Julia Raucci’s Handbook for Boys Blog: Peter the Grape- Kevin Screws Up

Wow, the first thing I have to mention is how wonderful this book is. If given the opportunity, I would 100% teach this book to 6th graders.

The first chapter I will be discussing is Peter the Grape. I think this is an extremely valuable chapter, as it mentions self care. Self care is something that often goes out the window when life begins to pile up. Middle school is a rough patch in a lot of people’s lives. There is a lot going on, mental health wise, physically, and emotionally. To read a book that talks about a multimillionaire who values self care is an important lesson for sixth graders to learn. Self care is important. That’s part of the reason why Peter became so successful!

The chapter Bobby Brown is one of the first chapter where we see Jimmy becoming a mini Duke, so to speak. Jimmy came up to Duke for advice this time. Duke didn’t just give it to Jimmy without asking, Jimmy wanted it. This, in my opinion, is a huge step for Jimmy. This shows that Jimmy cares and is beginning to have empathy for others around him, besides his mother. Jimmy wants to help a kid at school is a similar way that Duke is helping him. This is another wonderful lesson to teach students, to help your peers. Sometimes the people around you are going to struggle and it’s okay to reach out and try to help them. It is also okay to ask for help if you are unsure of what to do, just as Jimmy did to Duke. This chapter is very significant because the reader can see our protagonist, Jimmy, turning into a very well-rounded and evolved character.

The final chapter, Kevin Screws Up, was my favorite chapter in the whole book. On page 202, Kevin talks to Jimmy about peer pressure. Because of the peer pressure that Kevin endured and gave into, he “screwed up” and will have to face the consequences for that. Then, the book did a complete 360. On page 208, Jimmy stood up to peer pressure! This shows that he clearly was listening and learned so much from Duke, Cap, and Mister M. He saw what would happen if he stayed on the same path, just as Kevin did, and decided to turn his life around with the words of Duke in his mind. I was so proud of our fictional character, but I was also quite sad that the book ended here. I would love for there to be a part 2! I have become so attached to our growing, intelligent, well rounded protagonist that I want to keep reading about how his life turns out.

I believe this book was one huge lesson to teach our students. The theme of this book is to always make smart choices and to believe in yourself. If Jimmy had made smart choices to begin with, he would’ve never ended up upsetting his mother and working in the barber shop. However, since he make bad choices, he had to pay the consequences. From there on out, he was bombarded with lessons, mainly from Duke, about how to lead a smart and successful life. Clearly, Jimmy listened and took these lessons to heart. We know this because in the last chapter, he put all these lessons together. He knew who he was, what he wanted in life, and made a smart choice to stand up to what he knew was wrong. This is a book that our students need to learn from, and a book that I wish I had when I was in middle school!

Julia Raucci’s Book Review #2: A Sick Day For Amos McGee

“A Sick Day for Amos McGee” is a children’s book written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead.

This book is about a man named Amos McGee who works at a zoo. Everyday, he goes to the zoo and visits each animal pen. He plays and talks with the penguins, the rhinos, and many other exotic animals. One day, he is not feeling well and does not attend work. The animals wait all day for him, and decide to visit him at his house. They give him tissues and play hide and seek with him in hopes to make him feel better, just as he makes them feel better everyday.

This is a wonderful book for children, as it teaches them how to be compassionate for others. By using a familiar object, animals, it makes the book comfortable and acceptable for the reader. Children encounter animals everyday, whether it be a pet they own or a bird they see out their window. This makes the lesson seem less foreign and easier to practice in their everyday life. As I previously stated, the theme of this book is how to be compassionate and caring for others.

I, once again, do not have any critiques for this book. I think the text was simple and taught a very important lesson. Actually, I do have one critique but this is just my own opinion. I believe that the pictures should have been brighter. Especially for a young children’s book, I think that the bright pictures would captivate them and help keep their attention longer. Other than that, I think it was a well written book to teach elementary students.

