Judge a Book by Its Cover, Part 2

Welcome back, everyone! So glad to see you made it back to my blog.

When we left off last time, I was introducing you to a lesson I taught with my students on one of my favorite stories for novice learners, La sorpresa de Nandi. Prior to reading the story, my third grade students were using their novice language skills to describe what that saw on the cover of the book. The simple conversation generated so much energy which helped them enjoy and find humor in Nandi’s adventure.

When we finished reading the story, I wanted to capture the student’s energy and use it as a context to help my students gain skills of Intercultural Competence. I decided to base my future lesson plans on this essential question:

How would Nandi’s story change if it were set in a different country?

Despite the cognitive complexity of this question, I knew my novice level speakers would be able to ponder this question using the target language as long as I framed the questions used in class in a linguistically simple manner. So on day 2 of discussing Nandi, my questions began to probe into my students’ understanding of the world around them:

Where does Nandi live? Yes, Nandi lives in Africa. Now, use your imagination. Nandi lives in Connecticut! Does this cover look right? Describe for me how “Nandi’s Surprise in Connecticut” would look.

Students were now using their language skills to go beyond the tasks typically given to novice learners. They were reimagining the story and setting it in a completely different cultural context.  They used simple sentences, such as Nandi is _______, or Nandi has _______, to reimagine the story in a completely different cultural context.

Partnering  with the Classroom Teacher

With day 2 in the books, I still wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Nandi just yet, but I recognized my students were reaching the limits of their linguistic abilities and wouldn’t be able to delve deeper into the essential question without switching to English. This is when I made the decision to partner with the classroom teacher to create an interdisciplinary lesson.

I am extremely fortunate in that my school has built in time (2 hours on Wednesday afternoons) for teachers to collaborate and teach interdisciplinary lessons. So, on a Wednesday afternoon, the classroom teacher and I co-taught a lesson on discovering a book’s setting and once again asked students to ponder the question “How would Nandi’s story change if it were set in a different country?” Working in English, they came up with some great questions:

  • What would Nandi look like?
  • What would her name be?
  • What would her environment look like?
  • How would she carry the fruit to her friend’s house?
  • How would she get to her friends house?
  • What language would the book be written in?

When class finished, they continued to work with their classroom teacher to research these questions. They even worked with the library media specialist to learn about new tools, such as Culturegrams, to continue their research. These students were so determined not only redesign the book cover, but to make it authentic!

When they had finished gathering their information, the students then worked collaboratively to bring their research to life. They used materials from the art room (watercolor paint, colored pencils, crayons, glue, patterned paper, and more) to create poster-sized covers for their new stories. I can truly say, they enjoyed each step of the way.

Beautiful Student Work!

Take a look at these amazing book covers my 3rd grade students produced and see if you can guess in which country the story is set. The answers are in the comment section – and while you’re there, join the conversation and let me know what you think of this project!

Stay Tuned for Part 3

Next week’s post will outline how this project is connected to Byram’s Model of Intercultural Competence (IC). I will also include some of the guides I use to help me plan for integrating IC into my curriculum.


  1. Were you able to figure out the setting of each book cover? Here are the answers:

    Top Left: Iraq
    Top Right: Kosovo
    Middle Left: China
    Middle Right: Spain
    Bottom Left: United States

  2. Love this!!

  3. Love this!! I’ve ordered the book and am already thinking of how I can add it and some of these great ideas into my plans for next year. I work with a great team special area teachers that I can definitely see collaborating and integrating like this. Thanks so much for sharing!

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