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Novel Study: Where the Red Fern Grows

Subject Area: Language Arts

Grade Level(s): 5-6

Duration of Activity: 4 to 6 weeks, one 50-minute class period per day

Description of Activity:

This novel study will allow students to use their writing skills, their creativity, and technology in fun and educational ways, researching several topics related to the novel Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Teachers can choose to include suggested topics based on the time available to devote to this novel study.

Objectives:

  • The students will learn about Wilson Rawls, the author of Where the Red Fern Grows, by conducting research about his life using the World Wide Web. They will learn about Rawls’s heritage and his characters’ heritage by conducting research on the World Wide Web about Cherokee history, language, and culture.
  • The students will read and analyze the novel Where the Red Fern Grows.
  • The students will learn vocabulary in context and be able to use the words in a sentence or a story.
  • The students will compile a timeline and summary of the events in the story.
  • The students will learn about coon dogs by researching them on the World Wide Web.
  • The students will plan to buy a coon dog, and they will budget the money they will need to save to buy the dog using a Handout 5: Budget to Buy My Coon Dog! following the direcitons on Handout 6: Choosing a Coon Dog.
  • The students will learn through activities that foster creativity.
  • The students will use the writing process to reflect on the events in the story.
  • The students will compare/contrast the novel and the video Where the Red Fern Grows.
  • The students will write, perform, and video skits about the main events of the novel.

Materials/Equipment:

  • One copy of Where the Red Fern Grows per student
  • Computers with Internet access
  • World Wide Web sites bookmarked by the teacher [See Using Favorites/Bookmarks in the K-12 Classroom.]
  • Microsoft PowerPoint or other presentation software
  • Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet software
  • Scanner and software
  • Where the Red Fern Grows videotape (ISBN 0-8051-0728-2)
  • Camcorder
  • Handout 1: All About Wilson Rawls (Student Version)
  • Handout 2: Cherokee History, Language, and Culture
  • Handout 3: Oral Presentation Rubric
  • Handout 4: All About Wilson Rawls (Teacher Answer Sheet)
  • Handout 5: Budget to Buy My Coon Dog!
  • Handout 6: Choosing a Coon Dog
  • Handout 7: Creating Flashcards Using Microsoft PowerPoint (used for vocabulary words)
  • Books with additional classroom activities such as:

    Literature Study Guide Where the Red Fern Grows by Prentice Hall (ISBN 0-13-437490-8)

    Literature Unit Where the Red Fern Grows by Teacher Created Materials, Inc. (ISBN 1-55734-400-0)

    Scholastic Literature Guide Grades 4–8 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (ISBN 0-590-37357-9)

    FS-2744 Literature Notes Where The Red Fern Grows by Frank Schaffer Publications, Inc. (ISBN 0-590-37357-9)

Prerequisites (skills or background needed):

  • The students need to be familiar with the writing process, including prewriting, editing, and publishing.
  • The students will need a basic understanding of how to locate information on the World Wide Web.
  • The students will need a basic understanding of how to use Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel software.

Procedure

Teacher Component: The teacher will:

  1. research and bookmark Web sites that teach the students about the author Wilson Rawls. [See Using Favorites/Bookmarks in the K-12 Classroom.]
  2. research and bookmark Web sites that teach the students about the Cherokee history, language, and culture. [See Using Favorites/Bookmarks in the K-12 Classroom.]
  3. introduce the novel Where the Red Fern Grows and its author Wilson Rawls.
  4. introduce vocabulary in context of the story and provide flash cards made using the Microsoft PowerPoint software and Handout 7: Creating Flashcards Using Microsoft PowerPoint
  5. research and bookmark Web sites that show pictures and information about coon dogs.
  6. distribute Handout 5: Budget to Buy My Coon Dog! and Handout 6: Choosing a Coon Dog and guide the students during their research on two breeds of coon dogs, Blue tick and Redbone. They will study the history of the each breed and choose a breed that fits their preferences. Students will pretend to make plans to buy the dog, budgeting only money that they plan to earn. Remind the students that it took the main character Billy two years to save enough money to buy two Redbone coon dogs. Two other characters in the book, the Pritchard boys Rubin and Rainie, also loved to coon hunt with their Blue tick coon dog.
  7. provide support to the students during the creation of their Microsoft Excel budget spreadsheets that will be used for the budgeting activity.
  8. assign summaries of chapters along with illustrations of an event from the assigned chapter to be displayed as a timeline of the story. As the class reads the story, the illustrations will be displayed as a timeline of the events that have occurred in the book. At the end of the novel study, the illustrations should tell the story of the novel. These may be handwritten and hand drawn or created using word-processing, presentation, or desktop-publishing software.
  9. research and bookmark a Web site that has Indian legends for the students to read and enjoy
  10. read and discuss legends with the students.
  11. show the video Where the Red Fern Grows in class.
  12. discuss the characteristics of a good presentation for this project based on Handout 3: Oral Presentation Rubric.
  13. guide the students during the course of creating their Microsoft PowerPoint presentations for their projects.
  14. put the students in groups of from 6 to 10 students per group according to the event they choose to perform. Student groups will write, perform, and video a major event from the novel.
  15. put the videos in the order of the events in the novel and show sequentially as a movie of the novel.

Student Activities: The student will

  1. research the author Wilson Rawls, using the World Wide Web and Handout 1: All About Wilson Rawls.
  2. research and learn about the Cherokee history, language, and culture. Using Handout 2: History Cherokee, Language, and Culture.
  3. look up definitions of vocabulary words and write meaningful sentences or a story using the words. Study vocabulary by using flashcards prepared by the teacher using Microsoft PowerPoint.
  4. read and analyze the novel Where the Red Fern Grows. Students will be assigned one chapter from which to summarize and illustrate an event to display as a part of timeline of the novel. These may be handwritten and hand drawn or created with word-processing, presentation, or desktop publishing software.
  5. research two kinds of coon dogs, Blue tick and Redbone. They will study the history of the each breed, and choose a breed that fits their preferences. They will pretend to make plans to buy the dog. They will budget only money that they plan to earn. They will use the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet Handout 5: Budget to Buy My Coon Dog! to create their budgets following the instructions on Handout 6: Choosing a Coon Dog
  6. read several legends from books and also from the World Wide Web / http://www.cherokee.org/home.aspx?section=culture&culture=literature, and then discuss what makes a good legend. They will then write a legend. They can choose from two topics: "How the Raccoon Got the Rings on His Tail" or "How the Raccoon got His Mask." They will write their legends on brown paper bags that have been wadded up, straightened out, and cut into the shapes of an animal hides. They will then sit around a pretend campfire and read their legends. The students will practice with Handout 3: Oral Presentation Rubric before they make their presentations for the class
  7. watch the videotape of Where the Red Fern Grows. Students will be provided the types of candy that are mentioned in the novel, if they are available in the local area. Horehound candy and other old time candies can be found at Cracker Barrel Restaurants. They will drink strawberry soda, just like the character Billy had while he was in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
  8. write scripts of the main events from the novel as part of a cooperative group. The student will also make scenery and costumes. One group member will videotape the performance. The videotapes will be put in order of events in the story and showed as a movie of the novel.

Accommodations:

  • Students with strong technology skills can assist students who are less skilled.
  • The timeframe for the activities may be extended for classrooms with fewer computers.
  • Activities may be modified for special-needs students (e.g., peer tutoring, shortened assignments, or additional time to complete assignments).

Extension Activities:

  • Students could prepare their own vocabulary flash cards.
  • Use Nasco Nature Study Aids to create and identify different animal paw prints. Billy enjoyed studying the animal prints down on the creek bank. Student will enjoy learning the differences in animal tracks by studying and painting the different animal paw prints made by using the molds form Nasco Nature Study Aids.
  • Red Fern Day: Invite parents to get involved! Spend the morning teaching a subject-related activity in each class. Before lunch have a local coon hunter speak to the class and show his hunting equipment and dogs. He should have several adventures to share with the class. For lunch, have the parents prepare foods that might have been served in rural Oklahoma in 1920. The menu might include wild game, stews, sweet potatoes, boiled corn, turnip greens, corn bread, and a good old-fashioned cobbler for desert. After lunch, show the video Where the Red Fern Grows. Be sure to display the students’ work created during the unit’s activities.
  • Discuss family history. Assign interviews to help students learn their family history.
  • Feature the students and their pets in a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. Students will bring pictures of themselves and their pets and scan the pictures into digital format for use in Microsoft PowerPoint slides. The slides will be shown as a Microsoft PowerPoint slide show.
  • Interview their grandparents or senior citizens in the community. These interviews can be handwritten, tape-recorded, video taped, or conducted in person before the class after making arrangements with the teacher. Those interviewed could be invited to eat lunch with the students. This could be extended by sponsoring Grandparent’s Day. Allow those children who do not have living grandparents or grandparents in the area to play host/hostess to a senior citizen of their choice.
  • Hold a pet contest.

Integration:

  • Language Arts
  • Technology
  • Math
  • Social Studies

Assessments:

  1. Vocabulary and comprehension test
  2. Chapter summaries and other writing activities, graded on content and mechanics
  3. Handout 1: All about Wilson Rawls (Student Version) along with Handout 4: All About Wilson Rawls (Teacher Answer Sheet)
  4. Handout 3: Oral Presentation Rubric

URLs:

Curriculum Frameworks

Mississippi:

Fifth Grade & Sixth Grade

  1. Communicate for a variety of purposes through different forms of writing using processes of reading, writing, listening, and viewing for an expanding audience.
  2. Speak coherently and listen effectively to exchange ideas and opinions for a variety of purposes and audiences.
  3. Complete projects and tasks in an organized and coherent manner.
  4. Read, listen to, and view multimedia sources to select and use information.
  5. Participate cooperatively while engaging in small group activities to analyze and interpret information, to make decisions, to solve problems, and to produce a given product.
  6. Read independently with fluency and for meaning using a variety of strategies.
  7. Demonstrate continuous progress toward control of penmanship, grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, and usage of standard English in the context of writing and speaking.
  8. Acquire and use appropriate vocabulary and spelling concepts.

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS):

  1. Use content-specific tools, software, and simulations (e.g., environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools) to support learning and research. (3, 5)
  2. Select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems. (5, 6)

TerraNova:

02 Basic Understanding (Level 10-21/22)
Demonstrate understanding of the literal meaning of a passage through identifying stated information, indicating sequence of events, and defining grade-level vocabulary.

Write responses to questions requiring literal information from passages and documents.

05 Identify Reading Strategies (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate awareness of techniques that enhance comprehension, such as using existing knowledge, summarizing content, comparing information across texts, using graphics and text structure, and formulating questions that deepen understanding.

Write responses that interpret and extend the use of information from documents and forms, and that demonstrate knowledge and use of strategies.

07 Sentence Structure (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate an understanding of conventions for writing complete and effective sentences, including treatment of subject and verb, punctuation, and capitalization.

Demonstrate an understanding of conciseness and clarity of meaning in combining two sentences

08 Writing Strategies (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate knowledge of information sources, outlines, and other pre-writing techniques.

Demonstrate an understanding of the use of topic sentences, concluding sentences, connective and transitional words and phrases, supporting statements, sequencing ideas, and relevant information in writing expository prose.

09 Editing Skills (Level 11-21/22)
Identify the appropriate use of capitalization, punctuation, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in existing text.

Link and Feedback to Author(s):

Sandra Green, West Lauderdale Middle School, Collinsville, MS
sbuckgreen@yahoo.com

Handout 1: All About Wilson Rawls (Student Version) Word Acrobat
Handout 2: Cherokee History, Language, and Culture Word Acrobat
Handout 3: Oral Presentation Rubric Word Acrobat
Handout 4: All About Wilson Rawls (Teacher Version—Answer Key) Word Acrobat
Handout 5: Budget to Buy My Coon Dog! Excel Acrobat
Handout 6: Choosing a Coon Dog Word Acrobat
Handout 7: Creating Flashcards Using Microsoft PowerPoint
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