Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds Lesson Plan
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
From the beauty of the mountains to the coal mines below, Cynthia Rylant takes us on a guided tour of Appalachia. Using a warm, friendly style, the author shares the sights, sounds, and smells. From day to day life to the seasonal changes, this book offers a wonderful view of West Virginia.
Behind The Scenes
Cynthia Rylant grew up in West Virginia. Between the ages of four and eight, she lived with her grandparents. Her grandfather had been a coal miner since he was a young boy.
Rylant's picture book When I Was Young in the Mountains offers another look at Appalachia, and can be used as a story connection.
The introduction to this book, which happens to be an excerpt from James Agee's Knoxville: Summer 1915, should also be read aloud more than once. It explains the significance of the title and it's a nice way to show how one writer influences another, and how easy it is to move from place to place.
Many Different Directions
On a map, find West Virginia. Talk about the size, the shape, and the location of this state. Mention that West Virginia is known as the Mountain State. Gather pictures that show the mountains, steep hills, and rugged landscape of this place. Explain that Appalachia refers to the area between the Allegheny Highland in the Appalachian Mountains, and the Allegheny Plateau. As a group, collect facts and information about West Virginia and coal mines.
Locate Knoxville, Tennessee on a map. Determine which region of the country this state is in and, where it is in relation to West Virginia. Barry Moser, the illustrator of this book, was raised in Tennessee. Read aloud “About the Illustrator” on the last page of the book. Display books, pictures, and brochures on Tennessee. Spotlight the Great Smoky Mountains, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville.
Take a class survey. Mention that some people never leave Appalachia. Explain that those who do often come back. Develop the concept that some people live in the same place for their whole lives. Others may move around often. Survey the class. Find out how many youngsters have lived in the same place since they were born. Determine how many moved once since birth. Ask how many moved more than once. Show your findings on a pictograph.
Plan a book talk. Read aloud When I Was Young in the Mountains, Rylant's Caldecott winner that captures the pleasures of growing up in Appalachia. Consider why this author uses the same setting for different stories. Display But I'll Be Back Again: An Autobiography by the Newberry Award winning Author (Cynthia Rylant, Beech Tree, 1993). Mention that in this book, Rylant tells about growing up in rural West Virginia, and explains where some of her book ideas came from.
Share details on Appalachia. Talk about how authors use words to take readers to places they remember. Then, see what students remember about Appalachia. Have them think of words that can be use under each heading.