When Milo gets anxious, he imagines stories about the people around him. He studies their faces and conjures up images of what their lives must be like. Milo captures his imagination by drawing his visions in his sketchpad.
But could he be making correct judgements about the people he sees? Milo begins to change his thinking when he realizes one of his stories is wrong. He wonders about the quick judgments he’s made and considers different possibilities.
Milo questions what people might think of him. Can they see that he is a poet and his aunt takes good care of him? Do they know that his mother loves him very much and is incarcerated?
Milo Imagines the World is a beautiful story that opens up a conversation about bias and empathy. Illustrator Christian Robinson based Milo’s story on his own life. When Robinson felt overwhelmed as a child, drawing gave him a sense of control. His imagination opened up a world of possibilities while living in a small space without his mom.
Author Matt de la Peña does an incredible job unfolding Milo’s story. Readers first see Milo waiting for a subway train. The words describing the approaching train help readers see, feel, and hear the train as it comes to a stop. Text clues help the reader learn more about Milo as he travels. We get a full understanding of Milo by the end of the story where we read how he feels while hugging his family.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.A.2: Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by reflecting and questioning assumptions and possible misconceptions.
When looking at the cover of Milo Imagines the World, what do you suppose the story is about? I thought we would learn about a boy who aspires to be an engineer. I made this assumption because of the cityscape drawings and the pencil behind Milo’s ear. Reading Milo’s story made me realize how wrong I was with my first impression.
I fell into the same trap that Milo did in the story. I made a quick judgement about Milo just by looking at the cover of the book. Matt de la Peña wrote this book to help people like me learn to question first impressions. He wants readers to consider different possibilities with the people we see.
This lesson activity will help readers to question their first assumptions of Milo after reading Milo Imagines the World.
Begin the lesson by showing learners the cover of the book. Ask learners to share what the illustrator wants us to know about Milo. Record responses on chart paper.
Tell readers that while you read, their job is to notice new information about Milo. Learners can infer how he feels and discover his living situation. Record new information on the chart paper.
At the end of the story, learners will know more about Milo. Invite learners to reflect on how their thinking changed about Milo from the beginning of the story to the end. Discuss how Milo questioned his assumptions and considered different possibilities. Ask why it’s important to practice this reflection process when meeting new people.
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What does it take to make a satisfying meal for hungry neighbors? Passionate volunteers who are ready to work with whatever they have. In Our Little Kitchen, by Jillian Tamaki, readers watch volunteers pick garden vegetables, rifle through refrigerated items, and warm up day-old bread. They peel, chop and cook in a hurried rush. The clock ticks away the minutes before they welcome their neighbors with food.
Tamaki does an incredible job tackling a serious topic with playful text and drawings. Spot illustrations with interesting text features help readers get a feel for the sights, sounds and emotions that fill the community kitchen. The story is full of love, light and compassion.
The author’s note explains how Tamaki volunteered for many years in a community kitchen. She gives background information about the work and presents reasons why her neighbors were hungry. Our Little Kitchen captures a small moment in Tamaki’s big effort to raise awareness about hunger in local communities.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners Collaborate/Create III.B.1 Learners participate in personal, social, and intellectual networks by using a variety of communication tools and resources.
How are your neighbors doing? Contact your local food bank, community kitchen or social services to see if there is a need for donations. Consider inviting representatives from the organizations for a class visit. They can explain their roles in helping the community and point to areas where they need support. Learners can work together to create a plan to get food to those in need.
Do you want to learn about a grocery store that is making an impact on their community? Learn about the Daily Table in Massachusetts. The only items you’ll find in the store are nutritious groceries and prepared meals at low prices. Find out how they do this by reading their website. It’s good stuff!
