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3 Steps – Launching Students into Reading Multiple Sources

Kids FALL IN LOVE with reading multiple sources on a topic–once we introduce them to the idea. So how do we get them hooked? In a way that’s manageable for us? Could it be as simple as these three steps and a set of 2-3 books on the same topic?

(Attached as a word doc at end of this blog entry.)


Below is a sample plan – three lessons with three books about the artist Frida Kahlo.

TEXT #1: Frida written by Jonah Winter & illustrated by Ana Juan (2002)

ABOUT THE BOOK – “Frida enters the world. For little Frida, the world is Mexico. Her house is a blue house. It is in the town of Coyoacan.”

This book can serve as an introduction to Frida Kahlo, a female artist who used her art to help her get through a debilitating childhood illness and terrible bus accident later in life. Winter’s writing is straight forward, easily understood by a k-2 audience. The power of this book is in the illustrations—Ana Juan reveals the power of Kahlo’s imagination, the daily presence of this imagination, the way this imagination and the resulting art moved her forward in life. NOTE – Winter’s focus on Kahlo’s pain and suffering may feel overwhelming—with a young audience, I’d focus on Kahlo’s courage and the hope she must have felt.

1. INTERACTIVE READ ALOUD, provide time for students to look at the illustrations and NOTICE. Questions you might pose for turn-and-talk:

  • How do the imaginary characters on each page reveal how Kahlo is feeling? What makes you think so? Why do you think so? 
  • What did you just learn about Kahlo’s life? How does the illustration reveal what the author wrote in the text? How does it add to the author’s words?

2. SHARED LISTING – Engage young students in a shared writing of a list of what they learned about Kahlo. Jot phrases or short notes – just enough to trigger students’ thinking when they decide what to write for a response. Depending on your students, you might have to flip to different parts of the book or reread specific parts as a reminder. If students can easily recall what they read, you might skip this step (or skip in future lessons).

During the shared listing, NOTICE WHAT THE STUDENTS RECALL – just the literal within-the-text details (e.g., “she was sick when she was a kid” and “she started to draw when she was sick in bed as a kid”)? Or the beyond-the-text details (e.g., “she used drawing as a way to make herself happy instead of sad”)? Based on what you notice, think aloud to push students’ thinking with statements like, “I learned that Frida Kahlo learned to draw when she was sick and stuck in bed and that this helped her feel less sorrowful.”

During your conversations, INSERT TIER-TWO VOCABULARY students might find helpful in explaining their thinking: sorrowful, despair, imaginative, creative, curious, perseverant.

3. BEGIN A CUMULATIVE RESPONSE – Provide a larger piece of blank paper (11X17 or so). Ask students to think about what they’d like to remember from this book– they can use the list of learning that you all created together as a reference. They might write and/or sketch & label. They will be returning to this after each read aloud to make additional notes and sketches.

TEXT #2: Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos written by Monica Brown & illustrated by John Parra (2017)

ABOUT THE BOOK – The book begins with “This is the story of a little girl named Frida who grew up to be one of the most famous painters of all time. Frida was special. This is also the story of two monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn. They were Frida’s pets, and they were special too.”

If you’ve already read aloud Frida (Winter, 2002), there should be a lot of “oohing” and “aahing” as students listen to you read Monica Brown’s book and notice similar facts. This book is also an opportunity to explore a different aspect of Kahlo’s life – her numerous pets. Brown uses Kahlo’s numerous pets as a lens for describing Kahlo’s personality traits. For example, like her pet fawn, Frida had “watchful, beautiful eyes” which she used as a child learning to take photographs with her father as she observed the world curiously. Like her two spider monkeys, she was mischievous like when she…and so forth. Through this lens, Brown introduces/reviews key points in Kahlo’s life—her relationship with her father, her illness as a child, the tragic accident when she was a young adult, her famous family home La Casa Azul. John Parra’s illustrations are vivid and appropriately engaging for a young audience. Students could learn a lot just by looking at the illustrations.

1. INTERACTIVE READ ALOUD – Before reading aloud provide time for students to look at a few of the illustrations and begin to notice similarities and differences with the first book. During the read aloud stop at key points and pose questions for turn-and-talk:

  • What does this author share that you learned in Yuyi Morales’ Frida? What is new information you are learning?
  • What is different about this author’s book?
  • How does Monica Brown use Kahlo’s pets as a way to teach us about the kind of person Kahlo was?

