Teaching with “Mama’s Window”

Mama’s Window Literacy Project
By Lynn Rubright

Click to download the Mama’s Window Curriculum Guide for grades 3-6 in PDF format.

Author in Residence Program
designed for a COCA (Contemporary Center for the Arts)
Arts in Education Program
Piloted in 4th grades a St. Louis Public School

Using the chapter book, Mama’s Window (Lee and Low Books), an interdisciplinary language arts curriculum will be developed for fourth grade students at a St. Louis Public School. Key to the success of school visits is to work closely with teachers, and specialists to design activities that relate to existing mandated curriculum. Emphasis will be on the language arts and social studies. When possible, there will be connections to math, science, art, music, physical education, and computer/technology studies.

The integrated language arts skills are based on those defined by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE): listening, thinking, speaking, writing, reading and performing. Activities presented in the Mama’s Window Literacy Project are designed to support Missouri and national language arts and social studies standards that students are expected to master and upon which they will be tested..


The students participating in this project will become more effective readers by increasing their word attack and comprehension skills. They will develop an ability to glean meaning of unknown words from context clues. Writing exercises will be presented throughout the project. The children will become more expressive oral readers as they read parts of Mama’s Window aloud and participate in reader’s theater projects.
Children will also benefit from regular expressive arts activities: improvisation (movement, creative drama); creating monologues, dialogues, and acting out scenes from Mama’s Window.


Language Arts:

Written work includes writing descriptions of characters within the various settings of the story; composing short paragraphs with clear main ideas and supportive sentences and expanded vocabulary. The dictionary, thesaurus, and graphic organizers underscore using proper grammar and spelling during the process of creative writing exercises. BUT before writing activities are assigned the children will participate in meaningful creative drama, movement, and improvisational.

Social Studies:

Social studies will include map study, and interpersonal communications issues like bullying; feelings of loss and grieving; change; family values; and character education; regional foods and cooking; fishing and kitchen gardens.

In addition to social studies there will be interdisciplinary connections between math, art, science, computer/internet research, music and physical education.


Art teachers might use Mama’s Window to help children design a crazy quilt with fabric or paper. Coordinating a language arts and art project children could write about their own Dreams and Wishes in language arts, then create paper “stained glass” windows of tissue and construction paper. Both art and writing could be displayed on the bulletin board.

Music and Physical Education:

Music teachers could study the history of the spiritual and have children sing the songs in the book. P.E. teachers could have children play the games like red rover, and make up jump rope rhymes.

Internet Research:

Computer lab and technology teachers might help students find more information connected to topics and themes in Mama’s Window on the internet: researching flora and fauna of the swamps and bayous in the Mississippi River Delta region; researching the history and uses of stained glass windows; researching the art of fishing and commercial catfish farming.

Literature Connections:

Librarians could find books that touch on topics, particularly those by Patricia McKissack, related to those in Mama’s Window and read them to the children or encourage them to check them out. This will help children compare and contrast situations and issues raised in “Mama” and in other books— such as comparing ‘Tricia Ann in Patricia McKissack’s books: Goin’ Someplace Special, with Sugar. A story in McKissack’s, The Dark Thirty might be might relate to the fear Sugar has of the swamp in Mama’s Window. Color Me Dark The Diary of Nellie Lee Love: The Great Migration North demonstrates stress a child feels when forced to move. Students will write similar experiences that Sugar might have written in the journals they will be keeping for a Mama’s Window project.


I meet with teachers in person or by email.

One format:

The students will initially listen to Mama’s Window read aloud by their teachers, and together they will discuss the story’s structure: setting, characters, conflict, crisis and resolution. Children could read Mama’s Window in literature sets before the author visit.

Ms. Rubright meets with students and presents an informal discussion. “Looking into Mama’s Window.” She will bring large and small maps of the United States. A CD disc for each class to project pictures of Uncle Free’s cabin, swamp, bayou and Sun Lake, and cypress trees growing in the water. Study a crazy quilt. Handouts of maps of the United States and state of Mississippi with suggestions for language arts games to reinforce basic reading skills such as a short reader’s theater script based on “Mama”.

Invite Lynn Rubright to your school for an exciting literacy residency.