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William & Mary Gifted Language Arts Curriculum

Grade Levels: Elementary , Middle School , High School

PROGRAM FEATURES

PROGRAM FEATURES


Beyond Words
The literature unit, Beyond Words, is organized around the study of figurative language and explores the idea that language can change the way we think about the world by creating new images and connections in our minds. The unit uses poetry and picture books as the basis for analyzing different types of figurative language, including simile, metaphor, and personification, and gives opportunities for students to create their own literary images. In addition, the unit introduces students to persuasive writing and to advanced word study, as well as providing an opportunity for students to explore how language changes over time.


A World of Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Words
In A World of Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Words, students with high abilities in the verbal domain are engaged by challenging reading, writing, and interpretation skills in the language arts. It reflects talented young learners’ need for greater exposure to higher-level thinking activities sooner in their school years than other students. The unit specifically focuses on literature that uses extensive figurative language in order to support young children’s development of metaphoric competence in the areas of both comprehension and production.

Sample Activity Lesson 2: The Concept of Systems
 


 

Journeys and Destinations
Journeys & Destinations is an inquiry-based approach to investigate literature in an interdisciplinary, multicultural curriculum. The guiding theme of this unit is the recognition of change as a concept that affects people and their relationships to the world around them. An open-ended approach to the discussion process is emphasized in the search for meaning in selected literature selections. Vocabulary development, writing activities, oral communication, research, and reasoning are also integrated into the unit.


Sample Activity: Lesson 7: Exploring Poetry

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Grades 2-3

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Explore, Discover, Reveal
Explore, Discover, Reveal is organized around the idea that our world has many exciting places and ideas to explore. Students learn that exploration can be done both physically and cognitively, and will come to realize that exploration and new discoveries affect people as well as the world around them. As literature, history, music, and art are studied, students will also grow to understand that each of us explores the world in many different ways.

 

Literary Reflections
While all four language arts strands of literature, writing, language study, and oral communication are integrated into Literary Reflections, the core of the unit for 4-5 graders involves students interacting with literature while enhancing reading comprehension and textual analysis skills. The literature selections serve as a basis for discussion.


Perspectives
Also for grades 4-5, the theme behind Perspectives is the recognition that people have their own perspectives based on their experiences in the world around them. The literature selections in the unit allow students the opportunity to view and study multiple perspectives. Students will reflect on their own individual perspectives as well as the perspectives of characters in and authors of classical literature.

Sample Activity: Lesson 2: The Different Lenses of Perspective

Mind Your Time
Each of us has experienced the effects of time on various phases of our life. Many individuals take time for granted and do not understand its important role in their lives. Both the reading selections and instructional activities in Mind Your Time, for grades 4-5, were designed to intrigue and challenge high ability students. Students will work independently and in groups doing classwork as well as homework outside of the classroom. 

Sample Activity: Lesson 2: The Concept of Time

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Literary Reflections

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Perspectives

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Mind Your Time

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Patterns of Change
In Patterns of Change for 4-6 graders, the concept of cyclic patterns of change was chosen as the unifying theme. Selected literary works deal with cycles in nature, knowledge, history, and human life. Students are introduced to some of the important approaches and ideas of literary criticism. Students are encouraged to use journals, literature webs, essays, and visual projects to organize and express their ideas about various literary selections.


 

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Grades 4-6

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Autobiographies
In Autobiographies, students study the concept of change by reading autobiographies of writers and by looking at change in the lives of writers and other artists. As they examine life stories and self-portraits, they study literature and examine works of art from various cultures. In order to gain insight into the development of talent, students are encouraged to explore their own identities as talented learners through discussions, research, oral presentations, and reflective writing.


 

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Grades 5-6

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Persuasion
Persuasion highlights elements of persuasion, especially as it relates to oral communication. Students must cite passages from literature to defend their points of view in discussion as well as in written arguments. Literature selections such as “The Valiant,” “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” and the “Declaration of Independence” frame the basis for exploring the reasoning process through analysis and interpretation. Opportunities are presented for impromptu, informative, and persuasive speeches, debate, small and large group discussion, and critical reasoning.

