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Archive of Social Studies

Page history last edited by Melissa Gibson 11 years ago


Integrating Literature Ideas & Best Practices - Social Studies


Book Title Author Activity / Idea / Weblink
Grade level
Submitted by
Any ABC book   I have had students create their own alphabet books with geography terms 6th Whitney Dixon
How I Learned Geography
Uri Shulevitz

In the book, the young boy becomes intrigued by the many places on the map and travels to those places in his imagination. Using a map of Asia, find an exact location of these imaginative descriptions from the book:

  • Fresh water stream
  • A burning desert
  • Sandy beach
  • Snowy mountain
  • Large city with tall buildings

The following weblink is a great map of Asia: http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/as.htm


Jennifer Green  
Grandfather's Journey Allen Say

Divide students into groups to research Japan in the early 1900’s. Here are some topics to guide them:

  • Map and topography of the country
  • Religions of the people
  •  Types of jobs
  • Crops
  • Clothing
  • Cultural habits
  • Foods
  • Major Cities
  • Housing
  • Enemies

I would use this lesson plan with elementary students (3rd-5th grade) to help them learn more about Japan and its culture and the journeys of their own elders. It could also be used when your students are studying cross cultural differences and the blending of cultures as immigrants moved to a new land. More ideas:  


3rd-5th Jennifer Phillips
Smoky Night Eve Bunting "Have students read the book and reflect on what was taking place between the people of the community before the riot and what is taking place at the end of the story between the people of the community. The key vocabulary to the story is "Racism." After reading the book have students research the history of racism in America. Have students research to find out when racism was very strong in America, when/why racism changed in America and if racism still takes place in America today. Once students have researched and answered questions over racism, have them reflect on their life and see if racism is taking place around them today. 5th & 6th Sanders
Train to Somewhere Eve Bunting

Prior to reading "Train to Somewhere", students will define vocabulary words from the book. After reading the story, the teacher will lead the class with specific guided questions. After the discussion, students will complete a corresponding crossword puzzle or word find.


4th-6th Sarah Howard-Montgomery


Walter Dean Myers This book could be used to address issues of sociology for young adults. The teacher will introduce the book and activate students' prior knowledge about different ethnic groups and gangs. The students will then read the book or sections from the book and discuss in groups about the plot, setting, and conflicts at hand. They will also complete a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the different cultural/ethnic backgrounds of the main characters, Jamal and Tito. Then gather again for a class discussion about the group work. Finally, have students write a paragraph reflecting on their own life experience with different ethnic/cultural backgrounds and/or how gangs can affect the lives of teens. 7th-10th

Marisa Gebert







Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, The
Tomie de Paola

This book could be used to address the subject of legends and/or creation stories. This story gives a story behind the paintbrush flowers found out west. Students will use the internet to research the basic needs of Native American Indians that lived long ago, as well as other Native American legends they may find. Students can create a PowerPoint presentation with the help of their teacher, to present to the class. For more ideas, see:


3rd-4th Sarah Howard-Montgomery
Rosa Nikki Giovanni Students will read the book "Rosa," discuss what a boycott is, and reenact the bus boycott of Rosa Parks in a play, then students will write a response in their journals, based on personal connection with the story of Rosa Parks, what it felt like to be treated unequally, and to be arrested for not giving a white man their seat. Responses will be read aloud and discussed. 3rd-4th Sarah Howard-Montgomery
Strega Nona
Tomie dePaola
Good Help Wanted! When Strega Nona needed help, she hung a sign that said "Help Wanted". Have students design a "Help Wanted" poster. It will need to tell the qualifications they are looking for and what the job will be- someone to help them with their homework, chores at home, or other task. Each poster is to include the types of chores the person will do, what the pay is and benefits will be, and how the person can apply for the job. Hang the posters in the room. You could take this idea one step further, by having everyone "apply" for one of the jobs!
Diane Haase
Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, The
Paul Goble After reading the book, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, students can discuss how important nature is in the native American culture. Have students split up into groups of 4 or 5 and discuss parts in the story where nature plays an important role. Students can illustrate and write about a part in their story where nature plays an important role. In their groups, students can also discuss different Native American symbols that were illustrated in the book ( arrows, feathers, tipis, men with long braided hair). 1-3 Lindsey Dickson
Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, The
Tomie de Paola After reading the Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, I was intrigued by the origin of flowers. Students could research native flowers and determine their origin. Other Native American tribes could be researched to determine if any other flowers originate from Indian tribes. Students could create PowerPoint presentations to share their findings. 3rd-4th Shannon Compton
Pink and Say
Patricia Polacco
This is a great book to be used to introduce the Civil War in American history. Read the book to the class, stopping every few pages to discuss. Have students individually write down key words or phrases as they relate to the Civil War as the book is read. Then, students will get together in groups to discuss their lists. They will work together in groups and as a whole class to learn new vocabulary associated with the Civil War as well as the main theme of the book itself. More details that go with this idea can be found here: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/pink-and-say-lesson-plan 3rd-4th
Marisa Gebert
Grandfather's Journey Allen Say The students will use this book to support a unit on immigration. They will write a journal on going out of town and visiting family (or make it up if they never have) and their personal experiences with unfamiliar territory. They will talk about the different things in that different place, such as historical sites, scenery, environment, missing family, excitement, emotions, food, schedules, and so on. This can be used to show how excited or how sad it can be to see that new place and family and to be missing home and family and what its like to travel to a new place for the very first time (immigration). Primary Chassadi Strong
Swamp Angel Anne Isaacs Research the Tennessee Smokey Mountains and the Appalachian Trail. More can be learned at: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home. Wildlife, including black bears, can also be discussed and related to Swamp Angel. 2nd-4th Lauren Nichols
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
Jean Fritz
This is a great book to read after introducing a history class to Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party. After reading the book, have students research on the internet more details of Paul Revere's life during the 18th century. Then the students can present their information and discuss some other things Paul Revere may had done during that time. The class would build off of each presentation by ending with "and then,________________."

Marisa Gebert





Encounter Jane Yolen Encounter is a great book to read when discussing the exploration of the Americas, in particular, Columbus's voyages. This story describes the first encounter of Columbus and the Taino people from a Taino boy's perspective. This provides a great opportunity to teach point-of-view. After reading about Columbus's point of view, as well, students can complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the different view points. You can also teach cause and effect by discussing the changes that the Europeans brought to the Americas.
4th-5th Rebekah Walden-Coffey
Cabin Faced West, The Jean Fritz

The book could be used when discussing how settlers moved from the more populated Eastern United States into the relative "wilderness" of the west. The book could also be used when discussing the geography of the United States in the 1700's. Another lesson could discuss life during this time period in comparison to life in settled areas and life on the frontier.

One good lesson with this book would be to have each student create a journal. In order to make the feel of the writing process relate back to the story the journals could be made to look like an old journal from the 1700's. Below I have included a link that provides an excellent way to create one of these journals. The students should write an entry each day about what is going on at school or in their lives. At the conclusion of the book allow the students (those who are willing) to read a few excerpts from their own journals. This would be an excellent way for each student to relate with Ann from the story and would offer extra practice for their writing skills.


