During the month of February, my students and I work on a poetry unit. A key piece to the POETRY UNIT is the novel, Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech. I love this book. I cry in front of my students when I read this book. I want to be the character, Miss Stretchberry, in this book. Miss Stretchberry is that once-in-a-lifetime teacher who changes a child’s entire school career. She sees all of the hidden strengths in Jack, the narrator in the story, and spends time nurturing those qualities. She also sniffs out Jack’s worries or troubles and gently solves problems. In return, Jack rises to the occasion and is motivated to stretch his capabilities while he has Miss Stretchberry as a teacher.
Characters like Miss Stretchberry are some of my favorite, so I started building a list of books with inspirational teacher characters. I wish I had more book titles, but here is my first draft. I probably could expand the list into movie titles like Dead Poets Society or Stand and Deliver because movies with inspirational teachers get me too.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler (pay attention to the music teacher)
Homesick by Kate Klise
Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
No Talking by Andrew Clements
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, 7th grade+ (pay attention to the math teacher)
The Secret School by Avi
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Word after Word after Word by Patricia MacLachlan
The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
For adults (and particularly teacher adults), try the book Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell.
Thank you to all who entered to win the Amazon gift card and participated in the recent blog hop. Congratulations to Callie W. who is my big winner! (Please look for an e-mail from me with details about your prize.)
In case Callie (or other readers) need help shopping for books, below is my favorite juvenile literature from 2014. These books were not necessarily published in 2014. They are just the books I enjoyed reading the most this past year.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (5th grade +)
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern (4th+)
Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes by Charise Mericle Harper (2nd+)
Miss Priss is a good little independent reader, but she is still at a stage where she needs 8-year old content, shorter chapter books, and simple plot lines. An obvious choice is Junie B. Jones, but the character bothers me. I want Miss Priss wants spunky book characters that are in the same vein as Junie B., but she also wants I want the character to use decent grammar.
Here are a few book suggestions that meet the decent grammar and spunky girl character criteria. Miss Priss reads them on her own, but we also spend time reading together several nights a week. I read a page aloud, and then my daughter takes a turn. It helps build her reading fluency without slowing the reading down so much that she loses momentum. It is also just a fun activity for the two of us.
No Dogs Allowed by Stephanie Calmenson and Joanna Cole
Just Grace series by Cherise Mericle Harper
Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler
Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven
Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary
The Never Girls series by Kiki Thorpe
Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows
Gooney Bird Greene series by Lois Lowry
My America: Meg’s Prairie Diary series by Kate McMullan
Hailey Twitch series by Lauren Barnholdt
Wide Awake Princess series by E.D. Baker
Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin
Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
The Magic Half by Annie Barrows
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
The Tail of Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
Maggie Malone and the Mostly Magical Boots by Jenna McCarthy and Carolyn Evans
It is time for our annual summer road trip, and we loaded up on audio books from the public library earlier this week. I then had to make a trip back to the library because Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss listened to the first batch of books on CD in the TV room before we even packed the car.
Audio books are a great addition to long road trips. They keep voice levels low, so everyone can hear the narrator, and it provides a discussion topic for the whole group since everybody listens to the same story (we play our books on CD aloud– no earphones, although, that is an option). All ages can enjoy a story no matter the actual reading level of the book.
We have been listening to audio books for about 6 years. I cannot gush enough about the benefits of audio books. The narrator reads the book with the correct expression and syntax modeling good oral reading skills for a child. If a child follows along in the printed book at the same time he is listening, sight words, vocabulary, writing mechanics, and varied sentence construction are reinforced. When a group listens to an audio book, it tends to prompt more discussion. This will give a child extra practice re-telling a story, identifying conflicts in the story, and making predictions about future events– all of the skills a (good) active reader utilizes.
I posted an audio book recommendation list awhile back. Many of the books I had on my original list are still here. The Magic Treehouse series is still our favorite. Mary Pope Osborne narrates, and her voice works well. The stories are also a good length for our car attention span. Each story is about an hour and a half.
Magic Treehouse (any in the series) read by the author, Mary Pope Osborne
The Boxcar Children read by Phyllis Newman
Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House book) read by Cherry Jones
Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing read by the author, Judy Blume
The BFG read by Natasha Richardson
James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons
The Bunnicula Collection read by Victor Garber
No Talking read by Keith Nobbs
Benjamin Pratt & The Keepers of the School: Fear Itself read by Keith Nobbs
The Wizard of Oz read by Maureen Lipman
The Year of Billy Miller read by Dan Bittner
Heavy Hitters (or any in the Game Changers series) read by Fred Berman
Ribsy (or any Henry Huggins book) read by Neil Patrick Harris
Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White
The 1oo-Year Old Secret (or any in the Sherlock Files series) read by David Pittu
A Series of Unfortunate Events read by the author, Lemony Snicket. (This was probably a bad choice on my part. Not only was the author’s voice too nasal-y, the book is much darker read aloud, and the content was too old for my children’s ages.)
In my house, we all agree that the narrator is the key to a good audio book. What books have you enjoyed on tape? Who was the narrator?
About a week ago, my students started reading The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies as a novel study in class. I love teaching this book. Not only do the boys like it as much as the girls, but it is funny and has great practical information about money and starting a business. When the students finish reading the book, about half reach for the sequel, The Lemonade Crime by Davies. If The Lemonade Crime is checked out of the library, there are many other book recommendations (see list below) that portray a main character who gets things going. The characters might run a business, be the leader of a project, or become responsible for something significant.
This type of storyline promotes creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit. Many of these books teach students about the basics of business (profit, loss, partnership, etc.). I also like the fact that these books depict children as problem-solvers without a parent or adult handing them the easy solution. Although, there is usually a supportive adult somewhere in the story. What are your best “independent kid” books? I know I am missing some good ones.
The Bread Winner by Arvella Whitmore
Crunch by Leslie Connor
The Secret School by Avi
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements
School Story by Andrew Clements
Hotel for Dogs by Lois Duncan
Tarantula Shoes by Tom Birdseye
Lawn Boy and Lawn Boy Returns by Gary Paulsen
Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin
The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill
A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Sheep in a Shop by Nancy Shaw
Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
Everyone Wears His Name: A Biography of Levi Strauss by Sondra Henry
Model T: How Henry Ford Built a Legend by David Weitzman
Chocolate by Hershey: A Story About Milton S. Hershey by Betty Burford
Kidpreneurs, Young Entrepeneurs with Big Ideas by Adam Toren and Matthew Toren
Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids by Gail Karlitz and Debbie Honig