Persuasion: each student will read the four novels either in Group A or Group B

 

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Persuasion

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Persuasion Essential Book Titles - GROUP A

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Persuasion Essential Book Titles - GROUP B

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Courage: Connections and Reflections
Courage: Connections and Reflections offers students the chance to compare and contrast their own lives with those of others. The unit explores social and historical issues by studying people, historical time periods and events, and students’ own lives. Novels, short stories, poetry, art, and music will be the avenues for addressing unit goals. Students will be given numerous opportunities for reading, writing, listening, and speaking.


The Pursuit of Justice
The Pursuit of Justice  is about the path man has taken in his desire for justice. Students will explore the South of the 1930s in the perennial classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; they will also read some of her short stories and essays that have intrigued readers. The plight of the Little Rock Nine becomes a first- person account in Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals. Students will read the primary source newspapers of the day to get other perspectives on how Civil Rights and integration shook the nation. They will also travel the path of the migrant ranch hand in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Students will also have a chance to examine poetry, songs, essays, and art that portray the pursuit of justice. Vocabulary and grammar will align with the readings. Opportunities to research, write expository pieces, and creative meaning for themselves will abound in this unit.

Correlation
TEKS Correlations for The Pursuit of Justice.pdf

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Courage: Connections and Reflections

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The Pursuit of Justice

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The 1940s: A Decade of Change
In The 1940’s: A Decade of Change, students look at the historical events and social issues of the 1940s through the literature of the decade, including novels, short stories, poetry, essays, letters, and newspapers. Numerous opportunities for reading, writing, listening, linguistic competency, and speaking are incorporated into the unit. Each student is required to pose a hypothesis and conduct research concerning some issue of significance that arises from the literature that is studied.


Utopia
Utopia provides an overview of utopia as seen by various individuals, groups, and countries and gives students an opportunity to examine why ideas about utopia undergo change. Through the study of literature, art, music, and other classroom activities, students learn about the search through the ages for utopia and the struggles to grasp and maintain it on both personal and societal levels. Exploring utopia through personal dreams and goals allows students to analyze the literature they read more thoroughly throughout this unit.

Sample Activity: Lesson 12: Cultural Influences on Ideas of the Ideal

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The 1940s: A Decade of Change

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Utopia

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Threads of Change in 19th Century American Literature
Threads of Change in 19th Century American Literature focuses on literature of the 19th century to explore five historical movements: romanticism, transcendentalism, abolitionism, industrialism, and feminism. Each of the five “isms” has its own “literature box” containing appropriate documents to serve as a resource for teams of students. The “isms” are investigated as change agents in American life through the study of key writings of the period.

 

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Grades 8-10

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The American Dream
The American Dream explores how humans’ quest for peace, prosperity, and progress leads them towards a sometimes elusive goal. It provides an overview of the “American Dream” relative to various individuals, groups, and regions. Through classroom activities and the study of rich, challenging literature, students will learn that pursuit of the American Dream can cause joy and despair as well as other emotional and physical reactions in humans. Exploring that journey through both current and historic documents, literature, art, photography, and music will provide students with an avenue to compare and contrast their own ideas with those of peers, communities, and society.

 

Change Through Choices
Choices and the consequences of choices that people make have an important impact on life and the success of individuals. Change Through Choices focuses on catalytic choices that determine change in a variety of situations. Rich in content, the world literature chosen can be analyzed and synthesized for depth in understanding cultural similarities and differences. This unit attempts to give the student a chance to question real world choices and problems and decide what valuable lessons can be learned through careful individual examination of options.

Sample Activity: Lesson 11, Intertextuality of Literacy and Visual Arts

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Grades 10-12

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Kendall Hunt is committed to the successful implementation of our programs.  Upon adoption of our program, we will work with district leaders to create a customized plan that maximizes your ability to use The William & Mary Center for Gifted Education Language Arts units to fulfill your instructional vision and goals.  Your trainer will be an expert in the field and many are or have been teachers in the classroom that have successfully used the program.

Professional learning options include:

  • Hands-on, problem-based onsite workshops on a choice of topics, including:
    • Introduction to the program and materials
    • Teaching models
    • Individual training on specific units including collaborative lesson planning
  • Customized 60 or 90-minute webinars

Contact your Curriculum Consultant to discuss your options.

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The Navigators Heritage Series are a collection of questions and activities intended to support group or independent study comprised of popular literary works. Originally developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary, this resource serves as a discussion starter for teachers and students.

Students will have an opportunity to develop and expand their ability to analyze and interpret literature through structured questions and activities that highlight themes and concepts, literary elements, and real-world connections contained within the books.

