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1. Character Education, Part 1: How To Choose Books For Core Value Study

As we cluster in workshops, around webinars, and near the water cooler, we are already thinking about and preparing what skills and knowledge we want to teach. Yet, to truly have a successful year, let’s ponder an additional question: who do we want to teach?

The start of school is a popular time to model and instill core values because August and September are a fresh start: our time as teachers, librarians, and administrators to create and cultivate a community bound and motivated by the same values and goals. It is during this period that we can expose our students to stories with strong morals that feature both examples and non-examples of how to react in tough situations and learn from one’s mistakes.

However, it can be very difficult to select just the right text to teach values that will guide our students through academic and developmental challenges over the coming year and lay the groundwork for the community we hope to build.

Many teachers dust off their tried-and-true character education read alouds each coming school year or rely on word of mouth recommendations that send us back to the classics year in, year out. During my first year of teaching, I remember everyone scrambling to find a book that demonstrated “respect” or “persistence.” When a master teacher on campus mentioned that she used a particular title for the start of every first week of school, that sounded like hard proof to me and I was grateful. I went out and bought it.

Yet, there is not just one book that will make the abstract concept of “empathy” or “leadership” concrete to third graders or kindergartners. With such dependence on the same books, many of my third graders had read The Lorax three years in a row to learn about responsibility and respect. It’s an outstanding book to explore these values, but still…three years? It was time to shake things up.

Whether your school has campus-wide core values or you can determine your own, I encourage you to think carefully about which books you use to teach core values. They are the foundation of a classroom or school’s culture and can guide children’s social, intellectual, and emotional development.

For successful character education study, choose a set of books that:

1. Have protagonists that both exemplify and struggle with at least one of the classroom’s core values. Don’t just present stories with perfect, role model-worthy characters! Students should see multiple examples of people and situations of the core value in action to learn that one’s character is made, not born. Finding books where characters (protagonists and antagonists) lie, cheat, lose their cool, or are hurtful to other characters can be just as powerful as exemplary characters, if not more so. Students can discuss what they can learn from both examples and non-examples, share advice for different scenarios, and reflect on similar experiences in their lives where they struggled to make the right decision.

2. Are both fiction and nonfiction. Pair fiction with nonfiction texts to show students a range of experiences and real world applications. Reading a biography of a famous leader practicing or struggling with a core value gives students the chance to visualize the core value in their environment and daily lives, as well as let them see that knowing how to make good choices doesn’t come naturally and needs to be practiced.

3. Align with the Common Core ELA Standards. Character education doesn’t need to be separate from ELA instruction or your curriculum. In fact, core value study is great for teaching close reading, determining central ideas and author’s message, analyzing word choice, and comparing two or more texts.

4. Have protagonists students can identify with based on race, gender, family background, language, and experience. Although students absolutely learn from characters different from themselves, it is very meaningful for children to see someone on the cover and in the pages they identify with struggling or succeeding to make good choices. Especially for younger students, relating to aspects of a character’s identity helps students visualize themselves in the character’s situation and develop empathy. Additionally, for children who are new to school or are English Language Learners, having characters that remind them of themselves or their families may give the children more confidence to participate in class, which is critical to building a strong classroom/school community at the beginning of the year.

Looking to refresh your character education read aloud shelf? For book recommendations demonstrating your classroom’s core values, check out our Pinterest boards:

What core values do you teach children? What are your favorite books to teach these core values? Let us know below!

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

1 Comments on Character Education, Part 1: How To Choose Books For Core Value Study, last added: 8/16/2014
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2. 11 Educator Resources for Teaching Children About Latin American Immigration and Migration

What an amazing week to see the response of last Sunday’s post and hear what many of you are facing, doing, and aspiring to in schools and communities. In addition to using children’s books to initiate conversations, deepen background knowledge, and humanize the events, here are eleven teaching resources to help you provide the best information, context, and perspective for your students.

Amazing Faces mirror

  1. Colorín Colorado is a free bilingual service that presents information, activities, and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English Language Learners. One of my favorite sections is “Reaching Out to ELL Students and Families” because it gives explicit tools on how to create a welcoming classroom environment, learn about our students’ backgrounds, and reach out to parents of ELLs.
  2. Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC) offers educator guides to support teachers and school staff in supporting undocumented students in school and beyond graduation.
  3. Colorlines contributes award-winning daily reporting, investigative news, and analysis on issues of race with a subsection devoted to child migrants. They also have a campaign, Drop the I-Word.
  4. The Library of Congress has curated thousands of resources, especially primary sources and online exhibitions, on immigration in the United States providing critical historical context to current events. I strongly recommend checking out the presentation, Immigration: The Changing Face of America, where students can read the immigration history of specific ethnicities and races, and the Themed Resources: Immigration, where students can study the contributions of American immigrants.
  5. The staff at the Latin American and Iberian Institute (University of New Mexico) have created and organized thematic guides, lesson plans, and news articles for issues related to Latin America available at the Latin America Data Base.
  6. Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides award-winning educational materials to teachers, including immigration-themed units and lessons.
  7. Border Crossers has prepared a list of resources for adults to learn how to teach and talk about race and racial justice with students.
  8. The Migrant Policy Institute, a Washington, DC think tank, offers powerful analysis of global and regional migration. I want to underscore their visual tools, such as the International Migrant Population by Country of Origin and Destination map.
  9. Accompanying the two PBS documentary series, Latino Americans and The New Americans, are rich lesson plans and activities for grades 7 and up to explore the diverse experiences of coming to America.
  10. Latin@s in Kid Lit has an extensive list of children’s literature for those looking for more beyond our eleven book list, as well as interviews and teaching ideas.
  11. The MY HERO Project enables students to create, share, and discover stories, audio, art, and films that promote tolerance, peace, and diversity. Teacher resources are available at MY HERO Teacher’s Room.

art from Arrorró, mi niñoFor further reading:

11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration

What resources would you add? What resources do you recommend? Please share them with our community in the comments!


Filed under: Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: children's books, diversity, Educators, Immigration, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, Race issues, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

6 Comments on 11 Educator Resources for Teaching Children About Latin American Immigration and Migration, last added: 8/12/2014
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3. Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: National and State Parks!

Grab a flashlight, bug repellent, and binoculars…

Each week this summer, we are pairing Lee & Low titles to your favorite summer destinations with fun activities!

Your summer outing: national or state parks!

Book recommendations:

Questions during reading:

  • How have humans affected the habitat or animal species in the book?
  • What suggestions does this book offer to take care of the world around us?
  • What risks does the animal species or habitat face in the book?
  • How does this person(group) demonstrate respect for the environment?
  • How do healthy animal populations and habitats benefit people?
  • What happens when people do not take care of the environment or an animal species in the book?
  • What does this text teach about sustainability?
  • Do you think communities and governments have a responsibility to protect animals or the environment? Why or why not?
  • Should school field trips include visiting national and state parks? Why or why not? What are the benefits of children visiting national and state parks?

Activity:

1. Sound scavenger hunt!

Many animals rely on sound to detect nearby predators and search for food. For your next scavenger hunt, use the sense of sound to explore the wonders of the state or national park. This activity is a great way to teach young scientists about:

  • our five senses
  • how the human ear, like other animal ears, is a powerful physical adaptation and is very effective in detecting and differentiating sounds
  • how we can appreciate natural beauty as both visual and aural
  • the importance of slowing down and soaking in all the stimuli around us

Make a list of sounds for your child to “find” on the next hike. Together, check off and record as the child hears them! While you will want to adapt specific sounds to the park you are visiting, sound ideas include:

Everglades Forever

  • the local bird species
  • the rustling of an animal in the bushes
  • the wind among grass or tree leaves
  • sound of the nearest water source (river, ocean)
  • the buzzing/humming of insects
  • sound of walking on different types of surfaces: the trail, through leaves, in mud
  • a hiker whistling
  • a swimmer splashing
  • a dog barking or the clinking of a dog collar
  • sound of something being recycled
  • sound of something hollow
  • an echo
  • sound of food being unwrapped
  • horse clopping/trotting
  • a stick snapping
  • a hiker drinking (chugging) water
  • Bonus: the elusive spot of complete silence

To prove that your child experienced the sound, allow your child to:

  • record the sounds on a phone
  • take a picture of the creature or thing making the noise
  • describe the noise in a sentence with a juicy verb, such as chirping instead of singing

2. Animal and ecosystem observation!

Buffalo Song

Even if your nearest state or national park does not have the wildlife or habitat featured in the book, your young scientist can check out the featured animals or habitat in real life and real time from a computer or mobile device. Many national parks, zoos, and wildlife protection groups offer real-time footage of animals that serve as great opportunities to talk about behavioral and physical adaptations and habitat preservation.

Explore.org offers multiple livecam opportunities to observe wild animals outside of zoos. After finishing Buffalo Song, I checked out Canada’s Grasslands National Park for bison. I observed brown bears and salmon from Alaska’s Brooks River in Katmai National Park following I Know the River Loves Me. After A Man Called Raven, I used The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library for videos and audio recordings of ravens.

i know the river loves me 2

I Know the River Loves Me

For further book and activity suggestions to match your summer adventure:

Jill_EisenbergLiteracy Specialist, Jill Eisenberg, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Educator Resources, Summer Tagged: children's books, close reading, Educators, environmentalism, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, summer, summer reading, Summer School

0 Comments on Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: National and State Parks! as of 7/13/2014 11:43:00 AM
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4. Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Outdoor Summer Concerts!

