Monday, March 25, 2013

Tricksters, Easter Eggs, and a Surprising Biography

PreK 3, 4, K: Guiding Question - How do we imagine Easter bunnies paint the eggs?

The Easter Egg Artists, by Adrienne Adams

This is a story from my childhood, so of course it's extra special to me. (And it gives me a chance to talk about the concept of "out of print"). 

It's the story of a family of rabbits who have the fun job of painting Easter eggs. This year, their son plans to help them, but he doesn't show much interest in the task. But when they go on vacation and get offers to paint other things (like a house, a plane, a bridge), he really gets into it. When they get home to start the task of painting the 1,200 eggs, they wonder if their son will be up for the challenge. Turns out he has a surprise in store for them.

I love the charming detailed illustrations that go with this story. It makes a lovely read-aloud for Easter time.

Grade 1: Guiding Question - Who was Charley Parkhurst?

Rough, Tough Charley, by Verla Kay

This is a biography told in rhyme about Charley, the runaway orphan who became a famous stagecoach driver. He was known for being on time, having excellent control over the team of horses, and shooting any thieves who tried to steal from his passengers. The "wild west" feeling of the time period comes through in action-packed painted illustrations. 

The best part of the story, however, is the shock we get at the end when we find out that Charley is actually a woman. She's been pretending to be a man so she could live a more active life (and vote!). 

Grade 2: Guiding Question - What are "trickster" tales?

As part of our traditional literature unit, we're reading stories told in the oral tradition. This week, we read two trickster tales. We talked about these being extra fun because a weaker, smaller character "wins" over a bigger, stronger one. Trickster tales occur in many many cultures. We read two: an African and a Peruvian tale.

A Story, A Story, retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley

This is the story of how trickster tales (or Anasasi or Spider stories) came to be.  We talked about folk tales being core parts of a culture because they are told orally over many generations, and they carry with them some of the values of the culture.  

In the case of Anasasi stories, the value of creative thinking versus strength is more important to the African culture.  The story is a Caldecott winner due to its creative use of block print and painted illustrations.

Love and Roast Chicken, by Barbara Knutson

This trickster tale is a good example of how different cultures may use the same themes and even some of the same tricks! For example, this story uses the tar baby trick we read about in A Story, A Story. Here, our hero is a guinea pig who outwits a fox. He convinces him to hold up the sky, trap himself in a cave to avoid the end of the world, and tie himself up and get caught by the farmer. 

Grade 3: Guiding Question - How can reading thematic maps help us find a location?

In our final lesson during our thematic map unit, students shared their invented animals and the clues they created to show where the animal lives. Guessers used the clues and thematic maps to narrow down the location. 

I was impressed with the work of our third graders; it was a complex task and they did a careful job of creating the clues and then being able to read another person's clues and analyze the maps to find the answer.

Grade 4: Guiding Question - What poetry terms can we identify in poems?

We spend time reading through poetry anthologies to find examples of poetic terms. Students try to get a "bingo" of one column filled with these examples. Since I believe poetry needs to be heard, there's a buzz of "whisper-reading" in the library during this activity.

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