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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!

Author: Diana Cohn
Illustrator: Francisco Delgado
Grade Level: K & Up

Buy it Here!
Resources 1!
Resources 2!

Summary: This book is about a boy named Carlos and his mother. Carlos is the narrator and tells the story of how his mother's struggle to provide for her family after she moves to the United States from Mexico. Mama, Carlos' mother, is a janitor in Los Angeles, CA and decides to fight for her rights by holding a strike with her fellow union workers. With the help of the other union workers from around the state and country and other various people, Mama and Carlos are able to stand for what they believe in and accomplish a common goal of getting higher pay and respect for the union workers. The illustrations are vivid and capture exactly what the author is saying in the story. This book is a wonderful depiction of how organization and social movements can create social change when people work together and believe that yes, they can!

Element 4 (Social movement and Social Change): This book really represents element four because it shows children that no matter what age you are, you do matter and you can make a difference. Carlos' mother needed his help by understanding that she would be out of work and doing something for the community by participating in the strike and needed his understanding which he gave her. Carlos represents all children that would like to help out and create change as well. He started a movement in his classroom to help out their parents in the strike, and decided to help her again stand for other people that needed their help at the end of the story. His show of courage would inspire any child that reads this book because no matter the age, all you need is the desire and you can create social change.

Activity: This book can be read with any class as young as kindergarten but the grade level in which I found a really good activity would be 3-5. One of the resources above is for grades 6-8 but I believe we can make it appropriate for fourth or fifth graders by having them read the book and then create questions that they would ask janitors or people in service about their daily work lives. We could then make home connections by asking if anyone has any relatives that are in the service industry that would be willing to come to class and meet with the students to answer their questions. The teacher could also go about bringing in a janitor from the school if the school would permit it which could be a bit easier than having the students go off and find janitors in the school themselves as the activity above suggests. We could then see how they feel about what they have learned and if there was something they would like to change about it, they would be able to write letters to the appropriate offices to try and create change for that specific group of workers.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One MIllion Men And Me

Author: Kelly Starling Lyons

Illustrator: Peter Ambush

Grade Level: K-8

Buy it here!

About the Author

Fun Activities for Kids

One Million Men and Me is a picture book that vividly recounts the historic Million Man March.  The movement took place at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995. The author retells the events of this day from the perspective of a young girl who accompanies her father.  The epic story, that the young girl shares, is filled with heroic and inspiring black men.  The book portrays colorful and lifelike illustrations of black men from all walks of life (different ages, religious beliefs, cultural and economic backgrounds) who marched, stood shoulder to shoulder, and joined hands for peace and unity.  The author’s purpose is twofold.  First, the book celebrates the special relationship between an African American father and his daughter. Secondly, book commemorates an important and historic day for Black America.

Element 4: Social Movements and Social Change
One Million Men and Me, as well as this element, teaches students about a movement of iconic and everyday people who unite to address issues of social injustice.  The Million Man March brought together Black men who were committed to empower themselves and each other to make positive and lasting changes within their families and communities.  The activists were inspired by speakers such as Min. Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mrs. Rosa Parks, and Dr. Maya Angelou who gave powerful voices to this movement.  People around the nation and world supported this widely televised movement.  According to Lyons, after the movement, black men registered to vote in record numbers, there was a spike in applications to adopt black children, some men started new businesses and organizations, and others volunteered.  The black men worked to make their communities safer and economically sound, to be better fathers, husbands, role models, community leaders, and activists.  

  • According to Lyons, there are many young people that have never heard of the Million Man March.  The author hopes that this picture book will help to change that.  Teachers can use this book as an example of another historic movement since the Civil Rights Movement. 
  • On Million Men and Me can also be used to address current issues of injustice and racism towards of black men and boys like in the case of Trayvon Martin.  This book highlights the power everyday people have to mobilize and collectively impact and change the image and quality of life for black men and boys in America.  
  • After reading this book, have your students create and share artistic responses to the Million Man March.   Example:  (Teacher explains) You have seen pictures of people holding a protest for the Civil Rights Movement.  Now, I want you to create a sign with your own words in favor of the Million Man March. Have your students create a sign with bight and bold letters and/or catchy slogan. 
  • Students will use their signs to participate in a mock student-led public march in the classroom or during lunch to demand equity and justice for black men and boys.
  • As a larger activity, have your students plan a new march (either as a class or in small groups) that would appeal to correct an existing injustice in society. Questions to guide the planning may include:
    • What is the specific nature of the injustice? (Cultural racism, institutional sexism or racism, governmental policies aimed at minors, environmental destruction, etc.)
    • To whom would you be appealing for change? (Congress, the White House, the general population, etc.)
    • What are your specific demands, and how should they be addressed? (Reform of existing laws, monetary compensation, acknowledgment of the problem, etc.)
    • Who would speak at your march and why? (Certain entertainers, politicians, activists, etc.)
    • How would you communicate the message of your march? (Internet, social media & networks, news, mailings, grassroots campaigns, radio, etc.)
    • What groups do you think might counter-protest your march?
    • What other obstacles do you foresee in both the process of planning as well as the march itself?
    • Source: Social Studies Lesson Plans from PBS TeacherSource

Other Resources:

Million Man March Pledge

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Earth Book

Author: Todd Parr
Illustrator: Todd Parr
Grade Level: Pre-K to 2nd

Buy it here!

