Common Core Exemplars-Informational Texts: Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

Macaulay, D. (1973). Cathedral: The Story of its Construction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade Level: Intermediate Grade Levels (6th – 8th)

I do not like judging a book by its cover, although, with this book I couldn’t help it.  I can understand why it was a Caldecott Honor, the pictures were absolutely beautiful, really detailed.  I just couldn’t believe it was a book for children.  It sort of looked like a book that you would find at the Cathedral for like background information on the building.  But, this book was nothing like that because the Cathedral mentioned in the story is actually made up.

The main purpose of this book would be to help children understand how cathedrals were made.  Although, the cathedral in the book was of a made up place the architecture and the way it was built was accurate.  The author, David Macaulay, majored in architecture in college and took different aspects of different cathedrals to create his own.  By doing this he gives children background information of building such a building and tells it in a more fun and captivating way.

Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

What was the author’s purpose for writing this book?

Why do you think the author incorporated a story into telling how a cathedral was created?

Do you feel that you know/understand what sort of details and the process it takes to building a cathedral after reading this book?


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Graphic Novel: The Arrival

Tan, S. (2006). The Arrival. London, Hodder’s Children’s Books

Genre: History Fiction, Fantasy

Grade Level: 7 +

I found this book to be a little bit difficult to follow.  For one thing, there were no words, what so ever.  I have always known books to be with words and maybe some pictures here or there depending on the book and it’s grade level.  I suppose you can tell this was my first graphic novel.  The pictures were so beautifully drawn it was hard to look away.  I felt the need to take everything in and inspect each individual frame carefully, as to not miss anything.  I really had no idea where the book was going.  Also, at some parts it was hard to follow due to the fact that some characters seemed to have flashbacks.  So one minute the main guy is talking to another person and it’s like he triggers something in them to look back into their past.

I believe the purpose of this book was to show readers how difficult it maybe for someone to pick up their lives and move to an entirely different country.  That’s why the pictures sometimes had random things in them that the reader didn’t quite understand.  The entire book was of a man’s journey to a new land and find a means of living so that he could bring his family over to settle with him once everything was set.

Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

Through the pictures the students will be able to observe the character and his actions in a new land.  For and activity, I would have the student interpret what they feel is happening to the man throughout the story.  Since there really are no words to describe what the man is doing and what his emotions are through the process, the students will have to come up with their own explanations.

What is happening at the beginning of the story?

Why do you think the flashbacks of the people the man meets are so important?

What is your conclusion about the last picture of the story?

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YA Book: Chain Letter

Pike, C. (1986). Chain Letter. New York, NY: Avon Books.

Grade Level: 9 – 12

Genre: Horror/Suspense/Mystery

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!  I love how the author doesn’t waste time with useless information, like he doesn’t beat around the bush.  The moment the story begins the characters are already receiving the letter.  Throughout the entire book I was trying to figure out who the Caretaker was.  The way Christopher Pike writes is like he was trying to throw the reader off the trail of who could be sending these letters.  He uses the characters to make a bunch of different theories and it is stuff that the reader might be thinking.  But then he has another character suggest a different possibility that could be true too.  It turns out that my first theory was right and I knew all along who the Caretaker was.  Although, I was off by what his reasoning behind it was and I was second guessing myself because Pike threw in a curve ball.

In a way I felt this book was all about friendship and how you really don’t know somebody until something traumatizing happens.  It could also be about how important cause and effect is or knowing the difference between right and wrong.  Everybody come to a point in their lives where they must make a decision, in the story that point came after a concert when the six teenagers hit a man.  Like most people who may find themselves in similar situations, the teens were afraid of getting into trouble, so instead of calling the cops, they decided that burying the man and forgetting all about that night was a better idea.

Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

For an assignment I would suggest that students analyze the text for clues as to what they think maybe happening.  This helps them make predictions about the story and helps them be more engaged in the reading because they are paying close attention to detail.

Initially, who do you think the caretaker is? Why?

What are somethings that you may have done differently than the characters in the story?

Were your suspicions correct?

