NCSS notable trade book lesson plan

Emily Renee Schnell (Undergraduate, Department of Education, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, Pennsylvania, USA) (Graduate, Department of Education, Point Park University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Social Studies Research and Practice

ISSN: 1933-5415

Article publication date: 13 October 2022

Issue publication date: 1 December 2022



Schnell, E.R. (2022), "NCSS notable trade book lesson plan", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 251-265.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Book recommended for 1st grade–5th grade.

Lesson recommended for 2nd grade–4th grade.

This lesson is designed for 3–4 class periods.

Book summary

Carter Reads the Newspaper is about Historian Carter G. Woodson and his upbringing and life. He was a child of parents who had both been enslaved, and as Woodson got older it bothered him that their lives were not included in his school books. As Woodson got older he worked in the coal mines, working for his higher education. For Woodson he was always interested in literacy, this is shown throughout the picture book, as well as how it has not always been an option for many African Americans of his time. Woodson would read to his coworkers in the mines after the workday, which was the spark for how he handled his future and career.

NCSS themes

  1. Culture

  2. Time, continuity and change

  3. Individual development and identity

  4. Civic ideals and practices

C3 framework standards

D2.Geo.4.3–5. Explain how culture influences the way people modify and adapt to their environments.

D2.His.3.3–5. Generate questions about individuals and groups who have shaped significant historical changes and continuities.

D2.His.6.3–5. Describe how people's perspectives shaped the historical sources they created.


  1. Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkins

  2. Copy/Drawing paper for students

  3. Drawing/Art materials (pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.)

  4. Cultural representation handout (enough for each student to have one copy)

  5. Cereal boxes (enough for each student to have one)

    • You may need to send a letter in advance to families asking for them to donate an empty cereal box to the class for a project. Students may also use other boxes that are similar in size (i.e. United States Postal Service (USPS) priority mail flat rate boxes).

  6. School supplies and materials (glue, glue sticks, construction paper, scissors, tape, colored paper, googly eyes and other materials students may want to use to create their person.

  7. Access to Internet articles to research

    • You can find these ahead of time if you wish or use books provided within the school/local libraries.

  8. Books related to the possible historical person that students will be researching; a list has been provided in Appendix 6.

    • If interested in a local historical person(s), contact your local library to access books ahead of time.


  1. Introduction: Students will be able to make a prediction and display information (verbally or in illustration) about what they think the story will be on, based on background knowledge, observations of the book and group discussions about the book cover.

  2. Development: Students will be able to fill in a graphic organizer to look for similarities and differences between themselves and another person's perspectives, culture and historical impact.

  3. Expansion: Students will be able to complete research on their historical person and communicate accurate findings of this research to the class with a display, writing and/or speech.

An assessment chart has been provided in Appendix 9 that can be used to aid student progress monitoring in the lesson.

A note to the teacher before beginning the lesson

Before beginning the lesson make sure to gather and prepare any and all necessary materials plus any additional materials you will need. Gather/send a letter to families asking for empty cereal boxes. If you are creating a display (teacher model) historical person cereal box, you will need to create it beforehand, if not example photos have been provided in Appendix 6.


Estimated Time to Complete: Approximately 20 min (varies based on discussion and students sharing their predictions)

Objective: Students will be able to make a prediction and display information (verbally or in illustration) about what they think the story will be on, based on background knowledge, observations of the book and group discussions about the book cover.

Assessment Method: Student Observation.

  1. Show the students the book and open it to show them the bookends, read some of the names that are listed, have the students raise their hand if they recognize the name, you can tell students these are some of the people that they may get to research and learn about.

  2. If students are aware of some of the historical figures' names that are listed we then can talk about them and their impact on history, allow time for discussion about what some of the accomplishments of these people may be use verbal prompts if necessary. If students are not aware of these historical figures' names, please continue to step three.

  3. Ask them if they are aware of who Carter G. Woodson is and why he is famous. Display the picture of him from Appendix 1 to the students. Allow for class discussion on Carter G. Woodson in regards to who he is. It may be beneficial to prompt and lead the conversation (i.e., diversity, the year of the story, characters). Throughout the discussion, remind students to be observing the book cover and actively listening to one another, this will help them to do well in the next activity.

  4. Ask students to use the information from the discussion and what they can observe from the book cover and bookends to draw an illustration of what they think the story will be about. They may work individually or in small groups, at this time they will need materil and paper to draw.

    • Remind them that this is their prediction and to remember their observations and conversations. If needed, provide prompts related to the diversity of the characters. Encourage students to study the pictures to estimate what year or years the story is based, and discuss the possible characters. (If you like, you can select illustrations from within the story to display to students while reminding them not to copy the illustration.)

  5. Once students have completed their drawing, allow time for them to share with the class and encourage them as a group to continue to make predictions about what the story will be about and what we notice just from looking at the book.

