Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Brainstorm Vol 4 (Revamped): Books that can be used in K-12 classrooms

This brainstorm was originally shared internally November 2012. It has been revamped for this blog.

Three books that can be used to talk with students about bullying, differences, moving, and materialism.

Picture Book Resources

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, ill. by David Catrow

Molly Lou Melon's family is moving and she is worried about fitting in at her new school. She has reason to be worried. She's extremely short, has buck teeth, and some rather unique talents. Molly Lou's grandmother tells her to stand tall and embrace her differences and the rest of the world will too. Ronald Durkin is the class bully at her new school and tries to make fun of her, but his plans seem to bounce right off of Molly Lou and backfire as she follows her grandma’s advice. Eventually, Ronald Durkin has a change of heart.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Bullying: Molly Lou's response to the class bully is worth emulating. It's a great book to use when talking with students about how to respond to bullies.
  • Moving: Just about everyone has qualms about moving to a new place. This is a good book to intro discussions with kids about their feelings towards past or upcoming moves.
  • Differences: Many of us try to hide our differences, but Molly Lou's grandmother tells her to embrace her differences. Have students brainstorm a list of pros/cons about following Grandma's advice. Do the pros outweigh the cons? What would have happened to Molly Lou if she hadn't listened to her Grandma? 
  • Differences: Discuss why people often make fun of those who are different. Have students determine if they are more like Molly Lou or more like Ronald, and whether they are satisfied with that. Have them write down goals for themselves of how to behave in the future in regards to their own uniqueness and others' differences. 
  • Talents: Many students struggle with figuring out what they are good at. You could also have students write notes to each other telling each other what they appreciate about each others' differences and unique talents.

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, ill. by Lynn Munsinger

Tacky the Penguin does not behave like a typical pretty penguin. He does not have perfect poise or a
beautiful voice, and he can’t even seem to march correctly. His companion penguins find him rather
odd. However, when the mean hunters come around looking to catch some “pretty penguins” Tacky
manages to confuse and confound them till they run off. There are several other books in the Tacky
series and in each one Tacky seems to save the day by being the odd penguin who doesn’t quite fit in. Tacky's a personal favorite of mine and several others I know.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Gifts/Talents: Have a class discussion about what the world would be like if we all had the exact same talents. What would be the benefits and what would be the hazards of such a world? 
  • Bullying: Like Molly Lou Melon, Tacky could easily be the brunt of bullying (though he is often a little too off in the clouds to notice). Compare and contrast how the other penguins treat Tacky before and after the hunters come. Why do their attitudes changed? Who changed, Tacky or the other penguins? Is the person that gets picked on in your class like Tacky? If so, what does this book make you think about how you should be treating that person?
  • Book Duo on Differences: Read both Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and Tacky the Penguin. Have students compare and contrast the two characters. Ask students to brainstorm things we can learn from both of these characters.
  • Religion: Right along with the gifts/talents idea above, this book could be tied in with lessons about being the body of Christ or spiritual gifts.
  • Antarctica/Polar Climates: This is a very fun read for classes studying polar climates or penguins.
  • Penguins: Tacky stands out among the rest of the penguins, but penguins themselves are rather unique birds. Have students do some research on ways penguins are different from many other birds and how they are uniquely designed for life in the cold.

The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, ill. by Gail de Marcken

