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Nurturing Informed Thinking – Two New Books, One Big Question

TWO NEW BOOKS. ONE BIG QUESTION. A grand opportunity to nurture informed thinking. Below, see suggestions for an interactive read aloud as well as notes on the similarities and differences between these two books.

Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams (Bryant, 2018)

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams (Cline-Ransome, 2018)

Both titles explore the relationship of these two sisters and their climb to the top of their field. Both titles explore themes related to perseverance (working towards a goal even when the going gets tough or difficult), the importance of friendship, working as a team, ignoring distractions, what it means to be a champion, etc.

Suggestions for Interactive Read Aloud (3rd -5th grade) –

  1. Read aloud Sisters and Champions – this book is shorter and a good introduction to what these two women accomplished (and the role of their father in their journey). Pause for the students to talk in groups. You might prompt them with questions like, “What are you thinking? Why?” or “What did you just learn that is jumping out at you as important? Why do you think so?”
  2. Then share the cover of Game Changers. Ask the students to discuss what they think this book will be about; ask them to make predictions based on what they learned from the first book.
  3. Then post this big question “Why read both books?” for students to consider as they listen to you read aloud Game Changers (this may take more than one session depending on how long you have). You don’t have to have THE answer to “Why read both books?” Let yourself be surprised by what the students say–and then nudge them to say more. As you read aloud,  stop at various points and revisit the big question by asking, “What are you thinking now? Why might you be glad you read both books?”
  4. If you think students need additional scaffolds to engage in this type of thinking, then you might –
    • Think aloud about what you are noticing or what is jumping out to you (see ideas below)
    • Post a two-page layout from each book for students to think about carefully and then discuss with each other (see some examples in suggestions below)
    • Leave the books in a special place for student-partners to return to and reread and talk about for themselves. You might post questions like,
      • “What did you learn that makes you think these sisters were good friends?” (for younger students)
      • “How do the authors reveal the sisters’ tight friendship?”
      • “How do both authors reveal that the sisters were ‘game changers’?” (for older students)
      • “Which book would you recommend to a friend? Or do they need to read both? Why?”
    • Read aloud sections (even just a sentence or two) and ask students to share their thinking.

How are these books similar and different? A few notes –

  • In Sisters & Champions, Bryant does not explicitly address the dangerous Compton neighborhood the sisters lived in when they were very young and had just started playing tennis. In Game Changers, Cline-Ransome does – on the second two-page spread and another a few pages later (see images below). If students miss this difference, you might pose the question, “What did you just add to your learning?” or “What does this author add to what we know about these two sisters?” and “What does this new information make you think?”

  • BOTH authors include how people in the community LAUGHED at the sisters’ father, Richard. You might post both spreads and ask students, “Why do you think both authors included this point? What does that make you think? Why is your thinking about this important?” If it’s helpful, post the two-page spread from each book that describes this and ask students to share with you what they notice. (You might also help them notice how Bryant uses the repeating, capitalized phrase “THEY LAUGHED.”)

  • Both of the authors reveal the close bond of these sisters, making this point clear or illustrating this point at different points in the books (when the sisters are younger and when they are older).
  • At various points in both books, both of the authors get at the idea of the sisters (and their father) being “game changers” (defined as a person or idea who transforms accepted rules or way things are done…).
  • Both books reveal the sisters’ determination & perseverance–at multiple points in their lives/careers. Each author chooses specific events that reveal this; some of the events in both books overlap.
  • Bryant addresses the health setbacks of both women towards the end of the narrative; Cline-Ransome addresses these setbacks in the “afterword.” This afterword also includes notes about the sisters’ social activism. Might be interesting to see what older students say in response to “Why read the afterword, too?”

There’s so much more I’d like to say about both of these books – individually and as a duo. Read for yourself and you’ll notice how rich they are with meaning. JOY.

YOU COULD DO THIS KIND OF LESSON with two (well written, trade book)  biographies on any person and the question, ‘WHY READ BOTH BOOKS?” You don’t have to have all of the answers. Like I said, trust your students to notice and/or nudge them a little with your own thinking.

I describe this approach in more detail in Nurturing Informed Thinking . Hope this helps. I’m hoping to write more entries like this with some quick ideas/suggestions with actual texts and brief notes about how the texts are different/similar. Stay tuned.

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