Ezra Jack Keats is one of the most popular authors for the primary grades. As we know, author studies are a fantastic way to introduce students to quality literature, and Ezra Jack Keats is one author I’d highly recommend you work into your reading routine. In this post, we’ll explore how we can use Ezra Jack Keats’ books for teaching reading and writing skills.
For me, using carefully selected books and authors as mentor texts for reading and writing skills makes a huge difference in the students’ classroom experience. These lessons help students develop the reader’s eye by analyzing text features, author’s craft, and the six traits of writing before applying to their own writing.
Did you know Ezra Jack Keats was an accomplished French artists? Prior to writing and illustrating children’s books, he was known for his artwork. In fact, he ended up working with children’s books almost by accident. Well, we’re so lucky he did!
Exploring Books by Ezra Jack Keats
The Snowy Day:
The first of Ezra Jack Keats’ books I want to highlight is The Snowy Day . Certainly it’s one of his most popular and oldest books. In fact, this is the 50th anniversary for it! If you’re looking for a great book for winter, it’s perfect as you’re gearing up for snow days. Peter is the main character, and he spends his snow day making the most of the snow.
I would suggest beginning your author study with it. It will giving a chance to introduce Peter.
A Letter to Amy:
My second choice of books is A Letter to Amy. Every child loves celebrating his or her birthday, and this sweet book is all about Peter’s. He wants to invite Amy to his party, but is nervous she’ll say no. I think many children have these debates, and this gives you a chance to talk about including others.
This unit is a great get to know you set. It includes 20+ pages of activities focused on primary ELA skills in a before-during-after format as all of my units are. More details can be found using the link provided.
Whistle for Willie:
Our third book for the author study is Whistle for Willie. This is probably my favorite since I am a dog lover. I love making pet connections with the kids with this book. My first grade kids love it, and it’s so fun to hear your students’ dog stories. If kids can’t connect to the pet theme, almost all can connect to learning to whistle.
This unit includes 15 pages. There is a schema builder plus vocabulary and comprehension skills as well as a themed writing option and poem.
The next book includes important themes to discuss with all classrooms. Sadly, kids occasionally have to deal with bigger kids who pick on them. This book provides discussing points for what to do when you’re picked on. The boys work together to outsmart the bullies, and through discussion, you can build your kids’ conflict skills.
Included in this unit are themed pages for group discussion as well as comprehension, vocabulary, and writing options. The unit is great for mentor text lessons.
Regards to the Man on the Moon:
This lesser known Ezra Jack Keats title is great for space studies or to spark discussions of creativity. The kids in the story are so creative and they use their imaginations to describe what they feel space travel would be like.
The unit includes before-during-after activities and includes a fun glyph activity for you and your students. The unit was recently updated (2019) too.
The final book in my bundle is Peter’s Chair. If you have a student expecting a new baby in the home, this book is just what you need. In fact, it’s a nice one to give as a gift. Peter is not excited about sharing his things. They are special even though his body is too big for them. Like the other books, the before-during-after organization makes planning easy and effective. Your students will love it.
Once I finished up these units, I did bundle them all together. If you’re interested, you can get them all using the link below.
Activities You Can Add to Your Ezra Jack Keats Study:
Certainly, a print and go unit makes planning easy, but let me share a few more ideas to make your author study even better. Here are other activities I’ve used with this author
- Visit Ezra Jack Keats Official Website for lots of author information, story introductions, and related activities.
- Read along with and/listen to his books through Youtube [here]
- Check out Scholastic’s resources [here]
- Practice letter writing. Set up a class post office system where a student delivers the mail each day. (A Letter to Amy)
- Develop an Anti-Bullying Plan (Goggles)
- Create How-to paragraphs on whistling. (Whistle for Willie)
- Bring in Keats’ other books-The Pet Show, Dreams, Hi Cat!, Louie, and Skates. Compare and contrast across texts with a focus on characters.
- Design projects highlighting the books. There are enough titles that you could pair students to work together for an amazing celebration at the end of your author study.
Other Author Study Links and Ideas:
Author studies are great fun, and they help students meet great authors. Please do not let your primary grade students leave your classroom without exposing them to Ezra Jack Keats’ books. He is a must use author.