Patricia Polacco is a powerful story teller, and my class has always loved getting swept up in her books. Like many of her other books, The Art of Miss Chew is a personal story from Mrs. Polacco's life. (My students always love hearing a "true story.") Polacco formed a special relationship with Miss Chew when she took her special art class.
Polacco had reading challenges, and when her classroom teacher was called away for a few weeks, Mrs. Chew came to her aid when the substitute made things difficult. Miss Chew inspired Polacco to be the artist she is today! It's a powerful story about tackling obstacles and finding your strengths through the help of good teachers. This story is particularly inspiring for any child who has struggled academically, especially with standardized testing!
This would be a great story for parents or teachers to read with their students. It is long, 40 pages...So, it might be better to break apart for a classroom read-aloud.
*ART! This book talks about perspective, negative space and other art concepts. This could be integrated into an art lesson, or this book could simply be a great recommendation for a budding artist in your class. If you have elementary age kids, this would be a fun book for a summer read-aloud, and then you could practice some of the art concepts with your kids!
*Letter in the Book Jacket- There is a letter addressed to readers from Patricia Polacco in the back flap of the book jacket. Students love hearing this...The letter does describe the sad fact that arts programs are often not funded in schools. I hate to dwell on the negative with my students, but I think it's fair enough for older kids to know that the establishments aren't perfect. I readily admit to my students that I wish there was more time and money for the arts.
*Theme- I say this with many books, but Patricia Polacco's books always come with a strong theme to discuss.
*Negative Space Vase/Face Picture- On the page where Miss Chew teaches about negative space they discuss the picture that could look like an illustration or two faces looking at each other depending on how you look at it. If your students haven't seen that they will love looking at it!
*Summary- The plot of this story lends itself well to practice summary writing.
*Open-Ended Response Questions-
What is the theme of this story? What text evidence proves it?
(If your students have been taught and trained on theme)
How do you connect with "Theresa" (Patricia) in this story?
Using the final page: Describe the emotions you think Patricia, Mr. Donovan, and Miss Chew felt as they looked at the pictures of Mr. Donovan's father? Explain.