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Literacy Now

Putting Books to Work
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Making a Case for Reading Joy
ILA 2019 Replay
  • Using a nonfiction text can open a world of project-based learning possibilities.

    • Blog Posts
    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

    by Judith A. Hayn, Karina R. Clemmons, Heather A. Olvey, & Lundon A. Pinneo
     | Nov 03, 2014

    Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas (First Second, 2013)
    Written by Jim Ottaviani, Illustrated by Maris Wicks
    Grades 9-12

    In science and in life, there are always new mountains to climb. With humor, expressive illustrations, and engaging dialogue and narration, the graphic novel Primates will engage adolescent readers in the scientific accomplishments and life stories of three greats in primatology: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. Through dedication and hard work, the main characters illuminate professional accomplishments and persevere through personal struggles. The book addresses conservation as well as facts about primate behaviors and the process of scientific inquiry. Sprinkled with anecdotes of mischievous chimps, exotic insect bites, dung swirling, treks through swamps, and the occasional barfing illness, this graphic novel is sure to keep adolescent readers turning pages. The book is a perfect complement to the move to develop literacy in the content area and to include more non-fiction texts in the classroom. The multifaceted themes in the book pair easily with complex project-based learning (PBL) lessons.

    Cross-Curricular Connections: Science, Social Studies

    Project Based Learning (PBL) Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Essential Question: What problem in my community can the scientific method address?

    PBL Activity: Primates is divided into three sections, one for each of the three scientists highlighted in the book. Assign one of the scientists to each student, and direct students to read and take notes on their assigned section individually. Students should focus on the question, “How does a scientist work?” After students have completed this individual task, divide them into three large groups–one for each scientist. Using their notes, each group should discuss and collaborate to create a streamlined version of their supporting evidence within the text of how their assigned scientist conducted research. Once each group is finished, the spokesperson of each group will share with the class. After a class discussion of the key concepts of the scientific method, present news articles (newspapers, local news sites online, blogs, local environmental agencies, etc.) and allow students to choose one topic of interest. Working in groups of three or four, students will find a problem to evaluate, and will use the scientific method to study it. Students will then conduct their research and present their findings to the class.

    Essential Question: What is the definition of intelligent life?
    PBL Activity: Engage students in an opening discussion of “the definition of intelligent life.” While students brainstorm/popcorn out ideas and examples, take notes in clear view of the class. The class-generated notes will be displayed and modified throughout the next two PBL activities. After the discussion, direct students to silently read an assigned section (divided by featured scientist) of the book. Students should cite evidence of intelligence displayed by the primates within the text while reading. After students complete their reading section and notes, place students in jigsaw groups of three—each group member having worked with a different section of the book to discuss their unique reading experience related to each scientist’s story.

    Next, each group of three students should conduct research on other animals not discussed in the book, focusing on characteristics including communication and tool use to develop a list of intelligent animals. Each group should develop a wiki to record their findings. Groups should include pictures as well as lists of the traits each animal uses that show intelligence. Students should be encouraged to post hypotheses and responses about the essential question throughout the project. Each group must include their comprehensive group list of essential traits on the wiki. In addition to lists of intelligent life, students must include information on unintelligent life, and why their choices are classified as such. Students should begin to explore how intelligence affects the value and/or richness of the experience of life.

    Essential Question: Should primates be used for medical testing purposes?

    PBL Activity: Building on their research on intelligent life, students in each group should collaborate to discuss and produce one group list to describe their definition of intelligent life and how primates fit within that definition. Using this list, the groups of three students will conduct research and create an argument in response to the essential question. To accommodate diverse learning styles, allow students to chose how they present their argument, e.g. creation of a pamphlet, a billboard, online presentation, podcast, etc. Each group should use their notes to create a chart comparing and contrasting the different types of primates within the book: chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Students should focus on what each group of primates does differently to display their intelligence. All arguments must clearly support or refute the use of primates in medical labs with evidence-based data and discuss the impact animal testing has on Earth’s biodiversity.

    Extension Activities That Can Be Done With Primates:

    After reading the novel or a selected excerpt, direct students to research the accomplishments and life of a respected scientist not discussed in the book. Create a storyboard that could be a-day-in-the-life of the selected scientist. Students could create and share their storyboards as posters or by using cartoon software.

