Ally has been hiding her inability to read for years by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. Ally’s new teacher and new friends help her build confidence and see that she is special in her own way.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In the informational text "Noticing Mistakes Boosts Learning" Alison Pearce Stevens discusses a study that shows the benefits of noticing your mistakes.
Read this text before starting Fish in a Tree to have students build background knowledge about growth mindset. Have students compare a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Ask, “What are the differences between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset? What are the benefits of having a growth mindset? Why is it important to learn from mistakes?” Students should support their ideas about learning and growth mindset using evidence from the text.
In "The Test," a young boy learns an important lesson about fairness after taking a test.
Read this short story after chapter 3, “Never Up to Me,” to have students analyze authors’ word choice. In this chapter, Ally is overwhelmed by the terrible time she is having in school. Have students discuss the details the author uses to describe Ally’s feelings about school. Then, have students discuss the details the author uses to describe Javon’s and Tyler’s feelings about the math test in “The Test.” Have students analyze the authors’ word choice. Ask, “What words and phrases do the authors use to convey Ally’s, Javon’s, and Tyler’s feelings about school? How do these words and phrases help you understand the characters’ perspectives?” Students should give specific examples from both texts.
In Tracy Stewart's short story "The Champion of Quiet," a girl who is often picked last in gym class volunteers to be a team captain.
Read this short story after chapter 13, “Trouble with Flowers,” to have students analyze character development. In this chapter, Ally makes a new friend, Keisha. Have students discuss why Ally gave half of her flowers to Keisha. Then, have students discuss why Maggie volunteers to lead a team in gym class. Have students discuss the way the characters step out of their comfort zones in this chapter. Ask, “How did Ally act bravely in this chapter? How did Maggie act bravely in ‘The Champion of Quiet?’ How do the characters’ actions show how they have changed?” Students should explain how trying to make new friends demonstrates the characters’ courage.
In "Sweet Difficult Sounds," a young girl who immigrated to America from Zimbabwe struggles with confidence as she adjusts to her new school environment.
Read this text after chapter 26, “Stalling,” to have students further analyze character development. In this chapter, Ally admits that she just wants to fit in. Have students discuss why Ally feels grateful for Keisha’s friendship. Then, have students discuss why Nothukula feels like an outsider in “Sweet, Difficult Sounds.” Have students compare the two characters’ experiences. Ask, “What similar challenges do Ally and Nothukula face? How has Keisha’s friendship helped Ally face her challenges? How have Cole and Auntie Thandi helped Nothukula face her challenges?” Students should provide evidence to show the ways these relationships help the characters build confidence and overcome obstacles.
In J. Patrick Lewis' poem "The Impossibles," a speaker describes accomplishing seemingly impossible things.
Read this text after chapter 33, “Possibilities,” to have students discuss the themes of perseverance and growth mindset. In this chapter, Mr. Daniels writes the word “impossible” on a piece of paper and has Ally rip off the piece that says “im.” Have students discuss why Ally keeps the paper that says “possible.” Then, have students discuss the theme of “The Impossibles.” Have students analyze the themes of perseverance and growth mindset in both texts. Ask, “What does Mr. Daniels want Ally to understand? How is Mr. Daniels’s message to Ally similar to the speaker’s message in ‘The Impossibles?’” Students should provide evidence from both texts to support their thinking.
In "The Marble Champ," a determined young girl sets out to overcome obstacles and prove herself.
Read this short story after chapter 37, “A Chicken, a Wolf, and a Problem,” to have students elaborate on their thinking about the themes of perseverance and growth mindset. In this chapter, Mr. Daniels poses a challenging riddle to the class. Have students discuss how Ally feels when she is the first to solve the riddle. Then, have students discuss how Lupe feels when she wins the marble championship. Have students analyze the lessons the two characters learned. Ask, “How is Ally’s experience in this chapter similar to Lupe’s experience in ‘Marble Champ?’ What do the two characters learn about hard work and perseverance?” Students should provide evidence from both texts to support their thinking about the themes.
In the informational text "What a Pro Knows: Playing to Win," Christine Louise Hohlbaum discusses the challenges and successes of the women national basketball player, Tamika Catchings.
Read this text after finishing Fish in a Tree to have students analyze the themes of perseverance, disability, and different kinds of strengths. Have students discuss how Ally overcame the challenges she faced. Then, have students discuss how Tamika Catchings overcame obstacles to become a professional basketball player in “What a Pro Knows: Playing to Win.” Have students compare Ally’s and Tamika’s experiences. Ask, “What did Ally learn about herself and her strengths over the course of the novel? How is Ally’s experience similar to Tamika’s in ‘What a Pro Knows: Playing to Win?’” Students should give evidence to show the ways Ally and Tamika learned to accept themselves and value their strengths.