Grades 6-8 – Common Core

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These two titles – one informational and one fiction – offer the opportunity to explore the beginning of the atomic age and its dreadful consequences.

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Bomb
The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Narrator:Roy Samuelson

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 9-12

Release Date: March 26, 2013

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2013 Robert F. Sibert Medal winner, 2013 Newbery Honor book, and 2013 Non-Fiction for Young Adults winner

Samuelson’s unadorned narration is the perfect foil for Sheinkin’s electrifying story of the path of nuclear power during World War II. His calm, dispassionate reading and resolute pacing allows listeners to focus on the race by American scientists to develop the atomic bomb and the Communist sympathizers who were equally determined that the United States not be successful in this pursuit. A fascinating glimpse into a period of American history that changed the course of the world and the ways in which countries interact forever.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.3 Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).

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Countdown
Narrator:Emma Galvin

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 7-8

Release Date: January 11, 2011

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The aftermath of the nuclear arms race is clearly evident in this novel set in 1962. Eleven-year-old Franny worries about everything: her older sister’s mysterious college rendezvous, her mother’s emotional distance, her great-uncle’s increasing mental instability, and most of all, the escalating Cuban Missile Crisis. Galvin’s spot-on narration gives an appropriately youthful voice to the fearful, sometimes petulant, Franny. Wiles’ docudrama includes a scrapbook-like montage of news clippings, photographs, songs, and speeches from the era, interspersed with Franny’s story. The audiobook has cleverly taken these images and converted them to a documentary soundscape that enlarges and enhances the listening experience.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.9 Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.

Students can research more about the Manhattan Project at these websites: http://www.ushistory.org/us/51f.asp, http://www.atomicarchive.com/History/mp/, and http://science.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-bomb.htm. Additional information regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis is available at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum online. Of particular interest is the online exhibit, “World on the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis”.

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Esperanza Rising
Narrator:Trini Alvarado

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 7-8

Release Date: May 13, 2003

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2002 Pura Belpré Award winner

Living a life of privilege in Mexico, Esperanza, almost 13, faces dramatic change when sudden tragedy forces her and her mother to leave their home and escape to California.  Esperanza now endures a life of hard work and poverty as a migrant farm worker during the 1930s. A touch of magical realism mixes with her family’s harsh new reality; Esperanza learns the survival skills of her new, lower social class, while remembering her former life of comfort. Trini Alvarez’ voice lends the lilting cadence to the translation of Spanish words, phrases and traditions. Unfamiliar Spanish names and words are easily understood, increasing the listening enjoyment.  As Esperanza begins to accept her new life in California, glimmers of hope are on the horizon.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.3 Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

This Mexican Culture ThinkQuest (projects for students by students) offers a myriad of activities and information, including food, celebrations, games and holidays of the Mexican culture.

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Science fiction or speculative fiction is a genre often assigned to middle school readers and the following two titles showcase some of the best in terms of both writing and audiobook production. Pair them for a thought-provoking lesson that will stimulate discussion as well as support several of the Common Core State Standards, such as those listed in this excellent lesson plan guide from Read Write Think or those listed below.

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The Giver
Narrator:Ron Rifkin

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 7-8

Release Date: February 27, 2001

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Jonas knows he is different, but he’s not sure exactly how or why. When he gets his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve and becomes the receiver of memories, he begins to learn the true, terrifying nature of his community. Rifkin does a remarkable job of separating the voices of Jonas, the receiver of memories, and the old man who is the giver of memories. As Jonas grows stronger and the Giver grows weaker, we can hear this is Rifkin’s narration, enriching the listening experience of this 1994 Newbery medal winner.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.3 Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

The Giver is slated to be released as a motion picture in summer of 2014, providing teachers with a wonderful opportunity to have their students discuss the issues raised in this book by creating storyboards and scripts for their own version of the movie. Here is a website to help get started.

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The Time Machine
Narrator:Derek Jacobi

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 9-12

Release Date: June 11, 2013

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Derek Jacobi brings the classic tale to a modern listening audience with a splendid narration.  His baritone and leisurely British cadence heighten the tension of this science fiction adventure.  The Time Traveler is the central character that introduces the idea of a machine that can travel through time, a term that author Wells was first to use.  As the Traveler speeds to the distant future, his discoveries also portend a dystopian end to our world.  Even 125 years later, listeners will find much that has survived the test of time.

