Avtar's Literacy Blog

Friday, February 03, 2006

Oral Storytelling: a dropped thread in the tapestry of literacy
This article is written by Cyntia Andrew and it stresses the importance of oral foundation in language and literature. Since prehistoric times, lessons, morals, history, and practical knowledge have been passed from generation to generation in the aborigianl culture through oral tradition. Oral storytelling has been a powerful teaching tool in past aboriginal cultures Barton believes in this article that oral storytelling, stimulates the imagination and develps and enhances student's response to literature, including their awareness of story sturcture and sequence.
I feel that there are benefits to oral story telling as argued in this article. When asked if they would rather be in a culture that used books or one that just told stories, most teenagers would opt for books. We tend to think that things that are written down are somehow more true than things we are told. Often when someone tries to tell directions, the listener will say, "Just let me read it for myself" But there are many advantages to using stories to pass down information.
If your friend were robbed on the way to school, would you rather read about it in a letter, hear about it on the phone, or have your friend discuss it over lunch? When we are face-to-face we can use gestures, facial expressions and changes in our voice to make our meaning clear. Our listeners can ask questions and we can have a chance to clear up any misunderstandings. The story seems more real. We can emphasize the events that have meaning or importance for us and shorten the parts that don't. We can choose how to tell the story to different people. We don't tell the same version of a story to our mothers as we do to our best friend or our teacher.
On the other hand when you write something down, you have time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can edit your work to make it clearer. Written work lasts, it is a permanent record of what someone has found out, thinks or feels. Writers can reach a bigger audience even after they are dead. Texts can be translated more easily because the translator can use a dictionary and re-work difficult sentences. The writer does not have to be present when the story is heard. And the reader can enjoy a book privately reading in their own room while eating a favorite snack food.
Both methods of story telling are important but i think oral story telling might depend on how well you know a story and how comfortable you are telling it. As we have learned in the case of the three robbers we all have our own meaning and interpretations to everything we se hear, and read.

The Case of The Three Robbers
Cynthia Ballenger's article Reading Storybooks with Young Children: The Case of The Three Robbers, helped me understand that lessons do not always go as planned and sometimes when things do go off topic during a lesson it is important to remember that learning is still occuring. As in the case presented in this article the childern were all referring to something that affected their own lives. At the time the situation seemed frustrating because the students seemed not to fully understand the point the teacher was trying to get across to them.
When I do my lessons I admit that I also have a fear that the students will go off the hook with questions and converstion that didn't fit into my actual lesson. That when my cooperating teacher asked me to relax and she pointed out to me herself that the students were learning during the discussion despite that the lesson took longer than expected. Children love to talk and share their own experinces I think as teacher we should let students explore their thought and feelings , but to keep redirecting them to the story. I think that the students did get something out of the Case of the Three Robbers but it just wasn't what the teacher expected and wanted them to learn. I think that it would be good to set some sort of limits on how much time you would spend on these types of conversations therefore we should give the students an option of expressing their thoughts in their journals or in some other form so this way they still are able to express what they feel regarding a book or topic.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Title: Halloween

Author: Jerry Seinfeild

Prescribed Learning Outcomes:

>identify connections between ideas and information and their own experiences
>demonstrate pride and satisfaction in using language to express thoughts, ideas, and feelings using familiar forms

Description: Jerry Seinfeld takes readers through his hilarious vision of Halloween. From the first costume to the quest for more candy, Seinfeld's tale resonates with vivid experiences of a night every kid loves. Jerry also identifies rules of Halloween from what constitutes a good costume to what is acceptable trick-or-treat candy. This book reminded me of my very first experince with halloween! I remember I never really knew what I was supposed to be doing, but i was happy that I got so much candy! This book woudl be a good one to use for a language arts writing activity duing halloween and what your first halloween experince was like! Sutable for grades k, 1, 2, 3.


