Cultural Read Aloud

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Talking Notes/Instructional Sequence-A Read Aloud for First Grade Students.

  1. Let's CHAMP our activity first grade. Our conversation level will be zero, no talking, unless I call on you to speak. If you need help or have a question, please raise your hand. But remember…I will be asking you questions too, and sometimes your questions get answered by the book or your friends. It's best just to listen. This activity is listening to the teacher read a story to you and discovering vocabulary words. Our movement will be NONE. We need to stay criss-cross applesauce, spoons in the bowl. I need everyone to participate by either listening or answering questions or both. Our success will be hearing a great story!
  2. During the CHAMP discussion, the teacher will have a couple of feathers in her hair. Of course the students notice this, but she will simply pretend that nothing is wrong.
  3. The name of this book is The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County, by Janice N. Harrington. The pictures are by Shelley Jackson. SHOW the book to the students. "Ok, what do you notice about the cover of the book?" (There's a girl on it!! She has feathers in her hair!) "Yes, there is a girl and she has feathers in her hair. Good? What else do you notice?" (She has bows in her hair. There are leaves or feathers on the book.) "What do you see on the back?" (A chicken!!) "Why do you think the girl has feathers in her hair? Let's go see…" The teacher will then refer to the feathers and say "Oh, is this what you're talking about?? I wonder how that happened?"
  4. DEFINE County on the first page. Define hen when we first see Miss Hen. Then define Rooster. Show the students a large colored cardboard card that says hen. Give the board to one student and ask him/her to hold the card up whenever we hear the word hen. (Do the same with rooster and county, for two other students.) ASK "Looking at this picture, do you think she lives in a city? Where do you think she lives?" (a farm, in the country.) Review County as the place where the farm is. At the introduction of the hen, the teacher will give each student a feather to put on their heads and to keep.
  5. ASK about the chicken coop. "Does anyone know what this farm building is called?" (a chicken coop.) "What is a chicken coop used for?" Discuss nests, laying eggs, and review hen. ASK "The chicken chaser talked about 'chicken thoughts.' So what do you think chickens eat?" (corn kernels, cornbread, worms, bugs.)
  6. ASK "Does anyone know what a summer cookstove is?" (An outdoor stove used for cooking meals outside in the summer) "Why do you think they cooked meals outside during the summer?" (It's hot and cooking outside keeps the inside of the house a bit cooler.)
  7. ASK "Why is the hen hiding with her new chicks?" (To keep them safe.)
  8. And "Why is she watching out for weasels and snakes?" (Because they might steal the eggs.) Stress the "happy" ending of the story.
  9. REVIEW hen, rooster, and county.

Vocabulary Words: hen-the name for a female chicken; rooster-the name for a male chicken; county-a part of (division of) a state.

Book Information, Multicultural Strengths, and Reflection on Read Aloud

Book Information:

The Author, Ms. Harrington grew up in rural Alabama, eventually moving to Nebraska, which provided the backdrop for the themes in her literary works. She has earned degrees in Education and Library Science and is the head of Children's Services at the Champaign Public Library. She is also a professional storyteller and blogger with her own website (See link below.) The Illustrator, Ms. Jackson, has written and illustrated several picture books, as well as a collection of short stories called The Melancholy of Anatomy, the hypertext novel Patchwork Girl and the Wave, and skin. The Lexile Level of this book is 620, or 3rd grade; the interest level is K-3. It was released in 2007.

Interestingly, some new cultural information that I learned from researching this book was the use of a summer cookstove on farms during the summer months. The cookstove is an outdoor stove, placed several feet away from the farmhouse, used to cook outside in an attempt to keep the inside of the (un-airconditioned) farmhouse cooler.

Multicultural References:

This book has several references to a rural or farm culture. The beginning pages show chickens just outside of the house waiting to be fed. There are pictures that show farm equipment, a chicken coop, a rain water barrel, a summer cooking stove, a pond near the house, very tall grass, and a hen's nest with chicks. The last pages of the book show and discuss throwing out corn to feed the chickens in the early morning. All of these details depict rural or country life well. The author does not mention what state in which this book is set, but further research revealed that the location is Lamar County Georgia, the childhood home of the author.

The multicultural strengths of this book, according to Hancock's Evaluation Criteria include:

1. The book portrays the Chicken Chaser (the young girl) as someone who is very familiar with rural life. She discusses her morning routine on the farm, she speaks of running through the field of tall grass and of sitting by the pond. Throughout the book there are many details (listed above) that show the differences of a farm culture to a city culture. The Chicken Chaser is a believable country girl.

2. The young girl is African American as is her grandmother. These are the only two human characters in the book and although there is no interaction with those of other cultures, these characters are not being used to "fill a quota" in this book. These characters make up the entire story. The two portray a loving, jovial, close relationship not unlike the relationships with grandmothers that my students have explained to me,

3. This book has a very appealing format. The illustrator uses partial realism in drawing the characters but also uses different fabric designs and even typed words as the "colors" of the chickens and the feathers. There are several different fonts, colors, and textures used in some of the print in the book. These off-beat letters are used to show exclamations and chicken sounds very effectively. The fact that the Chicken Chaser begins to understand and respect the role of the chickens on the farm makes the ending of the book very endearing.


1. I chose this book for the multicultural read aloud because I knew that the majority of my students would relate to the main characters. All but three of my students (out of 17) are African American, as are the main characters of the story. In the story a grandmother and a grand daughter live together on a farm. Through my interactions with the students I had discovered that the majority of my students have close contact with their grandmothers and seven of the children live with their grandmothers. I felt that this book was a good match for the students' funds of knowledge, or personal experience. I also chose this book for it's setting on a rural farm. I wanted my students to learn about a culture with which they were not familiar. The farm life and rural living shown in the book provided this culture.

2. Presenting this book to the students was quite simply fun! The students were very excited when we began. I started by showing the cover of the book and questioning them about what they saw and what they thought might be in the story. I was flooded with questions and the students were very excited about the story. The book held their attention very well, as the beginning pages were funny and the ending pages held a bit of mystery in looking for and finding the hen. And finding the hen with chicks was very exciting for the children.

3. During future read alouds, I will plan ahead for very excited and exuberant students. I had spoken with my CT about her classroom procedures as well as her redirection techniques, However, I was a bit surprised at their level of excitement and I had to create my own system, on the fly, for handling the children. I was successful, but I would have felt better if I had foreseen this and planned for this.

4. Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me to understand the importance of the students "seeing themselves" portrayed in teaching materials as well as the importance of learning about diverse cultures and places. I saw that the students were hungry for the story and they had lots of questions about farm life. But I also think it was comforting to the students to see that the main characters were African Americans. My students asked many questions about farm life which showed me that they were listening and interested.

For your information...

This is a picture of the author, Janice Harrington, when she was eight years old. The illustrator, Shelley Jackson, used this picture as a model for The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County.

The following is a list of awards for The chicken chasing queen of Lamar County:

Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, Irma S. and James H. Black Award Honor Book, CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI), Charlotte Zolotow Award / Highly Commended, Parents' Choice Award Winner, Booklist Editors' Choice, Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List, Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice, Arkansas Charlie May Simon Master List, Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens, GA Picture Storybook Award ML, Illinois Monarch Award: K-3 Children's Choice Award Master List, Indiana Young Hoosier Award Master List, Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award Maser List, NYPLC Children's Books 100, Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List, Tennessee Intermediate Volunteer State Book Award Master List, Vermont Red Clover Children's Choice Award Master List, Virginia Young Readers Award Master List