5th-6th Richard Frazier
Knots on a Counting Rope Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault  Knots on a Counting Rope  would be a great work to use with students prior to teaching students about Native American cultures. The book does an excellent job of illustrating how oral histories are passed down from generation to generation. Furthermore, the images in the book can illustrate to the students how Natives were very decorative in their clothing and how culture played an important role in their societies. To place the students in the perspective of the boy in the book, they could conduct an interview with an older relative about their own childhood. When the students return with their results from their interviews, the teacher could lead a discussion on how our histories too are also oral histories. An enrichment activity to extend beyond the history lesson, the students would draw from illustrations to correspond with the story they were told by an older family member. This could be a great way for students to grasp historical perspective, culture, and how storytelling is an intricate part of our own personal history. 3rd-4th Grade Andrew Felker
Pink and Say Patricia Polacco

Activities in Literature Sample. I would use the Historical Fiction pre-reading worksheet, and have the children form groups of two to do their wondering and writing. Individually, the students would use the Interesting Words worksheet as they read, and share that in large group. Together, we would decide on our Civil War timeline, where the events from the story might go.

  Worksheets from Teachers Pay Teachers at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/
5th Dr. G
Picture Book of Lewis and Clark, A
David A. Adler This is a good book to use in introducing exploration of the West or pioneers. While reading the book, discussion questions can be asked to get the students thinking about what is going on in the story, where they are, how they are traveling and who or what they see. After reading, review what happened in the story. Every student will get a blank sheet of paper to tri-fold in order to create their own brochure. Students will create a brochure inviting people on the same trip Lewis and Clark took. They will have to draw pictures and write about what people will see and do on their trip. This will hopefully help them understand the difficulties of the trip and also allow them to be creative. 4th-5th Erin Hale

Skin I'm I, The











Sharon Flake











Bullying is one of the hottest topics in today's public schools. Nearly every child can recall a time in his/her life where he/she felt bullied. In contrast, some students can remember a time when they have bullied others. Due to the harsh consequences that can happen as a result of bullying, all teachers should attempt to cover the topic in their social studies classroom. The story, The Skin I'm In could be read during a unit on diversity, focusing specifically on how people are different. The teacher could facilitate excellent discussions about how differences should be valued. In addition, the teacher should encourage rich discussion about bullying and its devastating affects. Students may wish to carry their discussions further by blogging. This website, http://www.enotes.com/skin-im/q-and-a/, offers excellent questions that can be answered online, as well as a discussion board for communication outside school.








Daneika (Nikki) Hunt












Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants Tony Johnston Prior to reading this story, one should provide some background knowledge about the gold rush in California for students. Activities that might go along with this story include having students make dioramas of scenes that contain the gold rush and Levi Strauss. Another idea would be to have students craft an obituary for Strauss that included such things as his accomplishments, what others may have said about him at the time and so on. Students could include illustrations, quotations and other things of their choosing. Another neat idea would be for students to create a timeline about the gold rush. A great website about the gold rush in California that one could visit that is both interactive and informative for students is http://pbskids.org/wayback/goldrush/index.html. 3-5 Lesley Whitaker
Rough-Face Girl, The
Rafe Martin After reading this story whole-group, students could first complete a Venn-diagram to compare and contrast this book to the traditional Cinderella story. Next, begin a KWL chart with students to assess their prior knowledge and continue to use this as they expand their knowledge of the Native American Culture. This book would be a great way to introduce a unit/lesson on Indian culture. Students could work in small groups or with a partner to research various Indian tribes and then later present the information to their class. While researching their selected tribe, students will become familiar with the cultures of an Indian lifestyle and can them compare those cultures to their own ways of life. Students will also learn about Native American language, symbols, rituals/traditions and ceremonies. At the end of the unit, students can have a Native American celebration with song and dance. 3rd-5th Michelle Jenkins
American Tall Tales M.P. Osborne

From this book I would pick 1 or 2 of the characters: my choices for this example are Davy Crockett and John Henry. Have the students read each character's story independently and then hold a class discussion to check for comprehension and iron out any misunderstandings of the information. Classrooms at my school are provided computer lab time once per week. This would be a good time for the students to complete research on the title characters. Have the students look up some fictional information and then look up information that was true or could have been true.

Once back in the classroom have the students write two short-open response items. One item would detail the fictional exploits of the characters and the other would discuss the true events and/or exploits that are non-fiction. Students could also address the similarities of the tales including the: settings, illustrations from the stories, protagonist, antagonist, theme, etc.

Additional ideas for Davy Crockett and his tall tale friends can be found at: http://www.lessonplanet.com/lesson-plans/davy-crockett

6th Richard Frazier
Masai and I Virginia Kroll In Social Studies class, students will learn more about the geography of Africa in this lesson. Teacher will use a pre-made map of Africa and have students label the important cities, landmarks, rivers, and other bodies of water. When students are finished, the class will discuss the population, land use, agriculture, and climate of Africa and how it differs from that of the United States. Then the students will read Masai and I and compare and contrast the little girl's life with the Masai little girl. Grades 4-5 Molly Fackler
Johnny Appleseed Steven Kellogg

I would use this book as an interesting way to discuss the history of Johnny Chapman and how he came to be known as Johnny Appleseed. I thought Steven Kellogg's version incorporated many ideas that came from different retellings of this story. I would use it to introduce the lesson on Johnny Chapman. It would be a good read aloud book, so I would have the students listen as I read the story. This would be how I would introduce Johnny Appleseed and his love for the wilderness.

An activity I would use with this book would be to create a play for the students to learn and perform. They would be able to re-create the life of Johnny Appleseed and learn the history along the way. They could also read other retellings of this tall tale to compare the different versions that are told and incorporate the different ideas into the play.

Grades 1-4 Lauren Hamel

Island of the Blue Dolphins






Scott O'Dell

For social studies, there is a website that has been put together http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/score_lessons/dolphin/home2.shtmlthat allows for the student to "explore" the island, the village, and other aspects of the book. Each link asks questions and also includes a "learn more" link about different aspects of the book, such as other Native Americans.

I might also use this book for students to study coastal maps. I would have students use the book and Karana's description of her island to draw a map, creating their own symbols for landmarks. They will need to create a key for others reading their map.

You can also use this book to talk about roles that the tribe's people had and how that might vary in our society today, including the student's own home. Are there certain roles performed by males or females in our society? What roles did the tribe have?

Grades 4-6 Stephanie McSpadden
Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, The
Tomie dePaola Students could choose a Native American tribe of their own to research. Students could look at some of the tribe's origin or creation myths and present one myth to the class. Students could then write a creation or origin myth of their own. I have actually used the writing of their own myth in class. I received an excellent origin myth for UK and UofL basketball. It was published in our local paper in installments. The boy did an awesome job!!! 9-12 Elizabeth Coomer
Baseball Saved Us Ken Mochizuki Students can read this story along with a social studies unit on WWI/WWII or culture. A teacher could use this book to draw attention to the what America did to Japanese people during the war. The teacher could then have students create a news article and "interview" some of the characters. How did they feel? What did they think? Retell what had happened and their thoughts to see how well the students comprehend the story as well as the culture. 3-5 Bethany Endicott
Henry's Freedom Box Ellen Levine

This story is a wonderful book to introduce a unit on slavery. An activity for this book would be to have students plan an escape route to freedom. Students pick a slave state that they wish to escape from. Students then decide what time of day they are going to leave (day or night), time of year, if they are going alone or in a group, and how many miles to the freedom state they are going to travel. They then use a map to draw out and plan their escape route. I have used this activity with in my classroom a few different times with second and third graders and they really enjoyed this activity.

