Fourth Grade - Literature - Overview - December

Sayings and Phrases
Students are introduced to two sayings, Haste makes waste and Live and let live, and one phrase, Make ends meet, this month. No particular order is required for these lessons as each isi ndependent of the others.
Within the lessons they are asked to distinguish whether time, material (money), or energy (or a combination) is wasted and to brainstorm ways that a person might adjust his or her life to balance money earned and money spent. The two sayings are compared and contrasted with other sayings.

"Clarence" by Shel Silverstein and William M. Thackery's "A Tragic Story" are the poems intoduced. Students are introduced to irony and are given opportunities to compare these poems with others.
Students are invited to illustrate and write, as well as pantomime and read aloud. Several additional activities are included. The poems may be introduced in any order, at any time, during the month.

Students read Sojourner Truth's stirring "Ain't I a Woman" speech this month and learn about her life. This lesson, which offers an introduction to Truth's early life and her commitment to her religious beliefs, should be taught before American History Lesson 22.
Sojourner Truth's speech and story of her life clearly highlight the kinds of prejudice that existed at the time: against slaves, black people, women, poor, and the uneducated. While students are asked to consider Sojourner Truth's hardships, her triumphs are recognized as well.

Fourth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - Live and Let Live

Explain the meaning of the saying.
Compare Live and let live to Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Copy of the saying, Live and let live, on sentence strip or chart paper

Suggested Books
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992.

Display the saying Live and let live and invite volunteers to read it aloud. Ask the students to consider: Does everyone read the saying the same way or do different people emphasize different words? Is it a command or simply a statement?
Allow a brief discussion of the last question, then ask for a volunteer to give the meaning of the saying. Ask: When might someone be reminded to live and let live? Be sure that students recognize that the saying is appropriate when the situation is as trivial as two people disagreeing about the best music station, as well as when the issue is the much more serious concept of respect for people of a different race or religion. To live and let live means to not be judgmental about what is another person's business.
Remind the students that today there are many causes for disagreement in our society and have them recall that there were such issues in the past as well. Challenge the students to recall situations in history that would cause people to disagree about an issue and take opposing sides (religion, civil rights, decisions made by the colonies regarding establishment of a government, etc.). Have them tell what happened when people could not agree to live and let live (compromise, living apart, war). Ask students if live and let live is always the best solution. Allow them to discuss differing opinions on this matter and have them consider what might have happened if people who disagreed with slavery simply chose to ignore the issue, feeling that they would simply live their lives and let slave owners continue to do what they were doing.
Tell the students that when people simply disagree and neither person is doing anything hurtful to himself or others, live and let live seems a wise response, however if someone is harmed by another's behavior, ignoring that behavior is wrong. Assign partners and ask students to list situations where live and let live would be the appropriate response. (You may wish to give some examples first. The choice of clothing, automobiles, hairstyles, music, food, etc. would all be examples of personal taste.)
After several minutes ask for volunteers to share their lists. Be sure that their suggestions are appropriate, and if not, point out why they would not fit this category. Allow others students to question appropriateness and respond as well.
Ask the students to recall the saying Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Ask: Can you think of ways that this saying is like Live and let live? (Answers will vary.) Remind students that we all like to have our wishes and opinions valued, so if we want others to treat us with respect, we must do the same. Point out also that some of the major disagreements that have occurred in history resulted from one group of people not respecting the wishes of another group, and not treating them in the same way they would like to be treated.

Fourth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - Haste Makes Waste

Explain the meaning of the saying.
Differentiate between a waste of time, a waste of energy and a waste of materials.
Work with a partner to describe three situations in which hurrying caused waste.
Contrast haste makes waste with practice makes perfect (optional).

Copy of the saying, Haste makes waste, on sentence strip or chart paper

Suggested Books
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992.

Teacher Background
In Second Grade students are introduced to the saying practice makes perfect. An additional activity is included that allows students to contrast it with haste makes waste.