I and I Bob Marley

I and I Bob Marley

Each week this summer, we are pairing Lee & Low titles to your favorite summer destinations with fun activities!

Summer is an incredible time to hear and enjoy music. From public parks to local high school auditoriums to subway platforms, many towns and cities offer summer concerts. Whether it is part of an official concert series, a festival, a rehearsal, or an impromptu get-together of musicians, there are a ton of opportunities to enjoy music alongside reading.

Our motto this summer: Love Books + Keep Cool + Learn Something New

Your summer outing: an Outdoor Summer Concert

Book recommendations:

Summoning the Phoenix

Summoning the Phoenix

Questions during reading:

  • What instruments are used in the book?
  • What type of music is featured in this book?
  • How is the music in this book different from other kinds of music?
  • How does music create community?
  • What character traits does someone need to become a successful musician?
  • Why do you think people enjoy music and find it meaningful?
  • Why do you think every culture has created some form of music?

Activities:

  1. Pair the book with a music recording or live performance of the same type of music featured in the book. What instruments do you hear? What patterns do you hear? What mood/tone does the music set? How does this music make you feel (unhappy, excited, calm, agitated)? How many musicians are performing? Is there a band leader/conductor for this type of music?
  2. Drummer Boy of John John

    Design and create a drum! Although many cultures and forms of music have distinct instruments, it is fascinating to note what instruments seem to pop up over and over again. Take for example the drum! Variations of the drum appear in music from all over the world. Check out the drum instructions from Spark!Lab, part of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History.

  3. Turn listening to music into seeing music! Talk about the senses we use to enjoy music. Children may think we can enjoy music with only our ears. Yet, the author and illustrator of the book had to communicate the music and its mood through words and pictures. What words does the author use to describe the featured music? What words does the author use to capture the mood of the music? What colors or actions does the illustrator use to capture the music? After attending a concert or listening to a recording, encourage your child to draw a picture that captures the mood, feeling, or story of the song. What colors would you use for each instrument and why? How would you draw a quiet, slow, fast, or loud moment?
  4. Drummer Boy of John John

    Study the geography of the music featured in the book. Where does this type of music originate? Who are famous composers, contributors, or musicians? What kinds of instruments were/are used? Out of what materials from the region were instruments traditionally made?

For further summer reading and ideas:

Jill_Eisenberg

Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Educator Resources, Summer Tagged: children's books, close reading, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, summer, summer reading

0 Comments on Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Outdoor Summer Concerts! as of 7/21/2014 8:37:00 AM
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5. Talking to Kids about Current Events and Conflicts

block quote for jill (1)Breaking stories, developing crises, and unexpected catastrophes often involve more than one country, community, and culture. As our children listen in to the radio while stuck in traffic or the evening news program over dinner, it can be easy to think that if we don’t explicitly bring up the news story, then our children don’t know it’s happening.

In fact, children are incredibly perceptive when their parents and adults close to them are distracted by news or alarming events. Many children also pick up information from their peers.

While we don’t want to overwhelm or scare our children, it is important to discuss what is going on. Children need honest portrayals of a community at its best during a time we might be seeing it at its worst.

How do we talk to children about these events and use these moments as opportunities to have respectful, honest (albeit age-appropriate) discussions?

Picture books are invaluable conversation starters. Conflicts and disasters have complex origins and multiple players. Issues of race, class, religion, and gender are often entangled in the events or portrayal of the events. Children’s books dealing with conflict or natural disasters can frame the event in contexts and meanings suitable to their developmental stage. Stories with children as the main characters allow children to identify with the characters over universal themes.

When a “newsworthy” event happens, this may be the first time the child learns of this country, group of people, or culture. By the same token, the conflict or event may involve the child’s own heritage or culture. Using picture books to talk about a current event or conflict can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the culture and people beyond this event.

Instead of allowing the media to define the group of people involved, we should seek out and read a book showcasing and reinforcing the positive aspects and pride of the featured group of people and region. In doing so, we present a broader perspective of the community, culture, or people that media coverage is portraying in a negative, humiliating, or victimized light.

In selecting the right book to foster respect and provide an honest portrait of a community in the news, consider:

Books that champion human dignity:

Books that exhibit the strength, courage, and resilience of children:

Books that depict a community’s capacity to endure, love, and give:

“Age-appropriate” can mean truthful, thoughtful conversations. When talking to children, let them guide the discussion. Opening conversation starters include:Going Home, Coming Home

  • What questions do you have? What have you heard?
  • What do you know about the situation or group of people/foreign country involved?
  • Who are the countries or communities involved?
  • How are different communities and countries coming together over this issue?
  • What would you like to do to help?

For further reading:

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

 


Filed under: Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources Tagged: children's books, diversity, Educators, Multiracial, Race issues, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

1 Comments on Talking to Kids about Current Events and Conflicts, last added: 7/28/2014
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6. 11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration

The-StorytellerAs media coverage has intensified around the events of children crossing the U.S. border, many educators and families are wondering, “What should we tell our students?” For some children, this may be the first time they are learning of these countries. But for many others, these events may involve their own heritage or depict their families’ experiences. Using books to talk about the recent events can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the cultures and people beyond these events.

We’ve put together a list of 11 books (many of which are bilingual English/Spanish) that teach about the emotional journey families and children must undertake along with the physical journey. These stories allow children to see each other and themselves in characters who are living life to the fullest and refusing to let any obstacle stand in their way.

Whether you are looking to explore the themes of the DREAM Act, learn more about the journey of one’s own family, or see America from a different angle, these books reveal the complexities, challenges, joys, and surprises of coming to a new place. Join these characters as they share their challenges and excitement in moving to a new culture and new school, helping their families adjust, and juggling their home culture with a new culture.

1. A Movie in My Pillow/ Una película en mi almohada

Poet Jorge Argueta evokes the wonder of his childhood in rural El Salvador, a touching relationship with a caring father, and his confusion and delight in his new urban home.

2. Amelia’s Road

Amelia longs for a beautiful white house with a fine shade tree in the yard, where she can live without worrying. In this inspirational tale, Amelia discovers the importance of putting her own roots down in a very special way.

 

3. First Day in Grapes

Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him, but Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different.

4. From North to South/ Del Norte al Sur

José loves helping Mama, but when Mama is sent back to Mexico for not having proper papers, José and his Papa face an uncertain future. Author René Colato Laínez tackles the difficult and timely subject of family separation with exquisite tenderness.

5. Home at Last

Ana Patino is adjusting well to her new life in the United States, but her mother is having a difficult time because she doesn’t speak English. After mama agrees to take English lessons, her sense of confidence and belonging grow.

6. My Diary from Here to There/ Mi diario de aqui hasta allá

Amada overhears her parents whisper of moving from Mexico to the other side of the border—to Los Angeles. As she and her family make their journey north, Amada records her fears, hopes, and dreams for their lives in the United States in her diary.

7. The Storyteller’s Candle/ La velita de los cuentos

The award-winning team of Lucia González and Lulu Delacre have crafted an homage to Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian. Through Pura Belpré’s vision and dedication, the warmth of Puerto Rico comes to the island of Manhattan in a most unexpected way.

8. The Upside Down Boy/ El niño de cabeza

Juanito is bewildered by the new school and everything he does feels upside down. But a sensitive teacher and loving family help him to find his voice and make a place for himself in this new world.

9. When This World Was New

It is Danilito’s first day in America and he is scared. He has heard that some Americans are not friendly to foreigners. In addition, he does not speak any English. Danilito’s worries disappear when Papa leads him on a magical trip of discovery.

10. Xochitl and the Flowers/ Xóchitl, la Niña de las Flores

Miles away from their home in El Salvador, Xochitl and her family make a new home in the United States, but nothing is the same. It is not until her family decides to start a flower nursery in its backyard that Xochitl begins to learn the true value of community in their adopted country.

11. Calling the Doves/ El canto de las palomas

Poet Juan Felipe Herrera shares the story of his migrant farmworker childhood. The farmworker road was the beginning of his personal road to becoming a writer.

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, events, Immigration, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, Race issues, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

4 Comments on 11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration, last added: 8/4/2014
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7. Beyond “Did you know…”: Teaching Geo-Literacy Using the Vanishing Cultures Book Series

JillJill_Eisenberg Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Vanishing Cultures: Mongolia

Vanishing Cultures: Mongolia

Last week on the blog we spotlighted the work of Jan Reynolds, an author and explorer who has written nonfiction for young readers about cultures across the globe. If we had read the Vanishing Cultures series when I was a classroom teacher, my students would have been competing with each other over who knew the most outrageous fact. Did you know the Tiwi, an aboriginal tribe from an island off the coast of Australia, eat mangrove worms fresh? Did you know the Inuit from the Hudson Bay build rock piles that are stacked to look like men in order to scare caribou toward the real Inuit hunters?

My students loved to play the “did you know…” game. That became a popular sentence starter in our classroom. Students would scramble for the latest book or periodical on animals, prehistoric times, and exotic locales. The peregrine falcon, megalodon, and the giant panda were unshakable favorites.

