Across the Bay by Carlos Aponte

Summary

Would you like to visit the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico? If so, follow young Carlitos as he roams the city in Across the Bay by Carlos Aponte. Carlitos is searching for his father in this award-winning book. He wonders about Papi because he left home with no plans to return. Carlitos carries a photo of Papi. He uses it to ask people if they recognize the man in the picture. He seeks help from a street vendor selling piragua, gentlemen playing dominos, and a lady feeding stray cats.

When Carlitos loses hope, a park ranger restores it. He explains that Carlitos’s dad can live in his memory. Carlitos feels better and heads home to his loving family.

Readers will observe Carlitos and his surroundings from different view points. Some illustrations make the reader feel like they are looking down on the scene while sitting in a tree. Other pictures view the scene looking up from the ground. A fascinating viewpoint is from the other side of a mirror in a barbershop. This perspective allows readers to notice the barber shaving a young boys hair while fathers and sons wait for their turn. We also see how uncomfortable Carlitos is as he stands next to his mother.

Aponte’s illustrations are captivating. He uses bold, thick lines to outline figures and cityscapes. Some drawings are transparent, while others are full of saturated colors. This style of illustration will engage readers as they gather information about San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Curate/Think lV.A.1 Learners act on an information need by determining the need to gather information.

Across the Bay won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book award. Introduce the book by asking readers what they notice and wonder about the medal. Share information about the Pura Belpré medal by visiting the Association for Library Service to Children page dedicated to the award.

Next, ask learners to read the title and look at the illustration on the book cover. What they can expect to learn from this story?

Explain that as you read the story, learners have a job to do. Learners will gather information about what is across the bay by looking for clues in the story. They will record questions they have about what they read.

At the end of the story, ask learners to share their questions. How will they find answers to their questions? Create a class plan to gather and share information about Puerto Rico. Consider illustrating new information from different perspectives. Use examples from the book to inspire ideas.

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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.

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It began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way Lesson Activity

Book promotion for the picture book It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear.

Summary

What was your favorite childhood picture book? Did the story feature children of different races? If so, we can thank Gyo Fujikawa. She paved the way for racial inclusion in picture books.

It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way, by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad, is a fascinating story about how Fujikawa ended up creating books for children. Fujikawa was born and raised in California in the early 1900s. She loved drawing, and home was a place where she could fill pages of paper with pictures. Her parents encouraged her by supplying drawing tools and books.

At school, Fujikawa’s classmates paid no attention to her or her drawings. She felt invisible in her school where most of the children were white. One teacher noticed her artwork, and found funding to enroll Fujikawa in art school. Fujikawa’s studies led her to a career in illustration.

Fujikawa continued to be struck by racial injustice throughout her life. During World War II, her family was sent to a Japanese American interment camp. In the early 1960s, she recognized the injustice of segregation. These events compelled her to write and illustrate books featuring children of different races together on the same page. Fujikawa met resistance about her multi-racial books. She insisted that these books mattered. She was right, and her book were a hit.

Readers will enjoy learning how one person made a difference in the picture book industry. Fujikawa’s life was full, and author Kyo Maclear does a great job telling the story to young readers. The illustrations by Julie Morstad are gorgeous. Some of the drawings are black and white. Other illustrations have color. This technique engages readers to look closely at what the illustrator wants to convey by using different art styles. The end result is a book you’ll appreciate every time you share it with your class.

Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Think ll.A.3 Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community.

Gyo Fujikawa understood why all races need to be represented in picture books. Children want to see themselves in books and make connections with the stories. Discuss the questions below while reading It Began With a Page.

Questions While Reading
  • “After reading the title and looking at the book jacket and cover, what do you suppose this story is about?” (cover)
  • “What questions do have about the object drawn on the title page?” (title page)
  • “What did you learn about Gyo’s family on these pages?”(pgs.1-2)
  • “What can we learn from the illustrations on these pages? Why do you suppose they are in black and white? (pgs. 3-4)
  • “What do you notice about Gyo’s drawing implement?” (pg. 8)
  • “What is happening on these pages? How does Gyo feel about the way she’s being treated? How do you know?” (pgs. 9-10)
  • “What do you notice about this double-page spread? How does it compare to the previous double-page spread? What do you think the illustrator is trying to tell us with these illustrations?” (pgs. 11-12)
  • “How would you describe Gyo’s classmates? How do you know this?” (pg. 13)
  • “What did we learn about Gyo on these pages? Why do you suppose the author wrote about this?” (pgs. 14-22)
  • “What questions do you have about the information on these pages?” (pgs. 23-33)
  • “What do you notice on this page? What questions do you have?” (pg. 34)
  • “What did we learn about what picture books?” (pg. 36)
  • “How do you think Gyo felt about what the publisher told her about her book? How do you know?” (pg. 38)
  • “Why was it important for Gyo’s book to get published? How do you know? (pg. 39-42)
  • “What do you think about the title after reading the story? Does the title capture what the story is about? Explain your answer with examples from It Began With a Page.”
Questions After Reading

Discuss how Fujikawa wanted all children to see themselves in books. Some people refer to these books as “mirrors”. Ask learners to think of a book where they saw themselves in the book. How did the book help them learn more about themselves?

