Analyzing an Author’s Craft Part 1: Carlotta’s Journey to Justice | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M3B:U2:L18

Analyzing an Author’s Craft Part 1: Carlotta’s Journey to Justice

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can analyze the development of a theme or central idea throughout the text (including its relationship to supporting ideas). (RI.8.2)
  • I can analyze figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. (L.8.5)

Supporting Targets

  • I can analyze a central idea in A Mighty Long Way.
  • I can analyze nuances in word meanings as synonyms and phrases for key terms are studied.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Informational essay drafts (from homework)
  • Dignity Word Web


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Writer: Turn in Informational Essay and Review Learning Targets (3 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Carlotta's Journey: Dignity (30 minutes)

     B.  Read-aloud: "Finding My Voice" (11 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Previewing Homework (1 minute)

4.  Homework

     A.  Read Chapter 16 and complete the structured notes.

  • In this lesson, students analyze how Carlotta handled the racism and abuse she received as a student at Central High School. In Work Time A, students deconstruct the word "dignity" and analyze the strategies Carlotta used to maintain her dignity. These same strategies play out in different ways in Carlotta's journey--contributing to both her losing her voice and recovering it in Chapter 15. 
  • Work Time B features a teacher read-aloud to reorient students to the book, since they have spent some time away from it in the past few lessons while preparing for the informational essay the read aloud will provide a transition back into the book.
  • Post: Learning targets.


nuance, assimilated, dignity, tone, stoic


  • A Mighty Long Way (book; distributed in Unit 1, Lesson 1)
  • Dignity word web (one to display)
  • QuickWrite #4 (one per student)
  • A Mighty Long Way Structured Notes, Chapter 16, pages 255-264 (one per student)
  • A Mighty Long Way Supported Structured Notes, Chapter 16, pages 255-264 (optional; for students needing extra support)
  • A Mighty Long Way Structured Notes Teacher's Guide, Chapter 16, pages 255-264 (for teacher reference)



A. Engaging the Writer: Turn in Informational Essay and Reviewing Learning Targets (3 minutes)

  • Congratulate students on completing the first drafts of their informational essays.
  • Collect students' informational essays.
  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and read the first one aloud:

*   "I can analyze a central idea in A Mighty Long Way."

  • Explain that now that the fight to integrate schools in Little Rock has ended and Carlotta has moved on with her adult life, students are going to study the manner in which Carlotta conducted herself throughout her ordeal and afterward into her adult life.
  • Cold call a student to read aloud the second learning target:

*   "I can analyze nuances in word meanings as synonyms and phrases for key terms are studied."

  • Explain that students will list synonyms and word phrases that help them better communicate the central idea they are going to study in this lesson. If students seem unclear about the meaning of "nuance," remind them that words or even phrases sometimes have slightly different shades of meaning even when the basic meaning doesn't change.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Carlotta's Journey: Dignity (30 minutes)

  • Invite students to take their copies of A Mighty Long Way and sit with their New York City discussion partners.
  • Explain to students that, at this time, they are going to analyze Carlotta's responses to racism, discrimination, and abuse.
  • Invite students to turn and talk:

*   "What treatment did Carlotta receive both in school and outside of school that was a result of the racism of the segregationists?"

  • Cold call students to share out.
  • Listen for students to list examples such as: "confronting the mob," "racial slurs and insults," "being ignored," "being spit on," "being knocked to the ground or having books knocked out of her hands," "the heel-walker," and "not being allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities at the school."
  • Ask students to work with their partners and use A Mighty Long Way to locate evidence in the text for how Carlotta dealt with racism.
  • Circulate as students work. If needed, direct students to pages 17, 20, 30, and 36 to find evidence of Carlotta's family's attitude.
  • Refocus whole group and cold call pairs to share out.
  • Listen for students to explain how Carlotta was taught by her family to not stoop to the level of ignorant people. She was also trained by watching how her family dealt with life in the Jim Crow South. These family members taught Carlotta to ignore racist and discriminatory behavior and keep her head held high and eyes straight ahead. She also would not give up or give in to fear and threats.
  • Point out that the first black students at Central High were chosen for a reason. Refer students to page 60 of the text. Read the lines out loud: "I imagine that I, as well as all the others in the room that day, had been put through a kind of Jackie Robinson test. Baseball historians say that Jackie Robinson, though clearly talented, was not the best player in the Negro Leagues. But he became the Dodgers' top choice for his historical role because he also possessed the kind of character and temperament that would enable him to withstand the racist attacks sure to come. Likewise, the black students in that room were not just the best and brightest students academically, but we were student leaders from working- and middle-class families whose backgrounds had been deemed acceptable by the school system's white leaders for the moment at hand."
  • Ask students to discuss with their partners:

*    "Based on what you have learned about the Little Rock Nine, why were their backgrounds deemed acceptable?"

