To celebrate Women's History Month, Scholastic author Penny Kittle reflects on three women whose work can be used in the classroom.
It’s March and where I live in New Hampshire, large drifts of snow glitter under clear blue skies. It is a great time to spend indoors with a book. This month is also Women’s History Month and I want to highlight three women who bring humanity to history with creativity and power, and how their works can be used in the classroom.
Aida Salazar, award-winning author of nine books
Aida centers the lives of young immigrants in two recent books you simply must have in your classroom: Land of the Cranes and A Seed in the Sun. Land of the Cranes brings readers close to the life of nine-year-old Betita, who is living in a family detention center for migrants and refugees at our southern border. A Seed in the Sun is set in 1965 as young Lula considers joining striking farmworkers led by Caesar Chavez. Both of these novels are written in verse and feature passages of gorgeous writing you’ll want to study with students. In my book, Micro Mentor Texts. (p. 79-82), I share how I used one passage with fifth graders and am including some of those ideas below.
First, I pasted “Crane Poem Gallery” from Land of the Cranes at the center of a large piece of poster paper. Students gathered in groups of four around the poster with pens. I asked students to note writing craft moves of the author. Students noticed how the words create images of the actions and the voice of Betita and Papi. I listened in. I shared my own observations, like how lively details (uncrumple the edges) help me see what is happening. We returned to our desk to craft imitations of Salazar in our writer’s notebooks. Writing together always binds my classroom community in important ways. As we share our lives, we also learn to support the effort it takes to write with precision and beauty.
Andrea Davis Pinkney, best-selling author of picture books, novels, historical fiction, and nonfiction
In an ongoing effort to build an inclusive classroom library, I share books every day by authors my students may not know. Representation matters for all children. Andrea has a particular gift for historical fiction. I recommend everything she writes!
I adore the voice-filled Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound. Andrea says she studied the voice of a radio personality to capture the details and the rhythm of this ride through the 1950’s and 60’s in Detroit. You may find yourself tapping along to songs you recognize as you read. When I share this in my classroom, I prepare a slideshow of YouTube clips of the Motown stars, and I can’t help but dance. (There’s nothing like a little bad teacher bopping and twirling to break up an average school day.)
Deborah Wiles, the author of several highly acclaimed books and two National Book Award finalists
And lastly, consider the scrapbooks that Deborah weaves throughout her dynamic 1960’s trilogy: Countdown, Revolution, and Anthem. She layers photographs, maps, quotations, and song lyrics beside the fictional stories of young people set in the turmoil of this decade. Primary source documents make these books an engaging resource page after page. I have used them in student-run book clubs with great success; Deborah gives students so much to talk about! To prepare for book club meetings, we collect images and quotations that represent what we find most interesting to talk about. We call our creations collages of thinking. Students delight and surprise me with this work.
It’s spring and our time with students is disappearing fast. There is so much curriculum and so little time. These books are just what you need to start a collaboration with history teachers. Teaching beside these three powerful women authors is sure to be dazzling.