Friday, March 11, 2011

Why I love Eve Bunting

She's absolutely my favorite author to teach.
This year, we have read:
Fly Away Home, Smoky Night, Gleam and Glow, Going Home, A Day's Work, and One Green Apple. I was given Cheyenne Again and The Wall from classroom parents.

She writes about real-world issues, like homelessness, war, racial discrimination, different cultures, tolerance, and home. But because she writes picture books for children, these themes are so accessible to them.

This year, I've read these books to them to teach things like making inferences, deep connections and predictions. This quarter, we are learning about author's point of view and purpose. Really, I love teaching days like the ones we had this week. After reading One Green Apple, my kids started to realize that her books contain common themes. We charted our ideas and then one student asked, "I wonder if Eve Bunting wrote books like these because she came from a different country." Sure enough, we looked it up, and she was born in Northern Ireland. After reading her biography, we were able to chart some facts about her life that carry over into the themes she includes in her books. What a perfect way for them to learn author's point of view!

But my favorite lesson this week happened as I divided the class into three groups. I asked them to think about three books: Fly Away Home, Gleam and Glow, and One Green Apple and to talk about what symbol she uses in each book to teach us something. Admittedly, I was a little nervous. I mean, these are 8 year olds we're talking about here. But I realized I was wrong to doubt once I started listening to their conversations. "The bird in Fly Away Home means hope and freedom that the little boy and dad will find a home."
"The fish that stay alive in Gleam and Glow show the family that there is hope, even when their home was destroyed in the war."
"The apple in One Green Apple is like the girl blending in with the other kids in her class."

They made posters to show what they had discussed in groups, but then we came back together to talk about it. And then, I realized I had forgotten about Smoky Night, the story of racial tension against the backdrop of the L.A. riots. I asked them to think about the symbol that Eve Bunting used to teach readers.

At this point, I should pause and tell you about one of my little buds. He really struggles with reading fluency and word work. Grade level and standardized tests seem impossible at times. He has a hard time with class discussions and is extremely quiet.

But I just about saw a real-life light bulb go off above his head when I asked that question. He shot up off the carpet and yelled out, "THE CATS!"

Goodness gracious, I could have cried right there. He got it. And I realize it was just two words, but it's one of the few times he's been openly successful at something that the whole class is doing. Thanks, Ms. Bunting. That made my week.

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