Woody Guthrie Elementary School Curriculum
by Theresa Kubasak
Bell, Judy and Nora Guthrie, ed. Woody Guthrie Songs. 1994.64p. Ludlow Music
All ages. A collection of Woody Guthrie's original artwork as well as biographical photographs embellish this music book containing nearly fifty songs. An extensive discography exemplifies the legacy of Guthrie, reaching back to Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and the Weaversthrough the folk movement of Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins and Tom Paxton and onto contemporary performers Holly Near, Bruce Springsteen and Michelle Shocked. Easy chords and all the verses make this a valuable Woody resource.
Brimner, Larry Dane. A Migrant Family. 1992.40p. Lerner Publications Company (0-8225-2554-2)
Gr. 3-6. Evocative of the Woody Guthrie ballad, "Deportee", this is a realistic portrayal of current migrants in California. Black and white photos taken in 1991 parallel the work of Dorothea Lange in the thirties, particularly the plaintiff images of children and families at work camps. The twelve-year-old protagonist, Juan, states, "They want us to work. And they want us to disappear."
Christensen, Bonnie. Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People. 2001.32p. Alfred A. Knopf (0-375-81113-3)
Gr.3-6. The legacy of American folksinger-songwriter Woody Guthrie is furthered by this biography accompanied by song lyrics and lovely woodcut-like illustrations. From "This Land is Your Land" to "So Long, it's Been Good to Know Yuh," it is formatted as a picture book yet has an abundance of information per page. It includes a timeline of important events in Guthrie's life. More than a read-aloud, this is an accessible resource for students seeking information about the dustbowl era, unions, migrant workers and social issues of the time.
Coombs, Karen Mueller. Woody Guthrie: America's Folksinger. 2002.120p. Lerner (08225-3750-8)
Gr. 6-8. Typed snippets of Woody Guthrie songs embellish the journalistic writing of this biography, part of the Trailblazer Biography series. The addition of audio resources in the bibliography strenghtens this books use as a resource for middleschoolers.
Durbin, William. Journal of C.J. Jackson : A Dust Bowl Migrant. 2002.175p. Scholastic (0-439-15306-9)
Gr. 4-6. Historical fiction from the Dear America series follows the format of a well-kept journal, revealing realities affecting a family from Oklahoma as they suffer the dust storms of the thirties and travel west on Route 66, only to suffer more from prejudice on the part of Californians. A child's version of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath except for an inconsistent ending during the last dozen pages of the book. Photos from the Farm Security Administration and a foldout map of Route 66 enrich the story.
Guthrie, W. and Marjorie Mazia Guthrie. Woody's 20 Grow Big Songs. 1992. 46p. Harper Collins (0-06-020282-3)
Preschool-3. Clap and sing and "Put Your Finger in the Air" with this collection of twenty children's songs by Woody Guthrie. Playfully written for daughter Cathy Ann, Guthrie's rhymes and rhythms draw in even the youngest child. What adds special charm to this book is the extensive use of Woody's own illustrations, used with permission from the Woody Guthrie Archives. Includes a special invitation to create music for the lyrics to "Little Bird", a song Guthrie "never did get around to making up music for."
Guthrie, W. and Vladmir Radunsky. Bling Blang. 2000.18p. Candlewick Press (0-7636-0769-X)
Preschool-3. Animated collage work blasts color over every page as the lyrics of Woody Guthrie's "Bling, Blang, Hammer With My Hammer" run around. The catchy tune and chorus make it impossible to read just once. As a clever surprise there is sheet music on the underside of the book jacket. Information on contacting the Woody Guthrie Archives is included.
Guthrie, W. and Vladmir Radunsky. Howdi Do. 2002.18p. Candlewick Press (0-763-1261-8); $12.99 with CD (0-7636-0768-1)
Preschool-3. Radunsky's wacky cat and dog are as funny as Guthries's silly lyrics in this song-story book. Readers are beckoned to jump in and sing on the chorus as it appears in different colored fonts. Available with CD featuring polka-like accordion, klezmerish violin and tuba accompanied by children's voices from P.S. 89, New York.
Guthrie, W. and Vladmir Radunsky. My Dolly. 2001.18p. Candlewick Press (0-7636-0770-3)
Preschool-3. Colorfully jubilant collage characters dance across the pages in too-big shoes to the lyrics of Woody Guthrie's "My Dolly." Children's drawings and printing in the final pages welcome even the youngest readers to sing. Special appearances by Radunsky's own two cloth dolls bring a 3-dimensional surprise.
Hall, Barbara. Woody's Music, Appleseeds , Jan. 2000. Vol.2 #5 Cobblestone, (038-2444-752)
Gr. 2-6. The Woody Guthrie Archives provided a picture of the original "This Land is Your Land" as well as early photos of Guthrie playing with his children at the beach and playing for an audience of children in New York to accompany this article introducing students to Woody Guthrie. Full of family anecdotes from daughter Nora Guthrie, the up tempo tone entices children to find out more about Guthrie on their own. This volume of Appleseeds is a thematic issue based on the guitar and is an excellent classroom resource, especially for literarture circles based on nonfiction.
