First, I’m linking up with Teach Mentor Texts for the Monday linky.
You know it! I’ve been busy reading this week and have some books to share!
First, I have to comment about the book I’m currently reading.
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
OK. So after blogging about Picoult last week, I decided I was still in the mood for something adult since it’s summer and I’ve got some time. After reading House Rules as soon as it came out, I had to take a break from Picoult. It wasn’t the fact that it hit too close to home really (I have a son with autism) but more that her books were all starting to read alike and she’s very heavy on stereotypes. Normally, I don’t mind stereotypes. As it turns out, I do mind them when they are over-generalizations about autism. It’s really easy to tell when you’re reading writing from someone who has experienced it and someone who has just learned about it. ANYWAY, I was tired of the same old courtroom-drama-huge-reveal-at-the-end from Picoult, which is why I haven’t read her last two or three books.
Apparently, I’ve been missing out! When I bought The Storyteller I honestly had *no idea* it was about the Holocaust. Yes, I think I say every week that I.NEED.TO.START.READING.THE.BACK.OF.THE.BOOK.FIRST! I always think I do, but apparently not! I love reading and learning about the Holocaust since it recently became an obsession I shared with last year’s 8th graders. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the book now, and it’s told in alternating perspectives from several different characters. Perhaps the most fascinating is Joseph, who is in his 90’s and finally came clean to a friend about his past as an SS Officer. The reason I’m telling YOU about this book is that I have decided that I MUST use an excerpt form this book as part of my Holocaust literature studies. I’ll probably do the excerpt as a read-aloud. When Joseph is explaining how he BECAME an SS officer – wow! What a powerful lesson in perspective and point of view! The author does a great job of letting his story unfold.
Here’s just enough info for you: As a boy, Joseph struggles in school, always getting into trouble for fighting. He fights and shows aggression to hide the fact that he isn’t smart enough to keep up. In comparison, his slightly younger brother is brainy and book smart and has an easy time at life (or so Joseph thinks). Joseph is in this frame of mind when the Hitler’s YOuth programs spring up and he joins like the rest of his peers. Suddenly, he is good at something! They are going camping and participating in athletic feats and Joseph excels. He’s at the top of his class! He’s never felt like he was worth anything until now. As he grows older, he joins Hitler’s army (hope I’m using the right terms here) and finds out he is excellent at being a soldier, obeying orders, and believing what he is told to believe without questioning it. Of course, his brother has a very, very hard time with all of this, so the tables have turned.
There are already parts of his description of his later life as an SS officer that have deeply disturbed me. I have read A LOT of Holocaust literature, but now 1/3 into the book this one has already disturbed me more than any other I have read as far as the graphic details and tales of dying. Of course, this part I *won’t* be sharing as a read aloud with my 8th graders. I show them the true and gory details, but not like this book does.
It’s a little odd that I have never read her book yet abide my many of her recommended principles and strategies in my own classroom. It felt refreshing to read something professional and this one was easy to read. Still, as I find most professional teaching books are, this one was over the top for me. Good ideas, but perhaps I can’t wrap my head around the organization and planning for the implementation of what she suggests.
stocking a huge classroom library – yes
providing in-class time for student-chosen reading – yes
allowing students freedom to choose what they read – yes OF COURSE
reading what my students are reading – yes
making time often to discuss books with students informally – yes
recommending books to my students based on their interests and likes – yes (I call it book-pushing)
expecting that my students read and leaving no other option – yes
never teaching a whole-class novel study again – SAY WHAT?!
I do literature circles in my classroom, but I still believe there is a place (in my classroom at least) for whole class novel studies. I have some readers who must be walked through reading challenging material (especially with the lexile increases in common core) and I do differentiate for more mature readers. I just can’t stop doing my novel units no matter what you tell me, Ms. Donalyn Miller. I’m sorry! I’m a huge believer in differentiation too, but to teach all of the concepts and skills by letting the students apply the concepts to whatever book they want just doesn’t work for me. When I teach symbolism, I want you to read The Giver and I can make sure you have an excellent example. If you’re reading The Clique, how will I truly know if the example of symbolism that you give me is really a good example? I’ve read most of these books my students read, but certainly not all. And I’m pretty sure The Clique isn’t as rich in symbolism as The Giver (I’ve read Clique). You know, I really can’t stand Debbie Downers who go to workshops and blab about why this won’t work in their classroom, blah blah blah, I have too many students, blah blah, My students’ parents are losers, blah blah blah. But in this case, I just can’t take it to the extreme level that she does! Meh. I also felt this way after reading Ron Clark’s book.
More YA next week! 🙂
Now, onto Must Have Monday. Linking up with Sabra from Teaching With a Touch of Twang.
For today’s Must Have Monday, I’ll tell you about some of Margaret Whisnant’s products.
You may be familiar with her since she’s one of those staples on TpT, but I’ve been using her products for a few years now. In fact, she was the first seller I ever purchased from on TpT! She’s my go-to for novel units (see above, LOL) and I only make my own novel stuff when she hasn’t created a unit.
My favorite products from her are her figurative language ones. She has several based on months, seasons, or holidays. The first one I purchased was Deck the Halls in Figurative Language.
Sorry for the blurry thumbnail! Anyway, these little mini-units are absolutely fabulous for reviewing figurative language. They are in multiple choice format so I really like using them for sub days, bell ringer activities, and any reviews. Her previews are great and really give you an idea of the product. If you teach figurative language, I highly recommend checking out her products. Most of them review/assess similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. Some questions simply ask the students to identify which form of figurative language is used. Other questions ask them to analyze the figurative language – tell exactly what is being compared or explain what is meant by the language. I’m telling you… this is EXCELLENT, thought-provoking, CHALLENGING stuff for my middle schoolers! They are content-rich and I always feel like I get my money’s worth!
For my 6th graders who are only just learning about figurative language (no, it isn’t taught at my school by 3rd-5th grades!) I take her stuff and adapt it down. I’ve taken her great ideas and made resources that ask simpler questions about simple identification for my students who aren’t ready to analyze just yet. Of course, these resources are for my classroom only! My point here is that her ideas are great and adaptable, so check them out!