Class begins with an opportunity for students to make a connection between events in the story and their own lives. In the conversation that ensues, we get to talk about the spiritual beliefs of this Ice Age family we have been reading about, the deep grief they felt at the loss of Areg, the children’s father, in a terrible hunting accident and the affect that loss will have on them. The talk leads to why Areg was buried with his drum and spear even though these items may have been useful to the family. Then the students begin to think about items that are meaningful in their own lives.
The prompt they respond to is: Most ancient cultures buried their dead with items they thought would be necessary in the afterlife. What would you take with you to the afterlife and why?
Many students chose items from their childhood (stuffed animals, favorite blankets), family mementos such as photographs are another popular item, and some think of favorite foods while others consider religious items most important to guaranteeing a happy afterlife. A few examples appear here.
Before meeting in literature circle groups, ask this question: What does the title of Chapter 10 “Old Mother’s Decision” mean?
Right away you will be able to tell who read it and who did not! I make a mental note of who to check in with as I scan the sea of raised hands and bowed heads. In this chapter, the tension rises dramatically when the grandmother makes the fateful decision to send the two children on alone over the treacherous mountains to get help for the rest of family that must remain behind in a snow house. The students have strong feelings as to the validity of this decision and are eager to discuss it. I hear lots of “If it were me…” and “My brother and I could…” and “There’s no way I’d…” After about 5 minutes I remind the groups of their responsibility to review summary notes and to fill in the participation tracking sheets as each person shares their Literature circle job notes.
For the last 15 minutes of class I give the groups a challenge. They are to answer the following question using information from the text: What are the steps to building a snow house?
They are to write out a detailed set of directions that could be easily followed by someone unfamiliar with the task. And that’s not all, the response must include a drawing. An answer key and additional prompts appear here.