Title III technology Literacy Challenge Grant

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Title III Technology Literacy Challenge Grant

Learning Unit

LU Title: Across Five Aprils/Civil War

Author(s): Denielle Baxter

Grade Level: 8

School : A.A. Kingston Middle School

Topic/Subject Area: English 8unit parallel with SS 8 unit “Brother Against Brother”—see unit by Carol Fries

Address: Outer Lawrence Avenue Potsdam, New York 13676

Email: dbaxter@potsdam.k12.ny.us

Phone/Fax: 315-265-2000 (ext.486)


  This is a unit based on the novel Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. The theme of the book is man’s ability to endure hardship and heartbreak while keeping values that enable life to continue. The unit will also focus on human loyalty and interdependence as well as conflict. The unit integrates Social Studies 8 and English 8 content areas. Using this realistic fiction to illustrate the personal side of war and the challenges the characters must face, the unit will also focus on literary terms, parts of a novel, dialogue and dialect. The approximate time frame for this unit is four to five weeks.





 Vocabulary – applicable to the novel to help student comprehension

Literary terms:

Theme, conflict, point of view, plot, setting, irony, foreshadowing, characterization, symbolism

Identify literary terms with definitions and specific examples from the novel.

Understand why the author used dialect in the novel and how it influences the reader’s response to the characters.

Include dialogue and dialect in letters and diary entries using correct form.

Meaning of the title Across Five Aprils.



Write journal entries from the point of view of the main character to illustrate the feelings created by important events in the story

Understanding character development.

Complete graphic organizers I and II to identify the ways the author developed the characters within the novel.

Recognizing the four types of conflict (human vs. nature, human vs. self, human vs. human, and human vs. society)

Identify the four types of conflict with specific examples from the novel.

Create a family tree of the characters to identify the placement of the characters within the family.


  • Does where you live affect how you feel about things?

  • What qualities must a person have in order to overcome hardships and heartbreak?

  • How does loyalty towards a person and doing the morally and ethically correct thing in a situation influence a person’s final decision for that situation?

  • How does conflict work to strengthen a person’s personality?


List Standard # and Key Idea #: Write out related Performance Indicator(s) or Benchmark(s)

The standards and performance indicators in bold are being assessed. Those that are covered in the unit are not in bold.
English Language Arts Standard 1 Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.

  • Read and follow written multi-step directions or procedures to accomplish a task or complete an assignment.

  • Use knowledge of structure, content, and vocabulary to understand informational text.

  • Distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information.

  • Condense, combine, or categorize information from one or more sources.

  • Relate new information to prior reading and experience.

  • Use outlines and graphic organizers such as semantic webs to plan reports.

  • Write clear, concise sentences.

  • Observe rules of punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammatical construction.

  • Use transitional words or phrases (first, next, in addition) to produce organized cohesive text.

  • Listen to and follow multi-step directions that provide information about a task or assignment.

  • Recall significant ideas and details and relationships between and among them.

English Language Arts Standard 2 Students will read, write, listen, and speak for literary response and expression.

  • Interpret characters, plot, setting, theme, and dialogue, using evidence from the text.

  • Recognize how the author’s use of language creates images or feelings.

  • Compare motives of characters, causes of events, and importance of setting in literature to people, events, and places in own lives.

  • Identify social context and other characteristics of the time period in order to enhance understanding and appreciation of text.

  • Write original imaginative texts; sequence events to advance a plot; develop complex characters and create a setting; maintain a consistent point of view that enhances the message and/or establishes the mood; use language that is creative.

  • Use tone and language that is appropriate for audience and purpose.

  • Use the “writing process.”

English Language Arts Standard 3 Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.

  • Evaluate the validity and accuracy of information, ideas, themes, opinions, and experiences in text.

  • Recognize the effect of one’s own point of view in evaluating ideas, information, opinions, and issues.

  • Select content and choose strategies for written presentation based on audience, purpose, and content.

Math, Science, and Technology Standard 5 Key Idea #1—

  • Computers as tools for design, modeling information, processing, communications and system control have greatly increased human productivity and knowledge.


Use a journal entry to encourage a class discussion about loyalty. Students should be given questions such as: Who is a person (parent, brother, sister, friend, relative, hero, neighbor) to whom you are very loyal? What does your loyalty mean? What would you do for that person? What do you expect from that person because of your loyalty to him or her? Imagine that the person to whom you are most loyal did something terribly wrong – robbed a bank, was arrested for drunk driving. What effect would this action have on your loyalty? What would you do? Why?

Give the students time to think about their own definition of loyalty and their answers to the above questions. Use the answers and personal examples as a starting point for a class discussion about loyalty. After students have an understanding of the term loyalty, lead the discussion to an overview of the novel and how loyalty is a significant part of the book.



