Showing “Courage in the face of Racism” is a central idea that can be applied to nonfiction, historical fiction, images, video and more when exploring the plight of the African American. I have taught middle school ELA for many years, and the history and struggle of the African American is a sensitive subject, and can often be confusing for students. The time period that I like to focus on is the century between the end of the Civil War and Civil Rights movement. Students are often unaware of the struggles that African Americans still faced after slavery was abolished, but before the Civil Rights movement. After many years, I’ve adapted the idea of showing “Courage in the face of Racism” to learn about the African American throughout history.
First, I use a list of words that can be categorized as a “courageous” word or a “racist” word. I assign an individual word to each student and they become the “expert” on their word throughout the lessons. Using historical fiction, articles, a webquest and a reader’s theater, this topic is explored. Click here for a free PowerPoint presentation of the words that I use for this unit.
Second, I use Mildred D. Taylor historical fiction pieces to give accurate examples of an African American living in the South during the Great Depression. Click here to view the unit in its entirety or click on the picture to the left. This was a time of economic struggle and discrimination. The students are able to see how courage was needed to fight and stand up for basic human rights. The excerpts in the unit are taken from “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” and “The Gold Cadillac”. They are also found in the book 101 Read Aloud Classics. As Mildred D. Taylor celebrated her 40th anniversary, her book covers have been recently updated. Click here or on the picture to see the article.
Next, I use article from ReadWorks.org. You do need an account to access these articles, but it is free to use. Here are the links below:
Readworks.org is an excellent site to find informational text. You can search by subject, grade level, or Lexile level.
I also like to incorporate technology whenever possible. Because seventh grade students find this century between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement so confusing, I created a simple virtual field trip that gives and overview of the time period. I use this on
Google Classroom and ask simple questions about the content of the slides, video links and images within the field trip. The Virtual field trip can be found in the “Courage in the face of Racism” unit above, or in my “Song of the Trees” unit which is available here.
“Song of the Trees” is a short novella which can be used as an extension to this unit, or on its own. The book describes the white men trying to take advantage of the Logan family while the father is away working because of the Great Depression. It touches on “courage in the face of racism”, protecting the environment, and paints a true picture of the economic struggles and prejudice at this time in American History. I use it with my seventh graders, but could be used effectively for grades 4-6 as well.
Lastly, I try and incorporate poetry into the unit as well. Langston Hughes is probably the most prominent African American poet during the Great Depression. The unit includes a reader’s theater where the biography of Langston Hughes is acted out and students are called to explain how “their word” is once again exemplified in the piece.
This unit is BRAND new and has not yet been rated. It is currently at a discounted price, so check it out as this price will be going up soon! It includes “I, too, Sing America”, “Poem”, “April Rain Song”, “Mother to Son”, “Harlem” and “Dreams”. This unit also includes the reader’s theater of Langston Hughes, as mentioned above.
Currently, I’m teaching the novel, Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen for the tenth time. I finally think I have mastered the vocabulary instruction portion of the unit.
First, I give the students a master list with 24 words found in the novel. Then, I work on a word each day. Words are assessed at four quarters in the unit. Then, the students complete a poster or PowerPoint presentation. They need to find a visual representation for each word using a common theme. I put some examples below. Click on the photos to see my entire unit:
The book, A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, is one of the best books I’ve ever taught! I teach this book to my seventh grade students and each year it gets better. You can check out my complete unit HERE!
I roughly follow the NYS Module for the book, but I have so many wonderful experiences to share. Here is a BUNDLE of PRINTABLES for the unit.
Here are some ideas to enhance this book and make it completely awesome!
Teach an author study about Linda Sue Park! Check out my entire unit HERE!
2. Take your students on a field trip to meet Linda Sue Park!!
3. Create a timeline of the events in the novel. Check out student work here:
4. Personification! Explore the figurative language in the book!
5. Create your own Walk for Water! Raise money for Salva’s organization Water for South Sudan Inc.
I had the unique experience to take my daughter and niece to meet Ms. Park. I have some exciting ideas that I will be adding to my bundle this year!!
Linda Sue Park – An Author Study A two week unit for the middle grades
My seventh graders had the unique opportunity to meet Linda Sue Park!
This year, I taught a two week author study about Linda Sue Park, author of “A Long Walk to Water”. In this unit, students were exposed to her various genres and study the craft and literary style of the author. This unit was primarily based from an 85 slide PowerPoint presentation that works through the lessons chronologically and the PDF files that correspond with each lesson. There are 16 PDF files and an additional Unit Summary to use as a guide. I completed this mini-unit with my seventh grade students after completing the NYS Common Core Module One; Unit One – “A Long Walk to Water”.
