Analyzing a Central Idea: Carlotta’s Journey to Justice | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M3B:U3:L1

Analyzing a Central Idea: Carlotta’s Journey to Justice

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can use correct grammar and usage when writing or speaking. (L.8.1)
  • I can explain the function of verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) in general and their function in particular sentences. (L.8.1a)
  • I can recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood. (L.8.1d)
  • I can analyze the development of an idea throughout the text (including its relationship to supporting ideas). (RI.8.2)
  • I can analyze how specific dialogue or incidents in a plot propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision. (RL.8.3)
  • I can analyze figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. (L.8.5)

Supporting Targets

  • I can use correct grammar and usage when writing.
  • I can explain the general function of verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) and their function in sentences.
  • I can recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood.
  • I can analyze a central idea in A Mighty Long Way.
  • I can analyze how an incident described in A Mighty Long Way provokes Carlotta to make a decision.

Ongoing Assessment

  • A Mighty Long Way Structured Notes, Chapter 17, Pages 265-274 (from homework)
  • Verbals handout
  • Exit ticket: Verbals 


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Writer: Language Techniques (10 minutes)

     B.  Reviewing the Learning Targets (1 minute)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Analyzing the Journey: "This Little Light of Mine" (29 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Exit Ticket: Verbals (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Continue independent reading book.

  • In the Opening of this lesson, students learn about verbals: gerunds, participles, and infinitives. This Opening is the second of a three-lesson series in which students focus on language skills during the Opening. The series is designed to prepare students for the mid-unit assessment in Lesson 3, which will test their ability to identify active and passive voices, identify conditional and subjunctive moods, and analyze word meanings and word choice.
  • Language standards require consistent practice and reinforcement. Based on the needs of your students, find additional opportunities to teach and practice these standards. Sample language mini lessons may be found in the supporting materials for Unit 2, Lesson 19. These mini lessons may be used for additional instruction or used as a model for additional teacher-created language mini lessons, based on students' needs.
  • Students will continue to study the language standards as a way to better understand the author's craft in telling her story.
  • In this lesson, students complete the Journey to Justice note-catcher with details from the remaining chapters of A Mighty Long Way text. This work will be done using a jigsaw design.
  • In advance:

-   Predetermine groups of four for the jigsaw activity in Work Time A.

-   Review: Jigsaw protocol (see Appendix).

  • Post: Learning targets


gerund, participle, infinitive


  • Verbals handout (one per student)
  • Verbals handout (answers, for teacher reference)
  • A Mighty Long Way (book; distributed in Unit 1, Lesson 1; one per student)
  • Journey to Justice note-catcher (begun in Unit 1, Lesson 3)
  • Declaration of Independence excerpt (from Unit 1, Lesson 1 Gallery Walk; one to display)
  • Document camera
  • Exit Ticket: Verbals (one per student)
  • Exit Ticket: Verbals (answers, for teacher reference)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Writer: Language Techniques (10 minutes)

  • Ask students to sit with their Washington, D.C. discussion partners.
  • Distribute the Verbals handout.
  • Read the definition of verbals at the top of the page. Explain that authors can use verbals in a variety of ways in their writing to aid understanding. Explain that there are three types of verbals: gerunds, participles, and infinitives.
  • Cold call a student to read the definition and purpose of a gerund.
  • Cold call students to read the examples. Point out that gerunds look like verbs but act as nouns.
  • Cold call a student to read the definition and purpose of a participle.
  • Cold call students to read the examples. Point out that there are two types of participles: past and present.
  • Cold call a student to read the definition and purpose of an infinitive.
  • Point out that students have probably encountered infinitives in their foreign language studies. The infinitive in most foreign languages is a special form of the verb, but in English, an infinitive is the word "to" with the stem form of the verb.
  • Cold call a student to read the examples.
  • Read the tip on the handout aloud. Explain that it can be tricky as students encounter sentences with a verb and one or more verbals to accurately identify the verb and verbals. Encourage students to find the word acting as the verb in the sentence before trying to identify the verbals.
  • Invite students to work with their partners to practice identifying verbals in the example sentences from A Mighty Long Way on page 2 of the verbals handout. Circulate and monitor.
  • When students are done, go over the answers, referring to the Verbals handout (answers, for teacher reference) as needed.  
  • Explain to students that studying the author's craft and use of language techniques such as verbals will help them further analyze the text, which they began to study to study in the previous lesson.
  • Consider having students circle the verbs on the handout and underline the verbals.
  • If necessary, remind students of the definition of a verb.  Be sure students understand that a verb expresses a physical action, a mental action, or a state of being.

