MRR Product Feature: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

There is a lot to love about The Wild Robot. The robot meets nature storyline is sure to find an audience in even reluctant readers. For those that are still hesitant, one look at the beautiful illustrations and The Wild Robot is nearly irresistible.

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Perhaps my favorite thing about The Wild Robot, though, is the number of learning opportunities it creates. I think you could teach this book for years and go a different direction with it each time! One year you could focus on the obvious: robots. There are many opportunities for building, creating, and learning about engineering, programming, and artificial intelligence. Another year could focus on animal behaviors and adaptations. Through the characters introduced in The Wild Robot, you could study geese, wolves, bears, moose, beavers, or any number of other animals. You could learn about migration patterns, camouflage adaptations, habitats, and more. Yet another year could find you centering your study of the book on family and community. Students could do some deep thinking on what it means to love, to be a caregiver, and to form community bonds. And with its beautiful illustrations, I think The Wild Robot would be an excellent complement to an art or drawing study.

Book Facts

  • Ages 8 – 11
  • Lexile 740
  • 288 pages

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For an easy ELA-focused study of The Wild Robot, be sure to check out our no prep novel study. It has everything you need to do an in-depth study of the book and includes digital options for paperless classrooms. The 100-page unit includes:

  • Student Worksheet Packet (digital option)
    • Vocabulary
    • Chapter Questions
    • Discussion Questions
    • Focused Questions on Point of View, Latin Roots, and Synonyms and Antonyms
    • Bird Imprinting Minilesson
    • Writing and Drawing Prompts
    • Student Projects
  • Section Quizzes with Part A/Part B Questions (digital option-self-grading)
  • Final Exam with Part A/Part B Questions (digital option, self-grading)
  • Vocabulary & Definition Cards (digital option)
  • Word Wall Cards
  • Character Matching Game
  • Q & A Dice Game
  • CCSS Checklists, Grades 3 – 5

Other resources from around the web:

From Little, Brown and Company: The Wild Robot Book Club Guide

From TeachingBooks.net: List of resources for The Wild Robot

From Teaching and Technology Ideas: Classroom activity ideas for The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot Global Read Aloud 2017 Hyperdoc: 7-week guide with vocabulary, activities, and STEM projects

From The Book Sommelier: Four Short Films to Pair with The Wild Robot

From TheClassroomBookshelf.com: Teaching Ideas and Invitations for The Wild Robot

 

 

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MRR Product Feature: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

MRR Product Feature: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Lauren Wolk has a gift. She makes words magical and transforming. Through “spare, simple language,” she transports her readers into a nuanced setting, going far beyond simply time and place, but also giving us a sense of the culture, values, and ideals of that particular place in time. Her characters are multi-dimensional and she asks her readers to take the time to pause and understand what makes them tick. Rather than laying it all out on the table, she gives her readers seemingly insignificant character details that come together to create a soul that feels true to life. Wolk’s talent brings a richness and authenticity to the text that mark her as an extraordinary writer.

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With a long list of accolades and comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird, Wolf Hollow is poised to remain on bookshelves and in the hands of readers for years to come. It is a story that will remain with you long after you read the final page. Though the style is simple, Wolf Hollow is in no way an easy read. Wolk introduces her readers to Betty Glengarry, a character that embodies evil down to her very core. Betty is disturbing in a way that is not often seen in books written for children (though Wolf Hollow was originally intended for an adult audience). Through Betty, Wolk asks her readers to consider what evil looks like and to wrestle with concepts like justice (and injustice), prejudice, fear, and truth.

With weighty discussion points and well-developed characters, Wolf Hollow makes an excellent addition to a middle school ELA classroom. Pull out quotes or sections of text to discuss at length in class. Define goodness and evil. Consider this: Does justice equate to a happy ending?

Book Facts

  • Ages 12+
  • Lexile 800L
  • 320 pages

For an in-depth study of this book, check out this no prep novel study for Wolf Hollow.

