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  • OLD MACDONALD HAD A DRAGON is a humorous rewrite of the traditional song. Baker’s new twist on the words and Santoro’s comical illustrations will be sure to capture the attention and imagination of students. This version begins with a singing farmer who decides he wants to keep a dragon on the farm.
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    • Putting Books to Work

    Putting Books to Work: Ken Baker's OLD MACDONALD HAD A DRAGON

    by Kathy Prater
     | May 23, 2013
    OLD MACDONALD HAD A DRAGON (Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012)
    Written by Ken Baker and illustrated by Christopher Santoro
    Pre-K through Grade 4


    The end of the year is here. Spirits are running high, and patience is running low. Capture the imagination of your students with a new twist on an old favorite!

    OLD MACDONALD HAD A DRAGON is a humorous rewrite of the traditional song. Baker’s new twist on the words and Santoro’s comical illustrations will be sure to capture the attention and imagination of students. This version begins with a singing farmer who decides he wants to keep a dragon on the farm. The cow objects, using a play on words—“I’ve got a beef with you”—which results in an argument between the cow and farmer. The cow threatens to move, and the matter is settled in an unimaginable way: the dragon swallows up the cow! The argument between the farmer and cow and conversation between the farmer and the dragon are full of idioms related to the cow.

    The farmer begins to sing again and is interrupted by a pig on a “hog” (motorcycle), and the scene repeats itself with idioms, comical illustrations and the pig being devoured in one gulp. The farmer then argues with a ram who threatens to withhold wool until the dragon is gone. The result of this argument is one fat and sassy dragon and one disappearing sheep. However, the farmer has second thoughts about this type of dragon dinner. He realizes he may need those wooly socks come winter.

    The farmer begins his tune and sings about the farm having a dog. The dog, who has witnessed all the other arguments, protests being added into the song. The dragon can be seen behind the dog peeking at the argument with one eye open. Before the farmer gets to the chorus, the dog is dragon feed as well. This angers the farmer and satisfies the dragon who lies down to take a nap. The farmer has other ideas though. He marches across the yard and demands the dog back while kicking the dragon in the nose. Instead of arguing or responding to the farmer, the dragon does the only thing possible. He swallows up the farmer as well. The illustrations on the next page are similar to the Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly with the farmer scratching his head trying to figure out what to do now.

    The dragon is seen with music coming out from inside his belly as all the animals join the farmer in singing the original song. This so upsets the dragon’s stomach that he belches loudly, shooting all the animals out into a puddle of slime. The dragon, with a terrible stomach ache, flies away from the farm. Old MacDonald raises his guitar and begins the song again with the animals each adding their name and sound.

    Cross-curricular connections: Science, Art, Math, English

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Making Old Things New

    The purpose of this activity is to expand the imagination and awareness of stories by retelling a favorite. Students can use the same format as OLD MACDONALD HAD A DRAGON, or can choose another familiar song to rewrite.

    Have students listen to the story in a large group. Discuss how the story is different from the original song. Have students determine if having a dragon on a farm is a good idea or not and justify their answers with reasoning. Brainstorm as a class some other animals that might not do so well on Old MacDonald’s farm. Have children illustrate their choice of animal and what would happen between the original farm animals, the farmer, and the new animal.

    If students choose another familiar song to rewrite, have them make similar illustrations and text that shows a comical side of rewriting well-known texts. Being able to manipulate well-known text is an invaluable tool in learning to read well. This skill helps students to move beyond the text and assimilate it into new ideas.

    Area of a Dragon’s Belly

    The purpose of this activity is to expand the imagination as well as strengthen math skills. For older students, measurements can be given and the students can work in small groups or independently.

    After reading the story, ask students about how big a dragon would be in relation to the other animals. Give students problems to work, such as “If the dragon’s belly had an area of 125 square feet, which of these creatures could fit inside together?”

    For younger children, the activity should be completed in large or small groups with teacher support. With these students, practice estimating which creatures will fit inside a certain area. Provide manipulatives for the younger students to check their guesses.

