Teaching Tuesday: Close Reading Lesson with Tacky the Penguin, an Aesop Fable, a TED Talk, and Sit-Ins

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Just so we all have the same definition of close reading, I wanted to share how I define it:
The process of close reading is reading a short, worthy text more than once to get deeper into its meaning.
(See “A Secret About Close Reading” for more information.)

Here is a fun close reading activity I did with my reading classes a couple of weeks ago.

Standards for this lesson: RL.1 & RI.1 (Inference & text evidence), RL.2 (Theme), RI.2 (Central Idea), RL.3 (Narrative elements interact)

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is a much more complex text than it first seems, so I really wanted to take this fun text and push my students’ thinking to realize that Tacky teaches us more than they first thought.

First read: For the first read of Tacky the Penguin, I just had my students enjoy the story. I love watching kids see this book for the first time because he is such a ridiculous yet awesome penguin.

Second read: When we read the story again, this time I chunked the text and had them take notes about a different characters’ emotions for each section. They then went on our Canvas discussion board and made an inference about how the character was feeling based on their notes and included evidence.

“The other penguins are much more accepting of Tacky at the end. In the text it shows that all the penguins hugged Tacky since his oddness had scared the hunters away and saved them. This action showed that even though they might disagree on how to do things they were still thankful of him.” -EX, 8th grade

“I think that the other penguins, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect are happy that Tacky is around. In the story it is showing all the penguins celebrating that the hunters were gone. Usually when you are celebrating it is because someone has accomplished something and you feel happy for them. So, you can conclude that the other penguins are happy that Tacky is around because he got rid of the hunters and without Tacky they might’ve died.” -JK, 6th grade

For the final section of the text, I asked them to think about the theme of the story, and they answered their inferred theme with evidence on the discussion board.

“I think the theme of Tacky the penguin is that differences can be good. I think that because at first the other penguins didn’t like Tacky because he was very different in the way he acted. They thought he was annoying and didn’t really include him in their group. At the end, they appreciate him because he saved them from the hunters, so his differences were good.” -AN, 8th grade

“The theme is to treat everyone fairly. Because in the beginning the other penguins treated Tacky badly, by excluding him, being annoyed at his greets, singing, and diving. But when Tacky acted like a hero they all appreciated him like they should of in the beginning.” -AK, 8th grade

“I think the theme of TACKY THE PENGUIN is to always be yourself. In the beginning of the story, the other penguins didn’t seem to really like Tacky because he did things so differently from them. However, as the middle towards end of the story, Tacky uses that to his advantage to scare away the hunters. So really, because Tacky was himself, he saved the day!” -DV, 7th grade

As we know, there are many themes that can be taken from a story, and most of the themes I received were spot on and focused primarily on how Tacky may seem odd but that doesn’t mean being different is bad. But there was one theme that I didn’t have any students pick up on, and I felt it was a big one. So, for the third read, I added in another text.

Third read: For the third read, I had my students read an Aesop Fable to connect with Tacky. “The Lion and the Three Bullocks” has the theme “In Unity is Strength” because the bulls survive the predator because they work together. The students did a wonderful job realizing that this theme connected to Tacky because it was only when all the of the penguins worked together that they were able to ward off the hunters.

“The theme “Unity is Strength” works for both books because together they defeated the enemy(ies). In Tacky the Penguin it says, “ Tacky began to sing, and from behind the block of ice came the voices of his companions, all singing as loudly and dreadfully as they could.” This shows that together the penguins can work together to be strong. The next page says “The hunters could not stand the horrible singing” This evidence illustrates that together as a team they can do anything. In Aesop For Children (Three Bullocks and a Lion), it says that a hungry lion is looking for his next meal. He was only sitting and watching because all of them were together so he would lose. In a little bit the bullocks separated and it was the lion’s time to strike (He ate them). This shows that when you are together you can be even stronger then when you were alone.” -EN, 7th grade

At this point, I was so proud of the connections my students were making, but it was still on a level where they were not connecting it to life–they saw it as a penguin and bullocks lesson mostly. This meant that I added in another text that I had them close read:

Scila Elworthy’s TED Talk is titled “Fighting with Nonviolence” and shares how fighting violence with violence is not successful while using nonviolence has been successful. I love TED Talks because you have the video and the transcript! What a great text for the classroom! (And thank you Jennifer Shettel for pointing me in this direction!)