Julia Raucci’s Handbook for Boys Blog: Duke Talks About Success- Loonie G

“…Pick your own road in life. You don’t want someone else picking it for you, and you sure don’t want to stumble down some road by accident.” This is a statement Duke made on page 75 and 76. Duke has some real insight on life and how to live yours to the best of your ability. Duke has seen a lot of boys come in and out of his barber shop, some who have not straightened up and ends up in prison. This is not something that Duke wants to Jimmy. Duke teaches Jimmy that in order to be successful, hence the title “Duke Talks About Success”, he must follow his own road. Be a leader, not a follower. Followers don’t get anywhere and it always ends in trouble.

Duke teached Jimmy three rules to success. 1. Figure out what success means to you. It is different for everyone. 2. Find out what work you need to do to obtain that success. 3. Go out and work. Work hard. Keep that idea of success in your mind and do everything you need to in order to reach it. It might be difficult, but just as Mister M said, “I have to say, it was worth it.”

The next quote that stuck out to me was in Tools. It is on page 100 and said by Duke. He said, ” reading is just one of those tools you need to use.” This quote is so important, and not just because this is a literacy class! I know so many students, including my middle school self, that saw reading as boring and just a chore to do. When homework was to simply read in our textbooks, that somehow translated to “no homework” in the mind of a middle school student. I believe that hearing a statement like this from such a relatable and cool person, such as Duke, will have a positive effect on the reader. Reading is so important to education and success of these students, and this book does an excellent job getting that message across without blatantly saying, “you have to read!”

Page 106 and 107 are extremely educational and talks about sensitive topics with an open and nonjudgmental mind. This is an important lesson to teach kids, to try and not be judgmental. These pages talk about drug use and addictive behaviors. The characters in this book take into account that the drug users are more than just that. They are humans. They are people who went through a rough patch and made a bad decision. Regardless of how the drug use starts, whether it be frustration or experimentation, “the name of the game is addiction”, states Dr. Colfax. This book discusses addiction in a way that does not seem rude to those who have an addiction problem or know someone who has an addiction problem, but it also does not promote it or make it seem like not a big deal. It is a very bad decision and the book makes that clear without judgment.

The last chapter I will be discussing in this blog is Loonie G. The character, Jimmy, is understanding his place in the world and starting to own to up his mistakes. As we can see here, he doesn’t make the nicest remarks to Kevin in the barber shop, but apologizes to Duke about it later in the chapter. This is a big moment for Jimmy, as he is developing his character and beginning to become the man that Duke wants him to be. Kevin, on the other hand, is not showing many signs of this transformation yet in the book.

Julia Raucci’s Book Review: #1. Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type

My first book review will be on “Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type.” This book is written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin.

This plot of this book is about cows who are living in a very old barn. They are very cold, as the barn is rickety and drafty. These cows have a type writer and type messages for the farmer, asking for heated blankets to keep them warm on cold nights. The message reads, “dear Farmer Brown, the barn is very cold at night. We’d like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows.” Farmer Brown, owner of the farm animals and the barn, rejects their request, so the cows refuse to give him milk. This continues with the chickens, who refuse to lay eggs until they receive heated blankets as well. Eventually, the farmer gives in and buys electric blankets for all the animals in the barn in order to obtain milk, eggs, and to stop the clicking and clacking of the type writer!

The pictures were bright and colorful and the stories told very important lessons that are important for our elementary students to learn.

This book teaches a valuable lesson, standing up for what you believe in. The cows knew that in order to get what they needed, they needed to be brave and stay committed to their actions. They never once gave in and they all stuck together. Their numbers and team members made them strong enough to win over the farmer. This teaches us another lesson, a lesson about team work. Together, we can make a difference. When we believe in each other and stay true to each other, just as the cows ALL refused to give milk to the farmer and ALL the chickens refused to give eggs, the farmer had no choice but to do what is right and keep his animals warm.

I do not have any critiques on this book. I thought the language was simple and easy to understand, yet effective and taught important lessons to the children who read it. If anyone is looking for a read-aloud book about teamwork and standing up for what you believe in for your elementary class, I certainly recommend this one.