    Additional Resources:

    Goodall, Jane. (2013). Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe. New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

    Montgomery, Sy. (2009). Walking with the Great Apes. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

    Shumaker, R. W. & Beck, B. B. (2003). Primates in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books.

    Gibson, Karen Bush. (2014). Women in Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press.

    Keller, Michael. & Fuller, Nicolle Rager. (2009). Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species: A Graphic Adaptation. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books.

    Miller, Ron. (2014). Curiosity’s Mission on Mars: Exploring the Red Planet. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books.

    Ottaviani, Jim. Illus. by Lelan Myrick. (2013). Feynman. New York, NY: First Second.

    Ottaviani, Jim. Illus. by Zander and Kevin Cannon. (2009). T-Minus: The Race to the Moon. New York, NY: Aladdin.

    Shultz, Mark. Illus. by Zander and Kevin Cannon. (2009). The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.

    The Jane Goodall Institute

    PBS page about Biruté Galdikas

    Judith A. Hayn, professor of Secondary Education, her colleague Karina Clemmons, associate professor of Secondary Education, and students in the Masters in Secondary English Education program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock prepared these classroom suggestions.

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  • Jaqueline Woodson's best-selling Brown Girl Dreaming can be used across many curricula in a broad range of grades.
    • Blog Posts
    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: Brown Girl Dreaming

    by Aimee Rogers
     | Oct 02, 2014

    Brown Girl Dreaming. (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014)
    By Jacqueline Woodson
    Grades: 5-12

    Brown Girl Dreaming is Woodson’s memoir in verse of her early life. However, it is so much more than this—it is the record of how a young girl discovers her voice through writing and grows to become a beloved author for children and young adults. Later, she uses her voice to reach out to others and to speak for the underrepresented.

    Woodson starts from her birth and traces her family and life up through fifth grade, when her teacher Ms. Vivo says to her, “You’re a writer.” Although she was born in Ohio, Woodson didn’t spend much time there, but rather her life was punctuated by years, and later summers, in South Carolina with her grandparents and life in New York City. Her time in Greenville, SC, brings her face-to-face with the civil rights movement and life in the post-Jim Crow south. Life in the North, in New York City, brings Woodson experiences of diversity, including a Puerto Rican best friend, Maria.

    Woodson writes of her brothers and sister, her grandparents, her aunts and uncle, her mother and her father, who has not been a part of the family since she was very young. She tells of her time spent in Kingdom Hall and going from door to door as a Jehovah’s Witness spreading the message of salvation. Woodson shares her struggles with reading and the comparisons made between her and her sister, who was an avid reader. She reveals how the telling of stories or the creation of songs came to her easily and how she felt a comfort and rightness in the space between the words she put together.

    Cross-Curricular Connections: Social Studies/History, Geography, Biology

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    The “Roots” of Stories in Life Experiences

    Readers of Brown Girl Dreaming who are familiar with Woodson’s books will make many connections between her life and the experiences described in many of her books. Woodson states on her website, “My work is not always physically autobiographical. But it is always emotionally autobiographical—every feeling my characters have had is a feeling I have had. The small and big moments in my life aren’t necessarily my life once they reach the pages” She even provides examples of three books, Locomotion, Coming On Home Soon, and Behind You, that are “emotionally autobiographical,” with explanation on how.

    In this activity, gather as many of Woodson’s picturebooks as possible (We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past, The Other Side, Our Gracie Aunt, Visiting Day, Pecan Pie Baby, This is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration) and ask students to identify the “roots” of the books in Brown Girl Dreaming. A list of potential picturebooks to use in this activity are provided below. As an extension, ask students to look at their own lives and what experiences could serve as the “roots” of stories for them.

    The Origin of Names

    In the poem, “A Girl Named Jack,” Woodson explains why she was named Jacqueline. Her father’s name was Jack and he wanted to name his second daughter after himself. Woodson’s mother resisted Jack or Jackie and wrote in Jacqueline on her birth certificate. In this activity, students will research the origin of their own names by asking family members how they came to be named as they were. Students should be encouraged to talk to several family members as the viewpoints and stories may vary. Students can then write a poem or a story about their own name.

    The Impact of “History”

    Throughout Brown Girl Dreaming Woodson references historic events and figures that parallel and impact her life. The possibilities of this activity are numerous and can be expanded or contracted based on need and desired outcome.

