The Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature at Rhode Island College




- Teaching Activities - Multicultural Young Adult Literature -
Click each of the following links to see books in that category.

"Coming of Age" Books

Civil Rights of Latino Americans

"Amish Family Traditions"

...Other Selected Books

Activities for "Coming Of Age" Books

Bode, Janet. Food Fight

1. Students will brainstorm and discuss family problems and coming of age struggles of preteens and teens.
2. Teacher begins by constructing a webbing map on the overhead as each student does the same on paper. Brainstorm a web of problems young people face today. Each student works on the web individually for 5 minutes; then in small groups of 3-5 for 25 minutes. Mention to students that the problems they think of may not be a problem they have personally, but have heard others may have. Each group constructs a group web on large white paper and tapes it up on the wall or board. Discuss in a large group ways we can handle these problems and list these possible solutions on paper. Then refer to PAGE 47 for a list of family problems on Janet Bode's checklist. Explain to students that some young people turn to eating, or not eating, to solve these problems.That will be our "anticipatory set" to Food Fight ? a guide to eating disorders for preteens, teens, and parents.
3. Evaluation: Generated Problems on Webbing Map, List of Possible Solutions, Checklist of Participation

Cannon, A.E. The Shadow Brothers
Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963
Garland, Sherry. Shadow of the Dragon

During the reading of one of these books (or any fictional book dealing with struggles of teens) students will write "Dear Abbey Letters" from the point of view of the main character in the local newspaper seeking guidance on how to approach three struggles in their lives. Students should give enough background information from the story and form three good questions.
Students will then trade letters with someone reading a different book and respond to the letters as Dear Abbey would with her best advice.
Students will get their letters and responses back to read over the advice given. We will have a large group discussion about some of the common struggles the characters are facing and logical ways to cope with these changes and problems.

Hest, Amy. When Jessie Came Across the Sea

1. Following the reading of When Jessie Came Across the Sea, students will write a response log: The book ends with Jessie preparing for a wedding. Look ahead one year, and write an epilogue describing what their lives are like after this one year in America.
2. Response journal: Select an incident in the book when Jessie's sense of belonging is challenged. Imagine that you are experiencing the situation. Write a diary entry discussing how you feel.
3. Art Activity: Using pictures brought from home, magazines clippings, and tag board, students will cut out pictures that represent themselves coming of age. These will be glued to a silhouette traced out of them. The entire completed silhouette will then be glued to a tag board background.
4. Using the Responding Activity below, the class will map how Jessie was supported in the story together.
Response Activity: Students will complete a support system map. In completing the support system map, students enter their name in the circle, My Support System. Then they may add to or delete from the list of descriptors of types of support. For each descriptor, the student identifies one or more people who provide them with that kind of support (named in the circles). The boxes below the circles are for students to then list ways that they feel that support.

The Civil Rights of Latino-Americans

Carlson, Lori and Hijuelos, Oscar. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States

This book is off the topic of Japanese-Americans but it deals with Latino-Americans who faced some of the same struggles as the Japanese people who moved to America and had to adjust to cultural differences and some prejudice attitudes.
Explain to the students that they will continue to discuss civil rights but that now it's about the Latin culture and it is in the form of poetry. The teacher would want to read the poems ahead of time and only select those that are appropriate for school and that focus on civil rights.
Ask if the students have ever felt that someone else did not like them based completely on their exterior features. Talk about the fact that many Latino families that have moved to America have felt this way. Read the selected poems aloud and talk about the meaning of each.
Explain to the class that they will be expected to write their own poems on the struggle for civil rights that different cultures have dealt with. Read different types of poetry to them so that they see the range of styles to choose from.
Due to the fact that poetry is difficult for many students to write, they should be evaluated based on if they took the assignment seriously and if they put thought into their work.

"Amish Family Traditions" Books

Ammon, Richard. An Amish Christmas. New York: Atheneum, 1996. (32p)

Students will make a picture book of how their own family celebrates Christmas including their family traditions.