B. Reviewing the Learning Targets (1 minute)

  • Direct students' attention to the learning targets and read the last two learning targets aloud:

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

*   "I can analyze how an incident described in A Mighty Long Way provokes Carlotta to make a decision."

  • Cold call several students to summarize what they know about the central idea of finding one's voice. Listen for students to use the terms "dignity" and "justice" in their responses.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Analyzing the Journey: "This Little Light of Mine" (29 minutes)

  • Place students in heterogeneous small groups of four for a Jigsaw protocol, asking them to each bring their own copy of A Mighty Long Way and the Journey to Justice note-catcher with them.
  • Display the Declaration of Independence excerpt under the document camera while students are moving into their groups.
  • Draw students' attention to the third stage on the Journey to Justice note-catcher.
  • Read aloud the summary and questions related to the third stage on the Journey to Justice note-catcher ss students read along silently in their heads:

*   "Life gains a new level of integration after the intense trials and triumphs of the journey; but it's not over. Obstacles still exist and one feels the need to give back and make the world more whole. At what point did Carlotta begin her new life after her experiences at Central High School? What were some of the obstacles Carlotta had to face as a result of her experiences? In what ways did she begin to give back and help make the world better for others?"

  • Point out to students that although Carlotta might not have realized it, her conviction and determination to play a role in the integration of schools when she was a teenager was due to her belief in the founding document of this country, the Declaration of Independence. 
  • Share with students some key basic background knowledge about the Declaration of Independence: it was written in 1776, almost two centuries before Carlotta's journey to justice in Little Rock. Its most famous and enduring lines are, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
  • Ask students:

*   "What basic American value does Jefferson express in these very famous lines?"

*   "How has Carlotta's journey been a reflection of this most basic of American values?"  Listen for students to recognize that Carlotta's journey has been in pursuit of equality, most specifically equal educational opportunities.

  • Engage in a short teacher-led discussion using the following question:

*   "Based on what you have read of Carlotta's journey in Chapters 15-17, in what ways has Carlotta given back to society in order to ensure that all people are treated equally?"

  • Listen for students to mention Carlotta's work educating others about the story of the integration of schools and the civil rights movement.
  • Tell students that there are four events that they are going to study further. Have each person in the group choose one of the four events in Carlotta's life on which to focus:
  1. Carlotta's work with the Colorado AIDS project (page 241)
  2. Carlotta's decision regarding which school her children attended (page 245)
  3. President Clinton's words regarding Mrs. Bates (page 254)
  4. Herbert's story (page 257)
  • Next, regroup students based on the event they've chosen to analyze so that students who have chosen the same event form another small group (in order to keep these groups small, there may be two small groups representing the same event).
  • Instruct students to reread the selected pages independently and then work together in this group to add details from the event to the third stage on the Journey to Justice note-catcher.
  • After 10 minutes, invite students to return to their original groups.
  • Provide 5-10 minutes to share out their details with one another so everyone in the group has a complete note-catcher.
  • Invite students to follow along in the text as you read the final paragraphs of the book aloud, beginning on page 271 with Obama's quote ("If there is anyone out there ...") and reading until the end.
  • Ask students to discuss with their groups:

*   "How does Carlotta view the election of President Obama in relation to the passage from the Declaration of Independence? In her view, how is his election part of the journey to justice that she has been experiencing throughout this book, and throughout her life?"

  • Call on volunteers to share out.
  • Listen for students to recognize that the election of a black president helps to bring to life the words of the Declaration of Independence, which emphasize equal opportunity for all. Listen for students to notice Carlotta and her Little Rock comrades also helped to bring the words from the Declaration of Independence to life when they began their journey to justice. President Obama's election represents the justice and equality that Carlotta and the other members of the Little Rock Nine were seeking as they integrated Little Rock Central High.
  • Note:   The event in which Carlotta meets with Herbert and learns his story is a longer piece of text.
  • Consider providing hint cards with details and/or probing questions to help direct students who struggle or isolating the text students will need to read on a separate document.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Exit Ticket: Verbals (5 minutes)

  • Distribute the Exit Ticket: Verbals.
  • Tell students you would like to see how much they remember from the opening of the lesson, when they learned about verbals.
  • Have students complete the exit ticket.
  • Collect the exit tickets. Consider using the Exit Ticket: Verbals (answers, for teacher reference) to check students' understanding, and be sure to clarify as needed in the next lesson.
  • You may use the data from the exit tickets to determine whether or not students need additional support for this particular grammatical concept. Supplementary language lessons and activities to support students are included in the supporting materials of Unit 2, Lesson 19.


  • Read your independent reading book. You will be writing a book review of your independent book in Lesson 7, so be sure to finish up the book soon.

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