Lesson Plan: Language Arts
Student Resource: From Absolutely
Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech
Media Type: Fictional Journal
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
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 onesuch
as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousinswrite 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.)
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.
- Summarizing. What event do we learn is about to
happen that will make the family an extended family, at
least for the time being?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
- The relationship between Sam and Sally.
- The mother's view toward the West Virginia branch of the
- 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 titleAbsolutely
Normal Chaosmeans. 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.