Monday, February 21, 2011

Because of Winn-Dixie

A dog can provide much more than companionship

Kate DiCamillo (author of the Mercy Watson series, which I love!) brings us a touching story about a girl named Opal and a dog she finds and names Winn-Dixie. Who knew a dog could bring you so much clarity and happiness? Opal knows how much a dog can do after spending only a little time with Winn-Dixie, a dog who smiles so hard he sneezes and is so scared of thunder he scurries around the trailer without purpose until the storm is over. Opal makes friends with the people in her new neighborhood and begins to appreciate her father, the minister, with help from her new dog in Because of Winn-Dixie. Anyone who has ever questioned their past, wondered about their future or loved a pet will relate to and love this story!

Teachers... here are some resources and ideas to help you to use this book in your classroom (If you buy the most recently released Scholastic version pictured above, there are discussion questions and activities in the back of the book.)

Web Resources
  •  Class Guide: This website is a teacher's guide to teaching Because of Winn-Dixie. There are many links to facts about various aspects of the stories that can help expand the curriculum around this books such as the dangers of alcohol, facts about prison and even recipes from the book. There are also quizzes for every few chapters which will show if students are comprehending on a literal level (there are very few inferential questions).
  • Interactive: This website is from Scholastic and shows an interactive map of Naomi. Each building brings up a new activity. The activities include: reader's theater, scrap book, the writing process, information about the author, stills of the movie, a maze game and more! This website would be great to bookmark on a classroom computer.

Vocabulary: Here are some words that may need to be pretaught or could be used for word study: preacher, produce, missionary, sermon, exception, orphan, installment plan, pathological, criminal, shame (as a verb), ignorant, enlist, vermin, sorrow, melancholy, myth

Before Reading: Ask students if they have ever had a pet. This could be used as a writing prompt or in a think/pair/share format. This will help students focus on pets as pets are an important part of this story.

During Reading
  • Before Opal brings Winn-Dixie home: What do you think Opal's dad is going to say about Winn Dixie? Will he let her keep him? Will her father like Winn-Dixie?
  • After Winn-Dixie is allowed in church, at the library, in the pet store, etc. Why do you think Winn-Dixie is allowed into places where dogs are usually not allowed?
After Reading/Writing
  • How does the relationship between Opal and her father change from the beginning of the book to the end? Give at least 3 examples of this change and what made the change occur.
  • Write a list of 10 qualities that describe who you are. Use the list of things about Opal's mom to help you get started.
Check out the Because of Winn-Dixie movie (& leave a comment to let me know how it is!)

DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie . Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2000. Print.
Newbery Honor Book

Happy Reading (&Running) =)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ella Enchanted

A (Cinder)ella to fall in love with

Gail Carson Levine brings us a new take on the classic fairytale Cinderella in Ella Enchanted. Ella is a funny, strong, assertive and continuously perplexed girl with a curse that has haunted her from birth. She has been commanded not to tell anyone of her curse which leaves her with little to do when she starts acting strange and has no explanation for her actions. A tale of fairies, ogres, gnomes, elves, giants and of course a handsome prince gives us the best adaptation (in my opinion) of Cinderella. It rings through with parts of the original brought to us by Grimm and Perrault with a few hints of Disney and a whole lot of Gail Carson Levine. An absolute must read for girls (and guys)!

Teachers... here are some resources and ideas to help you teach this book.

Web Resources:
  • Quizzes and Activities: This site is a unit plan set up by a teacher. It has quizzes for every 3 chapters of Ella Enchanted. It also provides activities to align with the book. Finally, there are activities that go along with another book entitled, The Castle in the Attic (Haven't read this one yet, but will let you know if I do).
  • Discussion Guide: Brought to you from Scholastic.
  • Lesson: This lesson, also from Scholastic, offers a lesson that teaches students about the elements of a fairytale and compares/contrasts different versions of Cinderella. Great worksheets are included!

Vocabulary: Here are some words that may need to be pretaught: curse, bestow, obedience, docile, candelabra, spectacle, tarry, doublet, impertinence, epithets, odious, diplomat, pantomime, enchanted, besot, solicitude, felicity, courtier, squalor, cotillion, zeal, heinous, stalwart, scullery, chicanery, queue, tedium
In addition, there are many words that we may consider to be from old English. For this reasons, any students you think may have trouble with context clues should probably read this book with a dictionary beside them. Trust me, these words do not take away from the excellence of this novel!

Before Reading: Have you ever heard the fairytale Cinderella or watched a movie that was based around the story of Cinderella? Write down what you remember from the story or movie. Include characters, plot, themes, etc.

During Reading:
  • As you read, write down parts of the novel that remind you of the fairytale of Cinderella.
  • Pretend you have the curse Ella has. What would you do to prevent the curse from affecting you? How do you think it would affect you? How would it make you feel?

After Reading:
  • Write your own version of the Cinderella fairytale.
  • Do you think there was any other way Ella could have broken the curse?

This book also has a movie (which I haven't yet checked out myself but I'll let you know when I do)!

Levine, G. C. (1997). Ella Enchanted . New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Happy Reading (& Running) =)
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