Letters from Rifka

Author: Karen Hesse

Grade Level: 4th and 5th grades

Publisher and Date: Scholastic Inc., 1992

Summary: This book is an in-depth look at a 12 year old girl's struggle to get to America from Russia. Her family had to flee Russia so her brothers would not be killed because they fled their regiment in the Russian armed services. This story talks about the issues addressed when immigrants are trying to get to America in the early 1900's and the struggles Rifka must survive if she ever hopes to reach America. As the story develops, the reader becomes more aware of the struggles the immigrants faced.

Social Studies Relevance: This book will lead to an examination of World War II, the issues immigrants faced when coming to America, the geographic region of Europe, and conditions in America in the early 1900's.

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

Curriculum Developer: Rachelle Adair

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Lesson Plans:

As We Read

Objective:

Materials Needed: response journal, the book

Procedures:

Response Journals: Explain to the students that they will be reading the book Letters from Rifka. Tell the students that this book is broken into individual letters, instead of chapters. Tell the students that they are going to be making a time line at the end of the book, so they will need to record the date, events, and location of each of the letters. Let them know that their journals will serve as a reference while completing the time line activity. Tell the students that they are also expected to record their feelings about the events in each letter and what they would do if they were in Rifka's situation.

Evaluation: The evaluation of the students's journals will be an ongoing process. At the end of each week, the journals will be turned in for evaluation. The journal responses will be checked for accurate dates, events, and location of each letter. The students will also be evaluated on their feelings and responses to each letter in the book.

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Cultures and Diversity

Objectives:

Materials Needed: Students need to be given time, throughout the unit, in which to research their assigned cultures. Research materials will be needed. (Approximate time frame for this project, 2 weeks.)

Procedures:

  1. Research Project. Students will brainstorm different cultures. Cultures related to the book should be researched, along with other cultures. Cultures such as those of Germany, Poland, Belgium, Russia, and America. Cultures unrelated to the book could deal with those of Denmark, Sweden, England, Spain, Italy, Austria, Yugoslavia, etc. Students will be put in groups, based on their interests. Students will, individually, write down three cultures they most want to research. The teacher will then group the students, based on their number one interest, as much as possible. The students grouped together will then be the research team for that culture. Research teams will be expected to find information about the beliefs, or traditions, their assigned culture maintains that are different from what they know of the beliefs, or traditions, in America. Students will be expected to find prominent figures within the culture and the holidays each culture celebrates. The students should be given time during class in which to complete their research. A deadline of about 2 weeks should be assigned. At the end of 2 weeks, the students will turn in their reports and present the information they learned, in front of the class, in a manner upon which the teacher and students agree.
  2. Guided Discussion. At the end of the students's presentations, discuss how Rifka had to adjust to the various cultures to which she was exposed. Research teams will now discuss, with the class, the culture they researched. As a class, discuss the beliefs, or traditions, that would be hard to grow accustomed to and the things that would be exciting to experience, within each culture.

Evaluation: Evaluation will be performed based on the report each student turns in and the group presentation that is given, in class. Evaluation may also be performed by listening to the responses each child gives during the guided discussion.

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How Would You Feel If...

Objective:

Materials Needed: Journal (As an extension to this activity, the book, All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan) Additional materials needed for the extension activity are, colored pencils, paper, markers, drawing tool, or any other desired drawing tool.

Procedures:

  1. Values Whip. Students will be asked to think of a place they love. Ask them not to answer now, but to think about the following questions: "How do you feel when you are in your favorite place?" "What would it feel like if you were forced to leave your favorite place and never go back?" Give them time to think and picture themselves in this loved place. Tell the students you are going to go, in order, around the room and ask for their responses. Students should be allowed to PASS if they do not want to share their feelings. (NOTE: Each question should be done in a separate round of the Values Whip.) (For an extension idea, see the extension section of this lesson plan.)
  2. Guided Discussion. Students will be asked to discuss the things their families would have to do if they were forced to leave their homes and country. Students should discuss the new things they would have to learn and the things to which they would have to become accustomed. Discuss whether or not the move would be easy and if moving to another place is an easy adjustment to make.
  3. Response Journal. Students will be asked to respond in their journal concerning the types of adjustments that would need to be made, within their family, if they had to leave their home and country. Students should address the questions, "Where would you go, if you were forced to leave?" and "Why would you go there, if you were forced to leave?"

Evaluation: Evaluation will be done by examining the journals the students write. Feelings about having to move and the adjustments to be made should be addressed. Students should also be evaluated on their explanation as to where they would go and why they would choose to move to that location.