A very greedy king finds out that there is a quiltmaker in his kingdom who just gives away
beautiful quilts to other people. He is hurt that he has never received one. He demands that
she make him one of his beautiful quilts. The wise quiltmaker takes the opportunity to require
payment in rather unique methods and teaches the king valuable lessons on the joys of blessing
others and being unselfish. The king must give things away from his hoarded treasures, and each
time he does so, she will add a square to his quilt. The king’s heart changes dramatically in the
process, and in the end, he learns to joyfully give until he cannot give any more. The pictures are
beautifully captivating. This is a longer picture book, so it may require two sittings to read.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Materialism: Many people are now consumed with getting more, more, more, but are extremely dissatisfied. Have students compare and contrast the king from the beginning of the book and the end of the book. Which would they rather meet? Before reading, ask students to write down 5-10 things they need. After reading, ask students to reevaluate that list and brainstorm ways the money could help others instead.
  • Charity: This is a perfect book to read and start a discussion about how to help people in need. Maybe even have students to brainstorm ways they can work as a class to help others around them, possibly even ways that will cost them something like it cost the king. Are they willing to give up their favorite snack for a week and save the money to give to an organization that helps others? Are they willing to sacrifice their time to help others themselves? There are lots of ways students of all ages can be involved in blessing their communities.
  • Haves/Havenots, Media & Psychology: There are lots of interesting studies about which cultures are happiest or the most worry-free, and it is usually the people who have just enough, not the super rich. There's also some very interesting stuff out there about how media uses psychology to get us to buy things. (One great source for this is Go: a Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd.) Have students read some of the data and ask them to write an essay comparing what the media tells, and what the research of cultures tells us. Can money really buy happiness?
  • Stories with Morals: This is a rather long tale, but it is easy to figure out the moral of the story. Ask students if they can write it in a few words. Ask students which would make a bigger impact on someone else they know, if they had just read the moral or if they read them the whole book. Why is that? (Which can lead to talking about the power of stories to help change hearts and minds.)
  • Morals Writing Extension: Have students brainstorm a moral they think is important for people to know, and then write a story to convey that message.
  • Bible: Could be tied in with a lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit, or Solomon's choice of gift from God, or the story of the rich young ruler.
  • Quilts: Have students brainstorm characteristics that would make them a good citizen. Put the characteristics on quilt squares (real or just paper), and make a character quilt for the class of things they want to be to bless their community.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Brainstorm Vol 38: Books that can be used in K-12 classrooms

I've been working on Caldecott books this week and came across a great TCK story about a family from Japan I hadn't read before. I had two others books in my list of possibilities for the Brainstorm that were also Japanese-related, so ta-da, a Japanese-themed Brainstorm!

Picture Book Resources

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say

Allen Say tells the story of his grandfather, who left Japan in the early 1900s and travelled the United States. His grandfather was so enthralled with the country, he returned to live in California after getting married in Japan. But after a while, his grandfather longed for Japan and returned there. Eventually his grandson was born in Japan, to whom he passed on his wanderlust and love of California.
In just a few illustrations and simple lines of words Say is able to completely capture the dilemma of the expat, that they just aren't quite sure where they fully belong. (Incidentally, those illustrations are are completely justified in picking this one up just to look at the pictures.)

Activity tie-ins:

  • TCKs: This is a great one for third culture kids. Say and his grandfather both fully understand common hazards of living in a different culture. This is a quick read, so it can be used even with little ones to talk with kids about how they might identify with the author and his grandfather. 
  • History: Say's Grandfather gets to travel across much of the turn of the 20th century United States. The illustrations do a great survey of the land and time period, making this a good one to help students visualize that time period.
  • WWII: Say's Grandfather wanted to return to the United States for another visit before his death but World War II got in the way. Say mentions the destruction of some of their family homes because of the war. This is a very unique Japanese perspective of WWII. The Says obviously love the United States but also love Japan.
  • Family History & Summarizing: Say is able to summarize three generations of history in about 32 sentences. It's a great example of being able to summarize the important points to tell the story he wanted to tell succinctly. Students should easily be able to realize he left out lots and lots of details, but also be able to see that he still told the main story. This would be a great example before students write their own summary of something. It's also obvious Say spent time communicating with his family about their stories. Students could be asked to research their own family history and challenged to summarize a story in just 32 lines. What do they find they have in common? If grandparents are unavailable, perhaps students could adopt a grandparent from among neighbors or friends and tell their story in a picture book.
  • Caldecott: This book won the Caldecott Medal. That in itself tells me where Allen Say chose to make his home (you have to be a US citizen to win this award). Have students research this award or other awards out there in other countries for illustrators.
  • Allen Say: Say has written and illustrated many other multicultural stories. We have several of them in our Elementary Media Center. Challenge students to see if they can read them all and decide which one is their favorite and why. What kinds of cultures did they get to learn about?