First read: We watched the first 5 minutes and 11 seconds of the TED talk, and I gave each student a Post-It note. I asked them to write down words that stuck out to them. We then shared the words and defined any words they didn’t know.

Second read: For their second read of the text, they went to the transcript and were to focus on the central idea of this section of the text. Each person wrote down their own central idea.

Then I did a variety on one of the discussion ideas that Ricki shared in her Engaging Classroom Discussion Techniques post. Kind of like in Facts of Five, I had students then go into groups of three and come up with a consensus of a central idea together. They then wrote these on sentences strips to display in the room. We also discussed each one and talked about the supporting evidence for each central idea. I called it “Most Important Point.”

“As a group for the “most important point activity” we came up with the point that “solving a problem with violence only ever causes more violence”. Toward the end of the ted talk the speaker gives an example of when her ‘heroine’ was faced with guns during a protest and solved it by walking up to them and getting them to put their guns down. Had she not solved that problem this way it can be assumed that the soldiers would have shot them. By solving a situation with non violence she avoided the problem all together. We concluded from this, and the other points she made in ted talk including Nelson Mandela and her own personal anecdote about non violence, that that was the central point.” -KA, 8th grade

Third read: For the culminating task for all of these texts, I added in one more text to truly make all of this connect to reality. I knew I wanted to pick an image from the Civil Rights Movement because it is a true example of this idea at work. I introduced my students to sit-ins.

I then asked, “Why did we watch this TED Talk and why did I share the Sit-In images after reading Tacky the Penguin and the Aesop Fable? How do they all connect? Write a short paragraph explaining the connection, and remember to Restate, Answer, have Text evidence, and Explain/elaborate.”

All of these connect because they all show them going against things together. In “Tacky the Penguin” all of the penguins started singing in the end together, driving them away. If it was only Tacky singing, the hunters might not have gone away if the other penguins had not shown up.  In “Three Bullocks and a Lion”, the lion would not attack them when they were together because he knew he was no match for all three of them combined. In the Sit- In photo, there are four people sitting at a counter, and in the other photo, it shows them getting drinks poured on them from other people in the restaurant. If there was only one person sitting at the counter, the point would not have been proven as well as it would if there were four. All of them show that when they are together, they are stronger.” -MA, 7th grade

The Ted Talk, Sit-in images, Tacky the Penguin, and Aesop Fable connect because they show how if we stick together and try to solve conflict in nonviolent ways, we will not have to resolve problems with more fighting.  The Ted Talk says that bullies use violence to intimidate, terrorize, and undermine, but “only very rarely in few cases does it work to use more violence.” This just makes people more and more violent. An example is when the “Students who participated in sit-ins refused to become violent” even when people were not treating them fair by not serving them or even pouring a drink on them. Tacky the Penguin helped save all the penguins from being taken away by hunters because he had the attitude that people should be friendly and kind to each other and because he acted like this, it scared the hunters and they ran away. In the Aesop Fable, the bulls were able to keep the lion from eating them by staying close and being strong together. When they began to argue and separated from each other, they were not strong enough alone to keep from being attacked. “It was now an easy matter for the lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.” This shows that we need each other to be strong and reach our goals and when we begin to fight, we lose our strength against enemies. We can control all of this, like she says, “It’s my response, my attitude, to oppression that I’ve got control over, and that I can do something about.” -DA, 6th grade

I was so impressed with my students’ deep thinking, connections, inferences, and elaboration! And overall they truly loved the activity, and I think that it truly shows that a text to analyze can be more than the canon!

 

 

I Am Gandhi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero by Brad Meltzer

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I Am Gandhi
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: 25 Acclaimed Artists
Published May 8th, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: Twenty-five exceptional comic book creators join forces to share the heroic story of Gandhi in this inspiring graphic novel biography.

