Tag Archives: children’s books

Michelle Obama & Su Dongpo: A Character Analysis with Bloom’s Taxonomy

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

First Lady Michelle Obama travels to China this week from March 19-26 and will be focusing on the power and importance of education. In an open letter to American students, the First Lady writes, “During my trip, I’ll be visiting a university and two high schools in Beijing and Chengdu (which are two of China’s largest cities). I’ll be talking with students about their lives in China and telling them about America and the values and traditions we hold dear. I’ll be focusing in particular on the power and importance of education, both in my own life and in the lives of young people in both of our countries.”

We at Lee & Low Books wish we could join the First Lady, but since we can’t this time around, we will be reading the biography of one of China’s greatest statesmen, poets, and humanitarians, Su Dongpo. This scholar is a shining example of how persistence and dedication to one’s studies lead to achievement beyond the classroom and enable one to affect meaningful change.

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Where Do Boys Belong In Women’s History Month?

Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Irena's Jars Of Secrets
Irena’s Jars Of Secrets

I entered the education field to broaden the minds of a new generation and teach the truths that I felt I had missed or was denied in my own education. Indeed, I was not alone in those motivations. According to the Primary Sources project by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of the more than 20,000 public school classroom teachers polled, 85% of teachers say they chose the profession in order to make a difference in children’s lives.

women's history monthDespite my righteous ambitions, once in the classroom, I was hesitant to broach the conversation about gender with a mixed class of boys and girls. So many of my own college classes that focused on social justice and equality issues were almost entirely women.

Acutely aware of my students’ fragile perception of themselves, I was intimidated by the prospect of guiding the discussion. When I was leading a classroom of my own, it was often easier to concentrate on the benign world of synonyms, dictionary skills, main idea, and genre features than push my students to think about what role gender plays in achievement, history, and identity.

I wondered: How do we teach about women’s history and contributions without alienating boys? Will boys disengage if a girl or woman is on the cover or is the main character? In this day and age, do girls still need explicit attention drawn to high-achievers that share their gender?

Leading up to my first month of March as a teacher, I thought I would “just” read more books with women as the central figures during Women’s History Month, but not explicitly point out that these were all women so as not to freak out boys and hope the girls would pick up on my subliminal messages of empowerment….

Face palm

Insert face palm here.

This thinking was a huge disservice to ALL of my students’ educations. As I introduced books with prominent women historic figures or girl characters, I realized if the books were about gender, we would discuss identity and tolerance. Other times if the story just happened to have a girl character, but gender wasn’t a central feature of the story, my scholars just wanted to focus on the great story and how the universal lessons applied to their lives.

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The Best Cheerleaders May Come In the Smallest Packages: How Siblings Affect Literacy Education

My students and their siblings were often alone or spent a lot of time with each other. For some, siblings were the only constant in their lives. Fittingly, siblings and close-in-age relatives held powerful sway and influence over each other.

I found that brothers, sisters, cousins, and neighbors saw each other’s success as their OWN success. One of my third-graders danced in the middle of the carpet for twelve minutes after he heard the intercom announcement that his fifth-grade sister would be the new school president of the student council. What if I could channel that excitement towards literacy?

Brothers and sisters WANTED to see their siblings succeed. Sure, when one of my third-graders struggled to translate from English to Spanish that she hadn’t turned her homework in for a week at the parent-teacher conference, her older sister was delighted to impart the correct information to their mother.

In addition to using siblings for accountability and parent-teacher bridges, siblings became an incredible reward and relationship in my classroom. When my students, especially the struggling readers, made it to a new level, aced an assessment, or turned in excellent high-quality work, I wrote laudatory notes and let those students deliver them to their siblings in another classroom.

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Compare and Contrast Common Core Lesson Plan for Fifth Grade

How to Compare & Contrast 5th GradeHow We Are Smart is a rich text to explore compare and contrast within the same book. Particularly for fifth graders and students in middle school, the historical figures featured within these pages offer engaging material for young minds ready to tackle complex subjects that extend beyond personal experiences, such as prejudice, racism, and sexism.

I have created sample questions to teach towards and check mastery of each of the three Common Core categories. These are by no means the only questions to ask in each category, but these provide an overview of the progression in question complexity and mastery of the texts.

By creating a range of compare and contrast questions across the standards, we are able to differentiate for students within a class, provide extension opportunities for ready learners, or move the whole class from literal- to higher-level thinking over the course of several lessons.

Text:

How We Are Smart
How We Are Smart

How We Are Smart (level: T)

Why: I have chosen this text because the content requires readers to take on diverse perspectives and examine human problems related to hardship and identity. How We Are Smart presents mature themes and problems of society, not just individual character struggles, which makes it appealing to and rigorous for preadolescents. Additionally, the author’s choice to structure the profiles and biographical information in a unique format lends itself to extensive questions about craft and structure.

