"The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever."
This novel unit is a resource geared toward middle grade students. It includes a student novel guide that can be completed either collaboratively, independently, or a combination of both. There are interactive note-taker and response sheets for each of the six parts in the novel that can be completed during class readings or independent reading. Graphic organizers focus on analysis mostly of character and theme.
Embedded in the unit is a scaffold approach to teaching text-dependent analytical writing pertinent to the style of writing assessed on state standardized tests. The tools included for this approach are a graphic organizer for prewriting, very brief notes on thesis statement, an area to reflect on teacher feedback, extra practice with writing conclusions, and practice with eliminating and correcting run-on sentences (a common problem area for middle grade students who are practicing writing more complex sentences).
In the note-taker and response sheets, students record vocabulary words they don't know. At the end of the unit is a definition sheet where students will practice using different word-defining tools such as the thesaurus, the dictionary, context clues, etc.
Final assessments include a final prompt for a scored text-dependent analysis essay and a list of 11 choices for a final project. There is also a crossword puzzle attached that can either be for fun or to help struggling readers. Check back soon for a set of basic summaries that will help struggling readers or students who are English language learners.
This novel unit is a product that helps students think critically and organize their thoughts effectively through writing. However, the message in this book comes through loud and clear on its own. Students really absorbed the amazing story of these two teens which permitted some creativity and choice in how they demonstrated understanding. Some students opted to run a food drive for a local food pantry, some found pen pals of their own, and our 7th and 8th grade students were able to use Skype to meet Caitlin from the book who does both school and Skype visits. They ultimately learned the power of kindness, and they broadened their perspectives to a world outside of the small town where they were born.