Unit Enhancement Project
Marcia Wagner
Halmoni and the Picnic
By Soook Nyul Choi
Illustrated by Karen M. Dugan
Halmoni and the Picnic is a story in our basal reader. It is a story
that my students enjoy reading year after year. My additions to the lesson are printed in
italics to highlight how I could make the lesson more multicultural.
Here is a synopsis of the story: Yunmi is worried about her grandmother,
Halmoni, who has recently moved from Korea to Live with Yunmi’s family in the United
States. Halmoni is uncomfortable in the strange new culture, and is too shy to speak
English and make new friends. Yunmi and her classmates Helen and Anna Marie decide
to ask Halmoni to chaperon their class picnic. Halmoni agrees, and prepares a Korean
dish called Kimbap for the children. It is a big success, and the children even make up a
jump-rope song about it. When the picnic is over, Halmoni says goodbye to the children
in her new country’s language, English.
Before reading the story I like to have the students talk about some of the
vocabulary words used throughout the story. The words suggested are dignified,
embarrassed, disturb, cautiously, and relieved. I use an activity provided in the student
workbook to further define these words. There are sentences listed for each of the
vocabulary words with ways to act out the words. We cut these sentences into strips and
take turns drawing them out. We usually work in pairs or groups so everyone gets a
chance to participate if they wish. The sentences are:
You drop a book on the floor, and you want to act dignified as you pick it up.
You just spilled your milk at lunch, and you feel embarrassed.
You are walking through a classroom and don’t want to disturb the people who
are hard at work.
You are at a busy street and must cross cautiously.
You feel relieved because you thought you were late for school but you really
Other words I have discovered that need extra explanation for this story are: sighed,
grinned, skipping, and hummed. I could add these to the sentence strips for acting out.
You sighed when you cleaned up the mess for the third time.
You grinned as you stepped onto the carousel.
You are happily skipping down the street.
You are humming along to the song on the radio.
A way to encourage language with ELL students would be to ask students to think of
the many ways people communicate with one another. These responses could be put into
a word web.
body language
How we
facial expressions
what we wear
To enhance the story I think it would be helpful to locate North Korea on a world
map. Point out that it is located between China and Japan. At various points in history,
Korea was controlled and greatly influenced by both countries. Koreans, though, are an
ancient and homogeneous, or similar, people.
Usually my third graders read the story by taking turns, making sure that each
student has a turn. A couple of years ago, I think it was at Anita Archer’s workshop, I
discovered a new way to read the story aloud. Sometimes I have the boys all read a page
together, sometimes all the girls read at once, other times the west or east half of the
class, sometimes I read a page aloud. I can see that this takes the focus off the student
who isn’t such a good reader and it works well in my classroom. There are several good
comprehension questions listed in the teacher’s manual that I use. After the
implementation of the new common core standards I have learned that I should have the
students summarize the story. This is something I plan to add to the lesson.
To help understand the story, I have the students looks through the pages and try
to predict what will happen in the story. I have them try to decide which characters are
Yunmi, her grandmother Halmoni, and her classmates, Anna Marie, and Helen. As they
try to find these characters I ask my students whether they think they feel happy or sad.
When we have finished reading Halmoni and the Picnic, I feel it is important to
have the students discuss whether their predictions about what the story would be about
were correct. Then ask the students what the problem in the story is and how it was
Some of the skills that are taught with this story include predicting outcomes,
writing an invitation, using context to figure out unknown words, and irregular verbs. It
would be fun for the students to plan an occasion and write their own invitation for that
Discuss the word culture. This could be a class discussion or possible a web
diagram with the word culture in the center and different words and ideas stemming from
it. Some examples of what makes up a culture are traditions, celebrations, different types
of food and how they are eaten, messages that families pass down from one generation to
the next, how one understands oneself in relation to everyone else, how people
communicate and understand each other, and so forth. Relate the word to the various
cultures represented in your class. Talk about how there can be many various cultures in
one country, such as the U.S., and how new cultures can be formed when people of
different cultures interact. Also talk about how cultures may have different ways of
helping children learn new things.
