Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Trait: Sentence Fluency

We follow deer tracks in the mud, pretending that we too are wild beasts.
and so it begins! What happens when you prejudge a book recommendation from a colleague simply because of its name or its audience? For me, that's pretty rare, yet it happened with Guyku. Because I trust the educators of my PLN (Professional Learning Network), I changed my mind, I read Guyku. It's great, so I say, "Go with it!" With that in mind, I've decided to review this highly recommended book with a specific audience. I'm wondering if children who read Guyku will really care that the title makes it sound like it's a book for boys, yet I think most young ones will enjoy this book. I just read GUYKU, because of this trust within my Professional Learning Network. This book would be a satisfying read for boys or girls. While, the story of Haiku for guys sounded like a book that only a boy could love, I was impressed that the story would probably be well received by boys or girls. As I have written on many Tuesdays, I'm giving GUYKU the Six Traits of Writing treatment. While this book could be used to teach many traits, especially WORD CHOICE and SENTENCE FLUENCY. I selected SENTENCE FLUENCY because I think the Haiku message can be taught within the context of the fluency trait. In Guyku, each sentence is written in the poetic form of Haiku, yet the style and meter of each sentence is NOT repetitious. Quite the opposite. With sentences like
Hey, who turned off all the crickets? I'm not ready for summer to end....
With baseball cards and clothespins, we make our bikes sound like motorcycles....
it appears to me that this is a great opportunity to show your students how cool varying sentences in a similar (Haiku) format can be. Join me. Review this book.
Other educators who have spoken high praise for GUYKU: IMAGE: "Join the Guyku Club" by Peter H. Reynolds taken from the Guyku website.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Trait: Ideas and Content

Tuesday's Trait: Ideas and Content highlights the story Drylongso. Drylongso BY Virginia Hamilton Illustrated by: Jerry Pinkey

Drylongso is a realistic fiction story, set in the 1970's. It is the tale of a farming family in the drought-stricken Great Plains or Midwest. The story could have happened in one of the many places with red dirt, including the Oklahoma Panhandle. The ideas and content of this picture book make is a great candidate to encourage and practice effective writing among older elementary students. The story is mature enough that it could be used as examples for middle school students. The big idea of this story is how natural forces can reinforce poverty. The poverty refers to the low economic standing of subsistence farmers, especially among African Americans in the drought stricken region. The poverty is represented by the meager types and amounts of food, lack of water, and other primary needs. Lindy's family in the story Drylongso never went hungry, but they were always on the verge of hunger. This could be a great opportunity to begin a conversation about hunger. First, define: What is hunger? This could be a lively discussion, because some may believe the tiny twinge when a meal is a few hours late describes hunger. Many of them may never know what it is like to be truly hungry and go without food for more than a day. While this could be a tricky topic, you will do well if you ask the students to share their stories in the third person. For example, you could ask, "Do you know anyone who has ever told stories of being hungry?" If they tell stories about themselves, it might be best if others don't know. That is one purpose for using the third person. They may know relatives who lived through The Great Depression of the 1930s, and they can tell their stories. Telling stories would be a great opportunity to develop related projects and tell the stories of your students' families. Students could interview friends and relatives and make a presentation. If your students don't have anyone who might have been hungry, you could use Skype or some other communication device and interview some people who lived through hunger times here in the United States of America or other countries. The secondary, yet important idea of the story is the drought itself. The drought is so pervasively discussed in the story that it really becomes one of the characters. Briefly, yet powerfully, the author discusses the drought using ideas and content that make you feel dry, dirty and tired from all the work that must take place to avoid the major problems of the drought. The description of the dust storm is very realistic. As an introduction to an important character, Nature, Virginia Hamilton does discuss the 20 year cycle of droughts in the setting. The turning point in the story is the dust storm that brings a new character, Drylongso. He arrives as an enormous dust storm spins into the story. His arrival is reminiscent of a modern day, muted Pecos Bill riding a dust devil into town. Drylongso, a boy a bit older than the family's daughter Lindy, is taken in by Lindy's family. They give him water to drink and use to clean his face, and they feed him. Drylongso tells the family how he was separated from his father during the dust storm and became lost. As the conversations continued, Drylongso revealed that he could use a dowsing rod to find water. Then he uses his dowsing rod to locate an underground spring in the dry creek bed that can be used by Lindy's family to help improve their water situation. They can water their animals and their garden, and this new water source is an inspiration for new positive feelings about their situation. Having helped the family, Drylongso says he must return to his father, and he disappears into the West. Characters: Lindy MamaLu Dad Drylongso