3-5 Jessica Isenhour
Hannah is my Name Belle Yang This book can be used when talking about immigration or even if you have a new student in your classroom. The little girl in this story is from a different country. Her family moved to the United States from Taiwan. When in San Francisco Hannah who changed her name after moving is told by her dad that she can be anything she wants. However, while trying to live the dream her family is worried about getting their green cards to stay in America. An activity for this book could be for students to pick a place in the world and present to the class how their new home is different than their old homes. This would help students to see just how different other places in the world really are. On a map put a dot or sticker in each place the students present about so the students can see just how many places people come from. K - up Kayla McFarland
Follow the Drinking Gourd Jeanette Winter The book will be great for helping teach the underground railroad to students. It discusses how the characters in the story have to follow the drinking gourd, the Big Dipper, to escape from slavery and find a new way of life and freedom. http://ramsaydhh.watchknowlearn.org/Video.aspx?VideoID=39977&CategoryID=3730. The website actually is a video where students can watch the story unfold. It is told from Reading Rainbow, and students would love watching the story come alive. For a lesson students can fill out a KWL chart. They will write what they want to know about the underground railroad before they learn about it, what they already know about it, and what they learn about it as the lesson is taught. This website also have great ideas for using this story in the social studies classroom. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/follow-drinking-gourd-discussion-guide. 3-6

Dana Brinkley


Hiroshima John Hersey This book will be good when students are locating continents and countries on a map in order to learn about World War 2 and when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. For a pre-assessment, students will locate on a blank map the following countries and continents mentioned in the book: Asia, North America, Europe, Japan, China, Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan. The students will work on locating these places for about 10 minutes. Next, the teacher will use an overhead in order to work on the map together as a class. The students will note any changes that they need to make to their individual map. This would be a good activity to do before starting to read the book because it will give students an idea of the location of Hiroshima and the surrounding countries.
Grades 7-12
Meredith Cook
Paul Revere's Ride: The Landlord's Tale Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This book/poem would be excellent to use when covering a lesson about the Revolutionary War. After reading the poem the teacher could lead a discussion of the major events that occurred in the tale. Also, the teacher could have students identify major landmarks/locations that the poem mentions: Lexington, Concord, The Old North Church, etc. From this the students could delve deeper into the Revolutionary War and discuss other major people/characters that played instrumental roles in our nations war for independence. A good homework/class assignment would be to have the children select a historical figure from this time period and write a short poem about them. Another activity would be to have students look up time period maps from the 1700's and see if they can chart Paul Revere's course.



5th and up

Richard Frazier
Pink and Say Polacco, Patricia Pink and Say is a true story about two friends in the Civil War. This book would be wonderful to begin a unit on the Civil War. This lesson would be better for older students, the book would spark their interest in the war. Prepare some topics such as Abraham Lincoln, General Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg address, Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 etc, put them on a strip of paper. Place the strips of paper in a bag and have students draw a topic from the bag. The students can research the topic and present the information. 6th-12th

Jennifer Campbell


Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday Judith Voirst

Alexander earns a small amount of money from his grandparents but ends up spending it on things he really doesn’t need. This could be a wants and needs lesson for students. Have students list or draw items they need, as well as items they want. Have them cut them out and paste onto a Venn diagram. Some items may be listed as both a want and need. This is an economic lesson about how they need to be smart about things they need to purchase!

2nd Grade Erin Larkino
Sarah, Plain and Tall  Patricia MacLachlan This sweet story of friendship and love is a great way to start a unit or use in a unit for teaching about frontiers and pioneers.  Students could write an additional ending to this story.  What happens after Sarah comes back?  It would also be a great idea to compare life now to how the characters in the story lived during the pioneer times.  How are children's lives different now compared to the time setting from the story.  Scholastic has some extra "beyond the story" activities that would be great for students to do. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/sarah-plain-and-tall-extension-activities 4th-6th grade  Dana Brinkley 
Hitler Youth Growing up in Hitlers Shadow  Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Hitlers Youth is a riveting tale of how Hitler had a group of young people who supported him and got him elected chancellor of Germany. Many youth organized propaganda marches throughout Germany which helped the Nazi party grow in strength. This book tells the chilling details of how a generation of young people devoted their energy and passion to Hitler and left an indelible mark on history.

This book can be used in lessons about World War II on this website you can find a wonderful book talk that was developed by Scholastic http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/hitler-youth-growing-hitler39s-shadow-booktalk

On this website a lesson using different books including Hitler Youth can be found it gives examples on how to compare and contrast these different books as well as ways to use them to learn about different aspects of Hitler and World War II. http://nvholocausteducation.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Literature_and_the_Holocaust_Colleen_Moriarty_MS_ELA.340143759.pdf

Grade 7-8 Kayla McFarland  
Bud Not Buddy Christopher Paul Curtis This is a great book to use in order to do a compare and contrast Venn Diagram of the 1930's era during the depression and today's time period.  Students will be assigned to a partner in order to research on the computer.  Together they will write down differences and comparisons in their notebook.  After studying their notes on the 1930's versus 2012, they will put their information in a Venn Diagram.  Students may even create a keynote presentation or power point that shows picture and information of the depression during 1930. 6-8th grade Meredith Cook
Story of Ruby Bridges, The
Robert Coles This book would be great for any multicultural, African American, or civil rights lesson.  Ruby Bridges was six years old and the first African American child to go to her school after segregation was outlawed.  Students can have discussion about how it must have felt going through such a traumatic time in history.  They could write about a time when they felt different than everyone else and they were bullied.  Older grades can compare and contrast schools and racial attitudes before and after the civil rights movement.  They could even set up an action plan on how to improve racism that still exists today toward any culture.   1-7 Jessica Pelfrey 
Extra Credit  Andrew Clements This chapter book by Andrew Clements would be a great book to discuss culture of different areas of the world. Abby, a 6th grade student is failing school and in order to pass her teachers let her choose from a list of extra credit assignments to help bring her grade up. Abby chooses to write to a pen pal in Afghanistan because she loves to mountain climb and being from Iowa there are not any mountains around, she heard that Afghanistan has a large mountain range near them though and she hopes to learn more from her pen pal. Abby thinks this assignment is going to be an easy one but what she doesn't know is everything that is going on with her pen pals in Afghanistan. Using the different cultural elements that students read about in this book, they could do research and compare how life is for boys and girls in Afghanistan compared to ours. The students could also do research and compare the mountain ranges and landforms that are in that region compared to where we live in Kentucky. This would also be a great opportunity to tie into language arts and have the students write to a pen pal from another area; with technology these days the students could even Skype as a class with schools in surrounding counties or in other states to discuss how their region differs from ours. 4-6



Negro Speaks of Rivers, the
Langston Hughes This book illustrates the poem by Langston Hughes with beautiful watercolor pictures by E.B Lewis.  The book compares ancient rivers such as the Nile, Euphrates, and Mississippi to African-American souls.  7th grade core content involves river valley civilizations that grew up around these rivers.  Therefore, this book would expose them to these rivers.  Also, when discussing the Civil Rights Movement, students could interpret the poem from the point of view of those for and against slavery. Age 4-6 Bradley Abell
Moja Means One: Swahili Counting Book  Muriel Feelings Each page of this picture book tells how to count from one to ten in Swahili.  The pages also have short descriptions of customs and traditions to accompany the illustrations.  After reading this book to students pointing out the different customs and traditions on each page, the teacher can have students create their own counting book native to their land and/or community complete with a short description for each illustration.  For further interest or enrichment, students can go to the following site by TIME for Kids in which they can hear and learn more Swahili language and words:
K and up,
All grade levels
Jana Harrison
Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! Cari Best

This picture book is the story of a bond between a Russian grandmother and her grandchild. The book was excellent, but I feel it was lacking in information about Russian culture. After students read this book, I feel they would be really curious as to what Russian culture is like. To inform and teach students about Russian culture, I would introduce things to them such as food and traditions that are common among the Russian people. Another way to begin to learn about Russian culture would be to learn their alphabet. Students would learn that the Russian alphabet has 33 letters. The website listed below has an incredible listing of the alphabet, where students can see what the letter looks like, what it sounds like, a picture that has the particular letter/sound, etc. During computer lab time, students would be given the opportunity to explore the website listed below, where they can learn more about Russian culture by playing Russian games, learning Russian songs, and much much more.


