Books Teachers Love: August

We're baaaaaa-ccckkkk! Books Teachers Love is back to our monthly sharing of excellent books that we love to use in our classrooms... especially at the beginning of the year! I mean, look at all these amazing titles!

The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson

The book I'm sharing is one I was introduced to by my mentor teacher my first year of teaching. It is one of those books that is so rich with so many learning opportunities. I'm sharing a few with you and calling this...

I say cover-all-your-bases kind of book because it really does. It's that rich. It's about a girl who's father retells a story from his childhood every spring while they plant their garden. The boy's story revolves around making a serious lapse of judgment and lives with turmoil until he makes it right. You can't HELP but feel for Mr. Bellavista, a key character (and the only one with an actual name in this book), but the boy learns a lot about not just gardening, but how you can find friends in unlikely circumstances if you give it a try. I've used this with 3rd graders and will use again with 4th graders because it's one of those mentor texts that just keeps on giving. Let's go around the bases, shall we?

One thing to do with this book is some reviewing on parts of speech. This book is rich with vocabulary so it's a great time to review how thinking about the part of speech can help you figure out the meaning of a word. To start, I pull words out from the text that can be more than one part of speech- it all depends how it's used. These aren't difficult to read or understand... the idea is to think about how the word can be used.

Students spin the spinner and land on a word. That word can be used as a noun or a verb, so they spin the 2nd spinner and then they have to write a sentence using that word in that part of speech. It gets students thinking on context, so when they get to difficult words in the book like trudged, they can think about the part of speech based on context.

For example: If I spun and got sign, I could write two very different sentences
Verb: I signed my name on the dotted line.
Noun: The faded sign hung loosely on the telephone pole.

The word itself isn't difficult, but thinking how it can be used changes its meaning entirely. Practicing with common words can be a great scaffold for those more challenging word. 

Onto 2nd base, this book is great for life lessons. The dad in the story tells the child the same story every spring. And there's a reason: memories often teach us life lessons. We talk about how and why the dad shares this memory and what life lessons he learned along the way. Get your students thinking and reflecting on their summer break by writing down their summer memories and then life lessons they learned. It could be as simple as, "I played outside with my sister a lot. We loved to go to the swimming pool. The life lesson I learned is you should go outside and enjoy nature with others." This is a great way to hear about summer vacations while reviewing how to come up with life lessons.

Rounding to 3rd base, this book is full of great opportunities to practice character work. 

This year, I will be using this book to review character work of the past and putting rubrics and exemplars in student notebooks for them to reference all year. I put mine in already so I'm ready to go and model for my students before they try on their own.

I used pages from my Responding to Reading Pack. We'll start by just noticing what our main character (or Mr. Bellavista would be a great character too) thinks, says, and does. They'll reflect and rate their work using our rubrics that are glued into their notebooks.

For some of these skills, such as character motivation (which there are a lot of great examples in this book), I put the rubric underneath the graphic organizer so that I could also put a list of adverbs next to the g.o. for students to use as a support. When we talk about motivations, we often talk about how a character does, says, or thinks about something, as this can show why they are doing it. With this book, there's so many questions: "Why did the boy throw the tomatoes?" "Why did he feel guilty and the other boys didn't?" "Why did he watch the garden?" You could talk about character motivation for Mr. Bellavista too... there's a lot of options.

We'll also talk about the problem and how the character reacted and dealt with it, as again, it's a great example of paying attention to details both in the text and in the illustrations. The beautiful watercolor like pictures are beautiful to look at while we read.

If you choose to read this book for any or all of these reasons, you are sure to hit a home run with your students this fall. I included the first two activities in a free book companion set that can be downloaded by clicking the image below!

But wait! I'm teaming up with 11 other bloggers who are sharing one of their favorite books for September! Check each of them, snag ideas and resources and enter to win 4 of the books we feature. Even better... you PICK the 4 that you think you'd enjoy most to add to your classroom. After the Rafflecopter, check out the other amazing books teachers are sharing for Back to School!

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