Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story by Lesléa Newman

Gittel's JourneySummary

Imagine leaving your country, all by yourself, at the age of ten. Now see yourself arriving in a new country. No one is there to meet you, and you don’t understand the language. Imagine what that must feel like. This is Gittel’s story. When she arrived to Ellis Island, she was scared, sad and unsure. Fortunately, an interpreter made Gittel feel less afraid. He found a crafty way to locate Gittel’s cousin, and the story has a happy ending.

Gittel’s Journey is based on two stories. The Author’s Note describes her family history that inspired this book. Also included is information about how immigrants were processed once they reached Ellis Island. Websites at the end of the book invite further research.

Readers will enjoy this accessible story. The beautiful illustrations, done with soft watercolors, bring Gittel’s journey to life. The sepia colors give the book an aged feel, setting the stage for the time period of the story.

Gittel's Journey

Response to Literature

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.

After reading this story, ask learners to share their questions. Explore Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today by Scholastic. Learners will appreciate this informative site with an interactive tour and stories of young immigrants. Charts with thought-provoking questions will compel learners to consider how world events impact immigration.

Learners can also interview family members or neighbors who immigrated to America. They can share their story on StoryCorps. This free platform shares audio clips of meaningful conversations. Sara Ratliff, the school librarian at Warrington Middle School in Pensacola, uses StoryCorps with her learners. They practice interviewing techniques and consider how to ask thought-provoking questions. These relevant skills will help them outside of the classroom. Read more about Ratliff’s program on the KnowledgeQuest blog.

For more picture books to broaden ideas about immigration, read Humanizing Immigration with Picture Books on the KnowledgeQuest blog. 

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove by Barry Wittenstein

Sonny'sBridge

Summary

Sonny Rollins was born during the Harlem Renaissance; a time when jazz exploded all over the city. The movement cultivated genius musicians who grabbed the attention of music lovers everywhere. One entertainer caught Sonny Rollins’s eye. His name was Louis Jordan, and his sharp tuxedo and star appeal fascinated Rollins. Rollins dreamed of becoming a saxophone player like Jordan. A few years later, Rollins starts playing the saxophone and begins a focused journey to stardom.

This biography of Sonny Bridge reads like a jazz song. Syncopated notes of jazz greats and historical events emerge throughout the text. The conversational language flows with a creative tempo. Interesting use of punctuation enhances the rhythm of the story.

Readers will appreciate the illustrations by Keith Mallett. He captured movements in dance, music and light with his artwork. The engaging images point to the influence jazz had in Harlem in the early 1900s. Emerging readers will be able to read the illustrations and understand the storyline.

Extra information is added at the end of the book. There is a note from the author explaining how jazz entered his life. There is also information about The Bridge album, a timeline, quotes, websites, videos and a bibliography.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Curate/Create IV.B.4 Learners gather information appropriate to the task by organizing information by priority, topic, or other systematic scheme.

Gather Information

Readers may find themselves asking questions about the musicians mentioned in this book. Invite learners to work in groups and research the musicians. Curate information using Padlet, a Google Doc or SeeSaw.

Organize Information

Ask groups to share highlights from their research. Consider common threads with the musicians.

Tell learners that they will create a class ebook, slideshow or electronic pinboard about the musicians. Explain that the presentation should be cohesive. Brainstorm theme ideas and common elements for the digital presentation.

Bibliography

Engage learners in a discussion of giving credit to information used in the presentation. Point to the bibliography in Sonny’s Bridge. Ask why it’s important to make note of these resources. Use the bibliography to model how to cite work.

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini

Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini

Our Book is Published!

We are so excited about the 21 lessons in this book! We hope you will be, too!

We are passionate about picture books. We especially love books that compel us to think, create, share and grow. Many of our collaborative lessons started with a picture book. We are sharing our favorite lessons hoping that you will love them as much as we do.

Lessons Inspired by Picture Books is unique because it includes assessments and rubrics. They align with the AASL Standards Framework for Learners. Now you’ll have an understanding of where learners are before and after each lesson.

Other national standards are addressed with each lesson. A table indicates the standards that each lesson fulfills. We did this to invite you to collaborate with classroom educators.