The Earth Book is a book that provides children with ideas for taking care of the earth. It motivates children to do little things that could ultimately make a big impact on the well-being of our planet (i.e. using both sides of paper, bringing own bags to the supermarket, riding bicycles, turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, etc.) Accompanied by children-friendly illustrations, easy to read texts, and a touch of childish humor, this book challenges children and shows them that they have power and say in protecting the earth. Come April, it will be a sweet and perfect read for Earth Day!

Element 6: Taking Social Action
The Earth Book represents Element 6: Taking Social Action because not only does it offer children ideas for taking care of the earth, but also it provides the big impacts and consequences of their small actions. Rather than providing children with a list of almost impossible "To Dos", this book inspires children to modify the way that they perform their daily routines. Adults, as well as children, can be challenged to turn off their lights, recycle, and save their leftovers by this book.

Activity: On Earth Day, teachers can read this book aloud with their students and discuss the importance of taking care of our planet. After the discussion, the students can come up with their own lists of practical "To Dos" in the classroom . Teachers can guide their students in creating a poster or book that illustrates and compiles the classroom "To Dos."
*Younger students who have yet to develop the fine motor skills to write/draw may work together as a team to grow a classroom garden or plant seeds outside of their school. As the students water the plants, take care of their garden, and watch their seeds grow, they can understand that their small actions lead to growth and change in their school environment.

Monday, April 23, 2012

10 things I can do to help my world

Author/Illustrator: Melanie Walsh

Grade Level: Pre-K - First

Buy it here:

            10 things I can do to help my world is a book that provides  young children with ten easy tasks they can do to improve the world.  The book is beautifully illustrated with pop up folds and flaps which make it a more engaging read.  For example, things suggested are sorting your waste and turning off the water while brushing your teeth.  All the activities listed are attainable for all children, and will empower them by showing that they can make a difference too, despite their young age.

Element 6 Taking Social Action:
             10 things I can do to help my world is an excellent representation of Element 6 because the easy and attainable tasks show young children how they too can contribute to earth’s improvement.  The simple tasks given are explained, and children will learn how the actions they are taking better the earth.  It is an empowering book for any age group, especially the younger ones.

             In the classroom, you can easily complete any of the simple activities the books lists to improve the earth.  First, I would have a read-aloud with the story, and then discuss the activities it suggests.  Then I would ask my students “what can we do in our classroom together to better our earth?”  Say they select “plant seeds, and help them grow”; I would have each child plant a few seeds in a small pot.  Each child would water his or her plant, and monitor the growth.  After the seeds sprout, the children can take them home, and hopefully continue to tend to their plant.  The child will actually see the difference he or she is making by observing their plant grow.  It is an exciting and simple activity for all young children to participate in.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How Can I Deal With...Racism? - Element 6

Racism (How Can I Deal With)

Title: How Can I Deal With...Racism?

Author: Sally Hewitt

SJE: Element 6: Taking Social Action

You can purchase this book here!

This book highlights six different children's stories about racism in their lives. Each child's story deals with racism in a different way such as coming from a new country and beginning school, being left out because of their religion, being told to go back where they came from, being teased because of their name and being bullied because they don't share the same culture as others. Each chapter highlights a student's story about how they were a victim of racism and also incorporates the story of one of their friends, explaining their point of view on how their friend was treated or describing a certain instance in which their friend was being bullied.  It also gives suggestions and steps as to what each child can do to stop the racism toward them such as telling their parents, teacher or principal or explain to their classmates why they do something a certain way or wear certain clothes. The book also includes a chapter explaining what racism is as well as a glossary defining key words such as culture, gang, Muslim, race, racism and religion.

This book represents Element 6: Taking Social Action because it not only explains the different types of racism children face but also gives them ways and suggestions to stop the racism or approach those who are doing the bullying. Each story highlights how the children feel when they are being bullied so others can learn from their stories. With the help of the suggestions in this book, the children will have a foundation as to how to stop the racism they face and start to make a change within their classroom and community.