Explain how some books are referred to as “windows”. Books can provide windows to the lives of different people and places. Ask learners to share titles of books that helped them learn more about the world around them. Invite them to share what they learned.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop first described books as windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors. Click here to read more about her great work.

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

Click here to purchase Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades.

How Do You Dance? By Thyra Heder

Book promotion for How Do You Dance by Thyra Heder.

Summary

If you are looking for a book that is sure to put a smile on your face and a jiggle in your soul, you’ve got to read How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder. Every page shows people of all ages tapping, jumping, dabbing and shimmying around in their own style. Their fluid movements are so lively, you could almost imagine them dancing off the pages.

The fun begins on the front endpapers, where readers will enjoy checking out the dance moves of a diverse group of people. They’ll find more people striking dance poses on the back endpapers. Some double-page spreads are dedicated to showing a dance move that begins on the left side of the book and progresses to the right side. These images have a flip book feel to them where we see a series of static images move across the page.

Readers will recognize some of the moves in this book. They’ll want to try some of the new dances. Which one makes you want to move?

Double-page spread from How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder. Two children move in a continuous dance across the pages.

Reading Response

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

Thyra Heder watched a lot of videos of people dancing in order to illustrate her book. Invite learners to take several pictures of someone dancing. Ask them to practice drawing stick figures that move like the person in their photos. They can transfer their new skills in stick figure drawing to create a flip book. Click here to see an example by Pip Francis in the YouTube movie Stick figure flip book.

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

Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth

Summary

What does a bowerbird have in common with author/illustrator Susan L. Roth? It turns out alot! In her story, Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me, Roth describes her art process in an interesting way. She compares it to how bowerbirds make their nests. They both collect unusual objects for their creations. They also love adding color to their projects. Roth uses tweezers and her hands to manipulate materials, while bowerbirds use their beak and claws.

Readers are going to love this idea of comparing oneself to an animal. They’ll also enjoy the illustrations composed with all different kinds of material. For curious readers who want to learn more about Roth and bowerbirds, they’ll be happy to find detailed information in the back matter.

Double page spread found in the picture book Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth. A bowerbird collects material with it's beak and claws while an artist uses her hands and scissors to work with materials.

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 create for a variety of purposes.

Invite learners to think about something they love to do. Is there an animal that has an affinity for the same thing? Direct learners to create Venn Diagram to show the similarities and differences they have with the animal. Explain that they will have to do some research to find as much information as they can to make a strong argument for their comparisons.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
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 Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa Lesson Activity

Summary

What can you create with a straight line? If you need some inspiration, take a look at Ruth Asawa’s wondrous sculptures. She constructed them by weaving wire with her hands, creating movement with continuous loops. Light plays a special role with the wire mesh; casting a magnificent shadow beyond the sculptures.

How did Asawa learn to create such fantastic hanging forms? In the book A Life Made By Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa, author Andrea D’Aquino illustrates the history of the artist. We discover Asawa’s affinity for art started at a young age. She noticed organic forms and shapes and made art with paint, paper and wire.

In college, Asawa learned how to create art with available materials. Wire intrigued her. She was curious about what she could make from something that started as a line. After learning how to weave with wire from an artisan in Mexico, Asawa transferred her new skills to craft her famous sculptures.

Readers will appreciate the combination of charcoal, colored pencils, and paper shapes that illustrate Asawa’s life. The accessible text complements the art with angled lines and curved shapes. The back matter includes directions to make a paper dragonfly along with more information about Asawa.

Illustration of a double-page spread from A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa by Andrea D'Aquino. The illustration is of Ruth Asawa weaving a sculpture out of wire.

Lesson Idea

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

After reading A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa by Andrea D’Aquino, discuss how Asawa made art with whatever materials she had. Sometimes, she used paper. Ask learners to take stock of the paper and other materials they have at home. What can they create?

Invite learners to do an image search of “paper crafts.” They will be amazed at what they’ll find! Direct them to create something based on what they see. Develop a plan to work around possible problems. Encourage learners to persist through mistakes and make adjustments. Invite them to share works-in-progress if they would like feedback from their peers.

Follow author/illustrator Andrea D’Aquino on Instagram where you’ll find her reading her book, A Life Made by Hand.

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

Click here to purchase a copy of our book.