All texts and excerpts will have to be supplied by the teacher. Teacher will need one copy of the following books: “Tap Dancing on the Roof”, “What Does Bunny See?”, “Bee-bim Bop!”, “Xander’s Panda Party”, and “The Third Gift”. The following books I used excerpts from that can be found for use on Linda Sue Park’s website: http://www.lindasuepark.com/books/books.html . However, I kept one hard copy of each of the books for students to view more in depth. These books are: “Seesaw Girl”, Wing & Claw “Forest of Wonder”, “Keeping Score”, “A Single Shard”, “When My Name was Keoko” and “Project Mulberry”. Also, I used a class set of “The 39 Clues; Storm Warning”.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.
All lessons correspond with the PowerPoint.
Explain author’s craft and literary style as used in the CCLS. Then, I would photocopy enough “charts for identifying literary style and crafts” for any or all of the texts studied. I photocopied them on a different color paper so students could begin to see the common themes as we went through the unit.
Activity: Read “What Does Bunny See?” aloud. This is a basic children’s book. But, it is a perfect book to explain style and craft can be identified in any type of work. There is a two page PDF file to correspond with this book that asks simple questions about style and craft. Then, more difficult questions are answered (typical CCLS type questions) using this whimsical text.
Then, I had students use the same chart for “A Long Walk to Water”, which they had already read. They identified literary crafts and styles and looked for any styles consistent through the two texts. It is a stretch, but lays the foundation for the objectives of the unit.
Introduction Slide: Dr. Seuss comic. Ask students if they can identify the author based on the text structure, style and craft. Explain Dr. Seuss’ unique style.
Activity: Read “Bee-bim Bop!” to the students. Answer the questions in the corresponding 2 page PDF file. Complete the chart for identifying craft and style. Look for similar styles and crafts. For example, same tone as “What Does Bunny See” and a cultural theme as in “A Long Walk to Water”.
Introduction slide: Shel Silverstein poem. Ask students if they can identify the author based on the text structure, style and craft.
Activity: “A Single Shard” – excerpt and poetry comparison. Print the excerpts from the novel, “A Single Shard” and the excerpt from the poem, “Turn, turn my Wheel” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and make comparisons. Question prompts are in the PowerPoint.
Introduction slide: Langston Hughes poetry sample to identify the author based from craft and style.
Activity: Read “Xander’s Panda Party” aloud to the class. Then, the students will follow along in the corresponding PDF file following the same pattern as the children’s books.
Day 5: “Tap Dancing on the Roof” – an introduction to Sijo poetry.
Activity: Begin reading “The 39 Clues; Storm Warning” chapters 1-3. Use the foldable that corresponds with the book and make notes as the story progresses. In addition, the teacher will print out the Day 1 worksheet to use again with this book. Students will continue to note consistencies in Linda Sue Park’s writing styles.
Introduction slide: Sojo Poem
Activity: “Wing and Claw: Forest of Wonder” – book review; This PDF includes a 2 page article, edited for grade level appropriateness with two pages of questions which correspond with the article. Key is included.
Quiz – Literary Style; 20 multiple choice question quiz based on the literary styles and crafts being studied in the books.
“The 39 Clues” – chapters 4&5
Introduction Slide: Sijo Poem
Activity: “One Question Quiz” – Chapter 5; This is a one page PDF with three recall questions based on the content within chapter 5. I printed these out and let students pick a random question to answer. The key is included
“Keeping Score” – read the excerpt and complete the corresponding worksheet
“The 39 Clues” – Chapters 7 & 8
Introduction Slide: Sijo Poem
Activity: Reading “The 39 Clues” – Chapters 9-12 and adding to “foldable”.
Introduction: “When My Name Was Keoko”. Students will read an excerpt, a book review and an interview with Linda Sue Park about the writing of this book.
Activity: Reading “The 39 Clues” – Chapters 13-15
Introduction: One question quiz from Chapter 15
Activity: “Project Mulberry”- Students will review the craft and literary styles presented in the unit. The worksheet will show the different crafts and styles as they are used in “Project Mulberry”.
Reading “The 39 Clues” – Chapters 16-18
Introduction: “The Third Gift” – Teacher will read the children’s story aloud to the class. Students will take notes on literary craft and styles, as done on previous activities. Teacher will print out the Day 1 worksheet to use again with this book. Students will continue to note consistencies in Linda Sue Park’s writing styles.
