Though my tenure at Nathan Hale ended in late May, I've shamefully neglected this blog all summer. However, with school (and work) starting in mere weeks (where did the summer go?!), I thought it best to get myself back into "school mode" and update. What better place to start than with a quick overview of the major units we did in the Nathan Hale Library?
The main focus of the spring was preparing for our author visit by Joseph Bruchac. Thanks to my local public library, I borrowed a stack of his books and introduced them to students in all grades, though K1-3 heard the most stories.
The kids LOVED Raccoon's Last Race and How the Chipmunk Got His Stripes, and the punishment the characters suffer in each really tickled their fancy. The First Strawberries scored big with K1 because I tied it into their ongoing unit on plants and seeds. I also read The Great Ball Game, The Story of the Milky Way, and an oral retelling of Gluskabe and the Wind Eagle, complete with special vocal effects (courtesy of me, with a horrendous case of laryngitis) and re-enactments by my students. 4th and 5th grade read aloud from an anthology of stories which were shorter in length. The stories really captured their imaginations, and I found that even a month after reading How the Chipmunk Got His Stripes, even K1 students could tell me it was their favorite story because of "the sun will come up ooooo!" This is definitely an author study I would consider replicating, especially since students at my new school have a major project on Native Americans.
The other major literary unit I did with K1-3 (although 4th and 5th grade got a small taste of it) centered around fractured fairy tales.
Just a quick note about one of my selections: Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes was a favorite of mine as a child. However, as a teacher, most of the rhymes are not appropriate for school. Luckily, the rhyme for the Three Little Pigs is relatively tame, and so I read it aloud to my 3rd graders, censoring one or two words. They LOVED it, and found it hilarious, particularly the twist at the end.
With each fractured fairy tale, I began by reading the original story. In some cases, I played a short YouTube retelling of the original instead. This always proved more successful, because reading two stories in a period often proved too long for the kids, and led to squirmy, wriggly bodies and a lot of frustration for me.
My original ambition was to have the students author original fractured fairy tales, but this quickly became unrealistic. Undeterred, I decided to focus instead on building compare and contrast skills using Venn Diagrams, and I found myself impressed by how many small details they grasped.
I also did two mini-units on fables and nursery rhymes. Neither received the depth they could have, but snow days and wonky schedules put a wrench in my plans.
For the fables unit, I began with Jerry Pinkney's stunning, wordless rendition of The Lion and the Mouse. Students loved the sound effects and drama of the story, and the pictures are lovely. Next came The Ant and the Grasshopper by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley: bright, vibrant and inspired by New Orleans (with a kinder ending), and finally, The Tortoise or the Hare by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison. This one was an interesting twist on the original, but without the context of the original, the twist at the end didn't quite make sense to my students. I did elect to censor the word stupid when reading it aloud.
My prize find during the nursery rhymes unit was a book called The Daddy Goose Treasury, a compilation of the stories behind the rhymes. It was an excellent way to tie up the rhymes we learned through Mother Goose Picture Puzzles (which I love because of the visual cues for the words), and Hey Diddle, Diddle: A Children's Book of Nursery Rhymes. The stories were charming and fun, and just long enough to read two or three in a lesson.
I should clarify that this is not an exhaustive list of all the books we read; there were some one-offs here and there that will get covered in my book review section. From these books though, I have some new favorites that will definitely be added to my new collection. If anyone is interested, the document is a full bibliography for all the books listed here, sorted by unit.
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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