Ask the students if they have ever heard someone say that something was a "waste of time" (write on the board). Have them recall the speaker and the situation if they do. If the students are unable to, describe how rushing to a store only to find it closed would be a waste of time, or spending time doing something you found useless would also be considered so. Be sure that the students realize that waste here means the time is squandered or used in an inefficient way.
Next, write "waste can" on the board. Ask students to tell the meaning of waste used in this way (garbage, trash, that which is thrown away). Ask why an item would be put in the waste can (it is useless, not needed). Ask students if they have ever heard someone say that something was a "waste of money." Point out that spending money foolishly is similar to throwing money away in a waste can.
Finally, display and read the saying haste makes waste. Ask for a volunteer to define haste. If students have difficulty, offer the following to help them: "I raised my hand in such haste that I didn't even realize that I had volunteered to do extra work." Ask: Was the speaker thinking about the outcome when he or she volunteered? (No, he or she did it in such a hurry that the action was thoughtless.)
Tell the students that since they now know the meaning of haste and waste, they should be able to explain the meaning of the saying in their own words. Invite volunteers to share their explanations and be sure they recognize that acting unnecessarily fast (in haste) can result in squandered time, energy or materials (waste). Ask the students how someone might waste his or her energy (doing a useless task, not getting proper directions about how to do a task, running to the wrong place, etc.).
Write "a waste of time,""a waste of energy," and "a waste of materials" on the board. Direct the students to work in pairs and try to come up with an example for each caused by haste. Challenge the students to combine time and energy, or materials and time, or all three. Possible responses for each situation follow.

Waste of time--I raced out of the house without checking the time and when I got to the library it was already closed.

Waste of energy--I spent an hour trying to pump up my bike tire and it had a hole in it. My brother had left me a note telling me about it, but I was in such a hurry to get going I didn't stop to read it.

Waste of materials--I was rushing so fast to get the cooky dough mixed that I didn't check the recipe and I added baking powder instead of baking soda. The cookies didn't bake properly and I had to throw them all away.

Waste of time, energy and materials--I rushed through my handwriting paper so I could do something else. I didn't realize that I had left a letter out of the same word at least 20 times and I had to throw my paper away and start all over.

After students have had several minutes to prepare their examples ask for volunteers to share. If time permits ask for several examples of each type, requiring the students to identify the haste and the waste of each.
Ask the students why they think the saying haste makes waste has been around for a long time. Be sure that students note the two rhyming words which make it easy to remember, and recognize that human nature sometimes causes us to act without thinking, making the saying a useful reminder.

Additional activity

Drawing paper and crayons
Haste makes waste and practice makes perfect each written on a sentence strip

Display the saying haste makes waste and have the students recall some of the examples they gave. Write them on the board under the saying, noting the haste and waste of each. Then display the saying practice makes perfect. Ask the students to brainstorm examples of practice leading to perfection. Suggest that they consider schoolwork (handwriting, spelling, math facts), sports (shooting baskets, skating), and craft work (sewing, painting, crocheting). Write these under practice makes perfect.
Tell the students to look at the two sayings and the columns under them and consider what it is that makes the greatest difference between the two (taking time). Ask: Are these two sayings opposites? (Answers may vary.) Point out that the end results (waste or perfection) could be considered quite opposite. Ask: What is the result when you try to combine haste with practice?
Examples of the two sayings could be illustrated side-by-side on a piece of drawing paper that has been folded in half. Have the students write each saying above the appropriate picture. Then the word "but" could be inserted between the two sayings to demonstrate that haste makes waste BUT practice makes perfect (or vice versa).

Fourth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - Make Ends Meet

Explain the meaning of the saying.
Hear about the origin of the saying.
Identify ways that people Amake ends meet."

Copy of the saying, Make ends meet, on sentence strip or chart paper
A piece of wrapping paper cut to size (see Teacher Note)
A box
Four questions (in lesson) on chart paper (optional)

Suggested Books
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992.

Teacher Reference
Morris, William and Mary. Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. New York: Harper & Row, 1977, 1988.
Room, Adam, revised by. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. New York: HarperCollins, 1959, 1995.

Teacher Note
Prior to the lesson you will need to measure and cut a piece of wrapping paper to size. When the paper is wrapped around the box you have selected, the ends should simply meet and not overlap.

