New Book for Today’s Preteen is Rooted in the Past!Published April 7, 2015
Mary Ann’s Mountain has been a lifetime in its making. It was not until my family had the last big reunion that I realized that some of my great-nieces and great-nephews were too young to have known the growing-up years of their grandfathers, my brothers, the sacrifices of their wonderful great-grandparents, or the struggles of their Great-grandmother Rose-Kohr. So, I took three writings I had shared with my fifth grade writing class at Northwood Elementary in High Point, North Carolina, and began to add to the story written from the perspective of a preteen girl who went through some very troubled times. Mary Ann’s Mountain is the end result after expanding those three writings into a book.
The girl, Mary Ann, and the happenings in the book are a compilation of things that happened to me as a preteen as well as to my students through my 36-year teaching career. Preteen problems of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are and will still be the same problems but with different settings. If I have learned one thing about preteens, it is that these boys and girls face many problems that some of my readers could never imagine. Yet, I found students who often faced their problems with more stoicism and courage than I might not have had at that age or at any age! It is left to the parent, to the community at large, or to the teachers to discern how to best deal with behaviors that often run amuck—behaviors that are babyish one day and very grown-up the next! For my book, I decided to use that preteen mindset of the main character to ground the book.
I could honestly tell my students at the end of the school year that I wish I could take every one of them home with me. I loved watching “my kids” grow physically, mature emotionally, and grow academically. No, it was not always an easy road. Yes, I had many sleepless nights worrying about a student’s problems and how to resolve his/her academic and emotional needs. In the end, the parents and guardians of my students as well as my students taught me as much as I taught them! I now understand why one of my favorite teachers in high school, Miss McCoy, said that when she taught at a little two-room school on one of the ridges in Dickenson County, Virginia, her students taught her more than she could ever have taught them.
The tangram math activities for pre-algebra are a result of the need to match my students’ level of mental development with appropriate activities. These activities present a high level thinking skill through concrete learning. My students used manipulatives practically every day for math lessons. My lessons were very purpose-driven and staged in continuity from easy to very hard. If I could encourage another teacher to take a risk, experiment with a long-range, sequenced presentation of difficult concepts using manipulatives, I believe you would find students highly engaged and focused. As an aside, pattern blocks and base ten blocks can be applied to many levels of learning and to many different concepts. For the students, nothing compares to actually feeling and handling the tangram blocks, the base ten blocks and the pattern blocks. Those three manipulatives were the mainstays of my math program.
The guided reading lessons are those I have used in my own classroom. You, the teacher, will have to add your state’s standard notations on the different elements. I used this format with some adding to or taking away as needed for every story selection I taught. I taught those students struggling in reading and those new to our country. It cannot be stressed enough that repetition of a concept be spaced throughout the entire year. It cannot be stressed enough the need to reintroduce an already learned concept in a purpose-driven program ruled by a realistic scope and sequence of skills. In my opinion, a teacher needs to assess student needs every day and to teach according to those needs. In my opinion, a teacher should use a rigorous program that has a scope and sequence of skills. The teacher should learn to design her/his own tests to assess mastery of materials. The student should be assessed using different formats. Back to repetition–As a teacher, I was determined to not let my hard work go to waste. As a teacher, I was determined to teach a skill for the student’s lifetime! Spaced repetition allows the teacher to expand a concept within the context of the most recently introduced skills!
Thank you for choosing my book to read for yourself or to share in your classroom. Hope the book brings you an enlightened view of life for a preteen in the 1950s. Hope you enjoy meeting Little Chank, Mommy Laurie, Poppy, Mary Ann’s mother and the rest of her family and friends.
Enjoy your reading experience!
Mary Ann Rose Hart