Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting a Glimpse at LINCOLN'S LAST DAYS (Grim Facts, Review, Lesson Plans, Cutting Across Content-Areas)

As mentioned in previous posts. Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever, hot off the presses (it came out last week) is an asset for any library or classroom.  This graphic text (with LOTS of photos, maps, illustrations - not a graphic novel)  is a special illustrated edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller "Killing Lincoln" written by Bill O'Reilly that was adapted by Bill O'Reilly and Dwight Jon Zimmerman.  I loved reading every bit of the book which is chock-full of gory, grim details describing Lincoln's last days -from the end of the Civil War (leading to the fall of Richmond and Lee's surrender)  to the wild chase and capturing of John Wilkes Booth and his collaborators. While this book is geared for middle and high school readers, it reads so well, and is so full of information, it will be enjoyed by ALL who read it.

Let me first tempt you with some 'gems' of information found throughout the book...then I'll share my review...and end with teaching ideas (for those still with me).

First, a YouTube clip with O'Reilly reading the Prologue and parts of Chapter 1 (this clip is a bit over 8 minutes):
And Here is A Grim Glimpses of the Civil War:
  • On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1856, Appomattox Court House (which at that time was the name of a little village in Virginia named after its courthouse)- when Lee and a small group of aides (with a flag of truce) rode up to a spot between Union and Confederate lines to surrender, Grant was miles away suffering from a severe migraine headache.  It took two hours for the Union soldiers to acknowledge and respond  Lee, who was informed an attack was imminent.  They returned to their lines, the attack was launched, and when Lee tried to surrender a second time - this time sending a hastily written through Union lines - while under fire, the Union colonel in charge told them that he did not have the authority to break off the attack.  Eventually Lee's request for surrender was taken to General George Meade who ordered a 60-minute truce.  Lee's request was then taken to Grant and they met later at the the Wilmer McLean farmhouse at Appomattox Court House to sign a truce.
  • After the war, Robert E. Lee applied for a pardon for his acts.  Then Secratary of State, William H. Seward gave this request to a friend as a souvenir.  As a result, it was never filed.  The document was discovered over 100 YEARS later.  President Gerald Ford officially reinstated Lee as a U.S. citizen in 1975.
  • While soldiers had to be at least 18 years old, boys as young as 12 were allowed to enlist and serve as "DRUMBEATS" a noncombat position.  Troop movement commands were communicated by different drumbeats and bugle calls.  As a result, while this was considered a 'noncombat' position, these boys found themselves in the thick of battle and many were wounded and killed as a result.