Open the lesson by asking the students to patiently wait while you wrap a package. Make a point of saying to the students that you hope that you have enough paper to cover the box. Put the box on the sheet of wrapping paper and bring up the ends so that they meet, secure them with a piece of tape. Tell the students that you are very happy because you have just enough paper to do the job. Show the seam to the students, telling them that you were able to make ends meet.
Display the saying Make ends meet, and ask a volunteer to explain what the saying means regarding your package. Then ask the students if they have ever heard the saying used in another way. Tell students that sometimes people say, AI'm just getting by" which means that they are just making ends meet. Take time to allow students to respond. Ask: Have you ever heard someone say, "I can barely make ends meet"? What did that person mean by that? Be sure that students understand that the saying means to have enough money to live; to not spend more than is necessary and get into debt.
Tell the students that the saying comes from a term that bookkeepers used years ago. Explain that a bookkeeper keeps track of money received and money spent. Tell the students that these amounts are written in columns and the bookkeeper always wanted both columns to Amete" or be equal. The bookkeeper wanted to make sure that the money being spent was no more than the money being received. Draw a diagram on the board of two columns of numbers that are equal or Amete," and write the word as well.
Remind the students that sometimes people cannot make ends meet, which means they are spending more money than they are making. Ask the students to think of ways that people could help themselves make ends meet. List the questions below on the board or on chart paper and assign partners to come up with as many suggestions as possible for each question. (Sample suggestions are included.)
How could you avoid spending a lot of money on clothing? (wear hand-me-downs; make your own clothing; not worry about having the latest fashions; Arecycle" fashions; exchange with a same-size friend)
How could you avoid spending a lot of money on food? (eat meals at home, not at fast-food restaurants; cook meals that require low-cost ingredients; buy store brands rather than expensive name brands; buy foods in quantity when on sale)
How could you avoid spending a lot of money on video games and movies? (borrow them from the library at much lower cost; exchange with a friend; wait until they have been out for awhile and are less expensive; sell the ones you don't use anymore and use the money to buy others; read or play other kinds of games)
What are some other ways that people make ends meet? (get a second job; exchange services [e.g. babysit for someone in exchange for having them do your hair]; barter goods; use all the suggestions written above; share housing with another family or person)
After students have had sufficient time to work on the questions, ask for volunteers to share their suggestions. List these on the board, if there is time. Finally, ask a volunteer to tell the meaning of the saying, Make ends meet, in his or her own words.

 Fourth Grade - Literature - Poetry - A Tragic Story

Recognize that the title names the opposite of the content of the poem (irony).
Note the last line of each stanza ends with the words Abehind him."
With a partner, narrate and pantomime the poem.
Write about an Aimpossible" situation (optional).
Listen to a humorous story that contains irony (optional).

Copy of the poem, "A Tragic Story" on chart paper or transparency
Copy of the book, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, (optional)

Suggested Books
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992.
Noble, Trinka Hakes. Meanwhile Back at the Ranch. New York: Puffin, 1987.
A wonderful example of irony is contained in this humorous tale of Elna and Rancher Hicks, who lived out west where nothing much ever happened.

Teacher Background
William Makepeace Thackeray was born on July 11, 1811 in Calcutta, India, and died December 24, 1863 in London, England. He is the author of Vanity Fair as well as other works written under a variety of pen names.

Write the title "A Tragic Story" on the board and allow students a few minutes to first think about what the poem might be about and then to discuss it with a neighbor. Ask for a show of hands of those students who spoke to a classmate who had a similar idea. Invite a few volunteers to share their thoughts, then ask for a definition of Atragic." Remind students to think about what they know about tragedy. Be sure that the students recognize that when we say that something is tragic, we mean that it is serious. Tragic indicates that something is dreadful, fatal, or extremely sad.
Tell the students that there are some words in the poem that you'd like to explain before you read the poem to them. Write the following on the board allowing space to write a definition next to each: sage, mused, vain, pin, slack.
Explain that the poem is about a "sage," which is another word for a wise man (write the meanings on the board). In the poem, the sage "mused" or thought about something. Something happened in "vain," which means that it was unsuccessful or without change. Something he tried didn't matter a "pin," which means it didn't matter even one small bit. Even so, the sage never let his efforts "slack" or lessen.
Ask the students if, at this point, they have any better idea about what the poem is about. Ask: How might a wise man be involved in a tragic story? What might he be trying to do unsuccessfully? Allow one or two students to speculate, then read the poem, noting the author's name.

Fourth Grade - Literature - Poetry - A Tragic Story

A Tragic Story William M. Thackeray

There lived a sage in days of yore,
And he a handsome pigtail wore;
But wondered much, and sorrowed more,
Because it hung behind him.