Use of this book:
One of the chapters within this book is about a girl named Dipti whose family comes from India but she was born in America. One of the bullies in her class told her to go back where she came from. They said this racist comment to Dipti and did not bother to find out her background or culture. Dipti told the teacher what happened and took this opportunity to assign a Family Tree assignment. I think that was a great idea because it will inform the class of their classmates cultures and where everyone came from. I would do the same in my class because it is a great learning experience. They will be able to find out where their parents and grandparents came from, and see that Dipti is not the only one whose family comes from a different part of the world.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Kid's Guide to Service Projects

The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference

Author:  Barbara A. Lewis

Interest Level: Ages 10+

Reading Level: 5th grade +


Summary: Barbara Lewis lays out a multitude of service ideas in her updated 2nd addition of The Kid's Guide to Service Projects.  From topics like crime fighting and politics to homelessness and special needs, Lewis delivers a jam-packed resource complete with contact information and first-to-last steps in almost any social justice project.  Each chapter highlights various angles of attack on issues many children have conviction about.  The "More Ideas" section at the end of each chapter, hones in on some less obvious yet very relevant aspects of the more typical social justice themes.  Every chapter provides phone numbers, addresses and web sites for the many organizations associated with these topics.  In closing, Lewis provides a "Service Project How-To" chapter, detailing how to create a flyer, petition, press release, proclamation, proposal, PSA, resolution and survey!  There are also step-by-step instructions on how to: initiate an ordinance or law, support or oppose a law, lobby, or start a statewide fund or fundraiser.

Element 6:  Any teacher with conviction about taking social action should keep this book in his/her arsenal of resources.  Not only will it help the students to identify issues they feel passionate about but it will also make them more self-sufficient in their research and follow-up.  The simple structure of this book will easily enable them to learn the skills of creating change first-hand.  It is the perfect scaffolding to get a class service project off the ground.  

Activity:  There is no limit to what your class can accomplish with the help of this book!  Try to identify  issues that are meaningful to your specific students.  After reflecting on on how our everyday choices effect others in society, offer this book to your students as a foundation for inspiration.  In no time, they will be inspired to take on issues with passionate civic engagement!  Click here for great ideas on a variety of specific lesson plans!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

                 S is For Save The Planet: Element Five Raising Awareness
Author: Brad Herzod

Illustration: Linda Holt Ayriss

Grade: 3-6




The book provides children with an A to Z guide on the concepts of environmentalism with regards to the preservation of our planet. Each page is beautifully illustrated and introduces a letter of the alphabet with a phrase corresponding to a certain concept that serves to both raise awareness and inspire children to create change when it comes to protecting our planet from harmful things like global warming. Each letter of the alphabet introduces a topic and the author provides children with suggestions on how to combat that particular problem that is facing our planet and environment as a whole. For example, for the letter "R," the book provides children with knowledge of the concept of "reduce, reuse, recycle."

Element Five

This book relates to element five because it raises awareness about various issues related to the environmental struggles we are faced with in maintaining a safe and healthy planet to live on. First, it provides students with information about each of the problems our planet is faced with. However, as element Five also suggests, the book also raises awareness on how they can prevent these problems and help to "save the planet."


Students can create a giant picture of the Earth, using recycled paper from their home and from the classroom. The "recycled Earth" will then be displayed on a bulletin board outside the classroom titled "Save the Planet.". Each of the students will be assigned a letter A to Z  and choose an issue or word from the book relating to our planet's environmental safety. They will then write about the information they learned on this topic/word and provide their own specific solutions on how to protect our planet from it. The papers will be displayed around the giant recycled Earth on the bulletin board to raise awareness to fellow students passing by.

Russell's World

Author: Charles A Amenta III
Illustrator: Monika Pollak
Grade Level: K-3

Buy it here!
More Resources

Summary: Russell's World by Charles A. Amenta is a book about a young boy, Russell, who has autism. The book highlight's Russell's day to day interactions with his family. This book not only serves as a biographical story, but also serves to inform young readers about the characteristics of the disorder itself. The author uses the context of Russell's life to raise awareness of autism. The reader learns about many of the behaviors that children with autism display and gains a better understanding of how to approach and interact with children who have autism through this text. The additional appendix of this book is a guide for parents who may have a child with autism. It presents information about the disorder, how to seek out services for children and families, and how to help the child with autism.

Element 5-  Raising Awareness: This book falls under the 5th element of social justice education, which is raising awareness. Autism is a puzzling disorder to many. It is not well understood by many adults, yet alone children. Nonetheless, the prevalence of this disorder has increased dramatically just in the past few years alone. This book effectively distributes information about autism in a way that adults and even the youngest of children can understand. By exploring the life of Russell through this biographical picture book, students as well as adults begin to understand the spectrum disorder and the many of the incongruous behaviors that is can display. After reading this book, students will not only be attentive and understanding to those who have special needs, but will be able to raise awareness to others. Russell's World can be used to create a culture of respect for individuals with special needs both in and out of the classroom.

How to Use: Although it can be used at any time during the school year, this book would be a great piece of literature to introduce during April, which is Autism Awareness month. Before students even read the book, the teacher can engage them in a journal writing activity in which students must answer the questions "People's brains work in different ways. In what special way does your brain work?" By answering this question, students become introspective about the way they think and the behaviors that they may engage in, and how such things set them apart from others. After reading the book, students will have a brief discussion on what they learned about autism. Then, students will be able to discuss what they should and shouldn't do when they interact with individuals with autism. Additionally, the teacher will engage students in an activity in which they make materials such as posters that help to raise awareness about autism. These posters can be informational or can be phrases to slogans to debunk myths and/or advocate for those with the disorder. Lastly, students can engage in a service project in which they plan and execute activities for children with autism (such as bringing in a sand/water station, or bringing in beads or other art projects). Students can bring these projects to autistic classrooms and engage in the projects with the students.