    Dragon Habitats

    The purpose of this activity is to build an appropriate habitat for a dragon. Since the dragon did not get along with the farm animals, where could he live comfortably? Have students listen to the story with the purpose of determining problems the dragon had living on the farm. Have students brainstorm other the places the dragon could live. If he lived in a circus, what problems would he have? a zoo? a park? etc.

    Have students design the “perfect” habitat for a dragon. Be sure to include the four essentials for an animal to survive. Younger students can draw a picture of their habitat and older students can create a diorama.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Ken Baker Books
    Ken Baker’s website has multiple resources to support his books. The site includes lesson plans, links for parents, links for librarians, and links for writers. A section of videos showcasing the books is also available if a peek at the illustrations is wanted before ordering the book. Baker also has included a link to his blog about thoughts on reading and writing.

    Math is Fun: Area
    This website provides an easy to use list of formulas for calculating area of different shapes. The students can use these formulas to calculate the area of the dragon’s stomach, as well as that of the other animals (perhaps a rectangle for a cow, a square for the dog, etc.). They can then see which animals the dragon could eat without upsetting his stomach.

    Nature Works: Habitat
    This website provides a short video about why living things need habitats and the resources a habitat provides. The video discusses natural habitats, artificial habitats, ways to improve habitats for animals, and ways habitats have been destroyed. The video provides an easy to understand introduction to habitats be showing real word experiences.

    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 15 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.

    © 2013 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Tax time is almost here, and soon money matters will be on the forefront of most families’ minds. With her Pretty Penny series, author/illustrator Devon Kinch has created a set of easy-to-use books to help explain money issues to younger children. The books are written so that they can stand alone, but are understood better when used in succession. In each book, the focus is on wise spending and saving habits, and how to make wise decisions with your money.
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    Putting Books to Work: Pretty Penny series by Devon Kinch

    by Kathy Prater
     | Mar 26, 2013
    Pretty Penny Series (Random House, 2010-present)
    Written and illustrated by Devon Kinch
    Pre-K through Grade 6


    Tax time is almost here, and soon money matters will be on the forefront of most families’ minds. With her Pretty Penny series, author/illustrator Devon Kinch has created a set of easy-to-use books to help explain money issues to younger children. The books are written so that they can stand alone, but are understood better when used in succession. In each book, the focus is on wise spending and saving habits, and how to make wise decisions with your money.

    The first book, PRETTY PENNY SETS UP SHOP (2011), introduces us to Penny, her pet pig, Iggy, her Grandma Bunny, and her lofty ideas. Penny lives with her grandma and is known for having “big ideas.” In this book, Penny wants to have a birthday party for Bunny with only one small problem. She doesn’t have the money to buy anything. She thinks and thinks until she figures out a way to earn some money.

    Penny is intrigued by all of the items collected in her grandma’s attic and Bunny agrees that Penny can sell them. The Small Mall is born as Penny’s next big idea. She cleans, organizes, and prices all the items and then opens shop. As a result of her sales, she now has ten dollars to buy something for Grandma Bunny. As she contemplates what to purchase, she sees cupcakes and buys enough for all the customers that helped her to earn the money. She invites them all over to surprise Bunny.

    The second in the series, PRETTY PENNY CLEANS UP (2012), Penny’s friend Emma comes to Penny with a money dilemma. Emma wants to go to a concert that weekend but has already spent all of her allowance money. Penny helps Emma come up with a plan. The girls think awhile and then decide to open a pet pampering business.

    Penny teaches Emma an important lesson about saving, sharing, and spending money. She helps Emma to create a place for her money for each of these categories. The girls work together to find accessories like wigs and barrettes, and then open La Perfect Pup Salon. They quickly realize that it isn’t always easy to earn money. They are able to earn thirty dollars and split it between the two of them. The girls both put some into their savings bank, some into their sharing jar, and the remainder into their spending purse. They both have earned enough for the concert ticket and more.

    The third book in the series, PRETTY PENNY COMES UP SHORT (2012), follows another of Penny’s big ideas. Penny is inspired by a poster to help a local animal farm. She looks in her sharing jar and has some money in it but wants to be able to donate more. Her idea that she comes up with for this project is grander than the others: She decides to create a drive-in theater.