Julia Raucci’s Handbook for Boys Blog: Prologue-Does Life Work? Part 2

My first impression of the book when I started reading was, “wow, this is an interesting book to teach 6th graders.” It is very educational from an interesting point of view, the teenager (Jimmy) trying to stay out of jail. I think this book would be very effective, as the students may take the lessons better from a character that seems like their peer instead of an adult who they feel they can’t relate to.

Before I get into the words on the page, I want to mention the pictures! I love the use of pictures in this book. They are pretty few and far between, but they are fun and effective. The reader gets excited as they turn the page to find a drawing and it pulls them into the story even more, giving them an image to match with the words being read. It gives the reader a wonderful visual reference to compare to the one being imagined in their head. This is an awesome way to keep an eleven year old’s attention while reading!

One of the first sentences that made me think long and hard was on page 20, a sentence talking about how Jimmy’s teacher had already ruined his day by making comments at him. I think it is very important for us as teachers to remember the impact we have on students and be careful about what we say.

The Blind Monkey Strut is when Duke really starts to explain his lesson that he teaches and refers to multiple times throughout the book. He claims on page 43 that you have to do what you know is right. His lesson goes deeper than just monkeys and bananas, it is about “not letting themselves forget that they know the right thing.” The monkey know should know not to mess with the tiger, Jimmy should know to stay out of trouble.

In Does Life Work? (and Does Life Work? Part 2), Duke teaches another valuable lesson about how life doesn’t just work on its own, YOU have to make your life work. He compares it to something relatable, (which is a great teaching strategy!) in this case it is basketball. The game doesn’t play itself, neither will your life.

Julia Raucci’s Week 5 Blog: Writing Task

One commonality I found between all these readings was how important it is to have your students actively focusing and participating in the read-alouds. This can be done in multiple ways, and the articles mentioned numerous ways to do this. Whether it be answering questions, discussing the plot or theme of the book, or even going as far as acting out what they are reading. Without engaging the students in the story, they will not listen and, therefore, the read-alouds will be pointless. One of the articles mentioned the difference between on-task read-alouds and off-task read-alouds. If your students are off task, they will not pay attention and will not learn anything. If they are on task, however, these read-alouds and the skills they learn from them will be beneficial to them for years to come.

This brings me to my next idea, how read-alouds benefit the student both in and out of the classroom. The articles mentioned the skills the students can learn from read-alouds, These include, but are not limited to, referring to previously stated material and developing good listening and responding skills. Not only are these skills beneficial to the classroom when discussing plot, setting, foreshadowing, etc, but these are life-long skills that need to be learned in order to become a successful individual.

Julia Raucci’s Week 5 Blog: Reading Task

“When Artley (1975) asked teachers what they remembered most from their elementary school ex periences, they consistently reported that teacher read-alouds were among their favorite memories. Ivey and Broaddus (2001) also found that middle school students reported similar favorites: They re ported that independent reading time and teacher read-alouds made them want to read more.” This a a quote written by Douglas Fisher, James Flood, Diane Lapp and, Nancy Frey, the authors of “Interactive Read-Alouds: Is There a Common Set of Implementation Practices?” I think this is a really important aspect to remember, especially in the time of “teaching for the test.” Real and genuine connection between teacher and student is essential to meaningful learning. Learning and reading should be fun, not a chore for these students.

“Nelson (1981) even argued that the experience of read-alouds enabled children to express themselves as individuals, connect with others, and make sense of the world.” This is another statement in “Interactive Read-Alouds: Is There a Common Set of Implementation Practices?” I believe that read-alouds provide the fun and creativity that is often taken out of schools. Art, including the art of read-alouds, is beneficial to students, as it makes them feel connected and important. It is important to be represented by characters they read about so they can explore what they are capable of and experience all that life has to offer, much like the characters in these books.

“Because reading for enjoyment is a significant reason for read-alouds, students need to be told often that one of the purposes of reading or being read to is enjoyment.” Another statement from “Interactive Read-Alouds: Is There a Common Set of Implementation Practices?” The amount of students that feel like reading is boring and a chore is upsetting. As future teachers, it is our job to fix this and ensure that our students don’t associate reading with “boring schoolwork”.

