Sunday, March 2, 2014

Thank You, Mr. Falker, & Others--Plus RAA Goodies!

It's another snowy weekend in Illinois!  Is it really March 2??

Must Read ELA & Character Ed Mentor Texts

Glad to be linking up with Amanda and Stacia from Collaborative Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Text Linky! This week's topic is language arts--perfect timing for what we have been exploring the last two weeks.

Wanted to share my journey with the kids this past two weeks in exploring the challenges characters face in realistic fiction and how they respond to those challenges (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.) While ELA standards have been a focus, so too have the character lessons to be learned--invaluable!

Our journey began with one of my all-time favorite picture books, Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. This text immediately came to mind as a story of challenges, responses, and triumph.  It is the story of Trisha (Patricia Polacco) and her struggle to become a reader amidst loss, change, teasing/bullying, and low self-esteem.  Furthermore, it is the story of how she overcame her struggle with the help of Mr. Falker, her fifth grade teacher.

I read the text aloud to students, and with it came much thoughtful discussion.  We talked about the different challenges Trisha faced and how she responded to her challenges--what she thought, felt, and did in response.  Here is the organizer we created as an anchor chart.  Then students completed another organizer in which they described Trisha's responses. 

You can download these organizers by clicking here!

We went on to read a wonderful text, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts.  Another great story for exploring character challenges and responses.  Jeremy wants "those shoes" so badly, but his grandma can't afford to buy them. One day he finds a pair at a second hand store, but they are too small.  He buys them anyway--with his own money.  Jeremy is eventually faced with a difficult decision--what to do with those too-small shoes...

This time, students got into small groups to discuss the challenges Jeremy faced and what he thought, felt, and did in response. 

A natural progression was the sharing of our own personal challenge and how we respond to this challenge.  I feel it's important for students to understand that the characters in realistic fiction are often "like you or me".  They are people we "meet" when reading and we can put ourselves in their shoes.  For this reason, I asked students to share some personal challenges.  We started by simply making a list of different challenges on chart paper.  We talked about how we all have challenges, no matter how big or small they may seem to someone else.  It is also important that we respect others' challenges--in sharing our challenges we learn more about one another. 

Students completed a graphic organizer related to their personal challenge. I wanted to give students the opportunity to share their challenge and how they respond, but I told them this was on a volunteer basis only.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of students who wanted to share--almost all.  The maturity students showed as their classmates shared was amazing! Each showed respect and understanding as their fellow classmates shared personal challenges such as not being able to read well, trying to stop carrying a blanky at home, not being able to get words out, stage fright, getting embarrassed easily, difficulties with gymnastics, and more. What a wonderful character lesson, and as my fellow teaching mate said, "It was like therapy." 

Finally, we ventured on to guided reading groups.  I chose some text to use based on students' levels and some needed character lessons. Click on each title to read a synopsis.

My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy
The Chalk Box Kid by  Clyde Robert Bulla

In guided reading rotations, students have also been working on turning their personal challenges into stories, and they have been independently reading The Potato Chip Champ by Maria Dismondy (a read aloud from earlier in the year) and completing a graphic organizer related to our focus. You can download the organizer here.

I cannot say enough how beneficial this exploration has been.  Wonderful, rich texts make a world of difference.  I encourage you to check them out, if you are not already familiar with each.

If I were to choose one word to describe ALL of the texts, I would choose thought-provoking.

Fly on over to Collaboration Cuties to check out more language arts mentor texts.

Read Across America Goodies!

Just wanted to re-share a couple of Read Across America goodies from previous posts. Enjoy!

All the best for a wonderful week ahead!


  1. Wow there is a ton of great info in this post! I love all of the graphic organizers you used!! I will have to check out all of these books! I'm so glad that you linked up!!!

    1. Thanks much! Patricia Polacco's books are perfect for older kids, too. Hope you find something you like and can use...


  2. What a fantastic post! Lots of Pins :) I LOVE your lesson for Those Shoes. I will adapt your graphic organizer to use as a chart for group lessons with my first graders. Thanks for sharing your "thought provoking" ideas!
    Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

    1. You are welcome! I will be posting an organizer soon that can be use with any book... Thanks for flying over!


  3. Thanks for the organizers for "Thank You Mr. Falkner". I think I really must read this book with my students.

    1. Enjoy it! Such a touching and empowering story!


  4. Great books! I love Thank you, Mr. Falkner. Thank you for the organizer to go with this awesome book. I have heard of the book Those Shoes. I'm on my way to add it to my wish list.

    Have a great week!

    1. Hope the organizer comes in handy. The Secret Bully is a great one for older kids, too. I wish I had discovered it when I taught 5th grade--targets a problem I think girls can really identify with from various points of view.

      All the best--