John Philip Duck by Patricia Polacco

December Theme:  Ideas

This month’s theme is Ideas.  How can we use picture books to model for students how authors come up with ideas for their writing?

Recommended Grades: 3-5

I had the pleasure (yes, I really said that!) of taking a road trip with my family (my children are 7 and 4) over the Thanksgiving holidays.  It was a fantastic time and one of our stops included Little Rock, Arkansas.  Carol Rasco, of Rasco from RIF, suggested that I take my children to see the ducks at the Peabody Hotel.  I hadn’t heard of the story, but essentially the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock is the sister hotel to the original in Memphis, Tennessee.  Both hotels play host to several ducks who live there.  Every morning the Duck Master brings them down to the hotel lobby where they march to the hotel fountain and stay for the day.  Then every evening, they march back to the elevator and to their suite.  Imagine my surprise when I found this book in the gift shop!  Patricia Polacco is one of my touchstone text authors and I hadn’t heard of this book before.

John Philip Duck is a fictional story inspired by the legend of the Peabody Ducks.  Young Edward and his father both work at a grand hotel.  When Edward brings his pet duck to the hotel, everyone keeps his secret from the hotel manager, Mr. Schutt.  Then one day, Mr. Schutt discovers the duck swimming in the hotel fountain.  What will Edward do to save his duck?

Lesson idea: Read aloud this book and discuss how Patricia Polacco came up with the idea to write the story.  Brainstorm with students places they have traveled and events they may be able to turn into writing ideas.  Encourage them to place their ideas in their writer’s notebook.  Also encourage students to keep a journal/writer’s notebook with them to write down ideas as they come up with them.  You never know when an idea might strike!

If you are looking for additional resources and ways to teach ideas to students, please read the post I wrote about Abe’s Fish: A Boyhood Tale of Abraham Lincoln, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or Artful Reading.

**Note** I provide these lesson ideas under the assumption that you are familiar with The Six Traits of Writing.  If you are not, and would like more information on teaching students about ideas or any other six traits component, please feel free to contact me at Dlittle[at]linkstoliteracy[dot]com.  I am happy to provide more specific lessons or resources 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.

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.

Thundercake by Patricia Polacco

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: Making Text-to-Self Connections

A lovely story about the relationship between the author and her grandmother.  The child in the story is afraid of thunder.  Babushka (her grandmother) helps her overcome her fear of thunder by distracting her during a storm.  As a result she shares a special time with her grandmother and learns something about herself.

Thundercake is a great model text to use to teach students how to make text-to-self connections.  Explain how good readers connect the text to their own life.  It helps them understand the text better. (The timing is off in the text in terms of how quickly the storm approaches and how fast the grandmother and granddaughter bake a cake, but if you are looking for a book that students can connect to in terms of relationships, then this will work!)

Lesson idea: Create a large t-chart.  On one side, label Text and on the other label Self.  As you read aloud, stop and model for students various points that connect the text to your life (or your childhood).  Perhaps, spending time with a grandparent, fear of something, baking, etc. In the column for Text, note what happens in the text that creates the connection.  In the column for Self, note the connection.  Provide other books that lead children to make text-to-self connections.  Many Cynthia Rylant books offer themselves to this comprehension strategy.   Have students read them in pairs or small groups and discuss their text-to-self connections.  After students become familiar with this strategy, encourage them to make text-to-self connections as they read independently.

**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 Text-to-Self Connections 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.

Do you have any touchstone texts or touchstone authors in your classroom?

©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.

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

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

A sweet story about a childhood friendship.  Winnie and her neighbors Stewart and Winston spend Sundays together going to church with their “gramma” Miss Eula.  Miss Eula always admires a hat in Mr. Kodinski’s store window.  The kids decide they want to buy it for her for Easter, but they need to earn money.  Before they can inquire about a job with Mr. Kodinski, they are accused of throwing eggs at his shop.  Will they earn the money in time to purchase the hat?  Will Mr. Kodinski realize they didn’t throw the eggs?

Chicken Sunday provides an opportunity for students to practice asking questions before, during, and after reading.

Lesson idea: Prior to reading aloud the text, ask students to write down any questions they have based on the cover picture.  As you read aloud, stop about half way through the book (around the time the kids go to ask Mr. Kodinski for a job) and have students list any questions they have.  After you finish reading, have students list any further questions they have.  As a class, chart the questions, and determine if they can be answered by the text, by background knowledge, by making inferences, or not at all.

What books do you use to teach asking questions?  Do you have any touchstone texts or touchstone authors in your classroom?

©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.