Working with this book will give you a better understanding of the AASL Standards. Every picture book features a Shared Foundation and a lesson for each of the four Domains. Anchor charts, worksheets and tips are included with each lesson.

If you already received your copy, we would love to hear from you! What do you think? Please share in the comment box below!

Look at the Weather by Britta Teckentrup

LookingAtTheWeather

Summary

What do you wonder about the weather? How does it make you feel? These questions engage the reader throughout this gorgeous book about the elements. Look at the Weather reads like a meditative narrative. Facts mix with wonder and sensations to explain the sun, rain, snow, ice and extreme weather. Striking illustrations alongside the text capture the colors in our world.

This is not your typical nonfiction text. The meditative feel of this book is unencumbered by bold words, captions and diagrams. Instead, textured images illustrate the nuances of weather. Readers can refer to a glossary at the end of the book to clarify meaning.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Share V.C.1 Learners engage with the learning community by expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

This lesson in contemplative art invites learners to consider how weather impacts their feelings.

  • Find a place to observe the weather.
  • Ask learners to take a close at the weather. What do they notice? What do they wonder? How does it make them feel?
  • Explain that the author, Britta Teckentrup, appreciates how weather connects with human emotions. She recognized artists who modeled this connection with their art. Tell learners that they will observe the weather. They will illustrate what they see and feel as they create.
  • Invite learners to close their eyes. Take a few deep breaths and relax their bodies. Concentrate on the breath to clear the mind. Ask learners to open their eyes and notice the weather. What do they see? How does it make them feel? What questions do they have?
  • Tell learners they will illustrate their feelings, thoughts and questions as they observe the weather. They can illustrate with an art form that is comfortable to them: doodles, words, drawings, or sculpture.
  • Supply drawing and coloring materials along with paper and sticky notes. Give learners an opportunity to share their work when complete.

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

 

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Summary

Yuyi Morales reminds us how important libraries are in her latest book. When Morales first arrived in America with her young son, she didn’t know how to speak English. She was afraid and unsure of her new surroundings. One day, she visited the library. Picture books captured her attention. Morales discovered she could read the illustrations and understand the storyline. The language difference was no longer a barrier. She learned to read, speak and write in English by spending hours exploring books. This beautiful story weaves words of poetry with compelling illustrations. Each page holds layers of meaning. Readers will enjoy exploring fascinating details in this gorgeous book.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.A.1 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes.

Morales is a self-taught artist. She spent hours copying illustrations from picture books. Her story of independent exploration and creativity will inspire learners to delve into art.

  • Ask learners to share titles of their favorite picture books. Invite them to turn and talk about why those books speak to them.
  • Introduce Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. Explain that her favorite picture books compelled her to create. She copied illustrations to learn art techniques.
  • Watch Live Art: Yuyi Morales by the New York Times. This video clip is on Facebook. If your district blocks Facebook, listen to Morales speak on the podcast  Is There Someone You Need to Thank? by Public Radio International (PRI). Learners will hear how grateful she is that a librarian welcomed her in the library.
  • Read Dreamers. Invite learners to collect picture books that compel them to create. Give learners time to explore the illustrations and consider their favorite mediums. Ask them to make a list of the materials they’ll need to recreate their favorite illustrations.
  • Set up art stations for the next class visit. Stock the stations with needed art supplies. Encourage learners as they work with different mediums. Display work with books when finished.

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

A Big Mooncake for Little Star

 

Summary

A mooncake is a Chinese pastry that is popular during the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The festival celebrates the harvest when the moon is full. The combination of the moon and the mooncake inspired Grace Lin to write A Big Mooncake for Little Star. This fantastic folktale explains why the shape of the moon changes. The setting takes place in outer space. A little girl and her mother bake in their celestial kitchen. The girl, Little Star, wears black pajamas with a star print. Her mama wears the same outfit. Together, they make a mooncake and place it in the night sky to cool. Little Star can’t resist sneaking nibbles from the delicious mooncake. Every night she eats a little more until only a sliver of the cake remains. Mama smiles when she sees what’s left of the pastry. The story ends as it begins, with the pair making a mooncake.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.B.2 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by reflecting and questioning assumptions and possible misconceptions.

