Teacher: Patsy Hamby
My tenth-grade English curriculum requirements include a novel unit, and I found myself with several restrictions as I approached the predetermined date to teach this unit. First, I had a time constraint: I had an entire novel to teach, and I needed to provide several days of activities so the students would have prior knowledge to access the particular novel, Mountain Windsong. Secondly, I only had fourteen copies of the novel and four classes of 25 to 30 students who each needed to read the book.
Because the novel lends itself well to division by strands, I determined that the students would have choices of strands, would read in groups on assigned days, would write in response to reading, and would prepare a final project which would promote personal connections to the novel and help them reclaim their own heritages.
Mountain Windsong, by Robert Conley, is an historical novel examining the Cherokee Removal through three different reporting stances or methods: a series of conversations between a contemporary Cherokee grandfather and his grandson, a romance set just before and during the Removal, and a series of “official” documents related to the Removal.
Note: This sequence of activities could be adapted to any text that is presented in a “strand” format e.g., in alternating voices of several main characters.
1. Artifact presentation: Students bring an artifact (with written description) that reflects their heritage and share through oral presentations to class.
2. Selection of strands: Following the reading by the teacher of several initial paragraphs from each strand in Mountain Windsong, students select the one they prefer and indicate on notecards each of the following:a. Name, date, periodb. Strand they have chosenc. Brief explanation of why they chose that strandd. Prediction of what they will be reading
The Three Strands and Brief Overview:I. Historical Strand: Treaties, dates, and other writings of historical significance to the Cherokee Removal.
II. Romantic Strand: Story of Waguli and Oconeechee. Written in plain text throughout Mountain Windsong.
III. Inter-generational Strand: Grandpa and Sonny (Chooj). Written in italics throughout Mountain Windsong.
3. Group Readings: During class in groups assigned according to strand preference, students read from their strands for the allotted time, write one journal entry for each reading day, and plan a one- or two-minute summary for the class. Students record progress on a Daily Reading Record sheet and keep entries in a folder.
4. Vocabulary: Word lists of terms from novel and literary terms provided on vocabulary days. Students define terms, complete activity sheets (word searches, crosswords, created from Puzzlemaker.com.)
5. Videos: The Southeastern Indian and The Trail of Tears (viewing guide question sheets distributed)
6. Strand Project: “Based on something you can pass on to your descendants, such as a videotape, a framed document, or an essay.”a. Historical Strand: Present to the class a document of historical significance to you or your family, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, deed or title to land or property (or photograph of the document). Be prepared to present the significance of the document to the class.
b. Romantic Strand: Share with the class a story of a romantic nature that is directly associated with you or your family, such as how your parents or grandparents met or proposed, or obstacles they had to overcome to be together.
c. Inter-generational Strand: Write the history of an object that has belonged to one of your ancestors, or prepare a document or an artifact that can be passed on to your descendants.
Overview of Assignments for Mountain Windsong
Keep all assignments and returned work in a folder to be turned in at the completion of the novel unit. Each assignment is worth 100 points, with the final project counting as the unit exam grade.
I. Artifact Presentation. Write a description of an artifact or object (a picture, trophy, etc.) that reflects how you see yourself now or that reflects your heritage (minimum three paragraphs). Bring the object, and be prepared to read your description and present your object to the class.
II. Selection . Following an introduction to the Cherokee Removal and the three strands in Mountain Windsong, select the one that you prefer to read. On a notecard, write the following:
A. your name, date, and period
B. the strand you choose
C. a brief explanation of why you have chosen that strand
1. Historical: Treaties , dates, and other writings of historical significance to the Cherokee Removal. Pages 37-64, 74-78, 80-81, 126-129.
2. Romantic: Story of Waguli and Oconeechee. Written in plain text throughout Mountain Windsong.
3. Inter-generational: Grandpa and Sonny (Chooj). Written in italics throughout Mountain Windsong.
III. Group Readings. During class, you will read from your strand for the allotted time, write one journal entry each reading day, and plan a two- to three-minute summary for the class. You will record progress on a Reading Record sheet and keep entries in a folder.
IV. Vocabulary: Word lists provided. Define and complete activity sheets.
V. Video: Viewing guide to be completed in class.
VI. Project: Date due: _______________________
Presentations by Strand. Your project must be based on something you can pass on to your descendants, such as a videotape, a framed document, or an essay.
A. Historical Strand: Present to the class a document of historical significance to you or your family, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, deed or title to land or property (or photographs of the document). Be prepared to present the significance of the document to the class.