Another word that is important for the third graders to discuss is chaperon. It is
hard for them to understand. Literally it means “hood or head covering.” The meaning
of the word was eventually changed to “escort.” This will be hard for ELL students to
understand. The word should be discussed and several sentences should be shared using
the word chaperon.
Koreans generally do not eat a lot of meat, preferring vegetable dishes such as
kimchi, a highly seasoned pickle of cabbage, turnip, and cucumber. When Koreans do
eat fish or meat, it is grilled. In Korean, bap means “rice.” The seaweed used to make
kimbap comes in sheets. The rice and vegetable mixture is spread on the sheet and rolled
up. Then it is cut into small round pieces. Chopsticks originated in China 2,4000 years
ago. The first part of the word comes from a word of Chinese origin meaning “fast or
quick.” Chopsticks come in many varieties such as wood, plastic, ivory, silver, and
brass. Since the recipe for Kimbap is included in our basal reader, it would be
appropriate to either make kimbap together in class or to make Kimbap ahead of time
and bring it to class. If possible have chopsticks available for students to try. Here is a
video of how to use chopsticks: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-usechopsticks.html.
A fun map activity would be to have students measure and compare distances
from their city or town to Korea, San Francisco, and New York. Students need a ruler, a
globe, a large wall map, or a small map in an atlas. Point out to students that they will
need to understand and work with map scale located on maps and globes. Have them
estimate how many miles are represented in a 1-inch scale and then actually measure the
distance and convert the inches to miles.
Remind students that Halmoni brought kimbap, a special Korean food, to the
picnic. Ask students to describe one of their family’s favorite foods. Encourage them to
describe one that is part of their family’s culture. Students may enjoy having a food
festival during which they share samples of the foods they describe.
Have students pretend that they attended the picnic and write a thank you note to
Halmoni for being a chaperon for their picnic and for bringing the kimbap.
Ask your students to write about how their family teaches them new things based
on their culture or family traditions. Some questions to help them get started might
Can you personally relate to this story? Why or why not?
What are some things that are special about your culture or family
traditions? Did anyone in your family help you not to be embarrassed? If
so, how?
Was there ever a time that you were embarrassed about something in your
culture or family tradition? Did anyone in your family help you not to be
embarrassed? If so, how?
How does your family help you learn new things? How do other families
you know do this differently?
If students are comfortable, have them share their reflections. For younger students, this
can be modified to use as questions for group discussion.
An important aspect of this story is that at the beginning of the story the
grandmother feels isolated and unhappy about her new life in the United States. By
asking Halmoni to chaperon their school picnic, her feelings for the United States change
and she becomes happier. The students even make up a jump rope rhyme about the
special food she brought to the picnic. Have students make up different jump rope
rhymes to share with each other at recess. Students may be surprised to learn that jump
rope started out as an activity for boys, it was considered unladylike for girls to jump
The textbook provides a short summary about the author and illustrator. We read
these aloud and discuss what we have learned about them. It might be interesting to do a
google search to find out more about their backgrounds and how this may have
influenced the writing of the story Halmoni and the Picnic.
While creating the additions to this unit, I discovered that there was a lot that
could be added to the original framework to integrate multicultural content and address
adversity. I found it fairly easy to create the additions after being a part of this
EDUC549, Race. Class, and Power. By adding the discussion of the word culture and
how it influences our daily lives, by eating Kimbap and possibly using chopsticks, doing
the map activities, and writing reflections I feel the students will have a broader
understanding of the Korean culture.
Choi, S. N. (1993). Halmoni and the picnic. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Invitations to Literacy, Celebrate (1999). What’s cooking? Halmoni and the picnic,
Houghton Mifflin, Co., Boston.
http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/projects/family-involvement-storybook-projectcompleted-project/storybook-corner/the-reference-desk/teacher-guide-for- halmoni-andthe-picnic