Friday, September 25, 2015

CIS Parent Book Club - Week One

     Welcome to the first CIS Parent Book Club over Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind!  We're excited you're here to talk about this fantastic book and to read along with your fifth grader.  This is the first part of the club.  Each week we will post the chapters we'll be reading and discussing along with discussion questions on this blog.  We'd love to hear your thoughts below in the comments. Commenting and replying to others' comments is a great way to keep the discussion going. You may choose to comment on one or all of the questions. If you'd like to comment on something in the reading that isn't part of the questions, feel free to bring up the topic. Comments will be moderated, so if they don't show up right away, do not be concerned.  We will culminate the club on Monday, October 26th at CIS.  More details to follow about that. For now, let's get started!


1.  In chapter one, Melody describes her love of words.  The power of language is strong.  Describe how you feel about words and language.  What role has reading, writing, storytelling, conversation, etc. played in your life?  What would it be like if verbal language was taken away from you?

2.  We've been talking about point of view and perspective in fifth grade.  Why is the choice of narrator so important in Sharon Draper's book?  Why do you think we decided to start fifth grade with this common text?

3.  Melody loves music, especially country.  Music has been called a universal language.  How has music impacted you and your family?

4.  Melody expresses frustration at not being able to communicate.  The story she tells about how her mother misunderstood her "temper tantrum" in the toy section at the store is heartbreaking.  What is it like to be misunderstood?  How is it frustrating when your intentions are misinterpreted?

5.  Compare and contrast how Melody's mom and dad interact with her.  With whom do you identify most and why?  What would it be like to be Melody's parent?

6.  In chapter 6, we learn about one of Melody's doctors in a flashback.  Our students get infuriated with Dr. Hugely and cheer when Melody's mom stands up to him.  How does that scene change the trajectory of the plot?

7.  In chapter five, Melody describes her years at Spaulding Street Elementary School.  She describes each of her classmates.  What do her descriptions of them tell us about Melody?  She also describes her early teachers.  What are their attitudes toward children with special needs?  

8. Then there's Mrs. V!  We've been talking about characterization with our fifth graders.  How did Sharon Draper develop Mrs. V's character?  What traits does she have and how does she influence Melody?

9.  What is the difference between empathy and sympathy?  What characters in Melody's life show her sympathy and what characters show her empathy? 

10.  Chapter 8 gives us a perfect opportunity to talk about symbolism and metaphor with our fifth graders.  How does the goldfish leaping out of the bowl represent Melody?  Does it apply to any situations in your life?  Was there a time when you needed to leave your comfort zone and "leap" into the unknown in order to reach a goal or pursue a dream?

11.  Our fifth graders love Butterscotch.  What makes Butterscotch so important to Melody?  If your family has a pet, describe what he/she means to you all.

12.  What would YOU ask for from the Great Oz?  Why?

13.  In chapter 9, Melody overhears her mother blaming herself for Melody's condition.  Parents feel so much responsibility for their children!  Describe what being a parent means to you.

14.  How does a new child change Melody's family's dynamics?   Describe Penny's impact on each family member.

15.  More about Melody's relationship with her parents is revealed in chapter 10.  What new things do we learn?

     Thank you for joining us this week.  We'd love for you to choose some of these questions to discuss not only here, but with your children - maybe around the dinner table, to and from sports activities, or anytime you get a chance to talk books!

     Remember to choose a "Comment as..." option.  If you have a Google or WordPress account, you can choose that, and it will automatically identify you.  You can also choose Name/URL and just put your name in the Name section, leaving the URL blank.  We'd love to know who you are if you are contributing to discussions!

     Now....let the discussions begin!


  1. Kirk Knollman (Kayley's dad)September 25, 2015 at 12:32 PM

    13. Being a parent: a great blessing, responsibility, a whirlwind ride of great joys and some drama ! It's passing down lessons that we passed to me when I was that age--yes, parents were children once too! I still remember great times with my great grandfather, and grandfather after him -- soak up all of the stories and lessons that you can ! The best part is being able to open doors and see what great new experiences are still ahead !