Uncle Willy's Tickles

Author: Marcie Aboff

Illustrator: Kathleen Gartner

Grade: kindergarten - 3rd grade




Kyle enjoys when his uncle Willy comes to visit.  His uncle Willy likes to laugh, joke, play and he also takes Kyle and sister out for their favorite ice cream.  Even though Kyle loves to play and hang out with uncle Willie, there is one thing that he does not like, uncle Willy's tickles.  In the beginning it was fun, but now Kyle is uncomfortable.  He is so uncomfortable he tries to disguise himself or pretend he is sick so he does not have to interact with his uncle Willy.  Kyle finally gets the courage to speak to his mom about the way uncle Willy touches him and explains how he does not like it.  Kyles mom encourages Kyle to tell uncle Willy how he feels and to his surprise uncle Willy promises not to tickle Kyle anymore because now he knows he does not like it.

Element 5

This book can be used to raise awareness about topics such as inappropriate touching, privacy, and children's rights.  Element 5 is about raising awareness and this book does a great job at covering these topics at an elementary level.  Kyle, like many other kids was feeling very uncomfortable the way his uncle would tickle him.  Even when he mentioned it to his sister, she said that he tickles all of the kids. Some children may feel like this behavior is okay because it promotes laughter and everyone is having fun, but this book lets children know that no matter what they have a say over their body and if someone is touching them inappropriately even during fun and laughter they have a right to say "STOP" or "NO".  Uncle Willy's Tickles is not only for kids but it raises awareness for adults/parents as well.  Something as simple as tickling can cause emotional stress, anger, sadness, feelings of discomfort and violation in children.  Kyle dealt with these things but he gathered the courage to speak to his mom and her warmth, understanding and guidance allowed him to speak up for himself letting his unlce know that he did not like the way he was being touched.  This book is awesome for parents and teachers to introduce things like bad touches, when somone says "no", speaking up and knowing your rights.


Sometimes kids need to feel empowered and they need to know that they have a voice especially when it comes to their own body.  The teacher can give the students a fill-in the blank prompt. Ex. I do not like when you __(tickle me)__ and I want _(you to stop)_or I will_(tell my mom)__.   In small groups (2nd & 3rd grade) or whole group (k &1) students can discuss things that make them uncomfortable and if they were Kyle what would be some other ways that they would tell uncle Willy they were uncomfortable with his tickling. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Day Gogo Went to Vote

Author: Elinor Batezat Sisulu 
Illustrator: Sharon Wilson
Grade Level: 1st & 2nd
About the Illustrator

The Day Gogo Went to Vote is a book about the first time black South Africans were allowed to vote. The book is written in the perspective of a young girl, named Thembi, who describes her great- grandmother's first voting experience. Thembi's great- grandmother, or Gogo as she calls her, is 100 years old and has not left her house in years. Once it is announced that black South Africans can vote, Gogo is determined to not let this opportunity pass her by, despite her family's opposition. Gogo is also determined to take her young great-granddaughter with her to show her how important this moment is for them. Gogo catches the attention of others so much, that people come out to see her vote and she has even featured in the front page of the local newspaper. 

Element 5:
This book can be used for both element 5 and 6. Element 5 is about raising awareness, something that this story illustrates. In the book Gogo, insists that her great-granddaughter accompany her to the voting booths. Gogo wanted to ensure that her great-granddaughter would understand the importance of this historical vote.    Also, Gogo drew plenty of attention from individuals and the media, causing a bigger crowd at the voting booths. 

An activity that can go along with this book, involves the topic of voting. Before the activity, the teacher should go over basic items pertaining to voting. Some of these items would be: what is voting?, who can vote?, and even the history of voting restrictions. After having a good understanding about voting and its history, the student will create a voting public service announcement. The PSA will serve to educate others on the current percentage of people who actually vote and the importance of voting. The PSA can also remind different the different groups of people what their ancestors had to go through to finally gain the right to vote. 


Author: Gail Gibbons

Grade Level: 3-5

Buy it here!


RECYCLE! is an informative book that brings awareness to the problems of landfills in the United States and how we can help by recycling! RECYCLE! explains the process of recycling from start to finish. Not only does it explain the process, but it goes into great details about five major materials one can recycle and how they can be reused. The five types of garage that can be recycled are; paper, glass, aluminum cans, plastic, and polystyrene. RECYCLE! also provides wonderful and detailed pictures to allow readers to clearly visualize the process of recycling.

