Unit 3: Inspiring Artists and Musicians
In this inspirational biography unit, students read and learn about a diverse assortment of artists, musicians, and dancers, while focusing on identifying evidence from texts and illustrations.
As part of the upgrade to Fishtank Plus, this unit was revised in November 2020. See which texts and materials have changed as part of the revision in this guide to our 1st Grade text adjustments.
In this biography unit, students read and learn about a diverse assortment of artists and musicians. By reading a wide variety of biographies, students will be challenged to think about where people get their inspiration, and how a person’s decisions and actions can change his or her life, especially when facing instances of prejudice and discrimination. Students will also be challenged to think about the ways in which a person can be influential and how reading about other people’s lives can help them in their own lives. It is our hope that this unit will open students’ eyes to different life paths and passions, particularly those in the arts.
In reading, this unit builds onto the work done in previously informational units. It is assumed that students are inquisitive consumers of an informational text, asking and answering questions about key details. In this unit, students focus on understanding connections between individuals, events, ideas, and information in a text in order to better understand a person’s life. Students also begin to think about reasons an author gives to support a particular point in a text.
In writing, students focus on crafting strong sentences using frequently occurring conjunctions. In reading lessons, students will frequently be asked to write a few specific sentences using conjunctions in order to show a more nuanced understanding of the content. In longer writing lessons, students will write both opinions about the artists they study and participate in a longer research project.
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Book: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013)
Book: Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (Square Fish; 1st edition, 2007)
Book: Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh (Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition, 2011)
Book: Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown (NorthSouth Books; Illustrated edition, 2017)
Book: Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh (Harry N. Abrams; Illustrated edition, 2015)
Book: Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkey (Hyperion Book CH; 1 edition, 2006)
Book: When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Munoz Ryan (Scholastic Press; 1st edition, 2002)
Book: When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana by Michael Mahin
Book: When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill (Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition, 2013)
Book: Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by Robert Andrew Parker (Dragonfly Books; Illustrated edition, 2016)
Book: Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews (Harry N. Abrams, 2015)
Book: Rock & Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story by Sebastian Robertson (Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); Illustrated edition, 2014)
Book: Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition, 2016)
Book: Misty Copeland (You Should Meet Series) by Laurie Calkhoven (Simon Spotlight; Illustrated edition, 2016)
Book: Firebird by Misty Copeland (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition, 2014)
Book: Misty Copeland: Ballet Star by Sarah Howden (Collins; Illustrated edition, 2020)
Book: Bunheads by Misty Copeland (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; Illustrated edition, 2020)
Painting: School Studies by Horace Pippin (1944)
Painting: One: Number 31 by Jackson Pollock (1950)
Painting: Tenochtitlán by Diego Rivera (1945)
Painting: Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird by Frida Kahlo (1940)
Painting: Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat
Painting: Calaveras by José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada
Song: “Black, Brown and Beige”
Song: “My Country Tis of Thee”
Song: “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
Song: “Oye Como Va”
Song: “Let Me Clear My Throat”
Song: “Where Y’At”
Song: “The Weight”
Video: “Misty Copeland: An Unlikely Ballerina’s Story”
This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
Download Content Assessment
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The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
Specific skills to focus on when giving feedback on writing assignments
A big focus of this unit is using frequently occurring conjunctions, particularly “because,” “but,” or “so,” to show understanding of different people’s lives.
In this unit, students participate in a shared research project about an additional artist.
In this unit students continue to work on writing opinion pieces, particularly pieces that state an opinion about which artist is their favorite and why.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 1st Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
Observe and describe paintings by different artists.
Describe two key events from Horace’s childhood or early life.
Describe what makes Horace Pippin’s art remarkable.
Explain why Jackson’s work is original.
Describe two key facts about Don Lupe’s early life.
Explain why Don Lupe, or Posada, was influential.
Explain why Diego Rivera’s art is important.
Explain why Frida Kahlo was resourceful.
Explain what Jean-Michel was courageous.
Writing – 2 days
Write an opinion piece stating which artist is your favorite.
Listen to and describe music by different artists.
Explain how the author shows that Duke Ellington was a genius.
Explain how prejudice and segregation influenced Marian.
Explain why Marian Anderson was courageous.
Describe Art Tatum using vocabulary from the unit.
Analyze why Robbie was persistent.
Explain why Robbie Robertson is an important part of the music world.
Explain what experiences Carlos had with music as a child and how they influenced him.
Analyze why the author titled the book When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana by Michael Mahin.
Explain three of the key elements of Hip Hop and how DJ Kool Herc helped to create each of them.
Explain what makes Trombone Shorty remarkable.
Write an opinion piece stating which musician is your favorite and why.
Discussion & Writing
Discuss and debate unit essential questions.
Writing – 5 days
Participate in a shared research project about Misty Copeland.
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Create a mural tile inspired by Diego Rivera.
Write a letter to an artist sharing what they’ve learned and asking questions based on unit knowledge.
Experience how artists show feelings using drumming as a medium.
Create protest signs to experience how art can encourage change.
Create and present an individual artist statement using what they've learned about artists and their inspiration from throughout the unit.
The content standards covered in this unit
— Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.
— Use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in basic sentences (e.g., He hops; We hop).
— Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home).
— Use frequently occurring adjectives.
— Use frequently occurring conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, so, because).
— Use frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., during, beyond, toward).
— Produce and expand complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts.
— Capitalize dates and names of people.
— Use end punctuation for sentences.
— Use commas in dates and to separate single words in a series.
— Use conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns and for frequently occurring irregular words.
— Spell untaught words phonetically, drawing on phonemic awareness and spelling conventions.
— Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using frequently occurring conjunctions to signal simple relationships (e.g., because).
— Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
— Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
— Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.
— Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.
— Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.
— Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).
— Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups
— Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.
— Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation.
— Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.
— Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
— With guidance and support from adults, focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
— Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of "how-to" books on a given topic and use them to write a sequence of instructions).
— With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 1 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.
— Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
— With prompting and support, read informational texts appropriately complex for grade 1.
— Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.
— Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
— Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
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