MRR Product Feature: Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt

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Cynthia Voigt‘s Tillerman Series may very well be remembered as one of the classic series of our age. Since the publication of Homecoming in 1981, young readers have found in these books stories that resonate with them. Many adults today fondly remember reading the series in junior high or high school. For some, Homecoming was the first book that truly captivated them, serving as a gateway to a world of other great stories and adventures just waiting to be discovered.

Homecoming is not only the first book in the series, it is the first book written by Cynthia Voigt. In it we are introduced to Dicey and her three younger siblings, James, Maybeth, and Sammy, just as their mother abandons them in the parking lot of a shopping mall. With no home to return to and very little money, Dicey sets out on a determined journey to find what little family they have–a great-aunt named Cilla that they have never met–in the hope that they will find their mother, or at least avoid being split up and placed in foster care.

There is much to love about using Homecoming in a classroom setting. The characters have great depth. This is a great book for analyzing characters or comparing and contrasting different characters within the same story. Even before their mother abandons them, the Tillerman children have endured their share of adversity. Their father left the family years ago, their mother is mentally unstable and struggles to make ends meet. They have no one that they can depend on for help. The difficult background of the Tillerman children is wonderful for engaging struggling learners, many of whom can find parallels between the Tillermans’ story and their own. On the flip side, the rich details and engaging characters of the story can help to teach empathy to students who have always had the good fortune of having loving and supportive families.

Homecoming is a wonderful read for students in grades 5 and up. For students at the bottom of this range (grades 5 and 6), consider reading some parts of the story aloud. This is a story that is great for opening up discussions about topics that that many students of this age don’t fully comprehend (mental illness, foster care, learning disabilities, homelessness, and poverty). This will open up opportunities to dispel myths or assumptions that lead to prejudices and provide examples to help to further explain the issues.

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BOOK FACTS:

  • ages 10 and up
  • Lexile score: 630
  • 400 pages

AWARDS

  • Notable Children’s Trade Book in the field of social studies, 1981
  •  National Council for Social Studies/Children’s Book Council, 1981
  • American Book Award Nominee, 1981
  • ALA Best of the Best for Young Adults

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This novel study was designed to help you easily study this book with your students. It has everything that you will need to complete a thorough study of Homecoming. No need to spend hours pouring over the text in painstaking detail. It’s all taken care of for you! This 90 page novel study includes:

  • Student Worksheet Packet
    • Pre-reading activity
    • Vocabulary work
    • Open response questions
    • Writing prompts
    • Character study graphic organizers
    • Understanding Theme graphic organizers
    • Student project options
  • Final review quiz
  • Word wall cards
  • Vocabulary and definition cards
  • Question and answer dice game
  • Complete answer key
  • CCSS checklists for grades 5-8

 

OTHER RESOURCES FROM AROUND THE WEB:

  • Reading Group Guide from Simon & Schuster with Discussion Topics and Activities &  Research ideas
  • Novel Guide from McDougal-Littell with literature connections and additional reading
  • 60 Second Book Review – Show this video to your students before reading the book. Discuss how the speaker in the video persuades the view to read the book. After reading the book, have students make their own 60 second book reviews or write a book review telling other why they should or should not read Homecoming.
  • Student Bounty study questions and suggested essay topics
  • Quizlet quiz questions
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MRR Product Feature: Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt

MRR Product Feature: Yellow Star

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“In 1939, the Germans invaded the town of Lodz, Poland. They forced all of the Jewish people to live in a small part of the city called a ghetto. They built a barbed-wire fence around it and posted Nazi guards to keep everyone inside it. Two hundred and seventy thousand people lived in the Lodz ghetto.

“In 1945, the war ended. The Germans surrendered, and the ghetto was liberated. Out of more than a quarter of a million people, only about 800 walked out of the ghetto. Of those who survived, only twelve were children.

“I was one of the twelve.”

—Excerpt from interview with Sylvia Perlmutter, March 2003

One of twelve children. Of 800 survivors. Out of more than 250,000 Jews condemned to the Lodz ghetto. The statistics are both incredible and horrifying. How did she survive when so many others perished? Yellow Star tells her story.

In Yellow StarJennifer Roy tells the story of one Holocaust survivor–her aunt, Syvia (Sylvia). Syvia spent more than five years of her childhood inside the Lodz ghetto. She saw and heard much that she could not understand, but they were things that she would never forget. Syvia’s true story, taken from interviews Jennifer Roy did with her aunt, is enhanced with fictional details that help to make the story complete, personal, and relatable to young readers. The story is written in free verse and is filled with many examples of figurative language that connect with the reader to draw them into the story.

