I Heart Lois Ehlert!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Writers, Illustrators, Writing, Literature

Social Studies – Careers, Cultures Around the World (Crafts)

Possible Art Concepts: Art Careers- Illustrators (Lois Ehlert, Eric Carle, David Wisniewski)

Collage, Crafts/Folk Art, Abstract

As a child, I remember thinking that I wasn’t much of a writer. I was familiar with writing mechanics (sentence structure, the parts of a paragraph and the basic elements of a story). I just couldn’t write eloquently on the first try. So, I surmised, that I just wasn’t good at it. It wasn’t until my early teaching days, when an author came to my school, that I realized the fallacy in my thinking. She stood up in front of an assembly, pulled out a stack of papers and said, “This is my first draft!” She pulled out another stack and said, “This is my second draft!”  She continued this action three or four more times. “Lightbulb Moment!” I also had no idea where to even begin writing a story. Once my children were in school, we discovered together that story genres actually had formulas. Who knew that fairy tales had magic numbers? Certainly not me! In third grade, my girls wrote their own fairy tales and in fifth grade they wrote tall tales. They even bound their stories into books. I am truly jealous of the writing gift my children received from authors and teachers. So, I’m still not a GREAT writer, but I give myself a little break these days.

Lois Ehlert addresses all my writing insecurities in The Scraps Book. In this autobiographical piece, she talks about her journey to becoming a writer and illustrator. She speaks about not getting to your goals instantly and touches on her process in writing /illustrating her work. This is a great book to include in a careers unit, writing unit or just to encourage children to follow their dreams. She also addresses the nurturing of her creativity in the book, Hands. What a coincidence! My dad worked with wood and enjoyed puttering in the garden, while my mom did all kinds of fiber projects. Observe Lois talking about growing up in a creative family in this video.

I love Ehlert’s books and often used them as motivation when I taught art. In this  recent post, we looked at shapes in art. Lois illustrates shapes in her books Color Zoo and Color Farm.  These two books are also great to use while covering an animal science unit, a social studies community unit, or an abstract art unit. Plant stages are addressed in Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf,  Growing Vegetable Soup, and Planting a Rainbow. Fall colors and imagination are featured in Leaf Man. One of my favorite fall kindergarten projects was inspired by this book.

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We would use fall leaf colors to create leaf rubbings that resembled Georgia O’Keeffe’s Autumn Leaves, Lake George, 1924. (A few hints: 1. Do rubbings on yellow roll bulletin board paper. The thickness is just right!  2. Laminate fresh colorful leaves into placemats. Leaves stay put while rubbing and the placemats last for years.) We then cut out each leaf, read Leaf Man and collaged our leaves together into either an original leaf man/woman or animal. Since kindergarten would study shadows around the same time, we taped a chop stick to the back of our creation. Voila, instant shadow puppet. I’ve talked a bit about shadow puppetry here. An easy way to make a shadow puppet stage can be found here. Then we were off to the races creating our own Leaf Man adventure. So much FUN! I also love Market day: A Story Told With Folk Art. This book can be used in a cultures around the world social studies unit.

When reading picture books to your class, please highlight the illustrators and reinforce that they are one of the many kinds of artists found in the world. Ehlert employs a variety of techniques which make her a fantastic illustrator. She customizes the shape and size of the book to fit the story. Hands is small and rectangular, just like hands and gloves.  Leaf Man is large and square, which when opened becomes a large rectangular shape. This is a perfect format for the character’s panoramic journey. The abstract colorful collaged illustrations are eye catching and appealing. She often employs cutouts to reinforce concepts and lead you into the next page of the book (Color Zoo and Color Farm). Lois adds interest by including cut shape pages and flaps in her books (Hands). She also uses photo collage in her illustrations. (Market Day: A Story Told With Folk Art)

Some other writer/collage illustrators that I admire are Eric Carle and  David Wisniewski.

What are your favorite Ehlert books and how do you use them in your classroom? I’d love to hear about it. To reply simply highlight the title of this post and scroll down to the comment section.

I hope you’ll stop by again real soon.

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