Monday, February 18, 2013

Novel Unit FREEBIE: Pleasing the Ghost by Sharon Creech

While this school year has been an awesome one, it has posed some different challenges.  One of which is the fact that I have a number of readers that are not on grade level.  Considerably below grade level, in fact!  I know, how many of us have a year when that is NOT the case?!  This year, however, I have needed to re-evaluate my instruction completely and make some very necessary changes. 

I have not been an advocate of tracking in the past, however, this year, in order to meet the tremendous needs of each of my 6th graders, tracking is what we put in place.  We were the last grade level holding out and it was the only way...

Needless to say, I believe my instruction has changed for the better and students have truly gotten what they have needed in order to thrive as learners...this being true of both my higher achieving students as well as my below-level students.  With my mid-high crews, I am able to focus on true 6th grade level reading instruction, as these students are fluent readers, while with my lower level crew, I am able to provide a more intensified small group focus working on fluency and comprehension.

Having a son in the first grade has helped me beyond measure.  I have been able to work with him each night in his quest to go from an emergent to a conventional reader.  He is now able to read first-second grade level texts using various reading strategies as well as write stories and spell using writing conventions.  It has been a fascinating process to watch.  I knew as a mom, I would be taking on this task with my children, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be teaching 6th graders "how to read."  His learning has truly made me a better teacher.

I have digressed a tad, but it brings me to my purpose for posting...with my time reading with my son, Brennan, as well as my work with my students this year, I have been introduced to so many great reads that having taught fifth-eighth grades, I may never have read myself.  The Boxcar Children books, the Cam Jansen series, and Robin Hill School are a few that I have read with both my son and this year's crew. 

A text I have had on my classroom bookshelf for sometime is Pleasing the Ghost by Sharon Creech.  I adore Sharon Creech!!!  From Love That Dog to Walk Two Moons to Hate That Cat-she is an AMAZING writer.  Why I have never taken the time to read this book which I ordered from Scholastic at some point, I have no idea?!  What a GREAT story!

In a nutshell, the book is about a boy, Dennis, who is able to see and communicate with ghosts.  He gets a special visit from the ghost of Uncle Arvie who has "three pleases" he wants Dennis to help him with.  One tricky aspect of Uncle Arvie is that he had a stroke before he passed and has a hard time with his words, one of the aspects that is both humorous and challenging for both the reader and Dennis. The only other person in the story that can see ghosts is Billy Baker, Dennis' nemesis, and the class bully.  If you have time, you can read this book in no time, but it is a great small group novel to tackle with 4th grade level readers.

I am sharing the reader response questions that I developed to use with my students, in hopes you will use them with yours!  Enjoy this fun read and keep me posted on what you think!