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Literacy Now

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ILA 2019 Replay
  • DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA provides a good introduction to the differences traditions can make in families. Sadie, the young girl in this story, has parents who are from two different backgrounds. The story shows a marvelous blend of traditions that honor both parents’ beliefs. Sadie’s father celebrates Christmas and her mother celebrates Hanukkah. The story explains how the two were able to mix the two together to teach Sadie about both.
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: Selina Alko's DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA

    by Kathy Prater
     | Dec 12, 2012
    DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012)
    Written and illustrated by Selina Alko
    Pre-K through Grade 3


    DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA provides a good introduction to the differences traditions can make in families.

    Sadie, the young girl in this story, has parents who are from two different backgrounds. The story shows a marvelous blend of traditions that honor both parents’ beliefs. Sadie’s father celebrates Christmas and her mother celebrates Hanukkah. The story explains how the two were able to mix the two together to teach Sadie about both.

    Each page has marvelous illustrations which show both holidays being celebrated in conjunction. Sadie’s dad makes latkes while her mom hangs stockings. In this story, Santa’s favorite treat is not cookies, but rather latkes. When they decorate, the family uses both reindeer and Queen Esther. Candy canes adorn the menorah branches. Caroling includes songs from both holidays. The book ends with a look at the timeline of all other holidays celebrated by the family, which includes a mix of both parents’ backgrounds.

    DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA is a playful and intricate blending of the two very different holidays and provides a great example of acceptance of other people’s beliefs.

    Cross-curricular connections: Social Studies, Art, Math, English

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Christmas Around the World

    The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to many different cultures and areas with which they may not be familiar. For older students, this can be a research project for individuals or small groups, and for younger students, this can be a class project looking at a different culture every day. Ask students what holiday is coming up soon and acknowledge their answers. Some areas may have an answer of Hanukkah, some Christmas, and some may even talk about other holidays, such as St. Lucia’s Day. Then, ask the students if everyone in the world celebrates the same holiday they do during the winter. Allow children time to answer thoughtfully.

    After this discussion, read the book DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA. Ask students to compare the events in the book with the events in their own life. Do they have the same traditions or different ones? Record their thoughts for further use.

    Explain to the children that not all people celebrate the same holidays. Ask if the students know anyone who celebrates differently than they do. Take note of any alternate holidays mentioned. As a class, or in small groups/individually, look into other countries’ process of holidays. Some suggestions to study are Diwali in India, St. Lucia’s Day in Italy, and Las Posadas in Mexico. Discover the types of decorations used, the foods that are eaten, the season the holiday is in, etc.

    Make a poster comparing the different traditions in each country. Showcase this information in a holiday party to teach other people about the different ways we can celebrate during the winter months.

    Hanukkah vs. Christmas Graph

    The purpose of this activity is to use the illustrations in DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA to chart the different items that are Hanukkah traditions and Christmas traditions. Using a t-chart, list all the items found in the illustrations that are Christmas on one side and then all the Hanukkah items on the other.

    Students will then transfer this information in a graph using colors appropriate for each holiday. The Christmas graph could be in red and green, while the Hanukkah one could in blue and gold. Compare the two holidays to see if the family mixed the traditions evenly or if one had more items than the other.

    Some items may be unfamiliar to students and may need justification as to why they belong in each column.

    Alternate methods would be to give a group of students illustrations from different pages to use to compare. Then the groups’ results could be compared for consistency throughout the book.

    Traditions

    The purpose of this activity is to engage students in discussion with their families about Christmas traditions. Have students talk to their families about what traditions they use during their winter holiday. Send home a list of similar topics for Christmas Around the World, and have students list the foods they typically share, the types of presents that are given, the activities they usually do, and where the traditions started. Encourage dialogue between family members about the family’s cultural backgrounds.

    Have students create a book about their family’s traditions to share with the class. Older students can create their own storyline and younger students can dictate the story to a teacher to write down.