Activity: Reading “The 39 Clues” – Chapters 19-21
Introduction: “SeeSaw Girl” – Read scenarios presented in this upper elementary book. Then, the students will read a few brief text excerpts and respond.
Activity: Finish reading “The 39 Clues”. Finish foldables. Discuss writing styles and crafts.
Final test – This is an 8 page test, with key. The test is three sections. The first section is a text excerpt from “Archer’s Choice” with 10 multiple choice questions. Then, there are three multiple choice questions on the Sijo poem, “Frog”. A final short response ends section one. The second section is a text excerpt from “The Kitefighters”. Students need to identify 5 author’s craft from the passage. There is a lengthier short response in this section. The third section is a summary from “Mung Mung” and two short response questions that ask students to compare writing styles with another Linda Sue Park book.
Make a poster activity – based from “The 39 Clues”. Students will study the sentence structure and tone of “The 39 Clues”. Based from this language, they will create a poster that would correspond with a movie based from the book.
This bundle will be getting additional recourses this winter. But it at today’s price so you will receive the new products at no additional cost. Buyer will be notified when the bundle is updated. Thanks for reading.
Welcome! This blog has been updated on June 20, 2017!
I always have student teachers and colleagues asking, “How do you run the first day of school?” Well, after 18 first days of school, I have some suggestions. But, this is a link to a back to school digital storytelling project! It’s one of my newest products created to get to know your students using the latest technology. It’s interactive and relevant to the students! Check it out in my store! But first, check out this free sample of a handout that I give to my students in the spring and place on my website as well: Avoiding Summer Brain Drain.
1. Make sure every student has a place. What I mean by this is, when the students are entering your classroom on the first day of school, they want a place to go. They are nervous, confused (for some it might be their first day of middle school) and they need a seat assignment. I’ve done this several ways: handing them a number on their way in and they find the table with that number; displaying a seating chart on the document camera, or placing their name on an index card and they find it on the desk. I really prefer the document camera because it requires them to read the chart, navigate themselves through the classroom, and helps them to become familiar with the room.
2. Make the room inviting. At the end of the school year, I have my students create a “key to seventh grade”. This is a colorful bulletin board that gives suggestions and tips for incoming seventh graders. You could always do this on a larger scale yourself. I also hand up motivational posters, have personal pictures, and plants to make a “homey” feel. I always ask the students to look around the room on the first day and make observations and predictions based on the room itself. Check out the photograph of my bulletin board:
3. Don’t overload your students with the “rules and regulations” – they get this ALL DAY. Yes, I distribute a course outline, but I graze over it. What I really like to do is model and practice classroom routines. For example, when the students walk into my classroom, they pick up any handouts they will need in class that day. So, I actually have the students get out of their seats, walk back into the hallway, and enter the classroom by picking up the handout and taking their assigned seat. In addition, I make them greet me on their way in and I give them a warm welcome into the class. This helps students understand that their expectations are to enter the classroom, pick up any necessary materials, and take their assigned seat.
4. Start with a “get to know you” activity! Students are always nervous on the first day of school. Try some easy activities and begin teaching! I always begin with discussing homophones. It’s a term not all students remember, but the know words like to, two, too. I have them brainstorm a list of homophones and we discuss them. But my newest product is going to cut the ice! It is a “Fortune Teller” foldable activity specifically for ELA. It’s probably best to use with upper elementary or middle school students. You can check it out here! But, students cut and fold the fortune teller then play with it with a partner. One student chooses a genre and then count the number of letters in the genre. Then the students pick a title of a book or poem. Again, count the letters in the title to find your fortune. When they choose the last title, it will unfold for a fortune that reflects some type of theme in the book! It even includes a blank one to create your own!
5. Set a daily routine. After the first three steps have been completed, I address the students to their “bell work” and how they will expect class to run each day. I have a specific place on my chalkboard that the students must fill into their agenda each day for the class assignments, upcoming events, or messages to home. Some days this might simply say, “Pleasure read tonight”. But, it ALWAYS says something. I tell students to expect homework each night, however many nights are simply to pleasure read. Getting them in the habit of writing their assignments down in one place each day also helps with organization (which is often a challenge for middle school students). However, that’s an entire post in itself. On the first day of school it reads, “Complete interview tonight”. Yes – I give them homework on the first day of school (it’s really more for dramatic purposes though). Then, I direct the students to the front screen where I will have their “bell work” each day. On the first day of school it reads, “look over the course outline”. Again, it just gives the kids some security.