Earth Hour: A Lights-Out Event for our Planet Lesson Activity

Promotional image for lesson activity to go with the book Earth Hour: A Lights-Out Event for Our Planet by Nanette Heffernan. The book is in the center of the image. Surrounding the book are light bulbs and a candle.

Summary

Earth Hour is a global event that occurs on the last Saturday of March at 8:30 P.M. For one hour, people turn their lights off. Statues, monuments and famous landmarks go dark. Homes do, too. This movement brings attention to the amount of energy we use without even thinking about it. The hope is that for 60 minutes, we’ll think about the energy we consume and what this means for Earth.

Author Nanette Heffernan wrote Earth Hour: A Lights-Out Event for Our Planet after learning about the occasion. She was so inspired by the movement, that she made a pledge to tell one million people about Earth Hour.

Young readers are going to love this book. The simple text and engaging illustrations take readers around the world to learn about energy and Earth Hour.

Illustrator Bao Luu does a remarkable job taking readers around the world with his digital drawings. Readers will see nighttime scenes of diverse families looking at famous monuments, buildings and landmarks before and after the lights go out for Earth Hour.

The story ends with a gathering of people holding candles with the words “…together we have power. United, we are Earth Hour.” Detailed information about Earth Hour is included at the end of the book.

Lesson Activity

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.

Before reading the story, invite readers to look at the cover of the book. Ask learners what they suppose the story is about. Follow up on their responses by asking learners to explain their answers.

Explain that readers will hear the word “equinox” in the story. Write the word “equinox” along with the definition on a sentence strip. Post the sentence strip where readers can see it.

Ask the following questions while reading the story:

  • On this page,  the author introduces the word “energy.” How  would you describe the word “energy” by looking at the illustrations on these pages? What do you suppose the yellow dots are in the background? What makes you say that? (pgs 1-2)
  • What do  the illustrator and the author want us to know about energy after reading these pages? (pg.3-12)
  • In the authors note, we learn why the author wrote this book. She made a pledge to tell one million people about Earth Hour. Why is it important to inform others about this event?
  • Explain that people from around the world are planning Earth Hour events. Click here to read about some of the events.
  • Invite learners to brainstorm activities they could do during Earth Hour. Ask them to think about events with with their family, their class and their community.

Click here for another lesson activity about Earth.

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

How to Respond to Literature with Sketchnotes

Hi Everyone!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on my first class for Skillshare and today it’s officially live!

If you’re not familiar with Skillshare, it’s an online learning community with thousands of classes on everything from photography to illustration to fashion – it’s the Netflix of learning. 

In this class, you’ll see me modeling how to sketchnote while reading the book Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris. My hope is that you’ll take the skills learned in this class and model sketchnoting to learners. Before you know it, they’ll want to try sketchnoting themselves.

Sketchnoting is important because it compels learners to look closely and think deeply about the topic at hand. It’s a great way to engage learners with literature.

Click here to enroll in the class and sign up for a Skillshare Premium Membership. You’ll have access to all other classes on Skillshare starting with a one-month free trial. 

If you are looking for lesson plans, rubrics, anchor charts and assessments to go along with Her Right Foot, check out our book Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Books.

What is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison

IMG_7164 2

Summary

If a local family lost everything in a fire, you would probably donate clothes and money to help. But what if you had nothing to give? What is Given from the Heart is a beautiful story that captures the true essence of generosity.

Young James Otis knows what it means to live with very little. His family is poor. Life gets tougher when his father falls asleep and never wakes up.

At church, they hear about a family who needs help. Their house burned down with all of their belongings. The congregation is asked to make donations. But what could James and his mom possibly give when they have so little themselves?

Author Patricia C. McKissack shows us the struggle of a young boy who grapples with helping others when he could use some help himself. The illustrator, April Harrison, adds depth to the text with her beautiful portrayal of the characters. The color choices and mixed media artfully capture the mood and feelings of the story. Her illustrations caught the attention of many readers who promoted her work with Mock Caldecott awards.

IMG_7211

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Grow II.D.3 Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by reflecting on their own place within the global learning community.

After reading the story, ask learners what they noticed about the gift James made for Sarah. What did it take to make it? Learners may say that it took empathy, time and creativity.

Ask learners to think about situations where people might need help in their school. Perhaps a new student might feel left out at lunch, or someone might be sad about a lost family pet. Others may feel alone at recess. Brainstorm ideas on what the group can do to show others they care.

Take a look at a couple of ideas from Colchester Elementary School in Connecticut. Watch this video to learn about their Buddy Bench that helps people make friends at recess. Read this post about their Giving Tree project that assists those in need.

Please share your ideas in the comment box below!