    1. I agree Kirk. A tremendous blessing and incredible responsibility! Sometimes I feel like I'm really goofing it up, but then I remember something my own mom said to me. "Parents are still learning. They've never been parents before and they're going to make mistakes now and then." This helps me to forgive myself when I miss the mark. The responsibility is great, but the joy is greater!

  2. Kirk Knollman (Kayley's dad)September 25, 2015 at 1:46 PM

    11. Butterscotch ! Unconditional love, friendship and trust. Not all people in this world are animal people--and they miss the pure emotions, responsibilities and joys. Butterscotch gave her hope, fun, love and importantly a reason to keep going every day. Much brighter feelings than the goldfish, whose ending hurt so much--especially how her mother reacted !

  3. 3. Music has a wonderful impact on our household. If we're not listening to it, we're playing the piano or singing at the top of our lungs! Music can bring about a change of emotion and mood, regardless of language.

  4. 6. This is my favorite part of the story so far! It breaks my heart to think of Melody overhearing the terrible things Dr. Hugely says about her, and the way he encourages her mother to give up. In this moment, we realize that Melody may not have a physical voice, but she does have a voice through her mother and the other people in her life, like her father and Mrs. V., who will be a champion for her. Even still, the word that constantly enters my mind as I read about Melody's challenges is "trapped." I can't imagine the frustration she must feel to be unable to communicate in the traditional sense. As I try to put myself in her shoes, I physically start to feel short of breath, as if I am trapped in a small space. The desire to find out how she copes and rises above it keeps me reading!

    1. That's so interesting that you actually have a physical response when imagining putting yourself in Melody's shoes. That's true empathy!! I love how you say that Melody's mother and Mrs. V are her voice. Thank goodness Melody has parents and a friend who stand up for her in such an impactful way. All children should have champions like that who believe in them!

  5. 9) Catie has been talking a great deal about empathy vs. sympathy. She seems to have a very clear understanding of the difference, which can be difficult to grasp. In the book, it seems that Rose sympathizes with Melody, while Mrs. V. has empathy for Melody. Rose "feels sorry for" Melody, while Mrs. V. is attempting to see Melody's situation from Melody's perspective. It's an important lesson to learn, as I believe sympathy is more passive while empathy requires action and/or effort.

    1. I like that distinction - sympathy is more passive while empathy requires action. Yes!

  6. Kirk Knollman (Kayley's dad)September 28, 2015 at 4:35 PM

    I like Mrs. V's spirit ! As I tried to discuss these questions with my daughter I heard "Dad, you are so far behind us !" The goldfish jumping out stands out most to me so far--and then I see it on the cover.....

  7. 2. Hi! I've been thinking about the perspective of the narrator. At first I thought it was a great book for the 5th graders because the narrator was in 5th grade. Now, I realize that the children might be able to relate with Melody's situation in a deeper way. Kids today are not just seen, they are also heard, oh boy do we hear from them! Even so, they have so many thoughts, dreams, hopes, and, yes, even words, that are not given the weight or value that they might like. It is now around this age that they are on the cusp of finally being able to turn their words and dreams into reality, if only someone will listen!
    ~Cori Royer

    1. It's so important that children feel validated by someone who listens to their hopes, dreams, and concerns! Adults can sometimes be so busy - we forget to take the time to stop and really listen.

  8. It is a bittersweet moment when Melody has a laugh and embrace with her mother and then wishes she could tell her that she loves her. A simple statement that I take for granted. We say it a lot, but I don't know that we acknowlegde the priviledge that it is to be able to be together and say it.

  9. 7) The way Melody describes each child in room H-5 tells a lot about Melody's heart for people. She's honest about each one and even has a sense of humor about their characteristics, but she finds a gift they each possess. For example, she describes Ashley as "our fashion model" (I love how she says "our"), Carl is "good with his hands", and Maria is "fun to be around". We should all be as intuitive as Melody and look for everyone's strengths!