2. RETURN TO SHARED LISTING – Review the list from the first read aloud and then pose the question, “What have we added to our learning?” Continue to notice the types of responses students share (within text? beyond? about?), coach and think aloud as needed, and insert helpful vocabulary. Close with questions like

  • What happened to our learning when we read a 2nd text about this person?
  • What would we have not learned if we’d just read the one text?

3. RETURN TO CUMULATIVE RESPONSE – Ask students to return to their written or sketched responses and ADD additional notes, sketches. Pose questions like What can you add to your response that reveals learned more about Frida Kahlo?

TEXT #3: Viva text & art by Yuyi Morales (2014)

ABOUT THE BOOK – With a word or phrase on each two-page layout as well as a photograph of a three-dimensional puppet diorama on each page, this book focuses on how Kahlo experienced art, creativity, her life. She did this by looking closely at the world – “Veo” – “I see” and by dreaming – “Sueno” – “I dream” and by feeling – “sienta” – “I feel” and so forth. Very abstract for a young audience but if you’ve read aloud Frida (Winter, 2002) and Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos (Brown, 2017), your students will have a lot of background knowledge to bring to this text.

1. INTERACTIVE READ ALOUD. With any of these books, you might just read them aloud a first time with very few (if any) stopping points so students can get a feel for the whole book; then read aloud a second time. For this book, you might pose questions like:

  • What do you notice? and the students might notice the abundance of animals in Morales’ book; they might also think about how Kahlo was emotionally attached to and like her pets in many ways (a theme in Brown’s book) and use that to engage in some higher-level thinking about the ideas in Viva.
  • A follow-up question to ask is What does that make you think? and/or Why do you think so?
  • If students are not making the connections, then you might need to ask, “What have you already learned about Frida Kahlo that you can use to help you make sense of this book?”
  • You might also need to THINK ALOUD about your own beyond-the-text (inferential, interpretive) thinking.

2. RETURN TO SHARED LISTING – Pose the question, “What have we added to our learning?” Continue to notice the types of responses, coach and think aloud as needed, and insert helpful vocabulary. Close with questions like What happened to our learning when we read a 3rd text about this person? Or What would we have not learned if we’d just read the first or second text?

3. RETURN TO CUMULATIVE RESPONSE – Ask students to think about what they can add to their written or sketched response.


The titles about Kahlo fit nicely into a text set about artists who have overcome obstacles in life to pursue being an artist and who have used art as a sort of therapy to heal or make sense of their world. These titles may just be a gateway into contemplating the question, “What am I adding to my learning?” as I read-view-listen to more than one source on a topic. The trick is to sustain conversation around this type of thinking. For grades 1-3 (and even older ;)) students, a few suggestions:

  • Place these titles and additional titles about Kahlo in a bin for students to partner-read or look through on their own. Striving readers can gather new information from the illustrations in these books; you may need to model how to do this. Place the shared writing list nearby with sticky notes for students to add notes about their “new learning” and/or ask them to add to their cumulative responses.
  • During reading conferences with students’ self-selected books, look for opportunities to ask questions like “How does this character remind you of…?” or “Does what’s happening in this book make you think of other books you’ve read? How does that help you as a reader?”
  • Develop a set of additional titles on other historical figures for students to read with a partner or on their own as they ponder questions like “How is this person similar to Kahlo?” or “How is this person also perseverant?” Examples of titles about other artists – Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story, The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin. (These titles are linked to my reviews at Goodreads; my reviews include suggestions for questions to ask during interactive read alouds. I also have a Goodreads shelf “bio-visual-artists” that might have some other helpful titles.)
  • Engage in a similar instructional routine with short video clips about Kahlo and then provide other clips for students to listen-view on their own and add to their cumulative response.

This series of lessons is based on several ideas I explain further Nurturing Informed Thinking: Reading, Talking & Writing Across Content-Area Texts. If you have a copy of this book, you might look at Lesson Idea 1 “Realize the Value of Reading More Than One Source on a Topic” in Chapter 3 for another text set and sample lesson!

Hope this helps.


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