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The novel study features a student packet with comprehension questions, as well as graphic organizers for character study and story mapping. Writing prompts ask students to consider the theme of the novel, as well as compare and contrast characters, and create a summary. After completing the book, students (or student groups) will select a project to complete. Student materials are available as Google DriveTM paperless resources or in printable form. Self-grading Google FormsTM quizzes and final exam make assessment a snap! Get students engaged in review through two different games, a question and answer dice game, and a game that asks students to “dive into the book” to find the speaker of different quotes from the novel.

Other resources from around the web:

From Penguin Classroom: A Discussion Guide for Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

From Island Readers & Writers: Activity Guide for Wolf Hollow 

From Booksource Banter: Lauren Wolk on Teaching Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea

 

 

 

 

MRR Product Feature: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

MRR Product Feature: Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

For adults and children alike, World War II historical fiction is hot right now! Consider the award winners The War That Saved My Life and Salt to the Sea. Non-fiction has brought us BOMB: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon and The Boys Who Challenged Hilter: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club.

One of the standouts and best sellers in the middle grade/YA category is Alan Gratz’s Projekt 1065. The book is a gripping page-turner that is sure to please history buffs and action fans alike. As I discussed in my previous book review, though, parents and teachers selecting Projekt 1065 for readers on the younger end of the spectrum (because its Lexile score makes it accessible for advanced third- and fourth-graders) should be aware of the violent content of the book. Given the atrocities that occurred during WWII, difficult situations and disturbing content abound in this genre and authors, especially author’s of books for children, face the difficult task of addressing these issues in a manner that is neither dismissive nor sensational.

Gratz does an excellent job of telling a riveting story set in WWII Germany. Projekt 1065 focuses on one of the most difficult questions posed by war or conflict in any time or situation: Are immoral or unethical actions justified if the end result saves tens, hundreds, or thousands of innocent lives?

Though Gratz does not address the concerns that come up in the aftermath of these situations, I think it is important for readers of this book to ask themselves what the cost is for answering the question above in the affirmative. If one must violate their conscience in order to serve the greater good, can that person consider himself or herself a hero? What damage might be inflicted during a lifetime of living with the consequences of such actions? None of the questions posed here are black or white. As with many issues of ethics and morality, the answers lie in many shades of gray.

Projekt 1065 provides a great opportunity for a discussion-filled study of some of the peripheral issues and moral dilemmas of WWII. While I would not suggest the book as an introduction to World War II or as a means of supplementing a big picture study of the war, for students that already understand the basics of WWII, Projekt 1065 is a good choice for those wishing to dig a little deeper.

Book Facts

  • Ages 12 & up*
  • Lexile 780L
  • 320 pages

*violent content may not be suitable for children under 12

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For an in-depth study of this book, check out this no prep novel study for Projekt 1065. The student packet includes photographic images of Nazi Germany and WWII to deepen student connections with the text. Discussion questions and writer’s notebook questions ask students to focus on topics about character, ethics, and peer pressure to address the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by characters in the story. Student materials are available as Google DriveTM paperless resources or in printable form.

The novel study also features a student packet with comprehension questions, as well as vocabulary crossword puzzles and focus questions on figurative language.  Writing prompts ask students to summarize the text and discuss themes within the story. After completing the book, students (or student groups) may select a project to complete. For a fun review activity, play the included question and answer dice game. Assess student learning with a vocabulary quiz and final exam.

