So Far From the Bamboo Grove Unit Lesson Rationale

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So Far From the Bamboo Grove Unit Lesson Rationale

  • What is the topic of study?

This unit covers the fictionalized autobiography of Yoko Kawashima Watkins. So Far From the Bamboo Grove is the story of an 11 year-old Japanese girl who has grown up in Korea near the Chinese border. As World War II comes to a close Yoko and her family are no longer welcome in Korea. To escape imminent danger Yoko, her mother, and her sister flee Korea. This novel tells Yoko’s painful and heart-wrenching story of survival.

We will read the novel together as a class in order to probe more deeply into Yoko’s experience, the ways that families work together in crisis, and our own attitudes towards war and family. We will also examine Japanese tradition and culture. Also included in this unit (in accordance with the Lansing School District Pacing Guide) is the study of the elements of fiction, characters in various roles and the connection between setting, theme and literary devices.

  • Why will the students be interested in studying this?

This is a story of survival. It is interesting, informative, fast-paced, full of vivid details and, most importantly, REAL. As we read through this story, I will be constantly reminding students that all this happened to an 11-year-old. (They are all around this age). Also, this unit covers topics which students may have not studied before. As we read through this historical fiction together and discover many aspects of Japanese culture, students will begin to get interested and enter into the story. Then, as we experience with Yoko her grave danger as she flees Korea, the students will be engaged in the sequence of events that unfold. As we research current refugee conditions, students will connect the text to our current world. My goal is, as Wilhelm describes in You Gotta BE the Book, that students will “pursue reading in a personally, meaningful way,” and that they each will become a “reader as an active meaning-maker, one who connects personally to what is read” (3,15).

  • Why do students need to study this?

Apart from being the district curriculum, students need to study historical fiction to understand more about the world around them. The story will help them to learn more about WWII, Japanese culture and refugee conditions. By looking more closely at the way that the Kawashimas work together as a family, we will examine the strength of our own families and the sacrifices that family members are willing to make for one another.

With Yoko we will experience the brutalities of war and the lengths that individuals must go to in order to survive. Some parents could possibly object to the reading of this text because it is so powerful and, at times, horrifyingly graphic. Yet, this is our history…and we must learn from it, especially in light of the current position of our country. War is now on everyone’s mind and this novel provides a perfect outlet for students to examine their feelings towards war and war-related tragedies.

  • Why teach this unit now?

The LSD Pacing Guide dictates that we read So Far From the Bamboo Grove during the second quarter. My mentor teacher and I have decided to start this quarter with this historical autobiography. We will spend about a month reading and discussing and experiencing this novel as a class. To supplement the novel, we will read related poetry and short story selections. After finishing the unit, we will segway into a unit on writing realistic fiction.

  • Key Questions

In reading this novel these questions that are required by the pacing guide will help to guide our learning: What makes people a family? What different types of families do we belong to? What is the responsibility of the individual within the family? How do families resolve difficult situations? What keeps families together? What breaks families apart? What are the consequences of staying together or breaking apart for individuals within the family, and for the larger society? What constitutes family allegiance? What roles do commitment, honor, and integrity play in the family? What are the elements of family heritage? How does family heritage strengthen the individual?

  • Objectives of the Unit:

  • Students will connect with the text personally and academically.

  • Students will understand a historical event through the point of view of an 11 year-old Japanese girl.

  • Students will identify various literary concepts (character, setting, conflict, theme, and autobiography) and evaluate their importance in the text.

  • Students will investigate the importance of cultural values and family heritage in Japan and be able to describe this through several cultural activities.

  • Students will reflect upon their reading experience and what they have learned in a final Tea Celebration.

  • Culminating Assessment

The culminating assessment is two-part. They will be assessed on their reading comprehension and understanding of significant events in the story through a traditional final test. Students will also choose to complete one of several options as their final project to be presented at our Tea Celebration. Students should understand that they need to put substantial effort into whichever assessment option they choose; there is no “easy out.” (See assignment sheet.)

  • Formative Assessment

Early on in the unit, students receive a passport. As activities and assignments are completed, their passport will be stamped. Students will also be assessed on various in-class and homework assignments such as a setting postcard, summary telegram, mid-reading review, and journal entries. Additionally, students will receive a travel packet that will include the following sheets:

  • Map of Japan and Korea

  • Anticipation Guide

  • Webquest (K-W-L) Worksheet

  • FYI Background Information

  • Vocabulary Sheet

  • Japanese Glossary

  • Character Information Sheet

  • Identifying Problems and Solutions Handout

  • School Days Graphic Organizer

So Far From the Bamboo Grove

Final Project Options

Directions: Choose one of the final project options below to complete as your final project. We will not be working on these projects in class; they must be completed at home. All projects are due by December 18th. We will be presenting our final projects at a Tea Ceremony. If you have any questions about your project, see me ASAP.