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How To Compare And Contrast With The Common Core In First Grade

Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Common Core- How to Compare and Contrast in GradeThrough elementary school, readers will learn to compare and contrast within and between texts. By first grade, readers can practice comparing two texts as they continue to learn decoding, sight words, and vocabulary. Comparing and contrasting are useful because teachers can assess students’ abilities at close reading, comprehension, and interpretation, as well as expose even new readers to deeper interactions with a text.

Below is a comparison of two books of similar topic and genre. I have created sample questions to teach towards and check mastery of each of the three Common Core categories. These are by no means the only questions to ask in each category, but these provide an overview of the progression in question complexity and mastery of the texts.

By creating a range of compare and contrast questions across the standards, we are able to differentiate for students within a class, provide extension opportunities for ready learners, or move the whole class from literal- to higher-level thinking over the course of several lessons.

Texts:

Twister's Tricks
Twister’s Tricks

Twister’s Tricks (level: F)

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Illustrator Christiane Krömer Takes Us Behind the Art of King For A Day

Just released last month, our newest picture book, King For a Day, takes readers on a colorful journey through the spring kite festival Basant. From a rooftop in Lahore, Pakistan, Malik is determined to take his kite Falcon out and win the most kite battles to earn the title of “King of Basant.”

Illustrator Christiane Krömer used paper and fabric collage to create the gorgeous illustrations you see below:

Christiane KrömerI always take photos of the many stages. That way I can see what a picture looked like earlier on, experiment with many choices and then maybe go back to an earlier option. The fun with collage is that you can always push all the paper pieces and fabrics around until they are in the right spot. But there is also a big danger that all the 1000 loose pieces go flying, so it’s a good idea to have a photo that tells you exactly how it was when it looked good. I always have real fun to look at all the stages once the illustrations are finished. I hope you do, too.

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How to Compare and Contrast with the Common Core in Second Grade

second grade compare and contrastLast week, I presented how to compare and contrast in third grade. In order for second-grade students to be prepared for the increase in rigor and expectations of a formal testing grade the following year, students should practice compare and contrast. This is a complex task, but enables students to demonstrate close reading, comprehension, and interpretation of texts.

Below is a comparison of two books by the same author (Monica Brown) and with the same character (Marisol McDonald). I have created sample questions to teach towards and check mastery of each of the broad three Common Core categories. These are by no means the only questions to ask in each category, but these provide an overview of the progression in question complexity and mastery of the texts.

By creating a range of compare and contrast questions across the standards, we are able to differentiate for students within a class, provide extension opportunities for ready learners, or move the whole class from literal- to higher-level thinking over the course of several lessons.

Texts:

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina (level: L)

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

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Flock on Over for Great Holiday Deals!

The holidays are upon us, which means delicious food and . . . presents! Uh oh. If buying gifts for your family and friends has slipped your mind, never fear! Lee & Low Books (and the parrots of Puerto Rico) have come to the rescue!

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

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Giving Thanks: Thanksgivukkah and Native American Heritage Month

If you haven’t heard already, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap this year, creating a hybrid holiday known across the internet as Thanksgivukkah. This overlap won’t happen for another 70,000 plus years, meaning people have been coming up with some very creative ways to celebrate (turkey menorahs aka menurkies, anyone?).

While it’s fun to enjoy the novelty of this rare holiday, November is also Native American Heritage Month, which means we’re thinking about the complicated history of Thanksgiving, but also giving thanks for recent steps that have been taken towards Native American equality. November 29 is Native American Heritage Day, and we can’t think of a better way to honor the day with a some great books about American Indians, including Killer of Enemies and Under the Mesquite.

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Whitewashing Book Covers: What Do Kids Think? Part I

allie jane bruceAllie Jane Bruce is Children’s Librarian at the Bank Street College of Education. She Guest Bloggerbegan her career as a bookseller at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, and earned her library degree from Pratt Institute. She tweets from @alliejanebruce and blogs for Bank Street College.

Part 1 | Part 2
In my first year as Children’s Librarian at Bank Street, I worked with two teachers on a project that allowed sixth-graders to explore implicit and explicit biases in publishing. Using book covers as a starting point for discussion, we engaged in conversations about identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, body image, class, and ability as they relate to books and beyond.It started when my co-worker, Jamie Steinfeld, asked me to booktalk some realistic fiction for her sixth-grade Humanities class. A girl asked a question about Return To Sender“Why is there a bird on the cover?”—and we were off. Good question! Yes, the hardcover does have a bird. And does anyone notice anything about the paperback? See how the boy has his face turned toward us, and we can see his blond hair, but the girl from Mexico has her back to us and we can’t tell what race she is? What’s up with that?

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