Element 5:
RECYCLE! is an educational book that raises awareness on landfills, recycling, and how each person in the world can help to make the Earth a more healthy environments to live in. This book promotes readers to make a difference. For example the book states several statistics such as, "Each hour, people in the U.S. use two and a half million plastic bottles" and then encourages the reader to make environmentally friendly decisions by recycling. RECYCLE! is the perfect book to read on Earth Day or when having a lesson plan on the environment.

After reading this book with your students, it is imperative to discuss how important it is to recycle everyday and how we can all reuse certain materials. To show the students how we can reuse materials such as paper and plastic, the teacher should provide students with miscellaneous objects that are made from paper and plastic. The students will be asked to make anything they can think of using the provided materials. For example, make a plastic bottle into a funnel or creating a pen holder out of pop sticks. This fun and interactive activity will allow children to recycle and reuse their materials in the classroom!

What's the point of being green?

Author: Jacqui Bailey
Illustrator: Jan McCafferty
Grade Level: 4-6


What’s the point of being green?  is an excellent resource book written by Jacqui  Bailey. The book raises awareness about pollution and how everyone can do their part in saving the planet and keeping it green.  The book is divided into short chapters that cover different environmental challenges and discusses ways children can help preserve their carbon footprint. For example the chapter on trees discusses why trees are important, why do we cut trees down, what happens when people cut them down, and how we can be more forest friendly. Throughout each chapter a cartoon teenager provides facts about the environment and gives the reader solutions on how to be more eco-friendly. 

Element 5
What’s the point of being green is a great example for Element 5 raising awareness.  It provides amazing photos on what’s happening to the earth and supports its claims with child friendly science facts about the issue. It covers issues such as pollution, the greenhouse effect, different types of energy, how pollution became such an issue and more. The most interesting aspect of the book is that it not only brings awareness to the problem, but also offers solutions on how people can make a change.

There are several activities that can be done with children that relate to recycling. One activity that you can do is to place several recyclable and non- recyclable items in front of them and with a worksheet have the students separate which items can and cannot be recycled. Then after they separate the items, the teacher can then have a discussion on which items can be eliminated altogether to go completely green.  A second activity that a teacher can do is to do an experiment on how plastic garbage affects sea animals. The students will hook one end of a rubber band around their little finger and then stretch it behind their hand and hook the free end to their thumb. Then ask the students to remove the rubber band without using their fingers or their other hand. Remind the students that sea animals do not have hands and if they get caught in plastic they have no way of removing it from their bodies.  Ask the students how this could have been prevented and in what ways are they going to help the planet stay green. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Can Save the Earth!

I Can Save the Earth!: One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (Little Green Books)

Author:  Alison Inches
Illustrator:  Vivian Garofoli
Grade Level:  Pre-School - Second Grade

Buy it HERE!

To view all books written by this author, CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE  to learn more about the author, Alison Inches.

For more information on Little Green Books, CLICK HERE.

To learn what it means to be green through Keep America Beautiful's educational programs and to see how you can get involved, CLICK HERE.


            I Can Save the Earth! is a children’s picture book that is part of a series of green books for green readers.  The purpose of this series is to educate children on what they can do to be more eco-friendly.  In this particular story, we meet Max the Little Monster.  Max is not aware that he has some pretty poor habits that are environmental nightmares.  Max likes to throw candy wrappers around, clog the toilet, overflow the sink, leave lights on, plays computer games all day long, just to name a few.  One day, Max causes a black out and Max soon realizes that everything in the world is really beautiful.  He starts a quest to protect everything he can in the world including the beaches and the parks.  He wants to spread the news so everyone can work together to keep the world beautiful.  At the end of the story, Max does such a great job at keeping the Earth clean that his name is changed to Max the Little Green Monster.

Element 5:

            I Can Save the Earth! is a great book that shows raising awareness (Element 5).  This book takes the issues of pollution, recycling and community responsibility and brings it into the children’s everyday lives.  Children can follow Max the Little Green Monster's journey to environmental awareness, from polluter to recycler.  Children can also learn tips on how they can become little green monsters themselves.  This book is a great precursor for children to take action and make a change.


            If the students would like to raise awareness around recycling, reducing, reusing and littering, a good activity is to create a recycle patrol.  The teacher will ask the students, “Do you think keeping Earth “clean and green” is important?”  Then invite them all to sit on the floor and conduct a read-aloud using I Can Save the Earth!  After the book is finished, the teacher could ask the students, “Have you ever wondered how much your class throws away in a month or a year? Do you think that anything you and your classmates throw away can be recycled?”  Tell the students that you will assign groups (based on different types of learners) to the “recycle patrol."  They will first conduct an experiment that will help them see what happens to the class trash and then find ways to recycle some of it.  They can set up a recycling center and keep track of how many items the class recycles in one day and one week (how many water bottles, pieces of paper, etc.).  They can also calculate estimations for one month and one year.

After the groups keep track of the items for one week, the next level would be to take action to their school community about their findings.  This would progress into Element 6-Taking Social Action.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Our Class Is Going Green!