This book lends itself to 4 different exploration scenarios. Learners may want to explore some of these questions:

  1. What ingredients are in a mooncake? How do you make them? What is the history behind the mooncake?
  2. What is the Mid-Autumn Festival? How is it celebrated? Where and when does the festival take place?
  3. What are the phases of the moon? How do they happen?
  4. What are the elements of a folktale? What other folktales center around the moon?

Invite learners to explore a topic of interest. Prepare for independent learning sessions by passing out Know, Want to Know, How Will I Learn It, Learned (KWHL) worksheets. Instruct learners to fill out the first three columns of their worksheet. Collect worksheets and identify needed resources. Gather books and online resources for learners to explore. Enlist the help of volunteers to support young learners as they research their topic.

If you are looking for Moon resources, try these online resources:

If you like these lesson ideas, please check out our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes detailed lesson plans, essential questions, worksheets, rubrics and assessments. 

Wild Buildings and Bridges: Architecture Inspired by Nature by Etta Kaner

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Summary

Are you planning a STEAM challenge? Does it involve design and construction? If so, read Wild Buildings and Bridges: Architecture Inspired by Nature. In this book, author Etta Kaner explains how nature influences design. She pulls on her experience as a classroom teacher to deliver this information. Kaner engages the audience with thought provoking questions and illustrated examples. Step-by-step directions invite learners to experiment with architecture. Readers will feel compelled to study nature after reading this intriguing book.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Create: V.B.2 Learners construct new knowledge by persisting through self-directed pursuits by tinkering and making.

  • Prepare for lesson by creating three design stations based on the experiments in the book. Provide directions and materials at each station.
    • Station 1: “Test a Truss”
    • Station 2: “Why are Honeycombs Made of Hexagons?”
    • Station 3: “Making Water in the Desert”
  • Read the directions for each station with learners. Invite them to choose a station to explore.
  • Provide books on bridges, honeybees and plants and animals of the desert for further study. Offer graph paper and pencils to design a structure based on nature.
  • Enrich learning by following the Where’s Rodney by Carmen Bogan activity.

Share your designs with #AASLstandards!

If you like these lesson ideas, please check out our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes detailed lesson plans, essential questions, worksheets, rubrics and assessments. 

Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco

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Summary

Think of a favorite author who is also an illustrator. Do you ever wonder about their process? Do they write the story and then work on the illustrations? For Virginia Lee Burton, the illustrations took center stage. Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton is a biography that reads like a Disney movie. The vivid colors and imaginative drawings invite us to see “Jinnee” at work. She moves through the pages as if she is performing a ballet about her life as an illustrator. Children will enjoy reading the inspiration behind Burton’s classics with this beautiful book.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Share: V.C.1 Learners engage with the learning community by expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

  • Collect copies of Virginia Lee Burton’s books. Show learners the covers and ask what they notice. Some will notice all books were written and illustrated by the same author.
  • Vote on a book to read aloud. After the reading, ask learners what questions they have about the author. Write questions on chart paper.
  • Say, “I have a biography about Virginia Lee Burton. Let’s read it to see if we can find some of the answers to your questions.”
  • Read Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco. Refer to the chart paper when questions are answered.
  • Ask learners to share the names of authors and illustrators they are curious about.
  • Demonstrate how to search for biographies with the online catalog.
  • Introduce the following blog posts and website to learn about other authors:
  • Celebrate National Author’s Day by inviting learners to write a note to their favorite author. They could write a formal letter, or post a note on social media. National Author’s Day occurs every November 1st. It’s a day to thank authors for sharing their work with us.

If you like these lesson ideas, please check out our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes detailed lesson plans, essential questions, worksheets, rubrics and assessments.

Online Resources:
Great Websites for Kids:
   http://gws.ala.org/category/literature-amp-languages/authors-illustrators
Video Interviews with Top Children’s Authors and Illustrators:
   http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews
18 Best Videos to Get to Know Children’s Authors & Illustrators:
https://honorsgradu.com/18-best-videos-to-get-to-know-childrens-authors-illustrators/

Someone New by Anne Sibley O’Brien

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Summary

Imagine you have a learner in your classroom from another country. They speak their native language. How do you include them in your conversations to learn their perspective? Someone New illustrates how to welcome diverse learners in the classroom. Three different scenarios describe what it looks like and feels like to see a new student. American children tell their stories with open honesty. We hear ideas that readers can connect with. The narrators notice that the new students are uncomfortable, but they don’t know how to help. Because they are empathetic, they find ways to talk with their new friends. The casual narration invites readers to see what the children think. We see them process their thoughts. The illustrations add depth to the story by helping us read emotions. This relevant story deserves a prominent place in any collection.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Grow II.D.2 Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by demonstrating interest in other perspectives during learning activities. 

