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Lesson Plan

When I Was Young In...A Literature to Language Experience

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Seven 40- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Virginia Stelk

Peaks Island, Maine


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5

Session 6

Session 7


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Listen to correct English and develop vocabulary through a read-aloud of When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

  • Practice writing in English by recording and editing their own stories

  • Practice reading aloud their own writing in English by sharing stories of their past they have written based on the format of the Rylant book

  • Learn about and practice using the past tense through a quiz, discussion of its use in the Rylant book, and using it in their own writing

  • Learn about each other's cultures by listening to and discussing each other's stories

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Session 1

1. Begin by sharing your jackdaw with the class and talking about how the things in it remind you of when you were younger. Ask students if they have special things they have saved from childhood. What do these things make them think of? Why?

2. Show students the cover of When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, reading aloud the title. Talk a little bit about Rylant, using the information and questions you have prepared (see Preparation, Step 4).

3. Read the book aloud, pausing to ask questions and discuss the book (see Preparation, Step 1).

4. Ask all students to share some experiences from when they were young. Write their responses on the board or chart paper. Questions for discussion might include:

  • What is the earliest experience you remember from your childhood?

  • Did you ever visit someone in a different town?

  • What is the happiest memory you have from your younger years?
5. Review the past tense with the whole class, using students' responses to the questions you have just asked. Ask students to tell you what the verbs are in the sentences on the board or chart paper. Underline the verbs as they tell you or have students volunteer to do it. Discuss what tense is used in the sentences and how they know they are past tense verbs.

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Session 2

1. Use the Think-Pair-Share strategy to explore past-tense verbs in When I Was Young in the Mountains. Begin by rereading the book and asking students to write down the verbs they hear in the past tense while you are reading.

2. Have students share the verbs they have written down with a partner.

3. Bring the class back together to discuss their lists of verbs. You should record the verbs on the board or chart paper. Discuss any clues that helped them recognize the past tense (words like yesterday or last week). Write down these clues.

4. Have students complete the Using Past-Tense Verbs Assessment to assess whether they are ready to write their own stories or still need more practice.

Note: Assessments should be graded and returned to the students by the beginning of Session 3. The Using Past-Tense Verbs Assessment Answer Key has the answers and some additional suggestions for discussing the past tense if you feel your students need further review.

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Session 3

1. Begin the class by sharing the Flip Book you made (see Preparation, Step 5) as a read-aloud. Students usually find this interesting and will have questions for you. You can ask them questions also, such as:

  • What was your favorite food as a child?

  • What did you do after school in kindergarten?

  • What is the title of your favorite book?

  • Who is a special person you like to visit?
2. Distribute the Writing Rubric for When I Was Young In... Flip Books and review it, using your book as an example of how it is applied.

3. Tell students they will be writing a story about when they were younger. On the board or a piece of chart paper, write down the following requirements for students:

  • Include five experiences/memories (these might include a visit to a special person, an outdoor activity, an indoor activity, a favorite food, or a favorite story).

  • Write a rough draft before they create their final drafts on the computer.

  • Check their spelling.

  • Underline the past-tense verbs in their rough drafts.

  • Illustrate their final books and write a title that includes the phrase: When I Was Young In.
You can leave these requirements up for students to refer to during Sessions 5 and 6.

4. Distribute the When I Was Young... Rough Draft Template. Students should spend the rest of the session filling it out.

5. Circulate while students are writing; this is an opportunity for you to ask and answer questions, check work, and share examples with individual students as they work.

Homework (due by Session 4): Students who do not complete their stories in class should do so for homework. All students should underline the past-tense verbs in their stories in a different color.

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Session 4

1. Remind students of peer-sharing guidelines. They should make positive comments (i.e., "this was really interesting" or "I like the page about..."). They should also circle words they think are misspelled and make notes if they think something could be added.

2. Students should pair up, read each other's rough drafts, and give feedback.

3. At the end of the session, collect the rough drafts to underline any remaining spelling or grammar errors before final copies are made. Do not make the corrections for students.

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Session 5

1. Return the rough drafts.

2. Have students work with a peer to clarify and correct any questions about the corrections you have suggested. Circulate while students are working to provide assistance as needed.

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Session 6

1. Demonstrate to students how to use the interactive Flip Book tool.

2. Invite students to create their own books using this online tool.

3. As students finish their work, have them check each section of the Writing Rubric for When I Was Young In... Flip Books to make certain they have not forgotten something. They should then print off their books. The rubric and the rough draft should be folded and placed inside the back cover of the booklets, which should be handed in.

Note: Before Session 7, you should grade and return the books to students, explaining that they will be sharing them with the class.

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Session 7

1. Distribute the Speaking Rubric for When I Was Young In.... Stress the importance of reading clearly, pronouncing words correctly, and making eye contact. Explain that you will mark this rubric while students are speaking and that it will count for a separate grade.

2. Invite each student to present his or her book to the class. You might also invite staff and parents who are able to attend.

3. After all students have had time to share, they should reflect on the project to evaluate and discuss what they have learned and enjoyed using the following questions:

  • What did you learn about yourself as you wrote the story?

  • What did you learn about your classmates during the sharing?

  • What part of the assignment did you like best?

  • What part of the assignment was the easiest and most difficult for you?

Have students write their reflection responses before sharing them with the class. These questions help students recognize what they have learned and give them a sense of pride in what they have accomplished.

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  • Students can write another story using a similar format (e.g., When I Was in Kindergarten or When I Moved to the U.S.A.).

  • Students can use the websites about Cynthia Rylant to complete an author study. Students might also choose to look at different books by this author such as The Relatives Came or Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story.

  • Display students' final flip books in the school or public library, and offer a time for your students to share them with a younger group of students.

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  • Informally assess students' understanding of When I Was Young in the Mountains during the discussions in Sessions 1 and 2.

  • Assess students' understanding of and ability to correctly use the past tense with the Using Past-Tense Verbs Assessment (see answer key).

  • Use the Writing Rubric for When I Was Young In... Flip Books to assess students' final books. You can also look at the progress students make from their rough drafts to their finished versions and use your observations of students' work to assess the finished product.

  • Use the Speaking Rubric for When I Was Young In... to assess students' presentations.

  • Have students review each other's work, use the Writing Rubric for When I Was Young In... Flip Books to assess their own work, and perform a metacognitive assessment of the lesson's activities at the end of Session 7.


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