Reading Rainbow: The Importance of Storytelling
English Language Arts, Social Studies, The Arts
Pre-K, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Four 40 minute class periods
Why is it important to tell stories?
Reading Rainbow: Follow the Drinking Gourd Program Information
"Follow the Drinking Gourd" by Jeanette Winter
Art materials for book construction
"Amistad Rising - A Story of Freedom" by Veronica Chambers
This lesson shows how African Americans escaping slavery used storytelling to communicate. It encourages students to write stories to be passed on.
Ask students why they think people tell stories (for example, to entertain others, to provide others with important information, to teach a “lesson”) and have them discuss some of the different reasons for storytelling.
Students should listen to the melody and read the lyrics (or listen to the teacher read the lyrics) of “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” Students should learn to sing the song (or the chorus if they are too young to read), accompanied by the computer music file the teacher downloaded or other instrumental accompaniment. Ask students if they think the song might tell a story. Why or why not?
Students should view segments of "Reading Rainbow: Follow the Drinking Gourd" and/or read the book, "Follow the Drinking Gourd" by Jeanette Winter. Afterward, engage students in a discussion about the important stories that were told in the song and book. Talk with them about the importance of telling stories in order to pass on the meanings, experiences and information of a family or a group of people.
To further enhance understanding of the “power of story,” students should write and illustrate their own story.
Students in grades K-3 may participate in the PBS KIDS Writers Contest by entering their stories. Visit the Contest Web Page to learn more.
Original stories may address any topic students feel the need to tell or pass on based upon important experiences or information.
Amistad Extension Activity
Storytelling is a powerful vehicle to convey the concept of freedom. Read "Amistad Rising - A Story of Freedom" by Veronica Chambers (grades 3-5) to your students.
After introducing Amistad to students, ask them the following questions:
Allow students to tell the story a story of freedom in their own way. Students could write a diary entry, story, poem or song. They could illustrate freedom or make a collage. Give students the freedom to tell a story of freedom.
Students will be assessed on grammar, punctuation and spelling. Students will also be asked to reflect on why they felt their story was important to tell.
Visit Story Arts for storytelling ideas, lesson plans, rubrics and other valuable resources.
"Shake It to the One That You Love the Best: Play Songs and Lullabies" by Cheryl Warren Mattox
"A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman" by David A. Adler
"Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt" by Deborah Hopkinson
Reading Rainbow: Follow the Drinking Gourd
Runaway slaves journey north along the Underground Railroad by following directions in a song, “The Drinking Gourd.” Host LeVar Burton celebrates the road to freedom paved by the Underground Railroad, introducing viewers to the history, heroes, stories and music of the African American culture which emerged from slavery. An a cappella group, Sweet Honey In The Rock, perform and share their historical knowledge of slavery.
You may view these episode segments with Windows Media Player (for Windows or Mac)
Field Trip Segment: LeVar Burton introduces us to the history, heroes, stories, and music of the African American culture which emerged from slavery.
Feature Book Segment: "Follow the Drinking Gourd" by Jeanette Winter. Due to copyright restrictions, this segment is not available for download.
Music Segment: Members of the a capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, perform and share their knowledge of slavery.
Book Reviews Segment: Discover other great books about African American culture, history, and music.
Curriculum Enrichment Ideas:
Reading Rainbow: The Importance of Storytelling Lesson Plan
This lesson shows how African Americans escaping slavery used storytelling to communicate and it encourages students to write stories to be passed on.
Follow the Drinking Gourd Family Activities PDF
Feature Book: "Follow the Drinking Gourd" by Jeanette Winter
Underground Railroad: The William Still Story - WNED production with lesson plans, video and other resources
Footsteps to Freedom A delegation of educators from Southern California retraced the treacherous trails followed by fugitive slaves seeking freedom in Canada in the years before the Civil War. During the journey, which took them through Buffalo, NY, they posted daily entries, photos, and reflections.
PBS: Africans in America
Reading Rainbow: Freedom to Become
The Arts, English Language Arts, Career Development and Occupational Studies, Social Studies
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Three to five 40 minute class periods
How do we achieve the goal of becoming what we want to become?
simple musical instruments (triangle, tambourine, kazoo)
word processing, graphics software and electronic keyboard or midi software for technology integration options
Reading Rainbow: Ruth Law Thrills a Nation Program Information
Freedom to Become Rubric PDF
Ask students what they want to be when they grow up. Each student will respond verbally in turn. Tell students that they are going to watch a segment of "Reading Rainbow: Ruth Law Thrills a Nation" in which 17-year-old high school student, Lizann Neptune, fulfills her dreams to become a pilot. While viewing the segment, students should focus on what Lizann has to do to make her dream come true.
Students will view the Field Trip Segment of Reading Rainbow: Ruth Law Thrills a Nation (requires Windows Media Player (for Windows or Mac).
After viewing the video, students will share what they thought Lizann had to do to make her dream a reality. Make a list of all the things that could have prevented her from becoming a pilot.
Explain that sometimes people have to fight for the right to be what they want to be. Women and African Americans had to work long and hard to become pilots.
Have students discuss the following questions: What is a road block and what are some of the road blocks people face? How would you feel if someone told you that you could not be what you wanted to be?
Students will then choose one of the learning styles projects and work in collaborative pairs. See the project descriptions below. All pairs will share their projects with the class.
Ask students to answer the following questions: What did you learn about yourself and your classmates? What did you learn about overcoming road blocks and attaining your goals?