Ammon, Richard. Growing Up Amish. New York: Atheneum, 1989. (102p)

1. Students will make a Venn Diagram to show the similarities and differences of Amish lifestyle.
2. Students may wish to dress up Amish and bring an Amish lunch to school one day. Play the game Rooster Fight on pg. 76: "The game is played by two teams with an equal number of players in lines facing one another. The teacher places numbers for the total number of children in each line in a hat and each child draws a number.
The two sides might look like this:

Between the two lines the teacher has placed a handkerchief under a paper plate. When he/she calls a number, say, five the children on each side with the number five rush to the center to get the handkerchief. If one person can get the handkerchief and get back into line without being tagged by the other person, then that child's line get a letter, R. But if the child who gets the handkerchief first is tagged, then the other side get the letter. The game continues until one side is able to spell Rooster Fight."
3. The students can experience authentic Amish food, by making Shoofly Pie found on page 53.

Borntrager, Mary Christner. Rebecca. PA: Herald Press, 1989. (176p.)

While reading this story have the students keep a diary of Rebecca to record her thoughts and feelings.

Good, Merle. An Amish Portrait: Song of a People. PA: Good Books, 1993.

Have each student create their own Amish poem, song, or rap song, and put into a book.

Activities for Other Multicultural Young Adult Literature Books

Down In The Piney Woods.

Students will be given a Biographical Information Chart to do an overview of the book and examine their feelings about what they liked and disliked in the story. The Biographical Information Chart will include title, plot, character, setting, conflicts and themes. The students will need to respond to each subject only after reading the book in class with discussions centered around the Civil Rights Movement.

Bertrand, Diane Gonzales. 1995. Sweet Fifteen.

1. Complete the following reading log question while reading the book: Choose one of the following characters: Rita, Stephanie, Iris or Brian. Explain how this character grows during the novel. Discuss the triumphs and setbacks this character faces.
2. Research the quinceanera. What is involved in the ceremony? What is the tradition behind it? Complete a diorama, a poster or a power point presentation to display the information.
3. Research other coming of age ceremonies in different cultures ( example: bat mitzvah) Explain the similarities and differences between the two events. Present information to the class.
4. Conduct a survey asking people what do they believe are strictly activities for children and for adults. Report your findings to the class.

Carlson, Lori M., and Oscar Hijuelos. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States.

1. Choose one poem and create a poster that illustrates that poem.
2. Create a poem or a found poem that focuses on one of the themes of the collection.
3. Analyze one of the poems not discussed in class.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. 1995. The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963.

I would assign specifically, Chapter 9, "The Watsons Go To Birmingham". After the reading, students will be asked to do a reader's response. Students will compare the experience of the Watsons with another culture, with similar problems.

Coleman, Evenly. 1986, White Socks Only.

After reading this picture book, students will be given a response log to later be shared in a group of four. I would also ask the students to do a responding activity. Students will be instructed to do a family genealogy tree. The purpose of this activity will be for the students to research their own families history to see if there was anyone involved in the Civil Rights Movements or endured the many conflicts of racism during that period.

Cox, Clinton. Undying Glory: The Story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment

I would have my students read this book in their Language Arts class. They would be assigned some chapters to read independently knowing that there would be follow-up discussions in class. We would also read and do various writing activities in class. I think this would be a positive way to tie in History and Language Arts together. The previous books and the rest of the Civil War unit would be covered in the History class.
At the completion of the Civil War unit and after this book has been read, I would show the movie "Glory". The students would then be required to write a paper, comparing and contrasting the book to the movie.

Dengler, Marianna. The Worry Stone 1996.

1. After reading this short picture book aloud, the students will write a response log activity (see attached). The log topic is: Ask your parents and/or grandparents if your family has any heirlooms that represent your heritage. Describe them.
2. Think of an object that you have that serves a your own personal "worrystone". Describe it and tell why it helps you to feel better hen you're worried or troubled. If you don't have a "worrystone" think of an object that you can use for one in the future.

Dorros, Arthur. 1991. Abuela.

1. Who is one relative you would like to take a trip with? Why? Describe where you would go, how you would get there, and what you might see.
2. Create a poster of a people in your family that you would like to visit. Write a short biography of each person. Present to the class.
3. Make a picture book that describes an adventure, real or imagined, that you had with a relative.

Feelings, Tom. 1993. Soul Looks Back In Wonder.

I would turn out the lights while leaving the classroom blinds open. Students will be asked to put their heads on a desk and close their eyes. I would began to play music from sounds of the ocean as I read the following poetry: Boyz-N-Search of their Soular System, History of My People, Africa You Are Beautiful. As the lights are turned back on, students will be asked to write poetry (two paragraphs) based on their knowledge and feelings of the Civil Rights Movement.