    As a culmination for this project, invite parents to bring in a food or other item that they feel showcases their family’s tradition. Have students share their books and items to the class to promote acceptance of other cultures.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Christmas Around the World This website is a compilation of information by countries regarding their winter holidays. The explanations are easy for younger students to understand and provide a variety of information about each country’s traditions. This site will be a good starting point for teaching students about different winter festivals.

    Staple-less Books
    This website provides a customizable staple-less book for students to create their traditions books. The students can type in the stories and add a digital image or print it out to add hand drawn illustrations. The book has directions for folding and is easy to use.

    How We Celebrate Hanukkah
    This website provides a quick look at the holiday of Hanukkah and provides information to adults needing to explain the holiday to children. The site provides an overview, blessings, traditions, history, and activities that can be used to explain the traditions. A Hanukkah book list is also included with both adult and children’s books listed.

    Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, 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.

    © 2012 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


    Reviews of New Holiday Books

    Putting Books to Work: Jan Brett's HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
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  • I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY! is a perfect opportunity for introducing citizenship and patriotism this month. The pictures are a large part of the story and must be seen to appreciate the simple text. A young girl is having issues with her family, especially a baby brother. She decides to make her own space through the creation of her own country.
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    • Putting Books to Work

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

    by Kathy Prater
     | Nov 06, 2012
    I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY! (Bloomsbury, 2012)
    Written by Rick Walton and illustrated by Wes Hargis
    Pre-K through Grade 8


    I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY! is a perfect opportunity for introducing citizenship and patriotism this month.

    The pictures are a large part of the story and must be seen to appreciate the simple text. A young girl is having issues with her family, especially a baby brother. She decides to make her own space through the creation of her own country. The story documents her ideas and needs in order to assert her independence. She chooses her location, creates a name, and a flag for her country. She then posts her name on her bedroom wall and decides that she needs a bit of company. She invites citizens, and then subjects them to her rules and punishments for breaking them.

    The remainder of the book follows her through the creation of national items, invasions, and visits from foreign dignitaries. Just like in the world today, what happens is often not what we were expecting and planning for. The pictures are MUST SEE to help build the interest and characters in the story. While this is a picture book designed for young readers, it can be used throughout upper elementary and middle school grades as well. This book works well as an outline of what students need to do to develop a country of their own.

    Cross-curricular connections: Social Studies, Art, Math, English

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Create a Country/Study an Established Country

    The purpose of this activity is to introduce the process of naming and establishing a country. After reading I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY!, have students in younger grades work in small groups. Students should decide on a name, location, and choose “national things” like a flag, flower, songs, etc. Students should be able to justify their choices with explanations as to why those items, names, and locations are important to them.

    Flag for DayZ Elektro country. Designed by Alex, 7th grade.
    Upper grades can work in groups to determine the same information about existing countries. The students will research their group’s choice of country and present the information in a way to capture the other students’ attention. Students can create posters, PowerPoints, or brochures to showcase their country’s important information.

    Students should be given an opportunity to showcase their work through a display or presentation to a group of parents, or other classes. A Veteran’s Day visit to the classroom would be a great opportunity to show their thoughts about their country.

    Laws

    The purpose of this activity is to introduce the students to the process of making laws. After reading, I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY!, study the pages that show the laws and punishments for the girl’s country. Discuss the process of making laws in the country you live in. Determine the process of how laws begin, are studied, are passed, and how punishments are assigned. This process should be tailored to the grade level and knowledge of the students. Students who are younger will need a much more simplified pathway for this process. As the students discuss the process of creating laws, encourage them to think about laws their country will need or want.

    Have students work in small groups, or independently, to create a set of laws and punishments for breaking the laws. Students should create a bill of rights, a list of rules, and a list of punishments to display in their country’s presentation. Students should be able to justify their reasoning for the laws and how the punishments will help to teach the citizens to do the right thing.

    Students should be allowed to present this information in a classroom presentation to other classmates and/or parents.

