Pairing Plays & Picture Books for Black History Month

Read on for a free Common Core activityThe Common Core requires that we teach students to “evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.” One way to do that is to pair Read Aloud Plays with developmentally-appropriate books and films so to compare and contrast point of view. Black History Month presents an ideal opportunity for the following pairings:

* The Disney movie, Selma, Lord Selma, and the Read Aloud Play, Gonna Let it Shine.
* My play from the Montgomery Bus Boycott, The Girl Who Got Arrested, and Phillip Hoose’s book about Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice.
*Sitting Down for Dr. King, which depicts the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-ins of 1960, and Andrea Davis Pinkney’s book, Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down.
* Peter Golenbrock’s book, Teammates, depicting the relationship between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, and the Read Aloud Play, How Jackie Changed America.
* We Shall Overcome, my play about the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, and Cynthia Levinson’s non-fiction book, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March.
*Days of Jubilee, by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, and my play, Freedom for the First Time, which is based on slave narratives from the Civil War.
*The Read Aloud Play, Box Brown’s Freedom Crate, and Ellen Levine’s book, Henry’s Freedom Box.

To get your classroom discussion going, I’ve developed a simple short-answer comparison activity covering Craft & Structure (Literature item 6 and Informational Text item 6). You can download it for free here and use it with my plays and any paired text to satisfy these standards by having students “analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic.”

Happy directing!

Pairing Plays and Picture Books for Black History Month

Read on for a free Common Core activityWith Black History Month upon us, two bits of news caught my eye last week: the State of South Carolina issued a stirring acknowledgement of the injustices suffered by African-Americans in the 1950s and 60s when it apologized to “The Friendship Nine,” nine young men who, in 1961, were sentenced to thirty days on a chain gang simply for participating in a Sit-in.

The second item was an excellent post at the Center for Teaching Quality. Educator Liz Prather writes that the controversial elements of the recently-released Selma movie makes the film “a great discussion engine for subjects like non-violent activism, Dr. King, and the civil rights movement.” The Common Core, notes Prather, requires that we teach students to “evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.” While the Selma movie is too mature for elementary and middle school students, it got me thinking about pairing Read Aloud Plays with developmentally-appropriate books and films so to compare and contrast point of view. Here are a few:

* The Disney movie, Selma, Lord Selma, and the Read Aloud Play, Gonna Let it Shine.
* My play from the Montgomery Bus Boycott, The Girl Who Got Arrested, and Phillip Hoose’s book about Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice.
*Sitting Down for Dr. King, which depicts the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-ins of 1960, and Andrea Davis Pinkney’s book, Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down.
* Peter Golenbrock’s book, Teammates, depicting the relationship between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, and the Read Aloud Play, How Jackie Changed America.
* We Shall Overcome, my play about the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, and Cynthia Levinson’s non-fiction book, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March.
*Days of Jubilee, by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, and my play, Freedom for the First Time, which is based on slave narratives from the Civil War.
*The Read Aloud Play, Box Brown’s Freedom Crate, and Ellen Levine’s book, Henry’s Freedom Box.

To get your classroom discussion going, I’ve developed a simple short-answer comparison activity covering Craft & Structure (Literature item 6 and Informational Text item 6). You can download it for free here and use it with my plays and any paired text to satisfy these standards by having students “analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic.”

Happy directing!

Expert: Common Core May Be Too Complex for Your Students

SSPP CoverI recently attended a presentation by a University of Oregon professor discussing the challenges of revamping the curriculum to satisfy the Common Core. One thing I came away with was that consistently using Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs will most certainly help, so rather than blog about reader’s theater, this week I’d like to chat about your writing instruction.

The good professor displayed a question from a fifth grade standardized test and asked, “What makes the following difficult?”

The Earth is a bit like a perfectly boiled egg—with a semi-liquid yolk or “core,” surrounded by a thick, soft layer called the mantle, and covered by a thin hard shell called the crust. The core in the very center is metal but the crust and mantle are made entirely from rock.

Fifth graders, she suggested, are not typically exposed to sentences with multiple clauses or with such a breadth of punctuation. When they do encounter such complexity—such as when reading independently—they’re typically left to decipher it themselves. Users of Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs, however, know that my writing program teaches these deciphering skills explicitly. By asking kids to construct and discuss sentences containing commas in a series, dialogue, dashes, or even ellipses, they’re more prepared to understand them when they encounter them in their reading.

Everyone publishing anything having to do with curriculum is claiming it meets Common Core. No doubt you’re discovering that many don’t actually do so. However, the Super Sentences program very clearly aligns to Conventions of Standard English in grades 3 through 6 (L.3.2, L.4.2, L.5.2, L.6.2). For example, L.4.2.c requires that students “Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence,” which is taught in Super Sentences activity #5 and reinforced throughout all later sentence-writing tasks. Super Sentences, in fact, teaches all the Language standards (L), while Perfect Paragraphs covers all the Writing standards (W). Additionally, Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs indirectly supports meeting the standards for Craft and Structure in both Literature (RL.#.4, RL.#.6) and Informational Text (RI.#.4, RI.#.6).

Now you can watch a “how-to video” on using Super Sentences in the classroom. The fourteen minute tutorial consolidates four days of instruction. In each 20 minute session, each student wrote one sentence fitting a specific construction (in this case, using semi-colons), and the class analyzed and discussed four  or five of these student-generated sentences each day. On the fourth day, students crafted the sentence on which they received a grade (using a simple rubric). The teacher’s role is to facilitate student discussion. Of course, complete details on how to implement the program appear in the book.

You can purchase Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs at Scholastic.com, at Amazon.com, or for immediate download in PDF, at Scholastic Teacher Express. It’s a complete year-long daily writing program in a small package, and it’s a surefire way to help prepare your students in grades 3 through 8 for the complex new world of the Common Core.