    Grandma Bunny knows she will need lots of help with this project. She recruits two friends, Emma and Maggie, and they hold a team meeting. Each person has a job to do. Maggie will create the signs; Emma will be the usher; Penny will run the projector; and Iggy will be in charge of the snack bar. Several friends come to their drive-in theater, and Iggy is overwhelmed at that snack bar.

    This book has a very big lesson for Iggy and the readers. Iggy is sticking money everywhere while trying to keep up. He puts some in the cash register, some falls on the floor, and he sticks some in his hat. He has a brilliant idea of his own. He gives Penny the money from the cash register and decides to keep the rest. He buys himself treats on the way to drop off their donation at the animal farm. Penny suspects something is up and questions Iggy. She tells him this is stealing. He volunteers at the animal farm to make up for the money that was not his to spend.

    The newest installment in the series is PRETTY PENNY MAKES ENDS MEET (2013). In this book, Penny and Bunny have a dilemma during the middle of the night. They are awakened by a loud noise and search the house to find a broken water pipe in the basement causing quite a flood. Bunny is distraught because she has already spent her budgeted money that was marked for repairs.

    Bunny sends Penny back to bed. Penny sleeps on the problem so that she’ll have a big idea when she wakes up. She wants to help her grandma and decides to have a jewelry sale. Penny and Iggy take their spending money and work together to buy supplies. They spend several days creating an assortment of accessories. They set up the Primo Trunk Show in the Small Mall and are able to earn sixty dollars in sales.

    The lesson goes a little further by explaining the difference between money collected and profit. Penny and Iggy are able to give Grandma Bunny fifty dollars to help towards the pipe repair and she also is able to help Bunny mop up the floor.

    Through this series, Penny learns that money is not always available, takes hard work to earn, and should be managed wisely in order to get what you need and want. This lesson is presented in an easy to understand format and the illustrations are bright and cheery to help hold the young readers attention.

    Cross-curricular connections:Math, Social Studies, English

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Big Ideas

    The purpose of this activity is to connect prior knowledge to the information gained in the texts of these books. For younger students, this can be completed as a group. Read the introduction portion of the Penny book of your choice, stopping when Penny is thinking about what to do. Have students predict what Penny could do in the situation in the story. What are some of the students’ ideas for coming up with some money?

    Finish reading the book to the class and check their predictions. After reading the rest of the story, have students brainstorm a time when they needed to make some money like Penny or her Grandma did. What were the ways their family coped with that money need? If students are unable to think of issues on their own, a selection of choices can be offered.

    Have students come up with a big idea of their own for a real or imagined need for money. Illustrate the plan for earning money and dictate—or write, depending on the age of the students—the plan for making some cash. Be sure to include any potential issues that may happen. Share these ideas with the class as time allows and encourage positive comments regarding the plans designed by each student. Help students to give creative and positive suggestions to their classmates.

    Budget

    The purpose of this activity is to develop a working budget for the ideas discussed on the first project. For younger students this can be done in small groups, and for older students this can be done independently. After designing their “Big Idea,” have students come up with a budget for their plan. How much money will they need for the item they want to purchase? How much money will need to be spent on supplies to follow through on the idea? How much will need to be placed in the share jar, the save jar, and the spend jar? Will the project bring in enough money to cover the necessary amount wanted? What modifications might need to be made to the idea? Older students can research local costs for items needed to complete the projects.

    Have students create a written plan detailing the answers to these questions, and analyzing whether or not they will have enough. Show students how to use a table to itemize this information. Students should be encouraged to use math skills such as addition, subtraction, percentages, averages, etc.

    Sharing and Caring

    The purpose of this activity is to teach students the value of community service and giving to others in need. As a class, research some possible needs in your school or community. Design a project that can be managed by students to help meet this need. Some ideas could be to purchase books for the library, plant flowers at an approved place on campus, collect items for the humane society, or donate time/money to a charity. Help students to create a real-life big idea like Penny did and carry it out. These ideas should be very simple for younger students, and can be advanced for the upper levels.

