Anne Bustard | Curriculum Ideas
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Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly

Curriculum Ideas

A time or two ago, out West Texas way, a boy named Charles Hardin Holley was born. He was named after his granddaddy Charles and his granddaddy Hardin. But his mama called him Buddy.

That Buddy could shoot marbles with the best, hit homers in the red dirt, and pelt cans with his slingshot. But come sixth grade, when Buddy met up with a guitar, he never let it go. And later, when Buddy heard a new sound--part country, part gospel, and part blues, he got fired up.

It was the birth of rock 'n' roll.

Lesson Plan: Big Dreams, Note-by-Note

Through a look and listen at the life of Buddy Holly, students will:

  • understand how historical figures and ordinary people helped to shape the community, state, and nation. (History TEKS: K, 1.1, 2.4, 3.1)
  • understand important issues, events, and individuals of the 20th century in Texas (History TEKS: 4.5, 7) ocommunicate in written, oral, and visual forms. (Social Studies Skills TEKS: 1.18, 2.18, 3.17, 4.23, 5.26
  • understand the relationship between the arts and the times during which they were created. (Culture TEKS: 5.22)
  • understand the relationship that exists between artistic, creative, and literary expressions and the societies that produce them (Culture TEKS 6.18)

Listen to Buddy Holly music such as:


Share with students that the book you will read today is a true story about a young boy from Lubbock, Texas, who had big dreams. His name was Buddy Holly and he changed the world through music. Rock 'n' roll music. In the 1950s it was new. It was different. And this early pioneer had plenty of detours before he soared.

Or give your class a virtual guided tour of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Before Reading:
Tell students that the author wrote that as a young boy Buddy Holly had “dreams bigger than the wide-open West Texas sky.” Locate Lubbock, Texas, on a map. Show photos of Lubbock. (Google Images: Lubbock sky and/or West Texas sky) Invite them to discuss why they think the author chose those words to describe his dreams.

Ask one or two students to share a dream they've had or currently hold. Then invite them to listen while you read and hear how Buddy's dreams came true.

BUDDY: THE STORY OF BUDDY HOLLY by Anne Bustard, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

During Reading:
As you read, stop and invite students to predict what will happen next. Ask them to describe how they think Buddy feels.

After Reading:
Continue to talk about the story. Questions to ask students may include:

  • What are you thinking and feeling?
  • What interested you?
  • What surprised you?
  • Compare Buddy Holly's life before and after his parents got him a guitar. How did Holly's family influence his life?
  • How did people who didn't like Buddy Holly's music describe it? Have you ever heard a new sound or encountered a new idea that you didn't like? Explain.
  • Have you ever changed your mind? Tell us about your experience.
  • Even though Buddy Holly and his friends were often discouraged, what did they do?
  • What can you do when you feel like quitting? Can others help? How?
  • Discuss Buddy Holly's dreams, detours and destiny. Talk about the roles perseverance and practice played in Holly's life.
  • How is Buddy Holly's life like yours? How is it different?

Invite students to name their dreams in their journals. Suggested categories include:

  • Today-Tomorrow-Next week-Next year dreams
  • Small-Medium-Large-Extra large dreams
  • Eighth note-Quarter note-Half note-Whole note dreams

Then ask students to write one small thing they can do today to get closer to one of their dreams. Invite students to share. You may choose to collect their dreams, keep them in a safe place, and return them to your students at a later point in the school year.

Read an interview about the author's dream of publication in the INTERVIEW section of this site.

Invite the students to interview an adult (family member, neighbor, teacher) about his or her life. Questions may include:

  • What was your life and the world like when you were young?
  • What did you want to do when you grew up?
  • What happened?
  • Who helped you along the way?
  • What's next?

Ask the students to write (and illustrate) a biography about the person they interviewed. Share the published pieces with the class and the adults. Place copies in the classroom library.

Or, turn the preceding idea into a whole class activity. Invite an adult (school music teacher?) to your class and have the students conduct the interview. Afterwards, facilitate the writing of a biography with contributions from the entire class. Revise. Illustrate. Publish. Share.

