Another reason this mentor text is such an effective choice for us right now is that it provides decent examples of setting, plot and character, which we've been studying this month, as we write a mystery narrative based on the work of Chris Van Allsburg.
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Since Alex and Simon had already heard a little bit about the story of Hiroshima, they were eager to read this text. We began by looking at the cover art, and examining its symmetry. Then we located Japan on a map of the world.
The next day, I began reading the story aloud. Typically with rich mentor texts, I read the book through twice. But this is a longer story, so I decided to just read it aloud once, in two sittings.
The first time through, I asked the boys to note their observations about the three elements of a narrative: In their notebooks, they jotted down what they noticed about the plot, setting and characters in the text.
The following day, we finished the story, and talked about our impressions. I also did my best to answer any hard questions Alex and Simon had. As we read, we focused on another reading strategy from the CAFE menu, "ask questions throughout the reading process".
On Thursday morning, we re-read the story, this time noticing some of the many similes and metaphors the author uses, and considering how these enhanced the writing.
We also revisited some of our "rich talk" norms, and the boys had a grand conversation about the text, addressing their choice from the following questions*:
- What are some of the ways in which life in Japan is similar to life in Canada? What are some of the ways in which they are different? Use the text and the pictures to support your answer.
- How does the author describe the relationship between Sadako and Chizuko? Do you think the simile is an effective one? Why or why not? Use examples from the text and your own ideas to explain your thinking.
- Why do you think Sadako chose not to tell anyone about her dizziness? What might she have been afraid of? Has something ever happened to you that you were afraid to tell a grown-up about?
- Do you think Sadako’s family really believed that she would live if they finished folding the thousand paper cranes? How do you think superstitions like the story of the thousand paper cranes might be helpful for people like Sadako and her friends/family? Use examples from the text and your own ideas to explain your thinking.
- Sadako used conversation (with family and friends) and art (paper crane folding) as ways to share her experiences. How did these things affect Sadako's health? What are some of the strategies you or your family use to deal positively with the pressures of life?
- How did Sadako’s friends honour her memory after she died? What are some of the ways our family honours the memory of loved ones who have died?
(*Some of these questions are taken from ETFO's Social Justice Begins with Me kit.)
In the afternoon, we headed off to the Japanese Gardens here in Buenos Aires, to soak up some Japanese culture, and bring to life a little bit of the setting of the book we had just read and discussed.
Finally, we revisited the text, dicussed the main idea or "author's message", and posted this along with the book's cover, on our "Rich Mentor Text Wall" in the classroom.