Would you like to learn how to create a lesson plan based on the AASL Standards Framework for learners? Please join me for a 4-week course starting February 1, 2021! During our time together, you will learn how to:
1) find a compelling picture book
2) name an AASL Standard and classroom standards to work with
3) write an objective and a lesson
4) create a rubric to assess learning
By the end of this course, you will have a lesson plan that you can use with your learning community. Every week, you will watch a video, participate in a Zoom meeting, and complete an assignment. The Zoom meetings will take place on Thursday evenings at 7:00 PM Central Standard Time. Here, we can share resources, ideas, and offer support as we build our lesson plans.
The class size is limited to 30 participants, so please sign up today!
Think of a time when you really wanted something. Did anything get in the way of you reaching your goal? In Snail Crossing, by Corey R. Tabor, Snail spies a cabbage patch on the other side of a countryside road. Snail loves cabbage, and is determined to crawl across the street to the garden. The journey will be difficult, but nothing will stop Snail from reaching the goal.
Readers will enjoy making predictions with Snail Crossing. Fun surprises mixed in with expected scenarios make this a fun read aloud. The audience will never guess the ending of this entertaining story.
Delightful illustrations describe a challenging journey from different viewpoints. Scenes from the sky and the street give readers an idea of how big the challenge is for Snail. Wavy lines that trail behind Snail add more information about a difficult trek.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Grow V.D.1 Learners develop through experience and reflection by iteratively responding to challenges.
Snail was determined to get to the cabbage patch. Nothing would stand in Snail’s way. Cars, crows and even the rain could not stop Snail.
After reading about Snail’s determination, invite learners to think about something they really want. This could be something they hope to achieve, learn or create.
Ask learners to consider obstacles that might get in the way of reaching their goal. How can they work around obstacles they may face? Direct learners to create a plan to respond to possible challenges.
This lesson activity supports the Explore Shared Foundation. Click here for more lessons that compel learners to explore.
If You Come to Earth, by Sophie Blackall, is an incredible treasure. The wondrous illustrations and storyline will fill your heart and mind with awe. Evocative artwork fills every page, inviting readers to notice our amazing world. You’ll appreciate the incredible amount of work that went into every detail in this brilliant book.
In the story, Quinn writes a letter to a martian. He tells the extra-terrestrial all there is to know about Earth. Quinn captures the beauty, joys and splendors of our world. He describes the people and animals that inhabit the planet.
Fans of Hello Lighthouse will smile when they recognize Blackall’s technique for containing illustrations in circular shapes. The images inside each circle add information to the story. Some circles show what characters are thinking, while others illustrate feelings.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners Inquire/Create l.B.3 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.
If You Come to Earth invites us to recognize how amazing our world is. This concept might be hard to realize today when the world is in turmoil. Encourage learners to think about something or someone that gives them peace and makes them smile. Share ideas with the group.
Encourage learners to illustrate and write about their ideas. Invite them to add things they wonder about. They can save their work for a time when they need respite from troublesome world events.
Click here for more lesson activities that support the Inquire Shared Foundation. This lesson activity supports the AASL Standard Framework for Learners.
If you were an ostrich, how would you disguise yourself? It can’t be easy. But the narrator of Undercover Ostrich believes that these large birds are experts at camouflage. The illustrations, however, tell a different story. When the narrator challenges readers to find the ostrich, it’s not hard to do. The world’s largest bird stands out on every page.
Readers will laugh when they see the ostrich “hiding” on a telephone wire and on the subway train. They’ll enjoy the befuddled looks the ostrich gives while “undercover.” More giggles will ensue when the narrator makes an appearance at the end of the story.
Author/illustrator Joe Kulka delivers a humorous story by juxtaposing the narrator’s words with the illustrations. This interesting method of storytelling will engage readers to appreciate the outrageous scenarios of an ostrich hiding in plain sight. The cartoon illustrations add to the fun.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners Inquire/Create I.B.3 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.
The ostrich in this story clearly needs help hiding. Invite learners to consider why the ostrich stood out in each setting. Then, watch “Can You Find the Camouflaged Animals” by Earth Rangers to see what it takes to hide in plain sight.