“…engagement can also be expressive and performative. Children demonstrate this type of engagement with words and physical actions. They become active participants in the story.” This is a quote from “Talking Back and Taking over: Young Children’s Expressive Engagement during Storybook Read-Alouds” written by Lawrence R. Sipe. Along with being a future teacher, I am also an actress. I love performing in plays and musicals and I use my acting techniques and skills in my teaching. I find that we must be able to entertain and engage our students to make learning enjoyable! I love having students act out what we read. They may feel a little silly at first but they are participating and never forget what we read! It is important, however, to keep the children focused and not get out of control, as stated later in the article. We must be able to keep the students on-task during fun and physical activities like this or else there will be no point, as no real learning will take place.

Julia Raucci’s Week 4 Blog: Reading Task

“No talking during the first 10 minutes of SSR each day, during the Reading Workshop (RW) students must read, respond to reading, or update their personal reading re cords, no talking is permitted during the RW except in meetings of literature response groups, RW time is not for completing home work or other school work, reading time and title logs must be up dated at the end of each RW period, restroom or drinking breaks are not permitted during the RW time except in case of emergencies, students are not permitted to disturb or interrupt a scheduled individual reading conference.”

These are Atwell’s (1987) suggestions for teachers during the reading period that D. Ray Reutzel and Robert B. Cooter, Jr., authors of “Organizing for Effective Instruction: The Reading Workshop” agree with. I agree with them as well. I recall these being used in my elementary school classrooms as a child and have seen them used effectively in my field work observations. It not only keeps the students on task and focused on what they are reading, but helps prevent being distracted or becoming a distraction for their peers.

“Although we were pleased that the students were making connections, we were also happy that they built on one another’s responses, demonstrated listening behaviors, and referred back to one another’s comments.”

This is a quote from Lane W. Clarke and Jennifer Holwadel’s article ” Help! What Is Wrong with These Literature Circles and How Can We Fix Them?” I believe that the main focus and goal of literature circles is creating a good foundation for communication. Literature circles are teaching students key skills that they will need all throughout their school and adult lives. Skills such as the authors mentioned, good listening behaviors, being able to build off of each other, and referring back to previously stated comments. These are wonderful tools to have, not only when reading and discussing literature, but in anyone’s successful life.

These were two very informative articles to read, teaching their readers about the importance of keeping the classroom quiet when necessary, discussing when necessary, but always remaining focused on the task at hand and how to complete the task successfully.

Julia Raucci’s Week 4 Blog: Writing Task

Mini Lesson on Phonemic Awareness

  1. Explain the lesson to the students and review any previous information taught (if any). “We will be learning about rhyming words,” for example. (5-10 minutes)
  2. Run an activity as a class. Regardless of the activity, it should be stimulating and fun for the students. Play with the sounds and words, don’t lecture to them. A game that could be played is “Odd Word Out.” Write multiple words on the board such as “hat, cat, blue, bat” and ask the students which word does not belong and why. To make this game physical, have the students come up to the board and point to or circle the odd word out. (15-20 minutes)
  3. Give a worksheet to complete individually to assess each students understanding. Give assistance to the students when necessary. A worksheet similar to the game on the board (but with different words) would be a great way to assess which students are having trouble and which students are ready to move on. (15-20 minutes)
  4. Come together as a class to discuss the worksheet and address/reteach any questions or complications they may have had. Ask students how they can connect this lesson to topics outside of the classroom. Ask students to share what they have learned. (10-15 minutes)

Student A has trouble with rhyming words. It is important for the student to be given one on one time with the teacher for direct instruction. A game to play with a child who finds rhyming difficult would be “Happy Face Sad Face.” The teacher shows the student two words such as “hat and bat.” If they rhyme, the student holds up a picture of a happy face. If they do not, the student holds up a picture of a sad face. Ask the student to repeat the words being shown, as it is important reinforce the verbal aspect of rhyming words.

Student B is having trouble with counting syllables in a word. When addressing this situation, I believe the teacher should give the student a physical motion to count the syllables. For example, take the word “pencil.” Have the student clap their hands or stomp their feet when counting and saying “pen-cil” out loud. Start with two syllable words and scaffold the student up to three and more with assistance.