Sample: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

GRADES 1-3

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Centered around a board game come to life, this story sparks the imagination of its readers. Jumanji is a Caldecott award-winning story about a boy and girl who discover a magical board game while their parents are away at the opera. Peter and Judy decide to bring the board game home and play with it, but they quickly discover that Jumanji is far more than an ordinary experience. As the children roll the dice, a jungle begins to emerge in their house. Soon Peter and Judy must make an important decision: whether to play Jumanji through to the end of the game, or to stop playing and return the game to the park where they originally discovered it.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 

Where the Wild Things Are tells the story of Max, a mischievous little boy. He wears a white wolf suit that has a long fluffy tail, pointy ears, big claw feet, and a set of whiskers. Because of his outfit and the trouble he gets into, his mother calls him “Wild Thing.” One night Max decides not to join his family for supper and instead grows a forest in his room where he has an encounter with other wild things just like himself.

 

GRADES 2-3

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg 

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi tells the story of a boy named Alan Mitz who agrees to watch a temperamental dog named Fritz for a day, while Fritz's owner is out. Alan is unable to hold onto Fritz during a walk, and the dog runs into the forbidden garden of retired magician Abdul Gasazi. Alan chases Fritz, but he runs into some strange obstacles, and the final outcome makes the garden seem even more mysterious. 

The Memory String by Eve Bunting

Family is the center of The Memory String which tells the story of Laura, a young girl living with her father and stepmother. Through illustrations the reader dives into the life of Laura who was given a memory string from her mother who recently passed away. Each button on the memory string represents a piece of her family’s history. One day, the memory string breaks, causing Laura, her father, and stepmother to search frantically for the missing buttons. It is then that Laura realizes her memory string has the ability to help her collect new memories in additional to cherishing old ones.

 

GRADES 3-4

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Through the formation of relationships amongst the characters, students will have an opportunity to learn about the importance of perspective in literary works. Charlotte’s Web is the story of a pig named Wilbur who is born a runt but is nurtured into good health by a little girl named Fern. Wilbur then goes on to live at Fern’s uncle’s farm, where he makes friends with the other farm animals. His most special friendship is with an intelligent spider named Charlotte, who uses her talents to save Wilbur from a dangerous fate.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Patricia MacLachlan encourage her readers to explore what the meaning of love, marriage, and family mean to them in Sarah, Plain and Tall, the story of a family living on a farm on the prairie. Anna and Caleb’s mother died the day Caleb was born. Now, years later, Papa advertises in the paper for a new wife. Sarah Wheaton, a woman from Maine, writes to Papa and the children in response to the advertisement, and then she comes to visit for a month, “just to see.” As Papa, Anna, and Caleb get to know Sarah and she gets to know them, they all realize that Sarah will have to make an important decision: whether to return to Maine and her beloved ocean, or whether to stay with the family she is growing to love as well.

Talk About a Family by Eloise Greenfield

Talk About a Family tells of an older brother’s homecoming from the military in the midst of a family crisis: the parents are moving toward a break-up. Genny, the main character, takes the lead in preparing a homecoming party for her brother Larry. She tries to get everyone involved in the planning of the celebration, hoping to get them to focus on the party instead of the parents’ continuing arguments. Genny’s brother Mac agrees to help, but her sister Kim spends much of her time alone and is more reluctant to help with the celebration. Throughout the story, Genny shares her concerns with a sympathetic neighbor, who helps her come to new understandings about individuals, families, and how people respond to difficult situations.

 

GRADES 3-5

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s creative and colorful use of vocabulary paints helps influence the tone of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the story of five lucky children who, by winning the golden ticket, have the opportunity to tour Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. This is a very special opportunity, because nobody is ever seen going in or going out of the factory, and nobody has ever seen Willy Wonka. The visit to the mysterious, wonderful factory shows all five children trying to make the most of the situation and getting what Willy Wonka thinks they deserve at the end!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Explore themes such as financial planning and the importance of a story’s setting in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a Newbery Medal Winner, about two children’s adventures in New York City. Claudia and Jamie decide to run away from home to one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The children wind up in the middle of a mystery that makes headlines around the world. In their search to discover if the angel sculpture was created by Michelangelo, Claudia and Jamie finally meet the elusive Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Magic and adventure encompass every page of this popular children’s book series. Harry Potter has a miserable childhood living with the Dursley family. His room is a tiny closet under the stairs. But one day, mysterious letters begin arriving. Harry Potter is destined to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to study magic. In this first novel of the hit series, Harry Potter begins his studies at Hogwarts, where he will spend the next seven years of his life studying to become a wizard. He learns that he is the only person to survive a deadly spell cast by Lord Voldemort, and now he has to stop Voldemort from coming back to power by keeping him from retrieving the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

