Thursday, May 12, 2016

Combining Montana History and ELA--and Good MT History Titles for 7th Graders

Gardiner 7th grade teacher Tammy Dalling wrote asking for ideas for "rich and engaging literature written at a 7th grade level."

She explains: "Next year I will be teaching Montana History and English as a 2 hour integrated block.  While I will base the curriculum around the Stories of the Land textbook and all of the wonderful primary sources provided with the textbook, I am also looking" for literature suggestions. 

She continues: "I already use Sweetgrass Basket and plan to use Counting Coup by Joe Medicine Crow, Girl From the Gulches and Hattie Big Sky. This list is quite girl-heavy and I would like to find reading that appeals to the boys as well."

Can you help? What books would you recommend? Please let both Tammy and me know!

Here are what first came to my mind, but I'm sure there are things I am missing: 
  • Birthright: Born to Poetry – A Collection of Montana Indian Poetry
  • My Name Is Sepeetza (This is not a Montana story--it is set in Canada--but it is a Salish/Indian boarding school story and a good one--though a female protagonist. We liked it so much that we included a copy in our footlocker, To Learn a New Way.) 
  • Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War (This is not fiction but it would be great for an English class)
  • Montana Chillers: 13 True Tales of Ghosts and Hauntings (again, not fiction, but compelling reading and good history connections. Bonus: You might be able to get the author, Ellen Baumler, to come to your class through the Humanities Montana speakers bureau.)
  • "Boyhood Recollections: A Narrative of Homestead Days in North Eastern Montana" (a short reminiscence) 
  • When the Meadowlark Sings. (This is one of my favorite books about growing up in Montana. I don't know middle school well enough to know whether it would resonate for 7th graders and it might cover some of the same ground as Hattie Big Sky, which, I'm embarrassed to say, I have never read--though it might pick up where Hattie Big Sky leaves off (its focus is 1930s-1960s. Also a female protagonist.... Can a middle school teacher or librarian weigh in on this one?) 
  • Something by Frank Bird Linderman--Plenty Coups? Pretty Shield? Kootenai Why Stories?. 
  • Copper Camp (excerpts). Could portions of this be used in middle school? Again--I'm not sure. It is not a reliable historical source but it is fun to read, over-the-top folklore about Butte in its heyday, written by WPA writers. 
  • Young Men and Fire, Norman Maclean (about the Mann Gulch Fire. Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris recommended this one. I love it--but thought it might be too hard. She thinks your 7th graders can handle it.) 
  • Shep: Our Most Loyal DogSneed Collard (Grades 2-4 picture book. Too young?)
  • Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate (Grades 3-5 picture book-so maybe also too young. But I love this story. It has also been made into a play, Paper Candles, that your students could perform as Readers Theater.)
  • Yellowstone Kelly: The Memoirs of Luther S. Kelly (Again, per Ruth Ferris: "Kelly is a good writer and I think this is an important perspective of that time. His book is a very good read. I believe good readers in 7th grade could handle it." But she recommends selecting excerpts. "Chapter on Wolfing will be controversial.")
What would you add?

Tammy is also wondering if there's anyone out there already teaching a block like this who would be willing to share their curriculum. If that's you, please get in touch with her.

P.S. Just after I finished this post, I received a request for a list of Montana books for lower grades as well. So send me the titles of your favorite books for K-6, too! (It would be helpful if you noted whether they were picture or chapter books and approximate grade level--but not essential.)

P.P.S. Don't forget to take our online survey (click here.) Remember, there are PRIZES for lucky winners! (NOTE: A few people have told me that the online survey has not worked for them. If you've experienced problems, you can find a copy of the survey as a Word Document here. Download and complete the survey and email it back to me at mkohl@mt.gov and I will input your responses. I appreciate your taking the extra effort. We really value your feedback and will actively use it to plot next year's course.)

P.P.P.S. Last week in my post about applying for a travel scholarship to attend the Montana History Conference I had the wrong due date. Scholarship applications are due by 11:59 p.m. September 11, 2016. (But you don't have to wait until the deadline to apply!)

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