Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Giving Tree

Year Published: 1964
Author: Shel Silverstein
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Kindergarten - Grade 3
Themes: Love, giving, receiving, appreciation
Skills Taught: Understanding generosity, critical thinking

Summary: The Giving Tree is about a tree who loved a boy and vice versa.  Every day, the tree provided the boy with apples to eat, branches to swing from, and shade to sleep in.  As the boy grew older, he wanted more from the tree.  The tree continually gave to please the boy, until it was just a stump for the old man to sit and rest on.

About the Author: Shel Silverstein was born in Chicago on September 25, 1930, and then began writing when he was twelve.  In the 1960's, he was introduced to Ursula Nordstrom, editor from Harper Collins.  This eventually led to the publication of The Giving Tree in 1964, which many publishes thought was either too sad or too short.  She encouraged him to write poetry, even though he had never studied it before, but that didn't stop him from creating his own style that would go on to be a hit with so many children.  In 1974, Where the Sidewalk Ends was his first set of poems and became an instant classic.  Following the book came A Light in the Attic in 1981 and Falling up 1996. Shel's legacy continues as many of his books are included in school curriculum to introduce children to poetry and great stories.   (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: The book is perfect to introduce around Thanksgiving because of the common theme of giving.  Before beginning the read aloud, it is important to make a connection between the student and the text by having each student share in a class discussion, people who provide for them and what the students provide for others.  After everyone has shared one example, the teacher will ask the class how can each student be giving.   

Post-Reading Activity: After completing the book, the teacher would ask, "Imagine yourself in the same shoes as the boy.  What would you give in return of everything the tree has given you?"  A tree would be drawn on the front board with two branches.  One branch would be labeled as, "What can the tree do for others?" and the other branch would be labeled as, "What can others do for the tree?"  Have students respond to the questions and record their answers.  After having two solid lists, have the students take out their writing notebooks and write how they felt for the tree and boy from the beginning, middle, and end.  When students have completed their journal entry and the teacher has checked each journal, the teacher will then propose the question, "Has your feelings toward the characters changed throughout the book and why?"  for a closing discussion.       

Reflection: This book means so much to me because it was given to me by my cooperative teacher on my last day of student teaching.  Before reading to the class, I opened the inside cover that read, "Thank you, Mr. Green, for always giving! -Mrs. Romano" surrounded by all of the students' and other teachers' goodbyes.  At that moment, I was so choked up, I could barely get through the read aloud.  The book has a simple story line and basic artwork, but teaches deep meanings in love, giving, receiving, and appreciation that will help children learn to be a better people.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

Year Published: 2000
Author: Laura Numeroff
Genre: Fiction
Grade Level: Pre-K to Grade 2
Themes: Wintry Christmas, friendship, sharing
Skills Taught: Making predictions, sequencing events, cause and effect relationships 

Summary: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies is about a boy who takes his pet mouse to the movies, which leads them to doing many more things.  Other activities include buying the mouse popcorn, decorating the Christmas tree, making a snowman, having a snowball fight, and listening to Christmas carols.

About the Author: Laura Numeroff was born in Brooklyn during 1953.  Growing up, one of her most prized possessions was her library card.  She loved to read, and books including Stuart Little, Eloise, and The Cat In The Hat are some of her favorite books.  When college came, she decided to follow her sister who went to become a fashion designer at Pratt Institute.  While in the program, she realized the fashion designing world was not for her, and during her last semester, Laura took a class in writing where one of the assignments was to make a children's book.  Her book was about the tallest girl in third grade.  After four attempts, the book was published and has continued her love of writing since then.  (

For the Classroom

Pre-Reading Activity: Have a class discussion asking the students, "What activities and events do you participate in during the holiday season?"

Post-Reading Activity: When the read aloud is complete, the teacher will have the students make a prediction by asking, "What will the mouse ask for next, and why?"  After several students have given their educated guess and supported their reasoning, the teacher will place students in groups of three to four.  Each group will be given a baggy with pictures of activities the mouse did.  The teacher will then ask the students to work together and put the pictures on poster board in the correct sequence as were in the book. After the teacher has checked to see if the students have put the pictures in the correct order, students can then begin gluing them to the poster board.

Reflection: This picture book is perfect for a read aloud during the Christmas season and includes an energetic mouse children will love, and a patient boy who will do anything to please his pet/buddy.  The pictures look great and the colors bring the characters and events to life.  This funny story is a nice way to introduce a class about the sequence of events.  Other stories in the series include If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, and If You Give a Moose a Muffin.      

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