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Volume II: Children's Literature


Non-Violent Conflict Resolution via Literature for Young Adults
Leah Bienemann
Oliver High School

In today’s world, our youth are struggling to find solutions to everyday conflicts. Violence is too often the choice when it comes to solving conflicts. I see students’ everyday yell, push, hit, tease, or give dirty looks in order to resolve conflicts they have with themselves, peers, and teachers. Therefore, I have created a unit that teaches middle to high school student’s methods of problem solution through non-violent outlets such reading, role-playing, discussion, and writing. By using realistic literary character’s conflicts as examples, you will be teaching this unit twofold. One is the keeping with the district’s standards and curriculum, and two is the real life strategies and lessons the students can take with them outside the classroom. The two novels I work with in this unit are, Scorpion, by Walter Dean Myer, and Tears of a Tiger, by Sharon Draper. Many other novels can work for this unit, so you may decide to change the novels to suit the needs of your students. I include a list of authors and books that will work for this unit.


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Actively Engaged: Transferring Thinking to Written Comprehension
Cheryl DeSure
Fulton Academy

The following questions nag at me as I endeavor to help my students become proficient: If students are able to answer multiple choice comprehension questions proficiently, why do they still continue to score basic and below basic in the area of written comprehension? Why are students who are making growth in other areas of reading, such as fluency and decoding, not progressing when it comes to written response?

If these are questions that you struggle with also, read on to find ways:

  • To help motivate struggling readers by making them a partner in their learning experience.
  • To identify appropriate literature to use in your classroom during flexible group time and Read Aloud time.
  • To facilitate students’ ability to comprehend by including stories where strong personalities, character traits, and a sense of fairness abound.
  • To use Think-Alouds as a means of transferring oral thinking into writing.
  • To show children the structural differences between a narrative passage in which the reader looks for a beginning, middle, and ending, as opposed to an expository passage where a reader looks for introductions, explanations and conclusions.

It is the goal of this unit to help students become proficient readers and writers with a life-long urge to read!


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Nursery Rhymes, Games and Songs
Gretchen Eckroat
Spring Hill/Horace Mann Elementary

Over the last couple of years I have noticed that students don’t know basic nursery rhymes or games to play on the playground. Children don’t seem get to participate in creative play anymore. Everything is regimented or designed; even during recess there is structured play to control behaviors on the playground. As a result, students are losing the important oral folk traditions of games, rhymes, and songs. I found a lot of research for using nursery rhymes to help with students reading development. Teaching in an urban school district many of my students have problems with reading. Therefore I started thinking of ways that I can incorporate these traditions in my music classroom. Besides, carrying on the traditional of learning Nursery Rhymes, games, and songs can also be used to reinforce music elements such as: steady beat, rhythmic patterns, ostinato, and creative movement to name a few.


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Bridging Children’s Literature Together with Social Studies
Marquette Evans
Madison Elementary

Many teachers are frustrated by a lack of sufficient social studies materials as well as requirements to use outdated or lackluster text. This unit will guide teachers on how to infuse the use of children’s literature into the social studies curriculum. Educators are seeking to expand social studies and make it part of a truly integrated curriculum. The unit is also designed to also offer teachers a participatory approach to social studies education.

This approach allows students opportunities to make an investment of self in their education, that education will become both meaningful and relevant. The suggestions in this unit are designed to provide a structure for, and an enhancement of, the teaching of social studies.

The students will learn through reading, research, writing assignments, and interview and classroom discussions. Children’s literature will be the main focus in reaching each objective. I chose children’s literature as the main focus of this unit because literature opens doors to discovery.


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Dr. Seuss Is On The Loose
Christian Ferrari
Mifflin Elementary School

The main goal of this unit is to exemplify and celebrate the importance that Dr. Seuss brings to literacy. Dr. Seuss Is On The Loose is designed for students on an elementary level, grades first through third. The unit incorporates the literature and the magic of Dr. Seuss through reading, writing, visual, and online activities. Students will read the works of Dr. Seuss and complete writing activities that involve summaries and personal responses to the literature. The work of Dr. Seuss plays an important role in starting students to read through the use of rhyming. Much of Dr. Seuss’s work utilizes rhyming in such a way the students can enjoy and follow along when reading his works.The importance of this unit is to make our students more fluent and more comprehensive readers to help insure their reading success as they move along on their educational journeys. This unit focuses mostly on the Communications standards that elementary students are expected to meet. Most of the skills will apply to reading fluency, reading comprehension, writing, and grammar conventions. The unit also includes a math activity that will show how rhyming can help aid students in moving forward with multiplication skills This curriculum unit can be adapted and adjusted to any subject area.


