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One of the things that I truly like about Rafe Martin’s book The Rough-Face Girl is that it is a powerful tool in piquing interest in history. Travers & Travers (2008)  put it eloquently when they state, “Historical fiction plays a major role in motivating students to understand and appreciate their study of history, social studies and current events” (pg. 63).  After reading the book there will be those curious enough to delve more deeply into the topic of Native American History.  Because Martin’s book is based on historical fact I find it to be the perfect opportunity to springboard into content area literature.

There are several ways to approach learning about the Mi’kmaq.  There is a wonderful website that explores the Mi’kmaq community both past and present.  I copy and past their information onto a word document, making sure to cite my source.  I always point this out to my students so that they know how important it is to not plagiarize.

Another website that is more concise is Facts for Kids: Micmac Indians.  One benefit to this website is that it breaks down each cultural section first by a question, followed by a brief summary.  This might be a great place to use for differentiating instruction.  The site breaks down the information into the basics.  It is important to remember that our students all learn at varying levels, and this includes reading levels.  Instruction is for all students, no matter what level they learn at.

If you are looking for a nonfiction tradebook to add to the classroom library The Mi’kmaq: How Their Ancestors Lived Five Hundred Years Ago by Ruth Holmes Whitehead and Harold McGee is  a perfect choice. This book includes ink drawings, and an overview of their history.  It draws upon their cultural heritage, how they lived, and other fascinating facts about life.

Before having students read The Rough-Face Girl and the information on Mi’Kmaq Indians it is important to activate prior knowledge.  Why?  When a reader first activates prior knowledge they are able to apply what they already know to what they are reading.  This helps make knew ideas more palatable as they are reading

KWL Chart

An activity that I find can be overly used, but when applied in moderation is a powerful tool to help put prior knowledge to work is the KWL chart.  Not only do KWL charts address prior knowledge, they also cover the reading and post reading process as well.

The chart is divided up into three columns.  The first is labeled What I Already Know.  Under this column the student lists things they already know about Mi’Kmaq Indians (or Indians in general).  Under the What I Want to Learn column the students make a list of questions they personally want to learn about the topic.  Finally the What Did I Learn column they write down what they learned, what interested them as they read.

Questions

Hand the students sticky notes for each of the questions they put on their KWL chart under W.  Have them write one question on each post it note.  Provide them with 3-5 extra ones to write further questions they have as they are reading.  As they find the answer to their questions in the text have them underline the answer and place the sticky next to the answer.  If the students don’t find the answer in the text, this is a perfect time to teach them about inferences.

Reading

I have found that when a child reads a book more than once several things happen:  The words in the text become familiar, increasing fluency; comprehension increases; and vocabulary expands.  Win-win all around.  Repetition can become old, so here are some ways that I use to make each time they read it a different experience.

  • Picture Walk – The Rough-Face Girl is ideal for this, since the pictures are so striking and detailed.  Children are curious – when you show them the front cover ask them what they notice about the girl.  What do they think happened to her?  When do you think this story takes place?  Who do you think the girl is?  What is a clue to that?  What do they think the story will be about?  You can stop with just the cover, or you can choose a few pages to let them take a peek.  I actually like to show the pictures and have the kids make up a story.  After they read the story talk about their story predictions and see how close they were to how the story actually laid out.
  • Interactive Read Aloud – After introducing the book (I always introduce the book, even if I am reading it to my kids back to back) read the book to your students out loud.  This is a perfect time to model fluent reading.  Make sure to pause as you read, as you share what you are thinking about the text.  This prepares students to pause and process what they have read and learned through the reading.  Highlight different vocabulary words – talk about them with the students.  I will go more in depth with Interactive Read Aloud  in another post.
  • Guided Reading – Make sure you set a purpose for reading.
    •  Introduce the title, author, and illustrator.
    • In small groups, or one on one, have the student read softly .  This way you can support your students that need help with decoding unfamiliar words, help with new words they encounter.
    • Talk about the book.  Ask questions, and ask the students to ask each other questions.  Have them make comparisons to the other Cinderella books already read.   Talk about how the book teaches about life among the Native Americans.
  •  Independent Reading – Have the students read it on their own.

 Comprehension Questions

 Some great comprehension questions for The Rough-Face Girl that I use for review include the following:

  1. How do you think Rough-Face Girl felt when her father couldn’t give her the same beautiful things as her older sisters to go courting the Invisible Being?
  2. How would you have felt?
  3. How did Rough-Face Girl show courage?
  4. What does it mean “to see all the way down to your heart”?
  5. Why was Rough-Face Girl able to see the Invisible Being where the other women of the village couldn’t?
  6. Is it more important to look on someones outer beauty or what they are like on the inside?  Why?

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