Andy Takes Action: A Text, Tool, and Thought


Andy Takes Action


This entry is introducing a new type of post that will be featured the first week of each month on the blog.  There are so many amazing books out there, and we continually find ourselves wanting to know new titles and how to use them, so that is exactly what this monthly post will do–introduce a new text, provide ideas/tools for how to use it, and capture a few thoughts on the importance of the message to our students.  And our first one is a real gem!  I know it’s the last week of August, but it’s too good to hold back.  So, what does that mean for you?  You get a “Text, Tool, Thought” post next week, too!


Andy Takes Action is a book I happened upon in a small art museum gift shop in Philadelphia.  The author, Valerie Lang, attends Moore College of Art and Design with an emphasis in illustration, and also works in the gift shop!  When I saw this book, I knew it was perfect for launching the school year.  I snagged it, she signed it, and I have dearly embraced this book ever since!

In the book, Andy aspires to be an action hero despite being mocked by his peers for having such an audacious dream.  As events play out at school where action is needed, Andy learns, with the help of his teacher, that Andy has what it takes to make his dream come true. More importantly, his peers do too.


Craft Moves:  

  • repetition
  • quotations/dialogue
  • word style and formatting–color, size
  • balancing action, dialogue, and thoughts in a text
  • symbolism–cape, helmet

Theme/Central Message: 

  • community
  • activism
  • individuality

word formatting demo notebook tool

A tool I created in my demonstration notebook outlines how word formatting impacts a text.  So many times we ask students to thread a theme or message throughout the text, or try out repetition and they struggle to do so.  Once students have written a draft, have them review it.  What words are repeated?  Why?  Do they have meaning?  Are they connected to your theme?  Could we make them look differently?

Additionally, your aesthetic learners who might resist writing, would love to start out in an artistic way.  What words are coming to you write now that are driving your piece?  Write them out in an artistic way.  What impact are you wanting them to have on your reader?  Start with a single word–I like to call it a piece’s “essence word,” and let the writing grow from there.

I also used this book with a primary teacher to help set a tone of unity while building community at the start of the year.  We had the students think about their natural strengths, and how those could be used to empower and help others throughout year.  They made capes stating how they were going to be action heroes, and then we used those words to help us draft our class mission statement.  We have coined the term ‘hero’ into our class name, and continually think about what positive action looks like in different situations throughout our day.  It has definitely established a proactive, rather than reactive, stance to our thinking, words, and actions.  It’s been wonderful to watch students help each other out, and then exclaim, “I was just an action hero!”  Yes, yes, you were.  Keep being just that.


Taking action in our world today has never been more important.  We see the news, we know the issues, and we know action needs to be taken to right them.  But too often it feels too big or our lives are too busy, and so we show compassion and empathy, and move on.

 That’s awful, but what can I do?  When would I even find the time to do it?  It seems so big.  What does the first step even look like?

Yes, these are all valid thoughts and reasons.  However, what we must remember is that systems, whether broken or functioning, were created by individuals with a vision.  The only way the broken systems are going to be taken down or remedied is in the same way.  It starts with us.  And at the even more cellular level, it starts with us being a model of action for the generation looking up to us-our students, and our very own kids.  We are in an age where being a compassionate, empathetic onlooker is not enough.  And Andy is just the character to show us that our actions being big or small is not what matters, it’s that action was taken and you were brave enough to do it.