Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cures For The Common Core Blues: BOOKS, Vol. 2

This is the second in a series about books that have great potential for Common Core lessons. Cures For The Common Core Blues: BOOKS, Vol. 1 was published two weeks ago with the promise of a new book post each Thursday. That was interrupted last week by the birth of our granddaughter (I write with a smile on my face.) This week we're back on track, with Patricia Polacco's amazing book about the friendship of two boy soldiers during the Civil War,  Pink and Say.

Here is the story, paraphrased from the words of Leah Polacco, the author's daughter-in-law: "When wounded attempting to desert his unit, Sheldon Curtis (Say) is rescued by Pinkus Aylee (Pink), who carries him back to the Georgia home where he and his family were slaves. Say is nursed back to health by Pink’s mother, Moe Moe Bay, and begins to understand why his new friend is determined to return to the war, to fight against "the sickness" that is slavery. When marauders take Moe Moe Bay’s life, Say is also driven to fight, but both boys are taken prisoner by the Confederate Army. Say survives to pass along the story to his daughter Rosa, Patricia Polacco’s great grandmother. Pink was hanged shortly after being taken prisoner, so Patricia’s book "serves as a written memory" of him. At the end of the story Patricia tells the reader, "Before you put this book down, say his name (Pinkus Aylee) out loud and vow to remember him always." A defining moment in the story is when Say tells Pink and his mother that he once shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln. Convinced that his encounter is a "sign" of hope, Say reaches for Pink’s hand, exclaiming, "Now you can say you touched the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln!" At the end of the story when the boys are dragged apart, Pink reaches for Say one last time to touch his hand."

When my co-teacher and I read this book with our ESL students last year, we began by having them research online which states were part of the Confederacy and which ones remained with the Union, and plot their locations on a table-sized laminated map. The kiddos color-coded the states, and we maintained the colors when we wrote anchor chart type notes about the advantages and disadvantages that each side brought to the war due to location and economy. 

We staged a simple role play of a slave market, which opened the floor for many questions and a brief Socratic discussion of slavery itself. We set the stage for reading with video clips and photos of battlefields. When we finally read the book using our visual presenter, the students were captivated. 

After reading, we did vocabulary work with card sorts; the culminating assignment was for each student to write a letter home from Andersonville prison. 

The letters written by our 4th grade English Learners blew us away with their insight and honesty. 

If this incredible book sounds like one you want to share with your students, you might want to look at the sites below.

Storybookipedia has numerous activities, from anticipation to building connections at Pink and Say Activities. provides lots of information about the author and has a page for each of her other wonderful books.

The Civil War for Kids is a site our students used for their beginning research.

When you finish your study of the book, which you can purchase from Amazon, reward your kiddos with these beautiful bookmarks available on Patricia Polacco's website. Just print on cardstock and cut apart; I promise they will love them.

I think you will love this book, and that it can help cure your Common Core blues!

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