I recently bought a house. After 12 years of moving around a total of 13 times, when I finally moved into my new house, I had the process down to a science. Always focused on the details of the move, I was never emotional about leaving one dwelling and moving to another. Filled with frequent change, the 20s and 30s are naturally transient times in the lives of many adults, and we can forget how emotionally hard moving can be for young children. Moving houses, cities or states means that a child’s sense of place, routine and familiar touchstones are significantly altered.
The following three picture books validate feelings children experience during the moving process. Offering affirmation and encouragement, these are excellent vehicles for opening up classroom discussion about life changes—moving or otherwise—with your students.
Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Chris Sasaki
Using simple and lyrical prose, author Stephanie Parsley Ledyard reflects on what it is that turns a house into a home as a girl prepares to move. “Home is a window, a doorway, a rug, a basket for your shoes . . . a table, with something good, and the people gathered there,” her young protagonist explains. But what happens when you must leave the safety and comfort of your home? As the girl discovers, home is more than just a physical dwelling. It’s the people, shared experiences and seemingly trivial routines that make a home. With understated perceptiveness and vivid language, this is a powerful book that is sure to prompt discussion about the qualities that turn a physical structure (house or classroom) into a home.
- Five Senses Poetry
The little girl discusses both tangible and intangible things that are “home.” Discuss the differences between tangible and intangible. As a class, reread the book and chart the tangible and intangible items on a piece of chart paper. Briefly review the five senses, and draw a picture (for younger grades) or write the sense next to each thing listed on the chart (long quiet = sound, lamplight = sight). Give students a graphic organizer with a box for each of the five senses. Allow time for children to quietly reflect on their own home and the tangible and intangible things that make it special. Give students another five senses graphic organizer for them to fill out when they are home. Encourage them to spend time intentionally noticing the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes of their home. How does home make them feel? Students will use their graphic organizers to write their own “Home is . . . ” poem.
- Urban and Suburban Art
As a class, look at the front and back endpapers. The front endpapers and title page show a distinctly urban city block, and the back endpapers show a more suburban neighborhood. Ask students to tell you what they notice about each endpaper, and jot down their observations into a T-chart graphic organizer. Discuss similarities and differences between living on a bustling city block and living in a suburban neighborhood. What are the pros and cons of each? What are the sounds, sights and smells of each? Provide 11” x 14” sheets of paper, colored and patterned paper cut into various sizes of squares, rectangles and triangles, and oil pastels or markers. Students will use the paper and pastels to create an urban or suburban block. On the back of their paper encourage them to write the sights, sounds and smells that they imagine in their picture.
- Text Sets: Home
Extend the idea of “home” by reading more books with home at their heart. Read aloud This Is Our House by Hyewon Yum, Home by Carson Ellis, A House Is a House For Me by Mary Ann Hoberman, Let’s Go Home: The Wonderful Things About a House by Cynthia Rylant and Town Mouse, Country Mouse by Jan Brett. For nonfiction books about houses, read If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche and House and Homes by Ann Morris. As I was reading these books aloud, students kept shouting wait, go back! so they could study the illustration details.
When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler
As her family drives away from their old home, a girl looks at a photo album and nostalgically reminisces about the house, friends, school and town that she is leaving behind. Instead of wallowing, she remembers that “some days are full of things you’d rather not do. Like plunging into a pool all by yourself, hoping you’ll swim and not sink. Or standing alone, in front of a crowd, searching for one friendly face.” By the time her family arrives at their new seacoast home, the girl has a renewed sense of confidence. Warm and vivid mixed-media illustrations reflect the girl’s emotional journey, further emphasizing the idea of bravery in the face of uncertainty and change.
- Simile Illustrations
The text begins with several strong “Brave as . . . ” similes. Teach or review the simile, and remind students how writers use similes to add depth and richness to their stories. Allow time for students to brainstorm their own similes. When students have written 3 – 4 similes, let them choose their favorite. Pass out watercolor paper, and tell each student to write his or her brave simile on the top, and then illustrate it using watercolors. Combine the simile illustrations into a class Brave book.
- Art: Expressing Emotion Through Color
Beginning with deep blues and golds and ending in a full-color palette, Wheeler’s illustrations expertly use color to reflect the young girl’s emotional journey. Show students different colors and shades, and give them time to discuss what feelings and thoughts they associate with these colors. Read Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss or The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock. Provide various forms of colored art materials. Play classical music, and give students time to use color to create a piece of artwork that reflects their feelings.
A New Home by Tania de Rigil
Written in dual narration, a young girl and young boy share their hesitations and fears about moving cities. The girl is moving from Mexico City to New York City, and the boy is making the opposite transition. As each child reflects on what he or she loves about their current city, it becomes obvious that the two cities are more alike than different. The illustrations extend the text, offering readers insight into each city’s cultural traditions and landmarks. Tackling both big-life concepts—fear and sadness that accompany moving—as well as geographic and cultural concepts, it’s an excellent read-aloud that will provide a solid foundation for further classroom learning.
- Reflective Writing
Tell students to pretend that they have just gotten the news that their family is moving to another country. Ask them to list the things that they will miss about their current neighborhood or city. Younger students may need help with the names of landmarks or buildings. Remind students to consider the climate, people and culture of their current city. Older students can take their lists and craft them into a piece of reflective writing, a love letter to their current neighborhood and city.
- City Similarities
Create a three-column chart, and label the columns “Experience,” “New York City” and “Mexico City.” Reread the book aloud while taking pauses to fill in the chart. With each experience (after-school snacks, sporting events, etc.), write down the specifics for each city. The chart will show students that although the specifics are not the same, the cities and cultures are more alike than different. The back of the book has excellent information about the places in each city. Use Google Earth to visit a few of these landmarks.
- Cross-Cultural Pen Pals
Connect your students with the world! Use an established site to register your students with an international pen pal. Communicating virtually via email is a quick option, but snail mail is my preference. Writing to their international pen pals is exciting for students and provides a real-world opportunity to practice letter writing and communication skills. Connecting with an international school via Mystery Skype is another activity that brings the world to your classroom. Prepare a list of questions beforehand. Afterward, create a City Similarities chart (see above), highlighting the ways the other students’ lives in the other country are similar to life in the United States.