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ABC's of Literary Elements

Subject:English/Language Arts

Grade Level: 6-8 (9 or 10)

Materials: Laptops or computers with Internet, marble notebooks or three-ring binders for each student, projector with overhead, and PC microphone

About: This project can be done with most novels, but our class used it after reading Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963. This project helps students identify literary elements, deepen their understanding of themes and character development, and make historical connections with the story. Students identify key concepts, terms, and developments by labeling them with the letters of the alphabet.

Students create a presentation that illustrates important themes, character developments, plot points, and literary elements using each letter of the alphabet. During the course of the class reading, students utilize different handouts and graphic organizers to identify and elaborate on the author’s use of literary elements, and evaluate how well the characters and plot are developed. This project is done before students are assigned an end-novel portfolio essay.

This project allows all students to complete the same task and gain the same understanding, while utilizing different project options. One set of students will choose the computer presentation option (PowerPoint or Keynote), while others have the option to be more artistic by utilizing the notebook, binder, or collage option.

Make sure to use a variety of graphic organizers that all student levels can complete. The more information they complete, the easier it will be for them to assign every letter. We used the audio book at times when we did class readings. The reader made it very interesting and engaging, but the sound effects highlighted many important parts. Throughout the unit or prior to the end, you may want to create an "ABCs of ME" as an example when the project is assigned. You can pick a characteristic of yourself, or an event, dream, or significant person in their lives for each letter of the alphabet. What is important is to show the students a good example of how to complete the work.


To have students identify literary elements in a novel.
Students will learn the characteristics of plot and character development.
Students use handouts and graphic organizers to prepare notes for culminating essay and project.
Students will take notes from audio book sessions and student presentations.
Students will publish comments and questions on a class blog site and respond to posts by teacher and students.
To reinforce writing, research skills, and reading comprehension strategies.

This author homepage gives information about the author as well as resources for teachers. Students are very engaged by the site.
Another interesting author page.
This site gives the teacher and students a "Flashback to the 60s". Our class used the site before and during the reading. It gives helpful insight into a time period the students may not be familiar with.
Another "Flashback to the 60s" site.
This is the official homepage of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There are many valuable resources here, including an inspirational video that can be used during historical background portion of unit.
The time line webpage is found if you scroll to the bottom, but there are a variety of different resources the class can use to gain a deeper understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.
Found on our class website, this page allows students to search a variety of sites that contain copyright-free images.
This about.com page shows students how to resize and edit pictures for use in their presentations.

Students produce a response to literature.
Students participate in one-to-one conferences with the teacher and group meetings, and prepare and deliver an individual presentation.
Students demonstrate an understanding of the rules of the English language in written and oral work, and analyze and subsequently revise work to improve its clarity and effectiveness.
Students respond to nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive and critical processes.

Day 1: Gaining Historical Background
Students will view a variety of resources that provide factual information on the Civil Rights Movement.
Students will analyze a civil rights time line and identify with facts by using a KWL Chart.
Students will listen to an excerpt of a Martin Luther King speech given in Alabama.
Students will work in pairs and small groups to discuss responses.
Students will identify Alabama on a map and understand the significance of that area during this time period.
Laptop with Internet access
Projector and overhead
Class set of The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963
Handouts - KWL & Response Sheets
Students copy the Agenda notes and fill in "What They Know & Learned" on KWL chart based on their knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement.
Students are given a handout that is made of four boxes: Questions, Thoughts, Reactions, and Connections. They fill in these boxes with responses as we review material on the Civil Rights Movement.
Review the websites which provide information on the Civil Rights Movement. Students gain an understanding of what the meaning and purpose of the movement was, and raise questions and comments using the handout.
Review the "Scholastic Timeline" (website above) of the Civil Rights Movement. Students continue to work on their handout. This time line will help illustrate the fact that Alabama was a "hot spot" during the movement.
Students watch a short video from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institution website. They comment and ask questions on their handout.
Students work in pairs (or groups of 3) to discuss their handouts.
Bring the class together for a whole class instruction where students comment on and question not only their findings, but on the work performed in small groups.
Make the historical connections to the novel, i.e., the setting, conflict during this time period.
Students study the list of literary terms given as homework and are quizzed on spelling and meaning of terms as well as on the author and novel background notes.
Students are given a variety of historical information during this lesson. They complete a handout and be asked to make connections to the novel on what they have learned from the author background notes and book interview. Students are given a quiz on background notes and definitions.

Day 2: The Book Interview
Students will gain background information of author.
Students will relate real-life experiences of the author and world to events in the fictional story.
Students will join small groups and discuss responses.
Students will be informed of curriculum purpose, objectives, and assessments.
Class set of The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963
Laptop with Internet access and projector
Computer speakers
Handouts - Book Interview
Students answer the "Do Now" question: What characteristics are found in a historical fiction novel?
Discuss responses, having one student serve as "reporter" - highlighting answers on the board.
Administer the Book Interview handout and review instructions.
Students break into groups of 3-4. They discuss individual answers and complete a group version of the handout (if possible, have this enlarged).
Students visit the Christopher Paul Curtis website, as well as read the author's notes on the novel.
Discuss findings on the website that match student responses on Book Interview Handout.
Students are asked to review their notes and book interview at home, and to bring in an illustration they feel represents something they learned today. They write a short response that explains this connection.
Students were introduced to a novel and completed an interview sheet which they discussed in small groups, and later helped develop a group response. The homework assures that students will make a connection to the classroom, and also serves as an introduction to our imagery lesson.