GRADES 4-5

The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer’s Life by Sid Fleischman

Sid Fleischman recounts his journey to becoming a writer. The twists and turns on his path lead to unexpected career changes, with becoming a writer being one of them. While growing up during the Great Depression, he decided to become a magician and taught himself by reading library books about the subject. He was stationed on a cruiser during World War II, wrote for a newspaper, became a screenplay writer, and he finally became an author of children’s books. In the book, he provides pointers for those aspiring to become writers themselves, even though this was not a thought he had while still in school.

Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud, Not Buddy, a Newberry Medal Winner, is a dynamic story about the experiences of a young African American boy growing up in Michigan during the Great Depression. Students will venture into the story’s plot as Bud shares his insights on life and learning as he meets and interacts with many different people suffering the effects of the Depression. Bud’s mother has been dead for several years, and he has been living in orphanages and foster homes since her death. Now ten years old, Bud runs away to try to find the man he believes to be his father, a bandleader whose name appeared on some flyers Bud’s mother left him.

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder 

The Egypt Game tells the adventures of two sixth-grade girls, Melanie Ross and April Hall. April Hall has just moved into her grandmother’s apartment after being left behind by her mother, who returned to Hollywood to continue acting. Despite April’s eccentricity, she becomes quick friends with her neighbor, Melanie Ross, and Melanie’s little brother Marshall. The three children are intrigued by anything that has to do with Egypt, and soon their active imaginations lead them to create their own Egypt land in the empty lot behind the shabby A-Z Antique and Curio Shop. They have their own altars, temples, ceremonies, and oracles. All of their free time and thinking is spent on Egypt, and pretty soon they allow two more classmates to join. Then suddenly their Egypt begins to become strange and perplexing, as mysterious events make the children wonder about their creation.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Everything on a Waffle is a Newberry Honor Book that tells the story of Primrose Squarp, an 11-year-old girl living in a small town in British Columbia. When her parents disappear at sea during a storm, Primrose is convinced that they are still alive and stranded somewhere, but everyone else in town is sure that they are dead. The novel, told in the first person, focuses on Primrose’s life in the months after her parents’ disappearance. She moves from the home of a local babysitter to live with her energetic Uncle Jack and then to a foster home, finding friendship and insight about human nature through her observations and conversations with such colorful characters as the local restaurant owner who serves every meal on a waffle.

Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Inner conflict and a desire to be free drive the main character’s quest to self-discovery. Riding Freedom is a fictionalized biography of Charlotte ‘Charley’ Parkhurst. Charlotte is raised in an orphanage where she is treated differently because she is a girl. She wants to train and ride horses, but in the mid-1800s, this was considered a man’s work. To solve this dilemma, Charlotte spends most of her life pretending to be a man. Through living as ‘Charley,’ Charlotte is able to find self-fulfillment in a career that was unavailable to her as a female.

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Written in present tense Shiloh is the story of Marty Preston who, while on a walk one day, finds a young beagle that follows him home. Marty soon finds out that the dog belongs to Judd Travers, who is known to abuse his animals. When Shiloh runs away again, Marty finds a way to hide him from Judd and from his family, who can’t afford to keep a dog. Motivated by his love for Shiloh, Marty takes on the responsibilities of caring for a pet, but soon his secret is discovered, and Marty must confront Judd Travers and persevere through several challenges to make Shiloh his own.

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan

Snow Treasure tells the story of a small Norwegian village, Riswyk, whose residents are determined to protect their country’s money from the invading Germans during World War II. The people of the village devise a scheme to smuggle 13 tons of gold bullion out of Norway to be stowed safely in the United States. Their plan relies on the courage of all the villagers, the weather, and the hope that the German sentries will not be suspicious of children with sleds. Readers will have the opportunity to learn and investigate different techniques which Marie McSwigan uses to create suspense in the novel.

