Friday, December 20, 2013

Read Aloud Roundup (December 2013)

This month's reading session came right before the school closes for winter break. I found some fun stories about Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Solstice to share -- while many of them had a special lesson about giving, sharing, believing, or learning, I wanted the focus to be on the enjoyment of the story. There were a few bonus books this month -- mostly nonfiction titles that are supplementary, and definitely relevant, but not the best for reading aloud. There were also some special requests from the teachers. I love filling those! It's nice feeling more connected to the classroom curricula, even though I'm not there in person to discuss these things.

Why was Tallulah excited about being in the ballet?
What would you have done onstage if you tripped and fell in the middle of a show?
Why do the other dancers tell Tallulah about their mistakes? How do you think she felt?
(Very well-received by the class -- the reader noted their unusual focus! This is a good choice for younger groups.)

Bonus book: Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, by Eric A. Kimmel (requested by teacher)
If you found yourself with a giant train in front of your house, what would you think? What would you do?
Why do you think the narrator asked for a bell from Santa's sleigh?
Why couldn't the parents hear the bell? What does that mean?
If you could have one very important present, what would you ask for?
(It turns out that the class gets to watch the Polar Express movie on the last day of school before the break! Serendipitous choice.)

What do Eduardo's new friends and neighbors have in common with his old ones? How are they different?
How do you think Eduardo felt in his new home and new school? Why?
When you have to wait for something important, how do you pass the time? How does it make you feel?

We are in the Northern Hemisphere, but with warmer weather than lots of other places there. What's different about the winter scenes in the book, compared to what we see outside in the winter?
What are some things that people do differently in the winter?
Think about some winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, etc.): how do they address the changing of the season, the dark and light, and the hope for warmer weather?

On what other winter holiday(s) do we light candles? Why do you think that's important this time of year?
About the principle of ujamaa: What are some gifts that a whole family could share?
About the principle of umoja: What are some activities that a whole family could do together?
What was something new that you learned from this book?

Abuela Mimi says that Nina is young enough to speak both Spanish and English. Do you have to be young to learn new languages? Whom do you know who speaks more than one language?
What do you think about the way the men stay separate from the women during cooking? What do they learn from each other? What does Nina learn by going back and forth? (How else does she travel between different groups?)
What are some of your family's holiday traditions?

The boys in the book heard stories from their grandfather. Is there someone, especially someone older, you know who can tell you stories about their life? How could you find out?
The captain sold the Christmas trees -- and sometimes gave them away. Why do you think he did that?
Why do you think the captain's widow continued the tradition? Why was it important to her?

What are some big gifts that can come in small packages? (try for literal and metaphorical answers)
Why did Roland keep wishing for bigger and bigger gifts?
How big was "big enough", in the end? Why?

Why did Richie treat people rudely? What do you think he was feeling? How else could he have chosen to act?
Can you think of examples of "gifts that come from the heart"? How do they differ from gifts bought in a store?
What are some things that you know are real even if you can't see them? What about things that you believe in even if you don't know for sure?

(Instead of a holiday book, the teacher asked for one to support her curriculum on Japanese internment camps. I gave three, and let the volunteer reader choose which of the shorter ones to read that day.)
Why did the narrator's father decide to make a baseball field? What do you think it meant to him?
How did everyone in the camp help with the project?
What did the guard mean to the narrator? Why did he get angry and determined when he thought about the guard?
What do you think could have happened after the end of the story?

Where is Manzanar? What is the weather like there? Were the barracks and other buildings suitable for the climate?
How do people act when they are angry and afraid? Who felt that way during World War II?
What does Laura mean by saying that her grandfather was "a true American"?
If Laura's father was 8 years old in 1941, how old would he be today? How old are the people who remember Manzanar firsthand? How do we know their stories?
What are some other wrong things that happened long ago to large groups of people? How do we speak and feel about those things today? Although we cannot change the past, how can we change the future?
(This is a sad book, with big ideas. I was a little anxious about reading it right before a holiday, instead of something "fun", but the reader reported that the class really engaged with it.)

The story is told with words and phrasing from the Appalachian mountains where it takes place. What can we learn by listening to how people from other times and places talk?
Why was it important to Ruthie's family to keep their promise?
Where did Ruthie's mama get the presents she gave to Ruthie? Why did the angel mean so much to her?

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