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IMGALTAG Creating a Reading Community/Meeting the 25 Book Standard/Exploring Literature by Genre, Author, and Subject Matter
Barbara Gamrat
Mifflin Elementary School

One of the major goals of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Communications Curriculum is for all Middle and High school students to meet the 25 Book Standard, meaning each student must produce evidence that he/she has read 25 books during the year. This is a daunting task for students and teachers alike. Some students are just not “self-motivated readers” and it is hard for teachers to find “extra classroom time” to spend on meeting this standard. This unit, Creating a Reading Community/Meeting the 25 Book Standard/Exploring Literature by Genre, Author, and Subject Matter, geared toward middle and high school age students seeks to use collaborative/cooperative and student-centered learning to create “a community of readers” in the classroom where students work in literature circles to read and report on multiple books. Ideally, this unit is designed to be implemented over the entire school year. Students work in groups, research, and choose the books they read, and brainstorm and design the activities used as reports. Students research and choose the genres, authors, and subjects they will be reading and reporting on. Also, students learn group roles and teamwork so as to promote success for the whole group instead of only success for the individual. Because this unit is student-centered and controlled, it lends itself in the promotion of creativity and fun!


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Illustrations, Illustrators, and Reading Images
Joanne M. Hattrup
Grandview Elementary

This unit Illustrations, Illustrators, and Reading Images, explores the purpose and the genre of the picture book along with the value and significance of the illustrations that accompany a text. The picture book can be just as enticing to children who are experiencing things for the first time, as well as to adults who may be reminiscing experiences from their own childhood memories. Illustrations, Illustrators, and Reading Images introduces the art form of the illustration and the technique of how a book is developed from beginning to end. Literature will come alive when the students “meet the illustrator” and experience what it is like to learn how to express yourself creatively and develop the art skills necessary to do it. In the process of discovering what it takes to become an author/illustrator, children will explore anecdotal stories from award winners who have received special recognition including the Caldecott Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Thomas Rivera Award, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. They will learn how to read an image using the elements of art and principles of design. It is intended to provide second, third, fourth, and fifth graders in the elementary art classroom environment with opportunities to analyze the extensive variety of styles of children's book illustrations as well as the variety of media selected by artists when creating their artwork. It is designed to be taught in art classes that meet for forty five minutes for ten classes per month over a period of ten to twelve weeks. It can be adjusted to meet any needs.


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Fostering Social Skills through Children’s Literature
Amber Hess
Oliver High School

The Pittsburgh Public School District has a high percentage of students labeled as emotionally disturbed (www.pde.state.pa.us). According to the Department of Education there are five eligibility characteristics that must be met in order to be labeled as having an emotional disturbance: Inability to learn, relationship problems, inappropriate behavior, unhappiness or depression, and physical symptoms or fears.

The Emotional Support classroom is a unique environment that aims to make both educational and social skills gains. The majority of students diagnosed with emotional disturbances lack age appropriate language skills. “Studies have found that children with language deficits are ten times more likely to exhibit antisocial behaviors than those in the general population.” (Donahue, Cole Hartas 246). The English classroom provides a framework to develop a curriculum that encourages language skills and social skills. This unit also focuses on reading, a skill many students have yet to master. High school students are expected to read on higher levels in their content area courses. However, this skill is never directly taught causing many students to fall behind. By improving writing skills students will be more prepared for both graduation and their adult life. By incorporating children’s literature into reading and writing we can best serve our students.


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IMGALTAG The African American Childhood Reading Experience in Pittsburgh: Building Blocks for Academic Success
By Carlton Heywood
Westinghouse High School

The academic achievement gap indicates that there is a significant disproportion of underachievement within the African American population in the city of Pittsburgh. The gap widens as students grow older and widens further still when comparing the academic success of teenaged African American males. The achievement gap demonstrates that there are serious deficiencies in the subjects of reading and math.

This curriculum unit is designed to specifically address the closing of the achievement gap in the subject of reading. This unit will explore the recent reading trends of the district’s African American population and support special emphasis directed towards the teenaged African American male who are most at risk. As an interdisciplinary unit this curriculum will provide strategies to improve the overall attitude about literacy by building vocabulary skills, reading comprehension, and exposure to several types of reading genre. The classroom activities will provide students the opportunity to interact with their peer group and teacher and also allow students to write and speak about what they read. The activities will concur with the district standard of reading 25 books per year and support the English curriculum writing portfolio. This unit can be used throughout the year and supplement all communication standards.


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Learning History Through Dramatizing Literature in the Primary Grade Classroom
Evelyn Houser
Mifflin Elementary School

This unit is designed to supplement the reading and social studies lessons in the primary classroom with non-fiction literature about notable characters in American history. The stories are intended to be read aloud to the class and then reenacted by the children who take turns either playing the characters in the stories or being the audience for the dramatizations. It uses traditional methods of reading aloud to children and then questioning and discussing the stories, and adds the hands-on approach, or learning by doing, when the children reenact the stories they have been read and have discussed.

It is a learning by doing method to teach more history of our country to young children, to extend the attention span of the children, to enliven the social studies and reading classroom with new literature, and to improve the children’s listening and oral language skills.


