Teaching Iroquois Legends and Folktale in Middle School

Teaching literature, including myths and legends, are a part of the Common Core curriculum, as well as in numerous state standards for English Language Arts in upper elementary and middle school students.  In my seventh grade classroom, I use “Legends of the Iroquois” as a resource for teaching folktales to my students.  Click here to check out all the free and paid materials available.

I have created a two-week unit which is aligned to the New York State Common Core Standards in English Language Arts.  It is aligned in chronological order of the book and uses some additional resources as well.  It can be found here.

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Does this lesson interest you?  Check out my full two week CCLS aligned unit plan here!

This unit also uses the children’s book, “Brother Eagle, Sister Sky”.  This is a book with rich illustrations by Susan Jeffers.  This book can be used individually or as a part of the unit above.

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Implementing children’s literature is a great way to increase interest in a middle school lesson.   This is why so many of my units have children’s literature embedded within them.  To check out the quality of my work, click here view a free product! 

I love Paul Goble’s literature to reinforce my middle school unit.  I use his books as read alouds with my students and in jigsaw learning!  Here is a product of extensive reading comprehension questions to correspond with his books:

Paul Goble Children’s literature questions.  Check our all Paul Goble has to offer, check out his materials available on Amazon.

We practice picture writing using the book as a guide.  I let the students create stories on the chalkboard and using an app called my popplet!  It’s very fun and engaging.


Black History Month – Middle School

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  accourage-precurate 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.  roll

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:

Slavery in the North

Front of the Bus

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 studeimg_0319nts 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.

My entire Langston Hughes unit can be found here.

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.

Finally, “A Long Walk to Water” is the perfect middle school book to use to study Black History Month.  Especially during this political time where refugees are being banned from Sudan, this unit touches it all.  Please click on the photo below to read my blog post on this incredible unit.  https://wordpress.com/post/educationisland.wordpress.com/169