    Goods and Services

    The purpose of this activity is to simulate the process of currency and trade within a country for younger students. After reading I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY!, and creating the previous two activities, students should engage in a discussion of how people trade with one another. Have students create their own version of currency for their country. They will then need to discuss what their money can purchase and how much items are worth. Students should develop a list of items that their country can provide, as well as a list of items they will need from other places. Students in separate groups can work together to develop a system of trade between countries for different services. Will your money be worth the same amount in a foreign country?

    Upper grades could use this book to develop a system of foreign trade and goods to supply needs to all countries. Discuss the ability to find resources in certain areas and having to share it with others. How will each country fulfill all of its needs?

    Students should be allowed to present their own currency and list of trade goods to the classroom, and/or parents.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Rick Walton This website is a compilation of funny information about the author of I NEED MY OWN COUNTRY! The website includes information about Mr. Walton, his books, teaching ideas for some of his books, and links to “fun stuff,” including ways to play with words. An email link is included if the class wanted to find out more information about his newest book.

    Kids in the House: How Laws are Made
    This website provides background information about how a bill becomes a law in the House of Representatives. The page gives explanations of the steps taken to pass a law and further links for lesson plans for this process. The main website includes extensive information discussing the processes used in the House of Representatives. Links are available from young learners through high school-aged students.

    Social Studies for Kids: Economics
    This website provides an easy-to-understand look at the world or economics. The page includes links for what a budget is, what trade is, and how money has changed. The website also includes links to interactive pages to further teach economics. Many resources and explanations are available through links on this website.

    Countries of the World
    This website provides quick links to facts about several countries worldwide. The countries listed are shown with location, flag, history, current ruling information, economy, and several other areas. This link would provide a good starting point for choosing a country to research.

    Kathy Prater is a reading specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an adjunct professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, 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.

    © 2012 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


    5 Questions With... Laurie Calkhoven (I GREW UP TO BE PRESIDENT)

    Book Reviews: Elections & Presidents
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  • HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD is the fourth graphic novel in George O’Connor’s Olympians series. The series will ultimately feature a graphic novel for all twelve of the major Greek gods and goddesses. The books featuring Zeus, Athena, and Hera have previously been published, and Poseidon is scheduled to arrive in 2013.
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    • Putting Books to Work

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

    by Aimee Rogers
     | Oct 31, 2012
    HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD. (First Second, 2012)
    Written and illustrated by George O’Connor
    Grades 5-12


    HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD is the fourth graphic novel in George O’Connor’s Olympians series. The series will ultimately feature a graphic novel for all twelve of the major Greek gods and goddesses. The books featuring Zeus, Athena, and Hera have previously been published, and Poseidon is scheduled to arrive in 2013. In each graphic novel, O’Connor seeks to share some of the origins of the featured god or goddess, provide a sense of the god or goddess’ personality and their role in the ancient world, and highlight one of the stories associated with the god or goddess. These goals are met through O’Connor’s sometimes modern text (Hermes refers to Zeus as “Pop,” etc.) as well as his superb illustrations.

    This story of Hades focuses on how he found/took a wife, Persephone, and features an extensive look into the underworld and some of its most famous inhabitants including Cerberus, Tantalos, Sisyphus, and the Kindly Ones. Hermes Psychopompos plays a major role in this graphic novel as well, as he is the messenger to the gods in addition to the one who transports or guides the dead to Hades. As Persephone’s mother, Demeter, goddess of agriculture and the seasons, also has a prominent role in this graphic novel. Unbeknownst to Demeter, Zeus had promised her daughter Kore (she changes her name to Persephone when she becomes queen of the underworld) to Hades as his wife.

    One day, surrounded by a storm of dark clouds and tremendous winds, Hades sweeps in and takes Kore. Demeter, not knowing what has become of her daughter, spends months searching for her, and during this time, she neglects her duties, which causes the earth to become barren and the crops to fail. Meanwhile, Kore/Persephone is adjusting to life in the underworld and is beginning to appreciate both Hades and her role as a queen. Eventually Demeter discovers who took her daughter and she confronts Zeus demanding the return of Kore/Persephone, but by this time Persephone has grown accustomed to her new home and to seal the deal she has eaten six pomegranate seeds, with the result that she must spend six months of each year in the underworld. The six months she spends with her mother on earth are indicated by the seasons of spring and summer, while the six months she spends with Hades are the fall and winter.

