Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Required Reading for Elementary Teachers

Just a quick aside before I talk about what I'm supposed to be talking about here ... my husband found this walking stick on our property the other day - just look at him!  he's about five or six inches long: I wish I'd measured him to see if he set a record!

Okay, on to the reading.

Sometimes I run across a book that I swear offers a window into understanding children - well, okay, people in general.  But children are often trickier because after they get to a certain age, many of them don't feel they have the right to explain their thinking out loud to us adults.  So every elementary teacher and preservice teacher should pick up Sara Pennypacker's Clementine series and read, read, read!  Not only are these books hilarious, they do help to explain what's going on in that brain; not that every third-grader is thinking along the same lines as Clementine (yikes!) but Pennypacker's take on the third-grade psyche at least reminds us that what we suspect or assume might be a student's motivation is not necessarily the case, and we need to keep open minds ourselves ... and ask them what they're thinking.

Here's a picture of the three I've read - there are five in all, and I'm so looking forward to reading the other two!

Here's a snippet of the hilarity: first, you need to realize that Clementine spends A LOT of time in Principal Rice's office.  One day, while her teacher is planning a talent show and she is privately lamenting the fact that she thinks she has no talents, she raises her hand in class ---

"Yes, Clementine?  Would you like to be in the cooperative group for refreshments?"

"No, thank you," I said, extra politely.  "What I'd like is to go to Mrs. Rice's office."

"Clementine, you don't need to go see the principal," my teacher said.  "You're not in any trouble."

"Well, it's just a matter of time," I told him.  (page 3, The Talented Clementine)

Something else I like about these books is the way Pennypacker characterizes the parents.  Mom is a work-at-home artist, and Dad is the building manager for their apartment building.  Not the most glamorous jobs, and ones that are not often included in children's literature.  It reminds me of 'blessing a book:'  for young folk anyway, if the teacher reads a book, especially to the whole class, well, then it must be good.  If these two occupations are good enough to be included in a book, then they really are attainable occupations.  The more occupations we introduce our students to, the more options they realize they have in life.

In looking for reviews for the Clementine books, I ran across this web site that reviews children's books for parents (and of course teachers).  I have not delved in too deeply, but what I see up front looks quite helpful.  The site rates books on several criteria, including content, sex, bad language, violence, etc.  I'll have to explore a little more, but I decided to include it here for now so that you could explore it as well.

Right now I'm over half way through Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief (from the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians), NOT because Riordan is coming to the conference (he is not), but because John Rocco is the illustrator, and HE IS!!!

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