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Lesson Plans

Use this Lesson Plan with the following health topics or with other relevant content from the textbook:
  • Relationships
  • Communication Skills

Cross Curriculum Lesson Plan: Language Arts
Student Resource: From Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech
Media Type: Fictional Journal

Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define extended family, and describe the various combinations of family members that can make up some families.
  • Explain how strong communication skills are a key ingredient in the health of the family.
  • Discuss techniques for communicating, including listening skills.

Introducing the Lesson

Ask a few volunteers to describe the composition of their households (i.e., the number of and relationship among adults and children who live in their house). If any student mentions a relative that would make the family an extended one—such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins—write these titles on the board.

Underscore the point that whether a family consists of a single parent and a child or includes other relatives, a key to the family's health is the ability to communicate. Ask students to summarize some of the properties of good communication (being an attentive listener, not interrupting, or choosing a time and place where your message can be heard.)

Teaching Strategies

Hand out the excerpt from this first-person fictional journal by Newbery Medal-winning author Sharon Creech. Some students may be familiar with this or other Creech works. If so, ask them to explain the setup of this book. (It is a journal being maintained over the summer by a fictional 13-year-old named Mary Lou Finney.)

After students have completed the reading, you may either use the following as class discussion questions or assign them as individual or group work.

Follow Up

  1. Summarizing. What event do we learn is about to happen that will make the family an extended family, at least for the time being?
  2. Evaluating. What words would you use to describe the scene around the dinner table at the beginning of the selection? Explain your word choice, and describe events that explain your reaction.
  3. Analyzing. What examples of verbal and nonverbal communication can you identify in the selection? Which of the characters displays the weakest communication skills? Give specific details that support your answer.
  4. Making Inferences. In literature, exposition is the use of context and brief explanations to reveal the relationship between characters and events that are happening. Using exposition, identify the following. Point to lines of dialogue and descriptions to support each.
  • The relationship between the narrator and Dougie, Dennis, and Maggie.
  • The relationship between Sam and Sally.
  • The mother's view toward the West Virginia branch of the family.
  1. Synthesizing. What do you think the narrator means when she says at the end of the selection that the situation "should be real interesting"? In your answer, consider Mary Lou's age and the age of her cousin.

Integrating Literature and Health

In many ways, Mary Lou Finney, the narrator of this book, is a typical teen. She exhibits throughout her journal the same hopes, dreams, fears, likes, and dislikes that many teens have. Using this information as well as your own experiences as a teenager, explain what you think the book's title—Absolutely Normal Chaos—means. To get you started, consider these questions: What is chaos? Under what conditions might chaos be considered a normal state? Share your answers with those of classmates.

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