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The Giving Braids

Children often need to make difficult choices in order to help their families. Read a picture book about such a child in Mexico and share the handy technique of braiding as a way to understand the complex issues of sacrifice and compassion.

  • Grade 1
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Share the story of "Erandi's Braids" by Antonio Hernandez Madrigal, illlustrated by Tomie DePaola. Paraphrase the Author's Note at the end of the book to explain the practice of selling one's hair and underscore that this no longer happens in Mexico. Talk about what the word "sacrifice" means in this context. Ask if students have ever given something up and for what reason. What could the students give up to help their families? Isn't it wonderful that children can help their families by their actions.
    2. Challenge students to think of something they would give up for family. Students will make a fabric braid and identify what they are giving up. Begin this process by covering work areas with recycled newspaper. Distribute smocks.
    3. Provide each student with a piece of T-shirt fabric. Along with water for brush cleaning, provide Crayola Washable Paints and brushes in the bright colors found in the read aloud book. Encourage children to completely cover their swatches of fabric with colors so that no fabric material shows through. Allow time for fabric to air-dry.
    4. Students will use Crayola Blunt-Tip Scissors to cut their painted fabric into three equal sections lengthwise. Long, thin scraps may be saved for tying the braids. If needed, an adult may assist students with cutting fabric.
    5. Demonstrate for students how to roll each fabric strip. Then gather the three rolls together at the one end and secure them together with rubber bands.
    6. Ask each student to number each roll 1, 2 and 3 using Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Makers at the un-banded ends in small numbers.
    7. Begin the braiding activity by asking students pair up. One student holds the rubber banded end and the other student arranges the 3 rolls in 1, 2, 3 order on a flat surface. Demonstrate picking up roll #1 and crossing it over roll #2, next crossing roll #3 over #2 and then roll #1 over roll #3. After this initial numbered start, students may continue braiding without worrying about the numbers but always crossing the outside roll over the center one, then taking the other outside roll and crossing it over the center one until coming to the end of the strips. Secure the braid with another rubber band. Then switch partners.
    8. Distribute one index card to each student to write or draw what each would sacrifice to help their families. Hole punch each card and thread a scrape of fabric through the card to attach it to each braid. Wrap other colorful scraps to hide the rubber bands and written numbers. Hang the braids in a display.
  • Standards

    LA: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

    LA: With guidance and support from adults, demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

    LA: With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

    SS: Compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions.

    SS: Identify and describe ways family, groups, and community influence the individual’s daily life and personal choices.

    SS: Analyze a particular event to identify reasons individuals might respond to it in different ways.

    SS: Describe the influence of incentives, values, traditions, and habits on economic decisions.

    VA: Students investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

    VA: Students experience, analyze and interpret art and other aspects of the visual world.

  • Adaptations

    Have a week of reading other picture books about sacrifice such as "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, "The Quiltmaker's Gift" by Jeff Brumbeau and "Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed" by Emily Pearson. Ask students to share their favorite movies that feature sacrifice like "Charlotte's Web".

    Take a closer look at "Erandi's Braids" for visual images of life in Mexico. Compare these illustrations with photographs found in books and on the Internet of Mexico today. List the italizied Spanish words found in the book and find out more about them. Are they still used in Mexico today?

    Ask the students to see if they can find any examples of braiding in their homes. Why are things braided? Is it strictly decorative or are their reasons to braid?


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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