Subject Area : Language Arts
Reading Level : 5.1
The year is 1912. The place is Newfoundland, Canada. Maggie Wells, a 12-year-old girl living in a small fishing village, spends her days playing with her faithful companion; a black Newfoundland dog named Sirius. However, when Maggie learns about a new law prohibiting all non-sheepherding dogs, she must summon all her courage and determination to protect her canine friend. Will Maggie save her precious Sirius, or will Sirius be the one who finally saves the day?
Students will explore a major theme in the novel through journal writing, discussion, identify textual evidence, and synthesizing their ideas in a creative written response.
Standard: Understands specific devices an author uses to accomplish his or her purpose (e.g., portrayal of themes)
Ask students to write in their journals about a person who is courageous.
Use the following prompts to get started:
- Who is this person?
- What makes this person courageous?
- What does he/she do or say that demonstrates courage?
- When is he/she most courageous?
For example, students might write about firefighters, police officers, soldiers, and other "heroes" in their community. They also might write about historical figures or about family members who acted bravely in the face of danger or difficult times. Encourage students to be detailed and descriptive in their writing.
Invite students to share their responses to the Warm-up Activity. Discuss as a class the different ways people show courage. Remind the class that some "heroes" are obvious, like firefighters and soldiers who risk their lives, while others can be found in your own family or circle of friends — the "unsung heroes" who show bravery as they overcome life's obstacles.
Who Shows Courage How They Show Courage Evidence of Courage
- Discuss the theme of courage in Star in the Storm . Where is courage evident in the book? How do the individual characters display courage? Why do you think courage is an important theme in this story? Who is the most courageous character and why?
- To help students organize their thoughts and ideas, make a three-column chart as follows:
Maggie Wells Rows out to the iceberg to get pp. 38–45
ice for her ailing friend Vera in
the middle of a storm
- Tell students to fill in the chart completely. Think about all the different characters and events in the book that demonstrate and depict courage.
- Ask students to choose one character to honor with a "Courage Award." Possible choices include: Maggie, Vera (her cousin), Sirius (the dog), Ma, Pa, Otto, etc. Refer back to the Warm-up Activity & Discussion, reminding the class to consider both obvious and "unsung" heroes in the novel. Once selected, they will create and design an award for their character. Look at examples of award certificates to model the style and format. All awards should include the character's name, a detailed description of his/her courageous acts, and the reasons why he/she receives this prestigious honor.
Follow-up Activity The class presents their Courage Awards in a special ceremony. Divide the class into two groups: Presenters and Winners. The Winners dress up like the courageous characters, while the Presenters read and hand out the awards. The Winners can also give brief acceptance speeches, thanking the Presenters for their awards.
Other Books About Courage
Nory Ryan's Song
by Patricia Reilly Giff
A young girl living in Ireland during the 1800s shows great courage helping her family survive the terrible potato famine.
Out of the Dust
by Karen Hesse
Written in verse form, this poignant story chronicles the life of a young girl during the Great Depression.
Other Books by Joan Hiatt Harlow
The Mysterious Doctor Chen
Teaching plan written by Lauren Gold