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi. Her passions include reading, writing, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes that every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement. She has been teaching Christmas Around the World for multi-grade students for the past 18 years.

    WANT TO WRITE FOR ENGAGE? Send your name, the grade level(s) you teach, the title of book that you put to work, and a line or two about how you use it in your classroom to engage-membership@/.

    © 2011 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • INTERRUPTING CHICKEN is a story of a father chicken attempting to put his daughter, Little Chicken, to bed for the night. Little Chicken asks Father to read her a bedtime story and he agrees after reminding her to listen and not interrupt. She promises to be good and the first story begins.
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    Putting Books to Work: INTERRUPTING CHICKEN by David Ezra Stein

    by Kathy Prater
     | Oct 04, 2011
    INTERRUPTING CHICKEN (Candlewick, 2010)
    Pre-K through Third Grade


    INTERRUPTING CHICKEN is a story of a father chicken attempting to put his daughter, Little Chicken, to bed for the night. Little Chicken asks Father to read her a bedtime story and he agrees after reminding her to listen and not interrupt. She promises to be good and the first story begins.

    During the reading of the first story, HANSEL AND GRETEL, Little Chicken begins to listen but has to alter the ending of the story just when the old woman invites the children inside. Little Chicken shows great concern for the characters in the story and doesn’t want them to get hurt. Father reminds her that she is interrupting and she promises, again, to be good. Father begins to read the next story, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, and the same thing happens. Little Chicken gets so involved in the story she feels part of it and tries to save the girl.

    The illustrations in this story tell another tale, showing the emotions that Little Chicken and Father go through during the experience of bed time routines. Young children are captivated by the colorful and detailed illustrations and will ask for the story to be read over again. Each reading brings new interest and the story is easily retold by the children. The illustrations and easy to remember text will help to build literacy skills of retelling, sequencing, and draw readers of all ages into the story of Father and Little Chicken.

    Cross-curricular Connections: Character Education, Science, Reading, Art

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Retelling Using Real Life Experiences (Pre-K through First Grade)

    The purpose of this activity is to engage students with the text and use a retelling of the story to connect with real life experiences. After reading the story to the children, ask them what the problem in the story from Father’s point of view, illustrating the need for Little Chicken to relax and the desire of Father to finish the story. Then discuss the problem from Little Chicken’s point of view, illustrating concern for the characters and a desire to help. Discuss moments in the student’s lives when a similar situation may have occurred. Ask students to illustrate a time when they felt like Little Chicken and write or dictate as appropriate the story of the event.

    Life with Chickens (Second and Third Grade)

    The purpose of this activity is to begin to distinguish fiction and fantasy from nonfiction. Use INTERRUPTING CHICKEN as an opening story for a unit on the life cycle of a chicken. Discuss the surroundings and actions of a chicken and have students brainstorm about a chicken's actual activities. Lead students to determine if the chickens in the story are exhibiting typical behavior of chickens. Then, through guided research, find examples of chickens in typical habitats and compare their activities. Chart similarities and differences between the research findings and the story in INTERRUPTING CHICKEN.

    As a closing activity for this lesson, have students create a class book detailing non-fiction events in the life of a chicken and fiction events in the life of a chicken. Encourage students to share their work in an Author’s Chair experience.

    Telling a Story through Illustrating (Pre-K through Third Grade)

    As a class or small group, examine the illustration in the story. Discuss how the illustrations tell a different story than the words do. Reread the story using only the illustrations. Discuss other wordless picture books such as CAT AND CHICKEN by Sara Varon or ROSIE’S WALK by Pat Hutchins. After studying the illustrations, have children work together in groups, or for younger students work together to create a story using only pictures. Talk about details in illustrating the pictures and how facial features, posture, colors, etc. signify emotions. Share the wordless picture books with younger students or in the school library.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Candlewick's Read to Us! Story-Hour Kit
    This PDF guide provides additional ideas for INTERRUPTING CHICKEN, including having your students create a paper plate puppet for retelling and interrupting the story. The site also includes a reproducible "Bedtime for Papa" page for students to finish telling Little Chicken’s bedtime story. These activities are designed to reinforce awareness of print, understanding of story parts, and retelling skills.

    David Ezra Stein's Website
    This website gives more information about the writer and links to the story and ideas to try, including a making a snappy book. This information can be used to complete an author study or to create the class book for Author’s Chair activities detailed above.

    Chicken Life Cycle
    This website provides a simple overview to the life cycle of a chicken from egg to chick to chicken. The website also provides links to additional information about chickens. This information will be useful in beginning the guided research on non-fiction information about chickens.

    Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist and Pre-Kindergarten teacher in Starkville, Mississippi. She tutors students with dyslexia and teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi. Her passions include reading, writing, tending her flock of 15 chickens, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes that every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement.

    WANT TO WRITE FOR ENGAGE? Send your name, the grade level(s) you teach, the title of book that you put to work, and a line or two about how you use it in your classroom to engage-membership@/.

    © 2011 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • The 39 Clues series appeals to all readers. Fans of adventure, mystery, realistic fiction, and non-fiction will all find their appetite satisfied with the series. In addition, technology-driven kids will be able to tap into online components and gaming elements of the 39 Clues website and collectible trading cards.
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    Putting Books to Work: The 39 Clues series

    by Mike Bentz
     | Sep 01, 2011
     
    The 39 Clues Series (Scholastic, 2008—present)
    Grades 3-7


    The 39 Clues series appeals to all readers. Fans of adventure, mystery, realistic fiction, and non-fiction will all find their appetite satisfied with the series.

