How Four Friends stood Up By Sitting Down
By Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
About the book:
Courageously defying the Whites Only edict of the era, four young black men took a stand against the injustice of segregation in America by sitting down at the lunch counter of a Woolworth’s department store. Countless others of all races soon joined the cause following Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful words of peaceful protest. By sitting down together they stood up for civil rights and created the perfect recipe for integration not only at the Woolworth’s counter, but on buses and in communities throughout the South.
Poetic storytelling and exuberant illustrations combine to celebrate a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality.
About the author:
Andrea Davis Pinkney is the author of many acclaimed picture books and young adult novels and she received a Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Honor for Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters. She is a children’s book editor at a major publishing company.
About the illustrator:
Brian Pinkney has illustrated numerous books for children, including two Caldecott Honor books, and he has written and illustrated several of his own books. Brian has received the Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustration and three Coretta Scott King Award Honor Medals
Andrea and Brian are a husband-and-wife team who have collaborated on a number of books for children including the Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Book Award Illustrator Honor book Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra. They live with their children in New York City.
Across the Curriculum:
Today teachers are asked to get so much done with a standard school day: expand student’s understanding of the world, build their fluency and comprehension of texts, prepare for high stakes tests. Adding children’s literature to your classroom is the perfect way to do all three at once. The lyrical quality of picture books makes them perfect for discussing literary elements like conflict, character and more language oriented goals like identifying similes and metaphor. In addition, the connections that can be made to real-world people and events give authority for the social science curriculum. If the book is too complex for students to be successful independently then it makes a great read-aloud for whole class discussion. Use the following discussion questions and projects as a guide for your exploration of the early 1960’s just as the Civil Rights Movement begins to take shape in the South. This award-winning team will make it easy to weave this compelling story across your curriculum.
- Do you think David Joseph, Franklin and Ezell expected to get a doughnut and coffee when they went to Woolworth’s that day? Why or why not?
- Why were they so patient and silent? Would you be able to sit without complaining like that?
- How were they treated like the hole in a doughnut at first? Why do you think it changed?
- What did the laws of segregation expect people to do (and not do)? Do you think this was fair?
- How were they encouraged by Dr. King’s words? Whose words encourage you?
- Could you sit all day long without anything to eat? How did the first day end?
- Why do you think more students showed up the next day at Woolworth’s? Why do you suppose they wore their best clothes?
- How did the students pass the time? What do you do to pass the time?
- What does the author mean when she says that lunch counter protests “spread faster than a grease fire?”
- What was tougher than any school test? Do you think you would pass or not? Why?
- Describe how hatred was served to the students. How did some people show their support of the students?
- Besides lunch counters where else was segregation part of each day?
- Why were some students arrested? How did they react?
- Explain what you think “We are all leaders” means. How can you be a leader in your own community or school?
- In the end, what was the result of those brave students’ action? How can a few people end up making such a big difference?
Across the curriculum:
Being able to distinguish what is important and what is extraneous can be difficult for young readers. Help your students build this pivotal skill by teaching them to read with a purpose. Have your students fill out the following graphic organizer as you read the story aloud (or for independent readers on their own). Students should list important facts they hear on one side and on the other write questions they have about the text. Afterwards, discuss student responses and see if any of the questions are answered in the extensive back pages of timelines and historical information.
Questions about the text:
Ex: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words got them started
I wonder if they knew Dr. King or all went to hear him speak together?
Andrea Davis Pinkney uses the language of a recipe to bring this story to life. Now you cook up your own ideas and write a recipe for a topic that is important to you or your community. First, have your students bring in copies of their favorite recipes from home. Then, in pairs have them highlight or circle all the verbs in it. Next, brainstorm ideas for a recipe topic (a few to get you started: friendship, love, fairness, a great school year, sportsmanship, etc) and add them to a chart so children can explore other topics as the year progresses. After that, have children take their recipe through the entire writing process. Note how recipes use the fewest words possible but everything must make sense! When complete, have children copy onto a recipe card and display outside your classroom (or in a recipe box)!
The four students who began the sit in were inspired by the great speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Have your students listen to Dr. King (and provide a printed copy too) and then discuss why some people have the power to inspire others. Allow students to highlight or underline the part of the speech that mean the most to them. Then, let them turn and talk to a partner about their selection.
Speaking (or not):
The four cornerstones of language arts are reading, writing, listening and speaking. But in the book the students spoke the loudest by not saying anything at all. They let their actions and their silence speak volumes about what they wanted. Have children brainstorm situations where doing or saying nothing takes more courage than acting out. Have the role play these choices in pairs or small groups.
Revisit the book and discuss each page of the art and have children discuss why they think Mr. Pinkney made the choices he did to bring the story to life. Be sure to point out the loose lines and the changes between blurred figures and detailed portraits. Ask the children: Why do you think he focused on these figures? Why do you think he chose these colors? Which illustration is your favorite? Why? How do some pictures depict movement? Then, inspired by the art from the book, have children illustrate their recipes or another scene from the Civil Rights Movement.
Listen to songs that inspired a generation to stand up against injustice. As people protested or were hauled off to prison they often sang together to show unity and remain peaceful. It’s easy to find recordings of them on the internet but be sure to provide your students with the lyrics if you can. Use them as a springboard to discussion. Some of the most popular titles include: “We Shall Overcome,” “Oh Freedom,” “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “When Will We Be Paid For the Work We’ve Done?” and “going Down to Mississippi.”
Research the average price today for the following goods compared to their price in 1961. For older students have them calculate the percentage of change.
Prices in 1961
Difference or % of increase
Bread: .25 cents
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New car: 2,850.00
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Eggs per dozen: .30 cents
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Gallon of gas .27 cents
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New house: 12,500.00
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Include Sit In as part of a larger unit on peace or as part of your study of the Civil Rights Movement itself. Have children create a bulletin board display titled Portraits of Peace by painting, drawing or using collage to show important leaders in history who promoted peace. You could extend the lesson by having children create portraits of scenes where children create peace with each other at school or play. Under each portrait have students write on an index card explaining why this person was included in the gallery.
Using the timeline in the back of the book as a springboard assign small groups of students to each major event. Have them answer the five journalistic questions (who, what, when, where, why) and create a poster or PowerPoint presentation about what they learned. Present projects in chronological order and share with parents or other classes.