Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Scarecrow's Dance

Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline
Grade Level: 2-3

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Summary: The Scarecrow's Dance is a long rhyming poem that tells the story of a scarecrow, who is bored with his job of protecting the corn. One autumn night, when the wind is blowing, he is whisked off his stick, and he begins to dance around the farm and see the things he had not known from his perch in the cornfield. Then he comes to the farm house and hears the young boy's prayer for the animals, the tractor, the barn, the plows, and even the scarecrow. The boy asks that the scarecrow be blessed, since he is the only one that keeps the corn safe to be reaped. That is when the scarecrow leaps back to his post, knowing "Only I can keep fields free."

Element 1 (Self-Love and Knowledge): Element one, self-love and knowledge, is the basis of all of social justice education. It is the belief instilled and cultivated in each child that he or she is unique and has valuable knowledge and skills. This book, therefore, shows the transformation of the scarecrow, who did not realize his important role until he heard the boy's prayers. Afterwards, he is elated to do his job, the one only he can do. He realizes his unique value to the farm and is proud to do his duty.

Activity: This book not only relates so nicely to element one, but it also has beautiful poetry and art.  In addition to this, it also tells a wonderful fall-themed story, in which children could learn about a farm, possibly in a related science class (classifying animals) or social studies (ex, farm lands vs. cities, depending on location of the school). However, I would utilize this book as a segue into a discussion about how the scarecrow saw his role on the farm, and even though he originally did not think it was important or special, by the end of the book, he realized that he was important and had a unique job that only he could do. I would then try to get children to think about the poetry aspect of the story, how it caught their attention, made them think more deeply about the story, etc. Then I would have as an extension activity to write a poem about something that only they can contribute to their family, just as only the scarecrow could keep the cornfield safe from the crows. I would give an example of a poem I had prepared about myself. Then I might pass out worksheets with prompting questions for their pre-writing, to get them thinking about their role in their family. This could be an on-going assignment, so that students could write really good, self-actualized poems to be shared with the class in the form of a picture with their poems attached.      

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