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by Phillip Martin
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C. Getting Started   Begin the lesson by reading a variety of African stories to the students.  These could be from the school or public library and your personal children's library which should include Mufara's Beautiful Daughter by John Steptoe, When Africa Was Home by Karen Lynn Williams, A Country Far Away by Nigel Gray, and The Fortune-Tellers by Lloyd Alexander.   There are also sources located over the Internet which can be accessed from my Links page.  However, I have also had great success with these African stories that were gathered in Liberia, Spider and the Honey Tree, Black Snake and the Eggs, and The Chief Who Was No Fool.

Gather the students on the floor in a circle. Pretend they are in an African village at night, circled around a fire. Turn the lights out for a nighttime effect.

D. To the Board, Please    Ask the students to brainstorm facts about African culture, tradition, history, religion, family life, work, food, environment, or dress based on information from the stories and illustrations.   It may take a bit of prompting to begin, but the length of the list will be surprising.

E. Activity One -- Folk Tales Presentations      Give the students at least one period to read more folk tales on their own.  After reading several folk tales, have the students work in small groups and select the one story they liked the most.  This will be rewritten by the students in their own words and then illustrated by the students.  (It will be helpful if the students can identify the location in Africa where the story originated so they can later research authentic details about the specific region for their illustrations.)

Getting Organized     It will take the students a while to get themselves organized with this activity.  In one or two periods they should be able to divide the story into sections and assign one or two pages (depending on the size of the group) to each member of the group.

Individual Responsibility     Each student will be responsible for writing the section of the story for their assigned pages and for creating the illustrations.  In addition, each illustration should represent at least two researched facts about some aspect of African life.  For example, the illustration could include an authentic style of dress, type of homes built in that area, farming tools, animals of the region, or musical instruments. (One period is required for research.)

Web Site, PowerPoint, HyperStudio, or Paper      Ideally, each student could make a web site to "publish" the research.x PowerPoint or HyperStudio could also be used in this activity to display the story and illustrations.  However, if these are not available, students could use paper to create books.  I personally prefer a web page or PowerPoint.   Since these are widely used by the business world, it is never too early to introduce students to a "real life" working skill.  However, it may be that the students introduce this to their teacher.  :-)

To the Computer Lab     It usually takes students one or two periods in the computer lab to learn the ins and outs of web design, PowerPoint, or HyperStudio.  Have students who know how to use the programs sit next to those who don't know.  Peers helping peers is a major "teacher sanity saver" in the computer lab.  After learning how to use the program, it takes a student an average of one page per period.  It is possible for individual students to work on different computers and then later have the work assembled together for the final story book presentation.

Show and Tell     Once the books are completed, an opportunity must be given to share their work with younger students.  However, older students do not automatically know how to read to little children.  Before this is done, the students need to practice reading and sharing their stories.  There is a soothing tone of voice that teachers use when talking to little kids.  You know what I mean.  Your students need to practice that same technique.  I learned the importance of this the hard way.  If your students don't practice, the reading session doesn't work successfully.

Evaluation     I consider this activity an introduction to African culture, research, and the computer lab.  I don't heavily weigh this section of the project.

Level 4 
The written portion of the assignment has very few, if any, punctuation and grammar errors.  Story and conversation are written in an engaging manner.   The factual information about Africa is woven into the text smoothly.  Illustrations indicate time and effort and two researched facts are identified.
Level 3
The written portion of the assignment has several punctuation and grammar errors.  The student has included conversation and factual information, but not as smoothly as desired.  Two researched facts are included in the illustrations.
Level 2
The student needs to take more time to edit the written piece.  Some conversation is included.  Two researched facts may not be evident in all illustrations.
Level 1
The student's writing makes you want to quit your job and move to Africa.  Little if any evidence of paragraphs, editing, or conversation.   Impossible to figure out researched information in the art.


Bushmask2j.jpg (2229 bytes)Activity Two
Bushmask2j.jpg (2229 bytes)Activity Three
Bushmask2j.jpg (2229 bytes)Standards