Launching the Book: Good Master! Sweet Ladies! | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M2B:U2:L1

Launching the Book: Good Master! Sweet Ladies!

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can determine a theme based on details in a literary text. (RL.6.2)

Supporting Targets

  • I can describe how a monologue is used to convey a theme. 

Ongoing Assessment

  • Conveying Theme anchor chart


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Unpacking the Learning Target (3 minutes)

B. Setting the Stage for Monologues (7 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Introducing Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (15 minutes)

B. Using Monologues to Convey Theme (15 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?" (5 minutes)

4. Homework

A. "Follow your own sweet will" and choose and read any monologue you'd like from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

  • In Unit 1, students read informational texts to build background knowledge about life during medieval times and used textual evidence to write about some of the adversities people faced. In Unit 2, students continue to explore medieval history through literature. They do close reads of monologues that convey themes of adversity through the eyes of children. As they read, they explore choices authors make to create their stories and convey these themes.
  • In this lesson, students assume the identity of various individuals from feudal society to analyze which class they would have belonged to and which adversities or difficulties they may have faced. Students use background knowledge built in Unit 1, as well as the introductory video, to help prepare them for this experience. 
  • To introduce their study of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, students watch a 3-minute video that introduces some of the characters and situations found in the book's monologues.
  • Following this, students complete a whole-class read of their first monologue, "Barbary, the Mud Slinger," officially launching their study of the book.
  • After reading the monologue, students complete a graphic organizer, exploring the writing techniques employed by the author.  This routine will continue for each monologue they read, focusing specifically on word choice and figurative language. 
  • In the first half of this unit, students also routinely complete a graphic organizer, which helps theme to identify themes of adversity in the monologues.  This is important because it helps students to identify important themes in the writing, tying their work together from Unit 1 and Unit 3.  Also, it pushes students to cite evidence they see supporting those themes.
  • At the end of this lesson students play a game historians believe was played during medieval times. Having students listen to music, read texts, or play games related to their reading helps them to bring their characters and setting to life, engaging them more deeply in the text. 
  • In advance:

-    Preview the video "Real Housewives of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!"

-    Prepare character tickets by cutting them in to individual strips that can be distributed to students.

  • Post: Learning targets.


theme, adversity, convey, monologue, dialogue, stanza


  • Character tickets (one ticket per student; see Teaching Notes)
  • Two baskets for tickets (one for girls' tickets, one for boys' tickets)
  • Document camera
  • Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (book; one per student)
  • Video clip: "Real Housewives of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!"
  • Equipment to show the video (laptop, projector, speakers, etc.)
  • Conveying Theme in "Barbary, the Mud Slinger" graphic organizer (0ne per student)
  • "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?" (for teacher reference)
  • Button, coin, or other small object (one)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Unpacking the Learning Target (3 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning target and invite someone to read it aloud:

* "I can describe how a monologue is used to convey a theme."

  • Ask:

* "What words in the learning target do you think are most important?"

  • As students respond, circle words on the posted learning target. Guide them toward the words monologue and theme.
  • Ask students to identify the prefix in the word monologue and explain what it means. Listen for responses that identify the prefix as mono, which means "one."
  • Tell students the root of the word is -logue, which means "talk."
  • Call on a student to use the word parts to define monologue. Listen for a response such as: "a monologue is one person talking."
  • Ask:

* "What does the word theme mean?"

  • Listen for students to say that a theme is the author's message about a topic or situation. Tell students that authors convey or communicate their message or theme through important details and through the language and words they choose.
  • Tell students that in this unit they will be reading monologues, stories told by one person, about themes of challenge or adversity during medieval times.

B. Setting the Stage for Monologues (7 minutes)

  • Group students in triads.
  • Tell students that, just like in medieval times, each of us is born into a specific living situation. All situations can present adversities. Some are very challenging, and others are not as difficult. Whatever the challenge is, the story can be told in different ways.
  • Ask students what different ways they think a story can be told. Listen for responses including written stories, novels, storytelling, songs, poems, movies, speeches, and diaries.
  • Tell students they will randomly select a person from medieval times. Just like birth, their selection puts them in a certain position in feudal society. Remind them that people were born into different classes and lived on or near a manor. Ask students what classes, or groups of people, there were during medieval times. Listen for responses that include:

-     Nobility or upper class

-    Middle class with craftsmen, artisans, and businessmen

-    Lower class, including farmers, laborers, and people with limited or no freedom

  • Invite students to select a character ticket from one of the baskets, one with roles for boys and one for girls. Explain that the person they draw is not named and they may use their own name.
  • Ask students to consider and share with their triad partners:

* "To what class of people do I belong?"

* "What is a challenge I face?"

  • Call on students to introduce each other to the class. For example, "This is John, the miller's son. He is in the middle class. A challenge he faces is hard work. He has to help his father at the mill to grind farmers' wheat into flour."
  • Use a document camera to record different challenges or adversities that students share.
  • Tell students they will begin a book of monologues, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. The characters in the book are all kids who have been born into different living situations on a medieval manor. All have their own unique story to tell. 
  • Mixed-ability grouping of students for discussion will provide a collaborative and supportive structure.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Introducing Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (15 minutes)

  • Distribute a copy of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village to each student.
  • Invite students to examine the cover of the book, look at the illustrations, skim the reviews on the back, and look at the characters listed in the Contents. After students have examined the book, ask:

* "What did you notice in the Contents?

