Author Elvira Woodruff was inspired to write The Memory Coat after a visit to Ellis Island Immigration Museum. She came across an exhibit of clothing worn by the immigrants and was touched by the story of one piece of tattered clothing. After doing research, Elvira learned about the plight of Russian-Jews coming to America in order escape the cruel treatment. With this information and her imagination, the story came together.
Illustrator Michael Dooling also loved historic research. He studied hundreds of photographs from the turn-of-the-century to get an idea of what the characters would look like and how they lived. Take note of the illustrations to understand how the characters feel as they go through their journey to America and the immigration process at Ellis Island.
This heart-warming book is a great addition to any unit on immigration or study of historical fiction.
Before reading the book, discuss what immigration means and why people immigrate to another country. Talk about other words that my be unfamiliar to your students. Ask the students if any of their relatives immigrated from another country. Then, discuss the history of Ellis Island and what all immigrants at the turn-of-the century had to go through before they could come to live in America. (The Author's Note at the end of the book, Historic Notes, and Ellis Island are excellent for background information.) Scholastic has an excellent online tour of Ellis Island. You can also bring in other books about immigration and Ellis Island.
I would also recommend encouraging the students to look at the illustrations in the book. See what they can infer or what conclusions and assumptions they draw from their observations. Discuss the difference between inferring and making predictions. Inferring is required to make predictions as well as to draw conclusions from reading text, illustrations, maps, and charts. This is a great time to use an anchor chart with examples of each.
Inferencing requires active reading and guidance throughout the book. Allow your students to think aloud as they develop conclusions from their reading. Making an inference is probably the most important part of comprehension.
- Help your students create sensory images related to different elements of the book (characters, plot, theme, etc.)
- Develop empathy for the characters
- Use background knowledge and text to form theories and draw conclusions about events in the story
- Understand what is not stated but implied (beyond the text)
I've provided a lesson on inferencing while reading The Memory Coat. Ex. Gisha loved to draw pictures to go along with the stories. Students can write what they infer about Gisha from this text. I've included other examples in the product. Students can infer a character's emotions and feelings during the reading, too.
As students read the book, they can read they can complete the vocabulary sheet as they come across words that that are unfamiliar.
Students can complete the coat and suitcase activities. Students will think of special items they would bring with them if they were immigrating to another country. Then, students can use inferencing to write different feelings and emotions Grisha displayed throughout the book.
There are so many activities that can go along with this book. I hope these help in teaching inference to your class.
Click on the image below to download your free sample of The Memory Coat book study.