Yet, we don’t want students to know “just facts” as if they are mini-encyclopedias. We aspire for our students to wonder and to investigate how our world works, how we are all connected to our environment and other humans halfway around the globe, and how our actions here affect others way over there.

The Common Core brings a refreshed spotlight to the nonfiction genre in children’s books, challenging publishers, educators, librarians, and parents to present children with high interest, high quality texts. What a time to engage students’ senses, sustain their wonder, and teach them geo-literacy!

National Geographic affirms, “with the rapid pace of change in the 21st century, it is more important than ever that young people understand the world around them.” It has adopted the concept of “geo-literacy,” and even gone so far as to create a community to support and cultivate “geo-educators.”

Vanishing Cultures: Himalaya

Vanishing Cultures: Himalaya

Enjoyed in classrooms around the nation, Jan Reynolds’ collection on at-risk traditional cultures is even more significant and striking today than when the series was first published. The persistent popularity of the Vanishing Cultures series speaks to its captivating power to make geo-literacy learning personal and tangible. This collection supports geo-literacy learning because each book challenges students to examine:

  • the characteristics of each culture
  • what makes this featured culture unique
  • how this group of people has adapted to survive in its environment
  • what challenges this group of people faces
  • the modern human impact (positive and negative) on this traditional culture and the environment
  • why the author would want to share this story with children and create a whole series on this topic

When we educate children about other cultures and geo-literacy more broadly, we are implanting the idea that we learn in order to make better, more informed decisions. Before our students become adults in positions of power, we want them to have practice in pausing and thinking how their choices to construct their community could disturb the environment of another community or animal species.

The Vanishing Cultures books encourage students to reason and reflect critically and deeply about how humans affect other humans and why we all benefit from diversity. As classrooms around the country can attest, Jan Reynolds’ books will not only spark enthusiasm that we hope ignites into lifelong careers and hobbies, but also conversation on what information we need to make decisions that will shape our and others’ health, environment, and well-being.

Vanishing Cultures: Down Under

Vanishing Cultures: Down Under

Classroom Ideas for Comparing and Contrasting Between Vanishing Cultures Books and Teaching Geo-Literacy

(Reading Standards, Integration of Knowledge & Ideas, Strand 9)

(Writing Standards, Research to Build & Present Knowledge, Strand 7 and 9)

  1. How are these cultures similar and different from each other? What actions do these families take in both books to protect their ways of life?
  2. Compare how the challenges of each culture are similar or different.
  3. Compare how the children in each book demonstrate their pride in their culture. Why is it important for the children to feel proud of who they are and their way of life?
  4. What is the author’s purpose in starting each book with the parents telling their child a story from long ago? How does this affect the tone of and set the mood in the series? How does this opening support the central idea?
  5. After reading two or more of the Vanishing Cultures books, what common features or characteristics does a Vanishing Culture book have? If you were to write a book about your family’s culture, what kinds of things happen in a Vanishing Cultures book? What are some things that will not happen in a Vanishing Cultures book? What central ideas and lessons will be in the book?
  6. Have students create a chart to compare different aspects of life across two or more cultures. Write the name of each cultural group being compared on the top of the chart, and list the topics for points of comparison down the left side. Here are some possible topics: Food, Clothing, Climate, Geography, Important Animals, Homes, How Children Help (Chores), Roles of Men & Women, Family Life, How People Have Fun, Beliefs, Means of Transportation, Challenges Faced Today, Celebrations, Honoring Loved Ones. Have students record appropriate information as they read and re-read the texts.
  7. One elementary class created the “Around the World with Jan Reynolds” project on Google Earth. Explore where each of the books takes place. Compare the political map with the satellite map. Reflect on how geography has helped or hurt the survival of these ancient cultures. Students can create their own maps of the different cultures at National Geographic’s MapMaker’s 1-Page Maps.

Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, common core standards, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, environmentalism, geography, geoliteracy, guided reading, Multiracial, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, vanishing cultures

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8. Where In The World: How One Class Used Google Maps to Explore the Vanishing Cultures Series

Throughout April, we are exploring how Jan Reynolds’ Vanishing Cultures series can be used in the classroom to teach about the environment, geo-literacy, global citizenship, and nonfiction. Today, we want to share how one school has integrated geo-literacy with digital and visual literacy.

Michael Willis and the Kaleidoscope Team at Williston Central School in Williston, Vermont helped their 3rd and 4th grade classroom build a map on Google Maps of the cultures featured in the books. Through this project, students were able to investigate topics and themes in the Vanishing Cultures series, practice deriving information from other formats and develop visual literacy skills, and gain rich social studies/ geography content knowledge.

The Google Maps assignment is an exciting way to engage reluctant or struggling readers, facilitate the participation of visual learners and English Language Learners, or provide an extension opportunity for ready or advanced learners. The 3rd and 4th grade students hope that in addition to deepening their own knowledge about traditional cultures, their project provides useful and valuable information for others.

From educator, Michael Willis: My 3rd and 4th grade team wanted to get an author in to share their experiences with our young writers.  Ideally we wanted a local person and sure enough Jan Reynolds, who lives in Vermont, was available.  First we hit up our library as well as the others in our area and got our hands on Jan’s Vanishing Cultures series.  We read aloud her books, visited her website, and then Jan came.

She shared a movie about her work and travels with our whole team in the auditorium and then spent time answering questions in smaller groups.  It was during one of the small presentations that Jan mentioned how great it would be to use Google Maps to highlight her book locations.  I thought it would be a great project for our students, and they were motivated to do it by the idea that the project could be shared with other students who read Jan’s books.

We used Google Maps to plot out where in the world Jan’s Vanishing Cultures books take place, and put together this map.

Map

Williston Central School Google Earth Map for Vanishing Cultures series

Here’s what the students had to say about the project:

What was it like doing the Google Earth Project?

Grace – I thought that it was really fun because we were working with a famous author.  We had to get all of her books and look up where she had been using Google Earth.

Isabelle – We dropped pins on the locations using the facts and map information on the inside covers of her books.  Doing this project motivated us to have to read her books and learn about the cultures that she visited.  It made me appreciate how lucky we are to have the things we have.

Logan – The map project was really interesting.  It helped me understand how many different places Jan had been.  I didn’t know that there were cultures vanishing from the Earth.  It made me want to learn more about the cultures.  The books were helpful because she had really been to visit the people, talk to them, and learn how they live.

Addie – We used the summaries and the content from the books to add a brief description to the pins which marked the places.  This project motivated us because we wanted to help others learn.  It felt special because we were the first ones to do this and actually get published!  Plus, I didn’t even know these cultures existed!

Myleigh – The motivating part of the project was that I don’t usually get to explore the world. How often do people get to learn about this kind of thing?  It was almost like traveling the world reading Jan’s books.

What do you think is the purpose of Jan’s books?  What do they help you realize?

Sean – Her purpose was to teach children about the Vanishing Cultures and what is happening to them.  I think Jan’s message was not that they need our help because they have been surviving for a long time.  She was telling us that we should respect them, their way of life, and to respect their land.  I learned that they are just like everyday people.  To them, I bet we would look like the outsiders.  Everyone has traditions that they do.

Addie – We are lucky to have so many resources to use.

Grace – It made me realize how different these cultures are from us

Isabelle – It also made me realize that we all are not that different.  We may have different stuff and live in different parts of the world, but we all are people.

Grace – We can help other cultures by protecting the regions where they live

Addie – We realized that while our cultures are different, we shouldn’t force them to disappear because we all have something to learn from each other.  We could be more conscious of our waste and our pollution and that could help them keep their culture and survive

Isabelle – I think that it is important to respect different cultures because it’s how they live.  The Celebrations book helped me learn that different cultures celebrate different holidays

What was it like having Jan visit?

Myleigh – It was really cool to see Jan’s presentation and to hear her describe her trips first hand.  It really helped me put myself in her shoes and understand what she was going through.  When I was hearing her use such descriptive language it felt like I was right there with her.

Katrina – I think that since she came it really helped us understand that you should appreciate what you have – even though the people in the other cultures don’t have a lot they still seemed happy.  The people in those cultures work hard to live off the land and work with nature by using their resources. It really helped me learn about cultures that I didn’t know about.

For more resources on the Vanishing Cultures series, check out:

How are you using the Vanishing Cultures series in your classroom? Share your thoughts, experiences, and strategies that have worked in your school and community! Post a comment below or email Lee & Low at curriculum@leeandlow.com.

 

 


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, children's books, classroom projects, close reading, common core standards, digital literacy, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, environmentalism, geography, geoliteracy, reading comprehension, visual literacy

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9. Three Ways to Teach Etched In Clay by Andrea Cheng

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

1. Teaching Students About Narrator Bias

Etched In Clay is a compelling case study for narrator bias and trustworthiness. The text structure with 13 narrators and its economy of words make Dave’s story captivating, especially to middle grade Etched in Clay written and illustrated by Andrea Chengstudents who are beginning to engage with primary sources from the period of American slavery. Students can analyze how each speaker’s social experiences, status, motivations, and values influence his/her point of view, such as evaluating the poems of the slave-owners who would have had a vested interest in popularizing a particular narrative of slavery.

Using multiple perspectives to tell the story of one life is a striking display of how events can be interpreted and portrayed by different positions in the community. Students face the task of examining the meaning and nuance of each narrator (13 in total!) and what they choose to convey (or don’t).