My First Book of Japanese Words: an ABC Rhyming Book by Michelle Haney Brown, ill. by Aya Padron

If you're going to visit Japan or studying Japan, this is a must read. It is a fantastic little alphabet book. The words chosen are things that a Japanese child would know or things you'd likely come across when visiting Japan. And it doesn't just identify each item's Japanese word but also tells a little bit about it. There's a spectacular pronunciation guide for the anglicized transliterations and some information on the different types of Japanese writing. (Each page also has the word written in Kanji and Kana, Japanese pictographs and alphabet.) There's also notes on the letters not found in the Japanese alphabet (though in this edition the notes page at the front has a typo and wrote W instead of X as one of the letters, the actual letter pages are correct). It's a very informative alphabet book, written in catchy rhymes, and beautifully illustrated.

Activity tie-ins:

  • Japan: This almost goes without saying, but this is a great book to include when studying Japan. There are animals mentioned found nowhere else in the world, and of course there's the Japanese characters, etc. The author wrote this book after a foreign exchange experience in Japan.
  • Alphabet Books: Alphabet books are great for kids just learning the alphabet. It's also a fun and somewhat challenging critical thinking activity to get kids to make their own alphabet list of words from their culture. Can they come up with words that people would use if they visited the country? It's a little harder than it sounds.
  • Linguistics: Some of the words in Japanese bear a resemblance to other Asian words for the same things. It's a good opportunity to talk about how languages have developed from older languages and can be grouped in families. If you go back far enough with this, you could tie this in with a lesson on the Tower of Babel. Also, some of the Japanese words in this book are things we come across daily, like oishii. You can also talk about foreign words adopted into another language. Have students identify some foreign words Americans have adopted into their English, or some English words that have been adopted into Thai.
  • Rhyming: Those studying rhyming words or poetry can use this as an example of an informative book written in rhyme. Have students compose and write or say their own informative rhymes.
  • Psychology/Brain Science: Ask students why they think the author chose to write this book in rhyme, and then you could tie this into a lesson on how and why rhyming helps us remember things better. What are the students trying to study right now? Challenge them to put some of it in rhyme to help the memory process.
  • Art: Art students could analyze the Asian-influenced illustrations in this book. What makes them look Asian?
Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, ill. by Dan Santat

It's the three little pigs and the big bad wolf as you've never seen them before. Yes, they have the normal houses of straw, sticks, and bricks. But they also have taken martial arts lessons. Well, the first pig and second pig took some martial arts lessons, but luckily for them, the third pig stuck to it and can scare off that wolf without touching a fur.
There are some books you read and you instantly know they'll be a huge hit with students. I knew this would be a huge hit with students, and it is. (In fact, you'll probably have to put a hold on it to get your hands on it.) Between the Asian setting, the word ninja in the title, and the fun cartoonish illustrations, it's a home run winner of a book. The story is also artfully told in rhyming text. There's a nice moral of perseverance paying off, and I liked that though the pigs' weapons were martial arts skills there was no physical violence.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Perseverance: The third little pig perseveres at her martial arts training and because of that, she's able to scare off the wolf. The first two little pigs did not persevere and it almost got them turned into pork chops. A great book to talk about trying new things, sticking with them even when it's hard, and recognizing the payoffs of perseverance. Is there a certain subject or project that may not be fun right now but will pay off eventually? The first two pigs eventually go back and study again, and that second time they keep at it. Ask students if there's some activity they would like to try again that maybe they gave up on too quickly. (In an over-zealous, perfectionist culture, it may also be important to talk about knowing when it is ok to give something up too.)
  • Responsibility: The third little pig uses her martial arts skills responsibly. She threatens, but does not injure. Ask kids what some little pigs would have done to the wolf instead and have them debate which is better and why.
  • Martial Arts Forms & Culture: Each little pig studies a different form of martial arts. This could be tied in to studies of culture, which culture is each martial arts form tied to? What is the importance of martial arts in Japan?
  • Compare/Contrast: You probably thought of this one the minute you read the synopsis. This book just begs to be compared and contrasted with other versions of the Three Little Pigs story.
  • Fairy Tale Adaptations (Culture/Writing/Drama): Schwartz & Santat adapted the Three Little Pigs story into the culture of Japan. Have students pick a fairy tale or folk tale and another culture. How would the story change in that culture? They could rewrite the story as a picture book or play.
  • Poetry: This story is told in rhyme. Students could analyze the text to figure out what kind of poetry this is. Is it couplets or quatrains or epic? Another writing extension would be to have students rewrite their favorite fairytale/folktale in rhyme. 
  • Writing: Since kids love this book so much, it would be easy for them to stay immersed in the story. Have them write another adventure for the three ninja pigs.
  • Japanese Architecture: A story that focuses on building projects, gives plenty of opportunity to study various architecture forms of that culture.
Nonfiction Resource

