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Herstory: Women portrayed in film

Jean Gallogly

Contents of Curriculum Unit 98.01.02:

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Although sometimes left in the shadow of their male counterparts, many women have achieved historical fame on their own merits. In this unit, we will use films and literature to expose our students to a sampling of these great American women. After all, to understand our culture, we need to learn about the women who helped form it, because women are one half of our culture and are often the ones who set the tone for the times. Too often, the area of Women’s History is ignored or only dealt with in the month of March. It is important for girls, as well as boys, to see female role models who were real and who gained fame for their personal strengths, be they physical or mental. This unit will deal with several women, both real and imagined, who broke the gender and race barrier and achieved their fame in times when men were the accepted heroes and women were home in the kitchen making bread. History is more engaging for the female students when they can identify with the main characters.

Women’s History is a relatively new area of study. Many universities now have well-established departments devoted to Women’s Studies. Just like Black History, Women’s History has a month of its own. Does this mean that they are not part of history the other 11 months of the year? There is no reason why women cannot be part of the curriculum and should be woven in whenever possible. History is not only about battles and generals.

As far as the portrayals of women in films for the masses, Sandra Kay Schackel suggests that men have been the creators and writers of our Westerns and therefore have been inclined to relegate women to the roles of saloon girls and schoolmarms. She argues further that the women receive passive and genteel roles and that shows of strength are reserved for the heroes. (1)

We will use the lives of three great American women as our common denominator. Their lives all overlap in some way, in that Harriet Tubman (b.1820- d.1913) was alive when Annie Oakley (b.1860 - d.1926) was born, and Annie Oakley was still alive when Wilma Rudolph (b.1920-d.1954) was born. What images they provoke! We have Annie Oakley, who personifies the Wild West, even though she spent most of her adult life performing on stage. Hers was a controlled environment and while she literally shot her way out of poverty, she didn’t face the same hardships Harriet Tubman did. True, Oakley suffered pain towards the end of her life, the result of a train accident, and surely would have endured the prejudices a woman of the time who worked in a man’s profession would have faced.

Tubman had the kind of bravery born of mistreatment and injustice. Beaten, whipped, vilified, she used adversity to become a strong, determined and focused spokeswoman for her race and gender.

Shortly after these two women left their mark, Wilma Rudolph came along and also overcame personal hardships while dealing with a society that forced her into rooms marked ”colored only” on the doors.

All three used their fame to better the lives of others. All three serve as good role models and reflect a good portion of our history.

While learning about history from the women’s perspective, students will also develop library and research skills, as well as gain a new perspective and appreciation for our heritage and for our literature. These ends will be accomplished through the use of films and literature.

I am a Library Media Specialist at the L. W. Beecher Elementary School in New Haven, Connecticut. We are in the process of creating a Library Media Center for the first time. The Media Centers in the New Haven School System are being revitalized thanks to Library Power, an initiative funded by a grant from the Dewitt Wallace - Reader’s Digest Fund. Library Power supports collaboration between the Library Media Specialists and the classroom teachers as well as resource based learning and flexible scheduling.

Collaborative planning teams up the classroom teacher with the Library Media Specialist - this provides for more meaningful lessons for both parties. Each one brings a skill to the lesson and in effect, are co-teachers of the unit. By bearing equal responsibility for the lesson, the two teachers will also get a better understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Collaboration generates more ideas, alternatives and solutions. The needs of the students demand more interaction than just pulling off a selection of books on a given topic from the shelf. We will give the students the opportunity to learn and use skills as they relate to their educational needs. The hope is that they will be able to develop lifelong skills.

Flexible scheduling is used by the New Haven Library Media Centers as a way to prevent misuse of the resources. Classes are scheduled as needed, preventing library skills from being taught in isolation. Skills taught with no concrete purpose in mind are quickly lost. Flexible scheduling, as the name implies, allows greater flexibility in scheduling classes for as many sessions as needed to cover a topic. Students are also given increased access to the library on an individual level, instead of needing to wait for the class visit often referred to in the profession as the “weekly death march.”

With resource based learning, students use many resources, including print, non- print, and technology, to learn about a topic, joining problem solving skills with their research to formulate meaningful knowledge. Students are more involved with the learning process and are being challenged to think instead of parroting back information they have copied. Teachers can make the assignment more difficult or easier for individual students according to their needs.

