Friday, February 03, 2006

Multicultural Book: From Far Away by Robert Munsch

This book is based on a real life story of this young girl who immigrates to Canada from Beirut. The story focuses on this young girls’ adjustment into Canadian Society.

I chose this book because it was a very simple story and because it was co-written by Askar, the young girl who left Beirut for Canada. The illustrations in the book were very authentic. Saoussan was portrayed in traditional and North American clothing. Racial minorities in Saoussan class were clearly depicted. This book could be used as a resource when discussing the immigrant experience in kindergarten or a grade one class.

The only complain I had about the book was its romanticization of the immigration experience. At the beginning of the book the young girl is living in war torn Beirut then she comes to Canada and eventually assimilates into the culture. Even though its targeted towards young readers, the author should have focused more on her life in Beirut and provided more realistic examples of some hardships that young girl might have faced while learning a new language and making new friends etc.
Article #2
Oral storytelling: a dropped thread in the tapestry of literacy by Cynthia Andrew

I really enjoyed reading this article. Oral language is such a crucial part of any society. Before our ancestors were reading or writing they were telling stories. It is through these oral stories that they were able to impart their history, knowledge and wisdom upon generations of people. Since the invention of the printing press society has become obsessed with documenting everything. Unless it’s written somewhere, it can’t be true or have any significant value.

Students need to understand the historical significance of oral language to the human race. The best way to do this is through oral story telling. Oral stories can easily transport the students to any time or place. Students get to experience first hand what it would have been like to live during that time. There are many skills that could be taught through oral storytelling, such as speaking, listening, problem solving, abstract and critical thinking. By listening to oral stories students become more familiar with story structure, sequence and language. As the article stated story telling can accommodate al three learning styles- oral, visual, and kinesthetic.

I have rarely ever stepped into a class where oral stories were being used to improve student's speaking and literacy skills. Maybe many teachers don’t recognize the importance of story telling or perhaps they think it’s too time consuming. I am not that educated about story telling myself, but I do know, I would love to make oral stories an important part of my teaching. I want my students to use their imagination, to envision another world and experience another life and time. I want to give my students the opportunity to discuss the story. I want them to discuss the questions that the story might have raised and share the memories that the story might have triggered.
Article # 1
Connecting Children’s Stories to Children’s Literature: Meeting Diversity Needs by Melissa J. St. Amour

This article focused on the use of multicultural literature to build children’s oral language and literacy skills. The author offered practical classroom activities that can easily be modified to suit any reading or grade level. This was an interesting article to read and I have to say I generally tended to agree with the author stance on multicultural education.

We live in a rapidly expanding global community. As teachers our ultimate goal is to create successful students that will one day be an important member of this global community. Even before children in our class l earn to read they should be exposed to multiculturalism. Teachers can decorate their classrooms, bring in a variety of guest speakers, at class party introduce different ethnic food etc. When the children are old enough to read teachers should select and encourage students to read literature that represents our multicultural heritage

I really enjoyed the class discussion we had on selectiving multicultural books. Prior to this discussion, I can honestly say, I had never paid much attention to it. When I found a good book, I read it. I was not too concerned with the illustrations in the story or the names used etc. When Cathy showed us all those statistics, I was shocked to hear that the percentage hadn’t changed much. At that moment it became pretty clear, if teachers want more multicultural material in our classroom, we must request publishers to publish more multicultural story books. As teachers we must create a market for multicultural books.

After doing this reading and listening to the class discussion, I realized how important it is to offer multicultural education to students. Young children are very curious about their environment. As teachers we should take advantage of this and expose them to all types of literature and teaching strategies. It is through reading and exposure to different cultures children will learn to be more respectful and tolerant of other people in our society.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


All the books we read in this class were good, but my personal favorite was NightJohn by Gary Paulsen. This was a well researched book. Gary Paulsen provided a fairly accurate portrayal of slavery in the 1850s. The most striking part of the book was the language, it was written the way slaves would have talked back then.

If given the opportunity I would definitely use this book in my grade 6/7 class. I would begin this book during black history month. There are a variety of activities I could do with this piece of historical literature. Some of the activities I would do with this book include: Readers theatre: There is a lot of dialog in this book and as result it could easily be used as a readers theatre presentation. Compare and Contrast: Using a Venn diagram, students can either compare the lives of slaves and their masters, or life in the 1850s and now. Students can also watch the Disney movie and compare the movie to the book. Research project: Students can do a research project on the Underground Railroad and write about the different escape routes that could have been (or were) used by slaves. Vocabulary lesson: There are a lot words in this book that students might not understand. They can use the dictionary to find the meaning of the words. Creative Writing: There are many central themes in this book (freedom, prejudice, empowerment, leadership, friendship, etc) Students can write on any one of these themes. Another creative writing assignment could be formatted around communication. Slaves in 1850s were forbidden to read or write, students can write on other forms of communication that they could have used?