Yellow Star is a brilliant addition to any middle level Holocaust unit. It takes an unfathomable event and brings it to life in a way that truly connects with today’s children. Though some students may balk at the idea of reading this book, with its dreary subject matter and somewhat plain-looking cover, most students come around and end up eagerly devouring the book after they get into it. It is a quick read and full of suspense that keeps kids hooked.

BOOK FACTS:

  • ages 8 and up
  • Lexile score: 710
  • 256 pages

AWARDS

  • 2006 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award
  • 2007 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Honor Book
  • 2007 ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • 2006 National Jewish Book Awards Finalist
  • 2006 School Library Journal Best Book
  • 2008 William Allen White Award (Kansas State)
  • 2006 New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • 2009 Lamplighter Award

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This novel study includes everything that you will need to cover this wonderful story with your students. It truly is a NO PREP packet! It includes:

  • Student Packet containing:
    • word work
    • short answer questions
    • writing prompts
    • discussion questions
  • Vocabulary Bookmark Foldable
  • Projects for students to complete after reading the book
  • Crossword Puzzle with 15 vocabulary words
  • Multiple Choice Quiz
  • Vocabulary Matching Quiz
  • Complete Answer Key
  • Word Cards
  • Word Wall Cards
  • Dice Game
  • CCSS Checklist for grades 3-5

 

OTHER RESOURCES FROM AROUND THE WEB:

MRR Product Feature: Yellow Star

MRR Product Feature: Ruby Lee & Me

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Here is a brand new novel study for grades 3-5 for Ruby Lee & Me by Shannon Hitchcock. It has everything you need to cover this book in your classroom–NO PREP REQUIRED!

Ruby Lee & Me is a sweet story about friendships, sibling love, prejudice, and race relations.  The story is set in North Carolina in 1969 and is loosely based on the author’s own experiences from her childhood.

In Ruby Lee & Me we meet Sarah, a twelve-year-old girl whose younger sister, Robin, is seriously injured after being hit by a car. Sarah is devastated. She can’t bring herself to tell her parents the awful truth that Robin’s accident was her fault.

Sarah’s best friend is Ruby Lee, a black girl whom she has known her whole life. Though the races are segregated in the sleepy North Carolina town, Sarah and Ruby Lee’s friendship is strong. They enjoy playing together and share each other’s secrets. The schools are being integrated and the girls are excited to be going to the same school in the fall. Not only are the students being integrated, but the teachers are being integrated too. Sarah’s class will have the school’s first black teacher. The town is abuzz with the news. Everything in Sarah’s world seems to be changing. One day Sarah calls Ruby Lee a horrible name (the N word, though it is not used in the book) and their friendship is shaken to its core.

The arrival of Mrs. Smyre, the new black teacher, helps Sarah try to make things right, knowing that her world has been forever changed.

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BOOK FACTS:

  • ages 8-12
  • Lexile score: 590
  • 224 pages

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This 100+ page book unit contains everything that you will need to cover Ruby Lee & Me in your classroom, including:

  • Student Worksheet Packet
  • “Mark My Words” Vocabulary Bookmarks
  •  Word/Definition Cards for Matching Game
  • Word Wall Cards
  • Character Study Graphic Organizer
  • Character Compare & Contrast Graphic Organizer
  • Story Map Graphic Organizer
  • Dice Game – students must answer content questions
  • 6 Section Quizzes
  • Vocabulary Quiz
  • Final Exam (asks students to summarize novel along with M/C questions)
  • Student Research Projects
  • Complete Answer Key
  • CCSS Checklist of Standards covered for Reading, Writing, and Language for grades 3-5
MRR Product Feature: Ruby Lee & Me

MRR Product Feature: Readers Theater Script: The Little Red Hen Learns About St. Patrick’s Day

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This product feature is an exciting one for My Reading Resources. It is the first that features our new and updated styling!

Do you use readers’ theaters in your classroom? They can be so much fun! They help to engage students in the reading and are great for practicing expressiveness, intonation, and inflection and for improving fluency.

The Little Red Hen Learns About St. Patrick’s Day features a new spin on the classic Little Red Hen story. Instead of trying to persuade her friends to help her make bread, the Little Red Hen learns about St. Patrick’s Day traditions from a new Irish friend.

