Appalachia Matrix Teaching Ideas

Author study: Both George Ella Lyon and Cynthia Rylant have several titles on this list. Thus, author study might make a good instructional project. You could gather one author's titles and distribute them to individuals or small groups of learners (note that the titles are written at different difficulty levels, so you will be able to include all students in this project). Students could then read their books. Follow-up discussions could focus on a) writing style, b) use of figurative language, c) typical characters or plot, d) role of setting (in this case Appalachia), or e) some combination. After general discussion about the books, you and students could decide which of the follow-up possibilities to pursue. Students could then return to their books searching for examples, drawing conclusions, etc. Additional information about George Ella Lyon is located at; and Additional information about Cynthia Rylant is located at and

Memoirs: Select memoirs from this list and ask individuals or pairs of students to read them (note that the titles are written at different difficulty levels, so you will be able to include all students in this project). Focus post-reading discussion on "memoir" as a genre of literature. You might want to contrast memoirs and biographies/ autobiographies. You will probably want to focus on the idea of describing one (or several) episode from a person's life instead of the "birth-to-present" perspective sometimes found in autobiographies and biographies. Moreover, you might invite students to generate a group list of characteristics of memoir writing that is based on their reading. Students might want to write their own memoirs as a concluding activity.

Oral histories: Read some selections from Come Go With Me. Invite discussion of oral histories-their value, how to obtain them, etc. Then collect your own oral histories: a) ask students to identify people to interview. These could be "old timers" in the community or people who have lived through a common event (e.g., 9/11) or elders in a family; b) help students generate interview questions; c) hold practice interviews in class. Follow these with debriefing discussions that focus on qualities of an effective interview; d) ask students to interview people outside of class (provide tape recorders and tapes for students who need them); e) spend in-class time transcribing and editing interviews. This will provide a very rich opportunity to teach almost all writing skills; and f) compile the interviews into a book/ CD/ both.

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