Friday, October 30, 2015

Favorite Biography- When Marian Sang Part 2

Yesterday I wrote Part 1 about my favorite biography, When Marian Sang.

Click here for yesterday's summary.

So yesterday was part 1 of writing on this great book. Not to be terribly confusing, but today I want to start writing classroom ideas for this book, and then follow up with more ideas tomorrow.

Classroom Ideas for "When Marian Sang" Part 1

Utilizing the Songs

The song lyrics in this book range from spirituals, to patriotic, to Anderson's powerful encore on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when she sang "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen..."

So, if you are in a a school situation where singing a spiritual song could pose a problem, you can skip them and stick with secular.

However, when I used this book, I gathered up all my courage and sang ALL of the songs to my students as I read. At first some of them giggled a little, but then they got over it. Some of them began to sing some of the songs with me. I think they enjoyed it because it was something different.

So I would encourage anyone to try your best to sing!

I mentioned this yesterday, but as you read the book you realize that the author has pieced together songs from her life that mirror the emotions of the events. So, those are wonderful discussion topics! 

You can use the songs as poetry. You could also extend by having students bring in a song that represents an event in their life. Students can write about their connections and share.

If kids get really into writing about connecting lyrics with life events, you can have this as a choice in a writing station.

Discussing Theme

I feel like I say this with every book, but this book would be outstanding for working on themes. Like most books, there are many themes represented but, you could practice choosing one by having various themes written down, and then for each theme listing pieces of evidence that would prove the theme. You could make various Anchor T-Charts. Or, have students do their own and come back to discuss.

Courage    -->     Evidence

Endurance -->    Evidence

Overcoming  -->  Evidence

All 3 of these themes would be strong, for this story, but you will have students who will  throw out things like love or friendship. If you have those students really look for how many examples of evidence go with "love" you will come up weak, and that can help students learn to really dig into the text to find the overall theme. 

Youtube Videos

So my final idea for the day is to leave you with just a few videos of Marian Anderson herself. Again, the kids may giggle for a second at her voice, because many of them are unfamiliar with this type of singing. I promise, once they get into it, they will stop their giggling and you'll be able to hear a pin drop once the video is over.

Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial

Marian Anderson singing "Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child" (this song is used in the book and a beautiful example of figurative language!)

Marian Anderson singing "Deep River"

I sure hope y'all will come back tomorrow for more ideas to use with this book! 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Favorite Biography- When Marian Sang Part 1

So, awhile back I was blogging on biographies. Click here for an intro.

I was saving my favorite biography for last, but then life, baby reflux and the stomach bug got the better of me.

I'm back, and I'm ready to talk to you about my favorite biography for students.

But, before I delve in, I would like to tell you my non-research, nonacademic, teacher-opinon on biographies.

Two Types of Biographies

I think there are two types of biographies. For our purposes, I'll refer to them as "set biographies" and "story biographies."

Every elementary library probably has a nice little series of biographies. Maybe they are in the reference section, maybe not. It might be a set of all the U.S. Presidents, or famous athletes, etc. These are the Set Biographies. They may all have been written by the same person. Each of these biographies use the same structure.

Set Biogprahies are fine. They are informative. They teach features of a biography such as use of chronological order, timeline, photos, etc. They're fine.

Let's look at the 5th grade Reading 


(A) identify the literary language and devices used in biographies and
autobiographies, including how authors present major events in a person's life.

Literary Language. The presentation of events in a person's life.

So, these little sets of biographies in the library. The presentation of the events is chronological at best. It's almost too simple.

Literary language? Haha. These are written in such a matter-of-fact way that I don't feel that they carry the beautiful language of Story Biographies. Story Biographies are like the types I've shared with you. Biographies that use more of a story structure to share the person's life. In my humble opinion, the rich story-like biographies work better with the standards and provide way more engagement for students!

Thank you for bearing with me...Now onto the most beautiful Story Biography...

by Pam Munoz Ryan
illustrated by Brian Selznick

Summary: Marian Anderson is one of the most famous African American singers in U.S. History. She had great talent, and traveled the world singing. However, she was denied the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall in D.C.. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was furious, and worked to give Ms. Anderson the opportunity to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial! And, to a much larger audience.

"When Marian Sang" uses such beautiful flowing language, that you feel like you are gliding through her life. The illustrations are lovely. I have read this book to 10 different sets of 5th graders, and every single group of students is enthralled. The toughest guys, to the most withdrawn girls.

The story begins with Ms. Anderson growing up singing in church choir, and then continues her journey as she struggles to grow as a singer and performer because of the oppression of racism.

The journey wraps up with Anderson singing at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and then later accomplished her ultimate dream by performing at the Metropolitan  Opera.

Along the way, there are song lyrics embedded. Songs that Marian sang. Each song represents what Anderson was going through at that time. This leads to some AMAZING discussion. I never like to spoon-feed that to my kiddos. Ask, "why do you think the author chose those lyrics?". or "What can you infer about Marian's feelings from the lyrics?"..Strong writing prompts, too. 

Both the lyrics and the text itself offer figurative language by using phrases such as "sometimes I feel like a motherless child." 

I hope you enjoyed a basic summary of the book with a few sparks of lesson ideas. Tomorrow, I'll be back with a few additional ideas you can use while reading aloud, and then for follow up!