This readers’ theater features:

  • 7 separate speaking parts
  • 6-8 minute reading time
  • Flesch-Kincaid level 2.8

This readers’ theater also includes pictures on page 2 can be cut apart. Students can color them and staple them to strips of construction paper to make character headbands to wear as they perform. They could also be taped to Popsicle sticks and held up for the audience to see instead of making headbands.

Have fun! Hope this brings “the luck o’ the Irish” to your classroom!

MRR Product Feature: Readers Theater Script: The Little Red Hen Learns About St. Patrick’s Day

In Honor of Black History Month

My Alma Mater Was Books

“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”      ~ Malcolm X

Malcolm X was a controversial member of the civil rights movement, but these words of his can inspire us all.  Many notable people throughout our history were self-directed learners who gained knowledge through reading:  Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and many others.  As a teacher, it was my desire to inspire a love of reading and a love of learning in my students… perhaps this poster can inspire some of your students!

Download my free poster here!

 

 

In Honor of Black History Month

Time to Regroup: Lessons Learned

My Reading Resources has been in business for five years now. But only recently has social media become a part of that business. Going in, I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do to supplement and promote what I was doing on Teachers Pay Teachers. After a few months, there have been a few lessons learned.

  1. Stores/Sellers have different audiences: My Reading Resources specializes in reading materials (book and story units, readers’ theaters, etc.). As such, my customers come to my store looking for specific materials, such as a book unit on a book that they have already planned to use in their classroom. They aren’t looking to find a store that they can make their one stop shop and come back to over and over again (though producing a product that teachers love will certainly help make subsequent sales easier). Most teachers that buy from My Reading Resources simply want to find a quality product that aligns with their specific lesson plans, buy it, and start teaching.
  2. These highly specific buyers are less likely to give feedback, rate products, or follow my store. This is something that I learned after looking at a list of sellers in my state.  Amazingly, I am the #8 best all-time seller in my state!  But, sadly, my “Votes” are quite low. The stores right above and below me have almost twice as many votes as mine. Theirs have roughly 1,100 votes, while my store has 638. What does that mean? I’m still trying to wrap my brain around all of this, but I think this is telling me that my buyers just aren’t taking the time to rate my products. I get it–we are all busy. And if my buyers are only occasional TpT shoppers, popping in a few times a year to find something for a specific new need, TpT’s incentives for rating products just aren’t significant enough for them to take the time to do it.
  3. My buyers don’t care about free products or giveaways. They just want to get what they came for and get back to teaching.
  4. My buyers DO care about relevant resources to the material they are looking for.  While there has basically been zero interest in my $50 TpT gift card giveaway, I’ve had quite a few buyers click on links to blog posts focusing on a particular material that I am selling.

So…what next? Time to regroup. Though it is hard to truly learn from your buyers when you can’t actually interact with them (which was the goal of the Year of Giveaways–to build a following on Facebook so that I could learn more about what my buyers wanted), you can learn some by studying their habits. Based on the habits of my buyers, this is the new list of goals for this year:

  1. Improve my products.  I want to wow my buyers with their purchases.  I want to make materials that engage students and get them excited about reading. I want to make teachers feel as though they have purchased something that they will go back to year after year. I want to make materials that stand out among the rest in order to encourage buyers to leave feedback or to remember My Reading Resources they next time they are shopping for materials.  To do this I am going to:
    • Put more of a focus on styling my materials. It’s time to dress up my materials with a more polished and professional look.
    • Add pages that clearly define CCSS tie-ins.  Looking at other sellers, it seems that this is a really important item for buyers.
    • Make edits and improvements to my existing materials to ensure that they are the best they can be.
  2. Write more blog posts for each of the items in my store.  If teachers are clicking on these links to my blog, then I need to do more of them and I need to make sure they are top-notch. Not only will these posts promote the book and my products, but I will also seek to include other free resources to complement their lessons (videos, basic lesson plans, activities, etc.)
  3. Cancel the Year of Giveaways.  There simply wasn’t any interest to speak of (there has been 1 entry for January). I will honor the giveaway for January and award the prize, but there is simply no point in continuing. It’s just not what my buyers want.

So, after this post, it may be a little quiet around here for awhile.  Rest assured, though, My Reading Resources will be hard at work behind the scenes.  After the framework for the product improvements is in place, the blog posts will start up again, this time focusing on the books used in conjunction with my products.

 

Time to Regroup: Lessons Learned