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner 

When Grandfather gets sick, Little Willy must find a way to earn enough money to save the farm. Entering the National Dogsled Race seems like the perfect plan: the prize money would be just enough to pay the tax collectors, and Little Willy and his dog Searchlight travel part of the race route everyday! However, when Stone Fox, who has never lost a race, enters the competition, Little Willy’s chances of winning become uncertain. Will Little Willy’s perseverance lead him to victory?

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Science fiction meets fantasy when Meg’s physicist father disappears while doing work for the government, and she must go on an adventure through time and space to save him. Traveling in the fifth dimension with her brother Charles Wallace, and a new friend, Calvin, the three children are guided by a mysterious trio of women who give them the tools they need to fight the powers of evil that are holding Meg’s father captive. Students will be able to explore with the characters the concepts of good and evil, universal harmony, and appreciation of their own unique talents and gifts.

 

GRADES 4-6

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The importance of the setting a story takes place in is emphasized in Bridge to Terabithia, a story of courage, compassion, and friendship. Jesse Aarons dreams of being the fastest runner in the fifth grade. He forms an unlikely friendship with a new neighbor, Leslie Burke, that changes them both forever. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom where they reign as king and queen. This is only the beginning of a journey of a lifetime.

My Daniel by Pam Conrad

Readers will grow in their understanding of the use of metaphors, foreshadowing, and symbols in My Daniel, Julia Creath, the story of a grandmother visiting her grandchildren in New York City for the first time, reliving her childhood adventures. As Julia tours the Museum of Natural History, she shares her story with her two grandchildren, Ellie and Stevie. Julia becomes the Nebraska farm girl she once was, as her story of the great dinosaur rush and her childhood adventures unravels for her grandchildren. Her story includes memories of Daniel, her older brother, who died while protecting his dinosaur dreams and memories of their amazing dinosaur discovery.

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson 

Galadriel (Gilly) Hopkins is eleven, brilliant, and angry. She’s been in and out of foster care for as long as she can remember, and she uses her intelligence to keep everyone around her in an uproar. But she gets more than she bargains for when she’s sent to live with Maime Trotter. Her attempts to control her situation and to make contact with her long-absent mother have unexpected results, and Gilly learns to look at home, family, and herself in a new light.

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

Set during World War II, complex topics such as death and tragedy are explored in this Newbery award-winning story of two sisters growing up on a small island in the Chesapeake Bay during the early 1940s. Sara Louise is sick and tired of her beautiful twin, Caroline. Caroline has always been the pretty one, the talented one, and the popular one. But now Sara Louise must find her own path in life – and create an identity outside her sister’s shadow.

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

Students will explore the concept of character development with this tale set in medieval times. The Midwife’s Apprentice is the Newbery Medal winning story of a girl who doesn’t have a home, parents, or even a name. When Brat finds shelter in the dung heap one night, she meets Jane, the village midwife. Brat begins an apprenticeship with Jane and discovers that delivering babies is challenging and rewarding. As a midwife’s apprentice, Brat gains skills and knowledge, but her courage and will are tested during a difficult delivery.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry illustrates the true meaning of friendship and courage throughout this riveting story by drawing readers in with suspense and imagery. Number the Stars tells the story about the friendship of ten-year-olds Annemarie Johansen and Ellen Rosen. The story is set in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1943, where daily life has changed since the German occupation began three years before. The war and the occupation have brought food shortages, evening curfews, and German soldiers in the streets. Then a more ominous change threatens, as the Germans prepare to “relocate” the Jewish Danes, and the two friends are called upon to show strength, courage, and pride despite their fear, against a backdrop of war.

Sounder by William Armstrong

Topics such as death, tragedy, and racism are explored in Sounder, a Newbery Medal Winner. Follow the story of an African-American sharecropping family living in the South during the late nineteenth century. The family has fallen on hard times, and the father goes out hunting every night with Sounder, a coon dog whose voice rings like music through the valley. One day the father is taken to jail and the boy’s life changes forever. During the course of the novel, Sounder and his new master, the boy, develop a close friendship and admiration for each other.

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman 

The Whipping Boy, a Newbery Medal Winner, is a novel about a child who lives in a castle and serves as a whipping boy to the prince. As the whipping boy, Jemmy is punished whenever Prince Brat misbehaves. But when the two boys run away together, they develop an unlikely friendship. Jemmy and Prince Brat learn to trust and admire each other while narrowly escaping danger in the outside world.