He mused upon this curious case,
And swore he'd change the pigtail's place,
And have it hanging at his face,
Not dangling there behind him.

Says he, AThe mystery I've found--
I'll turn me round,"--he turned him round;
But still it hung behind him.

Then round and round, and out and in,
All day the puzzled sage did spin;
In vain--it mattered not a pin--
The pigtail hung behind him.

And right, and left, and round about,
And up, and down, and in, and out
He turned; but still the pigtail stout
Hung steadily behind him.

And though his efforts never slack,
And though he twist, and twirl, and tack,
Alas! Still faithful to his back,
The pigtail hangs behind him.

After you have completed reading the poem, ask the students if this was a tragic story. Ask: Did something dreadful happen? (no) How would you describe the events in the poem? (comic, silly) Ask for a volunteer to paraphrase the poem at this point to be sure that everyone understood the content. Point out to the students that the word "tragic" implies something important or serious, while the poem is really about something trivial. Tell them that when someone describes, explains or comments on something in a way that is the opposite of the literal (actual) meaning, it is called irony. Students should already be familiar with sarcasm, so explain that sarcasm is synonymous with irony. Ask the students if they recall hearing another example of irony in the poem itself (sage [wise man] who is really a fool). If students are having trouble understanding irony and sarcasm, provide examples like someone saying, "That was a GREAT idea!" when another person has made a mistake.
Display the poem and have a number of students read it by assigning volunteers a stanza or two. Tell those listening to try to visualize the man and his antics. Suggest that the sage might have looked a bit like Icabod Crane from AThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Note that the poet Thackeray lived from 1811 to 1863 and would have been familiar with gentlemen wearing pigtails.
Have the students look at the poem. Ask: What do you notice about each stanza? (first three lines end with rhyming words; last line is offset; last line of each stanza ends with the words Abehind him") Have the entire class read the poem along with you. Ask: What did the last line of each stanza do? (maintained a rhythm)
Pair the students and assign one as narrator and the other as performer. Have them practice the poem with one narrating while the other pantomimes the actions. After several minutes, have them exchange roles. Then after sufficient time is given for another performance, invite volunteers to perform. If the number of volunteers is large, consider group performances with several readers and several students pantomiming.

Additional Activities

Impossible Situations
Tell the students that they may have been reminded of a puppy or kitten chasing its tail when they heard about the sage in "A Tragic Story." Ask if anyone could name another incident that is really comic but could be written about as Atragic" because of its impossibility.
List ideas that the students suggest and add the following if students do not suggest them.
"catching" bubbles
pouring ocean water into a hole in the sand
"running" away from the tide
running up the down escalator
blowing out trick relighting birthday candles
trying to outrun one's shadow
getting up to turn off a dripping faucet that stops dripping when you reach it and begins dripping again when you sit down

Have the students write a paragraph (or stanza) about one of these Atragic" stories. Display them along with the heading "Tragic" Stories.

Another Example of Irony
Read the book Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Trinka Hakes Noble to the class. Students are sure to enjoy the hilarious illustrations, and dialogue. Challenge them to listen for the example of irony; it comes on the next-to-last page.

Fourth Grade - Literature - Poetry - Clarence

Make a shopping list for Clarence based on the poem.
Identify rhyming and non rhyming lines.
List the ways, according to the poem, you can tell that your parents are wearing out (optional).
Compose a commercial for a product Clarence might buy (optional).
Write an article introducing the author and identifying his style (optional).
Write a letter to a newspaper editor either supporting Shel Silverstein's work or his right to publish it (optional).
Create a character like Clarence Lee and write two lines with an accompanying illustration (optional).

Copy of the poem "Clarence" for each student, or on chart paper or transparency

Suggested Books
Cole, William, collected by. Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls. Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1964.
Contains "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout,"The Boy who Laughed at Santa Claus," and "Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore."
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992.
Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
Contains "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout."
________. A Light in the Attic. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
Contains AClarence."

Teacher Background
Students should already be familiar with Shel Silverstein, having read "Smart" in Second Grade and "Jimmy Jet and His TV Set" in Third Grade. If they don't recall his poems you will need to read or provide other selections so that they can identify Silverstein's style.
A number of additional activities are included with this lesson as well as having the students discuss poem and look at its rhyme pattern. The activity "Parents" would probably be the most logical continuation, but any of the activities would be appropriate. Consider assigning some for homework.

