Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Bloggy Birthday, Jen and Kellee!

I am so excited to be a part of Jen and Kellee's blog birthday celebration! Teach Mentor Texts is a great blog for sharing books for both personal enjoyment and classroom use. I got to know both Jen and Kellee through Twitter (and if you don't already follow them, you should!). We have had lots of great "chats" about great books and reading/writing workshop. So, when I was invited to help them celebrate their blog's second birthday, I readily accepted the invitation!

My book choice is actually a newer book that I have found a lot of uses for this year. That book is (my new favorite!) The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. If you have been on Twitter since the book was released, you know if has been getting a lot of love from teachers and students across the country. I used it as a read aloud in my class, but also to teach various skills in both reading and writing. 

First of all, this book totally hooked my kids. They loved the idea that it would be a quick read (there is a great deal of white space on the pages since it is a novel written verse). Also, the main characters are animals, which meant that almost every child could connect to the book. Finally, the language Katherine Applegate uses to tell Ivan's story is simply beautiful. She creates pictures with her words that are so vivid and detailed. That being said, it was a great book to revisit the important strategy of visualizing. My students were allowed to doodle what they pictured in their minds as they read. One student then took it a step further and added colors to her picture of Ivan's "domain. 

We also spent a lot of time talking about figurative language like similes and metaphors. This was a great way to discuss how interpret such language (we paraphrased the author's meaning into our own words), as well as how to use it in our own writing (we referred back to Ivan as we worked on poems in our poetry unit). 

Another great use for this book is discussing static and dynamic characters as there are examples of both in the story. This lead us to also discuss types on conflict (man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. nature, etc.). Further more, we spent time identifying how the author shifted from the present to the past and the importance of using the past to help explain the story. Lots of great opportunities for digging deeper into story structure (beyond your basic characters, stetting, plot, blah blah blah...)

We also spent some time talking about author's viewpoint (or opinion). It is not difficult to figure out how Katherine Applegate feels about animals held in captivity, or how she feels about humans who mistreat animals. She uses her characters words and actions to make that clear. The students did such a great job pinpointing character words, actions, and story events that were examples of the author expressing her feelings without directly stating them to the reader. A lot of them began emulating this in their own opinion pieces about whether or not bubblegum should be allowed in school. 

What I found most fascinating was how the students were able to write about the story and recall information without even having the text directly in front of them. This was a great way for the students to practice summarizing and paraphrasing without them even knowing it! It also helped improve their listening comprehension.  There were just TONS of different mini lessons that were easily tied into this wonderful story. 

There are not words to describe how much I enjoyed Ivan, but I loved it even more after sharing it with my students and seeing them gain so much from it. We had rich discussions about human nature, society, animal rights, and character traits. I know this is a story that will stay with my students as they often refer back to it. In response journals about independent reading, I often come across sentences such as "This reminds of when ____ happened in The One and Only Ivan", or "I think ______ is a lot like Stella because..." It is fantastic to see the students hold on to a book and carry it with them long after our work with it is done. 

If you have not already shared this wonderful book with your students, I hope you decide to. I am more than happy to add some ideas for more uses in both reading and writing as I am STILL thinking of some that I would like to add in next year.


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