Global Literature

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"The River", by Gary Paulsen

I really enjoyed reading this book and I plan on reading the other books in this series as soon as possible. All the books in this series provide teachers with endless possibilities for lessons and integrated themes. If anyone is interested the web site provides teachers with many ideas for lessons that can be used in the grade 5 classroom. For example, there are lessons on mapping, geography, poetry, creating survival kits etc. This site also containes an interview with Paulsen and a biography for anyone who is interested in author studies.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Critical Dialogue #2: "Oral storytelling: a dropped thread in the tapestry of literacy", by C. Andrew (Education Today. Toronto: Fall 2001. Vol. 13, Iss. 3)

In this article C. Andrew explores the relationship between oral storytelling and literacy(2001). Accordingly, oral storytelling provides students with a "context" into which they can place people's reasons for telling stories, learn the structure and sequence of stories, strengthen their prediction skills and their listening and speaking skills(Andrew, 2001). These are just some examples from the article on the benefits of using oral storytelling in the classroom. Andrew (2001) also explains that oral storytelling must be used in conjunction with other reading and writing activities for children to benefit from the oral storytelling experience. In order to further enrich the storytelling experience for students teachers can use puppets and drama, invite oral storytellers to the classroom, retell stories with different endings etc, and provide students with the opportunity to tell their own stories (Andrew, 2001).

I really enjoyed reading this article because this article strengthened my own belief in using oral stories during lessons. When I am instructing students I tend to tell stories of my own expereinces with the subject area that I am teaching in order to engage the students and to help facilitate the learning process. For example, one lesson on magnets involved an experiment with bar magnets, clear syrup and iron filings. I wanted the students to understand the importance of not putting any of these items in their mouth so I began the lesson with a true story about what happened the night before when I tried the experiment at home. This story explains how even adults can make mistakes, how it is important to help those around you and the importance of listening to instructions. Basically, my mom, who was helping me with the experiment, went to lick her fingers, which incidentally were covered in syrup and iron filings, and I grabbed her hand and said louder than usual... Then I asked the students what they thought I had said and they replied, "stop, no etc." "Yes", I said. Then the students and I discussed the rules of experimentation and the importance of following those rules. This story provided me with the opportunity to connect to the students and gave them the opportunity to discuss the reasons why keeping your hands away from your mouth and not licking your fingers is very important during experiments. The story was a great anticipatory set. I had not considered that in telling oral stories I am helping the students in their literacy development, but I am glad that I am on the right track. I hope to use more oral storytelling strategies during my lessons and I hope to get the students involved in this process as well.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Critical Dialogue #1: "Using Literacy to Create Social Justice Classrooms", by R. Henkin

I read a story to an early elementary class about a little girl whose mom goes away to a hospital and does not come back. This story has very strong concepts in it about death and remembering that even when a person/pet dies they are still with you because they live on in your heart and memories. The book never actually says that the little girl's mom died but the students picked up on it right away and were eager to talk about their own experiences with death (most stories were about loosing beloved pets). I remember asking my supporting teacher if the book would be OK to read to the students, not because I thought that they could not handle the book, but because I was worried that I could not handle their questions. I am really glad that I read this book to the students because this book provided a positive learning experience for the students and for me. I learned that I am confident enought to discuss concepts; such as death, with students in an open manner.

After reading the article, "Using Literacy to Create Social Justice Classrooms", I thought about my experience reading the story about the little girl whose mother dies and about the students' responces and personal stories that they so eagerly sharred. Henkin (2004) states in this article that "Pat believes that literature opens the door to an abundance of conversations" (108). I also believe that this is true and I feel that it will be an important part of my teaching strategies to allow these "teachable moments" to happen in my classroom. In effect, social justice will be an important part of the literature curriculum in my classroom because these books provides students with the opportunity to share stories that would otherwise never be discusussed.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Literature Circle: "Mina's Spring of Colours", Rachna Gilmore

The literature circle we participated in for "Mina's Spring of Colors", by Rachna Gilmore, provided us with the opportunity to share our ideas related to the story and our own lived experiences. Through these discussions a number of ideas were generated for the purpose of lessons or units that can be further developed when using this book in the classroom setting. Some ideas that we discussed are as follows; Peer relationships, Self discovery; Relationships between generations in a family; Holi and other cultural celebrations; and the significance of color in art and culture. I think that it would be fun and educational for students to create tie-dyed t-shirts using natural and artificial dyes to celebrate the book's closure. Students could research natural dyes, learn what colors from the color wheel create new colors and, if possible, share their own family traditions with the rest of the class.