Write or display the title and first four lines of the poem ("Clarence Lee from Tennessee loved the commercials he saw on TV. He watched them with wide believing eyes and bought everything they advertised--") Ask the students to imagine what might happen in the rest of the poem and allow time for volunteers to share their ideas.
Tell the students that the poem was written by Shel Silverstein and ask them if they can recall any of his other poems. Ask: Can anyone predict the kind of poem it will be based on knowing the poet's name and having a familiarity with other poems by him? Do they expect it to be comic or tragic?
Read the poem.

Ask the students if they were correct with their predictions. Did they expect Clarence would send for new parents? What do they think of the poem? What do they think Shel Silverstein was trying to do with this poem? Was he just trying to make people laugh, or was he sending a message? Is there a message? Ask the students if they think that they are influenced by television advertising. Allow time for students to respond to each.
Display or distribute the poem and have the students read along with you or volunteer to read aloud a few lines at a time. Ask: Do the lines of the poem rhyme? (most do) How many in succession do? (2 at a time) If the students have not already noticed, tell them that not all the pairs of lines rhyme and challenge them to find those that Aalmost" do. (eyes-advertised, breath-sweat, fine-kind-mine, mean-beans) Are the Aalmost" rhymes close enough? Do you still feel a rhythm to the poem?
Pair the students and challenge the partners work together to make a list of Clarence's purchases. Tell them that there are 10 items in addition to the new parents. After they list the 10 items have them list a brand name next to each for as many items on the list as they can. Remind them that they must limit the names to products that they have seen or heard advertised on TV.
When the majority of students have completed the list have several students read theirs. When product names are read ask for a show of hands to indicate those who listed the same brand. Ask: Do you think Shel Silverstein was sending a message about all of us?

Products Clarence bought:
1. skin cream
2. hair spray
3. bleach
4. jeans
5. toothpaste
6. flea powder
7. mouthwash
8. deodorant
9. cereal
10. games

Have the students recall the way that Silverstein describes parents who are ready to be traded in (see below). Then tell the students the following: since you know how Clarence's old parents treated him before he got rid of them, how do you think his brand-new parents treat him? Write a description of the commercial he might have seen that convinced him to buy them.
Ask the students: How do you think Clarence looks now that he can do as he pleases? Is he scruffy and unkept or neat and clean? Is he eating well and getting enough sleep? Do you think he will continue to be happy, or do you think he'll trade-in his new parents someday, too? Ask: Do you think Clarence's parents might want to trade him in? Write a commercial advertising a new and improved Clarence.

So if your Maw and Paw are mean
And make you eat your lima beans
And make you wash and make you wait
And never let you stay up late
And scream and scold and preach and pout,
That simply means they're wearing out.

Author's Style
Ask the students to think about how they would describe Shel Silverstein's poems to someone else. Tell them to pretend that they are responsible for writing an article him to the students at your school. Tell them to think about what someone should expect when they read a poem written by Shel Silverstein. Remind them to think about the people he writes about in his poems; who he writes his poems for (children or adults); messages that may be present in his poems; and how you think other students will respond to his work.

TV Commercials
Have the students write about a television commercial that caught their attention. Have them name the product being advertised and the method the advertiser used to get them to want to buy the product (song, jingle, famous celebrity, convince you that you need it, etc.).
Suggest that they draw a picture of the product as well and explain why they would buy the product.

Banned Books
Tell the students that some people think that Shel Silverstein's books should be banned. Ask them why they think that might be. Explain that these people claim that he encourages disrespect and criticism of parents and suggests bad ideas. Ask: Do you think that Shel Silverstein does that with this poem? Allow students to discuss this idea.
Ask: What would you say in support of Mr. Silverstein's writing? Even if you don't like his poems, do you think that he should have the right to publish them? Allow time for discussion, pointing out that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. If a student(s) feels that Mr. Silverstein should not have the right to publish his poems ask if he or she would want to have the First Amendment removed, and allow time for discussion.
Have the students write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper supporting Mr. Silverstein's writing and/or his right to have his poems published, or have them write in favor of the removal of the First Amendment. Remind students that a letter to the editor expresses personal opinion.

