Thursday, October 11, 2012

Polacco's Newest "Need to Read" Books & Some Insight Into Theme

BullyPatricia Polocco has does it again in her two terrific tales of surviving bullying and an encounter with two life-changing teachers. In Bully, Poloacco, inspired by her own vivid childhood memories of being bullied, cleverly crafts a realistic fiction story that takes on cliques and cyber-bullying-- a sad reality of many kids today. In The Art of Miss Chew, a memoir about the woman who gave our beloved author and artist her confidence and spark to pursue her natural talents, Polcacco shares her own trials tribulations. This story worth telling again and again is also one that recognizes another thoughtful teacher who got to know Patricia and differentiated for her- building her confidence and supporting her success. In both texts, the beginnings are strong, middles engaging, and endings powerful.

The Art of Miss ChewThe books can easily be used to teach such important understandings related to: relevant use of any thinking strategy, story elements and how they work together, theme*, author's message*, understanding and applying schema for an author and his/her works, crafts of writing, etc. As always, the possibilities are endless. Plus, I am pretty sure we can find a connection to make the perfect fit into one of your ELA units this year. :)

Please note that each book is a full 32 pages of rich "Patricia Style" text. With that said, there are many possibilities when using books like this in your classroom.
  1. Read the book aloud in its entirety for the joy of hearing the whole book. Return to it as text to study at a later time.
  2. Read it a few pages at a time over the course of a several days.
  3. Read it in three sections (beginning, middle, end) to highlight the structure of the story.
  4. Listen to the book on a podcast, or watch a video of it being read by the author.
Stop by my lending library soon to snag a copy of these awesome new texts!

*Universal Theme vs. Theme vs.  Author's Message
Because there is always a big debate about these literary terms, I thought I'd do some research and share my learning. Honestly, I am still teasing out my understanding of these terms, but continually growing nonetheless. The main walk away I have is that if kids can gain infer the author's message, and then infer the big, and eventually use text-to-text understandings... they can group and make meaning of like books to enrich their understanding about life and literature.

Universal Theme: an inferred point made about the topic- not just the topic of the work. A statement about life. The "big idea" that spans cultures and time. Courage, Friendship, Honesty, Revenge, Trust, Family, Good v. Evil, Dreams, Hope, Circle of Life
Theme and/or Author's Message: A (often inferred) message or lesson that an author wants you to know or take away from the story.

Ex. Author's Message: Face your fears and you can defeat them.    
      Universal Theme=courage

      Author's Message: Don't wish for what others possess. Be happy with what you have.       
     Universal Theme=jealousy

      Author's Message: Work hard for what you want in life and you can achieve any goal 

      Universal Theme=dreams

Note: Students struggling with identifying universal themes may need more support in identifying the author’s message or theme of a story first. The third and fourth grade "Theme Lesson" sequences are a good resource for teaching the author’s message or theme. Resource:
This lesson's description, specifically, is helpful for distinguishing theme/message from universal theme.

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