Title: Our Class Is Going Green!
Written and illustrated: by kindergarten students
Oak Park Elementary, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Project Coordinator: Joyce Nickels and Erinn Rakes
Grade Level: K-12

Click Here to learn about the Kindergarten Students of Oak Park Elementary.

Joyce Nickels and Erinn Rakes Kindergarten class were going over the theme about environment and were teaching their class on how to take care of our planet.  After discussing what they should do in order to make a difference in their own school, they decided to make a book.  Each page from the book helps readers build a clear and brief list of easy ways to make a positive impact on our environment.  For example in the book it states"Walk to school.. INSTEAD of riding in cars. The book also has facts which we can learn from in our to have a better understanding about going green.

Element 5 Raising Awareness:
Our Class is Going Green is mostly about showing the readers different ways we can go green and improving our environment.  It shows us different ways we can clean up our community and even make a difference in our schools.  This book is broken down so kids of all ages can go out and make a difference in their environment from recycling used paper to turning the water off while washing and drying your hands.  By teaching children at a young age to be environmentally aware, you are building lifelong habits that can make a big difference in the future of our environment.  

Class Activity:
After reading this book to your class and going over the theme of going green, you can come up with new classroom rules or activities which can also be implemented all year around about going green.  You could also follow the book and try out some things they had put down as ways of going green.  You could have separate garbage buckets in your classroom.  One for paper only, another for plastic materials, and another for bottles only.  This way at the end of the day when they come to collect the trash it can all be recycled to the right place.  Also you could always take a little trip outside to the school playground and do a clean up, wear gloves and bring trash bags and make sure you find trash and put it into the garbage bags to ensure a litter free environment.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ray Charles Find Another Way - Element 4

Ray Charles Find Another Way - Element 4 

Title: Ray Charles Find Another Way
Author: Susan Sloate
Grades : 2-6
Element 4: Social Movements and Social Change
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Ray Charles is the main character of the biography titled “Ray Charles Find Another Way” by Susan Sloate. Ray Charles is mostly known as a world-renowned singer, composer, arranger, and instrumentalist who also played the piano, saxophone, clarinet, and organ. Charles is also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However this book introduces Ray Charles as a civil right leader. Ray used his music to assist in the Civil rights movement. When he was informed by his Promoter that some his audiences were segregated Ray refused to perform. Ray thought it was wrong to force his African American fans were to sit in the balcony while his white fans occupied the best seats in the house. Ray was one of the first performers black or white to challenge Jim Crow and other unfair laws. This book shows Ray was a fighter even as a child. At the age of 7 years old Ray turned blind from a disease that attacks children. Ray believed that “There always another way to do something if you look for it.” Since Ray was blind it was not safe for him from taking parts in Marches instead Ray contributed to the civil rights movement finically. Ray also refused to at any venues that were segregated. In 1979, Ray was welcomed back to his home state of Georgia by the governor and received a formal apology from the governor for the segregation laws.  

Element Four: Social Movements and Social Change

The book “Ray Charles, Find Another Way” is a easy read with awesome picture that guide the reader through Ray’s life while he dealt with issue of racism. This book shows us that we should not let our disabilities limit us from living our life to the fullest. I am amazed that Ray Charles who was blind could see that segregation was wrong and should be addressed. Ray Charles experienced inequality and decided to take action by boycotting and venues that promoted social injustice. This books could serve as a inspiration to common people, disabled people, poor people and anyone that is crippled by anything, that they too can stand up for their rights and fight for equality


After Reading Ray Charles “Find Another Way”, I would have student research other people with disabilities that are famous. Once the students are done pick a person, I would have them do a short biography of the person and present it to the class.” Also the book has a glossary students could define key terms in the book and use them in sentences.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Native American Doctor: The Story of Susan LaFlesche Picotte

Native American Doctor: The Story of Susan Laflesche Picotte (Trailblazer Biographies) Cover

Author: Jeri Ferris
Illustrator: Illustrations reproduced through the courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society, Chicago and North Western Railway; Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives; Independent Picture Source; Glenbow Photographs, Hampton University Archival and Museum Collection, Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia; The Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Library of Congress.
Grade Level: 3-5

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“Native American Doctor: The Story of Susan LaFlesche Picotte” is a biography of a young Omaha Indian woman, Susan LaFlesche Picotte, who became the first Native American woman to graduate from medical school. Her life was complicated by the conflicts of her upbringing in a Native American family, and the need to be a part of the society that provided her education and training. Fortunately, she was born into a supportive family with her father being the Chief of Omahas and her mother being The One Woman of Omahas. Although, her father did not want any of his children to be marked in a white world he also believed the Omahas would have to learn ‘white ways’ if they were going to live in the new white world. Picotte became the first Native American female doctor and missionary. Susan’s overall goal was to open her medical practice to all, Indian and non-Indian alike, and treated their ailments for a generation. The overall message expressed is based on advocacy for unity and the suppression of inequities among the rights of woman and the biases held about the conflict between Native Americans and Anglo Americans.

