ALEX Lesson Plan


More than The Watsons Go to Birmingham

You may save this lesson plan to your hard drive as an html file by selecting "File", then "Save As" from your browser's pull down menu. The file name extension must be .html.

  This lesson provided by:  
System: Birmingham City
School: Birmingham City Board Of Education
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 33245


More than The Watsons Go to Birmingham


Although Christopher Paul Curtis 's The Watsons Go to Birmingham is a read for Social Studies and English Language Arts in Grades 6-8, it can easily addressed as a reading assignment for grades 9-12 depending on the end result(s) desired of the teacher.  The study of Curtis' novel can be the primary text to foster a journey from poetry to fiction to music to history to food and finally, to writing.  This novel makes references to the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church and the four little girls who perished that Sunday morning.  This is a good lesson to study history, geography, and writing. Various discussions may arise in relationship to bullying, sibling rivalry, growing up, and Civil Rights.

This is a College- and Career-Ready Standards showcase lesson plan. 

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
ELA2015 (11)
1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain. [RL.11-12.1]
ELA2015 (11)
2. Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text. [RL.11-12.2]
ELA2015 (11)
3. Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed). [RL.11-12.3]
ELA2015 (11)
6. Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement). [RL.11-12.6]
ELA2015 (11)
7. Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.) [RL.11-12.7]
ELA2015 (11)
10. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain. [RI.11-12.1]
ELA2015 (11)
15. Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text. [RI.11-12.6]
ELA2015 (11)
20. Write informative or explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. [W.11-12.2]
a. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension. [W.11-12.2a]
b. Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic. [W.11-12.2b]
c. Use appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts. [W.11-12.2c]
d. Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic. [W.11-12.2d]
e. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing. [W.11-12.2e]
f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic). [W.11-12.2f]
ELA2015 (11)
23. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of the first three standards in the Language strand in Grades K-11.) [W.11-12.5]
ELA2015 (11)
27. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. [W.11-12.9]
a. Apply Grade 11 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Demonstrate knowledge of twentieth- and twenty-first-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics"). [W.11-12.9a] (Alabama)
b. Apply Grade 11 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., Analyze seminal United States documents of historical and literary significance [e.g., Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech, King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"]), including how they address related themes and concepts. [W.11-12.9b] (Alabama)
ELA2015 (11)
31. Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used. [SL.11-12.3]

Local/National Standards:

Analyze and interpret samples of good writing, identifying and explaining an author's use of rhetorical strategies and techniques;

Create and sustain arguments based on readings, research and/or personal experience;

Write for a variety of purposes; 

Demonstrate understanding and mastery of standard written English as well as stylistic maturity in the students' writings; and

Analyze image as text. CollegeBoard(R)

Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will identify poetry, nonfiction, and fiction as vehicles for perpetuating history.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Dudley Randall's poem, Ballad of Birmingham;

C.P.Curtis's novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham;

Maya Angelou's essay, Champion of the World;

Figurative Language Vocabulary (See Attachment.);

Making Poetry Fit, a poetic analysis  (See attachment.); and

Elements of Literature (See attachment.)

Technology Resources Needed:

1. An interactive whiteboard

2. A document camera

3.  2013 article

4.   the poem, Ballad of Birmingham

5.     Hear the Song 

6.    Squirrel Stew recipe

7.       Maya Angelou’s Champions of the World


Be familiar with the novel, poem, song, and the essay.

Be sure that you can retrieve the materials.

Go over the figurative language vocabulary.

Analyze other poems using Making Poetry FIT.

Analyze other fictional pieces using the Elements of Literature.

Discuss all informational text readings with the focus on the rhetorical framework.


1. Assign the reading of, analyze, and annotate Randall's poem Ballad of Birmingham.  Assign dialectical journals.

2. Play the song once you have analyzed the poem.

3. Assign the reading of, analyze, and annotate  the novel, The Watsons Go to BirminghamAssign dialectical journals.

3. Assign the reading of Angelou's essay, Champion of the World, and discuss its impact on Curtis's novel.  Assign dialectical journals.

4. Discuss the parts of the novel according to the Elements of Literature.

5. Discuss the poem using Making Poetry FIT analytic device.

6. Use references of the three texts to support strategies identified as a result of the discussions.

7. Use the document camera and the interactive whiteboard for highlighting and annotation.

8. Use the interactive whiteboard for the music.

9.  Assign a writing which focuses on one of the topics fostered via the discussion of the texts with the assistance of the dialectical journals.

10. Use a rubric for this assignment.

**Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

Assessment Strategies

1. Test on the Elements of Literature using the text.

2. Test on Making Poetry FIT using the poem.

3.  Test on parts of the rhetorical framework referencing the essay.

4.  Dialectical Journals

5. Short answer questions

6. Essay questions

7. Matching or puzzles for a reading check quiz.

8. A writing assignment




Afternoon tutoring maybe scheduled for those students who need assistance in analyzing the poem, novel or Angelou's essay, Champion of the World.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.