As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.

Galvanized by Gandhi’s example of gentle, peaceful activism, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer asked his friends in the comic book world to help him make a difference by creating this philanthropic graphic novel. Twenty-four illustrators–including many of the most acclaimed artists in comics today–enthusiastically joined the project, agreeing to donate their work so that their royalties can go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit organization that inspires and cultivates new generations of global leaders. This extraordinary biography is a glorious team effort that truly exemplifies Gandhi’s selflessness and love for humanity.

The illustrators included are: Art Adams, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Amanda Connor, Carlos D’Anda, Michael Gaydos, Gene Ha, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Phil Jimenez, Siddharth Kotian, David LaFuente, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, David Marquez, Steve McNiven, Rags Morales, Saumin Patel, Nate Powell, Stephane Roux, Marco Rudy, Kamome Shirahama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Abhishek Singh.

Kellee’s ReviewI’ll be honest–when I first read on the cover that 25 different artists illustrated this graphic biography, I was worried that the stagnation of illustration styles would hinder the narrative of Gandhi’s life, but I was so wrong. Instead, by allowing each illustrator to give us their interpretation of Gandhi, his spirit instead flowed through the pages as it was obvious that his story had touched each and every artist, and the author, taking part in this graphic biography.

While reading, it was clear to me that Meltzer wanted Gandhi’s message of equality, peace, and kindness to scream at the reader, and this was confirmed when I read the Washington Post article about Meltzer’s inspiration. I believe Meltzer did a beautiful job not only telling Gandhi’s story but also showing that peace is possible in a time of tumultuous relationships but that the only way to truly achieve it is through similar activism as Gandhi.

Ricki’s Review: I read this graphic novel twice to myself and twice with my son. Further, I’ve read portions of it to my students. I can’t stop sharing it! I was blown away by the amalgamation of the 25 graphic novelists—it made for an absolutely stunning text. I appreciate the historical perspective that extends throughout the graphic novel, and I loved that the illustrations really make Ghandi’s story come alive. This is a book that I will share often and widely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly—even if you already know a lot about Ghandi’s life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students connect Gandhi’s philosophies to those who influenced him and those he influenced. For example, in one of my literature classes, one person picked an author who was influenced by another (for example, Woody Guthrie was influenced by Walt Whitman) then the next student built on that (for example, Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie OR Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Walt Whitman) until a complete chain of influences were made. Then each student wrote an analysis paper showing how they were influenced then presented their findings (in order of influences) to the class. This same idea could be done here: Henry David Thoreau influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. who influenced Barack Obama who influenced Cory Booker, etc. This idea could also be used just to look at the idea of peaceful protests that have changed the course of history: Gandhi, MLK, Black Lives Matter, Never Again, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the theme of Meltzer’s story of Gandhi?
  • How did Gandhi change the course of history for Indians in South Africa and India?
  • How did the 25 different artists illustrating the graphic novel affect the reading of the biography?
  • How did Thoreau influence Gandhi? Can you infer how Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • What was the importance of Gandhi’s march to the sea to hold salt?
  • Why do you believe Meltzer chose the specific quotes he included in the back matter of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Ordinary People Change the World series (ex. I am Lucille Ball, I am Jackie Robinson), Nonfiction graphic novels such as Drowned City by Don Brown

Recommended For: 

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2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Biographies: The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson, Balderdash! by Michelle Markel, and Shark Lady by Jess Keating

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

A couple of weeks ago at ALA, my friend Michele Knott of Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook, was kind enough to show me some of her favorite nonfiction picture book biographies published in 2017, and I am so happy to share them with you all.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist
Author and Illustrator: Cynthia Levinson
Published January 17th, 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Summary: Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.

Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.

So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il!

Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

My Thoughts: This book was a perfect picture book companion while I was reading the March trilogy by John Lewis, and reading it and the trilogy made me realize I need to update my Civil Rights text set with all of the amazing titles I’ve read recently, including this one. Audrey Faye Hendricks’s story is a story of a young girl that was so gutsy and stood up for what she believed in– equality because she wanted to be able to do whatever she put her mind to when she grew up. This story also gave another angle to the Civil Rights Movement showing the inclusiveness of all aspects of the Black community in the fight for equal rights.

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books
Author and Illustrator: Michelle Markel
Published April 4th, 2017 by Chronicle Books

Summary: A picture book biography about John Newbery pioneering author and publisher for whom the prestigious Newbery medal is named and the revolution in children s books that he led This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children s books John Newbery himself While most children s books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories science and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader’s enjoyment Newbery for whom the prestigious Newbery Medal is named became a celebrated author and publisher changing the world of children’s books forever This book about his life and legacy is as full of energy and delight as any young reader could wish.

My Thoughts: This was the perfect book for me to read after attending ALA and the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet because, although I knew Newbery was a children’s book publisher, I didn’t know much at all about him or his life. Markel’s biography of him is a perfect introduction! Newbery knew that children needed books that were made specifically for them, a philosophy that we all know is correct and true! I loved how Newbery fought the norms of society and put his money where his mouth is and opened a children’s bookstore which led to the world of children’s books we have today! No wonder the Newbery was named after him!

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist
Author: Jess Keating
Illustrator: Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Published June 6th, 2017 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Summary: At 9 years old, Eugenie Clark developed an unexpected passion for sharks after a visit to the Battery Park Aquarium in New York City. At the time, sharks were seen as mindless killing machines, but Eugenie knew better and set out to prove it. Despite many obstacles in her path, Eugenie was able to study the creatures she loved so much. From her many discoveries to the shark-related myths she dispelled, Eugenie’s wide scientific contributions led to the well-earned nickname “Shark Lady.”

My Thoughts: I had not heard of Eugenia Clark until I read Heather Lang’s Swimming with Sharks and now with Shark Lady we have a second amazing biography about her! I am so glad that she is getting the attention that her amazing story and career deserves! I love that her story shows that inquiry from a young age can lead to a successful and fulfilling career. It also teaches us that nature is something we need to keep questioning and learning from because assumptions are how beautiful things in nature get misunderstood.


All Books Recommended For: 

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March Trilogy by John Lewis with Andrew Aydin (co-writer) and Nate Powell (illustrator)

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

March Trilogy
Author: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Published 2013, 2015, & 2016 by Top Shelf Productions

Summary: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One: Begins with John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Book Two: After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence – but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Book Three: Fall 1963, the Civil Rights Movement is an undeniable keystone of the national conversation, and as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is right in the thick of it. With the stakes continuing to rise, white supremacists intensify their opposition through government obstruction and civilian terrorist attacks, a supportive president is assassinated, and African-Americans across the South are still blatantly prohibited from voting. To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative projects, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and a pitched battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television. But strategic disputes are deepening within the movement, even as 25-year-old John Lewis heads to Alabama to risk everything in a historic showdown that will shock the world.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

Review: No matter what I say in this review, I am not going to give this trilogy justice. I mean, Book Three won the National Book Award, Sibert Medal, Printz Award, Coretta Scott King Award, YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, and the Walter Dean Myers Award. And it had SIX starred reviews, Book Two had FOUR starred reviews, and Book One had FIVE starred reviews. That is FIFTEEN between the three! And they all deserve whatever praise or recognition they have received.

John Lewis’s story included many aspects of the Civil Rights movement I did know about; however, it gives insight into these events that no one else could give us as Lewis is the last of the March on Washington speakers to be with us. It also addresses aspects of the movement that are not taught in history books because it is ugly. Our history is ugly, but that is exactly why it needs to be talked about. There were times when reading where I had to put the book down (especially in Book Three) because this truth was harder to read than just any fiction I’ve encountered. These were my tweets as I was reading (read bottom to top):

But it is because of the shocking nature of our history that we must speak and read and learn about it. We are supposed to keep moving forward, and the only way to make sure we know which way that is, is to learn about what was in the past. John Lewis, with the help of his co-writer Andrew Aydin and the illustrator Nate Powell, have given us a gift with these books. A gift of a look into the past through the eyes of an insider.