Element 4- Social Movements and Social Change:
This book is a great representation of Element 4 because it introduces children to teaching others about, Susan LaFlesche Picotte, person of a the Native American minority population who made a difference and promoted social change and progress not only for Native American but women as whole. Picotte promoted the opportunity of health for all members of her community during at time where Native Americans were migrating and in conflict with Americans. She not only surpassed the expected role of women and became a doctor but she used her knowledge to help all and promote unity. 

The book is suggested to be used to enhance the study of the Plains Indians or post-Civil war history. Some of the activities that can be incorporated along with the book in the classroom consist of having students dress up as their favorite subjects, and tell stories from “their” lives. Videotape the biographical presentations and having the whole class put on a play using scenes from their favorite biographies. In accordance with the book, the students can do a research project on the past of doctors, answering questions like what was it like to go to the doctor 250 years ago? 150 years ago? 80 years ago? Did children go in for checkups? Did the Indians have doctors (before Susan LaFlesche)?  In doing so students can have a further understanding of the impact Susan LaFlesche Picotte made. Along with this, the students could also write letters and journals in the voice of the characters, telling the problems or joys of a typical day, week, and month.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins

Freedom on the Menu
Title: Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-  Ins

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: Jerome LaGarrigue

SJE: Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice

Grade Level: P and up

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This book talks about a little girl, Connie and her family. Connie and her mama go shopping together in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina almost every week. Whenever they were hot or tired they would go to the five-and-dime to get a Coke and would have to stand at the snack bar. They were not allowed to sit at the lunch counter because it was for "Whites Only". Connie would watch little white girls eating banana splits and other meals and would want to join them so badly and would always ask her mama if they could sit for a while. Her mama always told her no because "they were not allowed". Connie realized there were signs all over town telling them where they could and could not go; water fountains, swimming pools, movie theaters and bathrooms. Dr. Martin Luther King came to town one day to speak in front of the college chapel and Connie and her family went to see him speak. Connie didn't understand most of what he was saying but she did realize how positive the crowds response was to Dr. King. Soon after, her brother and sister joined the NAACP and went door-to-door petitioning to let black people vote. One afternoon, Connie and her mama were back downtown to do some shopping and noticed four black boys sitting at the lunch counter. They knew the boys because they were friends with her brother from A&T College. The boys tried to order lunch but the waitress refused to serve them. The owner left and soon came back with police officers. This situation was all over the news and in the newspaper. Because of this, hundreds of people joined the sit-ins including Connie's own brother and sister. Connie wanted to join too but she was too young so she helped her brother and sister make picket signs. The protest was broadcast all over the TV and Connie watched her brother and sister take an active role in the protest. Their family was so proud of them. It turned out Connie's  sister was arrested and sent to jail but refused to have her father bail her out.  She wanted to stay with the rest of the students. During the protests no one was allowed downtown because it was dangerous.Once the protest was over, Connie and her family finally went downtown and noticed the black women who worked in the restaurant's kitchen were sitting at the lunch counter eating egg salad! The next day, Connie, her brother and sister made a special trip downtown to sit at the lunch counter and eat lunch, and Connie ordered a banana split.

This is a representation of Element Three because it is a great example of racism. The Greensboro Sit-Ins were ones that sparked a revolution throughout the south. The four black boys sitting at the lunch counter, represented in the story, became known as the Greensboro Four. These student-led sit-ins took a stand against segregation. Segregation was a very large issue across the country. This book tells a story of how these sit-ins and the protest against segregation affected a traditional family from Greensboro. Being that it is told from a little girl's perspective shows how it affected everyone, not just those who were old enough to be aware of the details going on around them. This situation affected how and where the black people of the city could and could not go. It told them where and if they were welcome, which caused a large negative impact on their lives. Since then, sit-ins sparked other forms of civil disobedience, some of which we are still experiencing today such as Occupy Wall Street.

Use of this book:
In my fifth grade classroom, I would have the students do a role-play and stage their own sit-in. I would separate the students into whites and blacks, regardless of their actual skin color. I would have the "black" students pick a topic about something within the school they would like to change. It could be something like the elimination of homework or extra time at recess. They would then create their own picketing posters and banners with slogans and catch phrases.
The  "black" students would do the picketing and protesting for their cause around the classroom while the"white" students would try and stop them. We would only use words, violence would not be acceptable.
Afterwards, I would prompt a class discussion focusing on how each race felt as they were in their roles. Some key questions I would ask are:
Were you happy, sad, angry, frustrated?
What would it be like if our world was still segregated?
How would you feel about being in a classroom with only one race?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride: Element 3

Erica Blanco
Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride
Authors: Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
Grade Level: 2-5
More information:


This beautiful picture book tells the story of Sojourner Truth's life. The book starts out by describing Sojourner as, "big, black, so beautiful and meant for great things." The book goes on to tell the audidence about all the great things she does from stomping beetles, to running away from her master, to speaking at the Women's Rights Convention. The book gives a detail account of her life without overwhelming them with too much information. It also shows her overcoming challenges; she didn't know how to read or write so she spread the truth through word of mouth. This book describes her bravery, struggle and fight for freedom...and even when she attained freedom for herself she knew she had to fight for others' freedom as well. Using vivid language and stunning oil pastel/water color paintings, it really recreates powerful scenes drawing us into that time period and this incredible woman's life.