  • Ask learners to think about a time when they were in a group discussion. Did they notice someone sitting quietly? What did they do to include them in the conversation?
  • Introduce the story Someone New by Anne Sibley O’Brien. Explain that while you read, their job is to notice how the children in the book engage with the new students.
  • Ask learners why it’s important to make connections with other students. What can we learn from other people? Why do different opinions matter?
  • Explain that sometimes, people don’t share their opinions during group discussions. Ask why that might be. Brainstorm ideas to make sure everyone contributes in a discussion. Think about different ways people can contribute without using words. Develop strategies to listen to different opinions and add to the discussion.

Extend this lesson by reading I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien. It’s the same story as Someone New. However, this time, immigrants tell the story. Children will hear a different perspective and build empathy after reading this relevant story.

If you like these lesson ideas, please check out our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes detailed lesson plans, essential questions, worksheets, rubrics and assessments.

Snails Are Just My Speed! A Toon Book by Kevin McCloskey

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Summary

Do you have the book Snails Are Just My Speed! by Kevin McCloskey in your collection? If not, I highly recommend getting a few copies. Learners and educators are going to love this book. As the stamp on the left-hand corner of the cover implies, you’ll hear giggles while reading this Toon Book. The presentation of information is quite remarkable. My favorite page is an infographic of sorts that shows different animals moving as if they are in a race. A fly is in the lead, while a snail hitches a ride with a tortoise in last place. Each animal tells how much faster they are than the animal directly behind them. Math mixes with science to engage readers on this double-page spread. The illustration may inspire learners to design a pictograph with this format.

What page is your favorite? Please share in the comment box below.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework For Learners: Inquire/Think I.A.1 Learners display curiosity and initiative by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.

  • Draw a large snail on chart paper. See directions at the end of Snails Are Just My Speed! by Kevin McCloskey.
  • Ask learners what they wonder about snails. Direct them to write their questions on sticky notes and place them on the chart paper. Read the questions to the whole group.
  • Ask the following questions as you read the book:
    • What can we expect from this book? (cover)
    • Here the author compares a snail to a camper. How are they the same? How are they different? What questions do you have about snail’s shells? (pg. 1)
    • Here the author points out how fast animals are in a fascinating way. What do you notice about how he shares this information? (pgs. 2-3)
    • What questions do you have about predators? (pgs. 4-5)
    • What questions do you have about mucus? (pgs. 8-9)
    • How does mucus help snails? (pgs. 10-15)
    • Here the author compares the mucus of a snail to that of a person. What is different? What is the same? (pg. 16)
    • What questions do you have about farming snails? (pg. 18)
    • What do you notice about where snails live? (pgs. 20-21)
    • The author is comparing snails to different objects. What is the same? What is different? (pgs. 22-23)
    • Why do you think the author used the title “Map of a Snail” for this page? (pg. 24)
    • What information can you gather from the illustration of a snail reading an eye chart? (pg. 25)
  • Ask learners to turn and talk with their neighbor about a fun fact they learned from the book.
  • Tell learners that they will draw a snail and illustrate what they learned from the story. They can use any text feature they want to share information. Some may want to find a picture of a snail using Photos for Class (an AASL Best Website for Teaching and Learning). They can upload the picture to an app like SeeSaw (an AASL Best App for Teaching and Learning) to add text bubbles and labels.

Check out Toon Books’s website for more teaching ideas and fun activities for learners (http://www.toon-books.com/).

If you like these lesson ideas, please check out our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes detailed lesson plans, essential questions, worksheets, rubrics and assessments.

Mentioned Resources

Photos for Class (https://www.photosforclass.com/)

SeeSaw (https://web.seesaw.me/)

Toon Books (http://www.toon-books.com/)

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