Wednesday, January 29, 2014

because of mr. terupt

I enjoy reading, but due to having to read books for my Diverse Children's Literature class, I have been reading like crazy lately.  I'm not sure how many times I've heard that to be a good reader and writer you have to read and write, but I'm seeing it first hand in myself.  I'm sure that there will be errors in my writing and maybe my interpretations are wrong, but I'm doing more of both and I'm loving it.  I say it to my students all the time and now they are watching me do it too.

I'm giving you that little bit of background because I just read because of mr. terupt by Rob Buyea.  I read the book quickly and it is another book I'll have my middle schooler read as well as a book that I'll read to my class.  I finished the book a few days ago, but I wanted to think about it before I wrote.  I went back to the book and I noticed that I did something I don't let my own students do.  I didn't pay attention to the cover.  I had no idea what the book was about,  all I knew was that I had heard other teachers discussing how much they loved it and I just jumped in.  I find it difficult to read a book or even watch a movie when I don't have a clue about the content.  Had I taken a few moments to look at the cover, I could have made some predictions to guide my reading.  Live and learn.

So, looking at the cover I see a figure standing with warm clothes on and a snowball in his/her hand.(Now that I've read the book, I suppose it is Peter.). There are some questions I should have asked myself ahead of time though.  I knew that Mr. Terupt was the teacher because someone had told me, but that's all I knew.  I should have wondered some things from the cover though:  Why is the title in lowercase?  What is the snowball about?  How does snow and snowball relate to school? Had I thought of this as I was reading, I probably would have noticed that we were getting to an important part of the book when the class went out to play in the snow.  So once again, live and learn.

The chapters of the book are written by the students in Mr. Terupt's class.  Each child writes about their perceptions of the day.  There are no entries by Mr Terupt, but the story is about the impact this teacher has on the children.  Mr. Terupt helps bring out the best in the children.  Perhaps it's because they get to write and think back on the events that happen in the class.  It is also because Mr. Terupt gives assignments with meaning.  Meaning because they are things that are important to the children and helps them realize the impact they have on each other's lives.

The chapters are titled with the name of the child who is making the entry.  Just like the title of the book, one of the characters, Anna, has her name in lower case in the title.  I think the lowercase represents how Anna feels about herself.  She writes, "He wasn't going to let me hide all year."  I'm not sure how the lowercase of Anna's name is related to the title of the book, but I think they are related.  Luke, on the other hand, has his name in uppercase for the title of the chapters.  Not sure about that.  At first I thought it was because he is high and mighty, but that really does not describe him, that describes Peter. Perhaps it is because Luke is the bigger person.  He is the one who let everyone know that Mr. Terupt had been injured in his youth from wrestling and the reason Mr. Terupt was hurt was not just because of Peter, but because they all made mistakes that led to the accident. He's the bigger person.

This book helps you see a situation from different viewpoints.  Instead of disliking a character because he or she is a bully, a snob, an introvert, a bookworm; you feel for the characters because you get to understand each character.  I'm inspired as a teacher and hope that I can be the type of teacher who motivates the kids to learn and to care about others. 

Monday, January 27, 2014


One of my favorite books to read to my class to help me teach them how to summarize a book is Arrowhawk by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska.  I teach third graders and this book is unlike any they've read before.  This book is based on a true story of a hawk that is shot by a poacher's arrow.

I do not tell the children how the book ends, I only introduce the character, the hawk.  The descriptions in the story are well written - you can hear the arrow as it streaks towards the hawk and you can feel the injuries that the hawk endures.  The story takes us through weeks of suffering as the hawk struggles to capture food with an arrow in his body, breaks a leg, and reopens the wound.

The best part of the book is the pictures.  The students react to this book and the pictures.  They feel empathy and want the bird to survive.  Usually, students start asking questions right away when I read this book.  The pictures take up the entire page and are either of the landscape and hawk soaring over fields, or they are close-ups of the hawk.  You feel like you are with him as he is shot and then struggles to capture his prey.

I just read in our textbook about how the illustrations can affect someone's understanding of the book.  So, I'm not an expert, but here are some things I noticed.

  1. If the book is opened up so you can see the entire dust jacket, you see the healthy hawk who looks like he is about to catch his prey.  Could he be whole as a cue that the hawk will survive?  
  2. The first picture and the last picture are definitely related.  Arrowhawk is free to fly in both.
  3. On the page where Arrowhawk is hit with an arrow, the arrow seems to be lighter in color and diagonal as if it is flying swiftly through the air.  
  4. After four weeks of suffering, there is a picture of Arrowhawk traveling down a dark road.  You can tell he has flown far because the road leads away from him and disappears in the distance.  
  5. The students are shocked when they see the last picture, a photo of Arrowhawk.  They realize that his story is true.  
The book ends with factual information about Arrowhawk and information about the people who helped Arrowhawk, the importance of taking care of our environment, as well as a bit more information about other raptors. The vocabulary in this part of the book is somewhat more complicated than the rest of the book, but the students enjoy having me read this section and always have more questions to ask.  It is a wonderful book to use to teach the elements of a story because the children become completely engrossed in it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Giver (Conversations with my son)

Here are some questions from my son.  I could answer some and some I could not.

