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Studying the Great Depression Through Novels

Created By: Donna Holinga, Lincoln Magnet School (Springfield, IL)
Grade Level: 8th
Content Area: Language Arts/Social Studies
Database Integration: Students will use the TDC database to view pictures of life in Illinois during the Great Depression. Images of the following topics will help students better understand this time period: automobiles of the 1920s and 1930s, trains which crossed Illinois during the 1930s, artwork created by itinerant artists supported by the Illinois WPA, farm machinery of the 1930s, clothing of this era, entertainment and celebrations of the time period and items which represent the daily life of this era. The images will help students gain a greater appreciation and understanding of what life was like in a small town in Illinois during the Depression.


Illinois Learning Standards Achieved

Standard Achieved

Activity that Meets this Standard

STATE GOAL 1: Read with understanding and fluency.
Learning Standard A: Apply word analysis and vocabulary skills to comprehend selections.
Students will work in teams of four. Each team will be given 2-5 words per chapter which they will define and add to their Word Bank Book. Then each team will "teach" a word of their choice to other teams using the "4 Square Vocabulary" model.
STATE GOAL 1: Read with understanding and fluency.
Learning Standard B: Apply reading strategies to improve comprehension and fluency in a broad range of reading materials.
Students will be responsible for generating a list of questions for the assigned reading for the week. These questions will be used during the group discussions with the teacher. Students will use a 15-point question wheel and a Bloom's Taxonomy chart to write their questions.
STATE GOAL 2: Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras, and ideas.
Learning Standard A: Understand how literary elements and techniques are used to convey meaning.
In literature circles students will be given the opportunity to cite examples of imagery from the story and discuss how this imagery adds to the development of the characters in the story.Students will complete a setting worksheet.
STATE GOAL 3: Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.A. Use correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.
Learning Standard B: Compose well-organized and coherent writing.
Students will write three letters as if they are one of the main characters writing to their parents to tell about their adventures during their stay with their grandmother.Students will be given an Extended Response Question at the conclusion of the novel study. They will complete a graphic organizer and a written response to answer the question.
STATE GOAL 4: Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations.A. Listen effectively in formal and informal situations.
Learning Standard B: Speak effectively using language appropriate to the situation and audience.
In literature circle groups students will discuss the events in the story and the effect of the Depression on the lives of people during this era.
STATE GOAL 5: Use the language arts to acquire, assess, and communicate information.A. Locate, organize, and analyze information from various sources to answer questions, solve problems, and communicate ideas.
Learning Standard B: Apply acquired information, concepts, and ideas to communicate in a variety of formats.
Students will use the information learned in the novels and the TDC database to create a collage depicting the events of one of the summer Mary Alice and Joey spent with Grandma.
STATE GOAL 16: Understand events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States and other nations. Students will gain knowledge and understanding of life during the Great Depression by reading novels, discussing the events in the stories and comparing that time period to their own. Students will complete a Venn Diagram showing these similarities and differences.


Materials:


Procedures:

Eighth grade students will study the Depression Era in American History and read the novels A Long Way from Chicago and Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. The setting of both novels is a small central Illinois town during the Depression. In A Long Way from Chicago, Joey and his sister, Mary Alice, who are from Chicago spend the summers from 1929 to 1935 with Grandma Dowdel to help ease the financial burden their parents were facing. In the sequel, Year Down Yonder, Mary Alice returns alone to spend a summer with her grandmother. Both novels tell of their adventures in a small town, the antics of an eccentric grandmother and the daily life of small town Illinois in the 1930s. The novel groups will take three weeks.

  1. Students will begin studying the causes and effects of the Great Depression in American history class in order to gain background knowledge before reading the novels.
  2. Review with students how literature circles work. Each group will decide how many pages they will read each day. Groups will sign up to meet with a teacher for discussion at least three times during the three-week period.
  3. Before reading activities: Students will complete an anticipation guide.
  4. Word Study: Students will work in teams of four. Each team will be given 2-5 words per chapter which they will define and add to their Word Bank Book. Then each team will "teach" a word of their choice to other teams using the "4 Square Vocabulary" model.
  5. Comprehension: Students will be responsible for generating a list of questions for the assigned reading for the week. These questions will be used during the group discussions with the teacher. Students will use a 15-point question wheel and a Bloom's Taxonomy chart to write their questions. Students will also complete a setting worksheet.
  6. Writing: Review the components of a friendly letter. Students will write three letters as if they are one of the main characters writing to their parents to tell about their adventures during their stay with their grandmother.
  7. Students will be given an Extended Response Question at the conclusion of the novel study. They will complete a graphic organizer and a written response to answer the question.
  8. Students will be given an Extended Response Question at the conclusion of the novel study. They will complete a graphic organizer and a written response to answer the question.

Assessment:

Teacher created, predetermined rubrics will be used to assess the letters, the comprehension questions, extended responses, discussions and the collage. These rubrics will be shared with students prior to use.