Talk about how people's dreams can change. Not everyone can be a major league baseball player, but a person could be the best baseball player s/he could be. And grow up to coach a Little League team. Dreams change when people find new and better dreams.

Share the format of a cooking recipe with your students: name, servings, ingredients, and directions. Then invite them to write a recipe for Buddy Holly's success, or their own.

Turn BUDDY: THE STORY OF BUDDY HOLLY into a reader's theatre script. Rock on!

More Options (older students):
Listen to the song "American Pie" by Don McLean and discuss Holly's influence in musical history. For insight into the lyrics click here.

Invite students to read articles written about Buddy Holly in his hometown newspaper. The "Lubbock Avalanche Journal's Buddy Holly Archive" has articles from Buddy Holly's birth announcement to articles written years after his death. Ask students to report three new things they learned.

Ask students to conduct primary research. Explore the artifacts (photos, letters, and more) at the Buddy Holly Center. Click on Buddy Holly Exhibition, and surf The Timeline, Biography, Collection and Exhibition. What did they discover?

Have students study the three decades in which Buddy Holly lived:

How did these times shape Buddy Holly's life?

Invite students to listen to Buddy Holly's musical roots and research his musical inspirations:

What did they discover?

Ask students to explore artists that were influenced by Buddy Holly. Locate information on these musicians at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Web site.

How do they think Buddy Holly made a difference in these lives?

Closing Activities:
Write B-U-D-D-Y-H-O-L-L-Y vertically on the chalkboard. Invite students to name a word or phrase about his life that is associated with each letter.

Listen to Buddy's top ten hits (see list in the book's bibliography). Invite the class to vote on their favorite. Or share stats from the Charts Files (Goldrosen, John and John Beecher, REMEMBERING BUDDY, p. 198) Compare results.

End with song. Invite students to write new lyrics to a traditional melody (e.g., Row, Row, Row Your Boat) about Holly's life and/or their own dreams.


A Few Ideas for a Biography Unit on Musicians

Other picture book biographies:

  • WOODIE GUTHRIE: POET OF THE PEOPLE by Bonnie Christensen
  • WHAT CHARLIE HEARD by Mordicai Gerstein
  • DUKE ELLINGTON by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
  • WHEN MARIAN SANG by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick
  • SEBASTIAN: A BOOK ABOUT BACH by Jeanette Winter

Compare and contrast the experiences of these artists through their dreams, detours, and destinies.

Play Who Am I? Invite students to write five clues about each musician. Then have each student share their clues and ask the class to guess who they match.


Curriculum Ideas

Discover some of the sights and symbols of the Lone Star State in this friendly alphabet book. From armadillos to zillions and zillions of bluebonnets, and everything in between, this book celebrates Texas in a big way.

Lesson and Unit Ideas

Through the reading of T IS FOR TEXAS students will:

  • understand important customs, symbols, and celebrations that represent American beliefs and principles and contribute to our national identity. TEKS Citizenship 1.13
  • explain selected national and state patriotic symbols such as the U.S. and Texas flags, the Liberty Bell, and the Alamo. TEKS Citizenship 1 and 2.14A

Before Reading:
Show the children the jacket of the book and read the title. Tell them this is an alphabet book about the state of Texas. Ask a child to find Texas on a map of the United States.

Because Texas is such a large and diverse state, the author considered many choices for each letter.

List some of them for a, b, c, d, e, f, and g on the overhead or chalkboard. Ask the students to vote for the word/words they think best describe the state.


Barbed wire
black gold

cowboy hat
c & w music

Davy Crockett
Dinosaur track
Dr. Pepper



Gulf of Mexico

Read T IS FOR TEXAS by Anne Bustard

During Reading
Invite the students to recall their choices for letters a through g and compare their choices with the book.

Invite the students to talk about the photographs. Are the images familiar?

After Reading:
Ask the students: What are you thinking and feeling? What interested you? What surprised you? What was your favorite letter of the alphabet? What questions do you have?

The author intended to present a contemporary view of the Lone Star State though some of her choices reflect the old Texas as well. Page through the book and invite the children to identify whether the concept for each letter represents the old, the new, or both.