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

When the Great Depression brings hard times to Mary Alice's family, she's forced to leave Chicago and spend a year in a tiny Illinois town with her eccentric, unpredictable Grandma Dowdel. With Grandma around life is never boring, and Mary Alice's experiences lead her to a new understanding of her grandmother as well as of her own place in the world.

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill 

This is a story of a gifted teacher and how she impacts her students and their community in post World War II Alaska. Fredrika (Fred), a young girl living in rural Alaska, narrates this story.  Fred describes how life in Athabasca changes after a new teacher, Miss Agnes, comes to their school.  Fred had experienced a series of teachers who did not understand the local culture and customs.  Miss Agnes is different.  She genuinely cares about the children as individuals and makes what they are learning relevant to their lives.  Miss Agnes uses innovative teaching methods to engage all of the children in their studies.  She even learns sign language to help a deaf student!  The students gain confidence in their abilities and become passionate learners.

Yolanda's Genius by Carol Fenner

Yolanda’s Genius, a Newbery Honor winner, is the story of an African-American family’s love and courage in difficult times. Yolanda is smart, tough, and big for her age. Her brother, Andrew, doesn’t talk much and has trouble reading. But Andrew can create beautiful music on his harmonica. Yolanda wonders if her brother is a musical genius. Can his talent be developed and shared with other people? One day some boys destroy the harmonica – and Andrew’s music stops. Soon Yolanda must make an important decision: whether to try to find another harmonica for Andrew, or to obey her mother’s wishes and allow Andrew to abandon his dreams.

 

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GRADES 5-6

A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary

A Girl from Yamhill opens readers’ eyes to the childhood of Beverly Cleary. She started off life in Yamhill, Oregon, living on a farm that her father loved working but left her mother feeling like a slave. She and her parents moved to Portland, Oregon, where she stayed until it was time for her to go to college. Throughout the years in Portland, Beverly Cleary recounts her attempts to feel love and affection from her mother and the struggles her family endures during the Great Depression.

Sarah Bishop by Scott O’Dell

Explore the meaning of freedom in this story set in the late 1700s through the eyes of Sarah Bishop. Sarah Bishop tells the story of a young girl who is caught up in the conflict between Loyalist and Patriot colonists and between American and British soldiers at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Sarah is forced from her home on an adventure to find her brother and a peaceful place away from the fighting. Wanted for a crime she did not commit, Sarah learns to survive on her own, facing challenges from people and from nature and finding loyal friends along the way.

 

GRADES 5-7

Little by Little by Jean Little

Jean Little was born in Taiwan to Canadian parents who were doctors. She had two brothers and one sister. She was born with an eye condition that left her cross-eyed and nearly blind. Her parents encouraged her to persevere through regular schools since this is a “sighted” world. In this autobiography she recounts her struggles to find friendship and succeed in schools. It is through these difficulties growing up that she learns to tell stories and express herself in her writing.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This story follows the four March girls---Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy---through their lives during and after the Civil War. Through Louisa May Alcott’s seamless writing and detailed descriptions, readers learn about the daily in’s and out’s of life in mid-1900s New England. Their audience shares in the joys, the laughter, the catastrophes, and the sorrow of the March family, getting to know each girl and their family and friends. However, this heartwarming classic is more than a historical tale or a series of moral lessons. Alcott’s style represents a genre of American literature that is both optimistic and realistic. Her style instructs young writers in the use of time and place to create a setting that allows the characters and events to be believable. Alcott also provides future writers with lessons in the development of characters and plot that engage readers emotionally. As the family is pulled together and apart, learn how the March sisters adapt to their new roles and the new experiences that life brings to them.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt 

Tuck Everlasting tells the story of 11-year-old Winnie Foster's encounter with the Tuck family, who, long ago, discovered a spring of water with the power to bestow eternal life. The main events of the story take place over a three day period during which Winnie experiences many adventures, including being kidnapped; the Tucks’ secret is compromised; and Winnie has the opportunity to “make a difference in the world.”

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech 

Walk Two Moons is a book about a young girl named Salamanca whose mother left Kentucky and traveled to Idaho following a family crisis. Sal journeys with her father’s parents across country by car to find her mother, telling a story about her friend Phoebe along the way. She returns home after the trip, much wiser for having taken it.

