Making Curriculum Pop

This is a link to an article about The Storm in the Barn, a new graphic novel about the Dust Bowl as seen form a child's perspective written and illustrated by Matt Phelan.

Are there any other graphic novels about the Dust Bowl or great accompanying books to go along with novels like To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Sean, obviously you can use the photos of Dorothea Lange collected in this book. You can also pick up a cheap photo book like this one 1930s: Decades of the 20th Century tear it up, and use those still images to enter into the decade and its issues.

You also might check out this UVA website on the Comic Strips of the 1930s.

You might e-mail my mom about Depression era stuff (Pam Goble) as she does some really wonderful stuff at the middle school level with the film Kit Kittredge - An American Girl My mom says her 7th and 8th Graders get big time into Hobos. John Hodgman's (the Daily Show, "the PC") "PBS mocumentary, Hobo Matters is a great fact vs. fiction adventure to begin a unit with.

A clip:

If you're doing TKAM make sure you get a copy of the Film Foundations TKAM movie teaching guide for extra ideas. - also I think MC POPPER Frank Baker wrote a piece on TKAM for the Australian Mag Screen Education. You can ask him for a PDF of that article if he has it.

The graphic novel Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow deals with similar themes.

Hopefully this brain fart will help!


There is a wonderful series from Perfection Learning on the Depression...poems, oral histories, short stories, etc.
Richard Peck has his Chicago series out that occurred during the Depression and of course,Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.
The American Girl movie Kit Kitteredge sp? is tremendous. Studs Terkel is more adult, but you can use some things.
I will think of more.
Thank you, both! I tried having students do a "webquest" on The Great Depression. It didn't work out well. Webquests, while they seem to be a good idea, are not a good idea. So I've been looking for more engaging materials and activities to provide them. Studying songs like "Big Rock Candy Mountain", "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", and some of Woody Guthrie's tunes from his Dust Bowl album can definitely be helpful, BUT students just don't like the music (I just use the lyrics for most). So I wanted to find some great accompanying materials, and I saw that this graphic novel was coming out, and I thought it would be great.
Frank Baker wrote me and pointed out that his TKAM materials are here...

"To Kill A Mockingbird this home page
has links to parts 1 and 4 pdfs of parts One and Part Four
(they screwed up parts 2 and 3 in the magazine, so the links to those go just to my film study guide)"

Also I totally forgot these rockhall lesson plans on the depression.

Lesson 9: Woody Guthrie and The Grapes of Wrath

And of course Springsteen does the whole "Ghosts of Tom Joad" album that might be worth a look. might check out Catherine Gourley's book: Rosie and Mrs. America : Perceptions of Women in the 1930s and 1940s [Volume 3]. Full blog post on her "Women and Media" series here.
and re: webquests - have you read Bernie Dodge's WebQuest guidelines - these usually help make them work better...see:

• Dodge Bernie. “Five Rules for Writing a Great WebQuest.” Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 28, No. 8 6-9, 58. May 2001.
Annnnnddd, I rememberd this while I was swimming. On NPR the Kitchen sisters do a series called "Lost and Found Sound" that is off the hook. Here's an episode that will rock your socks off for teaching the Depression. Their work really forces kids to listen.

All Things Considered - July 28, 2000
In 1940, Charles Todd was hired by the Library of Congress to travel around California and record the lives, stories and music of Dust Bowl refugees. Todd made the trip with Robert Sonkin, and they traveled around the state’s central valley -- the flat, agricultural land John Steinback wrote about in The Grapes of Wrath. Lugging a 50-pound recording machine, the two men created an oral history of refugees from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas who had left their draught and depression-ravaged homelands to look for jobs in the west.

The thousands of refugee farmers who showed up in California in the late 1930s outnumbered the jobs that were available. Many ended up living in migratory labor camps created for them by the Farm Security Administration.

There, despite great poverty and displacement, they created vibrant communities. They told stories, sang love ballads, debated amongst themselves and held square dances. The sounds of their new lives were captured by Todd and Sonkin using a "Presto" recorder
that imprinted sound on aluminum discs.

In this piece from Lost and Found Sound, Charles Todd talks about the places he visited and the people he recorded.

Full story and audio here.
Interesting new book reviewed in the NY Times:

A Life Beyond Limits
By Linda Gordon
Illustrated. 536 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $35

Article Picturing the Depression can be found here.
I have long suspected Woody's lyrics could be used to make some really cool comics.... Maybe a strip per verse (or in extreme cases a full graphic novel out of the heart of a single song!) or at least a couple pages uniting the stories of the verses together (with some unifying theme / motif supplied by the chorus?). Of course, Woody's own cartoons could provide a jumping-off point & excuse for playful artwork.

I've posted some basic dustbowl conversation-starters (for much much younger students) here:
...and possibly some of the linked resources (photos, lyrics, &c.) can be of help.

Recordings of Guthrie can be hard for our students professional-pop-sweetened ears to appreciate, sort of like suddenly confronting a bowl of cold raw groats when you're used to eating nothing but circus peanuts... But SINGING them (in whatever style suits you) is another matter altogether! Also, remember that album by Billy Bragg & Wilco -- MERMAID AVENUE? -- where they took WG lyrics and set them to more modern folk-rock. I can't help but wonder if you could do the same for other genres... Woody Guthrie hip-hop? Some songs, maybe.

And then there's that John Sayles film, MATEWAN, which deals with some of the labor rights issues central to Guthrie's work, plus issues of race relations, solidarity, class identity ... uh, but I think that's from the 1920s.



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