Monday, March 5, 2012
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Fifth grade students reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate are grappling with a few important themes. Students have written about and discussed three big ideas: gender stereotypes, the struggle to be different and feeling like you don't fit in. Calpurnia is an eleven year old girl living in a family with six boys on a pecan ranch in rural Texas in 1899. Jacqueline Kelley brings this setting alive in her descriptive writing that opens this book. "There was a full day's work to be done before noon, when the deadly heat drove everyone back into our big shuttered house and we lay down in the dim high-ceilinged rooms like sweating victims." (p.1) Calpurnia is expected to learn from her mother how to assume the role of a young woman at this time. Destiny though is not so clearly defined for her. She is drawn to her naturalist Grandfather and learns about the teaching of Darwin and his book The Origin of the Species. Calpurnia discovers a new specimen of the plant world and she and her grandfather document this discovery. Students in book group have been drawn to the descriptive writing of this book and to the big ideas that although rooted in the past still have relevancy for today. The reading techniques of envisionment-picturing what one reads in one's mind in order to understand more clearly a section of the story, the strategy of questioning using examples from the text to support one's wonderings, writing about the big ideas, and text rendering- choosing a word, phrase and sentence have been effective strategies to enhance discussion and understanding about the book.