Monthly Archives: October 2016

Top 10 Books for Teaching Point of View

top 10

This term, I’m working with one of the grade six classes on writing from different points of view, skills which they will later apply to a unit on immigration they are working on in social studies.  Each week, I have been reading one of these books and the students have been practicing short writing pieces. I have been searching for different anchor books which can be used for introducing Point of View to the class so thought it would be a great topic for this week’s Top Ten List!  Many of these you will likely have or know… but there may be a few new titles for you!

1.Voices in the Park – Anthony Browne

Possibly the best book for teaching point of view – four “voices” tell their version of a walk in the park.  Anthony Browne is a master of telling a story without telling too much but leaving the reader a lot of spaces to think.  He also leaves clues in his illustrations that help tell the story.  I also love using this book for teaching inferring.

2.The Teddy Bear – David McPhail

This heart-felt story of a boy who loses his favorite teddy and the homeless man who finds and loves it is a perfect one for having students write in first person from the different characters’ perspective.  I even had them write from the teddy bear’s point of view!

3. The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt

When you first see the crayons, you may think the story is too young for your middle grade students – WRONG!  This story  is filled with sophisticated humour that could be a little over the heads of some younger students.  I used this book to explain how different points of view can often reveal personality.  A great anchor book for writing, too!

4. Seven Blind Mice – Ed Young

Different points of view often depends on the perspective, connections and vantage point of the character.  In this clever book based on a classic South Asian tale, seven blind mice investigate the “strange something” in the Pond.  Each one views one portion and comes back with their theory.  It is only when the seventh mouse views the “whole something” that the truth is revealed.

5. Hey, Little Ant – Phillip and Hannah Hoose

To squish or not to squish? – that is the question.  Love this story, told in two voices; a conversation between the “squisher” and the potential “squish-ee”.  Perfect for discussing perspectives.

School's First Day of School

School’s First Day of School – Adam Rex

This was one of my favorite new “back to school” books this fall!  A unique look at the nervousness and excitement about the start of the school year, told from the point of view of the school!

6. They All Saw A Cat – Brendan Wenzel

Brilliant and simple!  With each turn of the page, the reader is given the opportunity to also see how the cat is viewed from perspectives – from a bee, to a fox, to a child.  Bright, colorful illustrations.  After I finished reading it to the grade class, they wanted me to read it again!  I predict this book may be on a few award lists this year!

7. I am the Dog, I am the Cat – Donald Hall

Another perfect anchor book for point of view, as the contrasting voices of hilarious, affectionate companions converse together.  Gorgeous illustrations and beautiful words and I love the recognizable qualities of both animals that come through.  Kids love this book!

9. The Pain and the Great One – Judy Blume

An eight year old girl and her six year old brother take turns describing each other.  Hilarious and  another great example of different points of view, as well as a perfect connect book!

10. Two Bad Ants – Chris Van Alsburg

If you have not read this clever book by the amazing Chris Van Alsburg, you should!  I never get tired of reading this book aloud to students.  Two Bad Ants allows the reader to experience the world through two mischievous ants’ point of view as they explore a kitchen.  Ah-mazing, spell-binding, genius!

8. The Wolf Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood Toby Forward

A funny, fractured fairy tale that replays the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s point of view.  This would be a great anchor book for re-writing a fairy tale from different points of view.

11. The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be – Mini Grey

Another clever version of a fairy tale, this one told from the point of view of the pea!  Very witty!

Thanks for stopping by!  What is your favorite book to teach Point of View?

Leave a comment

Filed under New Books, Point of View, Top 10 Tuesday

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Gordon Downie – My Canadian Hero


It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Secret Path

Secret Path – Gordon Downie

Gordon Downie, iconic front man for the Tragically Hip and who is suffering from terminal brain cancer, will release his first book called Secret Path this coming Tuesday, October 18th. (Downie’s new album, Secret Path, will be released on the same day).   Secret Path is a graphic novel Downie wrote to honor and shed light on the story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ont.  Chanie died beside railroad tracks after escaping from the school and trying to walk to his home more than 600 kilometres away.  Downie learned of Chanie’s story, who was misnamed Charlie by his teachers, from a 1967 Maclean’s magazine article.  “I never knew Chanie, but I will always love him,” Downie said in an interview. “Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were.”   A documentary film about Downie’s heartfelt project and visit to Chanie Wenjack’s family in Marten Falls will air on CBC on Oct. 23.   My TV is set.

