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Culminating Project: Designing a

Childrens Book

Grade: 9

Essential Questions:

1. What is life like straddling the cultural border between traditional Native and white

2. How do we stay true to ourselves when negotiating between two cultures?

3. Where do young people find the strength to overcome difficult circumstances and grow
into their adult lives while being a part of two cultures?

Learning Objectives:

After completing this project, students will be able to:
Plan, design, write, illustrate, and present a childrens book that explores complex
ideas and teaches younger students important life lessons.
Identify specific details that help to explain the development of character, plot, or
storyline within a childrens book.
Present important lessons about different cultures and identity formation to
younger students.

NCTE/IRA Standards:

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style,
vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different

5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing
process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a
variety of literacy communities.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes
(e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information.

Montana Common Core State Standards:

RL.9-10.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text
says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including works by and about
American Indians.

RL.9-10.2. Determine a theme or central idea of a text, including those by and about
American Indians, and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text,
including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective
summary of the text.

RL.9-10.3. Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting
motivations) develop over the course of a text, including those of American Indians,
interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

W.9-10. 3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using
effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
a. Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation,
establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or
characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.
b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and
multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
c. Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another
to create a coherent whole.
d. Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a
vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.
e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced,
observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative.

W.9-10.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and
style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for
writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

W.9-10.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing,
rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a
specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of
Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 9-10.)

W.9-10.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and
revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks,
purposes, and audiences.

SL.9-10.4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and
logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization,
development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

Indian Education for All Essential Understandings:

Essential Understanding 2:
There is great diversity among individual American Indians as identity is developed,
defined and redefined by entities, organizations and people. A continuum of Indian identity,
unique to each individual, ranges from assimilated to traditional. There is no generic
American Indian.

Lesson Procedure:


1. Ask students to journal about their favorite character from one of the three novels (e.g.,
Junior, Sharon, Tiffany, Red Bird, etc.). (20 minutes)

Students can write a quick poem, draw a picture, create a graphic representation
(e.g., Venn Diagram, Word Web, etc.), or just journal in prose about their favorite
character. They should include as much detail as possible, as well as highlight why
this character is so significant to them and the text.

Encourage them to consider why they admire this character so much? Their
bravery? Their perseverance? Their good humor? Write about these attributes, as
well as the characters flaws, to give readers an overall picture of the character.

Put the essential questions up on the board and ask students to respond to each of
these questions by referring to their favorite character. Encourage students to
include evidence from the text as well as their own perceptions of the characters.

2. Ask students to volunteer to share with the class why this character was their particular
favorite. (10 minutes)
Encourage students to summarize their thoughts about the character and make
references to the text to inform their brief presentation.


3. Hand out Childrens Book Assignment and explain the project to the students.
(10 minutes)

All of the characters in our texts struggled to create their own sense of identity
while juggling the demands of their traditional Native culture and the white culture
in which they resided. Identity formation is an important part of every young
persons life, and this process is even more complicated when the young person
struggles to combine his or her heritage with a conflicting contemporary reality.

For this project, each member of the class will create a childrens picture book about
their favorite character in one of the texts.

The author (you as students) will write about a scenario in which this character has
to negotiate between the two cultures they live in, and will tell the story of this
characters experience. Students can even include more than one character from the
texts or combine characters from multiple texts if they wish (e.g., a book about
Sharon and Junior and how they were in the same English class and had to deal with
a racist teacher).

In your book, you need to provide a clear description of the challenges the character
faces, how they struggle with these challenges, how they work to overcome these
challenges, and what they learned by going through these circumstances. Childrens
books, while often simplistic in their language, can be used to depict difficult
situations that children will encounter in their lives and often teach children
powerful lessons about life through pictures, words, characters, and plots.

o Essentially, childrens books are one way we teach our children how to
interact and behave in our society.

The setting and plot of your story do not have to be based off of the books we read.

o For example, you can write a story about Sharon and have this school be the
setting. Obviously, Sharon did not attend this high school, but she could have
faced the same challenges here and that is what you are writing about.

After everyone in the class has written, edited, revised, and designed their childrens
books, we will visit the local elementary school and read them to the third grade
o When you are completing any project, it is important to keep your intended
audience in mind and tailor your writing towards meeting the needs, desires,
and interest of that audience. This is especially important for childrens
books. During this whole writing process, continually ask yourself the
following questions:
Is my writing style (language, sentence length, diction) appropriate
for third grade students? Will they understand the words in my text?
Do the illustrations add meaning to my text? What details about the
setting, plot, and characters will the readers pick up from these
Are the ideas presented appropriate for third grade students? Are the
too simple, too difficult, or just right?
Will third grade students gain any knowledge or learn an important
lesson by reading this text? Will it also spark their interest and keep
them entertained?