This website has many ideas on incorporating this book in to the curriculum
Book Recommendation #4
Last Days in Africville by Dorthy Perkyns

This is a book about a 12 year old African Canadian girl and her experience growing up in Halifax in the 1960s. I think this would be an excellent book to read for grade 6 or 7 students. Although it is historical fiction, it deals with a lot of issues that are still relevant today. Such as: segregation, discrimination and bullying.

This book could easily fit into any Language Arts PLO’s for grade 6 or 7. Students can do creative writing where they place themselves in the main characters shoes and justify or defend the actions that she takes. For personal planning students can discuss discrimination and bullying.

Book Recommendation #3

* Winner of 1996 Governor General’s Literary Award

Ghost Train by Paul Yee

This book is about a young Chinese girl who immigrates to Canada to search for her father. On her arrival she discovers that her father was killed in a rock slide along with his co workers. Her father’s spirit comes to her in her dreams and asks her to paint a “fire-car” that will take the souls of the dead workers back to their homeland in China.

I think students would enjoy reading this great story about loss and hope. This book could be used for literature circles anywhere from grade four through seven. Students can take on the various literature circle jobs (connector, illustrator, word finder etc).

I also found these great websites on literature circles with activity sheets
Book Recommendation #2
* 2003-2004 Red Cedar Fiction Nominee

This is a story about a 13 year old African American girl who is forced into slavery in Alabama. While working on the fields she befriends Liney. Together they form a plan to escape. They use clues from songs and stories to find a trail to the Underground Railroad that will take them to Canada. Along their journey they face many hardships and injustices.

I think this would be a great book to read in 6 or 7. While reading this book students can compare and contrast the characters, and focus on how their relationships changed through out the story. This book can also be linked to the social studies curriculum for grade 6 or 7. Students can learn about the Underground Railroad, and the history of African Americans in Canada.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Book Recommendation #1

This is my favorite Kit Pearson book. I read this book when I was in grade 6. If I get the opportunity to teach grade 6 I would love to use this book as a novel study. This book is about a 12 year old girl who spends a summer in Alberta, while her parents back in Toronto work out their separation. One day she finds an old watch when she winds the watch; it takes her back in time to the summer her 12 year old mother had spent at the very same cottage. Through time travel she gains more knowledge about her family and uses this knowledge to make sense of her present life. I would use this book for a novel study. Students could look at story elements (character, setting, conflict). Students could also look at family relationships and the human need for communication.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My favorite childhood story is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. This story is about a small girl who rescues a runt pig and raises him on the farm. The pig, Wilbur befriends Charlotte the spider, who goes above and beyond to help save Wilbur's life.

I first read the story in grade five with my ESL teacher. As a young child this book appealed to be me because I spent many years living on the farm in India. I loved animals and helped my grandparents look after our farm animals. I considered those animals to be my friends and I treated them with respect. I was also very familiar with the farm life (getting up at dawn and feeding the cows and goats, cleaning the stalls etc.) and the use of farm animals for profit and food.

I also liked the story because of its simple language and lovable characters. The animals had very human qualities. The animals not only communicated with each other but they also had human like emotions and human like personalities (i.e. Templeton that rat). Although I didn’t realize this at the time this was actually the first book I read that dealt with the circle of life. Near the end of the book Charlotte dies, but instead of focusing on the death I think the author draws the reader’s attention to what Charlotte accomplished in her lifetime. When Charlotte dies she leaves her kids behind to continue the cycle of life.

My favorite character in the book was Charlotte the spider. I liked how she displayed her maternal love for Wilbur. She told Wilbur bedtime stories, sang him lullabies and taught him manners. With her constant guidance Wilbur was able to stand on his own four feet and make decisions for himself. I learned many lessons from this book. I learned that friendship is one of the most important gifts you can receive in life. Reading about Wilbur and Charlotte’s friendship helped me realize that in order to be a good friend I have to be reliable, loyal, and patient. I also have to cherish the friendship and be willing to sacrifice anything to help friends in need.

I enjoyed reading this book so much that I couldn’t wait to attack all the other books in my elementary school library. Even now when I want to escape reality I will pick up a good book and let my imagination carry me away! Ok that’s all for now........ciao

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