    Have a team meeting and assign roles for each member. Discuss what jobs need to be done, and create a time line. Recruit help from families as needed. Carry out your big idea, and then calculate your profit according to the way Penny showed in her books.

    Document the project with pictures and create a memory board to help remind students of how this project made them feel and how successful it was. Money matters should be practiced in a correct way every day.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Pretty Penny This website is Devon Kinch’s website to support her Pretty Penny series. Ms. Kinch has a blog which contains ideas for activities, reproducibles, and other fun extras to help enhance the experience of the Pretty Penny series.

    Games at Practical Money Skills for Life This website provides interactive money games for varied levels of learning. The students can practice sorting and counting money with Peter Pig. Money Metropolis allows students to choose a goal to work for and play games throughout the town to help meet the goal of saving the appropriate amount of money. Other games are Financial Football, Ed’s Bank, and Road Trip to Savings, as well as several others.

    Links We Like from Yes Kidz Can This website provides a list of links to several charity-based web pages to help with creating ideas for a service project. The links and divided by age levels and cover a variety of ideas. Activities for elementary, middle, and high school students are included, as well as several links to curriculum resources.

    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 15 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.

    WANT TO WRITE FOR ENGAGE? Send your name, the grade level(s) you teach, the title of book that you put to work, and a line or two about how you use it in your classroom to engage-membership@/.

    © 2013 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • THE LIGHTNING THIEF, the first in this five-book series, introduces us to 12-year-old Percy Jackson. Percy has always had a tendency to get into trouble and is constantly stumbling upon unusual situations. Over the course of this novel, Percy learns that he is a demi-god, meaning that one of his parents, in this case his mother, is mortal and the other is a Greek god, in Percy’s case, Poseidon.
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    Putting Books to Work: Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series

    by Aimee Rogers
     | Mar 05, 2013
    Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (Hyperion Books for Children, 2005-2009)
    Written by Rick Riordan
    Grades 4–10


    THE LIGHTNING THIEF, the first in this five-book series, introduces us to 12-year-old Percy Jackson. Percy has always had a tendency to get into trouble and is constantly stumbling upon unusual situations. Over the course of this novel, Percy learns that he is a demi-god, meaning that one of his parents, in this case his mother, is mortal and the other is a Greek god, in Percy’s case, Poseidon. Before he has time to acclimate to this life-changing information, he is sent on a quest to recover Zeus’ master bolt. His companions are Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and his best friend Grover, who is revealed to be a satyr. The book is punctuated with characters and legends from Greek mythology.

    Percy’s story and adventures continue in THE SEA OF MONSTERS, with both returning and new characters. One of the most interesting new characters is Percy’s new friend, Tyson, who isn’t quite who he says he is, nor is his relationship to Percy what it seems. Percy is off on another quest, this time the goal is saving Camp Half-Blood, the only place where demi-gods are protected. In order to save Camp Half-Blood Percy, along with Annabeth, must sail into the Sea of Monsters, and if that wasn’t enough, they must rescue Grover from certain death along the way. The pages are again filled with characters from and references to Greek mythology.

    In THE TITAN’S CURSE (Book 3), the goddess Artemis is missing, the return of an ancient monster is immanent and a deadline rapidly approaches—basically, just another week in the life of half-blood Percy Jackson and his friends Grover and Annabeth. The gods are on the cusp of war with the Titans and the success or failure of Percy’s quest may influence whether war erupts or a fragile peace is maintained. Grover has also discovered two powerful half-bloods, whose parentage is unknown, but who may have something to do with the prophecy of the Titan’s curse.

    Against the odds, Percy has survived long enough to enter his freshman year of high school. However, things immediately go down hill with the arrival of a mortal acquaintance and demon cheerleaders (THE BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH). Kronos is gaining strength and his army continues to grow. This army is preparing to invade the once impenetrable Camp Half-Blood, the only place that Percy and his friends have truly felt safe. In order to protect Camp Half-Blood and to forestall the coming war between the gods and the Titans, Percy and his friends must travel through the underground labyrinth and survive its many dangers.