Extension Ideas: Students could also draw a picture of their favorite place to hang in the classroom. The book, All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, can also be read as a lead in to the drawing activity.

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Map the Place

Objective:

 

Materials Needed: Political map of the world (overhead transparency), transparency markers, a large political map of your state or the world, depending on the grade level with which you are working, and a list of cities and towns for the students to locate (See Appendix, "Places to Locate").

NOTE: If you are using this activity with a fourth grade curriculum, you will need a map of your state. If you are using this activity with a fifth grade curriculum, you will need to allow time for the students to research their state, in the library and use encyclopedias and current maps to find their city's location.

 

Procedures: (This lesson would be used as an introductory lesson)

  1. Direct Instruction. The teacher explains that, in this book, Rifka moves to many different countries and cities. In order to make ourselves more familiar with maps, when we use them to show where Rifka is moving, we will do this activity. The teacher will display a map of the area on which the core curriculum focuses. The teacher will remind the students of mapping activities they have done, up to this point, in the year. The teacher will then give information concerning different types of boundary lines (city, county, state, and national). Give many examples of cities with which the students are familiar. The examples should be shown on the overhead transparency so all students can easily see. Boundary lines should be the main focus. The teacher should ask if there are any questions. If there are no questions, continue on to the Mapping Activity. If there are questions, reteach.
  2. Mapping Activity. Each student will draw a city from a hat. This is the place that student will place on his/her map. On the overhead transparency map, the student will locate and label the city he/she drew. Students will locate the state and county in which the city is located. Students will be given the list of cities that correspond to their grade level. The students will map the cities on the list, recording the state and county in which the city is located. (NOTE: The fifth graders will need more time in which to locate the county in which their cities are located.)

Evaluation: The maps on which the students locate the cities will be reviewed and their responses as to which state and county will be examined. Check the maps for accuracy of city's location, as well as accurate information as to the state and county in which the city is located.

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Time Line

Objective:

Materials Needed: String, paper, writing utensils, tape, display surface, event strips (See Appendix), and any decorative items desired for the time line.

Procedures:

  1. Time Line. After the book, ask the students what the major turning points, or events, in the story were and when they happened. Allow the students to refer to their response journals, if needed. Have the students think of events that should be placed on the time line. Explain to the students that they are going to place these events on a string to make a time line for display. Have the students choose and write, on a sheet of paper, the event for which they want to be responsible. Students should transfer the event information (date, location, and event) onto another piece of paper, an "event page." Students will then arrange themselves in the order in which the events took place. The event pages will then be attached to the string. During any extra time students have, they can illustrate their event page.
  2. Guided Discussion. Have the students think about the events that happened to Rifka, how they changed her, and how they would feel if they were in her situation. Ask students questions, such as: "How did you feel when Rifka's left her to go to America?" and "How do you think Rifka changed due to her experiences?"

Evaluation: Observe the students making the class time line. Check for the proper information, dates, and locations recorded on each event strip. Students' responses during the class discussion will also be evaluated for thought about and knowledge of the events in the book.

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What Did You Think?

Objective:

Materials Needed: 4 large pieces of paper, 4 pieces of paper with a different open-ended question typed on each one (See Appendix for sample questions), 4 different colored markers, and tape.

Procedures:

Carousel Brainstorming. The teacher chooses 4 open-ended questions to post (See Appendix) in the 4 corners of the room. The question is posted on one page,with a large piece of paper taped to the bottom of the question page. The teacher should read the questions aloud to the class and inform the students of the types of responses expected. Divide the class into four groups. Each group is assigned a corner in which to start the carousel procedure. Each group is given a different colored marker. Explain to the students that they will be given a limited amount of time in which to respond to the questions and that they should not start before the start signal is given. At the stop signal, students should rotate, clock-wise, to the next corner and question. (The rotation is where this procedure gets its name.) At this new corner, the groups should read the question and the responses already given. The groups should not duplicate a response. The teacher is the monitor of the time spent in each corner. Monitor the time based on how actively engaged the students are and make sure the first couple groups to a question are not able to give all the answers possible! At the start signal, students begin the first rotation. At the stop signal students rotate and read the question and answers. Begin again with the start signal. Continue until all questions have been answered. The last group to each question should review all answers given and choose the five best to share with the class. The groups should pick a group leader to share the responses. This will help those who have finished each question to gain more information about the responses given to each question. Further questions may be asked of the group, for clarification of information.

Evaluation. Due to the different marker colors, evaluation of the group is easily accomplished. The contributions of each group will be easily seen and can; thus, be evaluated.

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Appendix

 


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