We also use the Big Six in our lessons.(2) Developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz , this is a systematic approach to working on research projects -these skills are:

1. Define the task - ask these questions: What do I have to do - an oral or written report, another form of presentation? How long should it be - how many pages, how many minutes? What will go into it - exposition, graphs, maps, etc? Is there anything else I need to know to get started?
2. Information seeking strategies - What sources will I use? - (Books, encyclopedias, newspapers, internet, etc.). Which sources will give me the most information?
3. Location & Access - Where will I find this information - in the library, at school, at home, through personal interviews, through the internet?
4. Use of information - How will I get this information -through note-taking, through the use of photocopies, or will I read, hear or view the information?
5. Synthesize - How will I organize and present the project and what will be the finished form - oral report, paper, poster, multimedia, etc?
6. Evaluation - How effective was my project? What grade did I receive? What could I do to make it better? Judge the information problem-solving process: how did I use my time? Did I use the best resources?
Without the Big Six, a resource- based lesson may go like this. A third grade teacher assigns a class project on Black History. She could go the Library Media Center and request that all the books dealing with the topic be pulled for her class. The Library Media Specialist could then direct the students to a designated spot in the Media Center when they come in. The students could then be left to their own devices to extract the information needed. In this scenario, a lot of copying will take place and the learning experience will not be beneficial.

Working with the Big Six model and with the concepts of resource-based learning, collaboration and flexible scheduling, the scenario would run like this. The third grade teacher who wants to assign the topic of Black History to her class sits down with the Library Media Specialist several weeks before the planned assignment. They discuss what is to be accomplished - are the students going to learn about specific movements , about specific historical figures and their accomplishments? What does the teacher expect the end product to be? What is the time frame? What are the objectives? The two professionals brainstorm until they come up with a plan that has a beginning, a middle and an end and clearly defines each other’s duties.

The teacher will let students know what is expected of them. The Library Media Specialist will weave library research skills into the lesson and help teach the unit. She and the class will discuss their needs, and where and how these needs will be met. The result is that the students are not learning about the library in isolation - they are able to put to practical use their lesson of information retrieval. This is a much more effective method for learning and more meaningful to the students.

To this end, I will be collaborating with my teammates, who will be spotlighting various people and movements in American history. I will be working with the members of my team to gather and utilize information pertaining to their units as well as devising supplemental lesson plans that will involve the development and use of research skills in their students. Whenever possible I will use women of the three periods as my models. Students will be developing their research skills as we all work together. Collaborative efforts present more intense learning experiences for the students and allow the teacher and Library Media Specialist each a chance to contribute their expertise to make it a better learning experience.

My lessons have several objectives and cross the curriculum covering social studies, literature, research skills, and language skills. Students in grades one through three will learn about historical figures and the times in which they lived. Learning about real people will make their eras more real and will stimulate interest in history. For instance, Harriet Tubman lived in a time with many historical connotations. Studying her life will lead to several related topics such as the issue of slavery, the Underground Railroad, the effects of the Civil War on slavery and the freeing of the slaves. The subsequent migration North many years later can be analyzed. What were the conditions that convinced the Black people to leave their homes in the South and to leave their families?

Research skills will be incorporated as students find relevant materials on each of the women in their time periods. Utilizing the Big Six, we will determine what it is they need to know, where and how to find this information, how to use it, what the end product will be and how it will be evaluated.

There will be a lesson in note-taking, which will enhance their talents in using the English language. Students need to know how to gather the information from their resources once they are located. Too many students are never taught how to extract the relevant facts and end up plagiarizing or copying lines from books, changing a word or two. As they grow older and more sophisticated, the same sentence becomes more elaborately phrased. The lessons that will be used will force them to think about their assignments and put their research together in a logical sequence. (Many years ago in the public library, a young girl came to me and told me she needed to write a poem for school the next day. I showed her several books on poetry as she wanted to get some ideas on how to write one. After a while, she came up to me and showed me what she had been working on. She had copied, word for word, the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer and was planning to pass it off as an original poem. I tried but could not convince her that her teacher might recognize this work. I often wonder what happened....)

We will use films to introduce heroes and heroines in literature, both real and fictional. Seeing people on the screen brings them closer to home for the student. Images that may have developed in their minds can be verified or negated. We use the films to reach out and appeal to the students’ other senses. When they read, they use the sense of seeing. When they watch films, they see and hear and are able to visualize places and people more clearly. When films are made well, the students are able to see history, almost as if they were flies on the wall.

We can use films to our advantage. A film can serve as a hook to reel in the students, to introduce them to famous people, to little known facts and to awaken their curiosity and interest in the world outside their everyday sphere. Through film, we can transport them to different times and landscapes. We can recreate history, giving our viewers a birds eye view of times and scenes that took place long before their birth. But we have to choose our films carefully. Some filmmakers abuse history and rewrite it to conform to their time and budget constraints. Sometimes truth is not as marketable as fiction, so it may sell more tickets if a scene is juiced up. To separate entertainment from educational, teachers need to screen carefully, explore their topic, and carefully evaluate the film. Rosenstone points out that a working knowledge of history helps, as well as being aware of the discourse surrounding a given event. A film purported to be “historical” should not take liberties and ignore the existing data and arguments.(3) Of course, this may narrow the field of available films but school systems and libraries have many free films that can be borrowed. As professionals, we can weed out the negative films and even use them to our advantage by doing comparison studies with them.

