Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Updated: Jan 30

Picture Book Lesson Plan


Ode to a Fresh Cut PDF
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This lesson is a guided reading experience designed to accompany Derrick Barnes’s picture book Crown: An Ode to a Fresh Cut. Lesson content was written by Daniel Smith as part of his work in the Social Justice in K12 Education course at Portland State University and was designed to start or deepen anti-bias conversations in families and other learning communities.


Positive Self Image . Black Hair . Self Care . Self Love . Tradition . Safe Space . Sacred Place . Community . Confidence . Beauty Standards


Ode to a Fresh Cut read by Imani Baucom from Ms. B. Reads


This book follows the journey of an African American boy as he sets foot into a Black barbershop.Through this young boy’s haircut experience, readers can learn to appreciate the everyday act of getting a haircut from another perspective. For the main character, this experience is more than just a simple haircut, it’s a transformative experience and the ultimate act of self-expression. How good can a haircut make a person feel you may ask? According to the main character, “You came in as a lump of clay, a blank, canvas, a slab of marble. But when my man is done with you, they’ll want to post you up in a museum!” What could cause this kind of transformation? Nothing but a “fresh cut.”

For the main character, his “fresh cut” is a work of art, and he proudly boosts it with confidence and a swagger to match. In addition to being a work of art, his fresh cut is his crown, and the barbershop robes in his eyes are nothing less than princely robes fit for a king. Crown: An Ode to The Fresh Cut gives readers a healthy glimpse into the importance of cultural settings and traditions. While echoing the importance of having a positive self-image, radiating confidence and self-esteem, and a unique blend of having a vivid imagination and uncanny amount of creativity.


This guided reading lesson is designed to be part of a larger life-long commitment to anti-racist teaching and learning for the student and the facilitator. Reading Is Resistance sees reading as an opportunity to seed deeper conversations and opportunities for action around racial equity in our communities. We hold the belief that being anti-racist is a process of learning (and unlearning) over time.

The Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards (focused on Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action) serve as guides for our work.


The Teaching Tolerance Standards and Domains referenced in this lesson are for Grades K-2. This book, however, can be used with a wide range of ages. Domains featured in this lesson are as follows:

Identity Domain #1

I know and like who I am and can talk about my family and myself and name some of my group identities

Identity Domain #4

I can feel good about myself without being mean or making other people feel bad.

Diversity Domain #5

I see that the way my family and I do things is both the same as and different from how other people do things, and I am interested in both

Diversity Domain #6 I like being around people who are like me and different from me, and I can be friendly to everyone. Diversity Domain #8

I want to know about other people and how our lives and experiences are the same and different.

Justice Domain #11

I know my friends have many identities, but they are always still just themselves.

Action Domain #16 I care about those who are treated unfairly.



  • What is an ode? What makes an ode different from other poems?

  • Tell me about a time when you felt really special? (Examples: Where were you? Who were you with?) Use three words to describe how you felt in that moment?

  • What are some traditions you celebrate? Which one is your favorite? How often do you celebrate this tradition? How does it make you feel when celebrating this tradition?

  • Have you or anyone you know visited a barbershop or hair salon before?

  • If so, when? How did you feel? Did you feel nervous?

  • If not, who grooms your hair? How often do they groom your hair? (Examples: Every two weeks?, Once a month, etc.)


  • After reading Crown: An Ode To The Fresh Cut, what makes it an ode? Can you think of any examples from the story?

  • In the book the young boy says, “He’ll drape you like royalty to keep the fine hairs off your neck?” Why do you think the young boy feels like royalty? Can you tell me of a time you felt like royalty?

  • In the book the young boy says, “It's amazing what a tight fade high low bald can do for your confidence?” Can you think of at least one example he gave in the story of what a tight fade can do? What are some other things that make you feel good about yourself?

  • Why do you think the story is called crown? What is the crown? How do you think he feels wearing a crown? Can you tell me about a time when something made you feel special like you wore a crown in this way (as though you were wearing a crown?

  • Let’s go back through the book/video: Can you pick out of all the different hair styles you see? Have you seen any of the hairstyles in this book before. If so, where? Are there any hairstyles that are in the book you haven’t seen before? Which is your favorite and why?


  • Write an ode about something or someplace that makes you feel special.

  • Search the internet or YouTube to learn about the history of Black hair.

  • Drawing a picture of yourself with a hairstyle that represents your personality.

  • Have a discussion about how hair can be a part of one’s self expression and draw a self portrait that best represents you.

  • Research US schools prohibiting traditional African/ African American/ Carribean hairstyle


Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

My Hair Is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

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