Discussion questions include:

  • Why might the author choose to share Dave’s story using multiple speakers? How do multiple narrations develop or affirm the central idea?
  • How do the author’s choices of telling a historical story in present tense and first person narration affect our sympathy toward the narrators and events in the book?
  • Select a poem, such as “Nat Turner,” and defend why the author chose a particular narrator to tell that event or moment. How would the event and poem be different if another, like Reuben Drake, had told it?
  • Are there narrators the readers can trust more than others? Why or why not? What makes a narrator (un)trustworthy? How is each narrator (un)reliable? Why might one of these narrators not tell readers the “whole” truth? Does having more than one narrator make the story overall more reliable? Why or why not?
  • How does a narrator’s position in society or in Dave’s life affect what he/she knows? How does the historical context affect what a narrator may or may not know and his/her reliability? How can readers check a narrator’s knowledge of facts?
  • What is the motivation of each narrator to share?
  • Does this alternation between narrators build compassion or detachment for Dave in readers? How so?
  • Why is it important to learn the history of slavery from slaves themselves?
  • Compare and contrast the conditions of slavery from Dave’s point of view and Lewis Miles.
  • How do the slaveholders depict the relationships with their slaves? How do the slaves depict their relationships with the slaveholders?
  • Compare Dave and Lewis Miles’ perceptions of the Civil War.
  • Consider whether Dave and David Drake should be considered one perspective or two.
  • Contrast how each narrator feels about antebellum South Carolina.
  • Who might be the audience the narrators are telling their version of events to (themselves, God, a news reporter, etc.)? Are they the same? Why is intended audience important to consider?
  • Argue whether 13 points of view flesh out this figure or make Dave and his life even more elusive.

2. Poetry Month and Primary Sources

As “Primary Sources + Found Poetry = Celebrate Poetry Month” suggests, the Library of Congress proposes an innovative way to combine poetry and nonfiction. Teaching With The Library of Congress recently re-posted the Found Poetry Primary Source Set that “supports students in honing their reading and historical comprehension skills by creating poetry based upon informational text and images.” Students will study primary source documents, pull words and phrases that show the central idea, and then use those pieces to create their own poems.

This project not only enables teachers to identify whether a student grasps a central idea of a text, but also encourages students to interact with primary sources in much the same way as Etched In Clay’s Andrea Cheng. When researching Dave’s life and drawing inspiration for her verses, Andrea Cheng integrated the small pieces of evidence of Dave’s life, including poems on his pots and the bills of sale.

3. Common Core and the Appendix B Document

Many middle school educators are currently using Henrietta Buckmaster’s “Underground Railroad,” a recommended text exemplar for grades 4-5, and Ann Petry’s Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave, Written by Himself, recommended text exemplars for grades 6-8 in the Common Core State Standards’ Appendix B document.

Educators can couple Etched In Clay with those texts to involve reluctant or struggling readers, prepare incoming middle school students, and scaffold content and language for English Language Learners. Additionally, Andrea Cheng’s biography offers educators an inquiry-based project for ready and advanced readers to analyze “how two texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9).

For a more inclusive, diversity-themed collection of contemporary authors and characters of color, check out our Appendix B Diversity Supplement.

Further reading:

Andrea Cheng on Writing Biography in Verse

A Poem from Etched in Clay


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: African/African American Interest, appendix b, CCSS, close reading, common core standards, Educators, ELA common core standards, History, National Poetry Month, poetry, reading comprehension, slavery

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10. Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners In Elementary and Middle School

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

The Storyteller's Candle

from The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucia Gonzalez

Many of our classrooms include students whose home language is not English. In fact, EngageNY released a report documenting that in 2012-2013 New York State alone taught students who spoke more than 140 languages at home with Spanish making up nearly 65% of all English Language Learners.

Teaching students who are English Language Learners is enormously rewarding and meaningful. However, it at times can feel overwhelming, especially for those who have ever juggled multiple languages at once in the same classroom, supported a student whose language few of their peers or staff spoke, or worked with a student who had little formal school experience beforehand.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a new practice guide for teaching academic content and literacy to English Learners in elementary and middle school. In this report, IES presents four recommendations to teach and develop English language skills in grades K-8.

Prestwick Café describes why it is critical to give students tools they can apply on their own, like Greek and Latin roots, and points out that even if we teach 10 new words a week all school year long, that is merely 400 vocabulary words—not nearly enough for a student’s journey to become “career and college ready” by high school graduation. While we can not teach every vocabulary word that our students will need or might come across in their reading, we can give them the strategies to build their vocabulary with and without us.

Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the practice guide’s first recommendationchoosing and teaching a set of academic vocabulary words over the course of several days in a variety of instructional activities and what it looks like in action with our books. Using the IES practice guide, we will demonstrate how to choose a text for English Language Learners and significant vocabulary words, to teach selected words, and to incorporate listening, speaking, writing, and reading practice for ELLs in vocabulary instruction.

 

Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche

Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche

Additional information, activities and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English Language Learners (ELLs) can be found at ¡Colorín Colorado!

Further reading on supporting English Language Learners in the classroom from The Open Book blog:

Using Dual Language And Bilingual Books And Parent-Volunteers To Foster Deep Thinking

Using Dual Language And Bilingual Books In First And Second Grade

Using Dual Language And Bilingual Books In Third And Fourth Grade

 

 


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, common core standards, Educators, ELA common core standards, elementary school, ell, middle school, reading comprehension

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11. Strategies For Teaching English Language Learners—Part 4: Writing, Speaking, & Listening Practice

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science (IES) and What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released the latest educator’s guide to present best instructional practices for English Language Learners. Over the last several weeks, I’ve looked at several different strategies for teaching English Language Learners based on that guide’s recommendations.

Today, we’ll take a look at how to incorporate vocabulary instruction into activities that support listening, speaking, and writing practice for English Language Learners. This is the final week I will focus on the guide’s first recommendation: Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days using a variety of instructional activities.

Drumbeat in Our Feet

Drumbeat in Our Feet

Using the Lee & Low informational text, Drumbeat in Our Feet, as my model text, I applied the guide’s recommendations on how to choose an appropriate text and words for English Language Learners and how to teach the vocabulary over several days. See how I chose these words here and taught their meanings here.

Using Drumbeat in Our Feet and the IES’s process, my target words are origins, vital, ethnically, diverse, unique, vibrant and varied from the “Origins of African Dance” excerpt.

1. IES: Facilitate structured discussions to increase opportunities for students to talk about academic words. Always anchor these discussions around the topics that are present in the text and that do not have a clear-cut right or wrong answer. The goal is for students to learn to articulate a position or point of view and learn to defend their perspective or analysis. (P. 20)

Lee & Low: Over the course of multiple days, I am teaching a different part to each word’s meaning. After doing so, I want to create open-ended questions for whole or small group discussion that will allow my students to practice using the target words.

As my target words are origins, vital, ethnically, diverse, unique, vibrant and varied from the “Origins of African Dance” excerpt in Drumbeat In Our Feet, I would use these throughout the week for peer-to-peer discussion. This looks like:

  • Why would the authors want to discuss the diverse land and countries of Africa in a book about African dance?
  • Why might African dance vary in form?
  • Why should we study the origins of African dance today?
  • What factors might contribute to the diversity in African dance?

2. IES: Require students to use target words in their writing activities. (P. 21)

Lee & Low: Use the prompts above or focus on vocabulary-specific prompts. This looks like:

  • What are the origins of your family?
  • Write about the origins of a superhero.
  • Create a story about the origins of the universe or how life began.
  • Is it important to you to feel unique? Why or why not?
  • What are at least two things vital to all life forms?

Although we cannot explicitly teach all academic and content-specific words our students will need to know in their educations and careers, we can be strategic in how we teach 5-8 words a week so they can apply these word strategies to new words they come across on their own.

Further reading on supporting English Language Learners in the classroom:

 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: close reading, Educators, ELA common core standards, ELLs, English Language Learners, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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12. Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Ballparks!

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

catchingthemoon022

Marcenia Toni Stone Lyle

Each week this summer, we are pairing Lee & Low titles to your favorite summer destinations with fun activities!

Your summer outing: the Ballpark, Baseball Hall of Fame, or Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Book recommendations:

William Hoy

William Hoy

Questions during reading:

  • What position does this ball player hold and what responsibilities are involved in that position?
  • Why does this person have a difficult time being allowed to play baseball?
  • How does this person demonstrate persistence?
  • What do you think this ball player accomplished for ball players of today?
  • How has baseball and who can play changed (or not changed) over time?
  • How does baseball encourage tolerance or acceptance?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the statement: Baseball is America’s favorite pastime? Why?


Activities
:

Louis Sockalexis

Louis Sockalexis

Create a baseball trading card!

Materials: a school individual-sized milk carton, white paper, glue stick, markers or crayons

  1. Using the book or the baseball museum websites, research the player’s full name, position, team(s), league(s), dates of career, any honors, batting average, and a fascinating fact.
  2. Cut the individual-sized milk carton with scissors so that you have one rectangle side panel. The rest of the carton can be discarded.
  3. Cover both sides of the side panel with white paper and secure with a glue stick.
  4. On one side, draw the player’s portrait or picture of the player in action. The picture is typically portrait orientation, but it can be landscape orientation.
  5. At the bottom of the picture, write the player’s name.
  6. On the other side of the trading card, write the player’s position, team(s), league(s), dates of career, any honors, batting average, and a fascinating fact (if there’s room!).

