Why a good book is a secret door

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Brown Girl Dreaming Lesson

Brown Girl Dreaming Lesson

Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming is a collection of poems about different people, places and experiences in her life. Most titles of her poems are different, but the title “how to listen” appears throughout the book consisting of three lines each numbering all the way up to #10. “how to listen #1,” on page 20. It says:

“Somewhere in my brain

each laugh, tear and lullaby

becomes memory”

Think of poem examples in the book where Woodson talks about a certain day, outing, time at home, etc. One example could be “lullaby” on page 58. What details does she provide? Why do you think it’s important to her and what role it played/plays in her life? How does it contribute to her story?

Now, write about one of your memories. It can be sad, or it can be funny, or it can be soothing to remember. Any kind of memory that sticks out to you! Use Woodson’s way with words as a guide, but write it down in any format you like on a page or less. Include a picture/pictures on the other side, if you like, to help aid or tell your memory.

This can be done as an activity sequence using each “how to listen” poem in her book as a prompt. Like Jacqueline does in the book, these pages can eventually be stapled together to make a book that they can give a title to in the end.

Intended grade level: 6th grade

Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5: Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

I can imagine this being at the beginning of the school year because I think if it’s done as an activity sequence, it could really help the students grow in their writing and show them different ways to get the ideas used in writing including from reading other writings.

They will need the book Brown Girl Dreaming, possibly some strips of different colored sticky notes to mark pages in the book, a pencil, 10 pages of paper if doing the activity sequence and photos of family, friends, places, objects, etc.

I hope that students will learn that much of their writing is influenced by who they are and there’s a number of contributions that compose their lives. If they draw from these many elements, they should be able to write without a problem and be able to better relate to the books/authors they’re reading.

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