Assessment: Students should be given time to complete an illustration of their prediction of Carter Reads the Newspaper, this illustration is to be collected for assessment. Students may also choose to only verbally explain their prediction of the story to you. Students are assessed on their ability to display their prediction (verbally and/or illustrated), the prediction does not need to be correct to meet the objective. The goal is for students to work on the thought of predicting a story or situation while considering the individuals, groups, historical changes and individual perspectives.


Estimated Time to Complete: Approximately 60 min (varies based on discussion, instruction, reading and student work)

Objective: Students will be able to fill in a graphic organizer to look for similarities and differences between themselves and another person's perspectives, culture and historical impact.

Assessment Method: Student Work Sample.

  1. Begin reading Carter Reads the Newspaper to the students. Ask the students questions (see Carter Reads the Newspaper book reading questions in Appendix 2 throughout to check for understanding, do not rush the book, take your time and remember to point out important aspects of the text, illustrations and diverse facts about the characters. This provides a sampling of questions, they do not all need to be asked).

    • Example: After reading page five aloud to students and turning the book to show students ask “What is an auction block?”, allow time for students to think and view the illustration before calling on a student to answer. When discussing the answer, point to the wooden platform where you can see Anne Woodson being auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder.

    • Example: After reading page nineteen aloud to students and turning the book to show students say to them “We read about Carter's schooling experience, could this be an important part of history? Why or why not?”, allow time for students to think and view the illustration before calling on a student(s) to answer. When discussing the answer be sure to discuss as a group that this is important, Carter was the first and only black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate degree, which consists of a lot of schooling past his high school graduation. If anyone your students may know has a doctorate degree you can relate Carter's schooling to how long they went to school to get their degree.

  2. After the story has been read, introduce the cultural representation handout to the students, explain to them how they are to fill it out, a teacher copy has been provided (Appendix 3) to help aid in your prompting. Allow time during class for them to complete the cultural representation handout.

    • Cultural representation handout to be collected and used as an assessment for the development phase.

    • During this time give students prompts to include facts about the characters, what details did they notice, any diversity, culture can they relate their current life at all to the character/time. Encourage students to use adjectives when describing themselves, the character and any similarities and differences. Relate back to any specific questions from Appendix 2 that were discussed as a group.

  3. After students have completed their cultural representation handout, allow them time to talk in small groups to discuss their findings within the cultural representation handout.

    • It is best to pair students with one another who looked at the same characters for a richer discussion. As you move around the classroom to listen to discussion, provide reminders that we will be discussing as a whole class their findings as well.

  4. As whole class discuss what it would have been like to live during this time. Make sure to talk about some of the things we have today in this year that they did not have in the 1800s (i.e. forms of communication, entertainment, education and transportation). Points of discussion have been provided in Appendix 5.

  5. After the group discussion, tell students they will be using these ideas and some of the names of historical people that they talked about in a project that they will be working on in class.

Assessment: Once students have completed the cultural representation handout, you can collect it and use it as an assessment if you would like. A teacher copy example has been provided (Appendix 4), which also provides examples to each question, this may aid in your prompting. Students will be assessed on their abilities to organize and construct thoughts about themselves and others in order to notice similarities and differences with another person's perspectives, culture and historical impact. It is acceptable for students to use proper terminology when talking about diversity in the book character compared to themselves.


Estimated time to complete: Approximately 60–90 min of research, approximately 60–90 min to assemble display and approximately 90 min to present all historical person projects.

Objective: Students will be able to complete research on their historical person and communicate accurate findings of this research to the class with a display, writing and/or speech.

Assessment method: student work sample and/or student observation

Teacher, within this phase students will be creating a historical person cereal box. You may create a display to have in the room to show students, if not an example has been provided in Appendix 6 of a historical person cereal box on Carter G. Woodson.

  1. Begin by showing students the display (or photos in Appendix 6) of the historical person cereal box of Carter G. Woodson. During this time explain the aspects of the project and why you created it the way you did (i.e., why they are wearing a certain style of clothing).

    • It is recommended you provide students with a copy of the guidelines in Appendix 8 at this time while explaining the project to them.

  2. Allow time for the students to look at the display and read what has been written about Carter G. Woodson, or show the illustrations provided in the appendix. Once students are done look at the example/display, remove it from sight, this will discourage students from copying the sample/display.

  3. Tell the students they will be making an historical person cereal box, they will begin by researching and selecting a person to write about (from Appendix 7), encourage each student or pair of students to not pick the same person, tell them that they will be presenting their person and we want to hear a variety of historical people. (How students are assigned a historical person is up to the classroom teacher).

  4. Students will need a copy of the historical person cereal box guidelines from Appendix 8 before beginning their project, this outlines what to include. It is the classroom teachers decision on how they would like research and constructing of the historical person cereal box to be completed. (i.e., all students must research first and then create their display).