    • Woodson’s Timeline: Students can create a timeline of Woodson’s life along with the historic events and figures she mentions in Brown Girl Dreaming. This can be extended by having students add additional historic events to the timeline. Students can also write about the impact of these events and people on Woodson’s life as evidenced in Brown Girl Dreaming, other sources or as speculated.
    • Personal Timeline: Students can create a personal timeline that features events in their life as well as important events and people during their lifetime. This can be extended by having students select some events or people to write about in regards to the impact on their lives.
    • Researching Historic Events or People: Students can be divided into groups and assigned people or events mentioned by Woodson in Brown Girl Dreaming to research. To extend the use of timelines, one can be created for an historic figure or event tracing how the person came to be “historic” or what led up to an event.

    Family Features

    Several times in Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson refers to physical or personality characteristics shared by family members. For example, the gap between front teeth shared by many in her family, including Woodson and her younger brother, Roman. In this activity, have students trace a physical or personality trait amongst family members. For older students, this could be used in a biology class to discuss genetics.

    Family Map

    Woodson describes a great deal of traveling between parts of her family, particularly between New York City and Greenville, SC. In this activity, students can create a map of Woodson’s family instead of a family tree, which Woodson already provides at the beginning of Brown Girl Dreaming. This activity could be extended by having students create their own family maps.

    Name Graffiti

    In the poem “Graffiti,” Woodson describes getting caught by her uncle as she starts to spray paint her name on a wall. She describes how graffiti names don’t have to be your real name and how they are often stylized to represent personalities. In this activity, students can create their own graffiti “tags” that represent them.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Jacqueline Woodson’s Official Webpage

    Woodson provides a wealth of information about herself and her books on her official webpage. She is aware many students are assigned author studies and has provided all the relevant information she can here. The pictures of Woodson at varying ages are one of many great aspects.

    “Jacqueline Woodson on Being a ‘Brown Girl’ Who Dreams”

    This is an NPR piece by Kat Chow for “Code Switch” and played on Morning Edition Sept. 18. Chow spent a day with Woodson and interviewed her about Brown Girl Dreaming. In addition, Chow accompanied Woodson to an author event and listeners get to hear Woodson read some of the poems from her book.

    A Video Interview With Jacqueline Woodson

    This is a 13-part video interview with Jacqueline Woodson. There are links to the different parts of the interview as well as a written transcript of the interview.

    Aimee Rogers is an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota where she is a member of the reading faculty and teaches children’s literature courses. Aimee’s research interests include how readers make meaning with graphic novels as well as representation in children’s and young adult literature. She can be reached at aimee.rogers@UND.edu.

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  • "Superworm" is the story of an ordinary worm who chooses to use his talents in unusual ways. The book has a wonderful sense of rhyme and plays well into repeated reading for the children to join in. The lively, moving story will capture children's attention as the summer time gets closer and help pull them in to reading and activities.
    • Blog Posts
    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: 'Superworm'

    by Kathy Prater
     | Jul 09, 2014

    “Superworm” (Arthur Levine Press, 2014)
    Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler
    Pre-K through Grade 6

    “Superworm” is the story of an ordinary worm who chooses to use his talents in unusual ways.  The book has a wonderful sense of rhyme and plays well into repeated reading for the children to join in. The lively, moving story will capture children’s attention as the summer time gets closer and help pull them in to reading and activities.   The worm, Superworm, is friends to many different kinds of creatures and helps them to get out of some difficult circumstances.  For example, when a toad gets stuck in the road, Superworm lassos him and pulls him to safety, and when the bees are bored, Superworm becomes a jump rope.  One of the creatures in the book, Wizard Lizard, is a villain who captures Superworm to force him to locate treasure underground.  All his friends must work together to save Superworm from being lost to the magic forever. 

    The illustrations add a priceless part of the story and will keep the children’s attention, in addition to the fun rhymes and songs.

    Cross-Curricular Connections: Science, Art, Social Studies, English, Math

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    Earthworm Treasure Map
    The purpose of this activity is to create mathematical concepts of space and order by designing a treasure map for Superworm. Prior to reading, discuss where earthworms are usually found and what role they play in everyday life.  Encourage children to share stories of their experiences with type of earthworms.  If students are unsure of earthworms, take time to introduce them to a natural earthworm.  Having this background knowledge will help the book come to life.  Ask student to watch carefully for the times when the earthworm was underground and trying to find the treasure.