Write and think like a ball player!

Imagine you are the ball player you just read. As this person,

  • Write a diary entry about one or more of the events in the story: when you first found out you were selected to play on the team; how you felt the first time a fan, coach, or other player treated you poorly; or when you finally felt accepted by fans and other players for your abilities.
  • Write a letter or email to your parents about why you want to play baseball and what support you are or are not getting from fans and the other players.
  • Write a blog post or letter to the editor to your fans describing your abilities, what makes baseball rewarding for you, and how your role as a minority in baseball is important.
Marcenia Toni Stone Lyle

Marcenia Toni Stone Lyle

For further reading:


Filed under: Educator Resources Tagged: diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, History, reading comprehension, summer, summer reading

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13. 5 Tips to Engage Latino Families and Students

Peggy McLeod, Ed. D. is Deputy Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

Peggy McLeod, Ed. D. is Deputy Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

Today we are featuring one of First Book’s celebrity blog series. Each month First Book connects with influential voices who share a belief in the power of literacy, and who have worked with First Book to curate a unique collection that inspires a love of reading and learning. All recommended books are available at deeply discounted prices on the First Book Marketplace to educators and programs serving children in need. Peggy McLeod, Ed. D. the Deputy Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), writes on engaging Latino families and children in reading and learning.

Any student who has parents that understand the journey from preschool to college is better equipped to navigate the road to long-term student success. While parent engagement is critical to increasing educational attainment for all children, engaging Latino parents in their children’s schooling has typically been challenging – often for linguistic and cultural reasons.

The National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) parent engagement program is designed to eliminate these challenges and create strong connections between schools, parents, and their children. A bilingual curriculum designed to be administered by school staff, the Padres Comprometidos program empowers Latino parents who haven’t typically been connected to their children’s school. Many of the parents the program reaches are low-income, Spanish-speaking, first and second generation immigrants. Through Padres Comprometidos, these parents gain a deeper understanding of what the journey to academic success will be like, and how they can play a role in preparing their children for higher education. Prior to participating in the program, not all parents expected their children to attend college. After the program, 100% of parents indicated that they expected their children to attend college.

Much of Padres Comprometidos success rests on the program’s ability to address language and culture as assets, rather than as obstacles to be overcome. This asset building strategy extends to NCLR’s partnership with First Book. Together, we’re working to ensure Latino children of all ages have access to books that are culturally and linguistically relevant, books they need to become enthusiastic readers inside and outside of the classroom. Click here to access the three parent engagement curricula developed by NCLR—tailored to parents of preschool, elementary and secondary school students.

Below you will find a few tips and titles that can help you engage families and get children – and their parents and caregivers – reading and learning.

La Llorona

La Llorona

1. Find ways to connect stories that parents know about to help them engage in reading and conversation with their children. This Mexican folktale can open that door: La Llorona .

 

Spanish-English Dictionary

Spanish-English Dictionary

2. Keep an English/Spanish dictionary handy to use when you have a parent visiting or to give away to a parent or caregiver who needs it. It will show them that you’re making an effort to engage in their language of comfort, such as Webster’s Everyday Spanish-English Dictionary.

The Storyteller's Candle

The Storyteller’s Candle

 

3. Learn about the children you serve and their heritage, and identify books that will affirm them. This Pura Belpré award winner is actually about Pura Belpré, the first Latina (Puerto Rican) to head a public library system: The Storyteller’s Candle.

Grandma and Me at the Flea

Grandma and Me at the Flea

 

4. Share books that include some of the everyday experiences of the children and neighborhoods you serve, like this story highlighting the value of community and family: Grandma and Me at the Flea.

My Colors, My World

My Colors, My World

 

5. Bilingual books provide family members and caregivers the opportunity to read the same books their children are reading, but in their language of comfort. Families will love reading about all the colors of the rainbow in English and Spanish: My Colors My World.

Sign up with First Book to access these and other great titles on the First Book Marketplace.


Filed under: Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: bilingual education, dual language, Educators, ELA common core standards, hispanic heritage, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, parents, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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14. Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Beaches!

Each week this summer, we are pairing Lee & Low titles to your favorite summer destinations with fun activities!

Our motto this summer: Love Books + Keep Cool + Learn Something New

Your summer outing: the BEACH

Book recommendations:

Surfer of the Century cover

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku

Questions during reading:

  • What is this person’s relationship to the ocean? How does this person’s relationship to the ocean change from the beginning to the end of the story?
  • How does this person show appreciation for the ocean?
  • How is the ocean/beach a part of this person’s identity?
  • Look at a map of the world and locate the island this person is from. What is the capital? What ocean surrounds it? Infer what the climate is like based on the island’s location. What makes this island unique?
  • How does this person demonstrate pride in his/her culture?
  • How does this person remember home even when far away from home?

Seaside DreamActivity:

Create a beach ball collage!

Materials: poster paper, pencil, markers, colored pencils or crayons, assortment of magazines

  1. Using a pencil, draw a large circle on the poster paper.
  2. Inside the circle, draw a small circle about the size of a quarter somewhere off center.
  3. Draw a curved line from the small circle to the large circle. Repeat drawing lines until you have six lines and six spaces. Each curved line should face the same direction in a pinwheel formation. The lines will be different lengths and can be varying widths apart from each other (this will give it a 3-D effect).
  4. With a black marker, trace over the pencil so the beach ball stands out on the poster paper.
  5. Optional: lightly fill in each segment a different color using colored pencils or crayons.
  6. Select and cut out pictures and words from the assortment of magazines to answer the question: What makes the beach special to you?
  7. In each of the six beach ball segments, draw or glue pictures. In one section, think about what foods you eat while at the beach. What animals have you seen at the beach? What do you always make sure to pack before you head out? What activities do you like to do at the beach? Who do you play with while there?

For further reading:Seaside Dream

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Educator Resources, Holidays and Celebrations, Summer Tagged: children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, holidays, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, summer, summer reading

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15. ‘Ebonics’ in flux

By Tim Allen


On this day forty years ago, the African American psychologist Robert Williams coined the term “Ebonics” during an education conference held at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. At the time, his audience was receptive to, even enthusiastic about, the word. But invoke the word “Ebonics” today and you’ll have no trouble raising the hackles of educators, journalists, linguists, and anyone else who might have an opinion about how people speak. (That basically accounts for all of us, right?) The meaning of the controversial term, however, has never been entirely stable.

For Williams, Ebonics encompassed not only the language of African Americans, but also their social and cultural histories. Williams fashioned the word “Ebonics”—a portmanteau of the words “ebony” (black) and “phonics” (sounds)—in order to address a perceived lack of understanding of the shared linguistic heritage of those who are descended from African slaves, whether in North America, the Caribbean, or Africa. Williams and several other scholars in attendance at the 1973 conference felt that the then-prevalent term “Black English” was insufficient to describe the totality of this legacy.

Ebonics managed to stay under the radar for the next couple of decades, but then re-emerged at the center of a national controversy surrounding linguistic, cultural, and racial diversity in late 1996. At that time, the Oakland, California school board, in an attempt to address some of the challenges of effectively teaching standard American English to African American schoolchildren, passed a resolution recognizing the utility of Ebonics in the classroom. The resolution suggested that teachers should acknowledge the legitimacy of the language that their students actually spoke and use it as a sort of tool in Standard English instruction. Many critics understood this idea as a lowering of standards and an endorsement of “slang”, but the proposed use of Ebonics in the classroom did not strike most linguists or educators as particularly troublesome. However, the resolution also initially characterized Ebonics as a language nearly entirely separate from English. (For example, the primary advocate of this theory, Ernie Smith, has called Ebonics “an antonym for Black English.” (Beyond Ebonics, p. 21)) The divisive idea that “Ebonics” could be considered its own language—not an English dialect but more closely related to West African languages—rubbed many people the wrong way and gave a number of detractors additional fodder for their derision.

Linguists were quick to respond to the controversy and offer their own understanding of “Ebonics”. In the midst of the Oakland debate, the Linguistic Society of America resolved that Ebonics is a speech variety that is “systematic and rule-governed like all natural speech varieties. […] Characterizations of Ebonics as “slang,” “mutant,” ” lazy,” “defective,” “ungrammatical,” or “broken English” are incorrect and demeaning.” The linguists refused to make a pronouncement on the status of Ebonics as either a language or dialect, stating that the distinction was largely a political or social one. However, most linguists agree on the notion that the linguistic features described by “Ebonics” compose a dialect of English that they would more likely call “African American Vernacular English” (AAVE) or perhaps “Black English Vernacular”. This dialect is one among many American English dialects, including Chicano English, Southern English, and New England English.

