The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge

Recommended Grades: 3-5

Trees have stories, too! The story of a tree is a story of community, communication, and cooperation. They form a network buzzing with life: they talk, share food, raise their young, and offer protection. Trees not only sustain life on our planet – they can also teach us important lessons about patience, survival, and teamwork.

Lesson Idea:

Mentor Text: Nonfiction Poetry

The Wisdom of Trees is a fascinating combination of nonfiction prose and poetry. Through this structure, Lita Judge invites readers to learn about the science, chemistry, and growth of trees through thorough research and engaging details. Labeled diagrams and lush illustrations accompany the text and highlight the connectivity of forests. The back matter includes additional background on each poem and how that poem reflects real-life science.

There is so much here that I would love to unpack with students in writer’s workshop. I recommend using this as a model text for students to research a science topic and create their own combination of nonfiction prose and poetry to share their learning with others. This book is a natural invitation for children to do so!  

©2021 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson

Recommended Grades: 3-5

Long before Claudette Colvin or Rosa Parks fought for equal rights on public transportation, Lizzie Jennings fought for equality on New York City streetcars. Her courage and perseverance led to her winning the first recorded legal victory for equal rights on public transportation.

Lesson Idea:

Mentor Text: Social Justice Units

Lizzie Demands a Seat is a great mentor for three instructional moves in the classroom. First, use the text as a mentor when teaching about racial discrimination. It is important for students to understand that discrimination wasn’t only in the American South, but also occurred in other parts of the country as well. Second, consider including Lizzie Demands a Seat in a unit on activism. Finally, this book is a wonderful way to showcase strong, persistent women in American history.

Edited to include a link to Beth Anderson’s website as well as an Educator Guide and Class Activity she shares on her site.

©2021 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Back to School Series: How to Write a Story by Kate Messner

Teachers around the country are gearing up to begin a new school year, many in a way that has never been experienced before. But, no matter the environment that teachers find themselves in this year,  whether it is virtual or in person with masks, I know this to be true: TEACHERS WILL STILL TEACH!  So, I’ve put together a Back to School series to help teachers choose books that will build their classroom communities, no matter if that community is in person or online.  

Recommended Grades: K-5

Kate Messner and Mark Siegel playfully chronicle the process of becoming a writer in this fun follow-up to How to Read a Story.

Lesson Idea: 

Mentor Text: Build Community and Writer’s Workshop: How to Write a Story (July 7, 2020, Chronicle Books) guides young storytellers through the joys and challenges of the writing process. From choosing an idea, to deciding on a setting, and creating a heroine – or hero, this empowering picture book breaks down the writing process in a dynamic and accessible way, encouraging kids to explore their own creativity—and share their stories with others!  Read aloud How to Write a Story during the first few weeks of school and build your community while incorporating writer’s workshop. Encourage students to write what they know – empowering them to share their own stories in your classroom community.

©2020 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Back to School Series: Speak Up by Miranda Paul

Teachers around the country are gearing up to begin a new school year, many in a way that has never been experienced before. But, no matter the environment that teachers find themselves in this year,  whether it is virtual or in person with masks, I know this to be true: TEACHERS WILL STILL TEACH!  So, I’ve put together a Back to School series to help teachers choose books that will build their classroom communities, no matter if that community is in person or online.  

Recommended Grades: K-5

Join a diverse group of kids on a busy school day as they discover so many different ways to speak up and make their voice heard! 

Lesson Idea: 

Mentor Text: Build Community and Taking Action: Speak Up! (July 7, 2020, Clarion Books) is a spirited, vibrant picture book that celebrates diversity and encourages kids to speak up, unite with others, and take action when they see something that needs to be fixed.  From speaking up when people mispronounce a name  to challenging a rule that isn’t fair, these young students show that simple, everyday actions can help people and make the world a better place.  Read aloud Speak Up! during the first few weeks of school and build your community by discussing ways that students can take action. Consider encouraging students to develop real-world action projects of their own.  The back matter provides brief bios on real kids who spoke up, as well as when we should speak up and ways to speak up —  without saying a word.

©2020 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Back to School Series: The Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah with Kelly DiPucchio

Teachers around the country are gearing up to begin a new school year, many in a way that has never been experienced before. But, no matter the environment that teachers find themselves in this year,  whether it is virtual or in person with masks, I know this to be true: TEACHERS WILL STILL TEACH!  So, I’ve put together a Back to School series to help teachers choose books that will build their classroom communities, no matter if that community is in person or online.  

Recommended Grades: Pre-K-5

Lily and Salma are best friends.  They like doing the same things —- jumping rope, drawing pictures, playing on the swings.  And they always eat lunch together, even if what they eat is different.  Lily eats peanut butter and Salma eats hummus — but what’s that between friends? Turns out it’s enough to cause a food fight! Will a sandwich really come between these best friends?

Lesson Idea: 

Mentor Text: Build Community:  The Sandwich Swap (April 20, 2010, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) is a story inspired by Her Majesty’s Queen Rania al Abdullah’s own childhood.  Read aloud this book during the first weeks of school to help build your community.  Discuss the true spirit of tolerance and acceptance, because even the smallest things can pull us apart, until we learn that friendship is far more powerful than difference.  Though this book is ten years old, the message is still timely and important as we begin a new school year.

©2020 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.