3-5 Morgan Hagedorn
Invention of Hugo Cabret, The
Brian Selznick  Students can explore simple machines and their importance in the development of modern technology. Students demonstrate an understanding of the principles of simple machines through Internet research, apply knowledge to complete a model, and brainstorm applications for simple machines in a new invention.  

Lesson Plan: New Creations from Six Simple Machines by Cate Sanazaro - Involving Inventors and Inventions, Research Skills, Expository Writing, Logic and Problem Solving, Simple Machines, Science Careers, Science Experiments and Projects:


6-8  Geraldine Allen 
Henry's Freedom Box Ellen Levine

Henry’s Freedom Box is the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom in Philadelphia in the 1800s.  This is a great book to use with fifth graders as you teach about the Underground Railroad.  I use this book at the beginning of my unit, as it is beautifully written and has fabulous illustrations.  I read this aloud to the students and we stop occasionally to make predictions.  One of the activities I use with this picture book is making a freedom quilt, which is another way that slaves found freedom from slavery.  The following link has the meanings of the different quilt patterns as well as templates for the students to color as they make their own freedom quilt:


Another thing you can do with your students is take a field trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  If you can’t physically go there, their website has a lot of useful information for students and teachers.  The following link takes you to information about Henry Brown: http://freedomcenter.org/underground%2Drailroad/history/people/Henry%2DBrown/

This link takes you to the Freedom Center’s main Underground Railroad site.  You can click to find out more information about many runaway slaves and conductors on the Underground Railroad: http://freedomcenter.org/underground-railroad/

Lastly, for more information on the Underground Railroad, visit www.brainpop.com and watch a video entitled “Underground Railroad.”  My students love learning information from Tim and Moby.

5th Samantha Fry
And then what happened, Paul Revere?  Jean Fritz

This is a compact look at Paul Revere's life leading up to the famous ride through the countryside and the lanterns in the Old North  Church.  The illustrations can help young History learners to understand the countryside of the Boston and Massachusetts of old.  The older learners will enjoy the pictures for the hidden art lessons. 

This book can also be used in a Literature class in a lit. circle of historical fiction.  Students will be able to see the link between fictional history and non-fictional history.

4-6 Jennifer Watson 
Gardener, The
Sarah Stewart
The story is written in the form of letters, which are written by the main characater, Lydia Grace to her family, who are struggling through the Great Depression. She is sent to live with her uncle during the tough times because he owns a bakery and can better provide for Lydia Grace. I read this book to my class and discussed the depression era. We talked about the realistic fiction genre, which the students connected to another story we read, Rocks in His Head. We also discussed the vocabulary of the book. An activity I had them complete was to put themselves in Lydia Grace's shoes and write a letter home to their own families. 
Melissa Rahe

Long Walk To Water, A

Linda Sue Park

This chapter book by Linda Sue Park would be great book to discuss with students about how it is a day to day struggle for some people that live in different countries. An activity that I would do with 6th 7th and 8th graders would be to have them seat down with their parents and have them come up with a monthly spending allowance for them to survive in our country. I would want them to list everything that they have to pay for. I would then have the students try to come up with how they are going to pay for what they want. I would end this activity by having students read A Long Walk To Water to show students how they have it made in this country and to not take things for what they are. 6-8 James Bridges
Abuela Arthur Dorros

This is a terrific resource to incorporate around Grandparents Day.  After reading this story, share other stories including special memories with grandmothers.  Books like "The Patchwork Quilt," by Valerie Flournoy and Jerry Pinkney and "Luka's Quilt," by Georgia Guback are wonderful resources for connections.

Have students work in small groups or pairs to compare and contrast the grandmothers in the stories.  Bring the thoughts and connections back whole group to discuss the importance of grandmothers and grandparents.  (Make sure to mention that not everyone has a grandmother in their life, but we all have special older people that are important in our lives.)  To reflect on the lesson, allow students time to share in their writer's notebooks special memories they have with their grandmother, or special older person, in their life.

1-3 Lauralee Samples 
Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, The
Paul Goble

The book The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses can be used as an introduction to a unit on the Native Americans.  After reading and discussing the story have students work in groups of 2 – 3 to conduct research on one of the different Native American tribes. Tribes could include Sioux, Cherokees, Navajos, Hopi, Wichitas, Pawnees, etc. Another option is students could work in groups of 4 or more to research a region of Native Americans such as the Northeast Woodland, Southeast Woodland, Plains, Southwest, Northwest and California.  To ensure groups do not pick the same tribe maybe let them draw a tribe out of a hat.   Have students report on different aspects of the Native Americans’ lives: where they lived, what they wore, what they ate or their customs and traditions. Have students create a Power Point to present to the class. 

Websites students could use for research:

Native American Facts for Kids


Native Americans in Olden Times



3 - 4

Heather Shepherd

Ashanti to Zulu 



Margaret Musgrove

Objective: Students will demonstrate their ability to use resources to research an African tribe from Ashanti to Zulu.

Activity: Having already put the letters A through Z into a bowl or hat (letters may be repeated for a higher number of students), have each student pull out a letter from the hat. The letter they get will correspond to the tribe in the book that they will research. Give the class a list of approved websites to find the information required to answer questions such as “what are the tribe’s traditions?” “locate them on the map of Africa,” or “what are they best known for?”

5 Angela Crider
Dragon's Gate  Laurence Yep

Dragon’s Gate is a novel based on actual events of the Chinese involvement in the construction of the American transcontinental railroad. The story is written from the point of view of a young Chinese man who wants to go to America.  When he gets the chance to go he learns about the rough terrain of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the unfair working conditions that Chinese immigrants had to endure at the hands of the “westerners”. This novel lends itself to many social studies connections. However, one activity that is appropriate for grade levels seven through 12, would be to make a movie trailer for a hypothetical newly released movie about hardships the Chinese faced during their work on the railroad.  Within this activity students would complete a free download and learn how to use the Windows MovieMaker program. As well, students would research the two main companies that competed to build the railroad and specifically Central Pacific Railroad Company, the railroad company that employed mostly Chinese workers.  The trailer should include still shots and movie clips of the movie title, routes taken by this railroad, scenes of Chinese workers building the railroad, brief interviews or quotes from these workers (could also be taken from the book, Dragon’s Gate) and a graphic showing the timeline of railroad construction.  The expectation could be set of a specific time limit of the movie trailer along with the expectation that voiceovers and free downloadable music be used to increase the aesthetic effect of the trailer to engage viewers and persuade viewers to become aware and sympathetic to the adversity faced by the Chinese workers for the ultimate benefit of America.

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=34 – Free Download of Windows MovieMaker 2.6

http://www.freeplaymusic.com/  - Offers Royalty Free Music from Various Genres

http://cprr.org/Museum/Chinese.html - Web Site that offers basic research about the Chinese people and the American transcontinental railroad, intended as a starting point for student research.