Next, show learners pictures of ostriches in nature. Ask what they notice about the features and colors of the ostriches. Encourage learners to consider what kind of natural scenery an ostrich would need in order to hide. Explain that they will illustrate a picture of an ostrich that blends in with the background.
If you are wondering how to draw an ostrich, this video from the Art for Kids Hub YouTube channel will show you how.
If you enjoyed this lesson activity that inspires inquiry, check out our other blog posts that spark curiosity.
How do we build a sense of community in our classrooms? Start by reading Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali and Rahele Jomepour Bell. This important story features a diverse classroom where cultural traditions are celebrated.
The story begins with a teacher explaining why she loves the first day of school. It’s on this day that she gets to meet new people. She explains that they will all become close friends. They’ll learn about each other by celebrating everyone’s favorite day. This is exciting news to four boys who are the main focus of the story.
Through the boys presentations, we see how they celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, Rosh Hashanah, Las Posadas and Pi Day with their families. The boys are delighted to learn about the different celebrations. They get to know more about each other and become friends.
The illustrations in this book are heartwarming. Readers can feel the excitement from the children as they learn about each other’s families and traditions. The textured illustrations add interest to the story. My favorite picture shows a mother wearing a colorful hijab, a patterned dress and striped leggings. The natural flow in the material make the clothes seem three-dimensional.
The endpapers are a real treat. A quilt made of twenty-eight squares represent different cultures and holidays. Readers will be curious about the meaning behind some of the illustrated squares. They’ll also make connections with familiar symbols.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners Include/Create II.B.3 Learners adjust their awareness of the global learning community by representing diverse perspectives during learning activities.
Ask learners if they ever heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” In Our Favorite Day of the Year, Musa judged the boys at his table just by looking at them. He doubted that they could be friends because they “didn’t look like his friends.” Ask learners how the show-and-tell presentations changed Musa’s thinking. Invite them to consider how things would be different if they didn’t share their favorite days of the year.
Explain that today they will imagine how people might judge them the first time they meet. They’ll also consider what they want people to know about them. Learners will need a paper bag, scissors, paper and colored pencils, crayons or markers for this lesson.
On the outside of the bag, learners will draw a picture of themselves. They’ll also write how people might see them the first time they meet.
The inside of the bag is for what they wish people knew about them. They will write things people would miss if they judged them solely on their looks. They can write about their hopes, dreams and accomplishments on scraps of paper and put them in the bag. Here are some sentence starters to consider:
After the writing exercise, learners will share their bags with classmates. They will ask each other questions and have discussions to learn more about one another.
This lesson idea was inspired by Liz Kleinrock, an anti-bias, antiracist educator/writer. She uses the paper bag lesson to inspire meaningful discussions on identity. Learn more about her work on these websites: Teach and Transform and Empowering Educators. Click here to see Kleinrock’s TED Talk.
Try pairing this lesson activity with the book Milo Imagines the World.
Imagine telling a story using only illustrations. How would you engage readers to look closely at the images to gather meaning? Author-illustrator Pete Oswald is a master at visual storytelling. In his book Hike, Oswald uses vignettes, sequenced panels and double-page spreads to guide readers in a visual journey.
The magic of reading Hike starts on the book’s cover. The title, in block letters, reads from the bottom up. A father and son climb the letters with hiking gear. Each letter in the title illustrates the pair hiking in the mountains. The artwork conveys a sense of adventure that readers will enjoy.
The most fascinating feature of Hike is the revelation on the copyright page. Here, we learn that the story is not really about a hike. Instead, it’s about family tradition. We begin to notice something is up when a family album appears on the pages at the end of the story. We first see the album in the boys hand. Then it appears on the kitchen counter. Finally, the opened album is on the boy’s lap. The copyright page reveals what’s inside the album; generations of family members planting a tree in the mountains. Close readers will remember seeing the album at the beginning of the book on the boy’s bedside table.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.A.3 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.