Modern Japan: a very short introduction by Christopher Goto-Jones

The title pretty much says it all. This is a little book (smaller than the average paperback), but written by an recognized expert in the field and covers the basics of modern Japanese civilization while also covering some history. I really like Oxford's Very Short Introduction series because they are so approachable. Students usually take one look at the average 400+ page nonfiction resource and start running in the other direction. Books in this series actually get checked out for recreational reading, not just assignments! So if you're looking for a good, short resource, look for the little books.

Activity Tie-Ins:

  • History: A concise extra-textbook resource on Japanese history. It covers the past 400 years of history.
  • Culture: This book was written in 2009, so it's a pretty current source for Japanese cultural information.
  • Economics: This book has reliable information on an important country for the economy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Brainstorm Vol 3 (revamped): Books that can be used in K-12 classrooms

This Brainstorm was originally shared internally with ICS staff Nov 1, 2012. It has been revamped for this blog.

Picture Book Resources

Tuesday by David Wiesner

This is one of my all time favorite picture books. Almost entirely wordless, Wiesner uses his illustrations to tell the story about the rather unusual and extraordinary adventures of some frogs who suddenly find themselves able to fly on Tuesday night. Unhappily for them, their flying adventures are short lived, but the last illustration hints that perhaps some other animals will get their own adventures the next Tuesday.

Activity tie-ins:
  • Frogs/Amphibians: Obviously, this would be an easy tie-in for classes studying frogs specifically or amphibians in general.
  • Talking about Genres: This would be a great book to have students classify into a genre, whether they are just at the place of differentiating between true stories and fiction, or mystery, adventure, science fiction and fantasy (incidentally, you could make a case for any of those genres for this book, so kids could debate which one they think it best fits and why, and there really are no wrong answers to that debate). 
  • Cool colors: The entire book happens at night so it abounds in cool colors. Art classes could use the book to talk about the challenges of portraying evening in art, the definition of cool colors and the psychological effects of cool colors. Of course, Psychology classes could use this to talk about the effects of colors too.
  • Emotions in art: There are so many different emotional responses among the frogs, the people, and creatures the frogs run into on their adventure. Classes have a lot of material here to study how Wiesner was able to convey those emotions purely through the artwork. This could also be a tool for kids with disabilities who have a hard time reading emotions on faces.
  • Creative Writing: There are a total of only about 5 words in this book. Most just give the time frame for the story, so there's a lot of opening for students to write their own story to go with this book. There's also a wide open hint at the end of the book as to what happens next Tuesday night, so students could write and illustrate their story of the pigs' adventures next Tuesday.
  • Setting: This is a nice, easy book to introduce what a setting is. It's pretty easy to determine the locations for the various parts of this story (pond, house, street), and Wiesner is kind enough to even give the time every few pages. From the clothes the people are wearing, you can even determine a basic time period. So this would be a clear cut example for introducing this aspect of a story.
  • Point of View: This kind of goes along with the creative writing. This story lends itself well to being told from multiple view points. Students could write the story from the perspective of a frog enjoying itself, or a frog that doesn't like this Tuesday night. There's a dog who could tell his version of the story, a man up late at night who ends up telling his story to a tv anchor in one illustration, so they could write the man's story or the tv's version of the story...there's lots of options.
  • Foreshadowing: The way Wiesner has laid out the story often provides hints on one page spread as to what is coming on the next page spread, so this is a great book to talk about foreshadowing. 
  • Plot Progression/Organizing Events by Time: This book has a pretty straightforward plot with building and high point and then denouement and would be easy for students to plot out as practice for a possibly trickier book with words. Also, it would be a good book to test students on whether they can put the story events in order afterward. (This could easily be done by showing a portion of the pictures and asking which came first, second, etc.)
  • Caldecott Medal/Illustrator: Wiesner has won multiple Caldecott awards, both medals and honors for his incredible illustrations. Most of his books are wordless like this one and many are very imaginative. You could have students compare/contrast his books, use him to talk about the Caldecott award, or look at the career option of author/illustrator. Here is David Wiesner's website.
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

