From Theory to Practice
In this lesson students plan, write, illustrate, and publish their own children's picture books. First, students review illustrated children's books to gain an understanding of the creative process and the elements that help make a children's book successful. Next, students use graphic organizers to brainstorm ideas for the character, setting, and conflict of their own stories. Students then pitch their stories to their peers and use peer feedback as they develop their stories. Students create storyboards to plan the relationship between the illustrations and text. Finally, students use a variety of methods to bind their books in an attractive manner and present their books to their peers.
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Children's Book Review Guide: This handout contains instructions and guidelines for reviewing a children's picture book.
Story Map: Use this online tool to analyze the character, conflict, and setting of a picture book.
Plot Diagram: Students can use this online tool to plan the plot of their children's picture book.
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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
Diana Mitchell explains why lesson plans that focus on children's literature are so successful in the classroom: "When picture books appear in a secondary classroom, students behave differently. They paw over the books, oohing and aahing at the illustrations, the colors, and the topics. Enthusiasm creeps into their talk. They become unabashedly interested in the books . . ." (86-87) Mitchell explains that eventually students question why they are being asked to work with "baby" books, but she asserts that these texts are useful tools in the classroom because they build literacy skills and excitement simultaneously. As she concludes, "Since this is one genre accessible to all of our students, the payoff in terms of what they learn is usually great."
Mitchell, Diana, and Leila Christenbury. 2000. Both Art and Craft: Teaching Ideas that Spark Learning. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
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It’s great that you’ve chosen picture books because, judging from the recent crisis, I think we all need a bit of help with basic economic concepts.
That’s true and that’s part of the idea behind this project I’m involved with – to teach children while they’re young about economic concepts and to get them to be familiar at an early age with the economic world around them. Also, not to be scared of economics – many of us, as adults, don’t like that word. But, if kids grow up very familiar with some of these economics ideas in a comfortable context, what better thing is there?
What age range are these books for?
Kindergarten to fourth grade, ages approximately five to ten. After that, kids start to read textbooks and chapter books; they don’t need pictures so much any more.
You have a PhD in economics from Harvard – you could have done anything. What inspired you to set up EconKids?
I’m an international economist and I do research about women in the labour market. But, having three young children myself, I’m always reading to children. About ten years ago, I came across a bibliography at the public library of children’s books with economics content. And I thought, what a cool concept! So I ended up taking out all these books and getting to know the woman who put the list together, who was a reading specialist. We ended up doing some research articles together about teaching economics to children.
Cloud Tea Monkeys
Mal Peet and Elspeth GrahamBuy
So the first book you’ve chosen is Cloud Tea Monkeys, by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham. Tell me why it’s on your list.
My own specialty is women globally and I do a lot of work on women in poor countries. This book focuses on a woman who is very poor. She is in a South Asian country and she picks tea leaves for a living. Her daughter is either too young to go to school or they cannot afford to send her to school, so the daughter often comes along to the plantation. But one day the mother gets very sick and she can no longer pick tea. The daughter is worried that there is no money to pay for the doctor, she really despairs, and ultimately ends up dragging this enormous tea basket to the plantation to try and do the work herself. The overseer is really an angry, mean boss, and he just laughs at her.
“You can get a picture book by a high-profile person, teaching traditional financial topics for a young child to understand.”
And then the fantasy kicks in. The young girl goes and cries in the woods next to the tea plantation and some monkeys end up filling the tea basket, with the best tea in the world, Cloud Tea. The emperor of this country loves the tea and after that, every year, the mother and her daughter get a bag of coins from the emperor for this magical tea. It’s a lovely story. It shows some of the very real poverty that we see in developing countries, but there’s a touch of magic in it, that it’s all going to be OK. So this book really touched my heart. I’ve read it to a number of classes and by the end the children are clapping – they love the story.
The tea plantation is in a beautiful place in the mountains – the illustrations are really nice.
They are beautiful illustrations. That’s the nice thing with these picture books. I’m often looking at the text, the economics in the narrative, but the pictures really help to make or break a book.
If I were reading this book to my kids, what would I be teaching them about, income inequality?
Yes. There are several lessons, and income inequality is definitely one of them. But also, here in the US, often kids don’t like school. A lesson is to teach our kids how fortunate they are to be in school, because in some countries children are so poor they cannot go to school – the family cannot afford the fees, or the children actually have to work to support the family.
Your next book is Those Shoes, about a little boy who can’t afford the trendy shoes all his classmates have.
In this book the main concept is want versus need, and in the American school system, in many state standards, that’s one of the first economic concepts that young children, five-year-olds, are mandated to have to learn. Teachers have to teach some simple economic concepts, beginning with wants and needs. So this book is just right on.
“I think it’s crucial for our children be aware of how fortunate they are, and to start thinking about how they can give back.”