ALEX Lesson Plan


An Author Study: Christopher Paul Curtis and his novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Kathleen Staggs
System: Huntsville City
School: Challenger Middle School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 6189


An Author Study: Christopher Paul Curtis and his novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963


This five-day lesson will introduce the students to the author of the novel as the beginning of a unit. The students will conduct research to obtain biographical information about the author and read/analyze summaries and critiques of the author's writing. Finally, the students will create brochures or flyers to highlight the author as a guest at a mock author's conference.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 6-8
5 ) Use basic features of word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and presentation software.

Examples: word processing—reports, letters, brochures

-  spreadsheets—discovering patterns, tracking spending, creating budgets

-  databases—contact list of addresses and telephone numbers

-  presentation software—slideshow

Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 6-8
6 ) Select specific digital tools for completing curriculum-related tasks.

Examples: spreadsheet for budgets, word processing software for essays, probes for data collection

Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 6-8
7 ) Demonstrate correct keyboarding techniques.

Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 6-8
9 ) Practice responsible and legal use of technology systems and digital content.

Examples: avoiding plagiarism; complying with acceptable-use policies, copyright laws, and fair use standards; recognizing secure Web sites

•  Identifying examples of computer crime and related penalties
Examples: computer crime—phishing, spoofing, virus and worm dissemination, cyberbullying

-  penalties—fines, incarceration

•  Citing sources of digital content
Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 6-8
14 ) Use digital tools to generate new ideas, products, or processes.

Examples: ideas—predictions, trends

-  products—animation, video

-  processes—models, simulations

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
26 ) Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting. [W.6.6]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
27 ) Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate. [W.6.7]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
28 ) Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources. [W.6.8]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
34 ) Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. [SL.6.4]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
35 ) Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information. [SL.6.5]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
37 ) Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. [L.6.1]

a. Demonstrate knowledge of subject-verb agreement when interrupted by a prepositional phrase, with inverted word order, and with indefinite pronouns as subjects. (Alabama)

b. Ensure that pronouns are in the proper case (subjective, objective, possessive). [L.6.1a]

c. Use intensive pronouns (e.g., myself, ourselves). [L.6.1b]

d. Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in pronoun number and person.* [L.6.1c]

e. Recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).* [L.6.1d]

f. Recognize variations from Standard English in their own and others' writing and speaking, and identify and use strategies to improve expression in conventional language.* [L.6.1e]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
38 ) Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing. [L.6.2]

a. Use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive or parenthetical elements.* [L.6.2a]

b. Spell correctly. [L.6.2b]

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will:
1. research using computers in the lab and Internet search engines identified by the teacher during introduction and demonstration,
2. answer questions on the Cyber Fact Scavenger Hunt worksheet with mastery measured by rubric reviewed in class,
3. evaluate information gained from various web sites for validity and reliability,
4. demonstrate proper use of Internet,
5. locate and appropriately save work in specified location on server,
6. use productivity tools to design,
publish and present final product,
7. present information orally to class.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will:
1. use correct grammar and spelling in final product,
2. use computer equipment in appropriate manner,
3. cite sources accurately,
4. maintain proper posture and keyboarding techniques during use of computers.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Class set of novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, Cyber Facts Scavenger Hunt worksheet (attached), journal, rubrics for scoring (attached).

Technology Resources Needed:

Computers with Internet access, desktop publishing or word processing software such as Word or Publisher, instructional PowerPoint presentation (see attached), PowerPoint software or PowerPoint Viewer (free download), computer projection device such as LCD projector or TV scan converter, (optional) video camera


Students will need a general knowledge of the purpose for a brochure, the procedures for Web based research, locating web addresses, and saving documentation to specified location. Collect several examples of brochures to show students. Students should have basic skills in word processing: cut, paste, format font, text box, insert pictures or clip art, borders and create columns.

1.)Day 1 - Distribute copies of novel; provide time for students to examine the cover.

2.)Pass out Cyber Facts worksheet, scoring rubrics, and samples of brochures (see attached); make sure students have paper and pencil for taking notes. This will be the first item in their "Reader's Journal" for the duration of the unit.

3.)Use Watson.ppt to begin orientation of author study. Slide one: book cover- discuss photos and the year 1963; slide 2: author's picture- discuss what you would ask in an interview; slide 3: Project - Explain the project; show several examples of brochures from area groups, events, or businesses; slide 4: project - discuss what is expected on each brochure, give students rubric to review; slide 5: 1st activity - give each student a copy of Cyber Facts to review what will be done on the computer, explain that all answers are to be written out in correct format and that this information will be used to compile the brochure; slide 6: reminders - basic concepts of computer use and writing activities.

4.)Instruct students to open Web browser such as Internet Explorer from the desktop.

5.)Review the Cyber Facts sheet; remind students that notes will be taken with paper and pencil and that these notes will later be written in complete sentences and this information will be used to create their brochures.

6.)Monitor students as they visit various sites to gather information; assess student behaviors and abilities with the technology and assist as needed. Students with less experience using searches may need to work in pairs. Both student must keep their own notes.

7.)At the end of day one, students who have not answered all questions and obtained necessary information may require computer time before or after school. Check students' notes for completion and accuracy.

8.)Day 2 - Students compile information on paper and design the layout. Present the layout on overhead or class display monitor - Page 1, column one is the back of the brochure that will fold to the inside; column two is the back and should have organization info; column three is the front cover. Page 2, columns 1, 2, and 3 will contain required information and are the inside of the brochure.

9.)Students complete the Cyber Facts sheet by answering all questions in complete sentences with correct spelling.

10.)Day 3 (Computer Lab) Students begin creating brochures using Microsoft Word or other word processing or desktop publishing software. Instruct whole class to follow along by setting page as landscape and creating 3 columns using icon on toolbar. Students must have the template created on paper to continue.

11.)Once the document has been set as columns and in landscape, stop all work and save. All students will follow the steps to save as the teacher walks through. All documents will be saved to the server in the teachers folder and specific class period --or to floppy disks if this option is not available.

12.)Monitor students as they insert graphics, clip art, borders and backgrounds. Remind students to list the URL with information such as biographical and book summaries, and always refer to rubric. Assist as needed with formatting font, backgrounds, borders and illustrations.

13.)Students save all work at the end of the class. This is a good time to make additions or changes as needed to the paper template.

14.)Day 4 (Computer Lab) Students complete the brochure, spell check and save. The teacher will begin printing brochures. This may need to be done after the class is dismissed.

15.)Day 5 - Students will present brochures in class. In groups of two, students will perform a mock introduction of the author at the event. Each student will be given equal time for the introduction. The teacher may choose to videotape the presentations.

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Assessment Strategies

Each student will be evaluated for research activity and completion of Cyber Facts worksheet. Students' final products will be assessed using the rubric (see attached) given at the beginning of the lesson.


Students with higher ability level or prior knowledge of this particular author and novel could expand their brochure information with a compare/contrast section using a different author of their choice.


Student pairing can be done to help students with lower computer skills. Students may be allowed to email or save their work to a disk in order to work at home. Allow before and/or after school time for students who do not have home access to computers.

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.