    As a closing activity, discuss the pages where the worm is underground again.  Have students brainstorm a path around the “junk” to find the treasure.  Encourage students to create their own maze, or treasure map, for the Superworm.  Have them designate a path to take and then add distractions to make him turn around, modeling their map after the pictures in the book.  As time allows, have students walk through their treasure map telling what Superworm found instead of the treasure and where he finally found the treasure.  This activity can constitute an alternate ending to the story where the friends don’t catch the magic lizard.

    Worm Farm
    The purpose of this activity is to observe, record, and evaluate earthworms in their natural state.  After reading SUPERWORM, ask students if the character’s behavior is what they have seen a worm do in their own environments.  Make a list of what the students know about earthworms, what they want to learn, and then allow for recording lessons learned through the creation of a worm farm.  Watch videos on creating a worm farm and learn what worms like to have in order to be happy.  In a clear container, have students layer soil and sand to create a base for the worms.  Moisten each layer of soil and add a few banana peels to the center for food.  Cover three sides of the box in black construction paper.  Purchase worms (or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, dig some up) and add them to the top of the container.  Record daily where the worms can be seen and any unusual activities.  Record the amount of food the worms are eating and add moist foods like fruit and veggies leftovers to the top as needed.  After tracking for several days, discuss the observations in a large group and ask what the students learned by watching the worms.  Review the questions that were written prior to the creation of the farm and answer any that have not been answered yet.

    Having each student keep a daily or weekly log of earthworm activity, and save appropriate scraps, will help students take ownership of the project.

    Create a Superhero
    The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to think about other creatures in new ways.  After reading Superworm, discuss as a large group some other creatures that could become heroes.  Encourage thinking outside of the box like what happened with Superworm.  As students come up with more ideas, have them create their new superhero.  These creations can be painted, drawn, modeled, etc.  Encourage students to choose a mode of art that connects them to their hero.  Recyclable materials may work well for this project.  As the creatures are finished up, have younger students dictate to an adult and older students write a synopsis of their superhero.  Tell about what they are and how they can rescue or save the day.  Encourage playfulness and creativity.  Allow students to display their work where other classrooms can view it and read about the newly discovered heroes. As the summer draws closer, the more creativity and freedom allowed to explore, the more engaged the students should become.

    Additional Resources and Activities
    Worm Farm
    This video documents Kevin’s creation of a worm farm to help to compost organic materials.  The page details what he did to build a worm farm, what he found out, and how to create your own worm farm.  He gives helpful tips to sustain the worm farm long term.

    The Adventures of Herman
    This page provided by the University of Illinois Extension provides an in depth look at the lives of worms.  The page follows Herman the Worm by looking at his history, his family tree, and his anatomy.  The page has sections for worm habitats, importance of worms, and what the worm likes to eat.  A link to fun activities and more web links is also provided.  This page will provide information in an engaging way. 

    Fact or Fiction: Learning About Worms Using Diary of a Worm
    This lesson plan link from Read*Write*Think looks at the Book Diary of a Worm and teaches the students how to determine real facts from fiction.  This same idea can be applied to Superworm in determining whether or not any of the information in the book is factual.  The students can use this to supplement the knowledge they need to build a worm farm, and will provide practice in critical thinking.

    Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, Miss. Her passions include reading, writing, tending her flock of chickens, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement.

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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: Bear and Bird

    by Kathy Prater
     | Apr 01, 2014

    Bear and Bird (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014)
    Written by James Skofield and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes
    Pre-K through Grade 3

    bear and bird coverBear and Bird is the story of an unlikely friendship between a helpless bird and a helpful bear. The book begins with Bear finding a fledgling bird who has fallen from her nest. Bear must decide whether to help the bird or leave her alone, and she decides to help. She carries the bird to a nearby branch to recover and finish growing.

    Over that summer, Bird and Bear grow into a friendship with Bear helping Bird to find places to eat berries. When it comes time for winter, Bird helps Bear by warning her that there are hunters on the prowl, and Bear should stay safe. As Bird readies herself to leave for the winter, the author conveys a feeling of sadness as the newfound friend prepares to leave for the winter. After winter’s end, Bird returns safely to find Bear and their friendship blossoms through another summer. This cycle continues over several summers until one spring, when Bear does not come out from hibernation.