    The art and the text in each panel work together seamlessly to provide readers with the complete and intriguing story. O’Connor’s artistic style can be described as sketchy (meaning lots of somewhat rough lines) and realistic. The feelings and mindset of all the story’s players are obvious by the way O’Connor draws their faces and body stance. O’Connor is a master at using color to convey the different moods and settings. The underworld is conveyed in dark, but layered, hues, while vibrant colors indicate the world above when Demeter is happy and muted, washed-out colors when she is without her daughter.

    O’Connor’s graphic novel format and storytelling style will allow readers of all ages and abilities access to his retelling of some of the stories surrounding Hades. In author’s notes, notes on individual panels and a bibliography, O’Connor also provides information on his research and writing process, as well as further details about each of the primary characters.

    Cross-curricular Connections: History/Social Studies, Language Arts/English, Visual Literacy, Art and Science (in regards to the seasons and the gems and minerals of Hades’ realm)

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Supplemental Text (Grades 5-12)

    The easiest, and probably the most obvious, use of HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD would be as a supplemental text. I think that this graphic novel and the others in the series would help a textbook passage on ancient Greece come alive. There are many ways that this could be done without requiring class sets of books, such as reading it to the class using a document camera. Another option is to divide students into small groups with one copy per group. If this were done with the graphic novels for different gods and goddess, students could jigsaw about their findings in small groups.

    Greek God/Goddess Trading Cards (Grades 5-12)

    At the end of each graphic novel, O’Connor provides a page long rundown of each god or goddesses stats along with a picture. For example, on page 75, of HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD, is Demeter’s page. It includes: what she is goddess of, her Roman name, her symbols, her sacred animals, her plants and places, her month, her celestial body, and her modern legacy. Based on this idea, students could create their own trading cards for chosen gods or goddesses or other major players in Greek mythology. ReadWriteThink’s Trading Card Creator (now available as an iPad app) makes a perfect tool for this project.

    An Olympian Family Tree (Grades 5-12)

    On the back of the front cover of HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD, O’Connor provides a family tree of the major Greek gods and goddess, including the Titans and the Olympians. This provides a great jumping off point for the creation of a class-wide family tree. Groups could be assigned different branches or generations of the tree to research and create entries for on the tree. The required information could be varied depending on the grade of the students and the depth of the course, but could include an illustration of his/her symbol, powers or gifts and domains.

    Another interesting activity using the family tree would be to compare the Greek family tree to the Roman family tree as many of the same gods and goddess were maintained but their names and other characteristics were changed.

    A Modern Hell (Grades 5-12)

    Hades had appropriate ways of making the inhabitants of his realm atone for their earthly sins. One such example, in HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD, is Tantalos. He was once a favored mortal of the gods, but he murdered his son and then concealed his son’s body in food that he served to the Olympian gods and goddess. His punishment was to spend eternity hungry and thirsty even though he was surrounded by water and grape vines. Each time he bent to take a drink the water receded and each time he reached for the grape vines they would move beyond his grasp. Students could develop appropriate eternal punishments for modern crimes and/or for literary or historical evildoers. How would texting in class be punished in the underworld? What punishment would Voldemort face? How might Hitler atone for his crimes?

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Titans, Gods, and Mortals—Your Source for All Things Olympian
    George O’Connor’s website for the Olympians series provides additional information about the Greek gods and goddesses, as well as his obsession with the topic, and related activities. One of the most interesting activities involves two different versions of the same panel; one version doesn’t include any text and the other doesn’t include any illustrations. Students would need to fill-in their own versions of what was missing. There are also several Readers’ Theater scripts and a matching game.