    THE LAST OLYMPIAN, the final book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, culminates in a battle against the Titans and their leader, Kronos. New York City, the current location of Mount Olympus, is besieged by the monster, Typon. Soon-to-be 16-year-old Percy Jackson and his half-blood friends battle for their lives and the survival of Western civilization in the streets of Manhattan. As Percy’s sixteenth birthday grows closer, the prophecy regarding this moment unfolds. This is a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to the series.

    Additional Texts:

    Beyond the five novels, there are two published guides to the series, a graphic novel version of the first book, and a movie based on THE LIGHTNING THIEF. A movie based on THE SEA OF MONSTERS is forthcoming as well. These additional and alternative texts provide a number of great opportunities for comparisons across texts, as well as a source of supplemental activities and means of differentiating instruction.

    Riordan, Rick. (2009). THE DEMIGOD FILES (Percy Jackson & the Olympians). New York: Hyperion Books for Children.

    Knight, Mary-Jane. (2009). PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE. New York: Disney/Hyperion.

    Riordan, Rick. (2010). THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 1). New York: Disney/Hyperion Books.

    Motion Picture: PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF (2010). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

    Motion Picture: PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: SEA OF MONSTERS. Scheduled for release in August of 2013.

    In addition to these texts, Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, which will eventually be composed of five novels as well, features some of the characters from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series as well as new demi-gods, new quests and unexpected twists.

    Cross-curricular Connections: History/Social Studies, Language Arts/English, Art

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Create a God

    Many Greek gods and myths developed out of a need to explain natural phenomenon; for example, Zeus’ mastery of the sky served to explain thunder and lightning. Have students brainstorm modern natural and social phenomenon that may be difficult to explain, such as global warming or dropped cell phone calls.

    After each student has selected a phenomenon of interest have him or her develop a portfolio of the “god” of this realm. The portfolio might include the following items: a description of the god, a list of the god’s powers, the god’s origins, a picture of the god, a myth featuring the god, or an explanation of why the phenomenon happens (for example, thunder and lightning are a result of Zeus’ anger). You could add an art project to this lesson by asking your students to create a physical representation of their invented god—perhaps a drawing or even a 3-D model.

    Your Quirk or Unique Ability

    Percy Jackson has been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. His ADHD is attributed to his finely tuned fighting skills, which he possesses as a result of being a half-blood. His dyslexia is a result of his brain being hardwired to read Greek rather than English.

    We all have unique quirks, abilities or difficulties. Have each student select one of their own characteristics and write an explanation for why they possess such a trait. For example, particularly bad snoring could be the result of a protective spell placed upon me by my fairy godmother in order to keep the monsters away as I sleep.

    This activity should be framed in such a way that students are able to embrace their quirks rather than made to feel bad about them.

    Greek God Charades

    After reading from the Percy Jackson series or studying the Greek gods, goddesses and creatures organize a game of charades focused around Greek mythology.

    Without using words, students can act out the behaviors or traits of different characters from Greek mythology. For example, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, may be indicated by air kisses, hugs and swooning. This would be a great way to review the gods and goddesses.

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Rick Riordan’s Website
    Prior to becoming a full-time author, Riordan was a teacher, and he remains loyal to his teaching roots in the resources he provides on his webpage. This is seriously the best place to start when looking for information on Riordan and his books, or for activity suggestions. Information abounds regarding Riordan, including transcripts from interviews, frequently asked questions, and links to videos. Teachers will find teaching guides for several books in the Percy Jackson series as well as reader’s guides. There is also a reader’s theater script for a scene from THE LIGHTNING THIEF, as well as a link to a unit built around THE LIGHTNING THIEF. Finally, there is a collection of project ideas submitted from schools and educators across the country.

    Putting Books to Work: George O’Connor’s HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD
    This previous “Putting Books to Work” post is a great pairing to the Percy Jackson series. George O’Connor is creating a series of graphic novels that feature the Greek gods and goddesses. Eventually each of the twelve gods and goddess will have their own graphic novel. This post focuses on HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD. In addition to information about O’Connor’s series, this post also includes suggestions for other activities related to Greek mythology.

