An Eclectic's Perspective
Thursday, February 02, 2006
I was reading the article "Developing Teaching Strategies" when I was really struck by how many ways the author had designed to "sell" reading to children. It was such an odd concept to me since I have always loved to read, as have most of my friends. But I suppose that that is not necessarily the rule. Many students would much rather play sports or video games or do anything else than read a book. As a result, I wonder if the author isn't right whenhe/she states that some reading incentive programs are not very effective. I hadn't thought of it before but rewarding reading with prizes or parties does seem to reinforce that the reading itself isn't rewarding. On the other hand, it might serve to motivate some students who wouldn't read otherwise. One reading incentive I really like is the book clubs where students can read several books in order to be able to vote on them receiving awards (I think that's the Red Cedar awards). Also, when I was in an elementary book club we read several books by a particular local author and then the teacher invited her in to sign our books and talk to us. I felt very proud to have an autographed copy of Your Time, My Time by Ann Walsh. I guess maybe I would like to believe that providing interesting, engaging literary experiences will be enough to get every child to love reading but I suppose there are times when we need to "sell" literature and provide a little extra incentive. However, I think I am a bit reluctant to use incentive programs unless it is on an individual level but I guess we need lots of different ideas so we can try to engage every student in some way.
Gary Paulsen's The River would be the kind of novel that would spark a lot of discussion among students. Part of its appeal is that it represents an experience that is far different from the norm. One of the topics that would be interesting to discuss in literature circles is the idea of individual responsibility and responsibility for others. For example, having students consider how they would have felt in Brian's place when he is faced with staying at the lake and waiting for help or trying to go down the river. Would they have made the same decision as Brian? Another issue to consider is Brian's motivation for returning to "the wild". What does it show about Brian's personality? A third issue to have students discuss is a situation where they have been responsible for someone else's safety or their own safety. What emotions did they feel and how did they respond?
An activity that I thought might be fun to do with this novel is to take the measurements and descriptions provided in the novel and try to create a 3-D diorama of the river. This could be integrated into math, geography and art as students use measurement, maps and creativity in their dioramas. This is a novel that has a lot of issues for discussion and opportunities for various activities that use multiple intelligences. Not to mention that it is interesting and engaging in its own right.
Read Aloud Book
The book I chose to do for my read aloud was "Ah, Ces Oiseaux!" by Christiane Duchesne and illustrated by Barbara Reid. I wanted to show an example of the work by this author/ illustrator combo. One of the strengths of this book is its vocabulary. It has a lot of different birds species listed which is also a difficulty since it is French so I had to look up some of the words to make sure I understood the definition. There are also some elements of suspense and humor in this book and even though it is a picture book it would integrate well into a grade 5/6 study of animals in Core French.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
For the recommended bibliography, I chose to focus on two specific authors who have created several wonderful pieces of literature. For intermediate readers, a personal favorite is Ann Walsh. The first book of hers that really got me hooked as a child was "Your Time, My Time" which is a fictional story in which a young girl is forced to move to Wells, BC. She discovers a magical ring that allows her to travel back in time and explore the historic town of Barkerville, BC in all its glory. Other titles include "Moses, Me & Murder" in which, Ann Walsh fictionalizes a sensational historic murder that occurred around Barkerville. The main character is a young boy in this one and he must help discover who has murdered his friend Moses. Another title is "The Ghost of Soda Creek" in which a small ghost child contacts two teenagers and they solve a mystery. What I appreciate about these books is that the author has written for both boys and girls and each title has some elements that will most likely appeal to many students. Also the Cariboo locations and historic content are very meaningful to students from the area, especially since Barkerville is a frequent site for field trips.
An author and illustrator combo that I really like for primary students are the books by Christiane Duchesne and illustrated by Barbara Reid. Two titles available are "Quel Beau Petit!" and "Les Beaux Coxhons de Lili Tire-Bouchon". What I like about these two books is that they come in French and English translations, which can be very beneficial for teaching both subjects. Also the illustrations in "Quel Beau Petit!" are all handmade plasticine scenes, which provides opportunities for art integration and are very appealing to children. In "Les Beau Cochons de Lili Tire-Bouchon" the main character is a young girl who decides to make stuffed pigs to raise money. However, she finds in the end that she does not want to sell them because she loves them too much. This book also comes as a book on tape with songs and although Barbara Reid didn't illustate the version I had the pictures are very well illustrated. The vocabulary in these books is very strong and introduces students to the names of many different animals. Also a theme in both books is social/ community relationships. This author/illustrator combo has also created other books both separately and together but these are two that I have really enjoyed.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
|In The Jungle|
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Friday, January 20, 2006
The multicultural book I reviewed is Kumak's Fish; A Tall Tale from the Far North". It is an entertaining fictional narrative about an Inuit family's ice fishing trip. Michael Bania is both the author and the illustrator of this book and I feel that that enhanced the relationship between the text and the illustrations. One of the many nice things about this book was that it provided a relatively contemporary view of the Inuit. That is, there is a mixture of traditional and contemporary practices portrayed. Also, the values of community connectedness and perseverance are transmitted without any negative characters. It is a very positive book. The only concern I had was the centrality of the male character Kumak. The other characters in the book tended to be identified by their relationship to Kumak more than a given name (ie. Kumak's wife, Kumak's son). I would suggest trying as much as possible to use the characters' given names when discussing the book to avoid unintentionally emphasizing a male-dominated perspective. This book is useful for the classroom to discuss topics of family (it is not a nuclear family), community, and subsistence activities that can be found in Canada. It is interesting to note that this story was based on a real life event that the author witnessed which could also be discussed with children on the topic of fiction versus non-fiction. I would have liked more information on the author as well as there is nothing included in the copy I read. One the whole, I found it an engaging story that would be useful for the classroom with only a few mild cautions. bye,
Monday, January 16, 2006
Social Justice in the Classroom
I found today's reading "Using Literacy to Create Social Justice Classrooms" to be a very powerful article. The first story about the child being murdered really made me consider the kinds of things children face. Very few of us will likely experience something like this as teachers but it is important to understand that the classroom becomes so much more than a space in which curriculum is learned. For these students, it was a place where they could openly and safely discuss things such as death and homelessness. The story of the teacher who discovered how many of her student's lives had been touched by fire really stood out. It is scary to think of some of the things students may experience as children. It also shows that there is often a lot that we may not know about our students even though we spend so much time with them. It is a little intimidating to think that we may have to help students come to grips with such huge issues. I think that no matter how hard it may be to hear such things, students need to be able to tell their stories. Literacy then becomes a means for students to not only read about powerful stories but through the development of writing skills find a way to tell their own story in their own way. Although we may not be able to prepare for everything we will face as teachers, by giving students the opportunity and ability to express themselves we help them become a little bit stronger and a little more ready to face life. I guess in the end the only thing we can do is help support them as much as possible and help strengthen them for their future.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
I decided that "an eclectic's perspective" would be an appropriate title for my blog since it represents my approach to literature. I have always loved reading and tend to read a little bit of everything. One of the most profound literary experiences I had as a child was reading Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. It was the first novel I ever read and the vivid imagery of the tale had a strong impact on me. Also, the fact that it was based on true events made the experiences of the main character that much more profound and dramatic. The vicarious experience of the young girl surviving alone on an island excited me as a child although I found some of the cultural differences puzzling. I remember trying to figure out what on earth a skirt of cormorant feathers would look like and why on earth anyone would want one. This book was instrumental in getting me basically addicted to reading. As a child, it opened my eyes to experiences and concepts that I saw as outside my normal experiences. I still think that becoming so involved in a story that you literally expereince the events and emotions of the characters is very powerful.