7-10 Robin Hancock
Same, Same but Different Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Same, Same but Different is picture book is about two young boys, Elliot and Kailash, who are pen pals.  Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India.  They exchange letters and pictures and find out they have several things in common with one another.  Even though their worlds are different, they are similar in many ways.  When the author/illustrator of the book traveled to Nepal and India, she learned the saying “Same, same but different” was a phrase natives used to compare cultures. 

Students can explore the streets of India and learn about their culture through photos from the author/illustrator on the following website (http://dancingelephantstudio.com/visualart/for-kids/).  These photos actually helped to inspire and influence the book. 

You could arrange for your students to be pen pals with students in your own city, a different state, or another country.  Throughout the year as the students communicate with their pen pal (via letter, e-mail, or Skype), you can have the students compare and contrast the two cultures with a top hat graphic organizer.  Go to the following website and choose your favorite template, either “Top Hat” or “Top Hat Organizer”.


The Reading is Fundamental website has a page with numerous lesson ideas for educators, parents/families, and community coordinators to use with this book.  (http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/multicultural/same-same-but-different.htm)

1st-3rd Laura Beth Menser
Watsons Go to Birmingham, The
Christopher Paul Curtis  

I would introduce this story after talking about Civil Rights and use this story as a read aloud in class. There would be character sketches, text to self examples and a comparison with book like A Raisin in the Sun. We would discuss equality and racial difference.. I would use daily writing prompts and have classroom discussions about the book. I would also use sticky notes with the students when reading so they could mark unfamiliar words, things they have questions about or parts they want to discuss more.


You could also follow up this book by discussing Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists. This book received a Newbery Award and the Corretta Scott King Award.


The website below gives ideas on how to use this story in your classroom. http://www.brighthubeducation.com/middle-school-english-lessons/89239-the-watsons-go-to-birmingham-activities/

5-7 grade Danielle Sarson
Island of the Blue Dolphin  Scott O'Dell

 The story of a young girl stranded for years on an island off the California coast, it is based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Nicoleno Indian left alone for 18 years on  San Nicolas Island in the 19th century.

After reading the story reading teachers could collaborate with social studies teachers for a great connection to the actual Islands. Our school teaches Geography in the 6th grade so it would connect well.  

The web pages in this area of the site focus on the island itself. Here you will find maps and photographs of San Nicolas island. There is a blank map of San Nicolas (PDF format) that you can use with students. You could also project it onto butcher paper and trace the island big enough to use whole class to "map" the story.

Historical Note:There was an actual tsunami recorded in the Channel Islands in 1851, two years before Karana was found. Also, Father Gonzales Rubio actually did offer $200 for her reward. Alaskan Natives were brought, by Capt. Whittemore, to the Island in 1811 to hunt sea otter. They killed all of the men on the island. They were not Aleutian though, they were from Kodiak Island.



Next the students could create their own islands and use mapping skills to draw them out.

5th-6th grade Sara Jones
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears Verna Aardema

Activity: This book could be posted on so many pages that it was hard for me to choose. I think it could go on the social studies page because we do a unit of study on a country in several grade levels at my school. This would be a great book to use if you were doing a unit of study on Africa. Throughout the course of the unit, students learn not just about the geography of the country, but the history, culture, beliefs and values. This would be a great folktale to read to show students how stories like this were passed on orally for many generations till someone finally wrote them down. Also, in this case, this folktale shows an interesting take on why some everyday action (mosquitoes buzzing in people’s ears) began. I always tell my students that folktales are one way of explaining, “why things are the way they are”. Also, when learning abut Africa, the geography is important. The students would learn about the animals living in the country. A variety of animals are covered in this story: iguanas, pythons, rabbits, crows, monkeys, owls, and antelopes. This would be a great resource to talk about how all these animals live in different places in the Savannah in Africa.

http://www.homeschoolshare.com/why_mosquitoes.html This website has a TON of activities and lesson ideas for other social studies lessons you could do as well as a bunch for other content areas.

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/why-mosquitoes-buzz-peoples-ears-extension-activities This one does as well.

I also thought you could have the students write their own version of an African folktale. If they created illustrations and then you took pictures of them, you could put them into iMovie and have the students narrate their version of a folktale as the pictures went through. 

K- 2nd Grade Brittney Sanderson
Star Boy Paul Goble

This children’s picture book is a retelling of the Native American story of how the sacred knowledge of the Sun Dance was given to the Blackfoot people.  The book is beautifully illustrated with painted images of human and animal characters, and tipis with authentic historical designs.  After reading the story, students search books and online sites to learn more about tipis--their construction design and materials, their significance, and symbolism--and the people who live(d) in them. 

For Lakota Tipi resource images and lesson plans: http://creativity.denverartmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Tipi_ECE.pdf

Paper Tipi Pattern: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/tv/printables/TCR/0615_37.pdf



Social Studies/Art

Geraldine Allen
Too Many Tamales Gary Soto This multicultural children's book is a story about a young Spanish girl named Maria. Her family is enjoying Christmas time and preparing tamales for their traditional dinner. This book would be great as a opener to discuss traditions and customs and culture in a 6th grade social studies classroom. After the teacher reads the book aloud students can compare their families' traditions and customs to Maria's. They could use a T-chart to tell what they do alike and different from Maria's family. This book brings insight to modern American students who are used to having turkey dinners during the holidays. Some people do not have large families like Maria's so they may celebrate differently. K-8th Grade Shakira Harris
Arrival, The
Shaun Tan 

I would have my students take a virtual field trip to Ellis Island using the link below. I would then have them write a journal entry while they were on the boat on their way to America.   


grades 5-8
Suzanne Bridwell
Well, The
Mildred D. Taylor

After students have read and discussed The Well have them create a PowerPoint discussing the social and civil rights issues that were raised in this book.  They can do this from the perspective of a reporter during the early 20th century or they can do it from the perspective of one of the character from the book.  Remind them of the time.  They need to use the dialect of the time and of the character they have chosen.  One slide needs to introduce the era.  The next few should be about the social issues.  Another could be about whether they agree or disagree.  Also, some slides could be about what they think could be done to overcome these issues.


Cara Esarey
Chocolate Tree: A Mayan Folktale, The
Richard Keep

Ever wonder where chocolate came from? We have the Mayan king Kukulkán to thank. Kukulkán is more than a king. He is also a god. One day he brings his people an amazing gift: a chocolate tree! But there is just one problem. Kukulkán's brother, Night Jaguar, doesn't want regular people to have chocolate. He thinks only gods should eat the tempting treat. Will Night Jaguar prevail? Or will the Mayans get to keep their chocolate tree? 


I would take my students on a virtual tour of the ancient Mayan pyramids on the above link. We would then make some yummy chocolate treats after reading the story and discussing the Chocolate tree. We would create a class recipe book of yummy chocolate desserts.     

grades 2-4 Suzanne Bridwell
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices Paul Fleischman

Joyful Noise is a wonderful collection of poems for two voices (meant to be read aloud by two people) about different insects. There is an obvious science connection that can be made with this book, but the poem "Honeybees," made me think of social studies. "Honeybees" is one poem told from two different perspectives- a queen bee and a worker bee. 

Students could work with a partner to create a poem for two voices while comparing and contrasting people in history. For example, the poem could be based upon a union and confederate soldier, or a patriot and loyalist before the Revolutionary War. I would then have students record themselves reading the program using iMovie so they could add pictures and music. 