In chronological order including acquisition experiences and extending/refining
experiences for all stated declarative and procedural knowledge.

 Prior to reading the novel:

  1. Hand out a chart of the literary terms and create a class definition of each term. As students read the book, they should complete the chart with examples or “proof” from the novel

Literary Term Definition Example from novel

  1. Use the Initiating Activity to lead class discussions on loyalty. Continue the discussions on prejudice and human interdependence leading into an introduction to the novel after students have an understanding of those ideas.

In Each Chapter: Define any words that may be unfamiliar to the students.

For Each Chapter: Read or assign the chapters to the students based on the abilities of the students. Some students/classes can grasp the material independently, while other students/classes benefit from beginning the chapters in class and completing the chapter for homework, with review of the chapter the next class period. Included below are additional activities and journal entries that are done with each chapter.

Reading Guide: This Activity Sheet (#1) is completed as students read the book. This is a helpful summary of the important events within the story.

Chapter 1 Read Chapter 1 in class. Discuss the use of dialect in the beginning pages of the novel. Students should finish reading for homework and answer comprehension questions assigned to them.

Chapter 2 Continue discussing the characters as they are introduced.

Chapter 3 Activity Sheet #2 – Discussion of Dialect/Dialogue

Chapter 4 Correct the letter on page 49. Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Connect this activity to the previous discussion of dialect.

Chapter 5 Discuss the responsibility Jethro has to accept when he drives into town by himself for the first time. Relate this to the responsibility that today’s teenagers must face.

Chapter 6 Have students complete Jethro’s family tree with as much information about relationships and birth/death dates as they can find from this chapter.

Chapter 7 After reading Chapter 7, assign the following as a writing assignment or journal entry: “Write about a time in your life when you were no longer treated as a child. Describe the event and tell why it became a turning point in your life.” Before assigning this writing task, discuss the experience Jethro had in the book when he was treated as an adult.

Chapter 8 (Friends and family help build the barn)

Chapter 9 After reading the first part of Chapter 9, have the students write a journal entry about the following topic: “Imagine you are Jethro and write a diary entry for the day when government officials came to your home. Describe the event and your feelings about what occurred.” For an added challenge, have students try to add the dialect of the book to the diary entry.

Chapter 10 (Letters home)

Chapter 11 Character Sketch/Graphic Organizer #1 – Describing/Analyzing a Character

Chapter 12 Activity Sheet #3

Review: Activity Sheet #4 (conflict) List specific examples from the novel of the 4 types of conflict.

Activity Sheet #5 (Test Review)

During week 4: (Coordinate with the social studies teacher) Graphic Organizer II will be given in social studies class. Allow class time in English to assist the students with completing the organizer. Help students use details and begin to make their writing vivid.

During week 5: Allow time for students to work in the computer lab. (Coordinate with the social studies teacher)

Long Answer Question: Use the following question alone or as part of a final test for the novel. Depending on the timing with the “Brother Against Brother” essay assigned in social studies class, students would be asked to give their ideas of what they would write in this essay instead of actually writing the entire essay.

In literature, as in life, other people may greatly influence another individual. In Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, Jethro is a character who was influenced by others. Choose TWO other characters from the book and explain how each character influenced Jethro. Be specific – use names, dates, and incidents to back up your statements.


Include rubric(s)

This final activity is in conjunction with the social studies class. The students will write a “Brother Against Brother” essay about coming face to face with a brother in one of the battles of the Civil War. They will hyperlink a minimum of three words in their writing to other websites, pictures, maps, etc. See “Brother Against Brother” task sheet for detailed requirements for the historical writing and the accompanying rubric.



 Students should have basic knowledge about the Civil War and the causes leading up to the war prior to beginning the unit. Since this is coordinated with the social studies teacher, the social studies unit should begin a few days prior to the English unit to give students time to gain the necessary pre-requisite skills. Also required: Computer/Keyboarding skills, finding information on websites, first person writing/composition skills.


 The modifications will be based upon student’s Individual Educational Plans (IEP).


A.A.K. Middle School operates on a schedule of 40-minute periods for the school year. This unit will take approximately four weeks, depending upon the independent reading abilities of students/classes. Computer lab time will be split between English and social studies classes. Rough copies will be written at home.



Students need to have access to a computer lab where they can be instructed on the correct use of Hyperlink. They will need to type their essays, search for websites on the internet, and hyperlink to appropriate web pages, pictures, etc.

*If you choose to use this plan, please feel free to e-mail me for the activity sheets and graphic organizers that I mentioned in the above plan.

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