    The Online World of Rick Riordan
    The Percy Jackson and the Olympians novels of Rick Riordan are a perfect intertextual match to O’Connor’s graphic novels. Riordan’s books are set in the modern world, but the Greek gods and goddesses still exist and, to some extent, play a role in daily life. Riordan’s website provides more information on Greek mythology and further activities centered around the gods and goddesses. This would also be a good place to send students who have become taken with the topic of Greek mythology to find additional books to read.

    Theoi Greek Mythology: Exploring Mythology in Classical Literature and Art
    This website is an extensive collection of information on Greek mythology. Although it is massive, it is well-organized, which makes it is easy to find what you are looking for. The site does focus on more than just the Greek gods and goddesses, but a wealth of information is provided about each god or goddesses, including ancient images, links to myths, encyclopedia entries, offspring, cult status, and so on.

    Ancient Greek & Roman Gods for Kids
    Although this website is loaded with ads, it is worth surfing around because of all the resources it gathers in one place. There are links to lesson plans, games, craft activities, and more, all focused on Greek and Roman mythology.

    Aimee Rogers is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota studying children’s and adolescent literature. Prior to her return to school, Aimee taught high school students with special needs, in a wide variety of settings, for ten years. She misses working with adolescents but is developing a passion for working with undergraduate pre-service teachers. She has a growing interest in graphic novels for children and young adults and is hoping to make them the topic of her upcoming dissertation.

    © 2012 Aimee Rogers. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


    Something Wicked This Way Comes: Scary Booooooooks!

    Get to Know the 2012 Annual Convention Authors: George O'Connor
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  • A BREAK WITH CHARITY: A STORY ABOUT THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS is an historical fiction novel set against the backdrop of Salem Village. The story centers on the witchcraft trials through the perspective of Susanna English, who knew that the young women who "cried out" against witches were aware of what they were getting themselves into. Loathe to reveal their secret, for fear of retribution against her or her family, Susanna struggles with guilt as each one of the nonconformists who was accused were led to the gallows.
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    Putting Books to Work: Ann Rinaldi's A BREAK WITH CHARITY: A STORY ABOUT THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

    by Susan Kaye Jennings
     | Oct 22, 2012
    This post originally appeared on the Engage/Teacher to Teacher blog in October 2011.

    A BREAK WITH CHARITY: A STORY ABOUT THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS by Ann Rinaldi (Perfection Learning, 2003)
    Grades 6-10

    A BREAK WITH CHARITY: A STORY ABOUT THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS is an historical fiction novel set against the backdrop of Salem Village. The story centers on the witchcraft trials through the perspective of Susanna English, who knew that the young women who "cried out" against witches were aware of what they were getting themselves into. Loathe to reveal their secret, for fear of retribution against her or her family, Susanna struggles with guilt as each one of the nonconformists who was accused were led to the gallows.

    Using this book in the classroom will provide students the opportunity to step inside an episode in history while reading a novel. Using historical fiction in the classroom will help you present past events in a fun and interesting way. It’s also a great way to incorporate research skills into your lessons.

    Cross-curricular Connections: history, art, research, writing

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Characterization of the Accused

    In this activity, students complete a characterization portrait on one or more of the accused girls in Salem. The students will look into the history of these girls and create a portrait of them to help them visualize how these girls were portrayed during this period. Some questions to ponder:
    • Who exactly were these girls?
    • What made the community think they were practicing witchcraft?
    • How did they react when accused?
    • Did they confess?
    • What happened to them?
    Creating an Interactive Timeline of the Salem Witch Trials

    Using historical fiction and nonfiction, students create a visual timeline of the events that occurred during the time period of the Salem Witch Trials. Using the Timeline Tool at ReadWriteThink, the students will conduct a historical date search within books and websites that are based on the Salem Witch Trials.

    Completing the timeline will help the students create a visual graphic organizer of the time period that will aid in their comprehension. They can create a timeline that extends from the birth of Salem to the end of the witch trials or just cover the beginning of the trials to the end.