  • Explain that each entry is a different story told by a different character. Perhaps they noticed that some of the characters had similar positions to the ones they drew from the basket.
  • Point out the John Newberry Medal on the cover. Explain that each year one book is selected as the most distinguished American children's book published. This book won that award in 2008.
  • Invite students to open the book to the Foreword on page VIII. Explain that the introductory pages of a book are often numbered with Roman numerals.
  • Ask them to read along silently as you read the foreword aloud.
  • Tell students that the historical background information they learned in Unit 1 will come alive dramatically as they read the monologues and analyze the way the author is able to tell each story or convey each theme.
  • Invite students to turn the page to look at the setting. Ask them to share details they notice. Encourage them to identify where the character they previously selected from the basket might have lived. Remind students that setting includes both place and time.
  • Introduce students to the 3-minute video clip: "Real Housewives of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!" Explain that student actresses and actors perform some of the characters in the book using excerpts from the monologues. The voices, costumes, and background used in the video provide a different visual perspective of the characters and the manor setting. Encourage students to listen and watch for:

-    Who the characters are

-    Where they lived on the manor

-    What challenges or adversities they faced

-    How they conveyed or communicated their story

  • Play the video in its entirety.
  • Cold call students to share their observations. Listen for voice, eye contact, facial expression, costumes, background, words, and expressions.
  • Tell students they will now read the monologue about one of the characters in the video.
  • Set clear expectations that students read along silently in their heads as you read the text aloud. Hearing the test read slowly, fluently, and without interruption promotes fluency for students; they are hearing a strong reader read the text aloud with accuracy and expression and are simultaneously looking at and thinking about the words on the printed page.

B. Using Monologues to Convey Theme (15 minutes)

  • Invite students to open their books to "Barbary, the Mud Slinger" on page 45. Tell them that, just as Laura Amy Schlitz explained in the Foreword, "You can read them in any order you like, following your own sweet will." So, we'll start in the middle.
  • Ask students to look at the small vignette, or drawing. Explain that this small illustration provides a visual description of a moment or scene in the monologue. Each monologue has a vignette that illustrates a detail about the story.
  • Tell students to look at how the words are presented on the pages. Ask what they notice. Their responses may include that the story looks like a poem, the margins aren't straight, or it's not indented like regular paragraphs, it's written in stanzas.
  • Explain that many of the monologues in the book are written in stanzas, which are similar to paragraphs. Each stanza expresses an idea, thought, or detail that contributes to the development of the theme or topic. They often have a pattern or rhyme that helps convey the message.
  • Draw students' attention to the second line of the second stanza. Ask what they notice. Listen for them to notice the number 1 at the end of the word "stepmother." Guide students to the Notes section at the back of the book. Ask them to locate the explanation given for stepmother. Point out that this number is an endnote; sometimes endnotes provide historical information that helps with understanding the theme, and sometimes they give a definition for a word.
  • Before reading the monologue, display a thematic statement. Explain that this is a statement about the theme, or main message, and it describes an adversity or challenge women faced in medieval times. Invite students to read the thematic statement with you:

-    "Sometimes we make choices we regret, especially when we are under stress."

  • Ask them to consider this statement as they listen and read silently as you read aloud.
  • Read the monologue fluently and with expression.
  • After reading, ask students to discuss in their triads what evidence they noticed in the monologue that helped convey the message that we sometimes make choices we regret, especially when we're stressed. 
  • Distribute Conveying Theme in "Barbary, the Mud Slinger" graphic organizer. Using the document camera, model how to fill out the graphic organizer.

-    Direct students' attention to the second column titled Evidence. Explain that they will scan the text, looking for evidence that relates to the writing techniques listed in the first column. As an example, you will show them how to do this for "Narrator's thoughts."

-    Scan the pages and think aloud about how you are searching for evidence. This will demonstrate to students how a good reader skims a familiar text for specific information.

-    After skimming, stop reading and write on the graphic organizer. Page 45, first stanza: "I shouldn't have done it," "I knew it was wrong," "And I wish I hadn't." Page 48, last stanza: "I was sorry, almost to weeping."

-    Tell students this is particularly strong evidence because it directly relates to the theme they have in mind: regret. 

  • Direct students' attention to the next technique, "Dialogue between characters." Ask them to skim on their own for evidence. Call on a student to share an example. Model writing the evidence on the graphic organizer.
  • Ask triads to work together to find and record other examples of the writing techniques.
  • Point out figurative language. Ask if they recall what similes and metaphors are. Encourage them to look for those figures of speech as well.
  • Circulate and provide support as needed.
  • Reconvene students whole group. Ask if the writing techniques they found in the monologue are ones that they noticed when reading the informational texts in Unit 1. Explain that by learning and using different writing techniques, you can create engaging and dramatic stories. Ask:

* "Is the  theme of adversity in "Barbary, the Mud Slinger" a challenge we face today?"

  • Encourage them to think about what writing or speaking techniques they could use to share a modern-day challenge.
  • When reviewing graphic organizers or recording forms, consider using a document camera to display them for students who struggle with auditory processing.
  • Providing models of expected work supports all learners, but especially challenged learners.

Closing & Assessments


A. "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?" (5 minutes)

  • Direct students to form a circle.
  • Tell students they will play a game. Some historians think the game "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?" was played in medieval times.
  • Tell students that this, like the hearing the music of medieval times, can help them to feel more connected with the characters about which they are reading.  Ancillary activities, such as readings, music, and games, can help readers to bring their subject to life.
  • Display and review the rules (see supporting materials).
  • After reviewing the rules, ask students how this game is similar to or different from the entertainment they have today.
  • Play the game.


  • "Follow your own sweet will" and choose and read any monologue you'd like from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!
  • Tell students they will have a couple of minutes in the next lesson to share which monologue they read, and the adversity they saw as a theme in that monologue. 

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