Sunday, February 2, 2014

Katie's Trunk- Integrating Social Studies into Language Arts {Must Read Mentor Text}

Hey there!

We are here today for our weekly Must Reads!!

I'm kind of stretching it this week because the text I'm going to talk about is really for the American Revolution, which is Social Studies, but it's what I've been using in Language Arts.  I wanted this to be an authentic post, so please excuse me for it being so curriculum based.  I know it won't relate to as many people, but you can see how you can do any of these skills with basically any text!  :O)

I used Katie's Trunk this past week.

Here is a synopsis from Amazon:  "An acclaimed author gives young readers a new perspective on the American Revolution in this thoughtful picture book. Katie, a child of Loyalists, is frightened by all the talk of independence that is igniting passions in her New England town. Then one day, when Patriot neighbors ransack her home, Katie finds that her very survival rests in the hands of the "enemies"."

My good friend Jessica has a unit that goes with this book that I've been using that works great for Language Arts!

I will say that this is a semi-difficult text.  When I read it to myself, I knew it would take some discussion with the class.  Have you ever done that?  You read a book to yourself and think of all of the possibilities you can use it for and then you start to read it out loud to your class and you realize it is a little more deep than you realized?  Am I the only one that's ever done that?  Well I knew on the first page it was going to take some close reads to really dig into it.  But, that was ok, because I knew I was using it all week!  :O)

So, when we first read the book, we made inferences as we went through it (Oops!  I didn't get a picture of that!).  I like this book because it is from the Loyalists' point of view, which you don't find very often.  I think it's important for students to be able to see BOTH sides!

The second day, we reread the book.  I was focusing on verbs in grammar, so while I read it, we were picking out action verbs and writing them in our grammar notebook.  As we did this, I continued to talk about the meaning behind the story.
Even though this is not a winter book, I still used the Flipbooks from our Winter Interactive Notebook Activities to find verbs in the text!  And, it worked out beautifully because it started to snow while we were doing it!  The first time it had snowed in 3 years!!  Perfect timing!  ;O)

After we found verbs together, I sent kids off to work on this sheet from Jessica's unit while I pulled my guided reading groups!  They had to use evidence from the text.
(Does it bother anyone else that this is pasted crooked?  I'm so OCD!)  And, apparently she did not finish her sentence at the top.  Oops.  Well, it doesn't get any more authentic than that, does it?  ;O)

This book is a little hard to read because of the way the author has the sentences laid out.  (Or maybe that's just me?  Here are a few pages you can look at to see if you agree!)

So, since it's a little difficult to read, I talked with my students about style, and why the author wrote it this way.  I made a copy of two pages from the book (which is totally legal!) and we annotated on the pages to point out what the author was trying to say and how it affected the way we read the book.

We did this because I wanted them to understand that when they write, they have a style.  It can help the reader or it can leave the reader confused.  This author used incomplete sentences a few times in the text, but we understood what she was saying.  We discussed that there were times when the author used a conversational tone, and even if it was broken up or incomplete sentences, we still knew what she was saying because we often talk that way.  It may be awkward to read the first time through, but we could understand and use the punctuation or the line breaks to help us with reading it out loud.

Then, they worked with a partner on deciphering the similes in the text while I pulled guided reading groups.
So, we read this book because I wanted them to see a different perspective of the American Revolution and to see how it must have felt for the colonists to have to choose sides, and how that affected them once they did.  But, we did quite a bit of Language Arts skills within this one text by using close reads, which is what using a mentor text is all about, right?  :O)

It really is a great book!  I think it's good to talk with students about this in case they choose a text that's interesting to them, but may be a little difficult to read.  I want them to know they can read it more than once, to ensure understanding, and they'll find something they didn't notice each time they read!

I can't wait to see what you link up!!

Next week's linky- Math


  1. Amanda,
    I find all your posts to be so helpful, even if I'm not doing the same unit of study... great ideas to transfer over to the units we are doing! Thanks! Liz

  2. Yay!! Thanks for the shout-out!! I'm glad you were able to use it! You are right- it is a difficult text to read. But the kids LOVE that it's from a different perspective I think. They're so used to the rebels' side, I think it's good to see that Tories weren't "bad" people. :)

  3. I agree 100% - even if I don't teach the same units as you (duh!) I learn a lot from your posts on how to use a text, strategies to use, what to have my students do and how to effectively use notebook elements. I really appreciate the detail in your posts.

  4. Some days I really miss teaching about the American Revolution... I would have loved to use this book! I will pass this on to a former teaching buddy!

    Sarah @ Hoots N' Hollers

  5. Katie's Trunk is an excellent book! When I taught 5th grade it was a part of our reading series and my absolute favorite story to read! As a new blogger, I hope to link up next week (with student work!) :) Thank you!

    Nicole Owens Smelcer

  6. I just read this book for the first time this week. We're using Jessica's Revolutionary War mentor sentence mini-unit. I loved that it used Rebels and Torries instead of Patriots and Loyalists because it kept my kids from automatically taking the side of the Patriots. It allowed us to have a really great discussion about how you have to look at history from both sides of every story. I'm going to check out Jessica's unit on this book and maybe do a little more with it! Thanks for sharing!
    Chalk & Apples

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas in such great detail! We just started our unit on the Revolutionary War and it is definitely hard to find text from a Loyalist point of view (and one of our main standards for this unit is point of view). I am going to have to look at this book and Jessica's packet.

    One Happy Teacher

  8. Ohh! I never heard of that text before, but I am always looking for new material to close read with the students. I love how you copied the pages for the students to actually glue into their notebooks. Great idea!! Off to add this book to my cart!
    Pinkadots Elementary

  9. Great post! It's perfect to model a difficult text for your students! I bet so many of them will be using the strategies you taught them with their next book! And, yes, that crooked page drives me crazy too! But then again, I can't teach if there's a post-it on the floor! LOL
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  10. Love your post.....just curious you buy enough copies for each student to have their own? How are they able to look back through the text to find evidence, similies,etc.??? email address is

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