Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mentor Text Linky: Integrating Social Studies into Language Arts

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!  I'm sure lots of you are so excited for this game tonight, but I'm not the biggest football fan in the I'm just looking forward to some wings tonight!
Today I'm linking up with the Collaboration Cuties to share a Must Read Mentor Text.  I've blogged a bit about how our school adopted Pearson's ReadyGen literacy program this year. The BIG downside to this program is that I don't get to choose my own read aloud texts anymore.  The upside is that I've truly enjoyed the majority of texts we've read through this program!

We just finished Unit 2 Module A, which focused on understanding how people respond to injustice and inequality.  Our anchor text was Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. {This text is available through Scholastic Book Clubs this month as well!}  The text is told from the perspective of an older African American woman who is sharing her family's history through pivotal points in American history.  Her grandfather, Pap, was kidnapped in Africa and brought to America as a slave.  The narrator describes Pap's experience as a slave and the reader is able to understand how many African Americans experienced slavery.  The story continues through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, World War I, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, World War II and the Civil Rights Movement.

This is a powerful text, filled with dialect, figurative language and unmistakable voice.  Our shared reading prompted awesome conversation and excellent questioning from my students.  Even with a very limited understanding of American History, my students were able to build a tremendous amount of knowledge about slavery and the importance of the Civil Rights movement. Our timing helped as well: coincidentally, we concluded the text just before Martin Luther King Day.  To compliment the text, we viewed the full length "I Have a Dream Speech" and the biography channel's mini bio of Martin Luther King, Jr on YouTube.  I also have a small group of students working through I'm Lovin Lit's Martin Luther King Jr Timeline Packet (<- free for a limited time).

This book is amazing for teaching students how to identify the point of view of a narrator.  In her explanation of historic events, the reader hears the opinion of a narrator who has been impacted by her family's experience in America.  The author/illustrator helps the reader imagine life in the past through gorgeous images.  This was a major focus for our discussion of the text.  We analyzed images and made connections to the tone of the text (CCSS RL 5.7).

Image of a Sharecropping Family

Image of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

The text is quite dense, so it isn't a quick read.  We only read one chapter per day because there is so much in the text to discuss.  We read the book in 12 school days.

Here you can grab a copy of an organizer to help your students analyze images in text:
I included some prompts for the organizer on a teacher's page.
 Also, click here to grab a copy of the Choice Boards I made for Black History Month.  My students are working on these at home and will present their projects at the end of the month.  You might notice that I left Martin Luther King, Jr off the list of influential African Americans; this was not an error.  I want my kiddos to branch out a bit and hopefully learn about a new figure or time period this month.

Just a quick note: Some of the reviews on Amazon state that the book is too sad and presents a negative view of America.  I have to disagree.  I didn't find that my students focused on the sadness in the text because our conversations focused on how the people in the text responded to the injustices they experienced (forming the Underground Railroad, fighting to end Jim Crow laws, nonviolent protests, speeches, exercising the right to vote).


  1. This looks like a wonderful text! I love the choice boards you created! Just found your blog today through the link and am a new follower...

    Sarah @ Hoots N' Hollers

  2. Wow! This looks great! I have never heard of this book! I love the choice board menu! I will have to take a closer look at them! Thanks so much for linking up!!
    Collaboration Cuties

  3. We are also working on point of view and focussing on Black History month so this is a perfect recommendation - thanks!

  4. This book looks great! Can't wait to read it with my 5th graders next month! I am always looking for ways to integrate social studies and ela. Do you teach social studies as a separate subject, or are you teaching SS this year through the modules?