And if the meaning of “Ebonics” weren’t muddy enough, a fourth perspective on the term emerged around the time of the Oakland debate. Developed by Professor Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay, this idea takes the original view of Ebonics as a descriptive term for languages spoken by the descendants of West African slaves and expands it to cover the language of anyone from Africa or in the African diaspora. Her Afrocentric vision of Ebonics, in linguist John Baugh’s estimation, “elevates racial unity, but it does so at the expense of linguistic accuracy.” (Beyond Ebonics, p. 23)

The term “Ebonics” seems to have fallen out of favor recently, perhaps due to the unpleasant associations with racially-tinged debate that it engenders (not to mention the confusing multitude of definitions it has produced!). However, the legacy of the Ebonics controversy that erupted in the United States in 1996 and 1997 has been analyzed extensively by scholars of language, politics, and race in subsequent years. And while “Ebonics”, the word, may have a reduced presence in our collective vocabulary, many of the larger issues surrounding its controversial history are still with us: How do we improve the academic achievement of African American children? How can we best teach English in school? How do we understand African American linguistic heritage in the context of American culture? Answers to these questions may not be immediately forthcoming, but we can, perhaps, thank “Ebonics” for moving the national conversation forward.

Tim Allen is an Assistant Editor for the Oxford African American Studies Center.

The Oxford African American Studies Center combines the authority of carefully edited reference works with sophisticated technology to create the most comprehensive collection of scholarship available online to focus on the lives and events which have shaped African American and African history and culture. It provides students, scholars and librarians with more than 10,000 articles by top scholars in the field.

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16. “What does this book have to do with me?” Why Mirror and Window Books Are Important for All Readers

Katie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal. 

When we lived in Brooklyn, I knew my sons were growing up in a diverse community. They understood that people have different skin colors. That people speak different languages. That people eat different foods. That people believe different things. That we all share a common humanity. That life is full of complexity.

Now we live in the woods and appreciate the quiet of country living but this is far from a diverse community. For my boys, there is greater diversity in the pages of a book than on the streets of their town. Multicultural children’s literature is a doorway into greater understanding that their cultural background is not the only cultural background. That their way of speaking is not the only way of speaking. That their point of view is not shared by everyone.

When we open a book and start to read a story, we use our imaginations to walk through whatever world the author has created. Children’s literature is full of stories about boys and girls that look like my children. Rudine Sims Bishop uses the terms mirror books and window books to describe how we both see ourselves and see others when we read literature. The characters my sons encounter are often mirrors and they find their life experiences reflected in the books they read. Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but do they have enough access to high-quality stories that represent other cultural backgrounds in a positive way?

artwork from Amazing Faces

artwork by Chris Soentpiet from Amazing Faces

My sons need more than mirror books. As I scan our reading shelves at home I know we can do better. When I walk into many classrooms, I know they too can do better. My sons and all children need books that provide windows into other life experiences to understand the diverse world we live in and to build connections to all other humans. After all, when the lighting is just right can’t a window become a mirror?

My friend, colleague, and global literacy leader Pam Allyn takes Charlotte’s Web with her when she travels to Lit Clubs in Kenya, Haiti, and South Korea. She takes Charlotte’s Web because even though the children she meets do not look like or speak like Fern, there is a shared humanity in E. B. White’s words that is unparalleled, and all children can find a mirror in Fern’s courageous spirit. Pam has created Lit Clubs and Lit Camps through her organization LitWorld that emphasize the human strengths found in stories. Imagine if all the stories we read with children were framed around human strengths? What strengths would you choose?

Baseball Saved Us cover

Of course, stories also help us understand that the world we live in is not what it should be. Stories can help young children understand that racism very much exists in this country, and that power is unequally distributed based on race, class, and gender. For children from dominant groups, window moments in stories come when the children realize they hold a powerful place in society and that there is something unjust about this. Two stories that center on human strength and offer powerful mirror/window possibilities for children are Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki and Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson. Baseball Saved Us is about an underdog believing in himself and the strength that comes from confidence, but it also tells about an ugly chapter in United States history when Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II. Seeds of Change is a story of perseverance in the face of political opposition and bias against women. It is also about respecting nature and the power of collective action to change a landscape and the sustainability of a nation. There are many more such stories. Yet, are we reading them to children at home and in our classrooms?

Seeds of Change cover

President Obama in his Second Inaugural Address emphasized the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.” Stories can help children realize this. Isn’t a sense of social justice something we want all children to develop? Through the thoughtful selection of books we read to our children we take a step toward creating adults who desire a world that is better than the one we live in today.

So, parents and teachers, what can you do?

  • Acknowledge that every story has mirror and window possibilities
  • Emphasize that we live in a diverse society
  • Arm students with stories where their background is represented in a positive light and where their life experiences are validated
  • Discuss themes in stories to unpack mirror possibilities for all children
  • Read aloud stories that represent positive aspects of the human spirit and where characters rally together for collective action
  • Be open to discussions of inequality that you see in stories and in life; discuss with children a vision for a better world
  • Look for links to literacy standards such as the Common Core State Standards Reading Literature Standard 6 across grade levels; this is a strand of standards that emphasizes point of view

Further reading:

What’s in your classroom library? Rethinking Common Core recommended texts

A More Diverse Appendix B


Filed under: Book Lists, Curriculum Corner, guest blogger, Resources Tagged: common core standards, diversity, Educators, Power of Words, Race issues, windows and mirrors

1 Comments on “What does this book have to do with me?” Why Mirror and Window Books Are Important for All Readers, last added: 2/11/2013
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17. UPDATE: A More Multicultural Appendix B

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of meeting with a literacy expert who was SUPER involved with the creation of the Common Core Standards (!!!!!), and she gave me some important feedback about the Appendix B supplement  I posted last week. To refresh your memory, what we’ve done is compiled a supplement to Appendix B that includes both contemporary literature and authors/characters of color, and that also meets the criteria (complexity, quality, range) used by the authors of the Common Core. We were lucky enough to have this literacy expert take a look at our supplement, and she gave some great suggestions:

  1. The texts selected for Read Aloud can be outside the text complexity bands for each grade cluster.
  2. Texts that are Read Aloud in lower grades can be read as Independent Reading in upper grades.

We’ve incorporated these ideas into our Appendix B supplement. So, without further ado, click here for a PDF of our new and improved multicultural supplement to the Common Core’s Appendix B.

Know who else is excited about the updated Appendix B list? This guy:

Smiling Dog" by Benjamin Liew

“Smiling Dog” by Benjamin Liew

Further Reading:

What’s in your classroom? Rethinking Common Core recommended texts

Why Window and Mirror Books are Important for All Readers


Filed under: Curriculum Corner, Resources Tagged: appendix b, Book Lists, common core standards, common core standards appendix b, common core standards ela appendix b, common core standards language arts appendix b, diversity, Educators, exemplar texts appendix B, guided reading, independent reading, multicultural books, Read Alouds, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, smiling dogs

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18. Best Books for Kids & Teens 2013

Looking for the best books for your kids and teens? Of course you are! Fortunately, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre  (a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1976) publishes just such a list. And we’re thrilled to share that sixteen Orca titles made the list for Spring 2013.

“All of the titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, and school and public librarians from across Canada. The reviewed materials include picture books, junior/intermediate fiction, graphic novels, and powerful teen fiction, in addition to a wide array of non-fiction, magazines and audio/video resources.” —Canadian Children’s Book Centre website

The following Orca titles were selected for the list this season. Congratulations to all the authors on their achievement!

Best Books for Kids and TeensClose to the Heel, Norah McClintock
Dead Run, Sean Rodman
Edge of Flight, Kate Jaimet
High Wire, Melanie Jackson
I, Witness, Norah McClintock and Mike Deas
Jump Cut, Ted Staunton
Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug, Susan Musgrave
Oracle, Alex Van Tol
Pieces of Me, Darlene Ryan
Prince for a Princess, Eric Walters
Pyro, Monique Polak
Redwing, Holly Bennett
Seeing Orange, Sara Cassidy
Shallow Grave, Alex Van Tol
Three Little Words, Sarah N. Harvey
Uncle Wally’s Old Brown Shoe, Wallace Edwards

CCBC members receive a copy of Best Books for Kids & Teens as part of their membership package, as do subscribers to Canadian Children’s Book News.

Best Books for Kids & Teens can be purchased at select bookstores or online at: www.bookcentre.ca.

 

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19. Read! Build! Play! With Lego and Doors in the Air

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 11.41.27 AMThe Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has teamed up with LEGO® DUPLO® to expand the Read! Build! Play initiative by creating the LEGO® DUPLO® Read! Build! Play! 2013 Summer Reading List.  This reading list features recommended titles that inspire play for children age 5 and under and is free to download.

To accompany the Read! Build! Play! 2013 Summer Reading List, LEGO® DUPLO® has created a free downloadable parent activity guide.  This guide includes inspirational building instructions matched with each book for children and their caregivers. Doors in the Air (Orca Book Publishers, 2012) by David Weale and illustrated by Pierre Pratt is one of five titles featured in the Summer Activity Guide for children ages 3-5.

Visit www.readbuildplay.com to download free Summer Activity Guides today. Or click here to direct download the Activity Guide featuring Doors in the Air.

More About Doors in the Air

Doors in the Air is the story of a boy who is fascinated by doors. He marvels at how stepping through a doorway can take him from one world to another. He is especially enthralled by the doors of his imagination, which he refers to as “doors in the air.” He delights in discovering that when he passes through these doors, he leaves behind all feelings of boredom, fear and unpleasantness. Doors in the Air is a lilting journey through house doors, dream doors and, best of all, doors in the air.