MRR Product Feature: Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

MRR Product Feature: Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

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I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Louis Sachar speak at my local library in the fall of 2016. It was around the time that Fuzzy Mud was released. With all of the humor and silliness of his other works, I was a bit surprised to see that he was very quiet and reserved. I was expecting someone a bit louder, a bit more flamboyant, someone who seemed to enjoy the spotlight. What I found was a very quiet, introspective man. My favorite part of the evening was when he discussed his writing process. Sachar explained,

“My first draft of anything I write is really awful. I do five or six rewrites. I have to be willing to throw out whole sections and rearrange ideas. By the fifth or sixth draft, I stop rearranging and just tell myself, ‘This is what happened.’ Then I try to write what happened artistically.   Each time, I add more layers to the story. Kids tell me things like, ‘I read that book six times.’ And I say, ‘That’s how many times I wrote it!’ Re-reading my books can uncover more layers – each time it is read, the reader notices more things.  But mainly my books are written to make reading enjoyable. That’s my first goal with all my books, to make reading fun. I want kids to think that reading can be just as much fun, or more so, than TV or video games or whatever else they do.”

In Fuzzy Mud Louis Sachar gives us a bit more of the man I saw at the library. Some have noted that this novel is a departure from Sachar’s typical style, drawing comparisons to Michael Crichton—a far cry from the zaniness of Wayside School. On his website, Sachar tells us that Fuzzy Mud came about as a result of a bit of a dark period in his life, a time that challenged his outlook on humanity.

“I had lost my own sense of optimism. It was reported that world population recently had grown past seven billion, more than double what it was just a half century ago. It seemed to me, that while people are rightly concerned about things like climate change, depletion of ocean habitats, the destruction of the rain forest, giant islands of plastic garbage, etc., that they might be missing the bigger picture; that all these things were just the inevitable result of a world with seven billion people, and that as long as human population continues to increase, all these problems, and more, would only get worse.”

And despite these rather dark thoughts, Sachar chose to address this issue by focusing his story on a character who epitomizes the virtue that Sachar believes is the key in righting some of the wrongs that humans have committed against the Earth.

When asked about the character of Tamaya in Fuzzy Mud at the event at my library, Sachar had this to say:

“I wanted to write a book where the main character, despite everything, is just this very admirable and courageous and smart person, and developed Tamaya. She wouldn’t tell you she was brave and all that, but I think she is by far the most courageous character I’ve ever created. It seems like most female characters in children’s books are these kind of sassy, spunky kids. And she’s not like that. She asks at one point, ‘When did it become bad to be good?’  She’s based on my daughter, Sherre. She just wanted to do what she was supposed to do and please her teachers. Tamaya does, too.”

The story takes off when Tamaya follows her friend and neighbor Marshall into the woods after school. Marshall, tired of being tormented by a bully, is looking for a safe passage between school and home. However, the area is much more than just a forested area. The woods surround SunRay Farm, a laboratory where scientists are working to engineer a new type of organism to satisfy the world’s ever-increasing appetite for fuel sources. Tamaya and Marshall stumble up some of SunRay Farm’s newest creation in the woods. They don’t know what it is; to them it looks like fuzzy mud. As the story builds, we learn more about the fuzzy mud and the effects of exposure to it. The fuzzy mud spurs a U.S. Senate committee meeting, the national guard is called in, the city is put under quarantine, and as events begin to spiral out of control, we begin to see how there are very often unintended consequences when man meddles with nature.

Book Facts

  • Ages 10+
  • Lexile 700
  • 208 pages

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For an easy study of this book, be sure to check out our updated no prep novel study. It has everything you need to do an in-depth study of the book and now includes digital options for paperless classrooms. The 120-page unit includes:

  • Student Worksheet Packet (digital option)
  • “Mark My Words” Vocabulary Bookmarks
  • Word/Definition Cards for Matching Game
  • Word Wall Cards
  • Section Quizzes (digital option)
  • Vocabulary Crossword Puzzles
  • Vocabulary Quiz (digital option)
  • Final Exam (digital option)
  • Student Projects
  • Complete Answer Key
  • CCSS Checklist: Grades 3-6

Other resources from around the web:

From Teachingbooks.net: Fuzzy Mud and Louis Sachar Resources

From STEMREAD at Northern Illinois University: Fuzzy Mud Activities and Related Videos

From Bloomsbury (publisher): Fuzzy Mud Reading Guide

 

MRR Product Feature: Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

MRR Product Feature: Warcross by Marie Lu

Are you a junior high or high school teacher looking for an exciting read that will capture the interest of even your most difficult to please students? Consider Warcross!

