Project Overview
Language Arts Unit 1
Language Arts Unit 2
Science Unit
Social Studies Unit 1
Social Studies Unit 2

Arts (1)

Unit Introduction

I. Introductory Activities

2. MLA & APA Activities

3. Preliminary Research Steps

4. Working Bibliography

5. Intro to Primary Sources

6. DI Final Project

7. Appendix


Historical Fiction as a Springboard for Research

Lori Kay
Teacher and Director
The Flexible Learning Center, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa

The Flexible Learning Center serves Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Whiting, Lawton-Bronson, Westwood, Woodbury Central, and Hinton school districts.  We offer students an opportunity to complete all required classes away from their regular high school during the day.  We also offer night classes and summer school classes to students who attend their regular schools. Group work or class presentations take place at a set time as needed, but most work is done independently and students take responsibility for their own learning with the support and guidance of the staff.  Students may complete one class at a time or divide their time to work on several classes at once.   Teachers have the unique opportunity to adapt lessons and units to fit the needs of the student.  Often a student may be the only one taking a particular class at that time.   Grades are sent to the student’s high school at the end of each grading period, but a student may continue to work on an unfinished class into the next grading period.  Students graduate whenever they have completed all of the requirements for their home school district. 

Language Arts, Grade Level 11

(American Literature and American History are usually studied in 11th grade.)

Unit Duration, Approximately Three Weeks

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is used as the sample for this lesson.  The framework of this unit may be adapted to fit any historical novel.  See appendix.


This unit is designed to be flexible.  The teacher and the student will have many choices to make about actual time limits and topic choices. It is possible that a student may continue to develop interests and continue research into another project.  It is also possible that a student may have such an intense interest in his topic that the unit may be expanded to six weeks so that he may have the opportunity to acquire more knowledge before moving on to the next subject.  This flexibility makes the unit appropriate for alternative classrooms where students thrive if the relevance of the unit inspires them. It is also possible to coordinate this unit with the social studies curriculum and grant credit for that subject also.  All of these plans need to be documented in the project contract that is included in this unit.  This flexibility is ideal for gifted students who will excel if they are given the opportunity to focus on their strengths and interests.  Teacher monitoring is very important to make sure that each student working on the unit is meeting a satisfactory number of benchmarks.


Standards adapted from McRel Compendium of Standards and Sergeant Bluff School District.

Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Students will use prewriting activities.
Students will proofread for content and mechanics.
Students will write about literature and synthesis meaning with their own experiences.

Standard 4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Students will use appropriate research methodology to develop a topic and support a thesis.
Students will use a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information.
Students will use a variety of primary sources to gather information.
Student will evaluate validity and reliability of sources.
Students will use standard format for documenting reference sources.

Standards adapted from McRel Compendium of Standards and Sergeant Bluff School District.

Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Students will identify and understand the philosophical assumptions and basic beliefs underlying an author’s work.
Students will identify clarity and consistency of political assumptions.Students will identify and value setting as relevant to philosophical and political assumptions. 

Unit Goal:

Students will produce a research project based on a subject from a historical novel.  They will be able to increase their understanding of a historical period and of the author’s purpose and assumptions.

Unit Understandings:

On a greater scale, students will realize that just as politics, economics, and other social issues affect an author’s writing and ideas, such topics are relevant to our own development and perception of the world.  Students should be connected to their research topic and see how it affects them and their future.  They may also develop opinions and create solutions.


To Kill a Mockingbird byHarper Lee   (or other historical novel)
Computer programs for word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation
Internet search engines
Internet academic databases
MLA and APA style documentation handbooks
Presentation equipment, projectors, or presentation poster board


Standardized test scores, classroom performance, and student motivation or special interest should all be used to adjust assignments to meet the individual student’s needs.
In an alternative education setting a student’s Personal Education Plan or Individual Follow-up Plan should also be considered.

(A PEP and IFP are similar to the IEP used for special education students because they are confidential documents stating why the student has been placed in an alternative setting and what special services are needed.  We use the IFP at our program because it documents the steps we take to address students’ needs as well as our communication with the home school district. A student’s needs, talents, and abilities are documented on the IFP.  If a student is gifted, then the IFP documents how that student’s abilities are addressed)

Unit Outline

1. Introductory Activities

A. Brain storming with clustering
B. Idea generator           
C. Free writing activity

2. MLA & APA Activities

A. “Get Those Handbooks Ready!"
B. Assessment rubric

3. Preliminary Research Steps

4. Working Bibliography

5. Introduction to Primary Sources (Internet)

6. DI Final Project

A. “Bringing it Together and Making a Plan”
B. Project choice and grading rubric
C. Project contract


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