    Episode 19 — Greek Mythology for Kids
    This podcast from ReadWriteThink includes a book chat about three mythology-related titles that are appropriate for reading levels ranging from K through Grade 5. It also includes an activity in which students create a Zeus trading card and a discussion with children’s book author Carolyn Hennesy (Pandora series).

    Aimee Rogers is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota studying children’s and adolescent literature. Prior to her return to school, Aimee taught high school students with special needs, in a wide variety of settings, for ten years. She misses working with adolescents but is developing a passion for working with undergraduate pre-service teachers. She has a growing interest in graphic novels for children and young adults and is hoping to make them the topic of her upcoming dissertation.

    © 2013 Aimee Rogers. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • A STRONG RIGHT ARM: THE STORY OF MAMIE “PEANUT” JOHNSON teaches perseverance when faced with adversity. This is the inspiring biography of Mamie Johnson, a girl who dreamed big and became one of only three women to play professional baseball.
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    Putting Books to Work: Michelle Y. Green's A STRONG RIGHT ARM

    by Roxanne Davidson
     | Feb 15, 2013
    A STRONG RIGHT ARM: THE STORY OF MAMIE “PEANUT” JOHNSON (Puffin Reprint Edition, 2004)
    Written by Michelle Y. Green
    Illlustrated by Kadir Nelson
    Grades 3 and Up


    The website Teaching Tolerance encourages educators to incorporate black history year-round, not just in February. Teachers can use the month of February to help students dig deeper into history and make connections with the past through studying lesser known African American heroes. One such hero was Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.

    A STRONG RIGHT ARM: THE STORY OF MAMIE “PEANUT” JOHNSON teaches perseverance when faced with adversity. This is the inspiring biography of Mamie Johnson, a girl who dreamed big and became one of only three women to play professional baseball. Mamie always dreamt of baseball since childhood – her passion for the game and the influence of famous ballplayer Jackie Robinson helped drive her to become a professional baseball pitcher in the Negro Leagues from 1953-1955.

    Readers will enter a time in America’s history where discrimination against African Americans was rampant. Mamie persevered even when people thought she was crazy for wanting to play in a sport dominated by white men. Although Mamie’s dream came true, her journey was full of hardship. Not only was she discriminated against for the color of her skin, but also because she was a girl. But her can-do-spirit and courage overcame these difficult challenges that not many others would willingly choose to face.

    Cross-Curricular Connections: History/Social Studies, Language Arts/English, Multicultural Content

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    Lessons of Empathy and Courage:

    Provide quotes from the book displaying discrimination and ask students to explain in their own words how it would feel to be treated in the way described.

    Some examples:

    “You’re just a dumb old girl, and a colored one.”

    “This colored girl thinks she can play ball. Tell her she can’t, Coach.”

    “Just because that colored boy Robinson and a few of his buddies wormed their way in to the majors, doesn’t mean we want colored gals playing next to our girls.”


    Follow Up Questions for Discussion:

    • How did Mamie conduct herself when met with such disrespect?
    • Why did she choose not to fight back with equal words of hate?
    • Why do you think Mamie chose to continue pursuing her dream even though people tried to keep her out of baseball?
    Overcoming Obstacles:

    Define for the students the word “obstacle” as it relates to goals. Ask students to complete a chart identifying the obstacles Mamie encountered while she pursued her dream and explain the decisions she made to overcome them.

    Have students stand in a circle and begin by tossing a small ball to one student and have them say a goal they would like to accomplish. After sharing, that student tosses the ball to another until all the students have had a turn.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What did you learn from Mamie’s story about reaching your own goal?
    • What character traits did Mamie use to help her be successful in reaching her goals?
    • What choices can we make when something we tried to do did not work out the way we thought it would?
    Extension:

    Have students use Wordle to generate a word cloud that identifies character traits they will need to accomplish a goal.