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

Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines by Sarah Aronson and Robert Neubecker

The cover of the book Just Like Rube Goldberg by Sarah Aronson and Robert Neubecker is featured in this image. A Rube Goldberg machine surrounds the book, preparing to open the pages.

Summary

What did you love to do when you were a kid? Did that passion stick with you through adulthood?

Rube Goldberg loved to draw as a child. He especially enjoyed drawing cartoons. His passion stuck with him into adulthood, and he wanted to find work as an artist. This wasn’t easy. His parent’s discouraged the idea. Newspapers rejected his cartoons. But he persisted. He kept drawing and submitting his work until one day he was hired as a cartoonist.

Goldberg’s work was well received. Readers loved his drawings. They especially liked his Professor Butts’s cartoons. Professor Butts created convoluted contraptions to solve simple problems. His intriguing machines made everyone laugh.

Readers will enjoy this fascinating story about a determined man. The resonating message about getting what you want out of life can’t be missed. Captivating illustrations fill the pages. The double-page spreads are perfect for viewing audiences. Readers will especially love the three spreads dedicated to Professor Butt’s and his contraptions.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Think III.A.3 Learners identify collaborative opportunities by deciding to solve problems informed by group interaction.

Did you know that Goldberg never made any of his gadgets? He only drew the machines. Invite learners to work together to design a contraption of their own.

  • Show learners a Professor Butts’s creation from the book. Ask learners what they notice. Explain that they will draw a Rube Goldberg machine. What elements should they consider including in their drawings?
  • Tell learners that they will work with a group to draw one Rube Goldberg machine.
  • Ask what it looks like and sounds like to work with a group. Model group interactions and ask learners what they notice. Write helpful reminders and conversation starters on chart paper. Invite learners to practice different scenarios. Gather ideas on how to ensure everyone in the group has a job.
  • Notice great examples of group work as learners discuss and create. Share out what you see. “I’m noticing one group is making sure everyone has a voice.”
  • Gather as a group at the end of the session. Ask learners what problems they ran into while working together. Ask how they solved their problems. Discuss what went well during the process and consider tips for the next group project.

Wonderopolis has a page dedicated to Rube Goldberg. Watch the featured video that shows a Rube Goldberg machine in action. Give learners time to explore the other great resources on the page.

Want more ideas? Quest Academy made a human machine. Kids will love watching this video with fifth graders!

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

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

The cover of the book Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins and Sara Palacios is featured in this image. A blue sky and a sandy hill fill the background. Garland drapes above the cover of the book.

Have you heard about La Posada Sin Fronteras? I just learned about this significant gathering by reading Between Us and Abueala: A Family Story from the Border.

La Posada Sin Fronteras takes place at the border of the United States and Mexico. Every December, family and friends gather on both sides of the fences that divide the countries. They touch hands and sing songs to celebrate Las Posadas; a holiday that commemorates the journey before the birth of Jesus.

Between Us and Abuela opens with a family making gifts for their grandmother who lives in Mexico. They are planning to meet her at the border of San Diego and Tijuana for Las Posadas. The little girl is both happy and worried about the gathering. She knows a fence will divide their reunion. Will she find her grandmother? Will the gifts fit through the fence?

This important book will inspire great questions and discussions about borders. The author and illustrator did an outstanding job of bringing this topic to young readers. The storyline is engaging and approachable. The theme of holiday celebrations and family gatherings is one that all readers will connect with. Organic questions will arise when readers see that this event is quite different from other celebrations.

Between Us and Abuela Activity

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.

Write “Questions I Have About La Posada Sin Fronteras” on chart paper. Pass out sticky notes and pencils.

Invite learners to write questions they have about the story on their sticky notes. They will place their questions on the chart paper at the end of the story.

Ask the following questions as you read Between Us and Abuela:

Page 1: Look closely at the illustration. What does the image tell you about the setting of the story? Read the text. What new information do you have?

Page 2-3: Where is the family going? How do you know? What questions do you have about their journey?

Page 4-5: How is the mother feeling as she walks towards the fence? How do you know? What does the author want us to know about this visit? What makes you say that?

Page 6-7: What does the author want us to know about the gifts? Why is this important to understand?

Page 8-9: Read the text and notice the illustration. What information can you gather about the families and their reunion? What questions you have?

Page 10-11: Why is there concern about Juan’s gift?

Pages 12-13: Here the author mentions that the fences seem invisible. What does she mean by that? What questions do you have about Las Posadas?

Pages 14-15: How is the family feeling? What makes you say that?

Pages 18-19: How is Mama feeling on this page? What makes you think so?

Pages 20-23: What questions do you have about how the officers react to the girl’s plan?

La Posada Sin Fronteras took place on December 14, 2019. Check social media postings to share with learners.

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

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I am an affiliate of Amazon and Bookshop. If you click on the links below and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Click here to read the Disclosure page.

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