Incorporating picture books into the Social Studies block:

It’s so easy to incorporate great picture books into cross-curricular lessons.  One of my favorite ways to incorporate picture books is during our social studies block.  A lot of social studies curriculums cover our nation’s government and voting practices in America.  I like to front-load important vocabulary words with my students before I introduce the activity.  We go over vocabulary words like election, candidate, ballot, and government.  You may choose to add more vocabulary words in upper elementary grades.  After we have the vocabulary down, I have my students fill out voter registration cards and we make a voter pledge.  It is important for students to understand that voting is a right as well as a responsibility.

Selecting the storybook candidates:

Then I introduce our storybook character candidates.  I read my students the books Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborn.  I selected these two books because they both have very strong main characters.  Amazing Grace is about a creative, imaginative little girl who wants to try out to be Peter Pan in her class play.  She has to overcome challenges and learn to be brave throughout the book.  New York’s Bravest is a story about a firefighter in New York City who is extremely strong, selfless, and brave.  He is seen as a hero by everyone.  After I read each book, we create a list of character traits for the two main characters; Grace and Mose.  You might want to do a quick review of character traits for your students before doing this!  When we have listed character traits for each character, the students have to pick one character they would like to have as a president.  Students make campaign posters with facts from the books to support their decision.  This is a fun way to check for understanding, review character traits, and learn about some of the finer details behind elections.

Casting the ballots:

Finally, the students get to cast their ballots and vote for their characters.  The kids love this lesson!  They take voting so seriously.  Please note that this activity is usually done over the course of three days.  You can easily do this lesson with any strong storybook characters.  I am attaching a picture of the campaign poster I made to go along with this lesson.  Everyone enjoys stopping to look at the student work hanging outside my classroom.  So the next time you are ready to plan a social studies lesson, take a minute to think about how you can incorporate great literature like Amazing Grace and New York’s Bravest!

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Chrissy Talbot

Chrissy Talbot

Elementary School Teacher