Multicultural Read Aloud

Halee Buckingham

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"Ellen's Broom" by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter was published in 2012 by The Penguin Group.

The read aloud is planned for third graders. "Ellen's Broom" focuses on the time when freed slaves who were married were finally allowed to have their unions legally recognize. This book follows the story of a young girl as she learns about the tradition of jumping over a broom and of how she has her family continue the tradition even after they could be legally married. This book received the 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book award.

This book portrays cultural accuracy and authenticity of characters because it is a historical fiction piece that uses the facts from the time period to write the story. The events actually happened and the tradition of jumping the broom has continued until today, so it is something that people can relate to. The entire story is written about a minority group: African Americans. The characters aren't included in the book simply to give it more diversity, but are utilized for the purpose of discussing an old tradition within African American culture. "Ellen's Broom" is beautifully illustrated and therefore is appealing for anyone who reads it.

Jump over broom - married!

Background Preparation

Kelly Starling Lyons grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a child, her family encouraged her to express her feelings so she kept a diary. Her diary quickly turned into poems and stories. Lyons wanted to be a writer every since. Lyons said that growing up, she never saw books with main characters that looked like her and that was something that she wanted to change. Ellen's Broom is just one of her books with an African American young lady as the main character. Daniel Minter, the illustrator of "Ellen's Broom," has illustrated nine children's books and has won awards for a few of them, including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award and the Carter G. Woodson Honor Book Award.

"Ellen's Broom" is set in the time period when freed slaves were still denied the same rights as whites. The main idea of this book is that even old traditions are important because they remind us of who we are. After Ellen's parents have their marriage legally recognized by the government, Ellen wants them to jump over the broom again. Her parents are wary of this because they don't believe that they need to do it anymore, but Ellen reminds them that the past is important because it reminds them of where they come from and where they are going. This is a real tradition in African American culture, and one that is continued to be performed at weddings today.

Procedures for Implementing the Read Aloud and Vocabulary Presentation

Vocabulary Words: Slavery, Tradition

1. State behavioral expectations.

2. Have the students move from their desk to the carpet area. Call for one table at a time so as to avoid a large commotion.

3. Once the students are settled in, say to them, “Today we will be reading a book called Ellen’s Broom, but before we can read the book, we have to go over a couple important words.” Explain to the students that we will have a small discussion about the words before we read the book so that we can have a deeper understanding of the book.

4. Begin by explaining to the students that we have to learn some history with one of these words. Ask the students, “Why did African Americans first come to America?” Take one or two answers. If the students do not give the correct answers explain, “African Americans were first brought to America to be slaves.” Show the students the small poster that contains the word “slavery” as you explain this.

5. Now, ask the students, “Did people in slavery have the same rights as people who were free? Can you give any examples?”

6. Say to the students, “One thing that African Americans were not allowed to do as slaves was get married, which is what our story will be about today.”

7. Continue by saying, “Since African Americans could not get married, they came up with their own tradition to symbolize marriage.” Hold up the small poster with the word tradition printed on it. Then ask, “Can anyone explain to me what a tradition is?”

8. Take a few of the students’ answers. Then explain, “A tradition is something that is passed down from one generation to the next.”

9. State, “In Ellen’s Broom, we will learn about the tradition that African Americas created for marriage.”

10. Before beginning the book, inform the students, “After we finish reading, I’m going to ask you why you think Ellen’s family kept their family traditions even after the United States allowed them to legally get married. Pay close attention to the text so that you can come up with an answer when I’m finished.”

11. Read Ellen’s Broom.

12. Ask the students, “Can anyone tell me what I told you I was going to ask you about after we finished reading?”

13. Whether the student answers correctly or not, repeat the question, “Why do you think Ellen’s family continued to jump over the broom even after they could get legally married?”

14. Take a few answers and give a further explanation if necessary.

15. Tell the students, “Every culture has traditions, even families. My family has a tradition that every Christmas Eve we get new pajamas. We have to wear those pajamas that night so that we can wake up Christmas morning in our new pajamas, ready for pictures.

16. Give the students a minute to think about their own family traditions. Have the students give a thumbs up if they have an example.

17. Once a majority of the students have their thumbs up, say, “Before we move back to our desks, I want to go over with you what you will be doing. When you get back to your desk, I want you to put everything away except for a pencil. I will come around and hand each of you a piece of paper. You just took a minute to come up with a family tradition that you have. After you are seated with your desk cleared and I have given you the paper, I would like for you to take a few minutes to write about your family tradition.” Tell the students that they have to write at least four sentences.

18. Inform the students that if they finish writing, they should let me come around and check their work. If they have completed the assignment and have extra time, they may draw a picture of their family tradition, but they must write first.

19. Have the students return to their desks. As they are clearing them, walk around the room and give students who are ready their paper to write about their family tradition.

20. Check student’s work to make sure that they have written four complete sentences that make sense. Allow those students to draw a picture of their family tradition until the rest of the class has finished or we run out of time.

Written Reflection

About half of my class is African American, so I wanted to pick a book that reflected their heritage. I also liked that the main character of the story was a young girl, making the story even more relatable to the young African American girls in the classroom. The main reason that I chose Ellen's Broom was because it talked about creating a family tradition. The students loved hearing about African Americans jumping the broom at their weddings because it was something that they had never heard of before. They could relate to the story even more because the tradition of broom jumping still occurs today.

Ellen's Broom was beautifully illustrated and well written. The students were more attentive than I anticipated throughout reading the book and even through the discussions. The students could relate to the book because it looked at family traditions, which all the students have. After reading the book, the students wrote about a family tradition that they had. If we had time, the students would have shared some of their traditions with the class, but we ran out of time for that to be included in the lesson.

The next time I perform a read aloud, I plan to practice my talking points a little more. I had a very busy week before I presented my read aloud, so I was not able to practice reading the book and leading the class discussions like I hoped to. There were a couple times that I stumbled over my words while reading the book and a few times that I forgot where I wanted to lead the students in the class discussion. I want to make sure that I am prepared to teach my students because it is unfair to them and their learning for me not to be.

Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me to learn more about each student individually. After the read aloud I had the students take a few minutes to write about their own family traditions and I learned a lot about their home lives from this activity. I didn't think that this would be a hard activity for the students to complete, but some of them really struggled with it. I did not take into account that many of the students don't have a great home life and may not have many family traditions. My choice of book was great because the students all really enjoyed hearing and learning about the tradition of broom jumping, but I want to make sure that in the future I am more aware of the diverse backgrounds of my students when I plan activities.