Young students, as well as older ones, can experience “One Today,” the second inaugural poem for President Barack Obama, with the beautiful picture book, illustrated by Dav Pilkey. This lesson focuses on the first few pages of the book and can serve as a model for exploring later stanzas through multiple modalities that can open up learning possibilities across a number of disciplines. The activities in this lesson plan gradually introduce young children to hearing the entire poem read aloud over an extended period of days.

As always, feel free to adapt the activities to your students’ particular needs.

  1. “One Today” by Richard Blanco, illustrated by Dav Pilkey (Little, Brown and Company, 2015)
  2. Maps of the United States (geography, science connections)
  3. Small dolls (storytelling, family) (preschool-kindergarten)
  4. Sets of small blocks with people, houses, animals, and trees (storytelling, neighborhood) (kindergarten-first grade)
  5. Markers, paper, and pencils.
  6. Cardboard boxes of different sizes.
  1. Before reading the poem, have your students stand and lead them through the following movements: 
    • The sun rises every morning. Pretend you are the sun rising. Bend down in a way that is comfortable and rise up. 
    • What is one of the first things you do in the morning? Stretch and yawn as you wake up. Look in the mirror and check yourself. 
    • You are a school bus—What color are you?  Go when I tell you to: go. Red light: stop. Green light: go.  Red light: stop.
    • Pretend you are working like a grown up does. Move as you would in your job.  
    • Pretend you are dreaming about what you love to do! 
    • Shake out your body and sit down.
  2. Using a Smart Board or other projection source, show your students images from the first few pages of the book One Today.  A good place to end is with the line “the 'I have a dream' we keep dreaming.” For each illustration, ask your students: What do you notice? Then ask them to turn to a partner and tell her what they saw. Prompt them to give as many details as possible. Ask them to be more specific: They need to say more than boy, girl, woman
  3. Read the pages you have selected aloud to your students, while displaying them. After each page, ask your students to remember something that jumped out at them. Ask them to share what they remember with their partners.
  4. Whole-class discussion: Ask your students to share what jumped out at them from the illustrations. Then ask them what words jumped out at them from the poem. What do they think this part of the poem is saying to them?
  5. Using the resources listed at the beginning of this lesson create activities with interdisciplinary connections to the poem “One Today.” Science, geography, family, and neighborhood curriculum areas are definite possibilities. As you explore future sections of the poem with your students, think about the other interdisciplinary connections that present themselves, e.g. weather, constellations, employment, and conduct extension lessons that make sense to you. Have fun creating!