Freedman, Russell. Indian Chiefs 1987.

After reading the book, choose an indian chief that is described in the book or another famous indian and find additional information on that person. Write a short report (1 page typed) on the information you find that is different to what is already in the book read for class.

Hansen, Joyce. Which Way Freedom?

I would use this book as a read-aloud during this unit. For the first ten minutes of class, I would read from this novel to the class. It is a book that I feel the students would be captivated by. After the read-aloud time, I would have the students quickly complete a listening log. They would only be responsible for answering three out of five responses. I could then respond to any of the questions or comments they have made. This may lead to further discussion. I would not use the listening log everyday. Perhaps once or twice a week would suffice. I could have them do quick writes or just let them listen for enjoyment.

Haskins, Jim. Get on Board: The Story of the Underground Railroad

I would use this book to supplement the text and other materials I use when teaching about slaves escaping, the Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman. I most likely would not read the entire book aloud to the class. Rather, I would pull certain sections or chapters to read aloud at the appropriate time. Before using this book, I would make sure the students have some prior knowledge of the time and of the Underground Railroad. This book would help provide some insightful details and give the students more in depth knowledge of the Underground Railroad. I would use the book, The Underground Railroad, by Raymond Bial at this time also. This book is full of actual photographs of houses, hiding places, and tunnels used for slave escapes. These photographs will help the students put a picture to what they are learning.
After our readings and class discussions on the Underground Railroad, I would have the students write a slave escape story following the format on the subsequent page. I would go over the questions with them. These questions would serve as a guide. The students would be instructed to use their imaginations and factual information for their stories.

Hughes, Langston. 1965. Simple’s Uncle Sam

Working in small groups, students will work in groups to chose a story for a "story talk." The format will be as follows:
1. Give the name of the story.
2. Briefly summarize the main points.
3. Indicate why the story was chosen.
4. Conclusion.
5. Do you recommend the story? Why or why not.
Students will have at least one visual aid. (poster, overhead, etc.)

Jiminez, Francisco. 1997. The Circuit - stories from the life of a migrant child.

1. Complete a reading log that compares and contrasts Listo's family to your own.
2. Write a corrido of Listo's life using information from the book.
3. Write an essay where you either agree or disagree that Listo's family life is the norm for migrants.

Levine, Ellen. 1995, A Fence Away From Freedom.

My class will be given different excerpts from the book to do a class assignment. Orally, the students would read out loud, each excerpt. Upon completion, students will be asked to do a crest based on their particular handout. The crest would symbolize what the characters went through in the book. Afterwards, students will be asked to compare Japanese American struggles, with the African American struggles while answering the following questions: How are they alike and how are they different. This is to be done by using a venue diagram.

McKissack Patricia, and McKissack, Fredrick, Jr. 1994. Black Diamond.

As an extension activity for Black Diamond the students will be doing a debate. The students will decide on a premise such as: "Jose 'Joe' Mendez deserves to be in the hall of fame."
The students will use the text to find arguments to support or refute the contention. Students will work in pairs to compile information and make their cases. Debates will be held in class, and peer evaluation will decide the best affirmative and negative cases for the final round.

Mochizuki, Ken and Lee, Dom. Baseball Saved Us

Read the picture book aloud to the class, discussing the story and illustrations as you go. Reiterate the points discussed earlier during the nonfiction and fiction readings.
Ask what the title Baseball Saved Us means. Then tell the students that they are to write and illustrate a picture book of their own. In their books, they are to start with the same theme of a family in an internment camp but then they are to solve the family's inevitable separation problem with a solution other then baseball. For example: the people at the camp may have all grouped together to create some kind of project that needed everybody's abilities involved in order to complete it. The kids could do this alone or in pairs.
They would be evaluated based on the effort that went into creating their books and on the finished product. An extension of this could be to read their books to a group of younger children, as well as Baseball Saved Us.

Myers, Elisabeth P. 1970. Langston Hughes, Poet of His People.

This book is useful as a reference source or for an extended author study. Its easy-to -read text is accompanied by sketches and photographs.
1. Students could use this resource to create an information treasure hunt by developing questions they want answered. Then the groups could exchange questions and "hunt" for information in the book.
2. Students could create a graphic organizer for the information about Langston Hughes.

Myers, Walter Dean. 1997. Harlem.

After sharing this picture book and discussing the importance of community, students will work in groups to create their own picture book , with a minimum amount if text (or a poem) about their community. We will bind the books and share them with our class and possibly some elementary classes.

O'Dell, Scott. Island of the Blue Dolphins 1960.

1. Before reading the book, the students will complete the response log activity: Journey to America. The topic of the log is: Imagine that you and your family had to flee from the United States. Draw a map tracing the route you would take. What might you see? How would you get help?
2. After reading the book, the students will draw a picture of what they think the island looks like. Include a map of the island and some of the places Karana describes in the book.
3. Imagine that you are stranded on an island. What would be the five most important objects that you would want to have with you? What additional five items would you have to find on the island to survive? Tell why you would need these 10 items.

Polacco, Patricia. Pink and Say

I would read this picture book to the class, discussing the text and illustrations as we make our way through the book. Upon completion of the book, I would have the students create a character home page for any one of the characters in the story. I would expect a written piece of work and a visual. The written portion should include some personal information such as; age, family, job, hobbies, friends, etc. Personal characteristics, interests, and future plans should also be included. The students may add anything else they feel is appropriate. The visual could be a poster or collage representing the character. The students will then make a presentation to the class.

Salisbury, Graham. Under the Blood Red Sun

After the students have had time to finish this book, again arrange the desks in a discussion circle. Talk about the friendship between Tomi and Billy. Ask the students to talk about their friendships. Inquire as to if the kids think any of their friendships are as strong as the characters in the story. Discuss the bigotry that Tomi and his family experienced in the story.
Explain the procedures of the MEAP writing assessment to the students and tell them that they are going to practice the process with a concept from the book they just read. Give the kids three days to complete their essays. Tell them that the topic they are to write about is prejudice.
Evaluate them based on how well they worked in groups and on their completed essays.

Stanley, Jerry. I Am An American: A True Story of Japanese Internment

Discuss the term civil rights and what it means to the students. Talk about the difficulties that people have when they take their culture to a new place with a different culture. Discuss the possible struggles that can arise.
Give the students an overview of the book and then divide them into groups. Assign each group a chapter in the book to read. Give each group an introduction as far as what has briefly happened in the previous chapters to establish some background knowledge before reading. Have each group summarize their own chapter and jot notes on index cards. They need to make a visual from a provided list of choices. They can make such things as posters, mobiles, collages, etc. Then the groups will present their chapters in order to the rest of the class.
A post reading discussion could take place with the students' desks arranged in a circle. They would discuss their feelings about the way in which the Japanese -Americans were treated. Possible questions to ask the students: Why did the Americans place the Japanese people in internment camps? Do any of you have family or friends who were involved in this situation? Does anyone have any suggestions of other ways that the Americans could have handled their fear of Japanese disloyalty? What would it feel like to be stripped of the freedom we take for granted?
The evaluation for this portion of the unit would be group participation in the reading and note taking process and the group presentation.

Stepto, Michelle. African-American Voices

Before using this book, we would have a discussion about the literary traditions of African-Americans. For instance, before slaves could read and write, poems, songs, and stories were spread by word of mouth. As more and more slaves came to America, they brought with them new traditions. Much of the literature expresses the pain and deep faith they felt.
I would have the students choose a poem, story, or song to read to the class. The student reading the literary piece, would be responsible for explaining what they think it means. This would lead into a class discussion about the reading.

Swift, Hildergarde Hoyt. 1947. North Star Shining.

Students will work in small groups (3 or 4). Each group will select one of the poems from the book. Each group will be given a copy of their chosen poem, or they may retype it on the computer if they want to use different font, etc. They will create an illustrated frame for their poem, pasting their poem on a posterboard and decorating around it. Each group will present their poem to the class, and then the poems will be displayed in the room.

Wood, Nancy. Spirit Walker 1993.

1. While listening to the poems being read aloud, keep a log of 3-5 images that come to mind while hearing the poem. Draw or make a collage of these images which you feel is a good reflection of the poem.
2. Because Spirit Walker is a picture book as well as a poetry collection, choose one of the pictures in the book and write your own poem to go along with the picture. Make sure to note which page the picture is from.


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