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Challenged Book: A Wrinkle in Time

L’Engle, M. (1962). A Wrinkle In Time. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade Level: 6+

A Wrinkle in Time was a very interesting read.  It was a little hard to follow with all the jumping around galaxies/dimensions, I had to reread the pages a few times to understand the content.  Another thing I found to be annoying was the fact that Madeleine L’Engle always mentioned Meg’s brother as “Charles Wallace.”  At first I thought that they my have been step-siblings and maybe the mom remarried after the disappearance of Meg’s father, but then I realized that they weren’t step-siblings.  Other than that, the way L’Engle writes really pulls you into the story and the words really brings the images to mind.

The theme I took from A Wrinkle in Time was the same as a few other science fiction books I have read, which is a battle between good and evil.  In reading the book I couldn’t help, but think of the recent Disney movie that came out, Frozen.  Because in the end the hero of the story defeats the darkness with love.  I can definitely see why this book may have been challenged, because it deals with a lot of things that people find uncomfortable, like witchcraft.  Also, the fact that this book is more scientific and may people of this world tend to be religious or more of a Christian based society.  But I feel that this book would help young adults, due to the fact that the main character was misunderstood in one way or another and felt isolated in the beginning of the story.  This is something many teens can relate to, which is why I think so many young adult books are popular.

Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

What are some changes that Meg goes through in the book?

Is there something in the book that Meg does and you thought she could have done it differently?

Can you relate to Meg?

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Batchelder Book: A Book of Coupons

Morgenstern, S. (2001). A Book of Coupons. New York: Viking.

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Comedy and Humor

Grade Level: 3-5


If I were to pick this book up off a shelf in a bookstore, I would have never known that it was a translation book.  Actually, the thought would have never crossed my mind.  I honestly never heard of translation books or the Batchelder Award.  I thoroughly liked reading A Book of Coupons, I found it to be very interesting.  I felt that the teacher came up with a very ingenious and innovative idea.  It is sort of like a teacher here in America coming up with something like homework passes, which is one thing that is different, culturally.  Another could be, the fact that the teacher gave the students one pass to kiss him on the cheek or something.  If that were to happen here in America it would lead to something involving the police.  Actually, a lot of the coupons could cause some controversy in some way between the parents and the school.


A Book of Coupons takes place in France, and was translated into English.  The original book was titled Joker, based on the book titles it would seem that these two books have two absolute different story concepts.  I imagine Joker is about a student that tries to act as a class clown.  It doesn’t really go with what A Book of Coupons is about.  It really goes with what we have learned in the lesson, about translated books being changed to fit the needs and desires of America.  In the beginning of the book the children are expecting a certain type of teacher, only to find disappointment on the first day of school.  Which goes along with the cliche, “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.”  The teacher handed out a gift that the students may need.  A lot of the coupons were of something that could happen throughout the year and the teacher offered, sort of like a get out of jail free card for these types of occasions.  He wasn’t condoning these bad habits, but offering a chance to do them once then each time after that show the consequences of actions.


Reading this book gives the children some form of an idea from right and wrong.  One lesson could be made involving ways to know whether something is bad or good, morals.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.1 – Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Why do you think the teacher gave out coupons?

Do you think that these coupons are rewards for good behavior?

Which coupons would you like to have for yourself?

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Multicultural/Global Literature: Pink and Say

Polacco, P. (1994). Pink and Say. New York, NY: Philomel Books.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade Level: 3-5

I was not expecting Pink and Say to be a book about two soldiers in he Civil War.  Looking at the cover I assumed that the story was about two children who befriended one another during a time where racism was at its highest and whites and blacks were not allowed to associate with one another.  I only heard about this book from this class and have never read it personally, so I had no clue what to expect from it.  It just goes to show, never judge a book by its cover or its title.  Pink and Say when I first heard the title of this book I thought it was a little peculiar.  I honestly don’t think I would have read it, if it were not assigned to me, but boy would I have been missing out!  This story was just full of surprises.  In the beginning (once i saw it was a story about the civil war),  I thought that maybe Say was a confederate that befriends a union solider, Pink, who has helped him out, realizing that African Americans are not bad at all.  But they were both union, and surprisingly Say had no problems with the color of Pink’s skin.  He just mentioned that he has never seen someone like him up close before.  When Say woke up in Moe Moe Bay and Pink’s house, I found it so comforting and sweet that Moe Moe Bay treated Say as if he were her own child.  Especially at the part of the story just before the Marauders came, where she held hi in her arms and comforted him as he laid out all his guilt about running from battle.  This story was so powerful and showed what true friendship really was, it is no wonder why they told it to their children and their children’s children.  It really touched my heart at the end of the story where Polacco wrote,