Learning Styles Project Descriptions
Create a Big Book
You and your partner will create a Big Book, using the large construction paper for the pages. Before beginning the project, share with each other what you want to become. Design a cover which shows both of you doing what you want to do. You will be the characters in your Big Book. Your cover needs a title. Make sure that you have one complete sentence per page. The pictures should show:
Write a Story
You and your partner will write a story. If you choose this option, make sure you write neatly, spell correctly, and use complete sentences. Before beginning your project, share with each other what you want to become. Think of a title for your story. Each of you will be a character in your story. The story should have:
Act it Out
You and your partner will act out a play for the class. Before beginning your project, share with each other what you want to become. Each of you is a character in this play. What is the title of your play? The play should have:
You and your partner will build two shoe box scenes. Before beginning your project, share with each other what you want to become. You may plan your scenes as storyboard sketches using paper and pencil or the appropriate software. Each of you is a character in each shoe box scene. The first shoe box scene should include:
The second shoe box scene should include:
Sing a Song
Your and your partner will write and sing a song. Before beginning your project, share with each other what you want to become. Each of you is a character in the song. You need to have musical accompaniment (as simple as clapping, a tambourine, triangle, kazoo, or an electronic keyboard or midi software) to go with your song. Your song needs to tell a story with the following elements:
Students will be evaluated based on their participation in group discussion, ability to speak in turn, ability to listen and ability to watch the video quietly. Teachers will use the Freedom to Become Rubric to assess the learning styles projects.
Reading Rainbow: Ruth Law Thrills a Nation
This true story describes the record-breaking flight of a daring woman pilot, Ruth Law, from Chicago to New York in 1916. LeVar takes viewers on a trip through time from the barnstorming days and flying machines of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to get her pilot’s license, to modern aviation machines and female pilots. Viewers will also see a teenage pilot who takes to the air for the first time, following in the footsteps of the great women who went before her. (This segment of the program is available for download and viewing - see below.)
Field Trip Segment Watch as teenage pilot, Lizann Neptune, takes to the air for her first solo flight. (Requires Windows Media Player for Windows or Mac).
Curriculum Enrichment Ideas:
Reading Rainbow: Freedom to Become Lesson Plan
Students will watch an online video segment about a high school student who fulfills her dream of becoming a pilot, then work together to learn about overcoming road blocks and attaining goals.
Math Guide PDF
Teachers Guide PDF
Activity: Accomplishing a difficult task is usually more meaningful than completing an easy one. Have students describe something that was difficult for them to do (or learn to do) and how they managed to succeed. Have students compare an easy task they completed with one that was more difficult to accomplish.
Family Activities PDF
Feature Book: "Ruth Law Thrills a Nation" by Don Brown
Reading Rainbow: Is There Such a Thing as a "Good" Microbe?
One 40 minute class period
Can microbes be beneficial?
Reading Rainbow: Germs Make Me Sick
flexcam or digital microscope
prepared slides of microorganisms
There are microorganisms everywhere in our world. Some of these microorganisms cause disease and are classified as germs. Many are beneficial and are necessary for healthy plants and animals. In this lesson students will learn about microbes (good & bad) and get a handle on the fact that microbes are necessary for our living environment.
After this lesson, students should be able to:
Before class begins write two questions on the board.
1) What are microorganisms?
2) Are all microorganisms harmful?
Leave room to add student answers. Also prepare a microscope slide with pond water and make sure you can see some microorganisms as examples. Hook –up the flex cam so students can see the slide on the TV or computer. Do not show the students the microorganisms until after the first video clip as written below.
Activating Prior Knowledge
As class begins ask the students to copy the questions onto a blank piece of paper (or into their science journal), making sure to leave plenty of room for notes (suggest that one question be written at the top of the page and the second near the middle of the page). Have students write down an answer based on what they already know.
View and Do
When students are done, show the Mystery Germs portion of Reading Rainbow: Germs Make Me Sick. After the clip is over, have students revise the answers to the questions based on what they just saw. While students revise their answers, set-up the microscope to make sure the slide is visible.
Introduce the microscope. Talk about the various parts. Take the microscope slide and show the students the microorganisms either using the pond water or the professionally prepared ameba or hydra slide. See if they can identify the creatures on their own.
Ask the question. “So, are all microorganisms harmful?” Let students share their answers but ask them if anyone knows of any good microorganisms. Show the students the second clip called Visit the Medical Lab but only to the 4 minute 20 second mark. Ask the questions again and allow students to revise their previous answers. If available, show a slide of good bacteria using the microscope. Talk about the good bacteria.
Now ask “Can anyone think of an example of bacteria being used for a positive use?” Write down student answers and then show the students the final clip called Visit the Farm. After the clip is over, have students list the ways that microorganisms can be beneficial.
Now ask the students “Based on what we did today, did you find anything out about microorganisms that you think was really surprising?” Write this down on your question paper or in your journals. What measures can we take to avoid germs (harmful microorganisms)? Have students record these ideas on their paper or in their journals.
Answer the two questions
If you have a classroom set of microscopes, have students look for microorganisms from other sources. Be careful to monitor the items so students do not use potentially harmful substances.
In addition to teacher observations of student work on questions paper or journal entries and responses to the class discussion, students will answer the 2 homework questions:
Also, students should be able to answer the following questions, either as part of a class discussion or a written assessment: