Thursday, May 19, 2016

Combining Montana History and ELA Part 2

Last week, I posted a request from Gardiner 7th grade teacher Tammy Dalling for ideas for "rich and engaging literature written at a 7th grade to complement her Montana history class. I offered some ideas of my own and then asked you for your suggestions. Thanks to all who responded with suggestions--many of which I had never heard of! See below.

I love when this list becomes a place to share ideas and ask for help. Courtney Bake of Fairfield, who will be teaching Montana history in high school for the first time next year, is also requesting advice from those who have taught Montana history at the high school level: "In particular I am looking for: textbooks and materials used, pacing guides, lesson plans, projects--anything that has worked well!" You can contact her at cbake@fairfield.k12.mt.us.

For anyone planning a Montana history class, at any grade level, I recommend as a first stop the Montana Historical Society's Educator Resources page. (While there, make sure you check out the online professional development, for which you can earn OPI renewal units.) Another good source for ideas is this blog. At the end of each year, I survey teachers and ask for their best lessons. You can see what teachers have recommended in past years here. And you can still submit favorite lesson from this year by completing the survey if you haven't already.

Now--back to the regularly scheduled program--your recommendations of literature to complement the study of Montana history:

James Howland wrote: "I really like using Pretty Shield by Frank Linderman with my middle school Montana History.  It is also from a female perspective, but it is usually really interesting and fun for all the students."

Kathy Hoyt wrote: "Have her try Code Talkers by Bruchac.  OPI has a great unit already created for that book and there are some great tie-ins for the Montana Crow Talkers.

Helen Eden wrote: "A Bride Goes West, by Nannie Alderson (full text on Internet Archives!) and many of Dorothy Johnson's short stories!" (She's probably thinking of Dorothy Johnson's Westerns, but I love her reminiscences about growing up in Whitefish, which are also available free online at Montana Women's History Matters (scroll down to access.) 

Betty Bennett wrote: "Both of these are easy reading and would appeal to boys: The Way, by Joseph Bruchac (This is a wonderful coming-of-age book that includes issues about bullying, heroes, and school safety) and  Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell (Carvell also wrote Sweetgrass Basket. This story is also written in poetry diary form and deals with Indian mascots.)

Melissa Knudsen put in a vote for Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean: On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen of the United States Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts back together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy. Young Men and Fire won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992."

Mikey Sackman wrote: "The Legend of Jimmy Spoon. We learned about early Montana Native Americans, Montana geography, researched traditions and some of the language/vocabulary. This unit was used with struggling readers in the 7th to 9th grade."

Sue Dailey wrote: I used the book Bold Journey by Charles Bohner to go along with my Lewis and Clark unit. It is told from the perspective of a young man of the expedition and is pretty factual but is fiction.

Danielle Parsons wrote: "Some books we have read this year in 6th grade Social Studies: Spotted Flower and the Ponokomita by Kae Cheatham – relates the transition of Native Americans from the Dog Days to the Horse Days. Can you imagine what our impression would be if we had never seen a horse before and didn’t even know what it was? It was a great book." A Boy Called Slow – even though this is a children’s book it really helped them relate to the figures in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Until the Last Spike, the Journal of Sean Sullivan, a Transcontinental Railroad Worker, Nebraska and Points West, 1867 by William Durbin – this gives students a teen-age point of view of the railroad experience. The boys have especially liked. It gets a little gross at parts and pretty blunt about Euro-American feelings toward the Native Americans and Chinese. We’ve discussed in class how even though we have learned that those kind of names are considered discriminatory and derogatory they relay to us the mindset of the time period." 

Speaking of the Chinese--I've heard good things about A Thousand Pieces of Gold--a biographical young adult novel, which begins in China and ends in the Idaho. I also like Long Way Home: Journeys of a Chinese Montanan, though it is geared for adults (you'll need to check to see if it would interest your students) and once again, the protagonist is female.  The author, Flora Wong, is quite elderly now--but if you live near Helena, you may be able to get her to speak to your class.

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