6. Refer back to their previous grade! Students find comfort in what they already know. I like to remind them of the summer reading they were assigned in the last school year and just discuss what they read and share experiences. This gives them comfort in the familiar, however reminding them that they will have a task due based from their summer reading soon (wink, wink). Just for reference, here is a link of the summer reading expectation from my school: http://www.grandislandschools.org/resources.cfm?subpage=5269
7. Complete an activity that will help you get to know your students! As I said earlier, kids are overwhelmed on the first day of school with rules and regulations. I try to complete a fun “get to know you” type of activity that the kids can just talk about themselves and things they love. I also try to get the kids thinking about goal setting. Because middle schoolers LOVE taking selfies, my first day of school activity is a goal setting worksheet, “Dear Future Selfie”.
7. Assign Homework! Yes, I said it! The kids are shocked, curious, and excited to do this. I love the element of surprise when I assign homework on the first day of school. Basically, the kids go home and interview an adult on how they use reading, writing, listening and speaking in their daily lives. It helps the students to gain purpose and to allow them to see the relevancy of ELA first hand. On the second day of school, we discuss their interview results. Again, this activity allows students to bring in what is familiar to them to successfully begin to build trust between teacher and student. First Day of School Interview Assignment.
Because you’re reading this blog, I have the two visually appealing, worksheets bundled together here. I really hope this helps you on the first day of school! Have a great year!
If you’ve read New York State’s module for “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, you can easily see the wordiness of the immense document. I found the book itself to be an excellent novel to use within my seventh grade class, but the “cookie cutter” “one lesson fits all” type of planning was not for me. Especially, I found the end of the unit assessment very confusing. I have included my own version on this site if you’re interested. It’s basically the same objectives, just with a more organized approach and NYS ELA grading rubric. I distributed the outline and question the days before the assessment to allow students to prepare. See explanation below:
Although my seventh graders and I enjoyed reading and participating in the NYS ELA7 Module One; Unit One, I felt the final assessment was a little too broad for a seventh grader to organize and answer in the way the state was asking. What I did is I took the essential question from the unit, “How do culture, time, and place influence Salva/Nya’s identity?” and created a detailed outline for the expectations in each paragraph. One of the primary strategies in this unit was gathering evidence from the text and used these details to clarify thinking and deepen understanding. My students did a good job gathering the evidence, but it was difficult for them to make the connection between the evidence and using that as support to answer the essential question. So, I created this outline to allow the students to organize their papers and have the expectations clearly stated for each paragraph. I also rewrote the final assessment in a way that I felt was much more “user friendly” for a twelve year old.
If you’d like to see the assessment I created, check out this link for a free sample. It demonstrates how the paragraphs are broken down. This would be the organizer for paragraph 2. Then, I put all of the outlines combined with the final assessment as one large document.
I used the NYS 4 point rubric to assess the extended response. You can find the rubric right on engageny.org.
“A Long Walk to Water“, by Linda Sue Park, is an excellent novel to use within a seventh grade ELA class and is the focus of New York State’s Module One, Unit One. The book is absolutely fantastic to teach. It is engaging, heartfelt, adventurous, inspiring, and generally well-liked with a quite “particular” audience being seventh graders. However, the Module, in its entirety, is overwhelming as presented by NYS. What I have done, is dissected the module by teaching days, added worksheets where I thought was necessary, and compiled the entire unit onto a PowerPoint presentation that can be used for three weeks, or 15 class days. There are FREE worksheets found on Lessons 2, 7 & 8! Pair this unit with an in-depth author study on Linda Sue Park. I had the opportunity to take my students to meet LSP in 2016.
Basically, students are gathering information throughout the book to complete an extensive extended response. Here is a FREE sample of what I asked for paragraph two. We completed each paragraph in a similar format and the final essays were REMARKABLE. I was very proud of my students and they, in turn, were very proud of themselves. The final assessment can be found towards the end of the blog.
I can use context clues to determine word meanings.
I can make connections from the text “Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War” to the novel A Long Walk to Water.
I can annotate text to help me track important ideas in Excerpt 1 of “Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War.”
Complete Outline for paragraph 3 (found on this site) for preparation of final assessment
Read Chapters 6-11 orally or independently.
Complete Reading Response sheet and turn in. (found on this site)
Lesson “11”: “B” Day
TCRD Chart – “Gather evidence (quotes) from the text” and “Determine vocabulary in context”
Introduce the day’s learning targets:
I can make connections from the text “Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War” to the novel A Long Walk to Water.
I can use context clues to determine word meanings.
I can cite several pieces of text-based evidence to support an analysis of excerpts from the article “Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War.”
PhotoCopy pages 10 & 11 from Lesson 12 supporting materials
Use article from “Lesson 9” and “Gathering Evidence from excerpt 2” from lesson 12 in this lesson.
