Book-Based Skill Builders
based on Becoming Naomi Leon
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
and print the student activity sheet (PDF)
About the Book
Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw is a girl living with Gram, her great-grandmother, and Owen, her brother in an Airstream trailer, they call, “Baby Beluga.” They live in Lemon Tree, California at Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho. They are happy, going to their favorite places such as Spray n’ Play, a car wash-deli-playground. One day, Naomi and Owen’s mother, Skyla comes to visit and wants to take Naomi away to live with her and her boyfriend. Gram and her friends drive the children to Mexico to try to find their father and buy them more time to find a way to keep the family together. This is a wonderful, timely story, filled with the emotions of a young girl, who finds out who she really is inside.
Set the Stage
Look at the front cover and talk about the title and picture.
- Ask the students if they know what the figures are and make predictions about how these figures might fit in the story.
- This book is written in the first person. Naomi, the main character, is telling her story. Many books are written in the third person, which is someone other than the main character tells the story from an outsider’s perspective.
- Find California on a United States map and show the proximity to Mexico.
After reading the book, discuss the following with the class:
- How were the creatures shown on the front cover (alebrijes or animalitos) an important part of the story?
- Why do you think the author chose to let Naomi tell the story instead of some other character or an outside person?
- Why did Naomi think that Mr. Marble was the best person at Buena Vista Elementary School?
- Naomi thinks it is good and bad that Skyla came back into their lives. What did she mean by this?
- Naomi took Blanca to see Mr. Marble and then to the library to eat lunch. Naomi thought of it as a place where all the leftover kids came. Blanca thought it was some sort of club. What does Naomi mean by being a leftover kid?
Put a little Spanish into the student’s vocabulary with this multicultural reproducible.
To extend students’ enjoyment of the book, try these:
- Explore Naomi’s Hobby: Naomi had a very special talent, which was carving figures out of soap and other materials. Allow the students to carve their own figures using modeling clay and a plastic knife. Display them in the Media Center of your school or in a very prominent place in your classroom. You could use a tree branch to put them on or ask the students to come up with ideas on how their creations can be displayed.
- Character Discussions: Many people helped Naomi find out what was really inside her. When she came back from Mexico, even her friends and teachers at school noticed something different about her. Allow students to work in small groups, discussing each character’s (Gram, Owen, Skyla, Mr. Marble, and Santiago) positive effects on Naomi. How did they change how she felt about herself? How did they make her a little different? The groups could take turns reporting their conclusions to the class.
- Make A List: Naomi kept lists. She wrote down things she felt were important. She had lists of “Things I am Good At,” “Splendid Words,” and “Unusual Names,” just to name a few. Ask the students what lists would help them in the classroom. Begin a few on large paper that you can hang around the room. Allow student to suggestion additions to each list as the year progresses.
- Create A New Ending: What if the judge granted Skyla’s wishes to have Naomi go with her and Clive? How would the end of the story go? Or what if the children went to live with Santiago in Mexico? Ask the students to choose a scenario and rewrite the ending to this story. Allow them to share their new endings in small groups.
- Character Education: Owen had some strange habits and a few physical flaws. Despite both, he was a very bright boy. Many people judged him on his appearance before they got to know him. Lead a serious discussion about people with disabilities or ones who look or act different than others.
Lesson Developed by Kelley Raybon
Kelley Raybon has been teaching elementary school for 20 years. She is currently a curriculum resource teacher at an elementary school. She earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
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