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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tales of a Fifth Grade Book Club: Part 4-- Echo Pages 105-190

Part 4 of my fifth grade book club tackled the second half of Part 1 of the book. Please refer to the other posts in this series and the discussion guide I compiled which includes a summary of the novel.

Let get right to it:

  • While the children were getting settled in and beginning to eat their lunch, one of the other parent volunteers had used her public library card to search for and download a recording of Yo Yo Ma playing Brahm's Lullaby so that we could play it for the kids. The song, performed by the father, on the cello has a central role in this narrative. This parent will continue to do that for each musical piece in the novel.
  • I began the discussion with props to the kid who made the prediction last time that he thought Part 1 would end sad but that the entire book would end happily. While we don't know what will happen at the end of the novel, we do know that our hero Friedrich is in a difficult and probably dangerous predicament as we left his story behind.
  • Since this was the end of an entire section of the book, we had the kids go around the room to share their words to describe how they felt. Since the ending was a bit harrowing, I think this worked very well. It eased the kids' fears about Friedrich AND prepared them to move on to the next section. We are going to leave Friedrich's story hanging for awhile. Here are some of their words summing up Part 1:
    • "terrifying": His sister is away, his dad is in Dachau, his uncle is trying to escape, he was forced to take control of the situation and now he is being arrested.
    • "scary": I understood that Hitler hated the Jews before reading this book, but after the scene with the father and his musician "friends" I learned how much regular people did too. It was scary to watch friends turn on each other because 1 is a Jew. It led to the father being arrested for defending a Jewish colleague. 
    • "unknown": the question of what is going to happen next is all I can think about
    • "mad": Mad at Hitler and how he changed everyone's lives. Mad at how no one could have friends anymore because you didn't know what side they would take. Mad that no one trusted each other. Mad at all the secrets.
    • "emotional": too many emotions. 
    • "dumbfounded": The Storm Troopers wrecking Friedrich's house was a good example of how I felt about the section.
    • "tears"
  • One of the parent volunteers wanted to share her word after the kids-- "shocked." She was shocked that Friedrich got caught escaping. She was shocked he gave up the harmonica-- packed it to be shipped with others to America. I was starting to believe that it had magic to protect him. But now it is going across the ocean, away from him. Will he be okay?
    • We talked about that a bit more. We talked about how Friedrich had grown during the days leading up to his attempted escape. How he got more brave and stopped being afraid of being picked on. He packed up the harmonica because he didn't need it anymore. He felt he could protect himself now.
    • Someone else across the ocean will need it more.
    • The kids were scared for Friedrich, but they all felt like he would be okay in the end.
  • We moved on to talking more about Elizabeth:
    • Everyone was so happy that she came through when it really mattered. 
    • It was a relief to not be mad at her anymore.
    • One parent mentioned how she changed her clothes before she left home and asked the kids why they thought she did that. We talked about how she was going on to a different and new life and she needed a new "costume." 
    • She went to this new Hitlerite world to keep her family safe and give herself a better life but as soon as Hitler's rules meant endangering her family, she found a way to help her family despite the risk.
    • We talked about how hard it was for Elizabeth to get the money to her brother in secret-- hidden under cookies with a clue about how her uncle should hide some so Friedrich didn't eat them all at once.  She even had to trust a neighbor to deliver them. She risked everything to get the money to them.
  • We were trying to get the kids to speculate as to why Elizabeth and others made the choice to support Hitler even when it seemed like it was against their true beliefs.  We talk about the pressure to conform. Like last week, two kids rushed to the dictionary to look up conform. We were all surprised by how many definitions it had. 
    • We then talked about books that also use this theme-- the pressure to conform and how hard it is for those who do not conform.  One student mentioned Divergent, but I tried to show them how it is even a theme in picture books like The Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.  It got them giggling, talking about a Mo Willems book, but it also made the theme and its serious implications about human behavior clear to them.
  • This being election season, we also talked about staying aware of what is going on in politics and voting to stop leaders like Hitler from taking over. 
    • The kids mentioned how being secretive made everything worse. 
    • The people who were open and wanted to seriously discuss the problems with Hitler's laws were the ones getting in trouble.
  • I then asked the kids if there were final things about Friedrich's story that they wanted to share since we would be leaving him behind for awhile.
    • One student talked about how in the new Star Wars movie the scene with all the Storm Troopers (same name as Nazi's police) makes them all look like Nazi's. They even raise their hands. We know this means they are VERY bad, but Friedrich doesn't yet. 
    • This book reminded a few kids of Number the Stars and Anne Frank.
    • One last comment came from someone who wanted to say that "very brave" describes all of the main characters in this story.
  • We didn't want to make predictions because a new character is going to take up the harmonica in our next section. But, one student did think that maybe Friedrich's melody will be in the harmonica now-- it will sound like 4 instead of 3.

For those of you following along at home, no book club next week because there is no school due to the President's Day holiday. Discussion of the beginning of part 2 will happen the week of 2/22.

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