Thematic Unit Based on Multicultural Children’s Literature

Judi Black

CIEE 539, Dr. Carger, Spring 1999

Theme: The relationship between grandparents and children.

Targeted Grade: Second grade (any Primary grade can use this with appropriate adjustments to that grade level)

Unit Overview: Grandparents are a part of every person’s life. Most Primary students have at least one grandparent living. For personal history and family bonding, I feel that it is important for everyone to have a closeness with their grandparent(s). I chose this theme to promote awareness of the importance grandparents play in child’s everyday life. These lessons are written for a mainstreamed class. The content areas that will be touched upon include: reading, writing, drama and art. Some lessons are best with the class as a whole. Some lessons can be done at a center or even given as a homework assignment. The lengths vary from approximately one subject’s lesson time to a few separate times spread out over a couple of days.

Overall Goal’s: This Unit’s goal is to help children become closer to their grandparent(s) and to become aware of the importance of having grandparents in their lives.

Lesson Plan #1

Objective: To foster the importance of sharing special events with their Grandparents by creating a gift tree that will be added to each year.*Note: Although the special event presented in this book is a person’s birthday, any event can be emphasized (i.e. a holiday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day and so on).

Materials: The book "Pablo’s Tree" by Pat Mora & illustrated by Cecily Lang (picture book), 4" clay pot, plaster of paris, a tree branch approx. 12" high, colored paper, shape stencils, pencils, tape, scissors, hole puncher and yarn.

Anticipatory set: Begin a discussion with your students about the special times spent with their Grandparents. Direct the discussion to emphasize special events shared with their Grandparents. Introduce the book by reviewing the students comments shared and tell them that Pablo also shares a special event with his Grandfather each year.

Procedure: Read the book "Pablo’s Tree". As you read, make note of these important features in the story: Pablo is adopted, Grandfather's reason for the tree, the Spanish words interspersed with the English words, Pablo’s concern that Grandfather forgot about the tree this year, and that each year the decoration is different as well as meaningful. After reading and discussing the book, describe the tree project that they will make for their grandparent(s). Each student will get a clay pot. Put tape over the hole at the bottom of the pot. Pour the plaster mixture into the pot leaving some space towards the top. Quickly insert the tree branch into the plaster, down the middle until it touches the bottom. While the plaster dries, have the students choose one stencil shape to trace and cut out. Remind them to think of a shape that has meaning to them. Have them cut out several of the same shape in different colors. Punch holes in each paper shape and finish by tying a piece of yarn through it. Tie the shapes onto the tree. Now, they each have a special events tree to give to their Grandparent(s), and they can add to it each year.

Closure: Ask each student to talk about the meaning of their tree and what special event they will celebrate with their Grandparent(s) each year. Ask what they might add to the tree next year.

Evaluation: Make sure each child understands the importance of special event sharing with a Grandparent, by looking at their tree decoration choice and, most importantly, listen to the reasons of their choices.

Lesson Plan #2

Objective: The students will recollect many thoughts about their grandparent(s) in a letter they will write.

Materials: The book "Sitti’s Secrets" by Naomi Shihab Nye & illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (picture book); writing paper, envelopes, pens, a grandparent’s address and postage stamps.

Anticipatory set: Act out a scene in which a grandchild and grandparent learn new pieces of information about each other. (Use a student that you chose ahead of time and prepared with, or another staff member.) Discuss with the students what the grandchild and grandparent learned. Ask your students to share what they know about their grandparents.

Procedure: Read the book "Sitti’s Secrets". As you read, make note of these important features in the story: Sitti means grandmother in Arabic, the child and grandmother live unusually far away, the cultural differences between where the girl lives and where her Sitti lives, how they get around the language difference and, of course, what the girl learns about her grandmother. Discuss with your students where their grandparents live in relation to where they live and if there are any differences. Ask your students what they call each of their grandparents – are any named in another language? Then, explain to your students that they are going to write a letter to the President of the United States, just like Mona did. They need to think of important features about their own grandparent, that they would like to share with the President. Have them write a letter that includes these features.

Closure: Ask students to read their letters to the class. Have students address their envelope to that grandparent and mail the letters (if feasible, take a class walk to a mailbox or post office or to the school office).

Evaluation: Check each letter for appropriate thoughts shared, being aware that there should be many different features given.

Lesson Plan #3

Objective: Through a skit they create in small groups, the students will realize the importance of helping their grandparents.