“Surreal in its effect, this celebration of the creative mind encourages young readers and listeners to open doors of their own.” —Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2012

“Written in Seussian rhyming couplets…[and] employing alliteration that makes reading it aloud a pleasure…Doors in the Air is a fantastical triumph, celebrating the spaces in which the ordinary and the extraordinary intersect.” —Quill & Quire, May 1, 2012

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20. Raising a Reader with Comics and Graphic Novels

Raising a reader: how comics and graphic novels can help your kids love to read!

 

Great article by Cory Doctorow highlighting a new educational resource about comics’ role in literacy. Titled “Raising a Reader” and written by Dr. Meryl Jaffee, this resource is aimed at parents and educators and is available in PDF form for free download.
raisingareader

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21. Using Infographics in the Classroom to Teach Visual Literacy

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Infographics’ format and economy of words make infographics engaging and accessible to children, reluctant readers, visual learners, and English Language Learners. As infographics contain multiple layers of information, they are a challenging medium for students to practice inferences and interpretation. Lee & Low Books’ infographic series on the diversity gap in major spheres of influence is a valuable vehicle to build students’ visual literacy skills and understanding of diversity. The following discussion questions and suggested activities were created based on the Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards infographic, but these can be applied to the rest of the series.

Infographic: The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards

Infographic: The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards (click to enlarge)

Discussion questions to consider with your students:

  1. What patterns do you see? What trends do you see? How are the different charts related?
  2. What is the central idea of this infographic? How do the words, phrases, and visuals interact to affirm the central idea?
  3. Based on the infographic, what does “diversity gap” mean in terms of the Academy Awards?
  4. What might the author’s purpose be in choosing this medium to convey the central idea (to shame, inspire, shock, etc.)?
  5. Does the infographic make the central idea clear and obvious? How does the infographic use an economy of words, language, typography, pie charts, bar graphs, negative space, and title to communicate the central idea?
  6. What type of infographic is this (flow chart, web, map, graph, diagram, table, timeline)? What might the author’s purpose be in choosing this type of infographic? How effective is this format of infographic at organizing and displaying data compared to just text?
  7. Evaluate the effectiveness of the infographic as a form of communication as compared to text alone. Is this the most effective and convincing way to convey information about a lack of diversity at the Academy Awards? Why or why not?
  8. Why might the creators have assembled this information about the Academy Awards and race at all?
  9. Who is the intended audience (moviegoers, actors, directors, writers, producers, movie studios, general public, government officials)? What might the creators of this infographic want them to do with this information?
  10. What is the context of this infographic? What major events in the United States were taking place when this infographic was created? Why is it important to understand the context of the infographic?
  11. Is this infographic’s argument and presentation persuasive or compelling? Why or why not? Analyze this infographic’s effectiveness in inspiring activism.
  12. Based on the information presented, what can you predict future trends will be for award winners, actors, directors, producers, and writers?
  13. Can you determine causes for the lack of diversity in this infographic? Why or why not? How might researchers go about figuring out the cause(s) for the historical and current lack of diversity in the Academy Awards?
  14. What is the impact of a lack of diversity amongst writers, actors, producers, directors, and award winners? What does it mean to be a young child growing up and consuming this form of media (movies)? What will they see? What will they not see? Tell me more about the possible effects of this situation and current trends.

Suggested activities:

  1. Challenge students to translate this infographic’s central idea into a written argument. Students should use key details and evidence from the infographic to assert the central idea.
  2. Have students revise or add on to make the infographic more effective. Students should consider format, adding or deleting information, and more. What would make the infographic stronger, more persuasive, or more memorable?
  3. Encourage students to investigate how these percentages compare to the general public. Students can use the United States Census data for demographics.
  4. Have students investigate possible causes for the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards. Urge students to propose ways to change these trends.
  5. If possible, ask students to research the percent of moviegoers who are people of color. Check industry publications or major news periodicals. How do these numbers compare to the information in the infographic?
  6. Permit students to interview their grade, class, or school on questions, including: Do you go to the movies? How often? What kinds of movies do you see? Who are your favorite actor and actress in Hollywood today? Who is a director/actor/actress of color that you have seen in a movie recently? Why do you think there aren’t more movies by and with people of color? Students can organize and display data in graphs and present findings to the class. Reflect on this information’s relationship to the infographic’s central idea.
  7. Dig deeper—investigate the artists that were nominated each year. How many were people of color over those 85 years? What roles did these artists play in the movies they were nominated for? What genres of movies were they in for this nomination? Explore the people of color who did win best actress or best actor. What roles did they play and what kind of movies were they in when they won for best acting?
  8. Compare this to other Lee & Low Books’ infographics in the series: The Tony Awards,  The Emmy Awards, Children’s Book Publishing, The NY Times Top 10 Bestsellers List, and American Politics. Consider central idea, evidence, format, and audience.
  9. Update the information to include the 2013 and 2014 Academy Awards results. What changed? What did not change?

For further reading on teaching visual literacy and diversity in the classroom, check out these fantastic resources:

How are you building visual literacy skills in the classroom? Let us know below!


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: Academy Awards, CCSS, common core standards, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, History, infographics, Oscars, Race issues, reading comprehension, teaching about race, visual literacy

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22. The Best Cheerleaders May Come In the Smallest Packages: How Siblings Affect Literacy Education

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Home to Medicine Mountain

Home to Medicine Mountain

My students and their siblings were often alone or spent a lot of time with each other. For some, siblings were the only constant in their lives. Fittingly, siblings and close-in-age relatives held powerful sway and influence over each other.

I found that brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbors saw each other’s success as their OWN success. One of my third-graders danced in the middle of the carpet for twelve minutes after he heard the intercom announcement that his fifth-grade sister would be the new school president of the student council. What if I could channel that excitement towards literacy?

Brothers and sisters WANTED to see their siblings succeed. Sure, when one of my third-graders struggled to translate from English to Spanish that she hadn’t turned her homework in for a week at the parent-teacher conference, her older sister was delighted to impart the correct information to their mother.

In addition to using siblings for accountability and parent-teacher bridges, siblings became an incredible reward and relationship in my classroom. When my students, especially the struggling readers, made it to a new level, aced an assessment, or turned in excellent high-quality work, I wrote laudatory notes and let those students deliver them to their siblings in another classroom.

Mama Elizabeti

Mama Elizabeti

This system turned out to be just as powerful as a celebratory phone call home to adults, but I was recognizing the child in real time and recognizing the strength of the family presence at school. And it went further: the younger or older sibling was able to celebrate my student in their classroom and admire them publicly amidst their peers for academic achievement. There are not enough Dollar Tree prizes to compete with that kind of reward.

Beyond my school, psychologists have noticed the effect older brothers and sisters can have. In fact, NPR explored the positive and negative consequences of older sibling influence in a segment called, “Big Sibling’s Big Influence: Some Behaviors Run In The Family.”

At Arlington Elementary in Arlington, Tennessee, The Jackson Sun reported how teachers are recruiting older students to read to younger students in their Big Brothers, Big Sisters Reading Club every morning before school. More advanced students can relate to struggling readers and explain strategies in a friendly, non-high-stakes atmosphere.

In Carmel Valley, California, the Read To Me Project is an early literacy program that builds school readiness by engaging elementary brothers and sisters to read to their siblings. So far, 350 participating older siblings are reading to 443 young children across four school districts.

For Dr. Seuss’ Birthday last year at my school in the Bay Area, our kindergarten teachers invited the third-graders to read to them. Everyone was ecstatic to read to their brother, sister, cousin, or neighbor. My scholars had the opportunity to show off the chapter books they were tackling and feel like experts as they helped the kinders decode and recognize sight words. The kinders, in turn, received extra reading time, exposure to high-quality texts, and an opportunity to show off how remarkable their older sibling was.

One of my students who was an advanced learner, but had a very unstable home life, was very, very protective of his three younger brothers. His active kinder brother had refused to read with any third-grader, hiding each time another class of third-graders came throughout the day. Not until the last period arrived and his third-grade brother, my student, finally appeared did this kinder cuddle up to read. Even though my student brought a dense, picture-less chapter book on sharks and their presence in Fiji cultural traditions, his kinder brother sat in rapt attention for nearly an hour soaking in every word from his big brother.

We know the results on a child’s motivation and confidence when parents relish in their child’s success, so why don’t we harness that effect from siblings as well? Equipping our children with the love for reading and the skills needed to confront real world problems involves every stakeholder in our children’s lives—and that may include their smallest (but loudest!) cheerleaders.

If you need more inspiration, check out these books with strong sibling relationships:

Summer of the Mariposas

Summer of the Mariposas


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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23. Where Do Boys Belong In Women’s History Month?

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Irena's Jars Of Secrets

Irena’s Jars Of Secrets

I entered the education field to broaden the minds of a new generation and teach the truths that I felt I had missed or was denied in my own education. Indeed, I was not alone in those motivations. According to the Primary Sources project by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of the more than 20,000 public school classroom teachers polled, 85% of teachers say they chose the profession in order to make a difference in children’s lives.

Despite my righteous ambitions, once in the classroom, I was hesitant to broach the conversation about gender with a mixed class of boys and girls. So many of my own college classes that focused on social justice and equality issues were almost entirely women.

Acutely aware of my students’ fragile perception of themselves, I was intimated by the prospect of guiding the discussion. When I was leading a classroom of my own, it was often easier to concentrate on the benign world of synonyms, dictionary skills, main idea, and genre features than push my students to think about what role gender plays in achievement, history, and identity.