5-8 Britny Robertson
Duck for President Doreen Cronin

In class, I would use Duck for President as an introduction to learning about the presidential election. Since this coming year is an election year, students will be very interested in the process. After reading Duck for President, students will play a physical game that helps explain the process of the electoral college votes. Two students will be the presidential candidates. Everyone else is a state (or possibly two if needed). They will have an index card taped to their chest saying their state name on the front- on the back is the  number of electoral votes that state gets. The presidents will play a game of tag and the states they tag they "win". However, at the end they will tally up the number of electoral votes each candidate won to see who won the election. This is a fantastic concrete representation of why sometimes the candidate who wins the most states does not win the presidency. After playing this game, students will learn more about the election process by viewing http://www.brainpop.com/socialstudies/usgovernmentandlaw/presidentialelection/preview.weml this video on BrainPop. The class can then have its very own presidential election by choosing two candidates, having campaigns, etc. 

5-8  Haley Bathiany 
Elijah of Buxton  Christopher Paul Curtis  Elijah of Buxton is a story told from the point-of-view of a young boy of African heritage, who was born into freedom in Canada. Throughout the story the main character, Elijah, demonstrates how he benefitted from being born free and how his life differs from those who were born into slavery. Have students take a virtual tour of the Underground Railroad (www.nationalgeographic.com/railroad) and look through the resources located at http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/teacher-activity-guide-underground-railroad. Then, as a whole-group or ask students to work with a partner to compare Elijah’s life to those born into slavery. Guide students to think about the different perspectives of Elijah and those born into slavery, especially considering education, daily life and how both felt about slavery. Please see the following links for suggestions of compare and contrast graphic organizers to use with this activity.





Robin Hancock

Other Side, The

Jacqueline Woodson 

A warming story that introduces young children/students to the realities of racism and friendship. A story that focuses on creating a friendship with another child by overcoming the adversity to do so. With this story, teachers are able to link activities back to Martin Luther King Day or a unit on slavery (just depending on age). Students would be asked to re-create the story as if laws, changes, etc. had not been made in society allowing for white individuals to become friends with others of another race. Students would be accommodated per race if need applied.  Adaptations would apply for each age level.

Kindergarten - 5th Grade 

Misty Meadors 

Mufaro's Beautiful 


John Steptoe

This is an African folktale in which good overcomes evil. It's about two sisters one which is evil and the other is good. The story comes from the African country called Zimbabwe. It is considered international literature. It has the literary element of person against person. Manyara was the evil sister and always out to get her sister, Nyasha. There are many activities that students could complete from this story. From a social studies view since the story comes from Zimbabwe, share with students that the stone buildings at Great Zimbabwe are considered architectural marvels because they were made with dry wall. In a dry wall, the stones are cut and placed that no mortar is needed. To help students understand the skill this requires, have them try to build a mini wall with small stones. How many layers can they add before the stones start to fall?  Another activity is to have students compare this story with other versions of Cinderella, like Yen-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China. Have students answer questions like the following: How are the versions different? In what ways are they alike? How do they reflect the culture they come from?

1st-3rd Grades.

Lisa Moore

Show Way 

Jacqueline Woodson

Show Way is a beautiful and richly illustrated picture book. Made up of part watercolor and part collages, this book tells the life story of seven generations of African-American women from slavery to freedom, through segregation, freedom marches, and their struggle for literacy.  This book would be integrated into social studies within several units depending on the content age level.  Students could design, either on paper or on cloth, their own Show Way quilt. 

Technology Extension:

Students can use the Internet for researching symbols and they could print them off to use as a guide for their quilt square. 

Writing Extension: Students could write a comparison essay of the similarities and differences of using a quilt as a map to freedom and the underground railroad. 

Using the website http://education.ucdavis.edu/NEW/STC/lesson/socstud/railroad/Map.htm trace the route of the Underground Railroad. On a large piece of paper (uncut newsprint paper works well), draw the route taken.





Reading level: 6~read aloud

Reading Level: 11~read alone:

Shawna Irvin 

Going Home 

Eve Bunting 

I struggled with the category I would put Going Home. The book can be used for the instruction and introduction of multicultural art  Students can be introduced to various types of artwork from different cultures and then compare and contrast the different types of artwork.  Students can then choose to recreate the artwork using a given rubric that would outline  use of line, color, shape and composition. This book can also be used to compare and contrast  cultural similarities and differences.  Students can read various multicultural picture books, and then create their own picture book about their own culture and/or traditions.  One activity I found that I particularly liked was to take students on trips around the world through literature. Students will then write postcards that will identify the main character and setting. This allows students to learn about different purposes for writing while also identifying characters and setting as a reading component (elementary level).http://www.readwritethink.org/parent-afterschool-resources/activities-projects/books-will-take-there-30911.html


can be adapted for high school(art)

Wendy Philpot 

Number the Stars

Lois Lowry

This multicultural novel, which tells the story of a young Jewish girl's life during World War II, offers a multitude of opportunities to connect with social studies.  This would be an excellent book to have students read in correlation with studying World War II and the Holocaust.  Through this study, students would benefit from locating key locations described in Number the Stars on a map or globe.  Google maps (accessible at  https://maps.google.com) and Google Earth (http://google.com/earth/index.html) could offer some neat technology-centered avenues of doing this.  Additionally, the book gives us a view into the everyday lives of those living during a time when resources were in short supply, and demand was high.  Rations are discussed in numerous chapters throughout the book.  This gives students the opportunity to think about needs and compare the way of life from this time period to the way we live today.  Students can list the rationed items (taken from the book) in order, beginning with those of greatest need for survival during the 1940's based on what they have learned.  They can then list those same items in order of their own preference as to how they might be used/needed in today's society.  Analytical comparison and discussion should follow, as students discuss and discover ways in which life has changed over the last several decades.  This activity was taken from http://www.enotes.com/documents/number-stars-wartime-rations-activity-for-chapters-40957, where additional related 'think sheets' can also be located.

Grades 4-6

Julie Lynn

Grandfather's Journey 

Allen Say 

Students would be asked to interview their own grandparents or great-grandparents.  They would be required to ask them questions about their lives as young children and young adults to see how their lives evolved.  The students would especially need to find out if their grandparents or great-grandparents were actually born in America or another country.  They could also focus on if they were born in another state than the one they are currently living in.  Then, the students would need to take the information they learned and create a PowerPoint presentation to share with the class.  This PowerPoint must include information learned from the people they interviewed, but should also include pictures as well.       

This lesson would be appropriate for grades 5-12. 


(Cindy) Wilson 

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind 

Suzanne Fisher Staples 

This story introduces us to many cultural practices followed by people of the region. After reading the story, students will be asked to create a cumulative project about the book. Students can either research the types of homes that are talked about in the book and create a house of their own. They could even choose a cultural practice, such as a wedding or a burial and research it, write a report and even act it out and present it to the class or videotape themselves to present to the class. A rubric would be created to make sure that students are doing proper research and that what they chose relates back to the book. The possibilities are endless, as long as the students show creativity and knowledge about their project and subject.

7th or 8th grade 

Lindsay Williams

McElderry Book of Greek Myths, The

Retold by Eric A. Kimmel 

This is a wonderful book to use when teaching Ancient Greece.  This collection contains just a sample of Greek myths, such as "Prometheus," "Pandora's Box," and "Daedalus and Icarus."  Reading a few of the myths in class would be a great start to allowing the students to research some of the Greek gods and create a visual representation (like a Prezi, PowerPoint, poster, etc.) of a chosen god.  Students could include symbols and stories that represent each god.