  • Cold call pairs to provide answers. Listen for students to point out the fact that these families had assimilated, or been absorbed into the dominant culture, and demonstrated success in the cultural and economic reality of the United States by the middle of the 20th century. In other words, they were people who had gotten decent jobs, owned homes, and valued education.
  • Tell students that these people all shared another trait, dignity.
  • Display the Dignity word web.
  • Ask students to attempt to define the word "dignity." Call on volunteers to provide answers, but do not write anything down at this point.
  • Be sure students understand that dignity means self-respect and the expectation that one will be treated like a human being who matters, whose life is important, and who has a sense of self-determination. This is a "nuanced word," in that it has so many layers and ideas as part of it.
  • Invite students to find incidents from Chapter 6 in which the purpose of the taunts and abuse from segregationists is to cause loss of dignity.
  • Instruct students to try to describe the incidents based on their intended effect. For example, the heel-walker's actions were meant to hurt and humiliate Carlotta.
  • Ask for volunteers to share responses with the class while you record on the right-hand side of the word web. Listen for: "Name calling is humiliating and degrading," "Students would often leave school almost in tears feeling profound wretchedness," and "Loneliness was caused by the school not even grouping black students together--they only saw one another at lunch."
  • Invite students to talk with their partners to generate examples of the qualities of the dignity possessed by Carlotta.
  • Cold call students to share their answers while you record on the left-hand side of the Dignity word web.
  • Listen for students to share examples such as: "self-respect," "sense of self-worth," and "a sense of pride as seen by Carlotta's ability to not take the abuse personally, though it was extremely difficult." Help students notice that Carlotta did not cry when she was spit on and did not retaliate. She learned how to protect herself from the subtle bullying that happened daily in the hallways. When students called her names, she learned to turn it into a game in her head. She stayed on the honor roll, and she took care with her clothes and appearance. All of these actions showed Carlotta behaving with dignity, or a sense of self-worth in the face of bullying from the segregationist students.
  • Ask:

*   "What words and phrases might define how Carlotta might have felt as she tried to hold onto her dignity?"

  • Listen for: "hopeless," "humiliated," "degraded," "ashamed," "disgraced," "disrespected," "frustrated," "afraid," "fearful," etc.
  • Ask:

*   "Does the way Carlotta writes about these events sound frustrated, angry, or sarcastic? What tone does she actually use to write about the abuse?"  Remind students that tone means the writer's attitude toward what he or she is writing about.

  • Return students' attention to page 104 in the text. Invite them to read through the end of the paragraph on page 105 with their discussion partners.
  • Ask:

*   "How would you describe Carlotta's tone in this passage? What techniques does she use to convey this tone?"

  • Assist students in understanding that Carlotta actually tells the story of her years at Central in a very objective way. Although she admits to anger and that she sometimes had a hard time not retaliating, she really focused on finding strategies to cope with or avoid harassment. For example, when she writes about a spurt of ink ruining her clothes, the next sentence reads, "I just added a change of clothes to the stuff at risk in my locker."
  • Redirect students' attention to the first learning target:

*   "I can analyze a central idea in A Mighty Long Way."

  • Share with students that the word "dignity" is important in understanding how Carlotta was affected by her high school years. Carlotta was affected by the attempts to strip her of dignity, and when these upsetting situations happened, Carlotta was taught to ignore racist and discriminatory behavior.   Her resistance to fight back against the abuse threatened the loss of her own voice.
  • Ask students to turn and talk:

*   "What might it mean to lose one's voice?"

  • Ask for volunteers to share out. It's okay if students aren't sure at this point. Tell students that they will be analyzing the phrase "losing one's voice" in the next lesson.
  • Graphic organizers and recording forms engage students more actively and provide the necessary scaffolding that is especially critical for learners with lower levels of language proficiency and/or learning.
  • Consider providing hint cards with the page numbers or text excerpts for students who struggle.

B. Read-aloud: "Finding My Voice" (11 minutes)

  • Ask students:

*   "Why do you think it took Carlotta 50 years to face the hurt of the trials associated with the bombing of her home?"

  • Cold call student pairs to respond and listen for students to say that she was taught by her life and how her family coped with the Jim Crow South not to dwell on events that caused extreme emotions for her. Tell students that this quality can be called being stoic. When someone is stoic, he or she does not speak much about painful experiences, but is more likely to "suffer in silence." Carlotta's stoic attitude comes with an ability to push unpleasant events to the back of her mind.
  • Ask students to Think-Pair-Share:

*   "Now that the integration of Little Rock is over for Carlotta, how does she reconcile the traumatic events that happened to her with her purpose in life?

  • Cold call students to share their thinking. Don't say too much at this point in the lesson, as students will be studying this in a later lesson.
  • Have students turn to page 242 to follow along silently in their heads as you read aloud from page 242 through the second paragraph on page 243. This should be a pure read-aloud with no interruptions.
  • When finished, invite students to turn to their partners and share the gist of what was read.
  • Then, direct students' attention to page 244 and read aloud the following lines: "I told them (students) that my eight comrades and I had been ingrained with the knowledge that we were as close as some white people would get to people of our race and that we were expected to maintain our dignity, no matter what. We just had to have faith that justice would prevail. I'd like to think I helped the students put a face on a story they had read in a book and helped them to understand the human toll. But even more, I hope I left them with the message that true heroism starts with one brave decision to do the right thing."
  • Distribute the QuickWrite #4 and ask students to complete it.  Collect when students are finished, and review their answers to check for students understanding.  Be sure to clarify as needed in the next lesson.
  • Hearing a complex text read slowly, fluently, and without interruption or explanation 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. Be sure to set clear expectations that students follow along silently in their heads as you read the text aloud.

Closing & Assessments


A. Previewing Homework (1 minute)

Distribute A Mighty Long Way structured notes, Chapter 16, pages 255-264 for homework. Preview as needed.


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs
  • Read Chapter 16 of A Mighty Long Way and complete the structured notes.
  • Provide struggling learners with the supported structured notes for additional scaffolding as they read the memoir.

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