Title: Just the Two of Us

Author: Will Smith

Precribed Learning Outcomes:

>identify and describe a wide range of feelings
>identify characteristics of friendship
>explore appropriate strategies for sharing and expressing feelings

Description: Will Smith uses the lyrics of his hit single to write a childrens picture book. This book contains absolutely beautiful pencil and oil illustrations by Kadir Nelson. In this book you will follow a father and son relationship through three stages of life: from newborn, to young child, to young man. Will Smith¹s song is a call to all fathers to teach their children the values of dignity, integrity, and honor. But above all, it is a song of love. This book can be used in personal planning, to teach about making the right desicions, relationships, kindness, sharing and love. Suitables for grades, 1, 2, 3, 4.

Title: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Author: Eric Carle

Prescribed Learning Outcomes:

>describe activities that support their health
>explain why they need a variety of foods
>describe the influence of family and peers on their attitudes and values regarding healthy living >identify foods and activities that contribute to good health
>demonstrate an awareness of the influence of family on their attitudes and values regarding healthy living

Description: In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. This book follows the caterpillar's path as he eats his way through one apple (and the pages of the book itself) on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday, and so on, through cherry pie and sausage - -until he is really fat and has a stomachache. It is good for teaching nutrition, counting, science (stages of a butterfly) and the days of the week. Suitable for grades k, 1, 2, 3.

Title: Stellaluna

Author: Janell Cannon

Prescribed Learning Outcomes

>describe basic needs of animals

>describe how the basic needs of animals are met in their enviroment

Description: Separated from her mother before she is old enough to fly, Stellaluna, an adorable baby fruit bat, finds her world turned literally upside down when she's adopted by a family of birds. She must learn to stay awake in the daytime, eat bugs, and sleep right-side-up, but not all are lessons in survival, however. As Stellaluna adapts to the habits of her new family, she learns the essence of friendship in humorous and touching ways. Young children will delight in Stellaluna's adventures as their misconceptions about bats take wing. This book canbe used for a science unit on mammalsaround Halloween. Suitable for grades, 1,2, 3.

Multicultural Book

Title :
Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Retold By: Monica Chang

Prescribed Learning Outcomes:

>compare how various cultures meet common needs

>demonstrate understanding of events as part of a chronological series

>describe ways cultures have sought to preserve identity and adapt to change

>identify connections between current cultures and ancient cultures

Book Decription: "Story of the Chinese Zodiac" is retold by Monica Chang with an English translation by Rick Charette. The story is presented in a bilingual English/Chinese format, and features illustrations by Arthur Lee.

The book tells the story of a great race which determines which animals get to be part of the Chinese zodiac. A central character in the tale is the Rat, who hatches a cunning plot.
The illustrations really make this book special. The pictures appear to be photographs of intricate, beautifully colored paper sculptures. There are some really memorable scenes: the cat and rat lounging together; the majestic Heavenly God consulting with the Earth God; the arrival of the majestic, multicolored dragon; and more. Some scenes are depicted very cleverly. I especially loved an aerial view of the animals running through the trees. Overall this is a great book for children and adults, who have an interest in myth and folklore, or who just love innovative artwork. This book can be used with a social studies unit when studing differnt cultures. Suitable for grades 6, 7.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Title: The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister, is about a little fish who learns a lesson about sharing.

Prescibed Learning Outcomes:

  • >identify "good" and "evil" character types in stories, films, and videos.

>demonstrate an awareness that information can be obtained from a variety of sources.

>identify connections between ideas and information and their own experiences.

>create simple charts, webs, or illustrations as a way of organizing information.