Hesse, Karen. Out of the Dust. 1997. 227p. Scholastic (0-590-36080-9)
Gr. 4-6. The harsh reality of the dustbowl is revealed in the poetic journal of a young girl growing up in Oklahoma. The shock of a family member on fire is evocative of Woody Guthrie's own sister. Hopeful strains remain in this Newberry Award winner as Billie Jo writes, "Hard times are about losing spirit and hope."
Jakobsen, Kathy. This Land is Your Land. 1998.36p. Little, Brown and Co (0-316-39215-4)
All ages. Sing along with these famous lyrics as beautiful quilt-like paintings of U.S. geography roll by, framed by traditional woodcarvings done by Guthrie-esque hobos, miners, lumberjacks and workers from the early and mid part of the 1900's. Tiny captions inserted into corners bring insight into the life of Woody Guthrie. A special foldout page shows people "from California to the New York island" celebrating with song. The flip side is a tribute by musician and friend Pete Seeger, with photographs from the Woody Guthrie Archives. Bright end-papers are an annotated map of Route 66.
Lindop, Edmund. The Turbulent Thirties. 1970.90p. Franklin Watts (531-01945-4)
Gr. 3-6. A traditional book with historical photos of breadlines, Hooverville shanties and dust clouds rolling darkly over Texas gives a view of the crises in the thirties. Students used to Internet and CNN may view these images as ancient as Gettysburg. For this reason the pictures and captions are valuable resources even though the text is unremarkable. A provocative view of American citizenry shows veterans protesting at federal buildings in 1932 and frustrated voters challenging Roosevelt's interpretation of the Constitution.
Partridge, Elizabeth. This Land Was Made For You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie. 2002.218p. Viking (0-670-035-35-1)
Gr. 6-adult. Written by an author who immersed herself in everything Woody, this is an harmonious and attractive blend of narrative, first-hand interviews and archival material exuding the essence of Woody Guthrie. An honest and loving portrayal of Woody's vulnerability and creativity that deserves Pete Seeger's superlative recommendation: "The best book about Woody ever written."
Rogovin, Paula. The Research Workshop: Bringing the World Into Your Classroom. 2001.2224p. Heinemann, (0-325-00370-X)
Gr. K-2. Any teacher can develop a research workshop. And in this new, reader-friendly book, Paula Rogovin shows how to do it. Demonstrating how children's interests and questions become the central focus of the curriculum, she offers dozens of easy-to-use techniques for organizing the classroom and the school day to support student research. She also provides explicit guidelines for finding a wide range of resources, fostering family and community involvement, and dealing with assessment, homework, and diverse student interests and abilities. As examples of how to follow the guidelines, two complete research studies are included. Includes an entire section on Woody Guthrie.
Stanley, Jerry. Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. 1991.86p. Crown Publications (0-517-58781-5)
Gr. 4-6. This compelling true story of migrants from Oklahoma and their lives as workers in California reads like a family scrapbook because of the intimacy of the narrative and the informal photographs of the time. Most valuable for its inspirational biography of Leo Hart and his amazing foresight, energy and dedication in providing dignity for migrant children by establishing a progressive school for them at Weedpatch Camp, Arvin, California. An excellent teacher resource with an extensive bibliography.
Thompson, K. and MacAustin, H., ed. Children of the Depression. 2002.194p. Indiana University Press (0-253-34031-4)
All ages. This oversize picture book is intriguing in its moving portrayal of children and families living, learning, playing and working. Indeed, these are the chapters into which photos from the Farm Security Administration are arranged. The authors state that they have been changed by these photos and write in the introduction "that children should not starve." This politicized viewpoint of putting the depression in a modern-day context is what differentiates this resource book from other compilations. The bibliography includes atypical books and articles as well as sources for oral histories.
Turner, Ann. Dust for Dinner. 1997.64p. Harper Trophy (0-06-444225-x)
Gr. 2-4. Historical fiction from the I Can Read Series presents the severe effects of the dustbowl on a typical Oklahoma family. Children will identify with the young siblings and their dog on long trip to California. The contrived ending with Papa getting a fine job and the family moving from migrant camp to a two story blue shuttered house is disappointing. However, this story is still a good first exposure for a young reader to the issues of the thirties.
Venezia, Mike. Dorothea Lange. 2000.32p. Children's Press (051-627-1717)
Gr. 2-6. In typical Venezia fashion, a combination of nonfiction narrative and photos is juxtaposed with a cartoon style describing the life and times of photographer Dorothea Lange. This delightful biography gives lots of detail in a relatively short time enabling young children to learn about the famous woman who documented "dustbowl refugees" in California. A list of places where Lange's work can be seen is provided in the back of the book.
Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives
125-131 Main Street, Suite #200
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
T: (914) 864-1789 | F: (914) 864-1790
Preserving and continuing the legacy of Woody Guthrie, the Archives holds over 10,000 pieces including documents, photos, song lyrics and ephemera. The website provides classroom connections for teachers.
Furthering the heritage of American folk music, Smithsonian is a treasure of recordings, taped interviews and primary resources.