Element 3 - Exploring Issues of Social Justice:

Jojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride demonstrates elements of Social Justice Element 3. This book shows what life is like for a slave family and how families were ripped apart by slave trading. She explains what it is like to be owned in a way that children can understand. When she talks about having two names: one from her family and one from her master, it really shows that slaves were given an identity and did not make their own. When she chooses her own name it is a very powerful symbol. It gives them some background and history about the slave trade in America and what slave owners could be like. This book shows how this oppression (slavery) affected the African American and surrounding communities. It split families up and took all rights away from them. When she meets the Quakers; it shows another community that is affected by the opression, but in a different way. These people could have given her back or beat her for running away, but instead they fought against the oppression. I also think that this book could be used for Element 4. Sojourner Truth started out as a slave. She was not rich or special, but she fought freedom and the chance to be heard. The Quakers she met were ordinary people that did an extrodinary thing and changed one girls life who in turned changed other lives.
In the classroom: 
This book is a great way to start a discussion about slavery, freedom, intolerance or diversoity in the classroom. I think it would be great to use this book to introduce "unsung heros." People who have done amazing things, but get foreshadowed by Martin Luther King or George Washington. I would like to do this activity with my third graders. After reading this book, I would want then to choose a book about someone who made a change or fought for freedom that we don't hear about often. We would discuss the difference between a hero and a person who sticks up for what is right. Maybe we can make a list of modern heros and then analyze them to see if they are really are heros.
After reading a book, I would have my students dress up like that person and come ready to have a "Freedom Fighters Meet and Greet." They get to talk about their person while learning about the other charaters in the room. Maybe later that week, I would like them to create a profile page on their person by at their childhhood/basic informaton and also drawing a portrait of the person or print out a picture. We would gather all of the sheets and make a book out of it so that can be enjoyed in the library. As a writing extension, I might ask them to write a story about themselves fighting for freedom or truth (already happened or future incident) or they could respond to the ministers' comments about women being beneath men.  

Jacob's Rescue: A Holocaust Story

Authors: Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin

Age Level: 4-6

Click here to learn more about the authors: Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin

Jacob’s Rescue, written by Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin, is a Holocaust story set in Warsaw, Poland. Jacob, the novel’s protagonist, once lived in a beautiful house with his father, grandmother, aunt and brothers. He went to school and played outside much like children nowadays. But, everything changed in 1939 when the Nazi soldiers invaded Poland and began killing all of its Jewish citizens. As a result, Jacob’s father fled the country, in an attempt to stay alive, leaving his family behind. As such, Jacob, his grandmother, his aunt and his brothers moved to a ‘ghetto’ where they grew weaker and hungrier. One afternoon, eight-year-old Jacob was introduced to his new ‘uncle’, Alex Roslan, a heroic Christian man, who kindly offered to hide him safely with his family throughout the war. The Roslan’s, Alex, his wife Mela, and his children Yurek and Marishka, risked their lives each day protecting Jacob. They had to move houses, pay doctors and buy UV lamps to keep Jacob safe and alive. Throughout their journey however, Jacob and the Roslans became very close. Eventually, Jacob’s brothers stayed at the Roslan’s house as well. At the end of the war, the brothers were reunited with their father, who had fled to what was then known as Palestine. This novel clearly illustrates the harsh realities of the Holocaust and the hardships faced by Jewish people throughout World War II.

Element 3 - Exploring Issues of Social Justice:
Jacob’s Rescue offers students an opportunity to experience the various hardships of Jewish life during the Holocaust and World War II. I believe this novel clearly demonstrates Element 3 as it explores Anti-Semitism, religious intolerance and oppression caused by one specific community, the German Nazis. This book helps students understand how this oppression impacted the lives of Jews and others, like the Roslans, and how diversity wasn’t embraced like we try to practice today. Additionally, Jacob is around the same age as my 4th grade students, so it is easier for them to empathize with his feelings of fear, sadness, and anger. This book definitely opens eyes and minds to the horrors of the Holocaust and allows students to identify with a child suffering from the intolerances of German soldiers.

We are currently reading Jacob’s Rescue in my fourth grade classroom and this novel has sparked wonderful discussions about injustice, intolerance, and diversity in our world. As an introductory lesson, we had the students analyze the difference between the words "famous" and "hero". The students gave examples of people who fit into each of the categories. Later, the students explained how the word "hero" is often misused to describe people who are simply famous or popular. As we finished Chapter 9 this week, the students already made the connection that the Roslan’s are heroes because of their courageous efforts when hiding Jacob and his brothers.