Informational Text Excerpt One w/ handout Lesson 10 handouts (follow PP)
Lesson “12”: “A” Day
• TCRD Chart – “Use the text to answer questions” •
“I can cite several pieces of text-based evidence to support an analysis of excerpts from the article ‘Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War.’
TPS (think pair share): Discuss the main idea of the text.
Then, discuss the evidence you found.
Now that you’ve gathered evidence from the text, it’s time to use that evidence to make meaning and answer rich questions.
Please answer each question by using a piece of text based evidence in “Step 1”. Then, in “Step 2” explain how the evidence you chose answers the question.
TPS: Review your Gathering Evidence graphic organizer and Select evidence (quotes) from the left-hand column. What might is a strong piece of evidence to answer the essential question: How do culture, time, and place influence the development of each character’s identity?
TPS: Copy or explain more about your inference/reasoning related to that evidence from the right-hand column.
If time, begin tonight’s reading assignment: Chapters 15 & 16
Lesson 13: “A” Day (again)
TCRD Chart – “Select evidence from the text to use in writing”
Photo Copy pages 10 & 11 from L13 materials
I can select evidence from the article “Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War” to support analysis of the perspectives of the Nuer and Dinka tribes of Southern Sudan.
I can annotate text to help me track important ideas.
I can use context clues to determine word meanings.
2. Complete outline for paragraph 4 (found on this site) for preparation of the final assessment.
3. Work Time
Selecting Evidence for Writing from “Sudanese Tribes Confront Modern War” (10 minutes)
Framing and Vocabulary Preview: Excerpt 1 of “Loss of Culturally Vital Cattle Leaves Dinka Tribe Adrift in Refugee Camps” (5 minutes)
Read Aloud and Annotating for Gist: Excerpt 1 (20 minutes)
4. Closing and Assessment
Revisit Learning Targets and Read Aloud Paragraph 9 (5 minutes)
Reread Excerpt 1, read (first read) Excerpt 2 of “Loss of Culturally Vital Cattle Leaves Dinka Tribe Adrift in Refugee Camps,” and continue to annotate the text for the “gist.”
Lesson 14: “B” Day
Photo Copy ALL pages from materials
“I can cite several pieces of text-based evidence to support an analysis of the article ‘Loss of Culturally Vital Cattle Leaves Dinka Tribe Adrift in Refugee Camps.’
Distribute end of the unit assessment questions and allow students time to organize their papers and complete all the outlines for the assessment.“I can select evidence from the article ‘Loss of Culturally Vital Cattle Leaves Dinka Tribe Adrift in Refugee Camps’ to support analysis of the perspectives of the Dinka tribe of Southern Sudan.”
I found the end of the unit assessment very confusing. I have included my own version on this site if you’re interested. It’s basically the same objectives, just with a more organized approach and NYS ELA grading rubric. I distributed the outline and question the days before the assessment to allow students to prepare. See explanation below:
Although my seventh graders and I enjoyed reading and participating in the NYS ELA7 Module One; Unit One, I felt the final assessment was a little too broad for a seventh grader to organize and answer in the way the state was asking. What I did is I took the essential question from the unit, “How do culture, time, and place influence Salva/Nya’s identity?” and created a detailed outline for the expectations in each paragraph. One of the primary strategies in this unit was gathering evidence from the text and used these details to clarify thinking and deepen understanding. My students did a good job gathering the evidence, but it was difficult for them to make the connection between the evidence and using that as support to answer the essential question. So, I created this outline to allow the students to organize their papers and have the expectations clearly stated for each paragraph. I also rewrote the final assessment in a way that I felt was much more “user friendly” for a twelve year old. I put the first outline, for paragraph 2, on this site for teachers to view and see if this would work for you. Then, I put all of the outlines combined with the final assessment as one large document.
I used the NYS 4 point rubric to assess the extended response. I put my explanation of the point break down below, however I felt uncomfortable putting the actual rubric up for copyright infringements. You can find the rubric right on engageny.org
Lesson 15: “B” Day
FINAL ASSESSMENT – This is my own version which I found more “user friendly” for seventh graders.
At the culmination of the unit, my students participated in a “Walk for Water”. I asked a local dairy to donate two empty one gallon milk jugs per student. The students decorated their milk jugs with motivational phrases and lessons they learned from Salva. The students raised money and walked for one hour carrying the jugs. We had t-shirts made and donated just over $3700.00 to Water for South Sudan. I have included some photographs from this meaningful event. Partner with http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/ for more information.