I really liked the set up of the literature circle that Cathy showed us which used different roles to include all students in the literature discussion: highlighter, relator, question maker. I plan to use this literature circle as soon as I modify this one for the developmental level of grade three students.

Multicultural Book Review

Book: Whoever You Are

Author: Mem Fox

I found this assignment with its' list of questions as a way to explore literature to be very beneficial to my understanding of the process of assessing literature for multicultural content. The questions helped to guide me in discovering the strengths and weaknesses of the book in terms of multicultural content. Moreover, this assignment provided me with the opportunity to refine my own assessment skills because many of the questions included in the assignment were not questions that I had taken into consideration.

I chose the book "Whoever You Are", by Mem Fox, to assess for multicultural content because I was interested in the book's illustrations and story line. Throughout this story children of non-specified cultural identity are taken on a trip around the world. The speaker in the book explains the physical and cultural differences of children around the world and then counterbalances these differences with similarities that all children experience. I liked this story because it never identifies specific cultural groups (preventing one cultural group from being privileged over another) and is written in language that is very easy for children to understand. As a multicultural book this story is very good because it depicts different racial groups, shifts traditional gender identities (one picture shows a female doctor) and the illustrations are very clear.

I believe that it is very important to evaluate children's books for multicultural content as well as accuracy of content. Consequently, I plan to include in my future classrooms many different books that reflect cultural diversity.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bibliography of Children's Literature

"Little Bear's Vision Quest", by Diane Silvey. This children's fantasy book is about the character Little Bear who learns what it means to be a friend while on a vision quest. This book is suitable for grade 1 to grade 4. This book can be linked to First Nation's curriculum, including First Nation's art forms.

"Whoever You Are", by Mem Fox. This multicultural children's book is told from the perspective of an African or African American man, who is taking children of all races and ethnic groups on a trip around the world. This speaker highlights the differences of children around the world (physical characteristics, culture, ethnicity etc)and then counterbalances these differences with the fact that children around the world experience many of the same feelings. This book is suitable for kindergarden to grade 2 students and would be liked to the personal development (mental well being) BC curriculum.

"Dealing with Dragons", by Patricia C. Wrede. This children's fantasy book is about an unusual princess, Cimorene, who runs away to find adventure and ends up living as a dragon's housekeeper. Cimorene meets many unusual characters in this book and helps to stop the wizard's plot. I do not want to give too much away so all I will say is that this story is a very untraditional fairy tale. Cimorene is a strong female character and she spends quite a bit of the book trying to get rid of the knights and princes who come to the dragon's cave to save her. This book would be suitable as a read aloud or as a liturature cirle book from grade 3 to grade 6. I read it about two years ago and I enjoyed it so really any age group would be good depending on the interests of the students. There are three books to this series so this book would be a good start to catch the interests of students. This book can be linked to any language arts lessons and units(comprehend & respond, personal response) from the BC curriculum. I think that it would be fun to compare this fairy tale to other traditional fairy tales.

"The Cassowary's Egg", by Garry Fleming. This Australian children's picture/poetry book has brilliantly colored, glossy pictures of different Australian animals and landscapes. In this story Calvin, a male cassowary, is left to take care of the egg while his partner, Carla, takes a short vacation. Everything goes well until a lisping goanna tricks Calvin into standing up. The goanna steals the egg for dinner and it is up to Calvin to get the egg back before his partner comes home. This story would be suitable for kindergarden to grade 4 students, especially as a read aloud because it is so funny. The links to the BC curriculum are endless: geography (social studies), animals (science), writing (language arts) and even personal development.

