Saturday, September 25, 2021


Last week's blog post featured an Interview with Beth Anderson, author of the picture book, Tad Lincoln's Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President's House. This week I'm providing an analysis of the plot that teachers and SLPs can use with students to talk about the story after reading the book. The analysis is based on the approach found in my resource, Story Frames for Teaching Literacy. Find out more about Story Frames HERE. This blog post is also available as a downloadable Educator's Guide.

This narrative non-fiction picture book is an excellent resource to use with students of all ages for the following objectives:

1. Improve Understanding of Text Structure. Talk to students about the plot structure found below. Then ask them to retell the story to a peer or write a summary. 

2. Connect to the Social Studies Curriculum. The narrative explores what it was like living in the White House during the Civil War and contains an extensive Author's Note that will appeal to older readers. Ask students to find other books about the Civil War appropriate for their grade level.

3. Build Grit, Resilience, and Disability Awareness. The story features a child with both speech/language and learning challenges and can be used to talk about resilience, determination, and acceptance of self and others as well as additional topics related to social-emotional development. Ask students to list their strengths and weaknesses.

4. Improve Vocabulary. The author uses many action verbs to portray Tad's exuberant nature. Have students go through the book looking for action words like careen, launch, scurry, trot, scramble. Have them find definitions for each word and practice conjugating the verb for various tenses (scurry, scurries, scurried, scurrying). Then use the verbs in a story or summary.

5. Promote Ideas for Writing Personal Narratives. The book can be used to inspire students to write their own stories. After reading the book, ask students this question: Have you or someone you know ever tried to find a small way that you could help impact a big problem?  Examples might include homelessness, hunger, poverty, or protecting the environment. 

For more suggestions on how to use picture books to encourage students to write personal narratives, see my AUTHOR PANEL video with Beth Anderson and other children's authors and download the free PDFs from my website below:

PDF for Parents: Picture Books for Reminiscing

PDF for Teachers: Writing Personal Narratives: Using Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books as Inspiration for Telling Your Story


ORDINARY WORLD- Tad lived at the White House with this father, Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War. He was a restless child who ran from his tutors and interrupted his father's meetings, but he also brought joy and comfort to the president during a very difficult time.

CALL TO ADVENTURE- His father invited him along on official business. 

MENTORS, GUIDES, & GIFTS- Tad learned much from watching his father. He preferred learning from his father to learning from his tutor.

CROSSING- When Tad was 10, his parents took him to visit an army camp.

NEW WORLD- Tad slept in a tent and visited the troops. He was greatly affected by the experience and when he returned home, he listened to the problems of the people who came to visit his father.

PROBLEMS, PRIZES, & PLANS- There were many problems related to the war, but the one that seemed to affect Lincoln the most was that the generals didn't have enough bandages and medicine for their soldiers. Tad planned to raise money to help the war effort.

MIDPOINT ATTEMPT- Tad charged a fee to people who wanted to visit his father at the White House until his father shut down his efforts. He also tried selling food, broken toys, and his parent's clothing until his father brought that to an end as well.

DOWNTIME- He finally settled for keeping his father company in his office. Late each night, his father carried him to bed.

CHASE & ESCAPE- Tad tried to find other ways to help. He gave coins to the homeless and freed a turkey that arrived shortly before the holidays.

DEATH & TRANSFORMATION- When Tad realized that the cook had recaptured the turkey was going to cook it for Christmas dinner, he begged his father to intervene. Lincoln wrote a note saving the turkey's life.

CLIMAX/THE FINAL TEST- For Christmas, Tad received many books as presents. That's when he got his best idea yet. He packed up the books along with warm clothing and food and took a large box to the soldiers recovering in the army hospital.

REWARD- The soldiers are the ones who received the gifts in the end, though we can be certain that Tad benefitted as much as they did and that his generosity brought joy to his father as well.

To get the most out of this narrative analysis and to find additional supports for writing, vocabulary development, and comprehension, check out my book, Story Frames for Teaching Literacy.

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