Summary: Ally has always felt like a fish out of water, especially in school. Aside from art and math (no word problems!) Ally’s school life has been one of frustration and turmoil. Until she gets a new teacher Mr. Daniels. When he enters her life, Ally finds friends in unusual places, and it seems her life is finally coming together. However, popular Shay seeks to destroy Ally and her newfound glory. Ally might just lose the little piece of respect she has always wished for, if she cannot learn to break through her challenges and accept herself. A story of a strong middle schooler, who has been misdiagnosed and misunderstood her whole life, might prove that sometimes imperfections can be the fantastico of a person.
5 keywords: Fiction, Middle grade reader, Local author, Narrative, Diversity
Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.1
Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
Suggested Delivery: Individual read
Electronic Resources: A book trailer, this should obviously be used before the students begin reading, as the https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVhWzVsVVIY
This website can be used after the book gets to the part where Ally learns she has dyslexia. This simulator can help students grasp what Ally dealt with while in school. http://webaim.org/simulations/dyslexia-sim.html
Website: The authors website, which provides the answers to many general questions. Students can go to this website and can help prepare to write letters to the author.
Teaching Guide – This is Penguin’s reading guide. It is so wonderfully arranged! They set it up based on page numbers, so the questions correspond to the different parts of the book. This is supper effective when it comes to dividing the book up into sections to discuss. http://www.penguin.com/static/images/yr/pdf/FishInATree_lessonplans_Final_LR.pdf
Illogical – Not thinking in a regular way
Psychologist – A scientist who studies the human brain and behavior
Invertebrates – Animal with no backbone
Within my nature – Something that fits a persons personality and normal behavior
Grudges – Anger towards someone that lasts a long time
Uncouth – Being rude
Murex brandaris – Sea snail
Unfortunate stroke of luck – Something that would normally be lucky, but ends up worsening a situation
Lonely – Sad when being away from people
Alone – Being without people
Visionary – Having clear ideas about what the future looks like
Scoundrel – A Person who is cruel and dishonest
Razz – To make playful but mean comments about someone
Dyslexia – Reading disorder
Limelight – Public attention
Homonym – A word that is spelled the same as another word but different in meaning (bear and bear)
Pachyderm – An animal with hooves and thick skin (elephant)
Grit – Mental toughness and courage
Catalyst – Person that quickly causes action and change
Before: Discuss a brief overview of the story, do not tell students that Ally has dyslexia. Have students do the dyslexia activity without knowing what they are doing. Ask them what they think is happening and why. Ask students to think about different reading disabilities and brainstorm how their symptoms appear. Leave the students to ponder with the thought that not every reading disorder gets detected.
During: Have students write questions about the book as they read. These can be questions about literal understanding, or they can be questions about something that confuses them, or something that seems to not make sense. This will help them reflect on the book and also become a self-aware reader.
When the part of Mr. Danielson telling Ally he thinks she has dyslexia happens, invite the reading specialist to come in and answer any questions about dyslexia. Have them show examples of what it is like to have dyslexia, (see electronic resources), and how dyslexia is remedied. Showing students these examples will further their understanding, and their acceptance of students with reading disabilities. They can also understand more of Ally’s struggle as a student and as a person. (For something even more intense change the classroom to fit what Ally would see. Have posters with backwards letters, switched letters and use simulators to show moving letters).
After: Have students write a letter with questions to send to author Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Asking the author about the character’s thoughts, feelings, and actions is a great way to assess for comprehension, as their questions should be based on what they have read, and will reflect if they are comprehending at a literal or inferential comprehension level.
Writing Activity: Have students paint a picture of what having dyslexia made Ally feel. This is an example of inferential comprehension, as many of Ally’s emotions were read between the lines. Have students write a paragraph or two about their painting and how it represents what Ally felt. Students should include an example from the text about how their painting depicts her emotions towards her reading disability.