  • Musical soundtrack: Create a musical soundtrack that includes at least 3 different selections. Each piece should capture the feelings of different events or parts of the story—one in the beginning, one in the middle, one at the end. Write a page explaining why you chose the music you did and how it fits into the action or mood of the story at that time. Write down page numbers of scenes being captured or what section of the book it links to.

  • Newspaper account: Create your account of the book as it might appear in the newspaper. Write down details from the story that led to your portrayal of the book. Give page numbers of where you found the evidence.

  • Diorama: Create a diorama of a scene from the novel. Items should portray the scene accurately. On a piece of paper, indicate the page numbers and details of the description that led you to depict the scene the way that you did.

  • Drama: Students write an additional scene that is not elaborated on as much in the story and cast classmates to perform it for the class.

  • Yoko’s journal: Create a journal, from Yoko’s point of view telling her thoughts and feelings about particular events from the story. You should include at least 10 entries. Make sure that you include the page numbers of the actual events in the book upon which you are basing your journal entries.

  • Plot Collage: Create a detailed collage of significant events in the story. On the back of your collage, write down the page numbers of the descriptions of the events that led to your depiction. You should also write a sentence or two about each event. You should include at least 6 events.

  • Personal Response Essay: What message about life or human nature do you see in So Far From the Bamboo Grove? In your essay, state the message and explain how events in the story suggest it.

  • Fashion Sketches: Yoko wears various costumes in the story, ranging from a traditional kimono to a Korean Communist Army uniform. For this project, you must look through the story to create fashion sketches illustrating Yoko’s clothing. You should include a write up about the importance of each costume in Yoko’s life.

  • PowerPoint: Create a slideshow report to present to the class representing the major events in the story. You should include subtitles to indicate the elements of fiction.

So Far From the Bamboo Grove Unit Lesson Plan

Day 1

Anticipation Guide

Passport Creation

Hand out Travel Packet

Day 2
Kids Web Japan / K-W-L about Japan

Day 3


-Emergency Supplies

-Cover Discovery


Day 4

Explain vocab/ glossary sheets

-name pronunciation

-Read Chapter 1


-Chapter Title Vote

-HW: Calligraphy Article

Day 5
Culture- Calligraphy
Focus Question: Why is shodo so important to Yoko’s family heritage?

Day 6

-Character update using Travel Packet (TP)

-Oral Reading Chapter 2

-Prediction: Was it a good decision to leave the boxcar? Why or why not?

-Chapter Title Vote

Day 7

Opener: Journal-Family argument

-Oral Reading Chapter 3

-Chapter Title Vote

Day 8

Opener: predict in Journal about Hideyo.

-Oral Reading Ch. 4
-Chapter Title Vote

Day 9
-Drama Activity
HW: read food article.

Prepare menu of Japanese meal.

-Chapter Title Vote

Day 10

-Oral Reading Ch. 5

- Chapter Title Vote

-Culture- Food and chopstick fun

Focus Question: Why are the foods of Japan important to Yoko and her family? Which foods are important to your family?

Day 11

-add Hideyo’s trail to map

-Vocab check-up

-Silent Reading Ch.6

Day 12

-Predict: conflicts

-Oral Reading: Ch. 7
HW: telegram

Day 13

-character updates

-Visual Activity

HW: Schools in Japan article. Complete worksheet in Travel Packet

Day 14

-Journal: School Comparison

-Venn diagram

-Oral Reading: Ch 8

Day 15

-Oral Reading: Ch. 9

-Setting Postcard: Describe their new home.

HW: finish postcard

Day 16

-Predict: What will new year bring for Yoko & Ko?

-Oral Reading: Ch. 10

HW: write the intro for Yoko’s essay

Day 17

-Opener: share essay starts

-Oral reading: Ch 11

-Explain Project

HW: choose a final project option

Day 18

-Work on Project

Day 19

-Work on Project

Day 20

-Web quest: Modern day Refugee conditions

Day 21

-Final Tea Celebration

Day 22

-Final Tea Celebration

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