Monday, November 11, 2013

Great Read Aloud Novels!

I've been reading like crazy the past few weeks and I must say it's been great! I was chosen to participate with a group of teachers within my school district to design the next literacy unit to correlate with the Common Core standards. The first trimester the literacy unit was based on the theme of "change" with a focus on narrative writing. The second trimester will be based on the theme "conflict" with a focus on opinion writing. I wasn't a part of the process for the first literacy unit and I've learned so much being able to participate this time around. It takes a lot time and energy, but definitely worth it!

In order to come up with a rigorous writing prompt based on the common core standards, we needed to choose a main text (a text in which we would use as a shared read, all students would have a copy) and construct the prompt around the theme and the text.

We ended up choosing Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is a long read, but a great historical fiction novel about a girl, Isabel and her sister, who were promised freedom upon the death of their owner during the American Revolution (great way to tie in the social studies standards). However, that did not happen and the story follows Isabel on her journey for freedom. She battles internal conflicts (spying for the revolutionaries for freedom) and there is the external conflicts with her new owners and the war raging on.
I noticed many of my students reading The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau last year. They just couldn't seem to put the book down, so naturally I had to read it. I must say, I couldn't put the book down fact I read it in one day. It's a science fiction novel about an underground city that is slowly running out of power and supplies. The main character Lina, manages to decode a message written by the original builders of the City of Ember. It is a nonstop suspense novel! This wasn't chosen as our main text but is on our list of read alouds. I like that it has three more books in the series, so the students can continue to read about Lina's journey.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson is another wonderful book. Again, it is historical fiction and takes place during the American Revolution. Unlike her last book, this book focuses on Mattie Cook and her struggle to build a better life and stay alive during the Yellow Fever epidemic. I like how the author, Laurie Halse Anderson, uses primary resources at the beginning of each chapter (she did this with her novel Chains as well). Usually excerpts from a newspaper, letter, diary that reiterates the struggles during that time in history). I also read this book in a day, I couldn't put it down!

One of my favorite read aloud novels is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  Whenever I read this book to my students they get so involved in the story line. The novel allows for in depth discussions on WWII and the injustices that went on during that time (of course in an appropriate manner for 5th grade students). This book was a read aloud for our first trimester theme of "change." While reading the book, we discussed how/what caused Annemarie and Ellen to change throughout the war. Even though WWII isn't a 5th grade standard, the book allowed for students to gain a better understanding of the world around them.

And for the last book, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. This was our shared read novel for our first literacy unit. It touches upon themes of racism and homelessness and follows the story of a boy, Jeffery Magee (Maniac) and his search for a family to love and care for him. My students really enjoyed this novel and it allowed for many great discussions.

The next novel I will tackle: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. Have any of you read this novel with your students? If so, what did you think?
I love that my new school uses the balanced literacy approach. It allows for me to introduce so many different types of novels and genres to my students. Which in turn allows for a genuine love and interest in reading. We've read 3 novels since the beginning of the school year, which I think is great!
I'd love to hear about your favorite must read novels!

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