Book of the Week: Dear Benjamin Banneker

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Dear Benjamin Banneker, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

You can preview this book on Google Books.

I wanted to highlight this as a book of the week because I know many grade-level teams have planned a unit highlighting interesting and inspiring Americans, and I wanted to make sure we have enough resources to support this unit.

Benjamin Banneker was a freed black man living in the late 1700s who ran a successful tobacco farm, published a successful almanac, and told off a young Thomas Jefferson for his hypocrisy in owning slaves.

Well-known books like this already have a bunch of full lesson plans available online, so there’s no real need for me to redo them. If you’re looking for a more in-depth project, you might want to take a look at:

Additionally, this book used to be an SFA text, so 30 copies are available for use as a shared text. If you use multiple bags of books, please make sure you check out each bag from the bookroom. There’s also an SFA teacher’s guide with vocabulary and comprehension questions.

We have enough of a collection of books by Andrea David Pinkney / Brian Pinkney that you might want to consider an author’s study of their work. See me if you’d like help putting this together!

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:


  • Recognize literary elements (theme). Especially if this is part of a larger unit on inspiring Americans, you might want to explore some of these universal themes:

    • Persistence in the face of challenges
    • Standing up for what you believe in
    • A full life is well-rounded and allows you to develop your passions
    • Privilege plays a role in what individual determination can achieve (how would Banneker’s life be different if he hadn’t been born to a freedman? If he had been born closer to the civil war? If he was born in the South during the civil rights movement?)

  • Compare and contrast within and between text. The SFA skill focus for this book is compare and contrast. Please refer to the teachers’ guide in the book bag for more details.


  • Use the pictures… Do the words and pictures match? More complex words like observing, plotted, astronomy, and eclipse make sense in the context of this book. It would also be interesting to use this book with the Astro Adventures science kit, because students would already be primed to be more aware of sky-and-space related terms.

Behaviors that support reading

  • Select and read good-fit book. Benjamin Banneker taught himself astronomy! Amazing. The level of self-motivation he must’ve had is amazing. Our students need to strive to find topics and issues that interest them so they too can be motivated to take a lead role in their own successes. Use this book to reinforce the strategy of IPICK.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!


Book of the Week: One Woolly Wombat

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

One Woolly Wombat, by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent

Counting books are great. Austrailian counting books with adorable Australian animals are even greater. Especially if that counting book goes all the way up to 14 instead of the standard ten. You can find this book in the red “Math” bucket in the bookroom.

The numbers in this book are written out in word form, rather than in standard form. This might be helpful for second and third grade teachers working with their students on spelling the numbers correctly.

One Woolly Wombat is a recent addition to our mentor texts in the bookroom, so if it meets your needs, make sure you stop by room 301 and thank Anne and Tin for putting the most recent book order together!

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:


  • Determine and analyze author’s purpose and support with text. This is so much more than a counting book. It introduces students to Australian wildlife, shows them the word forms of their favorite one-digit numbers, familiarizes them with Australian slang, and entertains them with animals in silly situations. By the way, if you want to learn more about unique Australian animals, check out this fantastic web site.


  • Use the pictures.. Do the words and pictures match? This could be an important lesson on a time when this strategy can fail. If a student doesn’t know what a echidna is, looking at a picture of one won’t help them decode the word. This is a great opportunity to talk about what to do when one reading strategy isn’t working. This is also an opportunity to encourage students to read widely and engage adults in conversation — the more words they’ve heard orally, the better they’ll get at decoding them in their reading.
  • Blend sounds; stretch and reread. There are plenty of blends and digraphs in this book, both at the onset of words and in the middle. There’s not much text, so it would be relatively painless to type the text into a Word document and then project it onto a screen. I’ve typed the text for you here: One Wooly Wombat . If you project the document onto a whiteboard (or SmartBoard), you can then highlight or circle all the blends and digraphs.


  • Practice common sight words and high-frequency words. I imagine it must get a bit tiresome in the primary world to use the same twenty or so numbers each year. If the text in this book isn’t at your students’ reading level, perhaps they can at least practice finding and writing the number words they see.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!