 

GRADES 5-8

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Transport your classroom to California and accompany Esperanza through her struggles and triumphs. Esperanza Rising, a Pura Belpre Award Winner, is a dynamic story about a little girl who believed her life would be wonderful forever and would always live on her family’s ranch in Mexico. Esperanza would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home filled with servants. Papa and Abuelita would always be with her. But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California, where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances, because Mama’s life and her own depend on it.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Littered with symbols and problem-solving, Fever 1793 takes place in Philadelphia during the summer of 1793. Mattie Cook lived above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spent her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. Then the fever breaks out! Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie’s world upside down. At her feverish mother’s insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Interlaced themes include family, stealing, and change in this Newbery Medal Wining tale, A Single Shard. The story follows an orphan boy living in a twelfth-century Korean potter’s village. Since an early age, Tree-ear has lived under a bridge, content with the company of his older friend, Crane-man. But one-day Tree-ear watches Min creating beautiful pottery and dreams of becoming a potter himself. Soon Tree-ear begins an apprenticeship with Min that culminates in the boy taking a journey to the king’s court to show his master’s pottery. This difficult and dangerous journey will change Tree-ear’s life forever.

 

GRADES 6-7

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper 

The Dark is Rising follows Will Stanton as he passes through his eleventh birthday to discover that he is one of the “Old Ones,” with extraordinary abilities and responsibilities, and he has a vital role to play in the confrontation between Dark and Light. During his quest for the tools to defeat the Dark he must make difficult choices, and he discovers that his neighbors are more than he ever dreamed. The book is the second book in the series of the same title.

 

GRADES 6-8

Breath by Donna Jo Napoli

The use of character development and the use of foreshadowing in written works are explored in Breath, the story of the Pied Piper of Hameln in medieval Germany. The author presents an explanation for the events of June 26, 1284, through the eyes of Salz, a young boy afflicted with cystic fibrosis. The town of Hameln is infested with rats, and the animals and people are getting sick and dying. Salz tries to figure out why the people are getting sick by applying logical thinking strategies he is learning from his education with Pater Frederick. At the same time, he is beginning to struggle with some of the pagan beliefs and practices of a coven to which he and his grandmother belong.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Tim Meeker has always admired his older brother Sam because he is smart, brave and ambitious. However when Sam leaves college to fight in the American Revolutionary War, Tim is torn between supporting his brother and respecting his father’s wishes to remain uninvolved with the war. As the fighting and pillaging worsen in Redding, Tim must learn how to support both his brother and his family at the same time. This novel examines the hardships suffered and the sacrifices that must be made in war time regardless of the side for which someone is fighting.

A Day of Pleasure by Isaac Bashevis Singer

In A Day of Pleasure, Isaac Bashevis Singer takes the reader on a journey back to his boyhood in Poland in the early 1900s. Through the telling of 19 events in his childhood, beginning with a move to Krochmalna Street in Warsaw, a lasting picture of Jewish life during this era is painted. His boyhood struggles between right and wrong, as well as merely surviving in a harsh environment, provide the reader with an understanding of the power behind the children’s literature that he has written.

The Giver by Lois Lowery 

In the community of The Giver, a Newberry Medal Book, Jonas receives his career assignment as receiver of memories during the Ceremony of Twelves. As Jonas begins his training, he learns the truth about his seemingly perfect community. As Receiver of Memories, Jonas has many privileges, but his courage and will are tested when a decision is made that warrants an immediate, drastic response.

The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida 

Yoshiko Uchida was growing up in California during the 1930s. She knew her family was different from their neighbors, but she felt like an American. Her life was turned upside down when America when to war with Japan. She and her family were interned in a poorly constructed camp with many other Japanese families because they looked like the enemy, not because of anything they had done wrong. This memoir gives a vivid picture of what her life was like in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Kino lives with his wife, Juana, and his son, Coyotito in a small fishing village. One day Kino finds a rare and valuable pearl; he begins to scheme for a better life for himself and his family. Instead, the pearl brings envy and greed to the town, which not only upsets his dreams, but also threatens to destroy Kino's way of life. Steinbeck provides readers with an opportunity to identify and dissect the role that illiteracy plays through Kino’s misfortunes throughout the story.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene 

