Woody Guthrie Elementary School Curriculum
LANGUAGE ARTS: Literature Circles
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wonderful resources exist for primary age children involved in literature
circles. Using the format developed by Harvey Daniels, (Literature
Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, Stenhouse
Publishers, 2002) teachers can facilitate literature circles and
guide children through historical fiction about the dust bowl era
in addition to biographies of Woody Guthrie.
books are suggestions for lit circles:
- Dust for Dinner
by Ann Turner
- Poet of the People
by Bonnie Christensen
- This Land is Your
Land by Kathy Jakobsen
- Journal of C.J.
Jackson: Dust Bowl Migrant by William Durbin
- Out of the Dust
by Karen Hesse
- This Land Was Made
for You and Me by Elizabeth Partridge
- Children of the
Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley
- Dorothea Lange by
Consult the Classroom
Bibliography for an annotated description of these books as
well as the recommended age for each.
Often, nonfiction is
overlooked as a resource for literature circles. However, Cobblestone
publishes a thematic magazine, "Appleseeds," which features an excellent
article for young children about Woody Guthrie (January 2000). Students
will love the photos from the Archives, including Woody and his
singing group in Pampa, Texas, Woody at the beach in Coney Island
building a sand castle with his children and Woody singing with
kids in New York. This article is good for putting Woody's life
in perspective; too often there is such a great emphasis on his
life in association with the dust bowl that people forget he lived
in New York on and off for about 25 years. The article contains
a richness of dialogue from Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter and Executive
Director of the Woody Guthrie Foundation in New York City. The original
handwritten "God Blessed America--This Land Was Made for You and
Me" is featured along with the book by Kathy Jakobsen.
This issue, devoted to
the guitar, has several nonfiction articles that could be used during
this unit, especially a multicultural double page spread illustrating
the development of guitar-like instruments from all over the world.
From the balalaika in Russia to the oud in Iraq, students can learn
about a diverse family of instruments.
The best preparation
you can do is read these books yourself. Immerse yourself in learning
about Guthrie as you become familiar with the reading level of the
resources. Reading all the literature will provide excellent background
if you sit down with any lit circle and become part of the grand
conversation. In addition to using these books for lit circles you
may wish to use these as read-alouds. Classrooms with a checkout
system will have children bringing books home overnight. Whether
you're doing shared, guided or independent reading, keep books from
the classroom bibliography out during the entire unit on Woody Guthrie,
using a bookshelf that shows the fronts of the books.
Engage students in lit
circles for a period of several weeks or months using the resources
suggested. (Refer to the Daniels' book as needed.) Immersion in
the literature is the best way for students to learn about Woody's
life and the issues he sang about.
An example of a student's signup sheet from Theresa Kubasak's Second Grade class.