Social Studies Literature: People Changing the Land

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

One of our 2nd grade standards is all about the positive and negative consequences when people use and change the land. When I was putting together our read aloud list for this part of our unit of study, I was looking for a range of angles. Here’s what we read this year:

There’s an Owl in the Shower by Jean Craighead George
Note: A strong chapter book that shows how complicated environmental issues can become in a community. Things get heated when loggers can’t provide for their families because the government steps in to protect the owls’ habitat.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Jaguarundi by Virginia Hamilton

Country Road by Daniel San Souci

Barn Savers by Linda Oatman High

The Story of Silk by Richard Sobol
Note: I haven’t read this one yet with my 2nd graders but it’s a beautiful book about a community in Thailand and how the production of silk is truly a community effort and a source of pride.

Exploring Our Backpacks: What’s That in your Backpack?” article from Toolkit Texts, Grades 2-3
(How logging provides us with paper and pencils; “how-to” structure embedded)

As we read, we kept an on-going anchor chart listing the book title, how people changed the land, positive and negative effects. (I’m still figuring out to post pictures using my WordPress app on IPad!) We discussed throughout each read-aloud how city leadership has to continually consider this balance. For next year, I need to find some more titles to add to this list. I’d love to find a strong picture book that does what The Owl in the Shower does – show both sides of an issue and how complicated change can be.

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Gearing Up for Caldecott

(Post from my prior blog, Back in the Classroom.)

Awards week is one short week away, so this week I’m spending time reading and talking Caldecott hopefuls. Wish I could have started earlier, but we’ll do what we can.

We’ve spent a lot of time in my classroom lately talking about how to rate books. The reading logs we use during independent reading have a space to award a book 1-5 stars. Usually my second graders base that rating on how well they liked the book. Upon returning from winter break, we’ve added this star rating to our home reading as well. Our latest reading logs that we use to record home reading have a space for the star rating and our reasons why. Our conversations over that week shifted from how well we liked a book to how well the author or illustrator crafted the book. So when we talk about a book being funny, we ask “What did the author and illustrator do to make you laugh?” We talk about how the richness of details in illustrations, character descriptions, exchanges between characters, and so on contribute to the responses we have as readers. Together, we developed a rubric to help us decide on a star rating when we’re unsure. Pretty serious stuff for eight year olds! I really wanted to have these conversations and experiences looking at books in a different way before we took on our Caldecott work.

So here’s the plan for this week. I got ideas for my Caldecott short list to read aloud from many other blogs – Calling Caldecott, Goodreads, and my first go-to spot, Mr.Schu Reads. I think I read that Travis Jonker, who is on the Caldecott Committee this year, considered something like 600 books! I’m just hoping that some of the books we are reading and rating actually get a nod from the committee. I was nervous putting together my list and couldn’t get my hands on some hopefuls at this late date. Here’s our list:
Journey
Brave Girl
Flora and the Flamingo
Bluebird
Locomotive
Niño Wrestles the World
Warning: Do Not Open This Book
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
Hello, My Name Is Ruby
The Story of Fish and Snail
The Dark
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

So this week, we will look at the criteria, read and discuss books, and rate them. I like the idea of separating story and illustration as we discuss what we appreciate that the author and illustrator did and concerns we have. I also think I’ll take Travis Jonker’s suggestion of having kids rate on a scale of 1-3 instead of 1-5. All this before next Monday!

Last year was the first time that I actually watched the awards due to all the One and Only Ivan frenzy on Twitter and it was so exciting. I think I actually screamed when the Newbery was announced! I hope that this week builds that same level of excitement for my second graders!