A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus by David Adler

Theme: Nonfiction Read Alouds

Strategy: Making Connections

Recommended Grades: 2nd -4th grade

A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus (Picture Book Biography) is a brief account of the life and accomplishments of Christopher Columbus.  It may be a bit primary for upper elementary students to read independently, but the information can be used to supplement a unit on Explorers or Native Americans.

Lesson Idea: Tie this biography into a unit about Explorers or Native Americans.  Consider using other biographies, journals, or letters related to Christopher Columbus and his explorations. Download a Making the Connection graphic organizer and after students have background knowledge about these topics, model how to make connections to themselves, between other texts, and/or the world.

Content Connections: A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus (Picture Book Biography) is a great book to connect to social studies units about Explorers or Native Americans.

©2010 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.

The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose

Theme: Nonfiction Read Alouds

Strategy: Activating Prior Knowledge

Recommended Grades: 3-6th grade

The Very First Americans is a great book to showcase the differences between the different Native American tribes of North America.  A great resource to compare tribes; specifically their homes, art, clothing, and tools.

Lesson Idea: Prior to reading aloud this text or parts of it, ask students what they already know about Native Americans in general.  List responses on chart paper.  Then, pass out one sticky note to each student.  Ask students to write a question they still have about the topic on the sticky note.  Download a Sticky Questions graphic organizer.  Create a classroom size copy of the organizer to use when modeling this lesson.  Have students sort the questions based on common themes that arise and label the themes on the graphic organizer.  Think aloud while reading aloud the book to students.  As you locate answers to student questions, note them in the Discoveries column of the organizer.  After using the graphic organizer in whole class and guided reading sessions, provide opportunities for students to use it to activate prior knowledge independently.

Content Connections: The Very First Americans is a great book to connect to social studies units about Native Americans.

©2010 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.

America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney

July Theme: Using Picture Books to Teach Reading Strategies

Reading Strategy: Building Background Knowledge

Recommended Grades: 4th-6th grade

I chose to review America : A Patriotic Primer in honor of our Fourth of July holiday yesterday. This is a great picture book to help build children’s background knowledge of the principles on which the United States were founded.  Be sure to read all of the little bits of information on each page.

Lesson Idea: Prior to a unit on the history of the United States, discuss what students already know about the founding of the United States.  Read aloud the book and discuss new information that students learned.  You may want to consider charting the information as well.  Once sufficient background knowledge has been built, have students create their own ABC book about other facts related to America (i.e. symbols of the U.S., presidents, or a combination of historically important people and events)        

©2010 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.

Using Picture Books to Teach Comprehension Strategies by Joanne M. Zimny

June Theme: Professional Books Related to Picture Books

With summer beginning for some teachers, and just around the corner for others, I thought I would take this month to post professional books that may be of use when using picture books in the classroom.

Recommended Grades: 2-5  

Using Picture Books to Teach Comprehension Strategies: 30 Lessons That Teach Students the Six Comprehension Strategies They Need to Actively Engage With Text and Read for Meaning is a fantastic resource if you are looking for additional lessons to teach visualizing, questioning, making inferences, making predictions, determining importance or summarizing.  This book provides 30 lessons related to key comprehension strategies that students need to actively engage with text.  Lessons include books by Jane Yolen, E.B. Lewis, Eve Bunting, Chris Van Allsburg, Robert San Souci, Mem Fox, and Nikki Giovanni among others!

©2010 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.

January’s Sparrow by Patricia Palacco

January Theme:  Patricia Polacco picture books

Patricia Polacco is another author whose books became touchstone texts in my classroom.  Her ability to write stories that children can relate to makes it easy to see why her books became model texts.

Comprehension Strategy: Asking Questions

Polacco’s most recent contribution to the kidlit world, January’s Sparrow, is a touching and semi-true story of a family of runaway slaves. With the help of abolitionists, the Crosswhite’s leave Kentucky for Canada.  They make it to Michigan and decide to settle down there (just a couple of miles from where Patricia Polacco grew up), but they are always looking over their shoulders.  Will the slave catchers find them?  Will they make it to Canada?

A fantastic story with surprises along the way, I would recommend this book be read to upper elementary or middle school students in a Slavery or Underground Railroad unit.  It’s a lot longer than your typical picture book and it has some scenes that may not be appropriate for kids younger than 9 or so.

January’s Sparrow is a great model text to use to teach students how good readers ask questions to help them understand the text.  There are many occasions on which a child may have questions related to the reading.  For example, “Will the Crosswhite’s get caught?”

Lesson idea: A great resource to use when teaching students about the Underground Railroad, provide an opportunity for students to record general questions they have about the Underground Railroad and slavery before reading.  As you read, stop at various opportunities and allow students to record questions they have specific to the text.  Finally, after reading, allow students to record any questions they still have about the Crosswhites, slavery, and the Underground Railroad.  Then take time to determine if any of the questions can be answered.  Use a T-chart to record questions before, during, and after reading and their answers.  Remind students that not all answers may be found in the text, and that activation of background knowledge, additional research, or discussion may need to occur to find the answers.

If you are teaching a unit on the Underground Railroad or slavery, you may want to check out this lesson I posted on Henry’s Freedom Box.  I think both books would be an excellent addition to your unit.

What touchstone texts or touchstone authors do you use in your classroom?

**Note** I provide these lesson ideas under the assumption that you are familiar with teaching comprehension strategies.  If you are not, and would like more information about teaching students to Ask Questions or any other comprehension strategy, please feel free to contact me at Dlittle[at]linkstoliteracy[dot]com.  I am happy to provide more specific lessons if necessary.**

©2010 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.