    Explore More Literature on the Salem Witch Trials
    • Aronson, M. (2003). Witch-hunt: mysteries of the Salem witch trials. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    • Duble, K. B. (2007). The sacrifice. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.
    • Hemphill, S. (2010). Wicked girls: A novel of the Salem witch trials. New York: Balzer & Bray.
    • Jackson, S. (1956). The witchcraft of Salem Village. New York: Random House Landmark Books.
    • Miller, A. (2003). The crucible. New York: Penguin Classics.
    • Myers, A. (2009). Time of the witches. New York: Scholastic.
    • Petry, A. (1991). Tituba of Salem Village. New York: Harper Collins.
    • Wallis, J. (2005). The Salem witch trials. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
    • Yolen, J. & Stemple, H. (2004). The Salem witch trials: An unsolved mystery from history. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Salem Witch Trials: The World Behind the Hysteria (Grades 6-10)
    Discovery Education’s media-rich site offers images depicting life in 1692 Salem, a narrated summary of the witch hunt, and information about the people behind the trials. There’s also a wonderful list of Teacher Tips for creating a classroom unit on the trials.

    An Exploration of The Crucible through Seventeenth-Century Portraits (Grades 9-12)
    Students create Trading Cards for one or more characters in THE CRUCIBLE. You could adapt this to A BREAK WITH CHARITY, as it pairs nicely with the written character analysis assignment given here. ReadWriteThink’s Character Trading Cards interactive provides the perfect starting point.

    Beyond the Story: A Dickens of a Party (Grades 6-8)
    This is another lesson plan that’s easily adapted to most works of historical fiction. Students research the time period of a book and collaboratively plan a party for its characters. You could assign them characters to portray while attending the party (perhaps the same characters they’ve created Trading Cards for).

    Susan Kaye Jennings is a graduate assistant at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Previously, she taught self-contained life skills to students in (K-5) for nine and a half years. at the same elementary school she went to as a child. Her passions include teaching reading to children with special needs, working with teachers to determine effective instructional methods/strategies, using reading assessment to drive instruction in the classroom, and using children's literature in the classroom.

    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@/

    © 2012 Susan Kaye Jennings. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


    Putting Books to Work: Judy Cox's ONE IS A FEAST FOR A MOUSE: A THANKSGIVING TALE

    Season's Turning: Autumn Book Reviews
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  • The Weird series introduces readers to Luisa, Jayla, and Sam—three girls intertwined in a bullying experience. Each story is told from their own viewpoint—the victim, the bystander, and the bully. In the first book, WEIRD!, we meet Luisa who is the target of the bullying. She endures relentless putdowns aimed at her unique style and personality.
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: The Weird series

    by Roxanne Davidson
     | Oct 09, 2012
    The Weird series (Free Spirit Publishing)
    Written by Erin Frankel and illustrated by Paula Heaphy
    Grades 1 through 5


    The Weird series introduces readers to Luisa, Jayla, and Sam—three girls intertwined in a bullying experience. Each story is told from their own viewpoint—the victim, the bystander, and the bully. In the first book, WEIRD!, we meet Luisa who is the target of the bullying. She endures relentless putdowns aimed at her unique style and personality. This causes her to emotionally suffer and become confused as to why this is happening and how to make it stop. She finally reveals the truth of what is going on to her mother who helps her reclaim her former self-confidence.

    In the second book, DARE!, we are introduced to Jayla the bystander of the bully problem. In the beginning, Jayla does nothing to stop Luisa being tormented because she is afraid of the bully. Readers discover Jayla was also once a victim of the girl's taunts. Author Erin Frankel shows us the danger of becoming a bystander in the second book when Jayla joins in the bullying because she feels intimidated and pressured into doing so. One day Jayla dares herself to take a stand and have courage to fight this problem. She learns to cope with her past fears by befriending Luisa and standing up for her.

    In the concluding book of the series, TOUGH!, we meet Sam who has been behind all of the bullying. But readers also discover what is underneath all of the mean behavior. Sam is exposed to television programs depicting bullying behavior, bullied by her brother at home, and has also been picked on at school. The only way she feels she can regain control is by hurting others and acting tough to cover up her own secret pain. Sam finally loses her bullying ways when a teacher intervenes and offers to help. Her anger and desire to lash out at others subsides when she begins to use kindness and compassion.