Ask students to spend a few minutes looking over the assignment handout and the
rubric, and then to ask any questions, give comments, or voice concerns over the

4. The first step in writing the childrens books is for students to write a first draft.
(110 minutes; 2 class periods)
Give students plenty of time to create these first drafts. Often, students may find it
difficult to get started, so encourage them to make outlines, test out a few ideas, and
be patient with the writing process. Remind them that first drafts do not have to be
perfect, they just need to be written.

Remind students to return to the units essential questions when they get stuck in
the writing process. Have students ask themselves: Does this story answer the
essential questions and show how young people negotiate between two different
cultures to form their own unique identity? What are young students going to learn
about different cultures and identity formation by reading my book?

Ask students to return to the text to find out more details about their characters,
and to refer to some of their favorite childrens books for ideas and inspiration.
o If your school is in close vicinity to the public library or an elementary school
library, you may take the opportunity to visit with your students, and give
them time to peruse the childrens books for ideas.
o Or, if you do not have easy access to a library, bring in some of your own
favorite childrens books, and read one of the books to the class. After you
have read the book, go back through the pages with the students,
commenting on the writing style, word choice, images, and other aspects.
Allow the students time to look through the picture books to gain inspiration
and ideas.

5. After students have had an opportunity to write significant first drafts, it is time to peer
edit their childrens books.

Ask students to bring two copies of their first draft to class so that their classmates
can write comments on these drafts.

Hand two copies of the Peer Editing Worksheet to each student.

Divide the class into groups of three, and have the each member in the group
exchange their drafts. (40 minutes)

o Each student should peer edit two of their classmates papers. Ask students
to fill out the Peer Editing Worksheet for their classmates (one Worksheet for
each paper they edit) and also write additional comments and questions on
the text itself.
o Encourage students to offer both positive and constructive feedback to their
peers, to share ideas for improvement, and to let their classmates know
when they have done a great job on some aspect of their drafts.
o Also, remind students that childrens books only have room for a limited
number of words, so be wary to use their words wisely. Encourage students
to help each other by suggesting more descriptive words, paring down
unnecessary verbiage, and offering suggestions for more concise sentence
structure during this peer editing process.
o Remind students to keep the units essential questions in mind while editing
their peers writing and ask: does this story help us to answer the essential
questions? Does this story show how young people form their identities and
negotiate between two different cultures?

6. After the students have silently edited each others drafts, ask them to discuss their
comments and questions with the authors in their group of three. This discussion forum
gives students the opportunity to brainstorm aloud, compliment their classmates on their
successes, and troubleshoot any areas that the authors are struggling with on their first
draft. (20 minutes)

7. After the students have all received comments from their peers, have them move onto
writing the final draft of their childrens book. (80 minutes)

At this point, the teacher should be going around and observing student work,
answering questions, offering suggestions when asked, and overseeing the projects.
Try to let students work through their struggles as much as possible so that they can
get a feel for creation and production of a formal piece of writing.

Before the students print off a final draft of the writing portion of their childrens
book, they need to have the teacher look it over to check for appropriateness. This
is not the time for the teacher to grade the assignment, but simply to make sure that
the material the students included was appropriate for their third grade audience.

8. The next step in the creation process is to have students illustrate their childrens books.
(110 minutes; 2 class periods)
This would be an ideal time to bring in one of the schools art teachers, a local artist,
or some other guest speaker who has art/illustration experience and have them talk
to the students about the process of creating their illustrations, what details to
include, how to create images that match their individual style, etc.

Encourage students to carefully consider which details to include in their
illustrations. Remind them that every color, every image, and every detail should be
intentional, creative, and add depth to their story.

Remind students that the artwork does not have to be perfect, it merely needs to
add to the telling of their story and assist the children in understanding the lessons.

10. Present to elementary school class. (55 minutes)

Once the class has finished writing and illustrating their childrens books and they
have received the final teacher seal of approval for appropriateness, take the class
over to the elementary school and have them read their stories to the third grade
o Obviously, these visits should have been scheduled with the elementary
teachers in advance of commencing this project, so make sure to settle those
details before students begin the creation of their projects.
o Depending on school policy, students may need to have their parents/legal
guardians sign a permission slip before students leave the high school
campus, so make sure that this is taken care of ahead of time.
o Remind students that they are representing the high school, your class, and
themselves, and to dress professionally and act as a positive role model to
these elementary students.


11. After the class has presented their childrens books, ask them to write a one-page
reflection paper about the creation process synthesizing and reflecting on their experience.
They should include answers to the following questions: (30 minutes)
What did you like and dislike about this project?
What details did you include in your writing and illustrations to help the younger
students grasp the ideas and lessons embedded in your childrens book?
Describe any challenges you faced in the planning, writing, illustrating, or
presentation stages?
Do you think that this project was worthwhile? Did you enjoy the process?
Why do you think childrens books are such a powerful medium for teaching
children lessons about life?
Did this project change the way you think about and view childrens books?
Would you ever consider writing another childrens book in the future?
How did this project help you to formulate answers for the guiding questions of this
unit? Did completing this process help you to think more comprehensively about
the unit, the characters, and the struggles they faced?