Cool Classics! works with public elementary school students to promote critical thinking and a love of literature. We focus on just one classic book at a time, and in 20 to 25 sessions of varied activities, we build a universe of art, culture, humanities, and thematic ideas around that book. Literally, our students are led to experience how the text of a book opens up a whole world of creative imagination, sharpening the skills one needs for succeeding in the real world.
Each session begins with reading, followed by various activities – introduction to artists and experts, performances, projects and field trips – that spiral back to the central book’s themes, and create the multi-faceted Cool Classics! experience.
Check out our curricula and classroom activities below.
Cool Classics! curricula aim to provide our at-risk students with tools and a context for navigating the world. For example, the 1936 classic The Story of Ferdinand helps teach values of individuality, maternal love and support, conflict resolution and nonviolence. Pet of the Met and Norman the Doorman show how art can transform and tame us. Mouse Soup offers lessons about outwitting your adversaries, listening to each other and taking proper care of those we love. Crocodile, Crocodile teaches the balance between right and wrong, rights and responsibilities and considers animal rights and the environment. The Amazing Bone is about the power of language, friendship and imagination, and their ability to transform us and even save lives.
- Dramatic readings of the central classic text
- Art-making activities that build connections to literature, making it part of the students’ own experience and achievements
- Musical activities that include listening, singing and experiencing classical adaptations of themes related to the classic text
- Theater and dance activities that connect students to the text by teaching professional acting techniques that develop interpretation and staging skills
- Creating definitions of the concepts and key vocabulary in the classic text
- Socratic method of teaching that draws students into their own experience of and discussion about literary themes, cultural concepts and issues raised by the classic text
- Borrowing privileges from the Cool Classics! Lending Library, which has more than 1,500 volumes that Cool Classics! students can check out and read at home. You can support our library by checking out our Donate page or by buying a book!
- Parent and older student helper involvement under staff guidance
Projects and Events
- “Passports to Reading” – Children create their own passports and earn visas for books from other countries, encouraging children to visit other countries and imaginative worlds through books
- Artists and Experts – Children are introduced to artists and experts who present work related to the classic text to inspire cross-genre imagination
- Final Performance – Students create props for their dramatic adaptation of the classic text performed for their families, friends and school students, staff and faculty
- “Book-and-Movie Days” – Film adaptations and their written versions are experienced, discussed and compared
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Chicago Children’s Theatre
- Chicago Public Library local branches
- Harris Theater
- Lifeline Theatre
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
- Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago
- Powell’s Bookstores
- Judy A. Saslow Gallery
Check out our brochure.