    In addition, technology-driven kids will be able to tap into online components and gaming elements of the 39 Clues website and collectible trading cards. This interactive, fast-paced web experience locks readers into an online community where they research and play games in order to find out more information to solve the clues. There they can research more about the various non-fiction connections to the series, as well as broaden their knowledge of historical figures and events.

    Middle grade readers of all levels are able to access the books, and reluctant readers will quickly see a familiar story pattern and characters in each novel. Readers with limited background knowledge instantly become “experts” on the series after reading the first novel, and are encouraged to research even more to “one up” their Cahill opponents.

    Due to the collaborative nature of the series—which is written by several authors working together—readers no longer have to wait a year or more for the next installment. In fact, new books are released every three to four months!

    The 39 Clues provides students with a uniquely multi-dimensional and extremely motivating reading experience unlike any other series out there. Try starting with THE MAZE OF BONES in your classroom, and you’ll instantly see the magic of this high-interest series.

    Cross-curricular Connections: history, geography, math, writing, art

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Mirroring Mentor Texts

    We all know that kids need to study mentor texts—what better way to teach good writing skills by studying texts connecting to what the kids are actually reading!

    You can illustrate the various traits of writing, such as ideas, organization, or voice with the 39 Clues books (Scholastic’s 39 Clues Educator Network has some great resources for this). Ask kids to use colored Post-Its to identify examples of the traits of writing throughout the text. Then, take a closer look at each individual trait.

    Divide your class into small groups to research the style of each series author. For instance, how does Margaret Petterson Haddix’s word choice differ from that of Gordon Korman? You could also ask them to look at how diction varies depending on which characters are narrating or speaking.

    Finally, have students “mirror” what the series authors do, either by incorporating these traits into their own writing or by imitating the style of a given author.

    Fabulous Freewrites

    The ideas in the 39 Clues series lend themselves to all different genres of writing—mystery, non-fiction, and historical fiction, to name a few. You can even use the series to work with persuasive writing.

    Offer your students the following prompt:
    Given the choice, would you take the million dollars Grace Cahill offered in her will, or would you join the hunt for the 39 clues in an attempt to become the most powerful person in the world?

    Allow students to write for ten minutes. Then, invite them to share their decisions and reasons why.

    Create Your Own Trading Cards

    The 39 Clues program includes a series of collectible trading cards that unlock games, puzzles, and additional clues online. My students couldn’t wait to get the “ultra-rare” card in the first series, and were full of predictions about what it might mean to the hunt. They were so fascinated with the cards that I decided to have them make their own!

    Kids design their own personal card with an illustration of themselves with their “family” symbols around them, much like the crests that symbolize the branches of the Cahill family in the series.

    On the back of the card, students listed traits from Ruth Culham’s 6+1 TRAITS OF WRITING, along with examples from their own writing that showed where they had nailed a specific trait. These “stats” inspired them to pay even more attention to these components of good writing.

    Virtual Visits

    Your class can travel the world with Dan and Amy, learning geography and strengthening math skills in the process. Related activities include:

    • Mapping places the characters visit and learning more about them
    • Keeping checking accounts and travel expense reports for the Cahills
    • Practice division and multiplication by exchanging money as Dan and Amy would on their travels
    • Tackle problem solving skills through tracking the Cahills across the different time zones
    My students have been fascinated with learning all about the different settings in hopes that they might be able to “unlock” the secret of the clues.

    Develop Digital Literacy Skills with Classroom Wikis and Blogs

    Naturally, the 39 Clues unlocked an entire world of extra reading and research to my students. They started a wiki and blog dedicated to the series, where they shared predictions and theories, compiled facts they researched about different related topics, and built an online community of learners centered around researching all different aspects of the books.

    This ReadWriteThink lesson plan can be easily adapted for a 39 Clues-themed project.

    As moderator, I had to tell my students to stop blogging on numerous occasions—they were researching late into the night during the week, all on their own!

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    The 39 Clues Teaching Resources (Grades 3-7)
    This collection of materials from Scholastic includes curriculum guides, book talks, video interviews, text and audiobook excerpts, activities, and more.

    Decoding Writing with the 39 Clues (Grades 3-6)
    Teach Ruth Culham’s traits of writing program with the 39 Clues series.

    Web 2.0: Beyond Google (Grades 3-8)
    Get an overview of new literacies in this article, which includes links to Web 2.0 sites that are perfect for educators.

    Teaching with Blogs (Grades 6-12)
    This ReadWriteThink Strategy Guide covers all the basics of blogging in the classroom and has many links to related resources.

    Mike Bentz has been teaching fourth and fifth grade in Solana Beach, California for fourteen years. He has a Master's Degree in Literacy from the University of San Diego. Mike has collaborated with Scholastic for the 39 Clues series and has offered insight into webcasts, blogs, and teacher guides for the books. He spoke at the International Reading Association conference in 2011 with authors Gordon Korman, Linda Sue Park, Peter Lerangis, and Ruth Culham. Mike's classroom won the 2009 Classrooms of the Future "Inspire Award" for their work with the 39 Clues.

    © 2011 Mike Bentz. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


    Putting Books to Work: Rick Walton's I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY!

    Putting Books to Work: George O’Connor’s HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD
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