Book Description: The Rainbow Fish is an excellent book to use in an Ocean Unit or in a Friendship Unit. It lends itself well to discussing friendship, sharing, inner, outer beauty, pride, and real happiness. When reading the book for the first time to your students have shiny "scales" taped to your shirt. After reading the book, share your special scales with your students. Each student can also participate in creating a class shape book. Each student can write or dictate ways they can share with their friends, then illustrate the page. All pages would then be bound together to create the class book. Decorate the cover of the book, and insert at least one shiny scale. Suitabable for Grades 1, 2, 3.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This was a great book, and it would be awesome to use if you were studying festivals from around the world for social studies! I like also how this book teaches about forgivenss and letting go of your fears because Holi is also a time to forgive, to forget, and to mend broken relationships. In the northern part of India, the annual festival of Holi is celebrated enthusiastically to mark the passage of winter and the onset of spring. Men, women, and children revel in the streets, throwing brightly colored powders and water at one another. It was so nice ot see everyone come together at the end and celebrate with each other regardless of age , sex, creed, background and color. In the end we learned that we are all the same! This book would also be great to teach about Holi, for those readers who are unfamiliar with the festival. Also for those children whose family has immigrated to Canada this book can relate to them as they examine how the desires to both fit in and remain true to one's heritage can affect a sense of self and relationships.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Class Discussion

I wanted to comment on the discussion we had during class last day regarding teaching sexual education in schools. In my culture most families don't teach their kids about sex or even talk about it for that matter because its taboo. The only way to learn about it if your family doesn't discuss that topic is through school programs. I recall a time when my grandmother was watching televison and she had seen a gay couple kissing. She told me about what she had saw on tv later during the day because she became very confused. I tried to explain to her what was happening and why the two men were together. She was still very confused and thought perhaps that the two were hermaphodites, neither a man or a woman. I don't even think there is a word for gay and lesbian in my culture, but in the past few years controversial topics are being brought up in India. I don't know if any of you have seen the movie Fire, which was created by Indian film director, Deepa Mehta. Deepa Mehta is known for her explorations of cultural taboos. "Fire" is about a love affair between two sisters-in-law. The film was removed from theaters in the cities of New Delhi, Bombay, Surat and Pune after members of the Shiv Sena party attacked the facilities. When I was visiting India, I remember someone saying that if a female watched that film then she would turn into what was portrayed in the film. I laughed to myself ... How Bizzare! No wonder the men were rioting when the film was released! Deepa Mehta has three films Fire, Earth and her latest Water, which I have not seen but, if you ever get a chance you chould check them out.

Literacy Memories

Hello Everyone... This is my first post on my literacy blog! I too have many, many memories of stories and books that I have heard and read during childhood and in English classes throughout high school and post secondary. As a child my parents mainly would read me stories in Punjabi and my mom would tell me stories about India and the Mahabharath orally. My parents both taught me to respect books, and to think of books as being sacred, because those books would teach me knowledge. Sometimes when I accidentally stepped on them I would get into so much trouble!

I remember going to the library in elementary school and I absolutely loved listening to stories! I always wanted to sit up close when the librarian would read so that I could see all the pictures. When I was a child I loved Jack and the Beanstalk, Amelia Bedelia and Curious George, and King Midas and the Golden Touch. My all time favorite books in elementary school were James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and Animal Farm by George Orwell. I imagined myself eating the peach and how it would taste. Every time I ate a peach I would always wondered if any types of critters lived in the one that I was eating. I watched the movie for James and the Giant Peach when it came out and I think that ruined a lot of things for me! The character voices in the movie weren't the same as the ones in my head! Animal Farm is another book I will never forget! I thought that this book teaches people a good lesson. Treat animals with respect, you never know the tables could be turned and the animals could take over like the pigs did on the animal farm!

One story that I will never forget being read to is Cujo, by Stephen King. My older brother would read my chapter of the book and my imagination would just run wild! I created entire scenes in my head and when he would stop to rest I would be so upset! I waited so anxiously to hear what would happen next and if the characters would escape vicious Cujo. In post secondary English classes my favorite books include:

The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
The Handmaids Tale by, Margret Atwood
1984 by, George Orwell

I look forward to reading to my students and my own children in the future, and create many memories for them as I have had for myself! Happy reading and listening everyone !