In the Elementary Classroom: Unit Study on Patricia Polacco
Background information on Polacco
You can start your unit study on Patricia Polacco by sharing one of the books about her as a child such as Thank You, Mr. Falker or My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother. Once you read one of these with your students, explain that you will be doing a unit study on Patricia Polacco, who is an author and an illustrator. Ask students if they ever heard of her and show them some of her books. They may recognize a title or her style of art even if they don't recognize her name. The Patricia Polacco website is a must for sharing background information with your students. On this site, you will find information about who she is, her inspirations, her home, her studio, and her creative process. If you have a Smart Board in your room, you can show your students photos of her hard at work.
Once your students have learned information about Patricia Polacco, the author, ask them to make a poster about one interesting fact they learned. (Chances are, they won't be able to choose just one!) You can hang these on a bulletin board during your unit study on Patricia Polacco.
Patricia Polacco books
The best thing about a unit study on Patricia Polacco is you get to share her books with your students and read them yourself at the same time. Also on her website is a list of all the books she has written, a synopsis of the books, coloring pages, and activities to go with most of them.
Here are the titles of some Patricia Polacco books she has written about her family members or herself:
- The Butterfly
- Pink and Say
- Chicken Sunday
- Thunder Cake
- Thank You, Mr. Falker
- My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother
- Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare
You can use these books to teach realistic fiction, personal narratives, story details, character traits, and more.
- Rechenka's Eggs
- Uncle Vova's Tree
- Applemando's Dreams
- Babushka Baba Yaga
- Oh, Look
- Luba and the Wren
You can use these books to teach about fiction that's not realistic (depending on the book--fantasy or fable elements), climax of a story, word choice, and voice in your unit study on Patricia Polacco.
You can use Patricia Polacco books and activities to teach students writing and reading skills as well as art techniques. Here are some general activities you can do after reading several books.
- Ask students to illustrate a family moment in the style of Patricia Polacco.
- Use Patricia Polacco books as an example of a personal narrative. Many children pick too broad a topic when they write their personal narratives (such as their entire life story from birth to the present grade). Patricia Polacco writes about many childhood memories in her picture books, and she always focuses on one specific time or event in her life, such as when she learned to not be scared of storms or she learned to read.
- Assign students to retell a legend, fable, or tale in their own words like Patricia Polacco does in several of her books. Students can pick an easy tale like The Three Little Pigs or an unknown one.
Students can also do activities with specific books. This means that you read them a Patricia Polacco book, or they read one on their own and then do an activity that goes with the book. There are several different Patricia Polacco books and activities to choose from. Here are some examples:
- G is for Goat--This is an ABC book about goats. For younger children, they can pick their favorite letter and goat word, write a sentence about it, and draw their own illustrations. For older children, they can create their own ABC book in a small group focused on a different animal or place where animals live such as a jungle or farm.
- Meteor--This book is about a meteor that lands in the middle of Grandma and Grandpa Maw's yard and sets off a chain reaction of events that bring magic to the residents of Mudsock Meadow. Students can write their own stories about what it would be like to have a meteor land in their yard. You can also discuss what it means when books and movies say "based on a true story" because this book is based on a true story.
- My Ol' Man--This one of Patricia Polacco's books is about her dad and the year he discovered an ancient rock with mysterious lines that he thinks are magic. You can study word choice with this book (if you are working on the 6 plus 1 traits of writing). Ask students to pick out their five favorite words in the story and be able to explain to the class why they chose those words. Make a class list of Polacco words and hang them on the wall.
Patricia Polacco books and activities will provide you with plenty of material to study, teach, and enjoy with your students for the entire unit.