As a first in the genre of science fiction, students may want to investigate other classic and modern stories in the genre, in order to compare and contrast various themes.  A good place to begin such a study is NPR’s (National Public Radio) Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, that includes The Time Machine.

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The Notorious Benedict Arnold
A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
Narrator:Mark Bramhall

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 9-12

Release Date: July 10, 2012

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Sheinkin calls Arnold America’s “original action hero.” He was smart, a brilliant military tactician, and his men loved him. He was also petulant and had an enormous ego. Filled with primary source material, first-person accounts, exciting battle scenes, and suspenseful espionage encounters, this translates naturally to an aural environment. Bramhall reads with brisk authority, carrying the listener along through Arnold’s numerous exploits.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

An engaging 20 minute cartoon video on Arnold’s traitorous acts, featuring “Liberty’s Kids,” is available for viewing on You Tube, explicating the work of spies during Revolutionary times.

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Another opportunity to compare and contrast fictional and informational accounts of history is presented in listening to the following two audiobooks.

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The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
Narrator:LeVar Burton

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 7-8

Release Date: July 22, 2003

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Kenny Watson, age 13, travels with his family from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama – a summer family trip that coincides with the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing.  The bombing not only kills four young girls, it also demonstrates one of the starkest results of racial hatred in America. LeVar Burton embodies Kenny with a voice that combines both humor and distress as the events of that violent summer unfold.  The author has the rare talent to alternate comedy with drama as the Watsons encounter the realities of the segregated South along with the hope of the Civil Rights Movement. This 1996 Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Honor title raises historical fiction to a high level.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.3 Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing and many media outlets marked the occasion – these links can serve to elicit classroom discussion and writing themes.

NBC News: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/15/20507957-birmingham-remembers-4-little-girls-50-years-after-infamous-church-bombing?lite

CNN News: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/14/us/birmingham-church-bombing-anniversary-victims-siblings/index.html

CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57603014/birmingham-remembers-the-deadly-1963-church-bombing-by-the-kkk/

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We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March
Narrator:Ervin Ross

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 7-8

Release Date: August 28, 2012

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Stories from the Civil Rights Movement often contain little-known facts and details, and this title offers unfettered background information about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March.  From the tenets of nonviolent protest to the individual stories of participants, the almost dispassionate and straightforward narration heightens the tension and outcomes of the March.  The singing of the gospel song composed for the March, extensive bonus material, an author’s note, and interviews with the now-adult marchers make this a strong nonfiction offering for classroom use. The comparison between the individual stories of young Audrey, Booker, Arnetta, and James with hearing their grown-up interviews is a compelling feature for young listeners. This serves as a good example of an audiobook that surpasses a print reading; hearing the actual voices of the witnesses to history adds a valuable dimension.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.3 Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).

An excellent video excerpt of “Mighty Times: The Children’s March” can be watched on YouTube, making a fine accompaniment to these audiobooks. The full documentary is available online or on DVD, with a teacher’s guide provided by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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A Wrinkle in Time
Narrator:Hope Davis

Imprint: Listening Library
Grades: 9-12

Release Date: January 10, 2012

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This 50th anniversary production of L’Engle’s 1963 Newbery-winning story introduces a new generation to Meg Murry and her younger brother Charles Wallace as they travel to rescue their father, a trip that truly “wrinkles time.”  Davis gives wonderful vocal interpretations of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which that contrast very well with the young voices she employs for the children. The first in a planned trilogy, the series was expanded to include other titles.  The world of the Murry children has truly surpassed the test of time.  An introduction read by the late author adds to the enchantment of this classic tale.

Common Core Standard

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone

On the 50th anniversary of its publication, A Wrinkle in Time was the subject of these two articles that can add interest to classroom discussions of this classic fantasy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/books/review/a-wrinkle-in-time-and-its-sci-fi-heroine.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.npr.org/2012/03/05/146161011/the-unlikely-best-seller-a-wrinkle-in-time-turns-50

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