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Hailed as a cross between Hunger Games and the popular video game World of Warcraft, Warcross is a high-energy thrill ride set in a future where virtual reality gaming has become a worldwide obsession. At the center of the story is Emika Chen, a teenager struggling to make it on her own. Desperate for money to pay her bills, Emi decides to hack into the big Warcross tournament to steal a valuable powerup. When Emi inadvertently glitches the game while hacking it, she exposes her identity. Just like that her hopes of finding the money to pay her landlord are gone.

However, Emika’s life takes a drastic turn when she is contacted by the creator of Warcross, Hideo Tanaka. He is impressed by Emi’s skills and has a job offer for her. Hideo pays her debts and flies her to Tokyo to learn more.

Hideo needs a spy on the inside to help uncover a “security threat.” Emi goes undercover, only to find herself thrust into a dangerous plot, with consequences that reach far beyond the virtual world of Warcross. With dangerous foes on both sides, Emi learns that trust can be a dangerous weakness in the game that she is playing. As the secrets begin to come out, Emika must make a difficult choice about how to move forward…and neither option seems safe.

Book Facts

  • Ages 12+
  • Lexile 810L
  • 368 pages

For an in-depth study of this book focusing on plot development and characterization, check out this no prep novel study for Warcross. It features an engaging introductory activity to get students thinking about the themes that will be introduced in the novel and the role that technology plays in their own world. Student materials are available as Google DriveTM paperless resources or in printable form.

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The novel study also features a student packet with comprehension questions, as well as many graphic organizers to analyze the setting, characters, plot, theme, and conflicts. The graphic organizers can be completed as a class for younger students, or in groups or alone for older or more advanced students. Writing prompts ask students to demonstrate what they have learned and to make connections to broader ideas. After completing the book, students (or student groups) will select a project to complete.

Other resources from around the web:

https://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?tid=56286

 

 

 

MRR Product Feature: Warcross by Marie Lu

MRR Product Feature: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

LEAVE

This is the cowardly message sent to the new family in the community. The young Muslim family to whom the message is directed is seeking peace and safety. The young girl, Samar, has only one desire…a friend. Instead, the family finds a hateful message, directed toward them, carved into a neighborhood tree.

In this beautifully written book by the masterful Katherine Applegate, we find a story that can teach us all something about community, friendship, acceptance, and family. The story is told from a rather unexpected point of view…that of a tree. Red is a pillar of the community, an oak tree that has watched families move in and out for more than 200 years, many of them immigrants just like Samar’s family. However, Red is much more than just a simple tree. Red is a wishtree. Every year, community residents come to Red with the deepest desires of their hearts. They write a wish on a simple ribbon or scrap of fabric and tie it to Red. And sometimes…those wishes come true. Can Red make Samar’s wish come true after the rude introduction to the neighborhood that the family has already received? Red hopes to, but it seems that the message left for Samar’s family has put Red in very serious danger. While Red works to make Samar’s wish come true, an army of animal friends come to Red’s assistance.

This book strikes a perfect balance on so many levels. It tackles a serious topic, but does so while also making readers smile, giggle, or, at times, laugh out loud. It is a thoughtful book, giving even teenage students plenty to think about, but the book’s short chapters and cute, comical characters will make Wishtree a fun read (or read-aloud) for elementary students.

