Sunday, September 30, 2007

Homesick is a semi-autobiographical account of when Jean Fritz lived in China, 1925-1927, during the turmoil as the Nationalist Party and Communists tried to get rid of powerful warlords and foreigners. Although she is homesick for America, the author's love for China and its unusual way of life is evident from start to finish.

World War II cultural study.

The assignment:

Create a one-page editorial section concerning the internment of Japanese Americans in 1941. Decide whether your paper will be one of those produced inside the camps, or a regional paper. Research editorials, articles of the time, and political cartoons. Then provide a rough draft for approval, and a final draft that includes:

Name of the newspaper


One original cartoon or related illustration

One editorial (with headline)

One article (with headline)

Two Letters to the Editor presenting opposing viewpoints

The articles must answer the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Spelling and neatness count

Letters from the camp (Smithsonian)
War Relocation Authority Photographs (California Digital Archive)
Japanese American Exhibit and Access Project /JARDA (University of Washington libraries)

Thanks to the 2004 Core Knowledge National Conference for ideas leading to this approach.

Word up.

The Daily Buzzword is a reliable page from Merriam-Webster, and RoboBee and BigBot are challenging definition games.

Here's a quick quiz on which reference materials to use and when.

A decent template for dictionary guidewords.

Quite a good crossword puzzle's one on The Beatles.

Try this link when you need a definition but aren't 100 percent sure how to spell the word you're looking for.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Field trip.

E. was fantastic helping to chaperone my second-grade daughter's field trip at the aquarium. She never let our three charges out of sight. We stopped to squish some pennies at the end and the dragon won out over anything fishy as the favorite stamp because the three second-graders all were born in the year of the Dragon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We're reading Thin Wood Walls by David Patneaude to continue our study of the WWII era. It too is a coming-of-age story, historical fiction in the voice of a Japanese American boy who lives in Seattle after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This is yet another well-written young adult narrative where history is at the core of the story's drama. E. has found it extremely wrenching--she's been moved to tears several times and we are both surprised how little we knew about this difficult aspect of America's history.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A contemplative week.

So far this week we read A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck and the brief but engaging God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Ryland. In the latter we discussed the difference between "sacred" and "profane" and explored the elements of Christianity and Buddhism contained in this wonderful series of poems.
2001 Newbery Award-winning A Year Down Yonder is humorous and well-written, a story about a girl who has to leave Chicago and stay with her larger than life, some might say crazy, Grandma Dowdel in rural Illinois. The book provides a telling view of country life during the Great Depression from the perspective of a displaced young girl.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coming of age stories.

We continue to concentrate on stories told from the point of view of young people.
Today Emma finished reading Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee and answered five reading comprehension questions. We also worked on a word list from the's favorite word was compulsive. A close second: valedictorian.
We always find it helpful to review book content by answering questions such as the following:
What was the story's setting/time and place? This is a crucial element to grasp but kids often skim over it.
How and WHY is Maycomb County in the thirties, or modern-day California, or New Mexico in the sixties, or wherever, crucial to the plot?
What problem or struggle has to be resolved (because conflict is the heart of all fiction).
What is the turning point for the main character?
Are there elements of foreshadowing, hyperbole, personification, or alliteration?
What diction did you find most challenging?

We studied World War II up to the point of the Allied invasion, using World War II: The American Story, a very creditable overview by, no kidding, Time-Life Books, and DK Eyewitness World War II.

We watched the movie The Diary of Anne Frank, the true story of a young girl claustrophibically trapped in a world of hate that she cannot comprehend, and it had a strong impact on E. The movie is based on the play written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett that ran on Broadway from 1955 to 1957.

And Emma also went to her second art class, held in a beautiful setting in what can only be described as Old Santa Fe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The only thing we have to fear.

We determined that "poverty" is the word to use when describing a lack of funds, support, and possessions, although "poorness" is a reasonable assumption and in some ways a descriptive word.

E. asked, "Is it called the Depression because those years left an imprint on America?"

Today we looked at FDR's inaugural speech, which includes the lines "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself;" we discussed Roosevelt's administration and the active role he gave government in shepherding the country through the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the coming of world war.

E. said that in FDR's speeches and radio addresses he often seemed to be saying, "I've been through a lot myself, so I know: help people and stop worrying about yourself so much. Look around and see what we need to fix. If you fear, then fear will prevent us from making changes. We must stay together, work together, and take action."

We also looked at DeWitt Clinton's High School Literary Magazine to study some student voices from the 1930s. The illustration pictured above, from that publication, is by Augustus Hodges, 1932.

Monday, September 17, 2007

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

by Bette Bao Lord

E. spent the day reading In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson from start to finish.

In this novel, ten-year-old Bandit Wong comes to Brooklyn in 1947 with a new name (Shirley Temple Wong) and must win the acceptance of her schoolmates while still honoring her Chinese heritage. The year the story takes place, 1947, is the Year of the Boar (E. was born Year of the Boar 1995) but also refers to Jackie Robinson's rookie year. His trailblazing in the major leagues parallels Shirley's efforts to fit in to a new society. The book strikes a balance between the value of assimilation and immersion in American culture while maintaining respect for traditions.

Emma scored 100 percent on a three-page reading comprehension exam about the book at the end of the day.
Here are some words from the book that we defined and discussed at length:
Illustration by Joki

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This week:
We will explore the role of women in World War II.
And we will begin to discuss D-Day, when 150,000 Allied soldiers landed on the shores of Normandy.

And, for a change of pace, we will study The History of Spices. Here is another spice route map.

WPA posters are from the Library of Congress American Memory collection.

Book group update

OK, for her Southside book group Emma has finished reading Eragon and the sequel, which I thought was called Endless but is actually titled Eldest. This one has FOUR dragons.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sisterly encouragement...

Emma often helps out when her sister has special homework assignments. Right now it's ocean study. Last year we all pitched on the Molly Brown project, with Emma doing costume design and Lucy managing a boffo A+ on her presentation. Grandma took to Molly Brown's house and museum in Denver and contributed the shawl and hat.
Illustration by Joki

New Deal era art in New Mexico

Studying the Depression

We are studying the years of the Depression, the times of the Dust Bowl, and American experience leading up to World War II.

The Dust Bowl natural disaster affected the Great Plains, that broad expanse of land between the Rocky Mountains in the west and the Appalachian Mountains in the east.

Books read

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
The Dust Bowl: Great Diasters, Reforms, and Ramifications by Therese DeAngelis and Gina De Angelis

Movies seen
Grapes of Wrath
Bound for Glory

Here is an informative link about soil erosion.
This teaching site explores causes of the Dust Bowl.

We examined thematic and emblematic differences between America the Beautiful by Irving Berlin and This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.

We are now beginning to consider World War II and just finished Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford.
Photo by Arthur Rothstein: Dust Storm near Dalhart, Texas, 1936