Charming Children
Tell the students that Shel Silverstein is not the only poet to write about obnoxious children, however he has written about several. Explain that Ogden Nash (of AIsabel" fame in Third Grade) and William Brighty Rands also wrote about them. Share Silverstein's poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" (who would not take the garbage out), Nash's "Jabez Dawes" (the boy who laughed at Santa Claus), and Rands' "Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore" (the boy who never would shut the door).
After reading about several of these children ask the students if any of their behaviors seem familiar. Is there anyone in the class who never shuts the door (or picks up their clothes, or makes their bed, or clears the table)? Take a few minutes to discuss and compare.

Imagine a Character
Ask the students to tell what information is included in the first two lines of the poem "Clarence" (his name, where he is from, and what he loved). Point out that what Clarence loved (commercials he saw on TV) rhymed with where he was from (Tennessee), which rhymed with his name (Clarence Lee). Write the words "Name," "Place," and "Love" on the board. Under the word "Place" list the following: Maryland, New York, Delaware, Mexico, Germany, Singapore.

Fourth Grade - Literature - Poetry - Clarence

Challenge the students to come up with a name and a love to go with each. For example:
Samantha Grand
Harold Mork
New York


The sentences might read:

Samantha Grand from Maryland, Loved the castles she built in the sand.
Harold Mork from New York, Loved to eat with a long-handled fork.

Have students do illustrations of the character they created, incorporating the name of the place from which they hailed by drawing a map of the place on the wall next to the character, or by having the character wear a T shirt or baseball cap bearing its name.

Fourth Grade - Literature - "Ain't I a Woman?"

Recall the meaning of "rights."
Listen to the story of Sojourner Truth's life and relate it to the speech.
Respond to the speech in the character of either a man or a woman at the 1851 convention.

Copy of Sojourner Truth's speech for transparency (attached)

Suggested Books
Ferris, Jeri. Walking the Road to Freedom: A Story about Sojourner Truth. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1988.
Ferris includes interesting insights into Sojourner Truth's life in this longer chapter book. Additional information on her life is included at the end of the book, as well as a map that traces her travels.
Hakim, Joy. Liberty for All? New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Pages 130 and 131 contain excerpts from Sojourner Truth's speech and information about the time period.
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992.
Contains a copy of Sojourner Truth's speech.
Macht, Norman L. Junior World Biographies: Sojourner Truth. New York: Chelsea House, 1992.
Factual account of Sojourner Truth's life interspersed with photographs and period drawings. A chronology and glossary are included, as well as a list of suggested readings.
McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick. Sojourner Truth: A Voice for Freedom. Hillside, NJ: Enslow Publishing, 1992.
Very basic text, illustrated with photographs and period drawings. A good choice for the less-sophisticated fourth grade reader.
________. Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? New York: Scholastic, 1992.
This chapter book is an excellent selection for the fourth grade reader. The McKissacks have balanced historical detail with personal glimpses into the life of this fascinating and powerful woman.
Shumate, Jane. Sojourner Truth and the Voice of Freedom. Brookfield, CN: Milbrook Press, 1991.
The book opens with Sojourner Truth's speech in 1851 then gives an abbreviated history of her life. Included are cameos of Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as well as a time line highlighting important events in her life.

Teacher Background
Sojourner Truth is included in American History Lesson 22 this month, however because background on her life and work is included with this study of her speech, this lesson should be completed first.
If possible, read the McKissacks' book, Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? to the class, or obtain copies for the students and have them read along. If there is not time to read the entire book, consider reading selections.
Be sure to practice reading the speech before you deliver it to the class. Students should be able to hear the strength of Sojourner Truth's voice in the lines. As you discuss the speech, explain to the students that the religious beliefs of the people of this time were very important. Point out that you are reporting the events of the time, not preaching about a particular religion. Remind the students that many people came to America for religious freedom.

