Social Studies

I Pledge Allegiance

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Holiday, People Smart, Range of Reading, Self Smart, Social Studies, Vocabulary | 0 comments

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez illustrated by Patrice BartonHappy August! Although summer is in full swing in Michigan, one of my local elementary schools is already back in session. Whether your school bell has tolled or you have one more glorious month to enjoy, you’ll want to have this beautiful book in your classroom: I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez and illustrated by Patrice Barton.

Libby’s great-aunt Lobo is becoming a citizen of the United States. Her story gives a meaningful framework for the information shared about the Pledge of Allegiance. We learn a bit of history about the Pledge and what it means when we say things like “allegiance” and “indivisible”. The entire Pledge is in the text several times, so kids will be able to recite along. The soft art that celebrates our country’s diversity and the sprinkling of Spanish words (Libby’s great-aunt is from Mexico) are wonderful inclusions.

Not only is this book a fantastic story about the immigration experience, it’s the perfect springboard for a lesson on what we are really saying when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. For example, Lobo tells Libby, “‘I like the words “liberty and justice for all… we are promising to be fair to everyone.'” Write the Pledge of Allegiance on a chart and put it next to a large open space on a whiteboard. Using I Pledge Allegiance as a guide, students can help translate the lines of the Pledge into terms that make sense to them. It’s a great vocabulary lesson (so you can check off Craft & Structure on your Common Core to-do list) and it will make the Pledge of Allegiance much more meaningful and personal for your students. This is patriotism at its best.


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Wake Up, World!

Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 in Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Range of Reading, Self Smart, Social Studies, Vocabulary | 0 comments

Wake Up, World!“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”  – Maya Angelou

Books that celebrate diversity are perfect at the beginning of a new school year. We want our students to know that all of us are valued because of, not in spite of, the unique characteristics we possess. Wake Up, World! A Day in the Life of Children Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer in association with Oxfam shows students in an accessible way what life is like in different parts of the world.

Meet eight children from places like Vietnam, Ghana, Brazil, and the United States. From waking up and eating breakfast, to going to school and doing chores, to going to bed (or hammock), readers will love the photos and descriptions of what life is like for kids just like them in other countries. (You will love how easy it is to work in Range of Reading and Integrating Knowledge & Ideas with one book, and even tie it into a mapping unit if you are so inclined.)

One of the children, Natali, is from California in the United States. With the paragraphs about Natali especially, your students may find themselves saying “that’s just like me!” or “I don’t do that!” You can play a game called “Cross the Line” with information you find in this book. Line all of your students on one side of your classroom, and either imagine a line down the middle of the room, or put one there with masking tape (and thank your custodial staff for being so nice to teachers who put down tape on the floor.) Choose situations from the book like “if you drink walk to school like Linh from Vietnam does, cross the line.” Students can easily see who shares that characteristic with them. Wake Up, World! is also an ideal writing prompt. Your students can write about what they eat for breakfast, etc. for a book like “Our Classroom Wakes Up”or for individual books.

For more information about Oxfam, please visit

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Remember: The Journey to School Integration

Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Early Learning, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Range of Reading, Self Smart, Social Studies | 0 comments

Remember the Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison Yesterday was the 5oth anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream”.  School starts for most Michigan students next Tuesday, and I wonder how many of those students realize that there was a time when many school doors were closed to kids who weren’t white.

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison is a powerful and poignant nonfiction book full of photographs that bring to life this time in American history. We see a photo of a little African-American girl with a bow in her hair, reading from her school book, and Morrison writes, “The law says I can’t go to school with white children. Are they afraid of my socks, my braids? I am seven years old. Why are they afraid of me?”

We see three white boys wearing cardboard signs that say things like “WE WON’T GO TO SCHOOL WITH NEGROES” and Morrison writes, “I don’t know. My buddies talked me into this. They said it would be fun. It’s not, but these guys are my friends and friends are more important than strangers. Even if they’re wrong. Aren’t they?”

We see a white teenage girl and an African-American teenage girl smiling at each other at a school lunch table. We see a group of students with a variety of skin colors gathered around a picture book.  Morrison includes information about Brown vs. the Board of Education, a timeline, and notes on each photo at the end of the book, but even if you just share the photos and the captions, this book will spark discussions (and hit that CCSS of Range of Reading.)

Since this is a book about something that happened before your students were born, why share it? In Morrison’s words, “Why offer memories you do not have? Remembering can be painful, even frightening. But it can also swell your heart and open your mind… the path was not entered, the gate was not opened, the road was not taken only for those brave enough to walk it. It was for you as well.”

So share this beautiful book with your students. Make time for thoughtful, respectful discussion.  There’s a free teacher’s guide on with discussion questions and research ideas. Encourage your students to put themselves in the shoes of kids who had to struggle for access to a good education. Take inspiration from the powerful photos you’ve seen. Bring a digital camera into your classroom so your students can take photos of each other and themselves and write, as Morrison did, what they think the person in the photo was thinking.  Celebrate the fact that each and every one of your students is safe and welcome in your classroom.


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Rosie Revere, Engineer

Posted by on Jul 11, 2013 in Art, Early Learning, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Logic Smart, Phonological Awareness, Range of Reading, Rhyming, Science, Self Smart, Social Studies, Vocabulary | 2 comments


Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

I have the best of reasons for posting late this week: I’ve been on Mackinac Island at the Michigan Reading Association conference, being inspired by dedicated educators and loving the slower pace of an island with no automobiles. Now I’m sitting in a white wicker rocking chair with a cup of coffee and my laptop, dear husband at my side, watching sailboats glide by. The only thing that could make this any better would be a great book, and luckily, I have one.

Rosie Revere, Engineer written by the marvelously talented Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts is one of the rare rhyming book gems: the story is as solid as the meter and the language isn’t dumbed down in order to make a rhyme. Rosie Revere is the kind of girl most creative people will relate to: joyfully inventive, but so fearful of failure and ridicule that she hides her inventions away. The “gadgets and gizmos” she creates are fantastic, and I love Roberts’ whimsical and yet credible drawings of them. (I myself would love a pair of Rosie’s helium pants.) Rosie’s desire to help her great-great-aunt Rose fulfill her lifelong dream of flying gives Rosie the courage to test one of her inventions.
The heli-o-cheese-copter sputtered and twitched.
It floated a moment and whirled round and round,
then froze for a heartbeat and crashed to the ground.”
Rosie is devastated by the failure, and by her great-great-aunt’s laughter, until she hears,
“‘Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!
Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!’

So not only is the message of this book one that every creative person with perfectionist tendencies needs to hear (I’m keeping it by my bedside table as a reminder) but it has historical notes in it about Amelia Earhart and E. Lillian Todd (the first woman to design airplanes) and Rosie the Riveter and other strong women whose names and deeds should be known. For a social studies lesson, you could easily springboard from this book into studying awesome women inventors. For math-science-art, get graph paper and a bunch of doodads and thing-a-ma-bobs for students to plan, design, build, test, and refine their own inventions. If you ask people to donate old, broken electronic gadgets to your class and bring in small tools, your students can take apart old radios and remote controls to disassemble and use. Build those Phonological Awareness skills by focusing on the rhyme, then discuss the interesting word choices for a Craft & Structure lesson. To keep rocking those Core Standards in Reading, you can easily work in Integrating Knowledge & Ideas by comparing Rosie Revere, Engineer to Iggy Peck, Architect by the same power duo. 

So share this book with absolutely everyone you know, and get busy taking creative risks, because
Life might have its failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit.”

For more information on the author, please visit
For more information on the illustrator, please visit

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