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, November 7, 2010

The Great Kapok Tree

Title: The Great Kapok Tree
Author: Lynne Cherry
Age Level: 5-8
Purchase: The Great Kapok Tree

Try Activities! The Great Kapok Tree Activity Packet
About the Author: Lynne Cherry

The Great Kapok Tree
is a story about the Amazon rain forest. In this story, two men venture into the Amazon rain forest to chop down an enormous Kapok tree. The older man told the younger man to take his ax and start cutting down the Kapok tree. The man became tired after striking the tree so many times. When he stops to rest, he ends up falling asleep at the base of the giant Kapok tree. As he sleeps, all the different animals living in the great Kapok tree travel down to where the man lays. One of the creatures, a frog, whispered, "Senhor, a ruined rain forest means ruined lives...You will leave many of use homeless if you chop down this great Kapok Tree." Throughout the story, a toucan, monkey, jaguar, porcupines each whispered in the man's ear as they pleaded with him not to destroy their home and the Amazon rain forest.

This story supports Element #5, Raising Awareness, and introduces the topic of deforestation. It can teach children that trees are being torn down and animals are losing their homes and natural habitats. This story is valuable as it creates awareness about preserving trees and saving animals at the same time. The beautiful illustrations of animals such as toucans, monkeys, jaguars, and frogs allow children to "hear the animals defend their home" and make connections with each animal's fear of losing their home. I think this book is great for children in the K-5 setting because connections can be made to Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies, and Math as the Curriculum packet below provides many ideas to use in the classroom.

In my own classroom, I would use this book to introduce students to the Amazon rain forest and saving the animals that live there. After a read aloud, we would discuss the climate of the rain forest compared to where we live. I would teach students about the four layers of the rain forest and have them create booklets, label each layer, and draw an animal that lives in that layer. For a writing exercise, students will choose their favorite animal from the story and write a short descriptive story in which they share information about the animal such as what they eat, what it looks like, and why they chose this animal.

Children's Literature Across the Curriculum The Great Kapok Tree - Unit
Try this Lesson Plan! The Greak Kapok Tree - Lesson

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