    Explore more literature on lesser known athletes who overcame barriers to succeed in their chosen sport:

    Crowe, Ellie (2007) SURFER OF THE CENTURY: THE LIFE OF DUKE KAHANAMOKU

    Miller, William (1999) NIGHT GOLF

    Stauffacher, Sue (2007) NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, THE STORY OF ALTHEA GIBSON

    Wise, Bill (2007) LOUIS SOCKALEXIS: NATIVE AMERICAN BASEBALL PIONEER

    Yoo, Paula (2005) SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Reading Rockets Resources for Black History Month
    The Reading Rockets website has gathered some great resources for educators to share with students in February or any day. Resources include information about:

    • Writers, illustrators, and storytellers
    • Recommended children’s books
    • Activities for the classroom and the community
    • People and events
    • Online guides to African American history
    • PBS television programs
    Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: Electronic Resources for Teachers
    Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball there was Negro League Baseball. This site features history, a timeline, photos, and teacher resources, including lessons for Grades 9-12.

    African American Athletes
    Brief biographies and film clips of outstanding African American athletes. Don’t miss the links to legal and political figures, scientists and educators, activists, artists and writers, entertainers, and musicians and singers.

    Teaching Tolerance
    Teaching Tolerance is a website dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation's children. Educators will find a wealth of lesson plans and curriculum on this site.

    Roxanne Davidson has been working as an elementary school counselor since obtaining her Master's Degree in Education in 2005. Bibliotherapy has always been a passion of hers as she has witnessed the healing power of books in her students' lives. She has made it her mission to help teachers, children, and parents find contemporary books to help them address the many issues kids currently deal with in the classroom and at home. This inspired her to start the popular book review blog, Books That Heal Kids. Besides writing for her blog she enjoys running, reading and spending time with her husband and daughter.

    © 2013 Roxanne Davidson. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


    Plagiarism: Caught in the Middle by Michelle Y. Green

    THOR and the Thesis Statement by Michelle Y. Green
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  • ANNIE SULLIVAN AND THE TRIALS OF HELEN KELLER by Joseph Lambert is a graphic novel about the early relationship between Helen Keller and, her teacher, Annie Sullivan. The graphic novel format provides a unique perspective on Helen’s world without sound and sight, which is portrayed as dark and shapeless. However, as Helen learns more words from Annie, her world becomes more colorful and defined.
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    Putting Books to Work: Joseph Lambert’s ANNIE SULLIVAN AND THE TRIALS OF HELEN KELLER

    by Aimee Rogers
     | Jan 16, 2013
    ANNIE SULLIVAN AND THE TRIALS OF HELEN KELLER (Disney-Hyperion Books, 2012)
    Written and illustrated by Joseph Lambert
    Grades 5–12


    ANNIE SULLIVAN AND THE TRIALS OF HELEN KELLER by Joseph Lambert is a graphic novel about the early relationship between Helen Keller and, her teacher, Annie Sullivan. The graphic novel format provides a unique perspective on Helen’s world without sound and sight, which is portrayed as dark and shapeless. However, as Helen learns more words from Annie, her world becomes more colorful and defined. Many of the panels include images of hands finger spelling words, which adds another dimension to the text.

    The other unique aspect of this graphic novel is the focus on Annie’s life before Helen. Often when the relationship between Helen and Annie is discussed, Helen is seen as the one who overcame many obstacles before achieving success. However, Annie’s life was quite difficult as well and she, too, had innumerable hurdles in her life even before becoming Helen’s teacher.

    For example, after the death of their mother, Annie and her brother were abandoned by their father at a poorhouse. Annie’s brother, who was already sick, later died at the poorhouse and left Annie to grow-up alone in the frightening surroundings of the State Almshouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Annie later attended the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston, but she struggled there as well, as her feisty personality often got her in trouble.

    Finally, this text is a testament to the power of learning and teaching. Helen was considered to be dumb and incapable of learning or living a normal life. However, through Annie’s dedication and persistence Helen became a Radcliffe graduate in 1904.

    Passages from Annie’s own writing are included throughout this graphic novel; one passage in particular speaks to Annie’s approach to teaching and is a good reminder to all educators. She writes, “It seems to me that the teacher in a classroom spends much time trying to dig out of the child only what she has put into them. I am convinced that is self-indulgent and a waste of time” (p. 43).