I’d also like to share how amazing it was to see John Lewis at ALA Annual in Chicago! I had the honor of hearing him speak twice: once at the Coretta Scott King Award breakfast and once in the Library of Congress pavilion. I also got to shake his hand (though the picture didn’t come out–boo!), thank him, and get my book signed by him and Nate Powell. I am still in awe of the experience!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: PLEASE put these in classrooms! U.S. History teachers, use these as your resource for teaching about Civil Rights. ELA teachers, use these as a nonfiction text in any unit. Anyone with a library for young adults, please put them in your collection. Everyone, read these with a young adult or get them to a young adult. Learning about John Lewis’s truth is how we keep history from repeating itself.

Discussion Questions: 

March Book One Teaching Guide

March Book Two Teaching Guide

March Book Three Example Lesson Plan

Flagged Passages: 

Here are three passages I took photos of because it shocked me how relevant they are to our society today. They may not be the best representation of John Lewis’s narrative; however, they do show the beautiful format and artwork as well as touch on some of the events in Book Three.

Read This If You Love: Just read these. I promise.

Recommended For: 

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Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
Author: Jabari Asim
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Published October 11th, 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: A glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis.

John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice.

Review: John Lewis is an American hero and often what we hear about is his history as a Freedom Rider, Civil Rights Movement, and a politician, but Preaching to the Chickens shows us about John Lewis’s childhood and his faith and hard work as well as his passion and empathy for animals that helped build the foundation of who we see in the public eye. The truly inspiring story that Asim shares with us combined with Lewis’s illustrations really makes for a beautiful book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Civil Rights Movement and the individuals that fought (and continue to fight) for equal rights is something that we need to make sure the current generation of kids are knowledgeable about as equality (or even equity) are not  here yet. There are so many amazing texts out there from nonfiction to fiction and picture books to novels that share this time within our history. These texts make up a text set (or reading ladder) that can be utilized in the classroom in so many ways including lit circles, book clubs, jigsaw, or inquiry projects.  Preaching to the Chickens is not itself a story of Civil Rights but it is the story of how a Civil Rights leader and Freedom Rider became. It is the story of hard work, empathy, and faith that have led to a man who is unlike any other.

Discussion Questions: How did John Lewis’s childhood impact his outlook on life?; How did John Lewis’s practice sermons help him become the public speaker and politician he is today?; What character traits did you see in young John Lewis that show you what kind of man he is today?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Picture books and nonfiction texts focusing on the Civil Rights Movement including Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, The March Against Hate by Ann BausumThe First Step by Susan E. GoodmanBlood Brother by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace, and other texts listed on my Civil Rights Text Set

Recommended For: 

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Teaching Guide for Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer
Author and Illustrator: Fiona Robinson
Published August 2nd, 2016 by Abrams Books

Summary: Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was the daughter of Lord Byron, a poet, and Anna Isabella Milbanke, a mathematician. Her parents separated when she was young, and her mother insisted on a logic-focused education, rejecting Byron’s “mad” love of poetry. But Ada remained fascinated with her father and considered mathematics “poetical science.” Via her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage, she became involved in “programming” his Analytical Engine, a precursor to the computer, thus becoming the world’s first computer programmer. This picture book biography of Ada Lovelace is a portrait of a woman who saw the potential for numbers to make art.

Teaching Guide with Discussion Questions and Activities: 

Ada’s Ideas: The Story of ADA LOVELACE, the World’s First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was the daughter of Lord Byron, a poet, and Anna Isabella Milbanke, a mathematician. Her parents separated when she was young, and her mother insisted on a logic-focused education, rejecting Byron’s “mad” love of poetry. But Ada remained fascinated with her father and considered mathematics “poetical science.” Via her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage, she became involved in “programming” his Analytical Engine, a precursor to the computer, thus becoming the world’s first computer programmer. This picture book biography of Ada Lovelace is a portrait of a woman who saw the potential for numbers to make art.