I wondered: How do we teach about women’s history and contributions without alienating boys? Will boys disengage if a girl or woman is on the cover or is the main character? In this day and age, do girls still need explicit attention drawn to high-achievers that share their gender?

Leading up to my first month of March as a teacher, I thought I would “just” read more books with women as the central figures during Women’s History Month, but not explicitly point out that these were all women so as not to freak out boys and hope the girls would pick up on my subliminal messages of empowerment….

Face palm

Insert face palm here.

This thinking was a huge disservice to ALL of my students’ educations. As I introduced books with prominent women historic figures or girl characters, I realized if the books were about gender, we would discuss identity and tolerance. Other times if the story just happened to have a girl character, but gender wasn’t a central feature of the story, my scholars just wanted to focus on the great story and how the universal lessons applied to their lives.

Four lessons to think about when teaching women’s history so both boys AND girls grow and learn:

  1. Two words: cool stories. Above all, if it’s a great story, it doesn’t matter who is on the cover. Everyone will want to sit up and participate.
  2. Pick contemporary and diverse stories. To continue to show the relevancy of the women’s movements and contributions of women to society, we owe it to all of our students to find more contemporary examples of women figures and showcase more diverse participants in equality. Let’s keep exposing our kids to women of today and of different backgrounds.
  3. Show explicit examples of men championing women. Boys need to see great role models of men advocating for women alongside or behind the scenes. There are plenty of men who have been in the trenches with women fighting for social If we want to instill resiliency and develop children’s imaginations, we need to present children with stories about long odds, big dreams, and fantastic leadership that come in all shapes, sizes, and bodies.justice and as invested in their wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers achieving great success in a field of study as the women themselves. If we want future generations of men to respect and support women, we need to offer boys examples of how to recognize and champion women’s contributions. Boys and girls need to see that the struggles for equality impacted everyone and were not about one group’s success at the other’s detriment.
  4. Talk about the universal lesson and character traits. Everyone can learn from a story about overcoming obstacles, persistence, and courage. Women like Wangari Maathai and Pura Belpré fought for what they loved and believed was right first, and then fought for who they were and who they represented. If we want to instill resiliency and develop children’s imaginations, we need to present children with stories about long odds, big dreams, and fantastic leadership that come in all shapes, sizes, and bodies.

Throughout the year and especially during Women’s History Month, we need to teach that gender shouldn’t be an excuse to bar someone from exploring or contributing to a field of study. Concurrently, we want to show all students that gender can offer a unique perspective or approach that should be recognized and celebrated.

Alongside our girls, boys need the language of equality and a broader view of history. Women’s contributions advanced our society and continue to impact all of us. We need to teach that gender totally does matter and, at the same time, totally doesn’t matter.

Shining Star: The Story Of Anna May Wong

Shining Star: The Story Of Anna May Wong

Susan B. Anthony Is Great, But Who Else Do We Have? Here are books about high-achieving women from diverse backgrounds with diverse pursuits.

Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up The Stage

Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up The Stage

Women and The Men That Championed Them. Explore these books with awesome men celebrating awesome women:

Killer Of Enemies

Killer Of Enemies

Stories That Will Hook ’Em All. Here are stories so fun that it won’t matter who is on the cover…but the cover just happens to feature a girl:


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: children's books, diversity, Educators, Girls/women, History, holidays, Reading Aloud, reluctant readers, Wangari Maathai, women in history, women's history month

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24. Michelle Obama & Su Dongpo: A Character Analysis with Bloom’s Taxonomy

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

First Lady Michelle Obama travels to China this week from March 19-26 and will be focusing on the power and importance of education. In an open letter to American students, the First Lady writes, “During my trip, I’ll be visiting a university and two high schools in Beijing and Chengdu (which are two of China’s largest cities). I’ll be talking with students about their lives in China and telling them about America and the values and traditions we hold dear. I’ll be focusing in particular on the power and importance of education, both in my own life and in the lives of young people in both of our countries.”

We at Lee & Low Books wish we could join the First Lady, but since we can’t this time around, we will be reading the biography of one of China’s greatest statesmen, poets, and humanitarians, Su Dongpo. This scholar is a shining example of how persistence and dedication to one’s studies lead to achievement beyond the classroom and enable one to affect meaningful change.

Su Dongpo, Chinese Genius

Su Dongpo, Chinese Genius

This biography presents a rich setting for Standard 3 of the Common Core State Standards: character analysis. We follow Bloom’s Taxonomy to illustrate the range of questions you can use to meet your students’ needs and access their literary strengths. By creating a progression of questions within one standard, we differentiate for students within a class, provide extension opportunities for ready learners, or move the whole class from literal- to higher-level thinking over the course of several readings.

Knowledge:

  • What are Su Dongpo’s appearance/physical attributes, deeds/actions, thoughts/dialogue, and feelings/emotions?
  • What are other character’s opinions of and reactions to Su Dongpo?
  • Can you select sections showing how Su Dongpo relates to other characters?
  • How would you describe Su Dongpo in a paragraph?

Comprehension:

  • How would you classify Su Dongpo’s character trait(s) based on these actions, thoughts, and feelings above?
  • How would you summarize Su Dongpo’s opinion or feelings about Wang Anshi?
  • How would you describe Su Dongpo’s feelings about being banished from his job and home?
  • What problems does Su Dongpo face and how does he solve them?
  • How would you summarize Su Dongpo’s opinion about the purpose of government?

Application:

  • When Su Dongpo was twenty, he took the official exams and earned status as the First Scholar for his academic achievements. Based on what you know about Su Dongpo’s character traits, how would he have handled the situation differently if he had not earned such high marks the first time?
  • How would Su Dongpo react if his brother, Su Ziyou, became a corrupt government official?
  • What would need to happen or change for Su Dongpo to work for Emperor Zhezong?
  • How would Su Dongpo distinguish a “good” government from a “bad” government?
  • What would Su Dongpo likely think about our end of the year state assessments or the Common Core State Standards?
  • What advice do you think Su Dongpo would have for students who take state and national tests today?
  • If Su Dongpo worked for the U.S. Department of Education, what might Su Dongpo feel and think about the role of education in America today?

Analysis:

  • How did Su Dongpo’s upbringing prepare him for his career in government?
  • What inspired Su Dongpo’s beliefs about the purpose of government?
  • Why did Su Dongpo not care about “instant glory” or “worldly fame” when making a decision?
  • Compare Su Dongpo and Wang Anshi’s motivations for working in the government.

Synthesis:

  • Compose and present a speech that will communicate the thoughts and feelings of Su Dongpo to the Chinese people after he is pardoned when Emperor Zhezong dies.
  • Imagine you are Su Dongpo and write a diary account of your daily thoughts and activities. What would you say about the work that you do, the people you meet in government and in the villages, and the challenges you face?
  • Rewrite the scene of Su Dongpo hearing he is pardoned after the death of Emperor Zhezong. What would Su Dongpo feel and what would the Chinese people think about him if he were not pardoned?

Evaluation:

  • Defend whether you would or would not like Su Dongpo to work in your government.
  • Argue what lessons Su Dongpo learned from his career in and out of government.
  • How effective is Su Dongpo as a humanitarian?
  • Determine whether Su Dongpo was or was not disrespectful of government.
  • Assess whether Su Dongpo changed from the beginning to the end of the book based on his character traits.

Additional resources:

Sign up for updates from the First Lady throughout her trips and opportunities to ask questions.

Explore PBS LearningMedia for the First Lady’s blog, a map of China, and other resources.


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: biography, bloom's taxonomy, CCSS, character analysis, children's books, close reading, common core standards, differentiation, Educators, ELA common core standards, guided reading, higher level thinking, History, reading comprehension, rigor, white house

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25. Resources For Teaching About Wangari Maathai and Seeds Of Change

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Seeds of Change cover

Seeds Of Change

In honor of Wangari Maathai’s birthday on Tuesday, April 1 and upcoming Earth Day later this month, we at Lee & Low Books want to share all the fantastic resources and ideas that are available to educators who are teaching about Wangari Maathai’s legacy and using Seeds Of Change: Planting a Path to Peace.

Wangari Maathai

Seeds Of Change

Elementary School:

Seeds of ChangeMiddle School and High School:

  • Seeds Of Change won the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration in 2011. The Committee Chair and Book Jury have prepared activities and discussion questions for Seeds Of Change in the 2011 Discussion Guide for Coretta Scott King Book Awards, P. 20-21.
  • Have students read and discuss author Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrator Sonia Lynn Sadler’s joint interview with Lee & Low, which covers the environment, their travels, and Wangari Maathai’s achievements.
  • After introducing Wangari Maathai with Seeds Of Change, delve deeper with the Speak Truth To Power human rights education curriculum, a project of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. They present an in-depth exploration on Wangari Maathai, the Green Belt Movement, and sustainability issues.
  • In teaching standard 7 of the ELA Common Core, have students evaluate how Wangari Maathai is presented in a documentary compared to the Seeds Of Change biography. PBS’s documentary on Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement, Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, contains a classroom section full of video modules, handouts, and lesson plans.

What did we miss? Let us know how you are using Seeds Of Change in your classroom!

 

 


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: African/African American Interest, biographies, CCSS, children's books, common core standards, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, environmentalism, History, holidays, lesson plans, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, ReadyGEN, Wangari Maathai

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