Day 3: Life in the 1960s
Students will learn about lifestyle, changes, and pop culture during the time period of the 1960s.
Students will utilize a KWL chart to identify prior learning, connections, and new information.
Students will work in pairs or small groups.
Students will make connections to prior and new learning using a T-Chart.
Laptop with Internet access, projector, and speakers
Class set of Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963
Handout - KWL Chart and T-Line Chart
Students enter the room to music of the 60s. Make reference to how the music style is an example of what life was like in the 60s.
Students are given handouts as homework is collected.
Introduce lesson and objectives to class. make sure that students are instructed that they must fill in handout information and take notes during the lesson.
Students complete the T-Line Chart on their knowledge of today. This chart will compare costs, lifestyle, culture, etc. of the 1960s to today.
Review answers and discuss.
Lead the class through the 1960s websites. Students will write their responses and complete the T-Line Chart that compares the time periods.
Students will compare their responses with pairs or groups of 3. They may take information from their groups to complete their chart.
Lead a whole class discussion on student findings and highlight the items, ideas, and concepts that are found throughout the book.
Review homework.
Students write a letter that illustrates their understanding of "Life in the 60s". The letters may be to another student of their age, a parent, or an adult who may have lived in that time period. The letter should illustrate understanding to the pop culture and historical climate of that time period, as well as being able to make connections to the similarities differences to today.
The letter will show that the students made connections to today's lesson. They will also use these charts and letters and we get further in the book to connect to the events and ideas presented by the author.

Day 4: Using Imagery to Sequence Events
Students will analyze the use of imagery throughout the novel.
Students will be able to identify several examples of imagery.
Students will use their knowledge of the literary elements to identify meaning behind imagery.
Students will comment on images and create a storyboard using visual representation.
Students will recall significant events in each chapter by creating images.
Laptop with internet access, projector, and speakers
Class Set of Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963
Handouts - Storyboard
Color pencils, #2 pencils, crayons, etc.
Students copy agenda notes and answer the "do now" question: How does Imagery help the reader understand a story? What images do you feel are most significant in the Watsons story?
Students discuss their responses to the "do now" question.
Students review the PowerPoint presentation on images in The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963.
Lead a whole class discussion throughout presentation as students are asked to question and comment on the various images and audio played. Connections should be made to background notes - "Life in the 60s"
Students are given a storyboard handout.
Handout instructions are given. Students use each box to highlight a chapter in the book. In the box, students are to draw a picture or provide a text example of imagery from that chapter (text example is word for word from the book, with page nimber). The "image" should represent a major event or development from the story. Students may use the text-example for no more then half the boxes/chapters.
Below each box, students are to utilize the lines to provide an explanation to what the image represents, and why this is important to the story, and what literary element is identified.
Students are instructed that they can only use chapters 1-7 on this handout.
Walk around the room to assist students.
The lesson should be stopped at least 5 minutes before the bell so that all materials can be collected.
Students complete another storyboard handout for the remaining chapters, 8-15, for homework.
Students make connections to major events in the story utilizing their understanding of literary elements and imagery. The homework is an extension of the lesson.

Day 5: Project Introduction
Students analyze the project rubric to access requirements.
Students identify notes in rubric to work performed in class.
Students recall examples of literary elements, themes, plot, and character development and imagery using the letters of the alphabet.
Students work independently to complete review of lessons.
Laptop with Internet access, projector
Class set of Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963
Student folders with work performed throughout the unit on novel - handouts, chapter questions, classwork
Handout - ABCs of Literary Learning
Students will copy notes on Agenda and answer the "Do Now" question - what is the one thing you learned in school that you use every day? Teacher will elicit the response "The Alphabet".
Teacher will reinforce and review the items that this unit has focused on - literary elements, imagery. and character development.
Teacher will show the "ABCs of Me" project example that was created. After the presentation, explain how the "ABCs" are the foundation of learning, how they were used in this project, and how they will be used in their project for the novel.
Students are given the handout titled "ABCs of Literary Learning". Instructions are read aloud by students and then reviewed by teacher. Highlight the point that every letter must be used, and a phrase, event, character, concept, etc. can only be used once.
Review project options (PowerPoint, collage, or journal) and requirements on rubric.
Students can begin to work on their handout so that teacher may assess correct responses.
Teacher will monitor individual work, making suggestions throughout the rest of the lesson.
Students will continue to work on their project until due date. Depending on time available, teacher may extend the work in class to another period or have all the work done at home.
Students will grade their own work, and each others based on the rubric. These grades, along with teacher input will be used to evaluate student work.

Rosario Miano


I.S. 72 - Rocco Laurie School
33 Ferndale Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10314

Rosario Miano has been a New York City public school teacher for over six years. His previous five years were at Lafayette HS in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and he now teaches at I.S. 72, the Rocco Laurie School, in Staten Island, NY. He has a B.A. degree in English from the State University of NY at Albany and a M.S. in Literacy from Touro College, and is New York State-Certified in English/ELA 7-12, Conflict Resolution & Negotiation, and QTEL (Quality Teaching of English Learners) from the NYCDOE Office of ELL. Before becoming a teacher, he worked in Information Technology. As a teacher, he feels his most important job is to keep students engaged and interested in the classroom by relying on practical issues, technology, humor, and real-life knowledge. Making the classroom a place where students connect to the real world and global community is vital to their educational enrichment.

Important documents for this lesson plan.

Watson Lessons.ppt
Recap and Project Guidlines.ppt
Student Sample.ppt


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