Materials: The book "The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale" by Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross with paintings by Virginia A. Stroud (Folklore), paper, pencils and a cleared area for a "stage".

Anticipatory set: Using a dictionary, read the definition of help. Then, using a thesaurus, read all of the words that can be used the same way. Now, begin a discussion about how to help people. Finally, direct the discussion to how grandparents can be helped.

Procedure: Read the book "The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale". As you read this tale, make note of these important features: this story is told over and over and from person to person, folklore is very important to Native Americans, and the Native American terms used in this story - "Grandmother Sun", "Elder Brother Moon" and "Gil’liutsun stanun’yi". Explain to your students that, in small groups, they will be creating a situation of a child helping his/her grandparents. The group will need to write a script, practice their situation and then perform their situation for the class. After all details of this lesson are discussed and all questions are answered, divide your class into groups of 3 (2 grandparents and 1 child), and 1 group of 4, if needed. This lesson can be done in 1 day or broken up into a couple of days depending on how elaborate you want them to be or how much time can be allowed.

Closure: Ask each group to perform their situation for the class.

Evaluation: The students understanding of being truly helpful to their grandparents should be seen in the details of their situation(s) they created.

Lesson Plan #4

Objective: Through a poem that the student(s) will write, they will become aware of one specific feature of their grandparent(s).

Materials: The poem "Abuelita’s Lap", from the book "Confetti: Poems for Children" by Pat Mora & illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez (Poetry), writing paper, drawing paper, pencil and crayons/markers/paints.

Anticipatory set: Ask your students to close their eyes and picture one of their grandparents. Have them think of the different features they like about that grandparent. Now, ask them to focus on one of those features. Tell them to "file that thought away" because they will use it soon. Finally, they can now open their eyes.

Procedure: Read the Poem "Abuelita’s Lap". While reading, make note of these features in the poem: Abuela is grandmother in Spanish (ita at the end means little), and there are many specific descriptions, in the poem, about one feature of this grandmother. Ask the students to recall the one feature they thought about their grandparent. Direct them to write their own poem about their grandparent’s one feature. Also, have them draw/color/paint a picture that represents their poem, as done in the book. This can be done together as a class or done at a center.

Closure: Ask each student to share their poem and picture with the class. These poems and pictures can be put together in a class book.

Evaluation: Each poem should have appropriate descriptions to match the feature. The poems should also have some rhyming words properly placed. The pictures should include the descriptions of the feature told in the poem.

Lesson Plan #5

Objective: Through creating an activity to do with an elderly person, the student will realize the importance of helping an elderly person be happy.

Materials: The book "William and the Good Old Days" by Eloise Greenfield & illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist (picture book), paper, pencils and any materials (from home) that each student needs for their "happiness project".

Anticipatory set: Ask the students to brainstorm, with you, what activities makes them feel good – especially when they are not feeling good. Write these on the chalkboard (which is divided into 3 columns) in one column. Now, ask them to brainstorm what activities they think an old person would like to do. Write these in the second column. (Save the third column for discussion after the lesson.)

Procedure: Read the book "William and the Good Old Days". As you read, make note of these features: William’s feelings of anger towards the fly, his need to look back in time and how it makes him feel better, the speaking manners of African Americans in this story, and how William helps his grandmother to feel better. After reading, discuss the 2 brainstorm lists and now make a third list that is most appropriate for the elderly. Have each student think of an activity they could do with an elderly person – to make that person feel happy. (The students will need guidance to what materials are feasible.) The students should write down what the activity is and what materials will be needed, if any.

Closure: Ask the students to share their activity ideas and tell why they think it will make an elderly person feel happy.

Evaluation: The students should show an understanding of the importance of making an elderly person happy by the activity they choose and by their reasons why this activity will make an elderly person happy.


Culminating Activity: Take a field trip to a Retirement/Nursing Care Facility. Match each student with an elderly resident. Have the students spend time with their elderly partner – this is a good time to have the students try out their
"happiness project" activity. ENJOY!


Bruchac, Joseph, Ross, Gayle. (1995). The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale. New York: Dial Books For Young Readers

Greenfield, Eloise. (1993). William and the Good Old Days. New York: Harper Collins

Mora, Pat. (1996). Confetti: Poems For Children. New York: Lee & Low Books Inc.

Mora, Pat. (1994). Pablo’s Tree. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company

Nye, Naomi Shihab. (1994). Sitti’s Secrets. New York: Four Winds Press


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