About this Unit
This is a literature and film study unit for use with the novel, Chu Ju’s House, by Gloria Whelan, and the 1999 Chinese film, Not One Less, directed by Yimou Zhang. Set in the wake of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China, Chu Ju’s House tells the story of a young teen’s struggle to spare her baby sister from a grim future, and make a life for herself despite her bleak circumstances. Tensions between tradition and the cold, new realities of industrialization drive the plot and conflict here. Though not a film adaptation of the novel, Not One Less covers similar geographic and thematic terrain so I teach the works together, showing the film after we finish the novel. Both works feature young protagonists whose devotion to family and small village life thrust them into the net of the glittery dangers that cling to far-away cities.
I developed this unit for use with my fourth and fifth graders, many of whose parents have first hand experience with the hardships the characters in these works face. Elementary grade learners are probably not ready for an in-depth exploration of the historical context of the novel and film, though this unit has sparked some class discussions about contemporary China’s crackdowns on free speech and limited economic opportunities, both factors that spurred many of my students’ families to leave China for a new life in America. Many of the questions here allow for a wide range of responses, including those that might reflect the sort of nuanced understanding of historical context that middle school readers are starting to develop. Before beginning the novel, seventh and eighth graders may benefit from viewing the Crash Course in World History YouTube episode on China in the 20th Century. Scroll to 9:50 for a short section devoted specifically to the Cultural Revolution.
NOTE: This unit does NOT include an answer key. Though some questions here are designed to assess comprehension, the overall objective is to promote discussion, critical inquiry and the development of writing and argument-building skills. Most prompts here are open-ended so a variety of responses will be "correct," depending on how well-supported they are. If you are looking for a unit with multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks questions you can quickly match against an answer key, this is not the right unit for you.
Unit Components & Features
LITERATURE RESPONSE QUESTIONS One for each 5-8 page section of the novel with 8-10 questions about the reading. Page numbers correspond with the Kindle edition. Some of the questions are designed to assess reading comprehension (or listening comprehension if you read the novel aloud); others are intended to hone critical thinking and writing skills. Several of the questions can also be used as prompts for longer writing assignments. Both the novel and the film raise some tough and complicated questions about family and adult responsibility, and explore some of the ethical dilemmas that poverty and homelessness can often trigger (i.e., Are lying and stealing ever the “right” things to do?) The Lit Response questions ask students to articulate their thoughts on these issues and write about personal experience. There are some questions geared toward English Language learners that ask students to decode idioms with which native English speakers will probably be familiar. A question about time involves math.
SEVERAL FILM RESPONSE QUESTIONS FOR USE WITH NOT ONE LESS Some of these questions check plot comprehension, others ask students to compare/contrast the film with the novel, and a few ask for deeper analysis. A question about money involves math.
VOCABULARY QUIZZES FOR EACH CHAPTER
4 VOCABULARY PRACTICE CROSSWORDS PUZZLES & SOLUTION
A VOCABULARY STUDY SHEET This resource lists all vocabulary words with easy to understand definitions and parts of speech.
A LINK TO A SET OF CHU JU’S HOUSE VOCABULARY FLASHCARDS From this site you can download a PDF copy of the flashcards, or let students use the “study session” feature on the website or the Flashcard Machine app for ipad & Google Play-supported android devices. Directions for three flashcard games are included with the link.
SEVERAL SHORT MENTOR TEXT EXERCISES Designed to integrate into a writing workshop and built around specific revision strategies, each mentor text exercise asks students to read as writers—to pay close attention to elements of craft—and apply the mentor author’s writing techniques to their own works in progress. Some exercises include links to student writing samples that model approaches to applying the mentor author techniques under consideration. Though the instructions in the mentor text exercises are addressed to students, most will need some teacher guidance around the terms and concepts introduced.
AN ART EXTENSION ACTIVITY For use in conjunction with Not One Less, the activity includes directions, links to art suppliers and examples of various steps of the process.
FLEXIBLE FORMATTING This unit is a Google doc so you can easily modify or delete questions or directions to fit your own class’s needs. The cover image, crossword puzzles and art activity images are embedded PDF files so they will take a little longer to load.
If you are new to Google docs, here are some quick tips:
-To save a copy of this unit to modify as you wish, go to File> Make a copy (Google account required) or File> download as an MS Word document (no Google account required, but formatting may change slightly).
-To save a copy to use as-is, go to File> Dowload as> PDF.
-If you share the unit (or copy & paste sections of it) with your students, make sure the share setting on your own copy of the unit is on “Anyone with link can view.” If this choice doesn’t appear when you click the blue Share button, click Advanced to find it. If you want students to write on documents you share, make sure they save their own copies first.
-Contents links will remain accurate regardless of how you alter the document as long as you don’t change section headings. To update Contents links after you make changes, click anywhere on the Contents page then click the Update arrow when it appears.
-Go to Tools> Document outline to see clickable section headings in a sidebar on the left of the screen.
-To bookmark a specific page of this unit for students to access from a digital learning platform like Google Classroom or Edmodo, click the top of the page you want to mark then go to Insert>Bookmark. To access the URL, click the blue bookmark icon that appears. When students click the link, it will take them to the cover page of the unit first. Tell them to wait a minute. Once the document loads, it will go directly to the bookmarked page. There is no need to scroll around looking for it.
-To edit instructions for all literature responses or vocabulary quizzes at once, go to Edit> Find and replace. Paste existing directions into the “Find” box then add your own directions to the “Replace” box.
-To edit columns & charts (where lists & images appear), click in the chart or image then go to Table>Table properties and set borders to a visible color (their default setting is colorless). Go to Table to add or delete rows or columns as desired.