For those of you who watched the Tragically Hip’s bittersweet farewell concert this summer,  in the midst of all the hit songs, you may remember Downie’s plea and comments to our prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau was in the crowd watching the concert and Downie spoke directly to him about Canada’s “dark past” and about trying to help fix the problems in Northern Canada.  “It’s maybe worse than it’s ever been, so it’s not on the improve. (But) we’re going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help.”   At the time, I was not sure what he was talking about, but I was curious.  What I have since learned was that Downie was referring to the dark chapter in Canada’s history when more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were placed in government-funded residential schools.

I know that I often make the comment “This is a MUST HAVE book!” in my blog posts. But this is a book we truly all need to buy and share with our students because Chanie Wenjack’s story needs to be told.  Students will connect to him, ache for him and learn from him. Proceeds from this book and album will go to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the residential school system.

Is Gordon Downie ”qualified” to write this story even though he is not of aboriginal descent?  I believe he is.  His deep compassion for Chanie Wenjack, for his family and community qualifies him.  His extraordinary gift of words and powerful poetic voice qualifies him.  His strong desire to raise awareness of this critically important issue that he describes as “not an aboriginal problem; this is a Canadian problem” qualifies him.  His generosity, care, and deep humility, even in the face of his own death qualifies him. Gordon Downie has gifted us with a legacy of indelible music and lyrics and now has gifted us with this powerful story of Chanie Wenjack.  Gordon Downie is my Canadian hero.

Read more about Downie’s project here. Watch the official book trailer for Secret Path here.

Other new books on Truth and Reconciliation:

Wenjack – Joseph Boyden

Coincidentally, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden’s (Three Day Road, The Orenda) new short MG novel (112 pages) tells the same story of  Chanie Wenjack – his escape from a residential school and his long walk home through the forests of Northern Canada.  This book focuses on the spirits of the forest who accompany him on his journey, sometimes to torment but ultimately to bring him comfort.  Beautiful illustrations by Ken Monkman.  This would be a great companion to Secret Path.

I am Not a Number – Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer

“Back home, long hair was a source of pride. We cut it when we lost a loved one. Now it felt as if a part of me was dying with every strand that fell.”
It’s not always easy to broach this subject with younger students but this book, based on the author’s grandmother’s experience in residential school, is written in straightforward, simple language that will help younger children understand what happened.  It is a powerful, heartbreaking and important story to share and to have in your school library.

Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Residential Schools – Melanie Florence

This Nonfiction book is dense with text and information, but would be an excellent resource for teachers who were studying this period in history with their class.   I like that it includes historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people who survived residential schools.  I would use it to read short passages for read aloud/think aloud lessons.  Great for practicing questioning.  (Please note: there is some criticism of this book having some inaccurate information about rituals that are described as being in “the past” but which, in fact, are still part of present-day aboriginal culture.  Also for the misspelling the word Métis (spelled with no accent and Me-tis).

Thanks for stopping by.  Please leave your thoughts in a quick reply!


Filed under New Books, Redsigned BC curriculum, residential school, Truth and reconciliation

The Most Magnificent School Project! Using picture books to promote school-wide critical thinking project.

Sexsmith’s Most Magnificent School Project

If you tell me, I will forget.  If you teach me, I will remember.  If you involve me, I will learn.                                                                                                                                          –  Ben Franklin

As you may be aware, the curriculum in British Columbia has been redesigned to reflect a more inquiry based approach to learning and teachers are beginning to implement many of the new ideas into their units of study.  This year, my school (J. W. Sexsmith in Vancouver) is specifically focusing on one of the three core competencies of the new curriculum – critical thinking.  Critical thinking is an approach to learning that involves analyzing, questioning and developing a plan, idea, product or thought.  Rather than just memorizing new information, we are asking students to think, question and form their own ideas and opinions about what they are learning.

