Friday, September 27, 2013

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

This award-winning book provides great context to study grammar and is a wonderful read for fourth-graders. From here, students can move on to books by David Kherdian about the Armenian Genocide. This is especially relevant to students living in Southern California where many Armenians have made their home.

Lois Lowry was inspired by the true stories her childhood friend, Annelise, told her about her life in Denmark during WWII. She read through historical accounts of Resistance fighters and learned about one in particular whose letters inspired the character Peter. The stories takes place in 1943, in the middle of the German occupation of Denmark. In October of that year, the Nazis began to address "the Jewish question," and the Danes protected their neighbors and friends, smuggling out on fishing boats to Sweden which was neutral during WWII. Lowry intricately weaves true details from those years into a fictional tale about two Danish families, neighbors who protect and care for one another. 

I have had Grammar Worksheets up for some time now reviewing homophones, possessive noun forms and more recently, coordinating conjunctions. A fourth-grade teacher whom I work with is going to be field-testing a DLR, Daily Language Review. I created a chapter-by-chapter list of sentences which pertain to the story and contain an error. The types of errors range from punctuation to spelling to capitalization and really hone in on fourth-grade Common Core skills. I've included recognizing the correct order of adjective, using a semi-colon to separate two closely related independent clauses, correct forms for both verbs and nouns. After reading each chapter, these worksheets can be assigned as classwork, in pairs or small groups. As students progress and gain confidence in identifying and correcting the errors, the worksheets should be assigned for homework.

While pouring over the details of the text, I was led to the library to reread some of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales. Lowry makes mention of him as one of the most famous Danish storytellers, and I had vague memories from my own school years of reading his stories. So far, I've read The Little Match Girl and The Fir Tree, both of which made me think that fourth-grade teachers should begin reading this book in the fall, just as the Jewish New Year comes around. As the Christmas and New Year holidays approach, the fairy tales can be read and explored with their book buddies or during library time. Visiting the Museum of Tolerance would be the perfect field trip to accompany this work of historical fiction. 

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