B. Romantic Strand: Share with the class a story of a romantic nature that is directly associated with you or your family, such as how your parents or grandparents met or proposed, or obstacles they had to overcome to be together.
C. Inter-generational Strand: Write the history of an object that has remained in your family for two or more generations, or prepare a document that can be passed on to your descendants.
Mountain Windsong Vocabulary Terms
null and void
List 3: Literary Terms
point of view
Strand : _________________________________________
Group Members __________________________
Start page ______ End page ______
Start page ______ End page ______
Start page ______ End page ______
I am in the process of reading an awesome book. My group is inter-generational, and that is the part of the book that explains the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson. The main reason I like it is because it reminds me of the relationship between my grandfather and me. The boy in Mountain Windsong and his grandfather went everywhere together. Most importantly, his grandfather taught him a lot of things about life.
From the moment I was born, my grandfather and I have been close. From the time I came home from the hospital as a baby, he has taken me everywhere and we have been close. My mom, brother, and I lived right next door to my grandparents, so if my mother ever needed a baby-sitter, my grandpa would come get me. When I started to talk, we decided somehow that I would call him “Papa.” I was close to my grandmother too, but not half as close as I was to my papa.
He started saying, “You are my heart” when I couldn’t even talk, and believe it or not, he still says that. I tell him he’s my heart, too. I love my grandpa and nothing will ever change that.
We seem to become closer every day. I don’t know what I would do without him. I can’t even imagine it, nor do I want to. My nanny died in September of 1994, and I was hurt and it hurt even worse to see how sad my grandpa was. I felt special though because my papa would ask me to spend the night with him, and we would just talk until about 11:30 P.M. I felt so honored that he could tell me stuff, and I told him stuff too.
He has always had to work a lot, but he has always made it to anywhere I have ever asked him to go. He owns an upholstery business, so he has deadlines all the time. Here is a perfect example of how he is always there, no matter what the consequences are. I was going to pitch in a very important game on a Wednesday. My grandpa had a deadline on Thursday. He took off work and came to my game. He had to go back to work until 1:00 A.M. so he could finish. That is commitment.
In the book I am reading, the grandpa always shares stories. Well, my grandpa loves telling me about my mom and uncle when they were little. He always tells me I remind him of Andy (my uncle) because we have done a lot of the same things, including getting in trouble for the same reasons. Sometimes they are very funny stories, but other times they are serious. One thing we don’t talk about that much is his childhood. I know how different things were and how appreciative he was, but that’s about it.
As I read this book, it definitely makes me think of my and my grandpa’s awesome relationship. I know our relationship will get even better, and I hope the book is the same way.
-- Michael Gallup,
May 1, 2001
I had so many more ideas for this unit than I was able to cover in the allotted time. Having the students report at the end of each reading day kept the continuity of what was occurring in the three strands clear for all class members. Even so, students still asked me at the end of the unit if they could check out my copies and read the entire book for themselves. The book is rich with history, and making connections with the students’ heritages came as a natural outflow.
As students shared their strand projects, we laughed at the video the young man made of his “puppet interview” with his grandparents when he learned that his grandmother had liked his grandfather’s brother first. We were awed as another student demonstrated his talent for classical guitar that his mother had passed to him from her father. We cried as the young troubled single mother shared about the death of her mother two years previously and realized that she herself was passing a heritage to her own baby daughter, one she determined would be honorable from now on.
The novel can supplement or be supplemented by treatments of the Removal in history classes or historical sources.
Suggestions on how you might adapt this lesson for a different classroom setting
► Artifact presentation: Students bring a family artifact that has importance to his/her family.
► Students could also bring an artifact that could be passed on to their future families.
► Both of these activities would work wonderfully in a sophomore English class that I teach: Nebraska Literature/Composition: A Sense of Place. I think that I would begin with students bringing something from their own lives that is important to them, such as a toy or game or other personal possession. Writing assignments and presentations to the class would identify why the item is valuable in a personal sense.
► The second part would be a natural outgrowth as students choose a family heirloom that has been passed down in their family. Students could interview family members to ascertain why the artifact is important and to collect any history behind the item. Again, creative-writing assignments such as poetry and diary excerpts would be the result of this work.
► Both assignments help students identify and illustrate the two central themes of this class: “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are” by Wendell Berry; and a quote by Dr. Robert Manley, a Nebraska historian who wrote, “The part of history we must know best is our heritage the stories of ourselves and our families.”
-- Sharon Bishop
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