An innovative unit plan for studying Amelia Earhart and practicing the step-by-step expository writing process.
- Identify the author's purpose in an autobiography
- Identify character traits that fulfill personal goals
- Learn the purpose of an anecdote
- Pencil and paper
- Copies of excerpts from The Fun of It about Earhart's first transatlantic flight, which can be found on the internet, in various literature textbooks, or copied directly from the book
- A map of the world showing North America, the Atlantic Ocean, and the United Kingdom
- Pictures of Amelia Earhart from either the internet (the Purdue University Libraries website has a great collection of photographs of Earhart) or a book (Sky Pioneer: A Photo Biography of Amelia Earhart by Corinne Szabo features photographs and quotes from Earhart)
Set Up and Prepare
- Acquire copies of Earhart’s story of her transatlantic flight, as found in her autobiography. It's best to use an autobiographical version if you wish to discuss point of view.
- Gather maps of the world. Make copies for each student or create a poster-size display for the whole group.
- Obtain pictures of Earhart, either from vintage newspapers, books, or the internet. You may want to use Sky Pioneer: A Photo Biography of Amelia Earhart by Corinne Szabo. Pictures of Earhart's airplane are especially important for students to visualize her experience of crossing the Atlantic.
I usually plan on this lesson taking two class periods to allow time for my slower readers. This time can be adjusted based on the needs of your own students.
Step 1: Begin by showing students pictures of Earhart. Remind students that when Earhart earned this license, American culture frowned upon women wearing pants and daring such feats.
Step 2: Show pictures of Earhart as a young girl and explain how typical her life was as a young person. Describe how Earhart’s life changed when she was 11 and went to the Iowa State Fair. This develops personal relevance for my students since many of them are this age. Mention at this point that Amelia saw an airplane for the first time at this age, but was unimpressed. Tell the students that she did not begin to dream of flying until the summer of 1920 when she was 23 years old.
Step 3: Continue through Earhart's life, telling the story with pictures, and include information about the men in her life, her accomplishments, time spent with Eleanor Roosevelt, and the day of her disappearance.
Step 4: Tell the students that, after this overview of Earhart’s life, they will now read an anecdote of her transatlantic flight. Explain to the students that an anecdote is a true story written about a specific event from a person’s life.
Step 5: Distribute the excerpts of Earhart’s transatlantic flight from The Fun of It. Show students the map of the world. Ask a student to find Trepassey, Newfoundland, and ask another to find Burry Port, Wales. Explain that this was Earhart’s path across the Atlantic Ocean.
Step 6: To set a purpose for reading, ask the students to make notes while reading of details that signify Earhart’s purpose for writing The Fun of It. Did she write to entertain, inform, explain, express an opinion, or persuade her readers? Students will find examples of more than one possible purpose for writing. What matters is that they accurately match the evidence to the purpose. Allow students to read independently or with a partner.
Step 7: When students finish reading, have them share, with the class or with a partner, Earhart’s purpose for writing.
Step 8: Ask students what Earhart’s goal was in this anecdote. (Her goal was completing the transatlantic flight successfully.) Have students continue to find information about Earhart’s personality that helped her reach her goals.
Step 9: Discuss how Earhart's determination and problem-solving skills possibly saved her life during this voyage.
Supporting All Learners
The most inclusion will be reached by offering students the option to read independently or to read with a partner. Depending on your setup and classroom management style, you may choose to do Steps 6, 7, and 8 with partners or small groups in order to support all learners.
Integrate a math and social studies lesson by having students use the map key to calculate the distance of Earhart’s flight. Use the formula of “rate x time = distance” to see how fast Earhart was flying, since it took her 20 hours and 40 minutes to complete the flight. Complete a function by changing the rate or time accordingly to further explain the correlation of the variables in the formula.
Ask students to request of a parent or family member to share an anecdote from his or her childhood. In a light-hearted way, tell the students to remind the adults that an anecdote is a truthful story.
If the students can apply the goal of identifying author’s purpose in an activity similar to assessment suggestion 3, the students achieved the lesson objective. Also, students successfully described only one event in assessment suggestion 4, then they understand how an anecdote differs from a memoir.
- If students read independently, give them a reading comprehension quiz in order to assess each one's attention to detail.
- Observe students participation in partnerships or groups when matching evidence to writer’s purpose.
- Give students a new anecdote that has a clear purpose for which it was written. Have them underline details from the excerpt that support the purpose.
- Assign a journal activity to write a personal anecdote. Check to make sure students write about only one event.