Begin the lesson by writing the word Arights" on the board. Ask the students to give a definition and add it to the board as well (the freedom to do a certain activity, power or privilege granted by law or nature). Ask students to name several rights of the American people (vote, free speech, to live wherever you want, belong to any religion, etc.).
Remind the class that at one time in our country not everyone had those rights. Native Americans, slaves, black people and women all had to struggle to receive them. Tell the students that you will be telling them about a woman who spoke out for several of the groups.
Tell the students to try to visualize the story that you will be telling them. Explain that the story begins in 1797. The American colonies have recently become states due to their rebellion against and war with England. John Adams is now the president, having replaced George Washington.
The story opens in New York, one of only two Northern states that allow slavery (the other is New Jersey). Tell the students that their focus is a tiny baby girl named Isabella who has just been born. Her parents are slaves and unfortunately, so is Isabella. Isabella has ten brothers and sisters but they are not there to welcome her because they have been sold and are no longer with their parents. Ask the students to tell how Isabella's parents look to them. Are they happy or sad? What are they worried about?
Tell the students to fast-forward to the year 1810. Belle, as she was nicknamed by her parents, is now thirteen years old. She is tall--nearly six feet-- and strong. Her life has been very hard, she has already been sold three times and has had four different owners. Belle's last name has changed each time she has been sold. Because she is considered property, she is not even allowed her own last name. Say: As you look at Belle notice that she doesn't bow her head. She stands up straight with a look of determination on her face. Ask: What do you think Belle thinks about the future?
Belle has been with the same owner for seven years and during that time has been married to another slave named Tom. It is now 1817. A law has been passed that guarantees the freedom of all slaves over the age of twenty-five. It will take effect on July 4, 1827. That is ten years away, when Belle will be thirty years old. Belle is so happy that she sings while she works. What is she happy about? What does she think will happen?
Now Belle and Tom have four children: three daughters and a son. It is 1825, only two years to go until Belle and Tom will be free. Dumont, their owner, offers Belle a deal. If she works extra hard during the next year, he will let her have her freedom a year early. Belle agrees. Another daughter will be born to Belle during the year, but she doesn't let this slow her down. Even an injury that cripples Belle's hand doesn't stop her. Why is Belle working so hard? What difference does an extra year make?
At the end of the year a terrible thing happens. Do you know what it is? Dumont goes back on his word, he refuses to let Belle go. Belle calls her family around her; she is sad but she is angry and determined, too. Can you hear what she is telling her family? She is saying that she must leave; she cannot stay. She will take the baby with her, but she is leaving. How does family feel? What do they tell her?
Belle leaves; she doesn't travel very far and she finds a couple, the Van Wageners, who take her and her baby, Sophia, in. They are even willing to pay $25 for Belle and $5 for Sophia when Dumont finds them. The Van Wageners are Quakers and do not believe in slavery, they have only paid the money to help Sojourner to freedom. Belle and the baby live with them and Belle listens to the Bible and learns more about God. Belle first learned about God from her mother. Belle believes that God has looked out for her and will help her in her life. How does Belle look? Is she happy to be free? Why does she still look sad?
Over the next years Belle's life will take many turns. Her son will be sold and she will go to court to win him back, becoming the first black woman in the country to win a court case. She will work for many different people and learn new things. Tom will die and Belle will be separated from her children. She will be sad and lonely many times but she knows in her heart that there is something leading her on. What do you think is leading Belle on?
As she grows older and meets more people, Belle realizes that there are many people with causes. Some people want the slaves freed, some people want more rights for women, some think that all people should have the right to vote. Belle knows that there are many wrongs to right and she sets out to do this. She changes her names as she sets forth. She is now Sojourner, chosen because she believes that just as the word means, she is a traveler; her last name is of her choosing as well. She is Sojourner Truth because God is her only master now and His name is Truth. Why do you think having a last name is so special to Sojourner? What does her name mean to those who hear of her?
Sojourner now travels and sings and speaks where she is invited. She tells the story of her life and suffering and tells that slavery is evil and should be abolished, or stopped. Her life is written down in a book called Narrative of Sojourner Truth. It is her autobiography--the story of her life, written by her. People who see her are impressed with her height and strong voice. They are also impressed by her gentle ways. Why do people stop to listen to Sojourner?
It is now 1851. Sojourner has come to a convention organized by women who want to talk about their rights. Women are not allowed to own property, to vote, or manage their own money. Married women must ask their husbands for permission before they do anything or go anywhere. The speakers at this convention are giving their views on this subject. Many men do not see why women need these rights and they claim that men are superior to women. They even say that the Bible teaches this. Of course Sojourner knows that the Bible does not say this. She also knows that there are women--black women in the South--who do not even have their own names, much less property to worry about. Some of the women in the audience are worried that Sojourner will talk about abolishing slavery and not about women's rights. (Tell the students to listen carefully to what Sojourner says at this convention. Tell them that these are her exact words.)