Summer of My German Soldier is the story of an important time in the life of Patty Bergen, a young girl living in a small town in Arkansas during World War II. Patty is unhappy at home and has few friends, but her unhappiness and loneliness take a different turn when she makes friends with Anton, an escaped German prisoner of war. Finding in Anton a friend who appreciates her for who she is, Patty risks everything to help him and comes to new understandings of prejudice, friendship, and love.​

 

GRADES 7-10

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Jack London captures readers with vivid scenery, the complexity of feelings, and foreshowing in this harrowing tale of a mixed-breed dog named Buck who begins his journey in Southern California and through various circumstances finds himself in Alaska, the victim of the Klondike Gold Rush’s need for strong dogs to carry sleds across the frozen Klondike. Buck's journey from a life of domestication to a life that hearkens back to the primordial days of his breed is interwoven with brutality, perseverance, survival, affection, and devotion. During the journey, he encounters men who draw out the qualities that make Buck a legend, and allow him to answer the sounding of the call that liberates him from the dominion of man to run free with his wild brothers.

The Day They Came to Arrest the Book by Nat Hentoff 

The Day They Came to Arrest the Book explores what happens when individual freedom clashes with the desire to protect. A community is divided when a group of students and their families demand that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain be removed from the school completely. Individuals are forced to examine their position on censorship and the First Amendment, and if demands of the few should ever trump the rights of the many.

 

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GRADES 9-12

1984 by George Orwell

In this classic novel from 1949 readers will be transported to an era of war, civil conflict, and revolution during a world of totalitarian oppression and terror. Follow Winston Smith, a member of the Party and an employee of the State, during his experiences as a conspiring rebel and his membership in The Brotherhood. George Orwell provides the language and ideas that feed ongoing concerns about privacy, individualism, and freedom of thought as he describes Winston's involvement in the resistance, and the ultimate surrender of Winston's personal thoughts and feelings to the Party.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Accompany the characters as plans arise on many people's sides, nothing seemingly occurs according to these plans, and in traditional Shakespearean fashion, the play ends in a dramatic, tragic bloodbath. Hamlet, one of Shakespeare's most famous works, is the dramatic account of events at Castle Elsinore, Denmark, circa 1600. Its protagonist, Prince Hamlet, is told within the first act of the play that his father, who has recently died, was actually murdered for his crown and his wife by his own brother, the current King Claudius (Hamlet's uncle). Hamlet learns this from the ghost of his departed father, who also implores Prince Hamlet to avenge his "murder most foul," leaving the prince with a sworn oath to kill his own uncle-stepfather.

Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare

Having recently ascended to the throne of England following his deposition of the former king, Richard II (as dramatized in Shakespeare's Richard II), King Henry IV now faces an attempt at rebellion from inside his own aristocracy.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Taking place on a Scottish heath, circa 1000 A.D., three mysterious witches meet during a furious storm, stating their intention to speak with Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor, who is wrapping up battle against an insurgency against King Duncan.The witches inform him of several prophecies, including the statement that Macbeth shall be not only King of Scotland, but also Thane of Cawdor. When Macbeth writes of these events to his wife, Lady Macbeth, she immediately begins to think through the paths upon which her husband must travel in order to gain the crown ultimately; she fears that he is too weak to pursue whatever means necessary to accomplish that ultimate goal.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Considered by many to be the height of Shakespearean comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins in Athens and explores the complexity of a “love quadrilateral” that takes place in a play within a play.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Though generally not considered among Shakespeare’s comedic masterpieces, Much Ado About Nothing has many elements to recommend its study, including literature’s most famously witty romantics-in-furtive-denial and an intricate comic plot, which begins with the arrival of Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, at the house of Leonato, Governor of Messina, Sicily.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Almost certainly Shakespeare’s most popular play, Romeo and Juliet concerns a feud between two prominent families of Verona, Italy, circa the 1590s. The original cause of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is never divulged in the text, but all direct descendants of, extended members of, and even servants of both families are, at the play’s inception, fully indoctrinated into the “hate your enemy without question” atmosphere of the conflict.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night opens in the court of Illyria with Duke Orsino, a young nobleman pining away for the love of Olivia. Olivia has chosen to reject all suitors in deference to her brother’s death, causing Orsino great melancholy. Meanwhile Viola, a young girl, finds herself shipwrecked on the island of Illyria. She believes her brother to be dead, as they were separated during the storm. To find protection and earn a living, she assumes the name Cesario and dresses as a man to serve as an attendant to Orsino.

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