Note about this guide and Ada’s Ideas

Ada Lovelace was a mathematician far ahead of her time. Because of this, much of the math included in Ada’s Ideas are quite complex. Because of this, Ada’s Ideas could be used for a wide range of students from early-elementary, focusing on Ada’s impact on math, to college, focusing on her use of complex math to write the first computer programs. Within this guide, you will find activities and discussion questions that primarily focus on its use in elementary and middle classrooms, but this does not limit it to these grade levels.

Vocabulary

These vocabulary words can be found throughout the book (in the order they are listed). Use these words as a starting point for a vocabulary study with Ada’s Ideas. Research shows that reading and discussing vocabulary within the context of reading is one of the most effective ways to learn vocabulary.

Despaired     |     Era     |    Defy     |    Reckless     |    Parallelogram     |    Influence     |    Steady     |    Whirred     |    Clanked     |    Newly Harnessed     |    Mechanical     |    Affectionate     |    Carrier Pigeon     |    Confined     |    Poetical expression     |    Aside     |    Eligible     |    Thrust     |     Regimented     |    Re-ignited     |    Potential     |    Orient     |    Corresponding     |    Loom     |    Thereby     |    Algorithm     |    Compute     |    Potential     |    Foresaw     |    Impact     |    Stunned     |    Envision

Activities: Use these activities to extend student learning with Ada’s Ideas.

Ana’s Parents

  • Ana’s parents are both well-renowned and intelligent; however, they are both very different.
  • Get to know George Byron
    • Have your students read the first stanza of “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron. Analyze the stanza with them and discuss: How is Lord Byron describing the subject of his poem? Does it fit your idea of “Romantic” as Lord Byron was considered a leading figure in the Romantic Movement of poetry.
      • She walks in beauty, like the night
        Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
        And all that’s best of dark and bright
        Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
        Thus mellowed to that tender light
        Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
  • Get to know Anne Isabella Byron
    • Lady Byron was wealthy and educated. She was tutored by a Cambridge University professor as a child and found she excelled at mathematics. Discuss with your students: How did Lady Byron’s fascination of mathematics influence Ana’s life? Do you think her life would have been the same if her mother had not been a mathematician herself?

Nature vs. Nurture

  • Discuss with your students the idea of nature vs. nurture.
  • Lord and Lady Byron worked hard to separate Lord Byron from Ada to try and limit her poetical and imaginative behavior; however, Ada still ended up with quite the imagination. What does this show us about nature vs. nurture? Was Ada’s mother able to change how she was going to grow up by separating her from her father, or did it not matter since she is biologically his daughter?
  • Have your students break into two sides and research the ideas of nature vs. nurture then debate whether a person’s DNA decides their development or if experiences and environment can change the development.
    • Extension: Move the debate to Ada’s situation instead of a generic debate about the idea.

Industrial Revolution

  • The Industrial Revolution was possible because of the engineers, scientists, and mathematicians who put theory into practice. These new exciting feats of engineering and science included the first reliable steam engine, the cotton gin, telegraph, dynamite, vaccines, telephone, light bulb, airplane, and automobile.
  • Individually, in partners, or in groups, assign a different Industrial Revolution invention and look at how it was created, how it changed the world, and how it changed science/math/engineering then present their findings to the class.
  • After learning more about the Industrial Revolution, tie it back to Ada Lovelace’s life by discussing if the class believes that Ada’s accomplishments could have happened during a different time in history.

Influence

  • Ada Lovelace’s findings are largely said to be the first computer program. Her programs, in conjunction with Babbage’s hardware, were a theory over a century before the first computers were invented in the United States and England. Even though she was not part of the actual invention and start of computer science, she influenced much of modern computer science. Use the information below as the starting point for a research paper/project or discussion.
  • Some of the ways Ada has influenced computer science are:
    • Mill made by Babbage’s son
      • Charles Babbage’s son made the part of the analytical engine called the mill which carried out numerical operations.
    • Alan Turing
      • Babbage and Lovelace’s analytical engine was the original “drum” computer though Turing is often portrayed as the inventor of the idea.
    • John Graham-Cumming
      • Graham-Cumming is a British programmer who is working to bring the analytical engine, known as Plan 28, to realization.
    • Some ways Ada has been commemorated:
      • ADA: a standardized computer language used by the US Department of Defense
        • A computer language that appeared for the first time in 1980 and is still used today.
      • Ada Lovelace Day
        • Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2011 and aims to share female pioneers in STEM fields. Ada Lovelace Day is the second Tuesday of October.