6-8 or a high school world history course 

Heather Conley 

Goin' Someplace Special

Patricia C. McKissack

Show students a picture of a city bus that you have constructed (no roof, looking in the top).  Make sure your bus has fewer seats than you have students.  Have two different colors of chips available.  Lay a ruler across the picture from side to side.  Tell the students that only (red) chips can occupy the spaces in front of the ruler and only (blue) chips can occupy the spaces behind the ruler.  One at a time, let each child take a chip and place it on one of the bus seats.  It's important to make sure you fill up the back spaces first and have maybe four seats in front still empty.  Okay, the back section is full.  Now hand a child a blue chip and tell him or her to place it in the bus.  The child will want to put the blue chip in the front section reserved for the red chips as there is no more room in the back.  Tell the child that's against the rules, then wait for the outcrys of "That's not fair," or "That's stupid." This is a good time to explain about the old "Jim Crow" signs and some of the ways that prejudice can affect innocent lives.  They will see firsthand that those old laws didn't make any sense.

Pre-school - 3rd Grade

Donna Campbell

Grandfather's Journey

Allen Say 

A social studies connection with this story would be to build on the stories the grandfather told the boy by inviting children to ask their grandparents or other family members to come and tell about their own journeys in moving. Students could interview family members to gather information. They could use their notes to write stories about their journeys. Children could also use maps to locate destinations and trips.   

Intermediate/ Middle School grades 

Kim Jones 

Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, The

Paul Goble

This book gives an excellent opportunity for a unit on Native American life.  The example shown in the book expresses the girl's love of animals and the kindred spirit she feels with the horses and the land.  Students can research how animals played a role in Native American life, including their art and storytelling.  Students could also use other Goble books to compare and further identify other aspects of Native American life.  After looking at other books, students would identify topics that were visible in all of the books.  To illustrate the knowledge the students are gathering, the students will write/draw journals about these topics.  They can use new words they have learned, information about locations in the United States and favorite characters/topics that have been discussed.  This will incorporate reading, writing and social studies on a unit about Native Americans cultures.  November is noted as Native American history month and this unit would work well during that time.  It could be incorporated with Thanksgiving and a unit on the Native Americans that Pilgrims might have encountered.  It could expand to include foods, customs, etc.  An example of the journal writing can be found at the following link:



Christa Osborne 

Crow Boy 

Taro Yashima

This is a wonderful book to tie in social studies connections.  The setting of the book takes place in a village in Japan.  Teach the students that the name Japan means “the sun” and “the land of the rising sun.” Students could use red and white construction paper to create a Japanese flag.  Also, have students identify the similarities and differences between villages in Japan and cities/towns in the U.S.

Geography: Since Japan’s highest peak is Mount Fuji, a volcano, have students label the volcano on a map.  Then have students research how volcanoes are formed.  There are some great youtube videos for students to watch.

Chop: In the U.S. we call it a signature but in Japan it is called a chop. A chop is a personal seal that they use as a signature. Chops are carved in soft stone, bone, or wood and are made of symbols that represent the person creating it. For example, when an artist has finished their piece of work they would Chop it in red ink.  Have students create their own Chop.

3-5 grade 

Jamie Owen 


Walter Dean Myers 

This book would be great to use while learning about the court system. For example, after learning about the court system students could examine witness testimony and evidence heard by the jury. They could "examine" the evidence and then define and describe closing arguments by the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Students could be split into equal groups representing the prosecutor and the defense attorney. After examining their side students could elect representatives to recreate the scene and compare and contrast the closing arguments. They could then make a decision as jurors and give reasons from the case to support their choice.  Web Link:  http://www.civiced-ri.org/monster.pdf


Ciara Wheatley 

Coming On Home Soon 

Jacqueline Woodson 

This would be a great book to use for Veteran's Day when teaching children who have parents that serve in the military. Students could see how they are not the only ones to miss their parents or be away from them for long periods of time. For example, students could start with reading the story and then even reading an article about a child whose parents serve in the military. They could then compare and contrast the two. After reviewing and sharing with the class students could state how family can support each other when parents are away. 


Ciara Wheatley 

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Ellen Levine

This book tells the story of the famous Henry "Box" Brown and his journey in the Underground Railroad as he literally travels in a wooden box to freedom.  This book would be the perfect addition to the study of the Underground Railroad and slave trading for younger students. After reading this story students could further study the Underground Railroad to understand exactly what it is and how it was used to assist in the freedom of slaves.  Students would need to understand all of the risk and dangers associated with it.  For a geography connection students could plot the journey of Henry on the map.  For further connections students could create secret codes to communicate on the Underground Railroad and write a journal entry of how they would feel to be Henry and what his journey must have meant to him.





Nikki Giovanni 

Rosa is the compelling story of Rosa Parks and her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement. The story depicts Rosa’s life before her famous refusal to give up her seat and the momentous events that occurred after that fateful day.
After reading this book, students could watch a brief video documentary on NeoK12 of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (http://www.neok12.com/php/watch.php?v=zX030d46007f701570455d7b&t=Civil-Rights-Movement) and then brainstorm something they would like to change in their school or community the way Rosa Parks wanted to change segregation on public buses. They could then make signs and peacefully protest the change. Students could walk to other classrooms and demonstrate for the change.
Students could also make a timeline of events for the Civil Rights Movement or makes a news broadcast about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, interviewing a student playing the character of Rosa Parks.
In addition, the concept of segregation could be taught be only allowing girls or boys or green-eyed students to participate in certain activities for the day or for a week. Some activities may be eating in the room with the teacher, getting to use a particular water fountain, or getting to use pens instead of pencils. After the activity, students should discuss how it made them feel on both sides and why segregation is so degrading to people.
Rosa Parks - Alphabetical Order
Put these words related to Rosa Parks in alphabetical order. Then use them to tell her story. (From Garden of Praise, created by schoolteacher Patsy Stevens.) 
Rosa Parks Tribute in Pictures
A photo gallery illustrating the life of Rosa Parks. From BBC radio station 1Xtra.
Rosa Parks
Read a story about Rosa Parks written by a third grader. Can you write your own? From a Web site created by students and teachers of Pocantico Hills School in Sleepy Hollow, New York. 


Tia Smith 

American Born Chinese 

G. L. Yang 

This story is an intriguing tale of a young Chinese boy growing up in an all American school.  Distraught and confused about his ethnic background he is left to feel ashamed and embarrassed about who he truly is.  I think this story could offer up some wonderful lessons on personal identity.


If I were to assign this to a class I would have my students identify their own heritage and bring in something that represents where their families' origins begin.  I would also have the students write about why this par of their identity is/should be important to them.  How does it make up who they are?

3rd- 5th grades, could do middle school level 

Brittany Lin 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry 

Mildred D. Taylor 

Students will research America during the 1930's and compare a family living in the North to Cassie's family living in the South. Students will discuss their findings in groups and in class discussion. Students will also research various levels of prejudice and write  a short paragraph about the story, containing their point of view or opinion versus the author's.



Nena Tucker 

Brothers In Hope

Mary Williams

Brothers In Hope is based on a true story about the lost boys of Sudan whose villages were attacked during a civil war.  There are so many themes described in this book that could lead to rich discussion: Courage, Survival/Overcoming Adversity, Hardships of War, Faith, Determination,  Motivation, World Peace, Human Rights.

