Book of the Week: A Cool Drink of Water

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!

A Cool Drink of Water, by Barbara Kerley

You can see a preview of this book here, through Google Books. The title of the book might be taken from the poem “No No No No” by Maya Angelou, which contains the line used as the title of the collection the poem is featured in, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie. Depending on the students you teach, you might or might not consider the poems in this book appropriate for discussion in your class, but I definitely encourage you to take a look at them. The book was written in 1971, and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

National Geographic and the Smithsonian do a pretty bang-up job of providing high-interest, gorgeous nonfiction texts for students.

The text in this book is very basic, only a few words per page, which would make it perfect for primary read alouds. But the end of the book has individual stories about all of the places featured in the photographs. It would be pretty remarkable to have each page displayed around the room on multicultural night, then have each student be an expert on explaining information from one of the pictures. Wow! If Ms. Koyama puts together a multicultural night for us this year, I’ll TOTALLY do that!

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

  • Compare within and between texts. As mentioned above, have students select a photograph to become an expert on. Randomly have students partner up and give them two minutes to find a similarity and a difference between their subjects’ situations. At the end, debrief and notice if you noticed any common themes.
  • Determine and explain author’s purpose. If students have brainstormed theme ideas, discuss how those are similar to and related to what the author was trying to achieve in writing the book. Often, students will say that a nonfiction author wrote a book “because he/she liked ______” (whatever the book was about — like cats or ponies or tornadoes). But in this case, it seems kind of silly to say the author wrote the book “because she liked water.” Use this example to push students’ thinking further.

  • Skip the word then come back. Before you read the book, put small Post-it notes over some of the words in all capital letters. Often these kinds of activities are done with rhyming words covered up, but the support of the pictures should make the activity doable despite a lack of rhyme.
Example page for "Skip the word and then come back." You could also keep the first and/or last letter of the word uncovered.

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!