Wesley needs a summer project so he starts growing a garden. His simple gardening project grows to the extent that Wesley ends up developing his own civilization complete with clothing, language, religion, and food.

Activity tie-ins:
  • Civilization & Culture: This is a great book for classrooms discussing different cultures, or how civilizations develop. An extension would be to have students develop their own culture. 
  • Crops & Culture: Wesley's culture ends up revolving around the crops he grows. Classes can study how this reflects the way many actual cultures revolve around certain crops/products and how that ends up being evident in art, language, and traditions.
  • Boredom: Everyone gets bored at some point. Have students brainstorm their own projects and activities so they have ready options could do the next time they get bored.
  • And More: This book has been around for a while and there's a LOT of lesson plans out there for it. Just type "Weslandia lesson plans" in the search engine of your choice and you'll get dozens and dozens of results.
Nonfiction Resource

Candy Bomber: the Story of Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" by Michael O. Tunnell

This is an incredible true story about how small gifts of kindness can bring hope, mend bad relations, and encourage others to do likewise. Lt. Halverson was an American pilot dropping supplies to residents in Berlin after WWII. After meeting some children, he felt led to drop his candy rations in small parachutes for the kids who had not tasted candy in years. Halverson’s gifts of kindness for people who were former enemies touched lives there in Berlin and all over the world. Soon, others wanted to be a part of this and donations of candy came from all over the world, while letters and drawings of thanks poured in from the German children and their families. Halverson has left a legacy of kindness, care and love for others that continues still today. The book is filled with great pictures and copies of thank you notes from Halverson’s personal files.

Activity tie-ins:
  • WWII: This book highlights a time period right after the war that's often glossed over in history books. It could easily be a conclusion to a study of WWII, and it is a heartwarming story from a period of time that is often filled with bleak and harrowing tales.
  • Loving Your Neighbor: This is a great book to illustrate a real life Good Samaritan and could easily be tied in with a lesson on that Bible story.
  • Mending Relationships: Lt. Halverson was able to help the healing process between Germans and Americans just with gifts of chocolate. This is a great opportunity to talk about broken relationships and the best ways to go about fixing them.
  • Helping Those in Need: Lt. Halverson's idea was relatively simple. Talk to kids about simple ways they can bless others. Halverson's organization still drops goodies to kids in war torn areas today. Have students research how they can get involved or other similar organizations that help kids less fortunate than themselves. 
  • Effects of War: Halverson's story highlights some of the lesser-known after-effects of war. Ask the students why he media doesn't usually cover this. Have government classes brainstorm the myriad of things that a recovering government would have to think through and deal with, and along with that, why this can be a dangerous time in a country. Discuss what actions on the parts of other countries could help or hurt people during such a time. And lastly, this would be a good time to debate war versus non-violent solutions.
  • Generosity: Have students discuss or reflect on whether or not they would have given their candy to the children like Lt. Halverson, and/or ask them if they can think of other acts of generosity. Then challenge them to think of a way they could be generous.
  • East/West Germany: This would be a good book to tie into a study of the Cold War or how Germany was divided up after WWII.
  • Picture Book: If this book is too long, there's a picture book called Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Raven that tells the story from the perspective of one of the children who really received the candy, Mercedes Simon. Sadly, we don't have that available in our library right now. I've been itching to get my hands on it and read it, but so far it's evaded me. I've heard it's good too.
  • Fiction Book: We do have a middle grade fiction book called Candy Bombers by Robert Elmer. The main characters in this book are residents of Germany in 1948 and make contact with a US airman who hands out candy to them. Students could read both books and compare and contrast the real stories versus the made up one.