Spark Class Discussions with Fish in a Tree

Spark Class Discussions with Fish in a Tree



With its message of acceptance and its positive outlook, Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, is a popular novel among teachers.  So I decided to give it a try to see how it might work with older kids.


The story is about a 6th grader, Ally, who first discovers that she has learning problems, severe learning problems, in 6th grade.  It’s not the usual experience of students with learning difficulties who often know more than they ever would have imagined about LD, dyslexia, etc by this age, and who may have done activities like writing letters in shaving cream years earlier.


Other parts of the novel are right on target for that age group, such as the descriptions of the social world of a 6th grader.  One really nice part of the novel  was the theme of friendship it developed with the three friends – Ally, Albert, and Keisha.


In a  middle grade class, I would recommend the novel to individual students who could really appreciate it, rather than use it for a whole-class read, since I think parts of it would appear unrealistic to certain kids at this age while others would really enjoy it.


I could also see using individual chapters as read-alouds to spark discussion on particular topics.  This novel takes on a number of issues faced by many kids with learning problems, and there are lots of good choices here.  Here are some possibilities:

Chapter 9: Bag Full of Nothing – individual differences

Chapter 17: Misfit Lunch – bullying

Chapter 21: Butterfly Wishes – empathy, “mind movies,”wishes

Chapter 37: A Chicken, a Wolf, and a Problem – kids with LD are smart, persistence (Maybe have your kids try the puzzle before listening to the chapter!)

Chapter 50: A Hero’s Job – friendship, fighting back, standing up for yourself


If you have used this novel in class, how did you use it?  Are there other novels that you could recommend that touch on some of these same themes?  I would love to hear some more ideas?


Linked with The Literary Maven for “On My Bookshelf”, with Reading Toward the Stars for “Book Talk Thursday”, and with Head over Heels for Teaching for “Spark Student Motivation”:

On My Bookshelf is a monthly reading link up hosted by The Literary Maven. Share great books you have read for personal pleasure, for development of your teaching skills, or as additions to your classroom library.     


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