Website: http://www.leeandlow.com/p/brothers_tg.mhtml

Social Studies Multicultural Activity: Display a landform map of Eastern Africa and track the route the Lost Boys took to find safety or freedom. Pretend that you are one of the Lost Boys. Write in your notebooks about what life must have been like as you traveled around this part of Africa. Include the obstacles they would have faced. How would they feel once they arrived to the United States? 


Trish Roederer

Gettysburg Address, The

Abraham Lincoln Illustrated by M. McCurdy

Read The Gettysburg Address--Illustrated by M. McCurdy to the class, noting particularly how the illustrations lend emotional strength to Lincoln's words.  This book aims at making a timeless piece applicable for a new generation of visual learners by combining the former President's actual words with moving, emotion-invoking images designed to accentuate the grief and perseverance that Lincoln creates in his rhetoric. 

As you read, call on one or two students to comment on the illustrations with anything they feel is relevant.  After reading the entire book, ask students to write for ten minutes about how the illustrations helped them capture the emotional power in the words and/or how the images helped them connect personally or emotionally with the text.  Share some of the responses with the class, encouraging discussion as you do so.  Allow student to use the book as they write if they need to.

Additional Materials:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCXUbQ4JjXI : this five-minute, PBS video will help students develop the background knowledge necessary to understand the context in which the Gettysburg Address was given.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvA0J_2ZpIQ: this video features actor Jeff Daniels reciting the Gettysburg Address; the images in the video are well synced with the words in the same way the images in the M. McCurdy picture book are.  Daniels's reading captures the emotional tones Lincoln probably would have used in his actual address, making this video an excellent supplement to the activity above.

Grades 6-8

Derek Poe

Wall, The

Eve Bunting 

This story can be used as an introduction to Veteran's Day. The students can do several activities to learn and understand the meaning behind Veteran's Day. Once the book is read, the students can watch the Brain Pop Jr. video which explains Veteran's Day. Then the students can learn about how to research different memorials for soldiers by using the internet. Since the book mentioned a memorial the students can search that memorial first and then continue to search other memorials. 

Another resource that can be used for Veteran's Day activities is Discovery Education. It contains a lot of video clips, pictures, and music clips for all ages.

2nd - 5th grade 

Tara Keen


Gary Paulsen

There are many science and social studies activities you can do with this book. One social studies activity would be to have students after reading this piece construct a map of the survival site. Include places such as his shelter, the lake, the plane crash, the berry bush, where he encounters the moose, etc. Have the students include all tools found on a map.

A Blank map template can be found here: Map Template .docx

Grades 4-6

Michelle Czepyha

Mary, Bloody Mary

Carolyn Meyer

I would use this novel as a supplementary reading for the Tudors era in European history.  The book lends itself to several writing activities:

Timeline--students are to create a timeline as they read and map the major events of Mary's life through plot points in the book.  After reading, students are to create a comparison/contrast chart, in which they are to check the book against history textbooks for historical accuracy.

Dear Diary-- A cross-curricular activity for English and Social Studies, students are to choose a character from the historical era being studied and create a mock journal entry from that character's point of view.  Taking what they know about the figure's personality, life, and habits, they are to create a life-like entry that mimics the tone and style of Mary, Bloody Mary.

Grades 7-12 

Maegan Renick 

Joey Pigza Loses Control  

Jack Gantos

Joey Pigza is a middle school age boy with ADHD.  He is in a constant battle to keep his life under control but he is always getting into something!  Joey and his father both struggle with this disability.  This novel describes what ADHD is like and can allow students to easily relate to his life.  Using this realistic fiction novel you can cross Language Arts/Reading with Social Studies, particularly the study of people's differences and acceptance.  While teaching middle school students how to be accepting of students the teacher will incorporate the use of several different young adult novels in which there is a character or characters who may have special needs, look different, talk different, act different, etc.  The teacher would divide the class into small groups where each group would read their novels.  The group would then act as a literature circle by discussing the characters, how they were different, how they were treated, how they should be treated, and how the character deals with everyday life while also trying to make text to self connections.  Each group would then create a visual and a small lesson to present to the rest of the class.  This activity should extend into several class periods and can be adjusted for students in grades 5-8.

grades 5-8

Courtney Hertsenberg

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Mildred D. Taylor

Introduction: this lesson is designed to supplement any unit focused on the Civil Rights Movement.  Children should be aware that the efforts of such people as Martin Luther King did not begin abruptly in the 1950s but were the product of many years of racial inequity that can be traced back even to the letters Benjamin Banneker wrote to Thomas Jefferson.  In fact, American history--what kids are typically shown--runs parallel with a long history of black tradition: the quest for freedom.

This lesson attempts to capture some of that tradition in a work that pre-dates the Civil Rights Movement, allowing children to have a deeper background knowledge that rounds out their studies by providing a richer and more aesthetic historical perspective than a few pages in a history book; their efforts after reading the selection below and completing the Thought Log activity should provide a new perspective as they try to absorb the tones, moods, and feelings King expresses in his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Materials:  a class set of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor.  The video presentation of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs; construction paper, glue, magic markers, crayons, and any other craft supplies handy.

Methods: continue to build background knowledge on the Civil Rights Movement.  Be sure to show pictures and videos (many videos available on YouTube, though some contain material that might be too graphic for young viewers).  Inform the class that the Civil Rights Movement does not have its origins so recently as they may have thought but extends back to America's founding.  The book the class will read--Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry--is merely one example of the huge body of literature that details how African American tradition has evolved in the United States, capturing a moment in the 1930s and detailing one family's struggles against racism in the 1930s during the height of The Great Depression.

Activity: Assign the book to read both aloud and independently at home.  Have the students keep a "Thought Log" of events, at least one thought per chapter.  Tell students to write primarily on the emotions they feel as they read so that they can try to put themselves into the shoes of the minorities detailed in the novel, with the ultimate goal being an emotional connection with the many heinous acts and injustices present in the novel.

Once the Thought Logs are complete, put students into small groups to share their experiences with peers, and then have them create a visual representation of what they discussed using the classroom craft materials.  Do not give them much more than that.  Allow them to channel their creative energies into something unique and moving that is not constrained by a number of criteria.

Display and discuss the presentations, allowing each group to talk about what inspired their creations.

Finally, with their new understanding of the emotions African Americans must have felt during such turbulent times, have them watch King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  Afterwards, discuss how King's words might have sparked similar emotions in his audience as the novel did in the students'.

Grades 7-8

Derek Poe

Borrowed Children



George Ella Lyon


Students could use the internet and books to research life in the Appalachian Mountains in the depression and life in Appalachia present day.  Students will study the natural resources and agriculture of the Appalachian Mountain area and how it affects their way of life.  Students can write a journal entry as if they lived in the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression and a journal entry about a day in the life of a present day teen growing up in the mountains.

Grades 6-8

Courtney Hertsenberg 

Rose Blanche 

Roberto Innocenti

An online reading of the book with clear illustrations can be found at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQVgniMcuoE

This book is a must read for a study of Nazi Germany and the WW. After reading this story much discussion could be had about the journey of Rose and what she witnesses going on around her.  After discussion, students could write a diary from the view of Rose as things slowly changed over time. 

6th grade and up

Ashley Cornelison  

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters. An African Tale John Steptoe

I read this book to go along with a discussion of Kings and Queens and different types of marriages and/or governments. Not only does it show that some countries have different types of government but also shows that those governments are chosen in different ways. After reading, my students came up for a criteria on how they would select their "rulers" or government leaders of the grade. Maybe more importantly, this moral of this book goes even deeper than the study of kings and queens.

2-5 Charlie Hamilton




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