"Simon's Hook", by Karen Gedig Burnett. This realistic fiction book tells the story of Simon who gets teased by his peers because of his hair cut (his sister got gum stuck in it and she cut the gum out). Simon's Grandma Rose helps Simon to see how teasing is like fishing. If you let teasing bother you then you are caught on the teaser's hook but if you ignore the teasing or use humor to diffuse the situation then the teasing stops and/or the teasing does not bother you anymore. This book would be suitable for grade 1 to grade 5 and links to the personal development (mental well being) section of the BC curriculum.

"Obasan", by Joy Kogawa. This realistic book tells the story of Japanese Canadian internment during WWII from the perspective of a child. The story is situated in BC's lower mainland and moves through other parts of BC and Alberta. This story is about the strength of identity and the consequences of intolerance promoted by the policies of the Canadian gevernment at the time. This book would be suitable for grade 5 to grade 7 students and would link to the society and culture section of the BC curriculum under social studies.

"Chinese New Year: A World of Holidays". This factual book tells how and when Chinese New Year began, why it is important and the cultural and religious significance of this holiday. This book also contains food and decorating ideas for this celebration. This book would be suitable for grade 2 to grade 7 because it contains factual information and great pictures. This book would link to social studies BC curriculum. There is also a book in this series that discusses the Holi celebration. I could not find a picture of the book, but I found a picture of the celebration.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Read Aloud: "Little Bear's Vision Quest", by Diane Silvey

I chose to read "Little Bear's Vision Quest", by Diane Silvey, for my group read aloud because this book has a strong focus on forgiveness and recognizing the fact that people/animals have the potential to change. This book follows the animal character of Little Bear who begins the book by wandering around the forest and calling the other animal characters names. Later in the story Little Bear lies to his grandfather who sends Little Bear on a vision quest. As the story progresses the reader follows Little Bear as he experiences his vision quest and learns about friendship and family. This book has wonderful illustrations that are strongly connected to the events of the story. For example, as Little Bear better understands the meaning of friendship First Nation's art shapes begin to appear on his body, until he is fully covered. This connection between art and understanding can later be linked to lessons on First Nation's art. This book has unlimited potential for integration into other subject areas and I recommend it for grades one to four.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Story Experience (Jan. 10,2006)

When I was 9 years old my parents got me the book Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. As I grew up I read this story repeatedly to myself (many times well into the night). This book is about a little girl, named Heidi, who goes to live with her grandfather on the Alps. Throughout the book Heidi makes friends with characters who are all dealing with their own losses. For example, Heidi's friend Klara is a character in the novel who cannot walk, the grandmother is blind and Heidi's grandfather isolates himself from the rest of the community. As the story progresses Heidi's caring attitude and her loving ways slowly brings the people in the community together until the last chapter in which all the characters in the novel are brought together at the grandfather's house on the Alps. The story ends with "Heidi and grandfather lived happily ever after". I loved the language of this book which has a fairy tale quality, descriptive wording and a lightness that characterizes the tone of the story. I think what made this book special to me was that my grandfather and I had a very close relationship and reading this story helped me to grieve and remember all the fun that we had together before he passed away. I did not think about it at the time but I think that the feel of the book was also a reason why I loved it so much. The book is a small, hardcover that has very glossy, picture like pages. When I picked up the book last night, from my shelf at home, just the feel of it brought back my childhood memories of reading. I believe that Heidi provided me comfort at a time in my life when I was not able to understand the complex aspects of life and I believe that even as an adult this book continues to provide comfort.

I have one strong memory linked to story telling. My mom would always read to my sister and I the books Twas the Night Before Christmas and Rudolf on Christmas Eve, before we went to bed. Usually we read the books together snuggled up in blankets anticipating Santa's visit. These books were very special to my sister and I because they only came out on Christmas Eve and we loved them. Even now I think about these books when Christmas comes around and I cannot wait until the time when I can read them to my own children.

When I think about my childhood experiences with books I have realized that in many cases the stories themselves are blurry and that what I remember the most is the feelings that well up when I think about them. These feelings are connected to my life experiences and to the people that have held the most important places in my heart. I believe that reading to children and allowing children to choose their own books is important for this reason. Reading should provide children with many different types of experiences and positive memories. Consequently, I believe that it is important for children to read in their first languages as well as their second, to expose children to different genres of children's books and to give children the opportunity to express their ideas on books they have read from their unique perspective.