    Bird comes back as usual that spring and is flying through the area calling for Bear when she finds a much younger bear in her place. Bird asks about Bear and learns that she did not wake up that spring. The new bear that Bird encounters is the grandchild of Bird’s friend Bear. The young Bear begins a cautious friendship with Bird and finds a way to keep grandmother Bear’s memory alive. Bird feels sad at the loss of her old friend, yet hopeful in beginning a new friendship as well.

    This book combines the theme of the circle of life with the death and new friendship while treasuring the memories of a lost friend. Children can be introduced to the topic of death through the gentle words in this story.

    Cross-curricular connections: Science, Art, Social Studies, English

    Ideas for Classroom Use

    Unlikely Friends
    The purpose of this activity is to discuss the friendship between Bear and Bird, and its unlikely development.

    Prior to reading, discuss friendships and ask the children to think about why people are their friends. Encourage them to think about their friends as they listen to the story. While reading, direct children to focus on the pictures and the things the friends do for each. After reading, discuss why it was strange for Bird and Bear to be friends. Determine what the relationship should have been between them.

    As a closing activity, discuss unlikely friendships in the children’s lives—perhaps share a story from your own life. Encourage children to talk about friends that they have that they may not have expected. Have students create a list together of what makes a good friend. Post the friendship thoughts in the classroom as a reminder of being a good friend.

    Cycles in Life
    The purpose of this activity is to expand on the circle of life in a science related way. Discuss the migration cycle for birds as well as the hibernation pattern for bears. Have students think of other animals or creatures that follow a cycle. Encourage them to talk about butterflies, frogs, etc. Have students work independently or in small groups to illustrate the life cycle of an animal of their choosing. Younger students may need help with research to show them that cycle. Have students illustrate each point in the cycle and then label, or dictate the label. A page folded into four parts may be helpful for them to process the life cycle.

    The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to think about the possibility of having more than one feeling at the same time. Discuss the fact that Bird was sad at the loss of her friend Bear but happy to find Bear’s grandchild to be a new friend. Talk about times that the students have felt more than one way at the same time. Use the example of summer (happy with school being out; sad to be away from school friends).

    Ask students to illustrate through painting or drawing different ways they have felt. Look back at the illustrations in Bear and Bird and determine how they are feeling just by looking at the pictures.

    You may also want students to illustrate different feelings they have through painting self portraits or using digital media, such as choosing pictures to represent different feelings. Display the artwork without labels and see if children can guess how the person is feeling by looking at the art.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Owen and Mzee
    This site has a real life story of two unlikely friends and their relationship. Owen, a tortoise, and Mzee, a young hippopotamus, find comfort with each other in Haller Park in Africa. The hippo had been orphaned in the 2004 tsunami and bonded with the tortoise over the following months. The page has videos, a sing-along, a video maker, and interactive games for the children.

    National Geographic: Butterflies
    This video created by National Geographic gives students a look at many different varieties of butterfly and then follows one butterfly through the changes from egg to larvae, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly. National Geographic also provides two additional links to find more information about Monarch butterflies and a hands-on explorer blog.

    Jennifer Thermes, Illustrator
    This page gives a portfolio of the illustrator’s work, a blog with thoughts from creating her books, and contact information for the Jennifer Thermes. The portfolio sections could be used to study feelings in art before the students complete that activity.

    Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, Mississippi. Her passions include reading, writing, tending her flock of chickens, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes that every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement. 

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  • Lesson ideas around Faith Ringgold's book about the dreams of an eight-year-old girl in Harlem.
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: TAR BEACH

    by Kathleen Hunter
     | Feb 18, 2014

    TAR BEACH (Crown Publishing, 1991) 
    Written and Illustrated by Faith Ringgold
    Grades K–5

    Tar Beach book coverTAR BEACH, by Faith Ringgold, is a beautiful picture book with imaginative illustrations. The story is told from the point of view of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot. During the summer Cassie and her family play at the “tar beach,” which is the rooftop of the apartment building where she lives in Harlem. Cassie lies on the “beach” and imagines herself flying through the sky over the rooftops. She dreams about being free—to go where she wants without any boundaries, or anyone to tell her she can’t. And so begins the story of Cassie’s flying adventure.

    The notion of flying has wonderful and magical connotations in the African American culture. Historically, flying was symbolic to African Americans for freedom from slavery and the opportunity to return to their native land. In TAR BEACH, flying symbolizes freedom in Cassie’s world. In her flying dreams her father owns the buildings he looks up to rather than down from buildings he builds as a construction worker. Cassie’s mother has the privilege of laughing and sleeping late into the morning like the well-to-do neighbors. And best of all, her family eats ice cream every day!