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P.E. Diaries
By Elyse L. Karpa
Student Achievement Center

This curriculum unit aligns physical education with writing across the curriculum. P.E. Diaries is an educational unit that inspires students to become authors about their physical educational experiences. Through individual student journal writings, each student will be given a unique opportunity to practice writing to a prompt while journaling about the effectiveness of P.E. class. Weekly journal entries will challenge the students to look at the reasons for physical education, and how it relates to their overall health status. It will explain how staying active and being physically fit can prevent certain diseases, increase weight management skills, and incorporate stress management techniques.

Through a series of educational writing prompts, the students will be able to create individual journal books that will increase their writing ability and their P.E. literacy skills. English and physical education will become partners in education, making students keenly aware of the connection between literacy and Physical Education. The journals will also serve to make a strong connection between maintaining a healthy body and longevity.


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Children’s Literature
Literacy Lessons for the Middle Grades
Diana Lininger
Pittsburgh Classical Academy

My Curriculum unit will be taught at the sixth grade level. This Unit will place an emphasis on historical fiction, connect core collection themes with an extended text, reinforce the study of literary elements, and expand skills for analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. The focus of this Unit is on the history of literacy in the United States, with an emphasis on African-American literacy, and the conditions of the former slaves in the South after the Civil War during Reconstruction. In the South, before and during the Civil War, only white people were permitted to read and write. It was illegal to teach slaves to read and write. People who broke the law were punished or hanged. After the Civil War, during Reconstruction, blacks were then allowed publicly to read and write. The denial of literacy to the blacks kept them subservient to white men. When they were finally given the tools to educate themselves, they were able to succeed in the society that thought of them only as slaves.


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Set in the U.S.A.
Kathy Mullen
M.L.King and Lemington Elementary Schools

This unit is designed to supplement what fifth grade students learn about the geography of the United State in social studies as well as to reinforce what they learn about the element of story setting in language arts classes. As a school librarian, I frequently see blank looks on students' faces when I ask them where a state is located that figures in a story I am reading to them. This unit introduces students to different regions of the country via works of fiction, then gives them chances to use the library's resources to research a state.

Social studies seems to be given less time than any other academic subject in elementary schools. My hope is that by completing a unit such as this, students will be encouraged to learn the locations of many states. Just as learning the alphabet gives students a framework for reading and writing, learning the states in their country gives them a framework for further learning in social studies and could add to their enjoyment of reading when they can place the setting of a story.


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Enhancing Character Through the Influence of Stories and Writing
Melissa Audain-Pickett
Madison Elementary School

Character is a very important virtue in human society. Today, many young children are confused about what character really means. Most are at a complete loss, and have embraced values that are far from moral and ethical. This unit will describe how ethics and character can be integrated into the classroom. This unit can be used to educate students and enhance their classroom and family well-being. The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum for Children is used. Various stories have been incorporated into the unit with the intent of building the character of children of color. Moreover, the unit can be modified to fit the needs of children from different socio-economic backgrounds and can be used in a range of communities and with almost any classroom structure.


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Check It Out:
Using Picture Books With Intermediate Readers
Jennifer Salvatore-Garrett
Mifflin Elementary School

This unit of study was originally written for the fifth-grade level, but could easily be adapted and used with third-eighth grade students. The intent of this curriculum is two-fold: to get teachers to look critically at the picture book format as an invaluable teaching tool and literal springboard for a myriad of cross-curricular activities and to help students travel beyond the “babyishness” they associate with the common 9”x13” 32 page story and to delight in the complexities, deep meanings and sheer beauty often served up in sophisticated picture books. Students will embark upon a guided exploration of outstanding contributions to children’s literature in the picture book format through numerous readings, interactive activities, genre analysis, author investigation, and a grand information culmination presentation.

This curriculum unit provides the opportunity for students to read, learn about, and appreciate the picture book format and its numerous genres. The goal is to expose students to the quality and quantity of sophisticated picture books so that they can gain appreciation for the beauty and value of this timeless format.


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Character Point of View
Melissa R. Widdowson
Mifflin Elementary School

I have developed a creative curriculum unit for my project relating to a character’s point of view. Pittsburgh Public School students are required to read a novel that parallels each theme in the Harcourt Reading Program as part of the curriculum. Customarily, the students read their novels on an individual basis, silently and to themselves. At the close of the chapters reading assignments, students typically complete a series of written journal questions and answers separately and apart from others. The questions and answers are reviewed as the students progress through the chapters of the novel. This process is often methodical. Therefore, I have enhanced this process by asking the students to write more expansive answers, and, then asked them to do a “what’s next” scenario. I have written this particular curriculum unit because I believe the thought- provoking questions I have provided will stimulate the students’ inquisitiveness. I hope by reading this curriculum unit that you can take the important information and use it in your classroom. I believe this will be an enriching and exciting unit for the students for years to come.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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