  5. Provide students with time to research their person, online, in printed articles, checking out books in the library.

    • As the teacher it may be best to provide them with the materials needed to complete their research, examples of this would include posting links to valuable websites on Google Classroom, printing off articles, typing key information on posters/Google Slides and printing or sharing with students. Another great aid would be to work with the school librarian and collaborate to introduce students to library research or preselect books they can use when in the library.

  6. Provide time for students to design and create their cereal box person. As needed, provide students with prompts and reminders to include the diverse aspects of their historical figure as well as what should be included (Appendix 8). Depending on students' attention to detail and time management this may take a decent amount of time to complete.

    • For young learners assistance may be needed to assemble the cereal box, this could be done with help from an upper classmate or family member.

  7. Once all of the students have completed their research and their historical person cereal box, allow time for each student to present them to the class, encourage students to ask questions about the historical people they are learning about.

Assessment: Students will complete a historical person cereal box, they will present it to their classmates as well as their findings on their historical person. Please see the presentation guidelines provided in Appendix 8, it is recommended you give a copy of these guidelines to each student before they begin researching and planning their historical person cereal box. You may use these guidelines to help with individual student assessments.Appendix


The following are assessments completed within the lesson to align with standards and phase objectives.

Introduction: Student's drawings of what they predict the story will be about.

Development: cultural representation handout.

Expansion: historical person cereal box.

An assessment chart has been provided in Appendix 9.

Suggested extension activities

  1. While students are predicting what the story will be about, permit time for students to research their prediction in order to find out more information, they can write interesting facts on a notecard or a group poster board. This research can provide students with more background knowledge prior to hearing the story.

  2. Certificate project – students complete a mini-research project and design a certificate to honor the person. It allows for them to get to know someone that they are not familiar with the idea to find other people to celebrate. This activity can be focused on various people with different cultural and gender diversity and identities.

  3. Create a list of vocabulary words based on the book and have students create a word search or crossword based off these words to become more familiar with them.

    • To extend this activity look into traits from the historical person and collaborate some of these facts into a puzzle or game.

  4. Have students complete a quick research project on what it was like to be a coal miner in the late 1800's, find out about the child labor laws, how old were the workers?

  5. Have students complete a quick research project on what it was like to be a student in the 1800's, how long did they go to school, how was school designed, what did they learn?

  6. Have students think about people they know who make a difference that will never be in a history book. Have them interview them and write their story.

  7. As a class come up with a plan and activity to make a difference in the community. Make a pledge to do so and encourage students to display. This could be done through a community project as well, allowing students to bring together their families and communities to support a cause.

  8. Have students explore the school library (or Internet library) to find books on historians, encourage them to read them and write a book summary. This encourages students to look into multicultural books in order for them to learn more about diverse practices in other parts of the world and in other people's lives.

  9. Create a picture hunt for students, after reading the story have them draw an illustration of each of the images in the book – each student/pair can have one page.

  10. As a class creates an “I am Special” book to be given to each student, each student will be an author for one page of the book where they can display how they are individual and unique, encourage students to include photos and talk about their qualities.

Appendix 1 Photo of Carter G. Woodson

Appendix 2 Carter Reads the Newspaper Book Reading Questions

  1. Who is Harriett Tubman?

    • Helped people escape from slavery.

  2. Who is Rosa Parks?

    • Started a bus strike for equal treatment.

  3. Who is Martin King Luther Jr.?

    • Started a movement of millions to advance civil rights with his “I have a dream speech”.

  4. Where was Carter Born? Where is that at? (near or far from us)

    • A small farm in Virginia in 1875

  5. What major event ended before Carter was born?

    • The Civil War

  6. What was the name of the man who ran away from his master's to fight for his freedom?

    • James Henry Woodson

      1. Who is he in regards to Carter?

        1. His father/dad

  7. What was an auction block?

    • A wooden platform, where people would auction off slaves and other items from.

  8. Why was it an honor for Anne Eliza Riddle Woodson to stand on the auction block?

    • She wanted to keep her mother with her other children in order to keep the family member; it was very brave of her to do as she would have been separated from her family if she sold.

  9. Do we think that Anne Eliza (Riddle Woodson) was related to Carter?

    • Yes, this is Carter's mother.

  10. When Carter was in school, was it similar or different to our schools now?

    • Much different, students attended in a one-room schoolhouse and on average for four to six months of the year.

  11. By looking at the illustrations can we tell what a garbage wagon is?

    • Yes, it is a wagon pulled by a horse that would hold garbage.

      1. Could this be similar to something we have in modern times?

        1. Yes, a garbage truck! Over time things change and adapt especially with new inventions like the gas-powered vehicle.

  12. What does it mean when the author says “You'd have to look hard to find Oliver's name in a history book”?

    • That Oliver played an important role in history but not one to have a lot of history books that cover him in depth.

