Monday, July 20, 2015

Brown Girl Dreaming: A Review

Hi everyone! Last week I shared The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, the winner of the Newbery Award in 2015.  Today, I'm back to share Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, a Newbery Honor book.  Like The Crossover, Brown Girl Dreaming is written in verse.  Each chapter is it's own poem, with the entire book being a memoir of Jacqueline Woodson's early life.  It is beautiful, powerful and relevant to the times we live in.

The story begins in Ohio, where Jacqueline was born and lived with her mother and father until at a young age, the mother moves the family to her home state of South Carolina.  The year is 1963 and the nation is embroiled in the battle over civil rights.  The move to South Carolina means that the family must sit in the back of the bus, where the mother whispers to her son "we're as good as anybody."  While in South Carolina, Jacqueline lives with her grandparents and has experiences that will provide her with nostalgia for the south when her mother moves the family to Brooklyn a few years later.

"It's dawn and the birds have come alive, chasing
each other from maple to pine and back
to maple again. This is how time passes her.
The maple will be bare-branched come winter,
Mama says. But the pines, they just keep on living.

And the air is what I'll remember.
Even once we move to New York.

It always smelled liket his, my mother says.
Wet grass and pine.

Like memory."

I think most of all, I loved the relationship between Jacqueline and her grandfather.  Savvy readers will predict his fate pages before the narrator reveals his failing health.  His story made my heart ache.

The story Woodson tells is easy to follow.  Although the story is recommended for grades 5 and up (according to amazon), the text is complex and layered.  A fifth grade reader will likely comprehend the story as one about a girl growing up and moving between the north and the south.  An older reader with more prior knowledge will understand the themes of prejudice and racism.  These readers will pay attention to the change from civil rights to the black power movement.

"More than a hundred years, my grandfather says,
and we're still fighting for the free life
we're supposed to be living"
This is not a book about civil rights so much as it is a book about a girl witnessing the civil rights movement.  From this text students might realize how protesters were trained to sit at Woolworth's counters and how civil rights supporters could lose their jobs for protesting.  These readers might benefit from seeing images of the civil rights movement so they can envision these protests, particularly the sit-ins at Woolworth's counters.  I think this would be a great way to help students empathize and possibly better understand some of the current issues with race in South Carolina.

So who is this book for?  I think this book would speak to many girls.  The review from the New York Times questions the appropriateness of the title "Brown Girl Dreaming" as opposed to just "Girl Dreaming."  I love the title.  I think that Jacqueline Woodson wrote her story for other little girls to see their own story mirrored.  In the story, Jacqueline tells about her first time finding a book with African American characters:

"If someone had been fussing with me
to read like my sister, I might have missed
the picture book filled with brown people, more
brown people than I'd ever seen
in  a book before.

If someone had taken
that book out of my hand
said, You're too old for this
I'd never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story."

Personally, I am excited to add this book to my library and will be looking for the perfect reader this fall!  I'd also like to add a set to my literature circle options!

Tell me: What are you reading right now?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday, everyone! I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share a few random things about my week!

My kids started camp this week!  My son, Jacob, is in sports camp for half the day and my daughter, Leah, is in #bestsummerever camp through her preschool for three days a week.  They love it!  It's just a bit of a scheduling nightmare for me....I drop her off at 8, him at 9, pick him up at 12:30, her at 3.  So I have about three hours to myself...and I will take what I can get!

Leah, on her first field trip!  The class went to see a performance of Cinderella.  The highlight of the trip was going on a school bus, of course.

I'm taking a new position next year!  I'll be the literacy teacher for grades 3, 4 and 5.  I will push into classrooms to work with small groups in the mornings and I'll have classes come to me in the afternoons.  I plan to use a workshop model to spread the love of reading amazing books to our older readers!  I am so excited :-)  I've been pinning away....thinking about guided reading, library organization and my favorite novels for older readers!  You can take a look at my pinterest HERE.  Leave yours in the comments!