Read Sojourner Truth's speech slowly, taking time to clearly enunciate the words.
When you have finished reading, ask the students to describe what they think was the reaction of the people listening to the speech. Ask them to tell what they think about the speech. Then display the speech and tell them to follow along with you as you read it again.
After you have read the speech again, discuss it with the students. The first two paragraphs should be self-explanatory with the exception of the reference to thirteen children. That line is intended to describe Sojourner's mother, whose sorrow at losing her children haunted her until her death. Point out to the students that to Sojourner, it seemed ridiculous to try to separate her color from her gender. Yes, she was a woman--a woman who just happened to be black.
Tell the students that the third paragraph is very important and ask if anyone can explain its meaning. Be sure that students understand that this is a response to those who said that women and Negroes weren't as intelligent as white men. Help them to see that Sojourner was saying that everyone should be allowed to go as far as their potential will let them. By keeping others (women and blacks) from having their rights the white men were saying that only a select group of people should be allowed to do anything. That would be like saying unless you can play like Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal, you shouldn't be allowed to play basketball; or only people who get straight As can go to school.
The next two paragraphs refer to religious beliefs. Tell students that Christians believe that Jesus Christ, the son of God, was born and lived on Earth. Sojourner was saying that Christ was born from God and a woman; a man didn't have anything to do with it.
The first woman refers to Eve, of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Ask if anyone knows the story and can share it or tell the following.

Adam and Eve were the first people made by God. They were put in a wonderful garden and told that they could eat from any of the trees but one; the tree of knowledge. A serpent tricked Eve into taking the fruit of the tree and offering it to Adam. They ate the fruit, which displeased God and he sent them from the garden.

Sojourner was saying, if you think that one woman was strong enough to cause all your problems, imagine what a group of them can do! If women could turn things upside down, they can turn them right side up, too.

Ask the students why they think Sojourner Truth's speech was so important. What did she help people to realize that day? (Answers will vary, but should include some reference to the rights of all people being important, not the rights of one group being more important than others.) Sojourner spoke for women; she spoke for black women and for black women who were slaves.

Tell the students to imagine that they were in the audience when Sojourner truth spoke at the convention. Pose the following situations and questions and have the students respond in writing as whichever person they choose.

Imagine that you are a white woman sitting in the audience. How do you feel when Sojourner gets up to speak? How do you feel when she has finished speaking? What would you say to her about her speech?

Imagine that you are a white man sitting in the audience. How do you feel about the idea of women holding this convention? What are you worried about? What do you think about Sojourner Truth? What would you say to her about her speech?

Well, children, there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that >twixt the Negroes of the South and the women of the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me the best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man--when I could get it--and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in my head: what's that they call it? [Intellect, someone whispers.] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or Negro's rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my half-measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and woman! Man had nothing to do with him!
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner Truth ain't got more to say.


Cole, William, collected by. Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls. Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1964.
Ferris, Jeri. Walking the Road to Freedom: A Story about Sojourner Truth. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1988. (0-87614-318-4)
Hakim, Joy. Liberty for All? New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. (0-669-36836-9)
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992. (0-385-31260-1)
Macht, Norman L. Junior World Biographies: Sojourner Truth. New York: Chelsea House, 1992. (0-7910-1754-0)
McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick. Sojourner Truth: A Voice for Freedom. Hillside, NJ: Enslow Publishing, 1992. (0-89490-313-6)
________. Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? New York: Scholastic, 1992. (0-590-44691-6)
Noble, Trinka Hakes. Meanwhile Back at the Ranch. New York: Puffin, 1987. (0-14-054564-6)
Shumate, Jane. Sojourner Truth and the Voice of Freedom. Brookfield, CN: Milbrook Press, 1991. (1-56294-041-4)
Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. (0-06-025668-0)
________. A Light in the Attic. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. (0-06-025673-7)

Teacher Reference
Morris, William and Mary. Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. New York: Harper & Row, 1977, 1988. (0-06-015862-X)
Room, Adrian, revised by. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. New York: HarperCollins, 1959, 1995. (0-06-270133-9)