To launch this school-wide focus, we embarked on a school-wide project called Sexsmith’s Most Magnificent Thing.  Students learned about the project at our first school-wide assembly (Monday).  My staff had discussed the importance of developing a common language for critical thinking, so I came up with a visual and key words to use to explain the three phases of critical thinking – ANALYZE-QUESTION-DEVELOP.  I introduced these three words, along with a prompt word for each:  when we analyze – our brain says “Hmmmm“; when we question, our brain says “Huuhhh?“; when we develop, our brain says “Ah-Ha!”  


I then shared the book The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  This book has many different themes, including perseverance and ways of dealing with frustration, but it was also a perfect fit for introducing critical thinking.  In the story, the girl does not practice critical thinking skills initially while trying to make her most magnificent thing, which results in a lot of frustration and an eventual melt-down.  It is only at the end of the story, she begins to analyze her attempts and re-designs her plan that the magnificent thing is finally complete.  For the school assembly, I projected the YouTube read aloud. of this book on a large screen.

In thinking about this as a school project, I had nightmares of the entire school bringing in metal pieces, wheels, batteries, and wires, creating electronic chaos like the girl in this book does!   Inspired by the book What To Do With a Box by Jane Yolen, I simplified the project by having students use empty boxes to build their MMTs – Most Magnificent Things.

Students were asked to bring an empty box from home.  It was amazing to see the variety – from gigantic empty refrigerator boxes to tiny match boxes! img_1274


The next day, I met with grade groups to share Jane Yolen’s book and explain the project in more detail.  I reminded the students that this project was an opportunity for them to practice critical thinking and that the product at the end was not as important as the process.  They were also told that their teachers would be supplying the basic supplies of scissors, glue, paint and paper, but that if they needed any other materials that they would need to bring them from home.

Back in their classes, students began the project by analyzing their own empty box – carefully looking at size, shape and special features.

They drew, labelled and colored a careful diagram of their box.

The next day, the students questioned what they were going to make, what materials they might need and what potential problems they may run into. They developed a plan for their project and then they were ready to set to work!


For those who were still trying to decide what to turn their box into, there were more books to read for inspiration:

       Not a Box – Antoinette Portis

                                                                         Box – Min Flyte

The Nowhere Box – Sam Zuppardi

During the week, students spent many hours transforming their box into something magnificent!  They were encouraged to practice their critical thinking skills during the process.  If something wasn’t working they tried to analyze, question and develop a new plan.  The school was buzzing with excitement and thinking!

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During the project, we circulated several other books that teachers could share which focused on characters who demonstrated critical thinking:

Anything is Possible – Giulia Belloni

Learning to Fly – Sebastian Meschenmoser

 Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House – Libby Gleeson

Spare Dog Parts – Alison Hughes

Stuck – Oliver Jeffers

More-igami – Dori Kleber

After four days of cutting, gluing, painting, bending, folding, attaching, taping, taping and more taping, along with a whole lot of analyzing, questioning and developing new plans – the MMT projects were FINISHED!   The students completed a self-reflection page and did a final drawing of their MMT.  To celebrate this MAGNIFICENT project, we had an afternoon ‘walk about’ where students and teachers were given an opportunity to walk through other classes to view all of the ‘Magnificent Things’!   WOW!  It was incredible to see how many different creations the students came up with – jet packs, miniature rooms, soccer games, castles, maps, musical instruments, telephones, puppet shows, and even a vending machine that actually worked!   And while we all agreed there were some moments in the classrooms when creativity looked like more like chaos and a few teachers experienced most magnificent headaches, the students loved every minute of it and were thoroughly engaged.   Throughout the week, they really demonstrated all the aspects of independent, project-based learning and critical thinking skills, while having a most magnificent time!   Here are just a few examples of the creative ways students turned their boxes into something magnificent!














 It truly was a most magnificent project!  I highly recommend you try it with your class or your school!


Filed under Critical Thinking, The Most Magnificent Thing