Thursday, August 21, 2014

Using Text Sets To Broaden & Deepen Classroom Discussions

In a post by Rebecca Newland, she writes about several Kate DiCamillo's books illuminating how Stories Connect Us.  She advises:

This is a great time to feature DiCamillo’s work in classrooms and libraries. Pair the books with primary sources to help students connect to the world in the books. Display items near her work in the school or classroom library. Encourage discussions of the ways in which the primary sources might enhance or contrast with the characters or scenes that appear in the books.

Newland recommend connecting archival photographs with particular books by DiCamillo.  Having students consider both types of texts helps to deepen the learning experience. She references DiCamillo's picture book, Great Joy, that was illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. The book tells of a small girl, Frances, who notices an organ grinder with a monkey on the street below where she is living.  It is a week before Christmas and the child is confused about where the man and the monkey go and so she asks her mother as her mother readies her for the Christmas Pageant.

Concerned, Frances remains awake that night and sees that the organ grinder and the money sleep on the street beyond her window. The story, some might say, ends abruptly and we may well wonder what is to become of the man and the monkey as the very temporary invitation for them to enter the warmth of the pageant does not alter in any way the man's homelessness. 

Now authors are not required (thankfully) to render stories neatly and easy for us--nor should homelessness be an easy topic. The space that feels somewhat empty at the end of DiCamillo's story is a space we can fill with conversation and action. Whereas Newland offers historical images of organ grinders on city streets as  a way to deepen the text, we can also supplement or change these images to more modern ones depicting homeless people.

We might want to create a text set ( a collection of books about a topic) in which we situate Great Joy. Using several picture books that we read alongside DeCamillo's helps us to talk alongside Great Joy and to talk back to the Great Joy.  For example, Tony Medina's Christmas Makes Me Think tells of a boy whose excitement about Christmas gives way to more thoughtful inquiries about having and not having.  At the close of the text, Medina outlines a few ways children can give to their communities:

from Christmas Makes Me Think

from Yellow Umbrella
In order to help children understand homelessness and/or to acknowledge homelessness, Monica Gunning's A Shelter in Our Car and Laura E. Williams' The Can Man each depict homelessness.

Works Cited
  1. Disalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. (1997). Uncle Willie and Soup Kitchen. New York: HarperCollins.
  2. Gunning, Monica. (2004/2014). A Shelter in Our Car. Illustrated by Elaine Pedlar. New York: Lee & Low.
  3. Hazen, Barbara Shook. (1983). Tight Times. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. New York: Puffin Books.
  4. Medina, Tony. (2001). Christmas Makes Me Think. Illustrated by Chandra Cox.
  5. Smothers, Ethel Footman. (2003). The Hard-Times Jar. Illustrated by John Holyfield. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  6. Rosen, Michael. (1992). Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Authors and Illustrators of Children's Books to Aid the Homeless. New York: HarperCollins.
  7. Williams, Laura E. (2010). The Can Man. Illustrated by Craig Orback. New York: Lee & Low Books.

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