Questions I could not answer.  Can you?
1.  Why can some rules be broken (like riding a bike before you are supposed to)?  Isn't that choice?
2.  What really happened to Caleb?  How could he actually drown if Jonas is seen "hoarding" an apple, wouldn't someone notice Caleb going to the water?
3.  If Jonas's dad does not love Gabe, why does he save him from release at first?
3.  Who are the birthfathers?  Do you think The Giver is Jonas's real father?

Questions I think I could answer.  What do you think?
1.  What is the difference between being smart and having wisdom?
My answer:  smart is intelligence, wisdom is having the ability to analyze and apply experience
2.   Aren't lies and rudeness okay sometimes?  Like, when you made that tuna that was gross?
My answer:  yes  :-)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers was written by Mordicai Gerstein and was was quick and easy to read.  Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it.  It may not be that the book itself was not enjoyable, I just could not get passed the fact that I had watched a documentary about the event depicted in this book and was bored out of my mind.  The pictures are colorful and give you a good idea of the amazing feat performed by Philippe.  It is a fun story that will help give children a history about the towers - something exciting, but not terrifying.  It might be a good way to remember the towers in a positive way and use it as an introduction to a discussion about 9-11.

I know we will discuss this book more in class.  I'm looking forward to hearing the input from my professor and classmates.  I'm finding it difficult to write more; however, once I am able to discuss this book more with others I'll see if my opinion changes and will update this entry.

Bridge to Terabithia

I read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson for the second time.  I had read it years ago to my children.  As I read it to myself this time, I'm seeing so many things that I don't think I saw last time.  Perhaps it has to do with where I am in my life right now.  Just as in the last 2 books I read, I'm seeing the theme of hope.  It's been a rough few months and year, I think I need to see hope.

As I read I noticed, from the beginning that Jess is always afraid.  He was afraid to not be in first place, he was afraid to be friends with a girl, he was afraid of water.  I'm not sure if afraid is the right word, I may change that later, but it's what I'm thinking right now.  He was also always longing for something else and he got it when he met Leslie.  (I think Jess helped Leslie too.  He was always very empathetic and he helped Leslie feel for others - but the focus in the book was really Jess.)

Jess changed his mind to be friends with Leslie in the music class while singing, "Free to be you and me."  I think that is interesting because together, Jess and Leslie were free to be themselves.

Throughout the book, there are references to water and the panic that the water makes Jess feel.  The description of scuba diving in Leslie's paper was enough to make him panic.  He also feels fear in the dark parts of the woods and interestingly, he describes it "almost like being underwater."  The woods that Jess and Leslie transform into the magical kingdom of Terabithia is only accessible by crossing a creek with a rope tied to a tree.  The creek has been dry for years, now there has been a lot of rain and the water is rushing.  Jess describes it like the parting of the sea by Moses and is scared of the thought of crossing.  Ironically, it is Leslie who dies while crossing the river.

Jess goes through the stages of grief.  He is in denial, he is angry, and finally he is accepting.  He accepts that Leslie has died, he accepts the love from his father, he accepts the friendship of Leslie's family, and he accepts his own family.  He is no longer afraid to be himself and overcomes his fears.  He builds a bridge over his fear.  My favorite part of the book is the end because now Jess is the bridge to help his sister overcome her fears.

It's early in the morning, I've had time to think of this, I'm not good at analyzing books.  So I might be totally off, but this is what I got out of it!

Katherine Paterson Interview

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Book Thief

I'm not sure what I'm expected to write on my blog, but I'm writing so I don't forget.  So here goes...

On Saturday I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I'm not sure why, but it was difficult for me to get started reading and to get going, but once I got into it, it was difficult to put down.  I suppose the difficulty was getting used to the narrator being Death.  I had to reread parts of the book because I kept seeing the book from Liesel's point of view.  I also think I finished reading it because I have to read it for class, otherwise I may have missed out on something wonderful.  I find books about WWII depressing and usually showing the negative side of people.  I found this book hopeful.

I wish I knew why the author wrote this book.  What was his motivation?  I guess I'll do more research. The one thing that does stick out for me though is "words."  Words were so important to Liesel, even when she could not read them.  Liesel wonders "exactly when the words started to mean not just something, but everything."  I read about words that "were smiled," flowed like "waterfalls", "burned,", "were thrown," were brutal.  I didn't quite grasp the word theme in the book until we learned more about The Word Shaker.  I know, it seems obvious, but that's when I figured it out and paid more attention to it.

The story of the words reminds me of learning about slavery when I was in elementary school.  I remember how important it was for the slaves to read and the fear that the ability to read would threaten slavery.  This amazing skill was kept from the slaves just as it was kept from Liesel and Hans and Rosa to a degree because of their poverty and lack of education.  The world opened up for Liesel when she realized the wonder of words.  I think of students I've taught in the past who were unable to read and once they learned, they couldn't wait to learn more.

Off to research Markus Zusak.  I'll write more once I figure out what I want to write.