What was it like to be the first woman to play baseball in a men’s professional league? How was a woman able to break through this barrier in the 1950s? Crystal Hubbard tells the story of Marcenia Lyle’s first experiences with baseball as a young girl in the beautiful picture book, Catching the Moon. Catching the Moon features a determined Marcenia who is confident in her abilities in the face of obstacles that might have seemed insurmountable to some. Because Marcenia faces a problem that, once solved, leads to another problem, her story is the perfect one to use to teach students the problem-solution text structure.
Teaching the Problem-Solution Text Structure
Before reading Catching the Moon aloud, I would do a picture walk with students. I would invite my students to make predictions based on the cover image which features a young girl with a baseball mitt on her hand who is looking out of her window at the moon. After that, I would have students make some additional inferences as I share some of the following images before reading.
Picture Walk – Catching the Moon
|Cover image of a young girl who is looking at the moon.||What do you notice about the child on the cover? How do you think she is feeling? What might she be thinking?|
|Pages 5 and 6 – image of a man watching children playing on a playground. Some children are jumping rope and some are gathering on a pitcher’s mound with baseball equipment||Why do you think there is a man watching the children as they play? Why do you think one girl is walking toward the boys on the pitcher’s mound? How do you think the girl is feeling?|
|Pages 7 and 8 – images of a girl wearing a dress and playing baseball||Why do you think the girl is wearing a dress? When you look at the girl’s face on the last picture on the page, how do you think she feels?|
|Pages 9 and 10 – image of a girl shaking hands with a man and many children cheering; image of the children walking away||What do you think the man might be saying to the girl? Why do you think a boy has his arm around the girl as they’re walking away? Does the girl look happy? How might she be feeling?|
|Pages 13 and 14 – image of children playing baseball||Look at the girl’s facial expression. How do you think she is feeling?|
|Pages 15 and 16 – image of children cheering as the young girl talks to the man||What can you infer about the girl’s feelings by looking at her? What do you think she might be saying?|
|Pages 17 and 18 – image of the girl talking to her parents; image of the girl walking away from the man and several boys||In the picture on the left, the girl looks excited. Why do you think she looks the way she does in the picture on the right? What might have happened?|
|Pages 19 and 20 – image of the young girl looking out the window at the moon||What do you think the girl might be thinking?|
|Note, it is not necessary to ask questions about all of the images listed. These are suggestions. The teacher may pick and choose the images that will best build anticipation.|
During the Read Aloud
After building anticipation, I would say, “Let’s read to find out what happens in this story!” When teaching the problem-solution text structure, I want to allow students time to turn-and-talk about specific problems a character faces and make predictions about how the character might solve the problems. In Catching the Moon, Marcenia’s peers see her as a skilled baseball player and a valued teammate. She has earned the respect of her friends by working hard and playing well. However, Marcenia encounters many problems due to stereotyping and sexism.
The first problem she encounters is that Mr. Street – who is the manager for the St. Louis Cardinals and is running a free baseball camp for kids – doesn’t want to accept Marcenia into his baseball camp because she is a girl. I would read up to the point where Mr. Street first says, “’But I don’t take girls in my camp’.” (p.9) and ask, “What do you think Marcenia might do now?” I would invite students to turn and talk and pose some theories before continuing to read. Students can stop and jot, as well. When we discover Marcenia’s solution (playing hard and stealing home) and Mr. Street’s response (offering her a space in the camp), we can check to see if anyone predicted this outcome or something similar.
The next problem Marcenia faces is that her family is not excited about her going to the camp and her father says that he cannot afford cleats. I would continue to read to the end of page 20 and ask, “What do you think Marcenia will do now? Do you think she will give up on her dream? What do you think will happen next?” At this point, I would have students turn and talk again and brainstorm some possible solutions. I would invite them to stop and jot in their notebooks. After this, I would continue to read and would check to see if anyone predicted that Mr. Street would give Marcenia cleats.
The final problem in the story is that Marcenia needs to get permission from her dad to attend the camp. I would stop at the end of page 24 and ask, “How do you think Marcenia’s father will react? How do you think he will feel when he sees Marcenia’s new cleats? Do you think he will allow Marcenia to go to the camp?” Again, I would have students turn and talk about possible outcomes, continue to read, and check to see if anyone predicted the outcome.
This book lends itself to some great discussions about determination, perseverance, and overcoming hardships. I like to discuss the societal problems of the time with my students. Marcenia faced sexism and stereotyping. We can also infer that her family struggled financially. I like to have students reflect and make a connection to their own lives by posing the questions, “In your opinion, why do some people think some things are ‘boys only’ or ‘girls only’? Have you ever wanted to play a sport or participate in an activity that was designated for the ‘other’ gender? Were you able to do it? Did people accept you?”.
If you want to save a ton of planning time, check out my narrative nonfiction bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Narrative-Nonfiction-BUNDLE-3577866 I will keep adding to this bundle (even though it’s not technically a “growing bundle”) as I develop new lessons.
- Hubbard, Crystal (2005) Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream. Lee and Low Books, New York, NY. (Illustrations by Randy Duburke)
- Jackson, Ashwanta (2018) This woman shattered the gender barrier in pro baseball. https://timeline.com/toni-stone-first-woman-pro-baseball-206e26cb27ae
- Storyline Online Read Aloud featuring Kevin Costner and Jillian Estelle: Catching the Moon
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