    Cross-Curricular Connections: History/Social Studies, Language Arts/English, Visual Literacy

    Ideas for Classroom Use:

    A World Without Color

    As Helen couldn’t see the world around her, Annie had to describe everything to her, including colors. Annie describes brown for Helen as “the color of your dog. And the color of earth, and mud. Some horses are brown. A tree’s trunk and branches are brown. Your hair is brown too” (p. 54).

    As a creative writing activity, students could describe colors using their other senses. While this could be a fun activity at any time, it could be particularly helpful in writing poetry. THE BLACK BOOK OF COLORS (Groundwood Books, 2008), written by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faria, was created for those without sight. Their book could serve as an example and an interesting discussion piece.

    Multiple Viewpoints

    There are numerous books, articles, movies and other texts about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Each of these different texts is written from a different perspective. Decisions are made about what information to include and exclude. As a result of these choices, each text provides a different story about these two women. Some of the texts may be more accurate than others, while some texts may focus on emotions rather than events.

    Critical readers are able to identify multiple viewpoints in a story and to recognize the impact of these nuances on the information. In this activity, collect as many books, images, movies and other texts about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan as you can. Picture books, like Deborah Hopkinson’s ANNIE AND HELEN (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012, illustrated by Raul Colon) would be great for this activity as they are quicker to read and provide different sources of information via the text and the images.

    Working in small groups, students should read and explore multiple texts about Annie and Helen. This should then lead into group discussions about the information provided in each text, the decisions made by the author and the illustrator, and how these choices impacted the reading of the text. Students should/could consider the following questions:

    • Which text seems the most accurate and why?
    • Which text did you like the most and why?
    • Does one text seem to provide the entire story of Annie and Helen? Why or why not?
    • How does reading multiple texts about the same topic influence your knowledge about or impression of the topic?
    Ideally, students will come to realize that there are multiple ways to tell a story and that it is important to seek multiple sources of information when exploring any topic. This is an essential component of critical literacy, and critical media literacy in particular, and is becoming increasingly more important in our sound bite dominated world.

    A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

    The purpose of this activity is to develop and hone students’ visual literacy skills. Many theorists in the field of comics and graphic novels, including Scott McCloud (UNDERSTANDING COMICS), discuss the importance of “reading” and understanding visual images. As discussed in the summary above, Lambert makes interesting choices in how Helen’s world is portrayed before and after her learning with Annie.

    Select several “before” and “after” panels and encourage students to analyze and compare the artistic and compositional changes and what these reflect about Helen’s changing world. For example, in many of the “before” panels Helen is shown surrounded by black space, but in many of the “after” panels the space surrounding Helen is no longer black and empty, but rather, it is filled with items from her world and in addition to the inclusion of these items in the panel they are also labeled or named.

    What do these differences indicate about the changes that Helen is undergoing?

    Additional Resources and Activities:

    Helen Keller International
    Helen Keller International is an international nonprofit organization that was founded by Keller in 1915 in an effort to prevent blindness and reduce malnutrition worldwide. In addition to including information about the organization, this site provides links to additional resources about Helen Keller and her life.

    The Annie Mansfield Sullivan Foundation, Inc.
    The Annie Mansfield Sullivan Foundation is dedicated to “preserving and honoring the memories of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.” Their website provides extensive information about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, as well as links to additional information. Many photographs can also be found on the site, which can provide a deeper and/or different understanding of both Sullivan and Keller.

    National Braille Press
    January is National Braille Literacy Awareness Month. This site is a fantastic source for additional information and resources regarding Braille. The site includes a video about Braille technology as well as a downloadable Braille alphabet card and a biography of Louis Braille.

    Aimee Rogers is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota studying children’s and adolescent literature. Prior to her return to school, Aimee taught high school students with special needs, in a wide variety of settings, for ten years. She misses working with adolescents but is developing a passion for working with undergraduate pre-service teachers. She has a growing interest in graphic novels for children and young adults and is hoping to make them the topic of her upcoming dissertation.

    © 2013 Aimee Rogers. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


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