Ask learners to write about a family tradition for three minutes. Challenge learners to keep their pencils writing. They don’t have to write complete sentences. Lists and key words will work. If learners can’t think of something to write, they can just write something like “what else can I write about my family tradition”.
After the writing exercise, invite learners to choose a word that represents their family tradition. Explain that they will create block letters out of that word and illustrate the inside of each letter. The illustrations will tell a story about their tradition. They will use the cover of the book Hike as a model for their illustration.
Want to learn how to create big, bold letters? Watch this demonstration of how to create block letters by Dave McDonald. A segment about drawing bubble letters is also included.
Learners may also want to explore illustrative maps after looking at the title page. Invite them to think about what the map is telling them. Welcome them to learn more about maps by reading Camilla, Cartographer by Julie Dillemuth and Laura Wood.
Are you looking for a book that shows readers how to ask compelling questions? If so, take a look at Just Because by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault. The story begins with a familiar bedtime scene. A little girl, tucked in her bed, asks her dad why the ocean is blue. Readers will infer that she’s asking such a big question because she doesn’t want to fall asleep. They may predict that the father will give a scientific answer. Readers will delight in the fantastic explanation that fills a double-page spread.
This story has an interesting text structure that will engage readers. It starts with a question that appears in a big circle of color. The questions have no quotation marks, but readers will understand the girl is talking. The answers on the next page float in white circles. It is understood that the father answers the questions, even though it is never stated.
Readers will also love the playful illustrations. The careful observer will notice a common color thread. The color of each circle with a question is featured on the next page. Readers will also realize that the father’s stories are inspired by toys in the bedroom.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: l.B.2 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.
Ask learners what they thought about the father’s answers. If he were visiting their school library, what resources could he use to find answers to the questions?
Invite learners to pretend the father needs their help to answer his daughter’s questions. Learners will pick one question from the book to research. They will make a plan to find the answer to the question.
Invite learners to create a zine, or a little notebook, to record their findings. They can follow the example in the book and write a question on one page and the answer on the next page.
Click here to watch a video on how to make a zine without scissors or staples. I created this video for young learners. They will need to pause the video along the way as they follow the directions.
Think of a time when a painting made you pause and wonder. What was it about the artwork that caught your attention? When Parker Curry was two years old, the portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama stopped her in her tracks. She was entranced by the “queen” who looked like the the women in her family. This connection opened a world of possibilities for Parker. She wrote Parker Looks Up with her mother to explain why the portrait resonated with her.
Readers are going to love the digitally rendered illustrations. Falling confetti and twinkling sparkles float around the pages like magic. There’s a sense of play with the words, too. Some words show up bright and pink, while others are bold and black. Speech bubbles in blue, pink, purple and yellow bring more fun to the pages. Ellipses fill readers with suspense about the wonderful possibilities that could appear on the next page.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: I.A.1 Learners display curiosity and initiative by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.
Here’s a lesson activity for the book Parker Looks Up by Parker Curry, Jessica Curry and Britanny Jackson:
Parker noticed nine paintings in the National Portrait Gallery. Create a Padlet with links to the paintings mentioned in the book (see links below). Ask learners what painting intrigues them? Give them time to appreciate the work of art. Learners will record what they notice and wonder about the art on the Padlet.
August Belmont and Isabel Perry by Wouterus Verschuur
George Washington Carver by Betsy Graves Reyneau
Albert Einstein by Max Westfield
Frida Kahlo by Magda Pach
Peacocks and Peonies by John La Farge
The Chinese Fishmonger by Theodore Wores
Young Omahaw, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees by Charles Bird King
The White Ballet by Everett Shinn
First Lady Michelle Obama by Everett Shinn
Click here to see Parker share her story on the Ellen Show.
Click on this link to find more lesson activities on our blog based on the Inquire Shared Foundation.