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Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges as Mentor Text

By Rhonda Stewart on February 14, 2014
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

My students get excited when we form book clubs. There is something about being able to discuss your thoughts with a group of your peers regarding an issue or an event about the book you are reading. For this current unit, Reading Across Genres to Deepen Thinking About Social Issues, I revert to one of my favorite strategies, using a mentor text. This is a surefire way to grab a student’s attention in a short amount of time.

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges allows the reader to gain insight into the author's experience of integrating an all-white school in New Orleans during the early 1960s. I am using this text as a springboard for the primary social issue that the students will be exploring. For our book clubs, the students will be reading either Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood or The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis. Each group will consist of no more than four students. (This will allow me to easily check in and manage the groups as they independently read and discuss their books.)

Before introducing the mentor text, I created a picture carousel activity. Pictures that represent different social issues were placed around the room for the students to respond to. From those pictures, the class created a social issues chart. The class did not know that civil rights/racism would be our focus. Notice the bubble outline around the word racism. The students were curious as to why only that term was highlighted.

After discussing the chart, we then moved on to pictures taken from Through My Eyes. The pictures were placed around the room and the students cycled through them in their groups. This time, instead of discussing the images in small groups, I had the students record their thoughts on paper. The idea was to get the students to notice what was going on in the pictures and to note their thinking about images — not just the images themselves, but what they thought the images represented or spoke about the time period. The students only had the picture to respond to, not the text, and it was fascinating to read their comments.




The background has been set. The students have a keen sense of the time period. For more background information, the Scholastic Ruby Bridges: A Simple Act of Courage has great resources. Moving forward, I can use excerpts from the text to demonstrate my minilessons. It is time for us to roll up our sleeves and get into our book clubs using the immersion work from the mentor text. As critical readers, we begin the work of reading through the lens of recognizing the social issues and its effects.

We thank you, Ruby Bridges!

Literacy Students from Room 504


Pearls of Wisdom Create book bins with different genres (poetry, articles songs) and artifacts to support your student's understanding of the issue and immersing them in the time period.

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