By Sharon Creech
Lexile Level 790
It's spring which means April, National Poetry Month, will be here before we know it. Every year as part of our celebration of National Poetry Month our fourth graders write “I Am From” poems. “I Am From” poems typically describe students’ homes inside and out, family traditions and beloved family members. This year in addition to student samples, I’m going to read “But First, Before Zora,” which is a poem on page two of Sharon Creech’s new novel Moo. At the beginning of the novel, Reena lives in a big city, but by the end of the novel she’s planted roots in Maine. After we finish reading the novel aloud, I will ask students to write an “I Am From” poem from Reena’s point of view now that she calls Maine home. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
Melissa Stewart’s A Place for Butterflies and all of the other books in the same series are an integral part of my nonfiction unit. They’ve always been a powerful tool to highlight different text structures. The main text uses the cause and effect structure while the sidebars use the problem and solution text structure. This year I took it a step further, and I asked students to think about why Stewart chose these text structures. She could have chosen a chronological/sequential text structure or elected to write books about the physical features of butterflies or birds or turtles or frogs or bats, but she didn’t. Why? They knew the answer of course, because Stewart wanted text structures that showed readers that every action they take, be it from bringing cloth bags to the grocery stores or planting butterfly gardens, counts.
By Jerry Spinelli
Lexile level 550
Sure, you’ve taught compare/contrast text structure during your non-fiction unit, but what about during your fiction unit? Jerry Spinelli’s The Warden’s Daughter open’s with a breathtaking passage comparing and contrasting a birdhouse to a prison. It sounds like a bizarre connection, but the reader soon finds out it’s the same building. Now it’s a birdhouse, but when the narrator lived there, it was a prison. After studying the gorgeous compare/contrast text structure, you can compare and contrast the first two pages of The Warden’s Daughter with the first two pages of Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts. So, crack open The Warden’s Daughter and let the gorgeous compare/contrast text structure whisk you away to 1959.
Whether it be for one specific student, a small group of kids, or a whole class, finding a "just right" book makes the teacher's and the students' day.