Book Facts

  • Ages 8 – 12
  • Lexile 590
  • 224 pages

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For an easy study of this amazing book, be sure to check out our updated no prep novel study. It has everything you need to do an in-depth study of the book and now includes digital options for paperless classrooms. The 139-page unit includes:

  • Student Worksheet Packet (digital option)
    • Vocabulary
    • Chapter Questions
    • Discussion Questions
    • Focused Minilessons on Figurative Language, Greek and Latin Roots, Point of View, and Synonyms and Antonyms
    • Science Words Worksheet
    • Student Projects
  • Vocabulary Crossword Puzzles
  • Section Quizzes (digital option)
  • Final Exam (digital option)
  • Vocabulary & Definition Cards (digital option)
  • Word Wall Cards
  • Character Matching Game
  • Q & A Dice Game
  • CCSS Checklists, Grades 4 – 5

Other resources from around the web:

 

 

 

 

MRR Product Feature: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

MRR Product Feature: Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

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Hearing the words “traumatic brain injury” can be devastating news after learning a friend or family member has been in an accident. With all of the medical knowledge and technology available today, brain injuries are still incredibly dangerous, difficult to treat, and filled with uncertainty.

Now imagine the case of a traumatic brain injury that occurred before MRIs, EKGs, or even antibiotics. The prognosis must have been incredibly grim. There is one case—an unbelievably severe one—that defied all odds. In 1848 a young man named Phineas Gage sustained a massive brain injury when an explosion sent a metal rod into Phineas’s cheek, through the frontal lobe of his brain, and out the top of his skull. He survived the event, astounding everyone who witnessed it or took part in his treatment. Even today, an accident of that magnitude would make national news headlines. But Phineas became much more than just an artifact of obscure medical history. He unknowingly laid the foundation for our modern understanding of both neurology and psychology.

In the book Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman, we can learn the fascinating story of Phineas Gage—how his accident occurred, how little it seemed to affect him immediately after it occurred, how his doctors treated this injury that was unlike any they had ever heard of, and how Phineas’s life was both much the same as it was before, and at the same time, forever changed by the accident.

This book is a fascinating study that can be a valuable addition to a variety of topics at the middle school or junior high level. It is an engaging way to make connections and cement the knowledge gained in a study of the physiology of the human brain. It is also an ideal introduction to psychology. For those just looking to incorporate more nonfiction texts into their ELA content, Fleischman’s book is a stellar example of a nonfiction page-turner. Students can’t get enough of the gory details of the accident and Phineas’s bizarre behavior provides fodder for lots of discussion.

Book Facts

  • Ages 10 – 12
  • Lexile 1030L
  • 96 pages

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For an easy study of this great book, be sure to check out our updated no prep nonfiction book study. It has everything you need to do an in-depth study of the book and now includes Google Drive™ digital options for paperless classrooms. The 100+ page unit includes:

    • Anticipation Guide (digital option)
    • Student Vocabulary Bookmark
    • Student Worksheet Packet (digital option)
      •Vocabulary
      •Focused Questions on Figurative Language, Synonyms/Antonyms, & Greek and Latin Roots
      •Chapter Questions (fill in)
      •Discussion Questions
      •Student Projects
    • Chapter Quizzes and Final Quiz (m/c) (digital option-Google Forms™)
    • Vocabulary Crossword Puzzles
    • Final Vocabulary Quiz (matching)
    • Vocabulary & Definition Cards (digital option-list available for easy use with Kahoot, Quizlet, Flippity, etc.)
    • Word Wall Cards
    • CCSS Checklists for Grades 6 – 8

 

Other resources from around the web:

From Listenwise: Learning About Brain Science from Phineas Gage (Audio File + Text)

WUSF – University of South Florida Radio: Why Brain Scientists Are Still Obsessed with the Curious Case of Phineas Gage (Audio File + Text)

TEDed Lesson: Phineas P. Gage (video + questions)

Harvard University Gazette: Lessons of the brain: The Phineas Gage story (video + text)

From wired.com: Inside the Mind of a Criminal (Can the story of Phineas Gage help explain some criminal behavior?)

MRR Product Feature: Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science