Vocabulary knowledge is one of the biggest indicators to reading success. How do we as educators support vocabulary growth? One of the best ways to build vocabulary is through literature that provides exemplars AND carefully constructed writing that includes context clues. Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut is the perfect book due to the rich vocabulary embedded within it as well as the real life connections and experiences of getting the perfect barbershop cut.
If you are not familiar with this book, RUN to the library, get your sticky notes and pencil ready, and take time to mark your teaching points. You will be mesmerized by the colorful photos and drawn in to the barbershop experience through Barnes’ carefully crafted words. Your students of color will definitely connect the barber’s artistic skills as he masterfully creates designs along the sides of the boy’s head, but more importantly, through Barnes’ descriptions, they’ll be built up as royalty because of his choice of words. Every single student should be built up as royalty, and when you find a book that does this, you must have it in your library.
When we use mentor texts to teach a skill, we must identify the teaching points in the books we’re using which align with the skill we’re teaching. As I mentioned, marking those points with sticky notes helps us remember to stop and discuss those points in the context of the skill. With this book, one thing I loved is the cadence that you read it in. It naturally has pausing points and the page’s illustrations and focus almost seems to target a specific word or theme.
Here’s an example. Take the word intellectual. Notice the examples…smashing the geography exam and rearranging the honor roll. There is also the reference to the brain. As you share the book, you can have your students record their thoughts using this organizer. I am sharing one in color too in case you’d want to project it as you read.