Eloise Greenfield Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Eloise Greenfield. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Eloise Greenfield. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Author studies allow children to learn about a writer’s life and explore his or her work more closely. They help children make connections between different books and stories and learn about style and theme. This movie explores the life and work of Eloise Greenfield, an African-American writer and poet, who has received numerous awards and honors. We recommend checking out our other author movies, including Cynthia Rylant and Ezra Jack Keats. BrainPOP Jr. plans on launching more author studies in the future as well.

Eloise Greenfield was born in 1929 in Parmele, North Carolina at the beginning of the Depression. Early on her family moved to Washington, D.C. where she still lives today. Eloise Greenfield grew up in a close family and a strong community of friends and neighbors. As a child, she loved hearing stories from her mother and grandmother about their lives. Help your children understand that Greenfield grew up during a difficult time in history for African Americans. Blacks and people of other races were treated unfairly based on the color of their skin. Schools, restaurants, theaters, and even water fountains were segregated. Whites and people of other races were separated. Throughout her childhood Greenfield attended segregated schools in Washington, D.C.

Eloise Greenfield was very shy and spent a lot of her time reading and escaping through stories, books, and poetry, rather than joining in playground activities. She also learned how to play piano and loved to play music. This passion for reading and music followed her through adulthood. After working in various government offices, she began writing songs and poems. She felt that there weren’t enough children’s books about African Americans and their families, and decided to write her own stories. Today, Greenfield has published thirty-eight books so far.

Many of her works are about African American families who help each other through happy and difficult times. Her works often describe experiences that many kids go through, such as feeling jealous of a new baby sibling, fighting with friends, and misunderstanding family members. Some of her writing addresses grave issues, such as drugs or the death of a family member. Eloise Greenfield has also written several biographies about important African American leaders including civil rights activist Rosa Parks, educator Mary McLeod Bethune, and entertainer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson. Her book How They Got Over: African Americans and the Call of the Sea, profiles different African Americans and their lives at sea. Your children should understand that Greenfield has written books in many genres, including fiction, memoir, biography, and poetry.

Read and discuss several poems by Eloise Greenfield with your class. It’s helpful to read poetry multiple times to deepen understanding. What do the poems have in common? Some of her poems investigate the same theme or topic, such as the importance of family. Night on Neighborhood Street is a collection of poems about what different people in a community do at night. Each poem conveys a feeling or mood. Some are playful or loud, while others are dark or quiet. Help your children notice that many of Greenfield’s poems incorporate repetition. One can find sounds, words, lines, or whole phrases that are used over and over again in her poetry. In Honey, I Love the main character uses the phrase “Honey, I Love” to describe everything she loves. Encourage your children to find more examples of repetition in Greenfield’s poetry.

Select one of Greenfield’s rhythmic poems to read out loud to your class. Ask students to listen to the poem carefully for the sounds. What does it sound like? The musical quality in many of her poems comes from a pattern of rhymes and rhythm. Look at different rhyming words together in the poems. Where do the rhyming words fall on each line? You may want to clap out poems together as you read to help children feel the beat of the words.

Use Eloise Greenfield’s work to inspire your children to write their own stories and poems. They can draw from their experiences growing up, just like Greenfield, or write poems that repeat a specific line from one of her poems. Challenge your children to write poems that have a beat and rhythm. Encourage them to read other poetry, explore language, and experiment with words!