“This book serves as a written memory of Pinkus Aylee since there are no living decendants to do this for him.  When you read this, before you put this book down, say his name out loud and vow to remember him always.”

The books set up was a little like Mo Willems’ book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, where the story starts before there are actual words, it starts with pictures.  Also like Willems, Patricia Polacco drew her own pictures, and quite beautifully at that.  They were so detailed, I thought they may have been done using water colors like Owl Moon, but I couldn’t find what was used.  There were quite a lot of themes that I took away from this story one being friendship.  Pink and Say shows how friendships can form in the most unlikely circumstances.  Here are two boys who have never met before and just happen to come across each other in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing about their appearance mattered to each other, especially skin color, which was a major factor back then.  Though their friendship was short lived, Say never forgot the kinds and joy he felt when he was with Pink and he honored the memory of Pinkus Aylee by telling his children.

This would be a good book to read to the students and teach them that we are all equal.  That all barriers built up by society can be broken down and overcome by kindness towards one another.  At such a young age, children are very impressionable.  It is important to change their way of thinking for the better.  I would use this book to create a lesson that helps children to see and realize that even though someone may be different from them, it doesn’t mean that they could treat them poorly.

What did Pinkus do to help Say?

If you saw someone in need of help, would you help them like Pink did?

How did Moe Moe Bay save Pink and Say?

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY R.L.3.3 Describe characters in a story and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.


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Multicultural/Global Literature: Inside Out & Back Again

Lai, T. (2011). Inside Out and Back Again. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Verse Novel

Grade Level: 3-7

Inside Out & Back Again is a story of a ten year old girl who, in the beginning, is experiencing life while their is a war going on in her country.  Her family has the opportunity to get out and come to America for a “better life.”  Only to find out, once they get to their destination that things in America is not any easier.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Inside Out & Back Again.  It opened my eyes to the difficulties a student may be going through when moving to a new country.  Not only that, but this book also shows what their mentality may be when they finally arrived.  I never realized the hardships someone may go through when leaving their home country and starting over somewhere new.  This book was so descriptive and detailed, that I felt as if I was there experiencing  it with , I could not put the book down.  It really broke my heart when I got to “Truly Gone,” it was as if they lost all hope and gave up.  I really felt for the mother, she was holding on to the hope that her husband was coming back and prayed for it every night.  Then it was as if reality set in and she just couldn’t bare it anymore.

In the beginning, it showed how the family lived as the war went on, which was crucial to the set up of the story.  It played a really important part in setting the mood for the reader.  War has always been a touchy subject for people, especially when they have a loved one fighting in it and that person ends up going missing.  I feel that the book would not have had the same effect if the setting was different.  Another thing, the book was set in the point of view of a ten year old girl, first person.  By doing this the author, Thahha Lai,  showed how it would be for a little girl to go through something like this.  Most of the time adults do not realize how things like this can be for a child.  Children do not really understand why certain things around them are happening and they are so innocent and vulnerable that they question everything because of curiosity.  This book showed how dealt with all the changes in coming to America.  Some things were harder than others, but one she met Mrs. Washington things seemed to get a little better for .

Inside Out & Back Again is a good book to read to children introducing them to many different cultures and how it can be hard for two different types of cultures to co-exist.  This book can also open up the topic of bullying, which is a major issue happening in schools today.  I would create a lesson that will help kids understand what bullying is and how to recognize it.  I realize that bullying was not the main part of this story, but I’m just saying that this is one way the story could be used.

Why did want to learn how to defend herself?

Why do you think was being picked on? Was it right?

Have you ever seen another kid getting picked on?

Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

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