The focus of this article is on melding literature and technology to enhance the delivery of instruction in the classroom. This article describes ways teachers can bring a greater level of professionalism into the classroom by using software to develop visuals that elicit student interest and help them focus on literature and the topics studied.
The activities suggested are intended to encourage teachers to use the existing software available at most school sites. The visuals can be created with a basic page layout program and a clip art collection of graphics. Additionally, scanned images can be saved in digital format, thereby making them available to use with other educational materials. Transparencies can be made from these images to help students focus during brainstorming activities or when reading story excerpts. The visuals suggested in the following unit were created using the Microsoft PowerPointª program and a clipart collection.
Activities focusing on families and their traditions are presented to illustrate the melding of literature and professional-looking visuals created by software. The major goal of this unit of study is to create an environment in which children share their experiences and begin to understand the unfamiliar experiences of others. The activities focusing on families and their traditions are most appropriate for grades two and three; however, this unit can be modified for older children. To increase interest, visuals are used as a tool to encourage students to interact as they share their experiences and begin to understand others through literature.
Activity One: People Who Are Important To Me
This unit begins by creating an environment in which the children are encouraged to become part of a meaningful group- a family within the classroom. The objective of this activity is to build an awareness of the different experiences each child brings to the classroom. Even though families differ in many ways as well as in places of origin, the focus of this activity is to create an atmosphere in which each student is a valued, contributing member of their class.
Following a discussion related to the many different kinds of families represented in the classroom, and after reading All Kinds of Families, the children will write stories about themselves on an apple-shaped paper. The apple might include a photograph and other information, such as family origins or something special the student wishes to share. These biographies will become part of the "class apple tree." The apple tree structure-formed from brown and green butcher paper, tissue paper, or construction paper-could be attached to a bulletin board or a wall. The "empty" tree will soon be filled with apples representing each class member.
Activity Two: Families Are Unique
The objective of this activity is to build an awareness that families may be different in many ways. Student perceptions of a "family" vary depending on what is familiar or ordinary based on their experiences. Selected literature is read to illustrate the uniqueness of families. For example, A Chair for My Mother illustrates a family composed of a grandmother, a mother, and her daughter, while All Colors of the Race focuses on the poetic thoughts of a biracial child. After discussing families and the acrostic poetry format, the students will write and illustrate a poem using the letters F-A-M-I-L-Y. The following acrostic poem is included as one example:
Father's name is Harry.
Anna is my mother
In many places
Like to read.
Yours may be different.
Activity Three: Families Come From Many Places
The objective of this activity is to help students develop an understanding of the geographic origins of class members. Initially, students might discuss and locate on a map familiar landforms or places of interest. Selected stories might be read to illustrate the diverse geographic origins of some families. For example, How My Family Learned to Eat tells the story of an American sailor who married a Japanese woman. The story-told through the eyes of their daughter-illustrates the way in which her parents met and developed the unfamiliar skills of eating with chopsticks or with a knife and fork.
After reading the story, the students might locate Japan on a large world map and indicate a possible route to the United States. This might be followed by asking each student to trace the route taken by their family as they journeyed to their current home. Examples of selected geographic landmarks can be created by using software. The students will be encouraged to create their own designs on 3x5 cards. These illustrated cards will become a border around a map by connecting each card and the related location with a piece of colored yarn held securely by map tacks.
Activity Three Extension:
The story Stringbean's Trip to the Shining Sea might be read to illustrate specific places Stringbean visited on his way across the United States. During the reading of the story, focus on the illustrations and the descriptive language Stringbean used to identify landmarks or places of interest. As a follow-up activity, provide students with postcard-sized paper on which they will write about and illustrate: the origins of family members, a place they might have visited, or a place they would like to visit. The software-created postcards can be copied on cardstock or manila paper to resemble an actual postcard. The completed postcards might be placed on "stage" by becoming part of a bulletin board or a wall that includes a map of the United States and the students' postcards.
Activity Four: People, Places, and Traditions
The objective of this activity is to help children gain an appreciation for the traditions of others. People from many places bring with them long-established traditions. Students will be encouraged to share their special traditions; however, stories will also serve to illustrate the customs, practices, and traditions of others. Some traditions, such as those carried on by Native Americans, may seem extraordinary to many other Americans. Cherokee Summer tells the story of an American Indian girl who goes to school, lives in an ordinary house, and dresses like most children in the United States. However, this book also tells the story of the Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma, and the traditions that are passed on to their children through the observance of a pow-wow celebration.
After reading the relevant literature, encourage students to develop a mural depicting specific people and their traditions. In small groups, the students might research, illustrate, and caption a selected custom or celebration.
These murals will be displayed and used as the background scenery
for the subsequent multicultural
Activity Five: A Celebration of People and Places
This activity is intended to culminate the study of people and places. The preparation for this celebration will include the completion of costumes and art projects, as well as learning dances, skits, and songs carried on by people from many places.
Additionally, this "celebration of diversity" is an opportunity for students to share their art, murals, stories or poems. For example, a poem such as "Rise and Shine"4 can become part of the room environment as it succinctly illustrates the need to work together in the search to "find answers and see the mystery of life."
Although the suggested unit activities are intended to provide examples of ways teachers can meld literature with technology, a major goal is to instill in children an understanding of the diverse values, customs, and beliefs of others. It is hoped that these ideas will encourage teachers to make use of software to provide great visuals that can elicit student interest, make audio/visual connections to increase student understanding, and bring a higher level of professionalism into the classroom.
1.National Council for the Social Studies, Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (Washington, DC: Author, 1994), vii.
2.Charlotte Crabtree, "History is for Children" in American Educator (Winter 1989): 34-39.
3.California State Department of Education, History-Social Science Framework (1988).
4. John Murdahl, Tales of Courage, Tales of Dreams (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1993).
Adoff, Arnold. Black is Brown is Tan. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1973.
Cech, Maureen. Globalchild-Multicultural Resources for Young Children. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1991.
Chalking, Miriam. Hanukkah. New York: Holiday House, 1990.
Clifford, Eth. The Remembering Box. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1985.
Flournoy, Valerie. The Patchwork Quilt. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1985.
Friedman, Ina R. How My Family Learned to Eat. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984.
Goffstein, M. B. Laughing Latkes. Farrar, 1980.
Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane. Cherokee Summer. New York: Holiday House, 1993.
Locker, Thomas. Where the River Begins. New York: Penguin Books, 1984.
Politi, Leo. Three Stalks of Corn. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993.
Rogers, Paul. From Me to You. Orchard, 1988.
Simon, Norma. All Kinds of Families. Niles, IL: Albert Whitman & Company, 1976.
Spann, Mary Beth. Literature-based Seasonal and Holiday Activities. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991.
Thorneycroft, Edward. Origami-Indian Lore. New York: Mallard Press, 1992.
Tran, Kim-Lan. Tet: the New Year. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Waters, Kate, and Madeline Slovenz-Low. Lion Dancer. NewYork: Scholastic, 1990.
Williams, Vera B. A Chair for My Mother. New York:Mulberry Books, 1982.
Williams, Vera B. and Jennifer. Stringbean's Trip to the Shining Sea. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1988.
About the Author
Joy Ann Morin is Associate Professor in the Charter School of Education at California State University, Los Angeles.