    You’ll notice that the border on the illustrations resemble a quilt. Originally, the author wrote this story on a quilt that she sewed and then used as a canvas for her paintings. The actual quilt is part of a series called, “Woman on a Bridge.” They are on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

    Although TAR BEACH is an older publication, it’s still in print—and continues to give a taste of what can be done in the classroom to teach African American culture, language, and history. Hopefully, these lessons will spark awareness in the students and provide some background knowledge for future lessons.

    Cross Curricular Connections: language arts using imagery commonly found in the African American culture, reading comprehension, vocabulary, art, history.

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    History and Symbolism

    Read the story out loud to your students. Be sure to show them the pictures as you read. I especially like technology in the classroom at times like this. You can display the pictures on a big screen while the students follow along with the text as you read aloud. This is a fun way to meet every child’s level of reading and comprehension. After you have finished the story you can engage your students in a deeper understanding of the text. Here are a few questions to prompt a lively group discussion:

    • What is meant by “tar beach” in the story? (The blacktop roof on the top of Cassie’s apartment building where she lives). How does the reader know this?
    • What does flying symbolize for Cassie? (Possible answers might be: Freedom for herself to go beyond the boundaries of her home, freedom for her father from racial bigotry with the unions and freedom for her mother to be able to live like the wealthy neighbors who can sleep late each morning). Ask students to give examples from the text and illustrations to support their answers.
    • Are Cassie’s adventures real or imaginary? How can you tell?
    • What are some traditions that Cassie and her family have?

    Visualizing/Verbal Sharing:

    Materials: beach towel for each student (students can bring a towel from home).

    Clear some space in your classroom by moving desks and tables to the side. Ask your students to lay out their beach towels and lie on their backs. Next, ask them to imagine they are at “tar beach.” Tell them they are flying through the sky. Remind them that flying is symbolic for freedom from something in their lives. It could be something as immediate as homework to something deeper like a parent being out of work.

    Invite students to share out loud to the class what some of their freedoms are. I always enjoy taking part in activities with my students whenever possible. This one particularly lends to the teacher participating. So, remember to bring your beach towel, too!

    Dream Journal:

    Materials: notebook paper, pencils

    This activity can be done after the previous activity or on its own. Ask your students to either return to their desks or to find a spot on their “beach” to write their dreams down on paper. This activity lends itself quite nicely to a free-write or journaling exercise. Or you can extend this activity over the course of a few days to include the writing process from prewrite to final draft.

    Paper Quilt:

    Materials: crayons/paints/pastels (choose the medium that you think will best suit your group of students), blank sheets of paper, large sheet of butcher paper (any bold color will do)

    Now your students can make their flying adventures in their minds come to life on paper. Pass the book around to groups of students to refer back to while they make their own illustrations. Remind your students of the vibrant colors the author/illustrator used. After your students have completed their illustrations, mount them on one large sheet of butcher paper to resemble a quilt of flying dreams. And, if you also did the writing activity you can include your students’ writings along the border of illustrations, similar to Faith Ringgold’s. Now your classroom quilt is ready to go on display!

    Additional Texts:

    Frame, Jeron Ashford (2003). YESTERDAY I HAD THE BLUES. Tricycle Press.

    Ringgold, Faith (1995). AUNT HARRIET'S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN THE SKY. Random House Children’s Books.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Virtual Museum Visit
    If you can’t make it to the real Guggenheim, take your students on a virtual field trip and show them the quilt that preceded TAR BEACH. The site also offers a lesson plan and more information about author/artist Faith Ringgold.

    Flying to Freedom: TAR BEACH and THE PEOPLE COULD FLY
    This lesson plan, from ReadWriteThink.org, focuses on liberation and racism by comparing these two titles in a complex, multifaceted manner.

    Teacher’s Guide
    This teacher’s guide, from Teachers @ Random House, contains a plethora of ideas for more thematic and interdisciplinary connections, as well as suggestions for further reading.

    TAR BEACH Discussion Guide
    Short guide from Scholastic with suggestions for pre- and post-reading discussions.

    Kathleen HunterKathleen A. Hunter, MS is a literacy tutor and aspiring children's book author. You can visit her online at www.KathleenHunterWrites.com.


    © 2014 Kathleen A. Hunter. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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