Look at the list of choices for each letter again and note what the author included in the book. Help the children see that although the author chose “F is for flag…,” football was represented by “K is for kick-off,” and “friendly” was used in the description of the letter “T.” Some concepts never made it into the book.

Read TEXAS ALPHABET by James Rice or another alphabet book about Texas. Ask the children to compare the two treatments of the state. Invite them to contrast the designs of each book, too.

Tell the children that the author did not take any of the photographs in the book. (Look on the last page for photo credits.) She did however select them. She looked at hundreds of photographs before finding the ones that appear in the book. As an example of the process, you might share with the children that the author contacted five sources before finding the photo of the armadillo that she wanted:

1. Texas Highway Department 2. Chickadee Magazine 3. National Audubon Society 4. A Wyoming photographer 5. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Share an assortment of alphabet books with the class. Invite them to browse through the collection. What do they notice?

Some of the concepts in the book may be of particular interest to the children. In addition to alphabet books, students may also want to look at books about dinosaurs, space, hats, and quilts.

Invite students to make a Texas alphabet quilt for your class or school library. Talk with them about what might be drawn on each square. Give each child a 12-by-12-inch square of white or pastel cotton cloth. Have each child depict a symbol of Texas on the square with a permanent marker and sign his or her name and date. Ask a parent volunteer to sew the squares together, add pre-quilted fabric to the reverse side and finish the edges with blanket binding.

Students may want to find out more about Texas. Invite them to write for a free annual travel guide called the Texas State Travel Guide. To request a copy, write to:

  • Texas State Travel Guide
    P.O.Box 149249
    Austin, TX 78714-9249

Turn T IS FOR TEXAS into a readers’ theater script. Suggest that each student take a letter, and practice reading the text associated with it. Then invite another class in for the final performance.

Invite students to create their own alphabet book about Texas.

Include T IS FOR TEXAS in a larger unit Celebrating the Southwest. As you share the books, you will be helping children discover the rich heritage of the Southwest as you explore a legend, a tall tale, and poetry that reflects some of the diversity of the region. The books accent the Southwest of yesterday with a view of today.


Unit Ideas: Celebrating the Southwest

Include T IS FOR TEXAS in a larger unit named Celebrating the Southwest. As you share the books, you will be helping children discover the rich heritage of the Southwest as you explore a legend, a tall tale, and poetry that reflects some of the diversity of the region. The books accent the Southwest of yesterday with a view of today.

Through the reading of books celebrating the Southwest, students will:

  • locate places of significance on maps and globes such as the local community, Texas, and the United States. TEKS Geography 1.5B
  • retell stories from selected folktales and legends such as Aesop's fables. TEKS Culture 1.15B
  • explain how people depend on the physical environment and its natural resources to satisfy their basic needs. TEKS Geography 2.7B
  • create written and visual material such as stories, poems, maps, and graphic organizers to express ideas. TEKS Social Studies Skills 2.18B

Additional Recommended Books for this Unit

THE DESERT IS THEIRS by Byrd Baylor illustrated by Peter Parnell

  • Before reading, invite the children to tell others what they know about the desert. Ask the students if any of them have ever lived in the desert. Take a poll of how many children think they would like to live in the desert. Identify the desert areas of the Southwest on a map.
  • Bring a newspaper to class and look up the temperatures and weather conditions of a few cities in the desert. What do they notice?
  • Bring pictures of desert of the Southwest to share with the class. Excellent resources include Arizona Highways Magazine, Texas Highways, and National Geographic. Or check the Web for desert images. Show the illustrations on each page of the book again. What do the children notice about Peter Parnall’s use of color? White space? Detail? How is his interpretation of the desert similar or different form the photographs they viewed?
  • After reading, invite the children to make a verbal list of all of the different plants and creatures that live in the desert. What is the relationship between desert life and water?
  • Byrd Baylor tells us that those who live in the desert wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. After reading, ask the students to discuss what make the desert such a special place? It will probably not surprise the children to learn that the author lives in the desert. Ask them if any of them have changed their minds about desert living after having heard this book.

PECOS BILL, retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg

  • Show the children the jacket of the book. Tell the children that this book is a tall tale set in Texas. Invite the class to find Texas on a map of the United States.
  • Have the class listen to the song, “Yippie-Yi-Yo and Away We Go,” from the Riders in the Sky CD entitled SADDLE PALS to get in the cattle roping mood.
  • After reading, ask students to share the funniest parts.
  • Bring another version of PECOS BILL to the class. PECOS BILL adapted by Brian Gleeson, illustrated by Tim Raglin and narrated by Robin Williams with music by Ry Cooder is available in book and video formats. After hearing and or seeing the story, invite children to compare the two versions. How are they alike? How are they different? Invite children to recall events from both of the tellings to document their comments.
  • Tell the class that today some cowboys round up cattle with helicopters. How do they think Pecos Bill would respond to that technology?
  • Invite the class to create their own tall tale. Facilitate a whole class writing assignment and invite the students to make up a story about their school. Remind them that exaggeration is an important characteristic of a tall tale. Invite them to think BIG.


  • Hold up the cover of the book and tell the children the name of the story. Ask the children to share their knowledge of rattlesnakes with others in the class. It might be handy to have an encyclopedia nearby or a book that has photographs and information about rattlesnakes for you to share.
  • Before reading the book, tell the children this book was told by Te Ata, a 92 year old Native American storyteller who lived in Oklahoma. Her name means “Bearer of the Morning.” She was born in Oklahoma Territory. She is a Chickasaw Indian and learned her first stories from her father. Invite children to locate Oklahoma on a map.
  • Ask the students to provide sound effects when you read the story. Have them practice the rattlesnake sound “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch.” Tell them everytime you need the sound of a rattlesnake while reading, you will point to them. Read.
  • Ask the students to respond to the story. Talk about the behavior of the Baby Rattlesnake and the response of the council, other creatures, the chief’s daughter and Baby’s family.
  • Page through the book and invite students to identify the colors in the illustrations. Ask them to notice the details in the borders on each page. Tell them the vibrant hues are typical of some Southwestern If possible, bring in some books or magazines that show pictures of houses decorated in this style or of artwork.
  • Invite the students to make their own council of Rattlesnake People. Cut off several feet of white cash register tape for each snake. Assemble bright crayons or tempra paints and ask the children to decorate their snakes.

THE LEGEND OF THE INDIAN PAINTBRUSH, retold and illustrated by Tomie de Paola

  • Ask students to name as many wildflowers as they can. Bring reference books on wildflowers to class and share some of the pictures and names of flowers with students.
  • Tell the class that many wildflowers have legends associated with them. Invite them to listen as you read Tomie de Paola’s retelling of the legend of the Indian paintbrush.
  • After reading, encourage the children to find a partner and pantomime this story.
  • In the legend, Little Gopher painted a magnificent picture of the sunset. Provide paint and paper today so students can create their own sunsets.
  • Give students a virtual tour of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.
  • Invite an expert from the community to talk to the class about growing wildflowers.

I'M IN CHARGE OF CELEBRATIONS, by Byrd Baylor; illustrated by Peter Parnell

  • Show the children the jacket of the book and read the title. Ask the children if they can identify the illustrator by his artwork? Read the name of the author and illustrator duo. What other book have they collaborated on? (THE DESERT IS THEIRS) Tell the children this book also takes place in the desert.
  • Tell the children that Byrd Baylor lived by herself in the desert and was frequently asked if she was lonely. How do they think she responded? Do they think they would feel lonely if they lived like her?
  • After reading, remind the children of the title of the book. Ask them to define the word “celebration.” Invite them to tell the class about celebrations in their lives. Do they recall when and why the Desert People celebrated? What makes celebrations so special? Can they happen every day? Who is in charge of celebrations?
  • Byrd Baylor gave herself 108 celebrations one year. Ask the class to tell about three that she mentioned. Was Byrd Baylor about to plan each one in advance? Invite the class to generate a possible list of celebrations. Record their entries on a long scroll-like piece of butcher paper. Keep it posted in the class or library for the next several weeks and ask the children to add to the list. Perhaps they’ll think of 108 ways to celebrate.
  • Or ask the children to begin a journal like the author and keep a record of each celebration. The journal might be private or something to be shared with others.
  • Invite the children to think of a reason to celebrate today. Celebrate it.