Discussion Questions: Use these questions as whole class discussions, reading check-ins, or as writing prompts with Ada’s Ideas. The discussion questions are written as if they are being asked to a student.

  • Ada’s schedule as an 8-year-old was very intense. Compare and contrast your current schooling schedule to what Ada was expected to do daily.
    • How many hours did she spend on each subject? How long do you spend?
    • Do you feel like what was expected of her was too high of expectations or fair?
  • How did Ada’s contraction of measles change her life?
  • Why did the author choose to cover Ada’s comforter in geometric shapes on the page when she is suffering with measles?
  • Ada surrounded herself with some very intelligent and influential people including Mary Fairfax Somerville, nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society; Charles Dickens, one of the greatest novelist of the Victorian era; Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing; and Charles Babbage. How do you think having these historical figures as her friends helped influence her focus and trajectory in life?
  • The mentorship of Charles Babbage changed Ada’s life as well as the trajectory of computer science. How did Ada influence Charles’s work and vice versa? Do you think either could have accomplished what they did without each other?
    • Compare their work to modern technologies: Ada’s work ended up influencing the creations of ____, and Mr. Babbage’s work ended up influencing the creations of ____.
  • How did Joseph-Marie Jacquard’s loom influence Ada’s idea of the program for the Analytical Engine?
  • The author’s note about Bernoulli Numbers states that Ada chose them as “beautiful examples” of the complexity of the Analytical Engine. Elaborate on this statement: Why would Ada choose something so complicated as the first program she wrote for the Analytical Engine?
  • The illustrations of Ada’s Ideas are Japanese watercolor pieces cut out and rearranged at different depths to achieve 3-D artwork then photographed. How does this artwork fit Ada’s story? Would another type of illustrations have been able to capture Ada’s ideas and personality as well?

Common Core Standards: English Language Arts

Examples of English Language Arts Common Core Anchor Standards that can be met by extending Ada’s Ideas with the above discussion questions/activities.

  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
    Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
    Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3
    Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4
    Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5
    Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7
    Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9
    Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Computer Science Teachers Association Standards

  • Computational Thinking: Grades K-3, #4: The student will be able to recognize that software is created to control computer operations.
  • Computational Thinking: Grades K-6, #6: The student will be able to understand the connections between computer science and other fields.
  • Computational Thinking: Grades 6-9, #3: The student will be able to define an algorithm as a sequence of instructions that can be processed by a computer.
  • Computing Practice and Programming: Grades K-3, #5: The student will be able to identify jobs that use computing and technology.
  • Computing Practice and Programming: Grades 6-9, #7: The student will be able to identify interdisciplinary careers that are enhanced by computer science.
  • Computers and Communication Devices: Grades 6-9, #3: The student will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between hardware and software.
  • Computers and Communication Devices: Grade 6-9, #4: The student will be able to use developmentally appropriate, accurate terminology when communicating about technology.
  • Community, Global, and Ethical Impacts: Grade 6-9, #2: The student will be able to demonstrate the knowledge of changes in information technologies over time and the effects those changes have had on education, the workplace, and society.

Author/Illustrator

Fiona Robinson is originally from the north of England she now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is an author and illustrator of books for children including Whale Shines, What Animals Really Look Like, and Ada’s Ideas. What Animals Really Like received the 2012 Irma Black Award, and Bank Street named it one of the 2012 Best Children’s Books. She has been praised by Publishers Weekly for her “humor tinged with heart,” and her work has been honored by the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Her favorite things include drawing, reading, drinking tea and telling her stories to children. She doesn’t like loud noises or clapping and often reads newspapers and magazines back to front. When she was in elementary school her teachers called her Little Leonardo, and she’s forever thankful for their support and that of her fabulous family in England too.

Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/11285007/Ada-Lovelace-paved-the-way-for-Alan-Turings-more-celebrated-codebreaking-a-century-before-he-was-born.html

http://findingada.com/

https://plus.maths.org/content/ada-lovelace-visions-today

The teaching guide can also be viewed at: https://www.scribd.com/document/341092371/Ada-s-Ideas-Teaching-Guide# or http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/

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Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice
Author: Susanna Reich
Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
Foreword by Peter Yarrow
Published March 21st, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Summary: Inspired by the rhythms of American folk music, this moving account of Pete Seeger’s life celebrates his legacy, showing kids of every generation that no cause is too small and no obstacle too large if, together, you stand up and sing!

Pete Seeger was born with music in his bones. Coming of age during the Great Depression, Pete saw poverty and adversity that would forever shape his worldview, but it wasn’t until he received his first banjo that he found his way to change the world. It was plucking banjo strings and singing folk songs that showed Pete how music had the incredible power to bring people together.

Using this gift throughout his life, Pete encouraged others to rally behind causes that mattered–fighting for Civil Rights, ending the Vietnam War, or cleaning up the Hudson River. For Pete, no challenge was too great, and what started out as a love for music turned into a lifetime of activism and change. His greatest talent–and greatest passion–would become an unforgettable part of American history.

Praise: 

“Gustavson’s mixed-media illustrations highlight Seeger’s modest upbringing and down-to-earth persona, pairing lushly illustrated scenes of him traveling and performing with rough, loose sketches . . . An intimate look at a pivotal American figure.” –  Publisher’s Weekly

“The ‘We Shall Overcome’ songwriter’s legacy spans decades, and this will surely help a new generation understand his fervor and still-relevant message.” –  Booklist

“Gustavson’s realistic art supports the admiring tone. . . . A solid introduction.” –  School Library Journal

Review: I grew up with parents who loved Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Van Morrison, and Neil Young, so I have definitely heard of Pete Seeger. I knew that he was influenced by Woody Guthrie just as Bob Dylan was (I once wrote a paper about Walt Whitman being the origin of American folk music because of his influence on Woody Guthrie). But I did not have any idea of Seeger’s influence on the social issues that I learned about in this picture book. Though Reich is clear in her Author’s Note that the picture book bio is just a snippit of his life, what she does cover shows me what an impact Seeger had in so many different social issues throughout his life. This story gave me hope. It showed me that music and people who care can definitely make a difference. That someone like Pete Seeger, someone of privilege, can join forces with the oppressed and fight against injustice. That music and poetry and words can make a difference.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Pete Seeger’s story intertwines with many parts of history that are taught. It would be interesting to read Pete’s story when studying the 60s and see how he was influential throughout the different social issues in the 60s. I think it would also be fascinating to listen to Pete’s music while reading the book and discussing how the poetry that he turned into music reflected the feelings of those fighting oppression during this time.

Discussion Questions: How did Pete use music to unite people fighting for a cause?; How is Pete’s use of folk music like Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of speeches and words to fight?; Why did Pete not enjoy fame?

Flagged Passages: “In 1955 Pete was called into court by some congressmen who didn’t think he was a loyal American. Pete refused to answer their questions in the way they wanted. The threat of prison would hang over his head for the next seven years.

Meanwhile the civil rights movement was picking up steam. On a trip to Tennessee in 1957, Pete introduced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the song ‘We Shall Overcome.’

‘That song really sticks with you, doesn’t it?’ Dr. King said.

‘We Shall Overcome’ spread throughout the country. In churches and community halls, at civil rights gatherings and protest marches, people stood arm in arm, their voices forming a bond of home and determination.”

“We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger

Read This If You Love: Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio, Blood Brothers by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil WallaceThe March Against Fear by Ann BausumBoycott Blues by Andrea Davis Pinkey

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