  • While women were not allowed to enlist, approximately 400 women cut their hair short, disguised themselves as men and fought for both sides.  This was not especially difficult to do as there were no physical examinations with enlistment.
Grim glimpses of Lincoln's assassination:
  •  Booth's plan began in 1863 as he recruited 'a gang' to help him kidnap Lincoln. The change from kidnapping to murder occurred at the last minute - two days before the murder.
  • Booth's efforts were funded by (then Confederate president) Jefferson Davis who had set aside more than $1million in gold to pay for acts of espionage and intrigue against the Union. Much  of this money was kept in Canada.
  • Booth's plot to kill Lincoln was not the first threat against Lincoln's life.  The first plot was "The Baltimore Plot, 1861"  when the Knights of the Golden Circle planed to hoot him as he traveled to Washington for his inauguration.
  • Only in 1864 did Lincoln begin having any semblance of armed protection beyond the walls of the White House. Two armed officers remained at his side from 8:00 AM -4:00 PM; one officer stayed from 8:00 PM until midnight, and a fourth remained with him from midnight until 8:00 AM the next morning.  Secret Service officers had not yet been established.
  • John Parker, the bodyguard who accompanied Lincoln to the theater,was sitting outside the door the the Lincoln's balcony box.  Parker was bored, couldn't see the play, and got thirsty.  So, he pushed his chair against the wall and left to go to Taltavul's Star Saloon next door- leaving Lincoln, Mary, and their two guests, Major Henry Reed Rathbone and his fiancee Clara Harris - with no protection. Nor did he attempt to offer any assistance (or even appear for duty) after the shot was fired.
  • Lincoln was shot at approximately 10:15 PM, Friday April 14, 1865 as a bullet was sent through is head. While still technically alive, Lincoln never regained consciousness.  He was taken to the Petersen House nearby where attended by physicians. Saturday, April 15, 1865 at 7:22 AM Lincoln drew his last breath and at his side, Secretary Stanton uttered, "Now he belongs to the ages."
[The text here reads: "The stress of the Civil War was hard on everyone.  But mo one carried a greater burden during the war than President Abraham Lincoln. This photographic sequence starts with a photograph of him in 1858, when he was 49 years old. The last photograph, taken in 1865, when he was 56 years old, shows how much the responsibility and anguish of the war aged him over the span of just seven years.]
 REVEIWING Lincoln’s Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever This is one of those non-fiction books with that ‘I-can’t-put-it-down’ fiction read. It is written in a ‘first-person’ perspective, making you feel like you’re there for the whole ride.   
The font is easy on the eyes, the paragraphs short and inviting, and there are photos, maps, and reproductions of historical images, battles, and fascinating paraphernalia on just about each page.  These images paired with succinct descriptions make it an exciting read– even when you already know the ending.  (Spoiler alert: Lincoln dies at the end and there’s a very cool chase sequence as they hunt his killers.) The book's format also makes it an excellent tool for focusing on visual and verbal literacy.
Lincoln’s Last Days is broken into four parts. The first section describes “the beginning of the end” of the Civil War. The second describes the assassination conspiracy detailing the players, their reasons for involvement and the twists and turns their machinations had to endure.  The third part describes Lincoln’s last day culminating in his tragic assassination, and the fourth ends with the chase for Booth and his cohorts. 
The book also has some super ‘extra’ features that are helpful to its readers:
·      “Key Players” are briefly described under four categories (Lincoln, his family, staff, cabinet and ‘others’; the assassination conspirators, associates and captors; Union army officers and soldiers; and Confederate officers and soldiers), helping the reader better grasp where each figure ‘fits’ in history.  
·      Abraham Lincoln Time Line –covering his adult life from marriage to death
·      John Wilkes Booth Time Line – covering his birth to death
·      Finding Lincoln in the Nation’s Capital – a map and key locations pertinent to this story
·      Military Terms
·      A fantastic “Afterward” section with absolutely awesome facts
·      Bibliography
 Below are guided-reading lesson plans and lessons for classroom use BERORE reading the book, and WHILE reading the book for those interested.  There are suggested lessons for each section of the book... 
Feel free to read and use them at your convenience.  
Thank you for your visit  - and PLEASE... leave your reactions, questions, opinions, and fun facts in the comments. 

Guided Reading Lesson Plan:
Before Reading: Divide the room into three stations and place a poster at each station. [For visual enrichment, it may be helpful to use a particular icon to represent each one.]  The posters should be set up as follows:
1.     One station will represent the Confederate states (you may want to use the battle flag of the Confederate States of America as its icon).  Create three columns on this poster. At the top of the first column write:  Why did they want to secede from the Union? At the top of the second column write: Why was slavery so important to them?  On the top of the third column write:  Who were some of the famous Confederate soldiers and politicians?
2.     Another station will represent the Union states  (if you use the flag of the Union army - make sure it has 34 stars).  Create three columns on this poster.   At the top of the first column write: Why did the Union not want the Confederate states to secede? At the top of the second column write: Why was the abolishment of slavery so important to them? On the top of the third column write:  Who were some of the famous Union soldiers and politicians?
3.     The third station will represent “The  Players  in this unfolding story (you may want to use an icon of people, or of Lincoln and booth - you may want to use the image attached).  Create two columns for this poster. At the top of the first column write: What facts do you know about Abraham Lincoln and his assassination? At the top of the second column write: What facts do you know about John Wilkes Booth, his accomplices, and their plans to assassinate Lincoln and his cabinet?
Booth (above) Lincoln (lower center) at the Inauguration, from the Library of Congress
Now divide your students into three groups. Assign each group of students to a station.  Instruct them to go to the station, brainstorm their ‘best answers’ as directed by the questions on that poster and record their answers in the designated columns.  When they are done, have each group present their notes and posters to the others.
Once discussions are complete, introduce the book.
During Reading:  As this book is so full of history and discussion points, and this space is limited, I have detailed only a few choice ideas divided into four parts, one for each part of the book.
Part One: The Beginning of the End of the War  - some teaching, discussion, and homework suggestions:
·      The story here begins with the imminent fall of Richmond, Virginia (Lincoln has 13 days to live). Before reading, you may want to discuss what the authors mean by “the beginning of the end of the war” and why (before reading) they think this is so important to the ‘story’.
·      In Chapter 4, Richmond has fallen and Lincoln comes to the city.  Slaves gather around him as he tours the city before entering The Confederate White House, home of its President, Jefferson Davis.  Page 16-17 notes that “Lincoln’s eyes roam over the elegant wood desk, which Davis had so thoughtfully tidied before running off two days earlier. ‘Then this must be President Davis’ chair' he says with a grin…” There is also a photo of what the room looked like (elegant with two flags of the Confederacy and a portrait of Jefferson Davis.  Discuss with students what they think Lincoln may have been thinking sitting in that room, how it might have compared to Lincoln’s office, and what might the significance be of the room being ‘tidied’.
·      Chapter 5 covers the “day-and-a-half trudge” taken by Lee and his men to Amelia Court House, Virginia (from Petersburg, just outside of Richmond) with little to no supplies of food.
o   Have students look at a map to determine the distance (in miles and/or kilometers) and have them determine how long it took, on average, to walk a mile (carrying whatever they may have been carrying). 
o   Look at a topographical map of the area and photos (can be found online or in an atlas).  Looking at the topography, why were these poor soldiers unable to find food?  What must it have been like for them (after losing Richmond) to walk foodless and sleepless?
·      On page28-29 the authors write, “Lee hears the thunder of approaching hooves.  General Thomas Lafayette Rosser, an outgoing twenty-eight-year-old Texan, gallops his cavalry into Rice’s station.” Notice the age of this general.  Discuss how is it that a twenty-eight-year-old can be a general.  How old were Lee and Grant?
·      At the end of this first section, discuss why this part – which had nothing to do with Lincoln’s assassination was so important.
Part Two: The Conspiracy to Assassinate  - some teaching, discussion, and homework suggestions:
Booth's derringer pistol
·      On page 61 the authors write that, “Monday, April 10, 1865…The war is over! Strictly speaking, this is not true.” Create a chart with two columns.  At the top over both columns write this quote. Beneath the quote label on column “Why True” and the other “Why Not So True.” Have students fill in both columns as a class, in groups, or individually for homework.   You may (if/when appropriate) compare this to Charles Dickens’ famous sentence “It was the best of times it was the worst of times” in a discussion of the power of words.
·      Chapter 17, “Tuesday, April 11, 1865” opens with, “Abraham Lincoln is speaking tonight at the White House, and everyone wants to hear.” Booth and his associates Herold and Powell are there to hear it.  Find a copy of this speech and ask students to react to it both as Union and then as Confederate sympathizers. Here too you may want to make a chart of Union and Confederate reactions.
·      In this section we learn that as of 1862, Lincoln began having military protection beyond the walls of the White House (in part because of a previous attempt on his life in Baltimore 1861).  This may be an excellent topic for research papers: The formation of the Secret Service.
Part Three: Lincoln’s Last Day  - some teaching, discussion, and homework suggestions:
·      Page 100 has a Ford Theatre advertising poster announcing President Lincoln’s presence for that evening’s (April 14, 1865) performance of Our American Cousin.  Compare that poster’s appearance to what an advertising poster today might look like.  Discuss the power of print (font, size, vocabulary) and image then and now. Discuss the power of visual and verbal literacy and the messages they can relay.
·      On page 160 the authors note that, “When the war started in 1861, a curfew was established around the capital and strictly enforced.”  Discuss with students the why this was done and its significance.  You may also want to relate and discuss how and why curfews are still enforced in wars including World War II Britain.
·      This section relays the assassination attempt on Lincoln AND his cabinet members.  You may want to discuss what the ramifications of assassinating a president are versus the ramifications of assassinating a president and his cabinet.
·      This section verbally maps out the whereabouts of Lincoln and Booth throughout the day.  You may want to chart them on a street map to visually relate how their paths crossed throughout the day (much like is done for television crime scenes). A map is provided on page 110.
·      Chapters 37-39 detail how doctors helped treat President Lincoln.  You may want to discuss how medicine has and has not changed over the years.
Part Four: Chasing the Assassins  - some teaching, discussion, and homework suggestions:
·      On page 200 the authors have included a wanted poster for Booth and his accomplices Harold and Surrat.  A reward of $50,000 was offered for Booth, and $25,000 was offered for Harold and Surrat.  MAKE SURE THEY NOTICE THE FINE PRINT AT THE BOTTOM which ADDS that “In addition to the above, Sate and other authorities have offered rewards amounting to almost one hundred thousand dollars (for all three) making an aggregate of about TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS). Have students compute the approximate value of these rewards today.  Do they think it’s a realistic price/reward for the crime and the effort needed to recover the perpetrators?
o   To do this you can take the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for 2012 and divide it by the CPI for 1865.  You can “Google” this information…or, use the amounts below:
  •    According to a link sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, $1 in 1850 is worth $27.84 in 2012. [So $27.84 X 50,000 = $1,392,000; $27.84 X 25,000 = $696,000.  Then calculate the additional State rewards for all three: $27.84 X 200,000 =  $5,568,000]
·      On page 225, the authors include a page from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.  Discuss the layout of this paper compared to newspapers today.  How are the formats different/similar.  You may also want to discuss the choice of the image presented and why the editors may have used that particular one.
·      The book ends with: “As the spectacle of the hangings fades from the public’s preoccupation, Lincoln’s reputation grows.  He becomes an icon, representing the fairness and strength of purpose that most citizens feel are America’s best characteristics.” You may want to discuss the pros and cons of capital punishment as well as the image these hangings must have left on Americans in 1865.
·      Make sure students read the afterward chapters.  They are fascinating and chock-full of AWESOME facts.
Thanks for your visit - happy teaching!!  Please leave your reactions and feedback in the comments, and I hope you visit again soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fractured Fairy Tales: Fun for All Ages, for All Readers...and the Common Core Standards

A Fractured Fairy Tale is a twisted, tweaked version on an older, familiar fairy tale that has been reworked to provide a different perspective.  While they are often fractured to be funny, there are many poignant fractured tales that have been retold to present a different political, moral, or historical angle. These tales are "fractured" because characters, settings. plots, and/or points of view and been 'broken' and 'reset' to entertain and inform the 'modern' reader.

The Rocky and Bulwinkle show and Jon Scieszka (The Frog Prince Continued -a retelling of The Frog Prince, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs - a retelling of The Three Little Pigs, and The Stinky Cheese Man - a retelling of The Gingerbread Man) immediately come to mind when I think of fractured fairy tales, although there are so many other incredible choices. This post lists some great fractured fairy tale suggestions for home/school reading for kids of all ages and I hope you leave your own favorites in the comments.

Aside from being powerful tools of entertainment, fractured fairy tales lend themselves to fabulous teaching as they present competing perspectives with other existing works, often add cultural perspectives, and provide an avenue for critical comparison and evaluation.

Fractured fairy tales are potent learning tools because:
  • they are motivating, inspiring and stimulating (both strong and reluctant) readers and writers to create their own fractured tales;
  • familiarity with a tale makes it easier to read because readers can anticipate words and plots,  and are familiar with the characters making them easier to understand;
  • writing and reading these tales involve creativity in having to take something familiar and 'twist' and 'tweak' it;
  • in order to successfully fracture a tale, the writer/story-teller must not only be familiar with the original tale, but must also understand character development, plot, story structure and have a facility with language;
  • when kids create their own fractured tales they have an existing (familiar) template they can easily work with, allowing students to change and tweak select points of their choice;
  • these tales neatly meet the new Core Curriculum Standards as
    • Fractured fairy tales require readers to read closely as they compare and contrast key ideas and details of the various story versions.
    •  Fractured fairy tales require readers to understand the craft and structure of the tales.  When asking students to write their own tales, they must first understand the basic story and its underlying structure before successfully creating their own.
    • Fractured fairy tales require readers and writers to integrate their own ideas with the ideas presented in the original version to create a cohesive 'fracture' of the tale
    • Fractured fairy tales allows students to play within a range of reading and level of text complexity
    • Fractured fairy tales can serve as a wonderful vehicle integrating language arts, history, and science in creative, interactive multi-modal medium.
The best reason to read and use fracture fairy tales:  THEY ARE PURE FUN: They are cognitive puzzles that lace language, culture, history, creativity and the arts in one neat package.  Who doesn't like a great fractured fairy tale???

Here are some fractured fairy tale suggested readings for readers of all ages:

The Three Little Pigs
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka - Picture book for all ages- this is the classic story from the Wolf's perspective...and it all started with a sneeze!
  • The Three Little Wolves and the Bid Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury - Picture book (Picture book - Grades 1-5)
  • The Three Pigs by David Wiesner.  Caldecott Medal Book. (Picture book - Grades 2-5)
  • BB Wolf and the Three LPs as told by JD Arnold with illustrations by Richard Koslowski (graphic novel, Grades 10+) provides plenty of twists to this story for teens and older. In this tale, the wolf is a Southern farmer by day (living in Money, Mississippi, 1920) and blues musician at night until the PPP try to buy wrangle his family farm. While built on the story of the Three Little Pigs, this is an excellent allegory that touches on the Delta Blues, the Klu-Klux-Klan, the Jim Crow laws of the South, and the powerful effect of segregation and discrimination.  This is also an excellent lesson of how history is written by the more powerful or victorious.  
  • Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story From China by Ai-Ling Louie (Picture book Grades 2-6). 
  • Seriously, Cinderella is SO Annoying! The Story of Cinderella as Told by the Wicked Stepmother (Other Side of the Story) by Trish Sue Speed Shaskan and Gerald Guerlais. (Picture book grades K-3)
  • Prince Cinders by Babette Cole (Picture book Grades 3-6)
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Chapter book -TEENS) Cinder is the best machanic in New Beijing - a girl with serious know-how and guts...and she's a cyborg who takes charge of her life and invests in her own rescue and save the prince.
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - Ella is cursed with 'obedience' and must do all that her step mother and stepsisters command.  She too takes matters into her own hands, however, as she tries to free herself of the curse and live happily ever after with her prince.  (Newbery Honor Chapter book Grades 4+)
  • Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale retold by Lynn Roberts, illustrated by David Roberts. (Picture book - Grades 2-6)
  • Rapunzel by Rachel Isadora - the Rapunzel story told in a lush African setting.  (Picture book - Grades K-5)
  • Rapunzel by Jessica Kaye - chapter book; story with a twist (Grades 4-8)
  • Tangled - Disney - while a popular Disney movie, you can also find this in book format.
Little Red Riding Hood
  • Red Riding Hood (retold by James Marshall) - Picture book (Grades K-3)
  • Little Red Riding Hood.  Into the Forest Again by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger. (Chapter book with some illustrations - Grades 3-6)
  • Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten: The Story of Little Red Riding Hood as Told by the Wolf (The Other Side of the Story) by Trisha Speed Shaskan. (Picture book for all ages)
  • Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young. Caldecott Medal winner. (Picture book Grades 2-6)
Sleeping Beauty
  • Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolan (Picture book Gr. 2+) is a wonderful twist about a beautiful but horrible princess named Miserella, a young woman of the woods named Plain Jane, and an infuriated fairy who turns all their lives upside-down.
  • Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (Chapter book Gr. 6+) is a brilliant retelling of Sleeping Beauty. This is a serious story about 'Becca who must research her Grandmother's dying wish and unravel the scary version of Sleeping Beauty her grandmother told her as a child. In her search, Becca unravels the horrors of the Holocaust. I have used this in language arts and history classes.
  • Below is a YouTube presentation of "Leaping Beauty" a fractured fairy tale featured in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  What is so particularly awesome (aside from the ridiculous number of puns and word play) is how language usage has changed since this first aired in 1960's, and there are so many ways teachers and parents can 'depart from the text' to talk about language usage and how it changes over time. For example, you might discuss the use of "gay," "broom out of here," and "bore" versus "boar." There is also wonderful use of alliteration (for example"from my magic medium come ennui and tedium..") and the use of rhyme to entertain:
Other notable fractured Tales:
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel - Grades 5+) incorporates the retelling of one of the oldest Chinese Fables, the Monkey King, with two other stories - one about Wang, the only Chinese American in his school and the other about his cousin Chin-Kee the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype who comes to visit him. This book brilliantly weaves American and Chinese cultural issues and is a great 'coming of age' story and is all about cultural heritage. It is an Eisner Award winer, Michael L. Printz Award Winner, and National Book Award Nominee. Here is a super glimpse into the book and its background:
  • New Fangled Fairy Tales: Classic Stories with a Funny Twist tales by a collection of authors, edited by  Bruce Lansky. In this collection the reader will meet King Midas (a workacholic banker who'd rather tend to his money than attend his son's Little League baseball games); The Three Bears (who invade Goldy's home because theirs is being stripped as a new superhighway replaces it); Little Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hood, Jill and the Beanstalk, The Prince and the Pea, The Real Story of Sleeping Beauty, The Obsolete Dragon, The Frog Princess, Goldy Locks, and Rudy and the Prince. (Grades 4+)
  • Legally Corrrect Fairy Tales: Bedtime Classics Translated into the Legalese by David Fisher. This book contains Jack "Doe" and Jill "Doe" v. Imperial Bucket Corporation; Tailor v. Emperor Motion for Summary Judgement; Kingdom v. Hansel and Gretel; and Petition for Guardianship and Other Legal Relief in the Matter of Beauty, Sleeping; Re Snow White, Inc.; USA v. Wolf Deposition of Mr. Wolf; Humpty Dumpty v. King, King's Hospital, All of King's Horses, All of King's Men; Petitioners: Jack, George, Peter, Maria,, v. Estate of Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe; Oak V. Gepetto; Kingdom v. Prince Charming; Beauty v. Beast; Little Red Riding Hood v. Regal Pictures, Inc.; Frog Prince v. Wicked Witch, and Kingdon v. Goldilocks. These stories are in legalese and are an excellent source in comparing language and jargon.  (Chapter book - Grades 10 +)
  •  The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey. This is the first of her "Elemental Masters" series and an awesome read as it blends alchemy andmagic to the Beauty and the Beast story.  (Chapter book - Teens+)
  • Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods
Other Resources: