Do You Speak Tree?
Below is an Educators' Guide for using Do You Speak Tree? in your classroom.
Our debut graphic novel for kids celebrates the power of using one’s voice. The nearly wordless story illustrated by Josiane Vlitos and written by Josh Oaktree, with creative direction from Amelia Boscov, makes for a great introduction to environmentalism for young readers.
The story follows Oakie the good-natured oak tree on an adventure to find someone who will speak up for the forest. The problem is that Oakie only speaks “tree,” a fun visual language that no one else understands. That all changes when Oakie meets Art, an elementary student with a crayon in hand and a plan in mind to inspire the world.
On the following pages, you will find discussion questions for teaching your students how to “speak tree.” Better yet, they may teach you.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Want to schedule a virtual classroom visit with the authors?
Discuss the cover. What do you think it means to speak tree?
AUTHORS’ SUGGESTION: We recommend embracing the openness and fun of the question. Our philosophy is that the first step to speaking tree and being environmentally-minded is by opening up the conversation.
Following the discussion, you can have your students write about or even draw about what they think speaking tree means. Allow time in class for students to share their ideas and writing.
AUTHORS’ SUGGESTIONS: Do You Speak Tree? is a mostly wordless story. So, how do you read a book to kids when there are no words? We say there is no right answer, but we have two favorite methods:
1. Show the pages silently. If you’re reading to one child, they can say, “Next,” when they’re ready to turn the page. If you’re reading to a class, the students can hold their fingers up like an ‘O’ to their eye — and look just like Oakie — to say “Okie, I’m ready to turn the page.” When everyone is ready, you can continue. Answer their questions as you go.
2. Narrate the story. This method is quite fun. The role of interpreting the images and story falls on your shoulders. You get to make it up as you go. Since the story is about using your voice to make a difference, we quite like how this method verbalizes the reading experience.
3. Let the children speak up! This is by far our favorite method of reading the story. Call for volunteers to narrate the book. We find students are even more enthusiastic to read once they’ve read it silently and know the story. If the teacher sets an example and reads the opening pages, that helps, too.
If you have success with another method, or would like to share how reading the book went for you, we’d love to hear your experience.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Want to read Do You Speak Tree? to your class? We would love to provide a free digital PDF for your classroom. That way you can project the images larger for everyone to see. To coordinate, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE TO BUY: The book is available at all major booksellers online, including but not limited to Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the print edition, and Kindle, Apple, and Barnes & Noble Nook for the e-book. Whether digital or print, your book purchase will plant a tree, as we have partnered with One Tree Planted, a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
QUESTIONS FOR THE START OF THE STORY:
A fun question to get us going:
a) What do you think Oakie was dreaming about before waking up?
b) How do you think Oakie felt when seeing the fallen tree stumps?
c) How would you feel if you were Oakie?
QUESTIONS FOR THE BEGINNING OF OAKIE’S JOURNEY:
d) Why do you think the squirrel, pigeons, and dog don’t understand Oakie?
e) What do you think Oakie was trying to say to them?
f) Do you know how to speak tree?
QUESTIONS FOR THE MIDDLE OF OAKIE’S JOURNEY:
g) Oakie meets a student named Art. Like Art, do you like to draw?
h) Why do you think Art understands Oakie but no one else does?
i) What do you think it means to speak tree?
QUESTIONS FOR ART AND OAKIE’S JOURNEY TOGETHER:
j) Art speaks tree. But she also helps Oakie through her actions. Can you name three ways that Art helps Oakie without using words?
k) Why do think the mean CEO speaks only with words?
l) Do you notice any other parts of the story that use written words instead of images?
AUTHORS’ NOTE: We tried to use written words as little as possible. We used them mainly to show when people or individuals were not helping Oakie and did not speak tree. But we made a couple of exceptions. Maybe you can find them?
QUESTIONS FOR THE END OF THE BOOK
m) In the end of the book, nearly everyone speaks tree.
Can you name an action they do to help the trees?
n) Are there any other ways you can help the trees and environment?
o) How do you think everyone can speak tree together?
p) How do you think we can teach the world to speak tree?
Here are some ideas for how to continue the fun and help the environment even after finishing the book:
Plant a tree as a class.
Invite an environmentalist or eco-conscious artist or business to talk with your students about how they speak tree every day.
Go to your library and pick out 5 more children’s books that are eco-conscious. Read them as a class.
Have your students draw an image that shows how they plan to help the environment. The drawing can answer the question, “How do you speak tree?”
On Instagram, use the hashtag #speaktree and tag us @OakTree_Comics to share your students’ art. We want to learn too, so please teach us “How you speak tree.” Make sure your students or children are working with an adult for this one. The adult should be the one posting. If your students or children are feeling creative, they can also do something besides drawing. You can have them take a photo, write a poem, compose a song, or follow wherever their creativity takes them to answer the question, “How do you speak tree?”
Write your local government or politician about an environmental issue that matters to you, whether it’s deforestation, climate change, or something else.
Brainstorm how your school can become even more eco-friendly. Does your school have a recycling program? How about a compost bin? Is there a way for your school to create less waste and energy? Sometimes, amazing answers can come from just asking the questions in the first place.
HOW TO READ THE BOOK
GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
AFTER READING THE BOOK