In a series of letters to family and friends, Kate describes her vacation adventures from the coast to coast.
Booklist said of YOUR BEST FRIEND, KATE, "Memorable times and family anecdotes are described with zip and verve....Factual tidbits are so nonchalantly tucked in that Brisson's informal geography lesson is intriguing....Language arts teachers will enjoy this inspiration for real life or fanciful vacation writing for their children."
In the KATE books, Kate visits places across the country. Ask students to plot out the course of Kate's trips on a wall map in your classroom. Or use a map and let students locate all the states they have visited.
Have your students design postcards of places they have visited. Remind them to include factual information on the upper left hand corner of the back and design a stamp for the corner. They should address the card to a friend, using correct form and include a message.
A different class project would be to visit places in your town or county and design postcards for these local places of interest. Do postcards sometimes make a place look better than it is? Discuss how and why this is done.
Rick Brown included the state bird, tree and flower in many of his illustrations. Do your students know what their state bird, flower and tree are? Do you have a state insect, mammal, motto, or song? Tell your students to pretend that your town is going to become a state. Pick a state flower, tree, bird, etc. for this new state. Defend your choices.
In KATE HEADS WEST, Kate figures out how far they've traveled when they are in Ramah, New Mexico. Use a road atlas to map out trips from your town to various cities. Generally, an atlas will have a map of the country with the mileage indicated between major cities. When students have determined the distance, have them estimate how long it would take to get there, driving at 50 m.p.h.
In YOUR BEST FRIEND, KATE, point out the horse and buggies that appear on the pages set in Lancaster. Ask your students if anyone can identify who they might belong to. Have your students research the Amish, a group of people whose religious beliefs require them to live simply, avoiding most of the technological conveniences we take for granted. What would be the advantages to such a lifestyle?
In KATE HEADS WEST, Kate uses some Spanish and Cherokee words. In KATE ON THE COAST, she uses some Chinese and Hawaiian words. What languages besides English do your students speak? Does everyone know at least a few words in another language? Devise a class list of words in as many different languages as you can. Add to it for a month or so. How many languages are there in the world? Are your students taking or do they plan to take another language in school? Discuss why this might be a good idea.
In YOUR BEST FRIEND, KATE, Kate asks Lucy to sing "God Bless America" to Buster and Bruno while she cleans their bowl. Her father whistles "Chattanooga Choo Choo." In KATE HEADS WEST, she and Lucy sing "Deep in the Heart of Texas." All of these songs have place names in the titles. How many more songs can your students find with place names in them? Have them ask their parents and grandparents. Make a class list of all the songs. Work with your music teacher to learn the words and music and take a musical trip across the USA.
For one day, have every student wear a tee shirt with a place name on it. Plan enough in advance so that students can borrow a shirt if necessary. Better yet, organize a geography day for your entire school with everyone wearing a place name tee shirt. Who had a shirt from the farthest away?
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