  13. Oliver has a reading room within his home, what could this be similar to today?

    • Over time things change and adapt like the use of storing books and reading materials in one building or room like a library.

  14. Reading about Carter's schooling experience, could this be an important part of history? Why or why not?

    • Yes, because Carter was the first and only Black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate degree, which consists of a lot of schooling past high school graduation.

  15. Who was the first person to dedicate a week (now month) to Black History?

    • Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926.

  16. Can someone name something that Carter did to change history? There are several.

    • He created a Negro History Week (now Black History Month).

    • He graduated with a doctorate degree, the first and only Black American whose parents were slaves.

    • He made sure to publicly share the history of black people.

    • Published a book on the study of African American Life and History.

    • Published the first issue of the Journal of Negro History.

      1. And so much more!

Appendix 3 Cultural representation handout
Appendix 4 Cultural representation handout
Appendix 5

Points of Discussion for Comparing the 1800's to Today's Time

Examples of Communication – no cell phones or Internet, often communicated by letter through the town postal service, if you wanted to send a letter out of town it would take up to a week to several weeks, the telegraph would be created in the late 1800s which allowed peoples to communicate with electric current with morse code, a system of taping.

Examples of Entertainment often carnivals would travel from town to town, as well as people would often sing and dance, occasionally visiting notables, scientists and preachers would visit especially those who were traveling and would tell stories, children would often create games to play when they were not helping their families.

Examples of Education – students attended school in a one-room schoolhouse, all grades learned from one teacher, they often learned arithmetic, geography, writing and grammar, students typically attended until 6th grade and then went to work on the family farm, however, in the late 1800's students could attend higher education in more popular areas and earn degrees.

Examples of Transportation – railroads were expanding, travel still was most popular with ships and horseback, in the late 1800's the rich would be able to purchase some of the first vehicles powered by gasoline and a motor, fun fact the fastest they could go was 20 mph.

Appendix 6 Historical Person Cereal Box Example
Appendix 7

List of Potential Historical Figures for Students to Research

  1. Phillis Wheatley

  2. Edmonia Lewis

  3. Joseph Cinque

  4. Elijah McCoy

  5. Nat Turner

  6. Frances Harper

  7. Sarah Breedlove

  8. Booker T. Washington

  9. Maya Angelous

  10. Muhammad Ali

  11. Coretta Scott King

  12. Charles Drew

  13. George Washington Carver

  14. Malcolm X

  15. Mae Jemison

  16. Shirley Chisholm

  17. Barack Obama

  18. Michelle Obama

  19. Shirley Chisholm

  20. Jesse Owens

  21. Duke Ellington

  22. W. E. B. Du Bois

  23. Colin Kaepernick

  24. Dred Scott

  25. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

At the end of the book additional examples are provided.

Appendix 8

Guidelines/Rubric for Historical Person Cereal Box:

  1. Make sure your Historical Person Cereal Box contains the following:

    • Cereal box body – with a shirt similar to what the historical person would have worn.

    • A head, resembling the historical person

    • Arms, hands, legs, shoes, pants

    • Any distinct features resembling a historian (i.e. glasses, hat, books, materials, clothing, objects, etc.) Think about your historian!

    • A name tag stating the name of your historian

  2. Somewhere on your Historical Person Cereal Box be sure to include important facts about your historical person, make sure to include enough that if a classmate were to read the box they would be knowledgeable about what makes your historical person famous, here are some ideas:

    • Where and when they were born, if they are still living, or when and where they died.

    • About their childhood, family, education and work.

    • What made them the historian they are and any life accomplishments.

    • What other facts did you learn about them, make sure to tell their story!

  3. For your presentation:

    • Do not read from the content you have placed on your historian!

    • Be prepared, practice what you want to say, make cue cards!

    • In your presentation be sure to talk about:

      1. Who your historian is:

        1. Where did they live, what did they do, did they attend school, etc.

      2. What made your historian famous:

        1. What did they do, did they make something, accomplish something, set something new, what did they do, tell the story!

      3. Where your historian is now:

        1. Are they still living, what are they doing if so, if they have died and what did they accomplish in their later life years.

Appendix 9 Assessment Chart


Hopkinson, D. and Tate, D. (2019), Carter Reads the Newspaper, Peachtree Publishers.

Web-based References

Black Excellence Excellist (2021), “Black excellist: 10 things about, Dr. Carter G. Woodson - Father of Black History Month [YouTube Video]. On YouTube”, available at:

Carter Reads the Newspaper (2021), “Teacher, available at:

Tanya (2021), “Carter reads the newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate.; Blogger”, available at:

Whipple, C. (2021), “Read aloud carter reads the newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate [YouTube Video]. On YouTube”, available at:

Corresponding author

Emily Renee Schnell can be contacted at:

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