As part of my new position, I've been reading kids books like mad this summer! I've already blogged about the Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  I also read Brown Girl Dreaming, which I will review on Monday's post.  Check back!

I made our Disney fastpass+ this week!  We are spending two days at Magic Kingdom and one day at Animal Kingdom at the end of August, very beginning of September (I know that it will be crazy hot...).  We went to DIsney last summer, but didn't get to go to Animal Kingdom because I was too busy geeking out at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  I made fastpass+ for the safari,  It's Tough to be a Bug (DH and Jacob), Character Meet (me and Leah) and the Lion King show.  Any Animal Kingdom experts? Does that sound good for a 6 year old and 4 year old?  We will hit dinosaur as soon as we get to the park.

This would be perfection if dirty wasn't spelled wrong! 
This is my life right now.  I love summer because I can workout so frequently.  I hate summer because I'm in the shower twice a day.

I hope you all have a great Friday and a fab weekend!  Be sure to link up with Doodlebugs to share your five for Friday!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Crossover

Let's all just pretend that I've been updating my blog regularly and it hasn't been sitting, getting dusty in some corner of the Internet, okay? :-)

An apology: new evaluation system in NYC nonsense/first grader involved in too many activities/dissertation length lesson plans/marathon training/death of my doggie/adoption of a puppy/maintaining a marriage = something had to give.  And now that it's summer I hope I'll be able to blog more regularly (although my soon-to-be second grader is still involved in too many activities!).

I did, however, have time to read the best book I've read in years.  The Crossover by Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Award this year and it is fabulous.  The book is written in free verse and in the vernacular of today's kids.  When I read the book aloud to my class at the end of the year, one of my students kept remarking that she could tell the book was "modern" because of the way it was written (love that!).

The story is narrated by Josh, aka Filthy McNasty, an African American boy who loves LOVES basketball and is great at it.  He is the only seventh grader on his team who can dunk.  His father played professional ball for a European team and won a championship ring before he was sidelined by an injury.  Josh is also a twin.  His twin brother Jordan, or JB, also plays basketball, but develops a new interest in girls, leaving Josh feeling alone.  The text brings you through the changes that Josh unwillingly experiences because of the choices of people around him.

My students loved this book.  I had so much fun reading it aloud to them.  It's filled with basketball trash talk and rhymes (See, when I play ball,/ I'm on fire./When I shoot,/I inspire./The hoop's for sale,/and I'm the buyer.)

Entwined into the story, the author wove several vocabulary words that have their own chapters and Basketball Rules, which are really rules for life.  My favorite rule is #3: "Never let anyone lower your goals.  Others' expectations of you are determined by their limitations of life.  The sky is your limit, sons.  Always shoot for the sun and you will shine."

While this is a text that refers to basketball (A LOT) I don't think it just appeals to kids who are interested in sports stories.  This is a highly engaging text that will appeal to many readers in your classrooms.  I especially think that this is a book for your most reluctant readers.  Kids who are entering their tween and teen years will relate to the drama of young love and the chapters are short and easy to digest.  Pertinent vocabulary is explicitly defined within the text as well.

I'm currently planning a novel study for my fifth graders next year using this text.  I've posted a comprehension booklet on TpT:

 This packet includes 22 pages of higher order thinking questions, a project choice board and a full answer key with teaching ideas for the teacher! I've also included a CCSS anchor standard alignment, which you can see in the preview.  As always, this resource is posted at a discount from today until 7/10 around 9pm.

I also wanted to share a free resource: a vocabulary trifold for The Crossover.  You can use this download to help students define the vocabulary from the text or to write sentences using the words they've acquired.  Click on either image to download from Google Drive:

Tell Me: Has anyone else read The Crossover? The next book on my list is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson.  I have quite a few books for older readers, but I need more current books for third and fourth graders.  Any suggestions?