Monday, May 6, 2013

Digital Timelines, Zoo stories, Inference, and Asian Folktales

PreK 3 and 4: Guiding Question - What's a zoo?

Most of our children had been to a zoo and so we named animals found there. We read fun zoo stories.

Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire

This helps us understand the difference between a zoo and a circus. A zoo has animals that stand around; a circus has animals that do tricks!

In this funny early reader, a leopard-type animal wants to live in the zoo. He tries to prove he's worthy by doing tricks with his spots: changing the colors, throwing them around, and making them fly into the sky. Is the zoo really the best place for him?

Goodnight, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann

This mostly wordless book had us in a fit of giggles. The zookeeper says goodnight to the gorilla and the gorilla promptly steals the keys to all of the cages. He trails behind the zookeeper on his rounds and lets out all of the other animals. When the zookeeper arrives home and gets ready for bed, all of the animals follow him into the house and into the bedroom. The mishap, discovered by his night-capped wife, is hilarious.

Z is for Moose, by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Moose can't wait for his turn to show up on the "M" page of this alphabet book. I mean he really CAN'T wait! He keeps showing up on other pages, interrupting, and eagerly asking "now?" When page "M" comes and it's given to Mouse instead, poor Moose really loses his cool. Happily, he gets a part in the end.

Kindergarten: Guiding Question - How does inferring help us understand a story better?

My Lucky Day, by Keiko Kasza

This turns our assumptions upside down. Pig comes to Fox's door by mistake, we think, and barely escapes being eaten by Fox. Along the way, we marvel at Pig's cleverness. He's certainly a quick thinker! When Fox is about to roast him in a pan, he suggests that Fox wash him first because he's dirty. Pig gets a nice hot bath...isn't HE lucky.

Inference task: What is Pig's overall plan?

Me and You, by Anthony Browne

The traditional Goldilocks tale is told here with a twist that asks us to re-examine our perception of Goldi. The story is set in a city, with the Bear family living in a lovely home in the suburbs. Golidlocks' story is told only through pictures. In a series of black, white, and sepia tones we see her running through the city, notice that she's lost in a rough part of town, and follow her into the Bears' house to find food and shelter.

Inference task: In this version, why does Goldilocks go into the Bears' home?

Grade 1: Guiding Question - Who was Wilma Rudolph? How do the famous people we've read about look on a timeline?

To end our picture book biography unit, we revisited the people we've read about on a digital timeline. Some entries have video clips, and there are a few "new" entries: the estimated time our great-grandparents lived, our grandparents, our parents, ourselves, our future children? 

Wilma Unlimited: The World's Fastest Woman, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz

We ended with a powerful story about Wilma Rudolph, who grew up as a sickly child in Tennessee in the 1940's and became a three-time medal winner as a runner in the Rome Olympics. Her ability to overcome polio through sheer grit and determination makes for a compelling read-aloud. 

This author visited our school in the fall and we had fun remembering our visit with her illustrator husband, Paul Brewer.

Grade 2: Guiding Question - Who was Lady Godiva?

After last week's bloody dragon slaying story, we went with a gentle legend this week.

Godiva, by Lynn Cullen, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt

Lady Godiva was a kind-hearted woman who cared for the health and well-being of the townspeople who farmed and set up shops on her husband's land. When he raised their taxes to earn more money to beautify the castle, she angrily asked him to reconsider. He jokingly replied that he'd lower taxes when she rode naked through the streets. She took this as a challenge. The response of the villagers makes for a tear-jerker ending.

Grade 3: Guiding Question - What is traditional literature? What can we guess about a culture's values from its stories?

The Crane Wife, retold by Odds Bodkin, illustrated by Gennady Spirin

Richly illustrated in a traditional Japanese style, this is the story of a poor sail maker who meets his soul mate. She comes to him a year after he has rescued a crane, his favorite kind of bird. After they marry, he learns that she can weave magic sails that carry the wind. She agrees to weave for him, but only if he promises not to look at her while she works. He promises, but such promises are hard to keep.

Students identified the lessons learned: the danger of greed and the importance of keeping a promise.

Note: This makes a good read-aloud, but there are three places where there are no pictures. Photocopying text-heavy pages lets me read and show the wordless pictures to students at the same time.

The Empty Pot, by Demi

Set in China, this folktale teaches us the importance of honesty. An Emperor holds a contest to see which child in the land will grow the most beautiful flower. Whoever wins will become the next Emperor. Our main character is sure he will win; he's a very skilled gardener. But when the seed the Emperor gave him simply does not grow, he's forced to bring an empty pot to the final reveal. Sure he will be punished, he tearfully describes his efforts and shows the empty pot. It's a fun surprise to hear why the Emperor chooses HIM as the winner!

Grade 4 and 5 came for check out.

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