    The illustrations in this story will definitely spur discussion. It is illustrated in black and white except for the characters in each book who are in color. Two of the same pages overlap and appear in each book. Each book in the series also includes an activity guide and helpful information for adults. The Weird! series is a powerful teaching tool about bullying. It's insightful, creative, and will touch students' hearts and minds and empower them to stop bullying.

    Cross-curricular connections: Character Education, Writing, Art, Language Arts

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Character Study through Illustrations

    Lead a discussion around the use of color in the books. Divide the class into three groups and give them each a different book to study. Allow them to take notes on their observations by using sticky notes. On a white board, write the names of each different book and allow each group to put all of their observations under each title. Students can also take it a step further and try to interpret why they feel color was used this way.

    Some observations students should look for and discussion points:

    • The story is black and white except for the main characters.
    • The main characters are in color.
    • Luisa's colors fade as the bullying continues.
    • Jayla's colors fade as she stands by silently watching Luisa being bullied and joins in on the bullying.
    • Luisa's polka dots float away, Jayla's stars fade, and Sam wears hearts under a hoodie.
    • Luisa's polka dots come back bigger and brighter than ever.
    • Jayla's stars come back in full color.
    • Sam stops hiding behind her hooded sweatshirt and we see her hearts as we see her kindness begin to grow.
    Insightful questions:

    • What color do you feel when you are happy?
    • What color do you feel when you are bullied or when you see someone else being bullied?
    • What happens to your color when you feel powerless?
    • What happens when you are empowered?
    • How can you protect your color?
    • How can you protect other people's colors?
    As a closing activity for this lesson, have students write and illustrate their own story about bullying from their point of view. Were they the victim, bystander, or maybe even the bully? Encourage students to use color in a similar fashion as it was in the Weird! series to represent their power and how they overcame their problem. Allow students to share their stories with the classroom community. For younger students, allow them to do a drawing using colors that make them feel courageous, confident, and kind.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    PACER
    This website contains information from the creators of National Bullying Prevention Month and The National Center for Bullying Prevention that helps promote awareness and teach effective ways to respond to bullying.
    Kids’ site: www.pacerkidsagainstbullying.org
    Teen site: www.pacerteensagainstbullying.org

    NEA Bully Free Schools
    This website provides information on NEA’s bullying prevention campaign. There are also tips and resources to help you address the issue of bullying in your classroom.

    Choose Kind
    This is a blog inspired by R.J. Palacio’s WONDER. It contains links to anti-bullying resources and opportunities to use the novel in conjunction with efforts to get your students to “choose kindness.”

    Teaching Tolerance
    This website by the Southern Poverty Law Center offers a documentary, classroom activities, and teaching kits that promote tolerance.

    The Trevor Project
    This website is a companion to the Trevor Lifeline, a 24-hour, national crisis and suicide prevention lifeline for gay and questioning teens. The site offers teacher resources, tips, and training. The number for the hotline is 1-866-4-U-Trevor.

    Bully Free Program
    This website offers a range of tips for dealing with bullying for teachers, students, and parents.

    Claim Your Rights
    The Claim Your Rights program is designed to help everyone understand that they have the right to safer schools. This resource helps students, parents, and teachers report incidences of bullying, particularly when schools deny that bullying exists.

    Roxanne Davidson has been working as an elementary school counselor since obtaining her Master's Degree in Education in 2005. Bibliotherapy has always been a passion of hers as she has witnessed the healing power of books in her students' lives. She has made it her mission to help teachers, children, and parents find contemporary books to help them address the many issues kids currently deal with in the classroom and at home. This inspired her to start the popular book review blog, Books That Heal Kids. Besides writing for her blog she enjoys running, reading and spending time with her husband and daughter.

    © 2012 Roxanne Davidson. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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