By viewing the films, we will accomplish some of our objectives which are:

________ Viewing

1. students will be able to identify main characters in the stories and distinguish between real and fantasy events in the stories and films.
2. Students will be able to order the plot events in the correct sequence.
Post screening objectives will include:

1. students will be introduced to tall tales.
2. Students will be able to write truth stretching stories..
3. Students will be able to compare and contrast film and books.
4. Students will write film reviews.
5. Students will be able to answer these questions:
Whom do you consider strong?
Write a list of the people in your life who are strong and tell why.
Draw a movie poster or book cover.
____ Classroom instructors should use film, but not as a babysitter or as prep time. In order to use films positively, tapes should be previewed first, so that the teacher is familiar with the content and can adequately prepare the lesson in terms of time and content. Things that can be done to use films creatively include just showing parts of a film to help enhance a lesson, turning off the sound to simplify a deadly narrative, leaving the lights on so that students know they are still in a learning environment, letting students know in advance what they will be expected to glean from a tape, and making frequent use of the pause button to discuss or reinforce.


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Mrs. Martin is presenting a unit on Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed and Daniel Boone, using puppets, activities and films that will appeal to her first grade class. Her class will be learning about legendary folk heroes, men who really lived but about whom many fictional tales were told.

I will show the Disney film Tall Tale: an unbelievable adventure to her class. In this live-action film, featuring Patrick Swayze, a young boy fights with his family against a land-grabbing villain in the Old West. In the boy’s quest for justice, he runs into some larger-than-life heroes including Paul Bunyan, John Henry and Pecos Bill. There’s a skillful blend of reality with fantasy as the make -believe characters help the boy save the family farm.

Although the film deals with male heroes, we will use it to lead into an introduction to female folk heroines. The class will be introduced to such books as Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett , the tall tale version about Davy’s wife and Swamp Angel, a tall tale about the woman who created the Smoky Mountains.

Students enjoy tall tales and they are an important part of our literary heritage. Many of them sprung from the oral tradition and grew more fantastic with each telling.

Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett is a mouthful of a title. It is a tall tale about the wife of Davy Crockett, real life hero of the Alamo, among other things. Retold by Steven Kellogg, it was adapted from the Davy Crockett Almanacs, which were published from 1834-1856, as dime-store novels. According to Kellogg, Mrs. Crockett has a prominent role in 8 of the tales and she is first identified as Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett in the 1854 almanac adventure entitled “A perilous situation of Mrs. Crockett.”

Kellogg’s picture book version is enticing with larger than life illustrations and draws from a number of the almanac tales. The story starts with a baby who brags about how she can out run any baby in Kentucky. Her nine brothers fail to beat her in any competition, although there are many efforts to do so. At the age of 8, Sally Ann runs off to the frontier to live with the animals. Several years later, she saves Davy Crockett from two eagles who are yanking his hair out for their nest. Of course, Davy falls madly in love with her and they are married. Sally ambitiously plans on having 31children! While Davy is off in Washington fulfilling his congressional duties , their house is attacked by alligators who crawl all over the outside . Sally fights the alligators and tosses them around so much that she creates a tornado and it rains alligators from Mississippi to New Orleans. Davy Crockett brags to Mike Fink, renowned alligator wrestler, about his wife’s physical prowess and soon Sally and Mike are engaged in a heated competition that results in Sally tossing Mike 5 miles upriver.

Yet another tall tale about the frontier with a woman protagonist is Swamp Angel, by Anne Isaacs. This is the story of Angelica Longrider who was a VERY big baby. At age two, she built her first log cabin. Soon she was using her great size to stop floods and put out forest fires. She earned the nickname “Swamp Angel” when she rescued a wagon train stuck in the mud in Dejection Swamp. The pioneers called her an angel.

A week long fight with a bear named Thundering Tarnation supposedly stirred up so much dust that when it settled it became the Great Smoky Mountains, During the week, she would do fantastic things like drink a lake for refreshment. The fight finally ended when she threw the bear into the sky. When he crashed against the stars, his impression left the constellation Orion behind.

These are appealing tall tales They are valuable because they feature fearless women and our literature is filled with tall tales about men. We will discuss tall tales, what they are, and how they differ from reality. We will try to create tall tales of our own.


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Ms. Sutherland ‘s third grade class will be examining films that deal with the prejudices that Black athletes encountered in this century and how their civil rights were affected. While the black men in baseball overcame great obstacles to become part of the Major Leagues, women athletes also had to contend with gender prejudices.

There were many great women athletes who broke records and paved the way for modern athletes, including Wilma Rudolph who was told as a child that she would never walk due to a case of polio. Yet she went on the be the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics. This woman, like Forrest Gump, managed to shed her leg braces and become a great runner. We will study her life and her accomplishments and compare them to the lives of the male leaguers. As an introduction to this unit and to stimulate interest, we will watch the film Wilma Rudolph from the American Women of Achievement Series. There are several films in this series dedicated to strong, interesting American women.

Wilma Rudolph’s triumph against adversity is the type of story journalists love. She was born in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee on June 23, 1940, the 20th of 22 children to loving but poor parents. Perhaps the name of her hometown was portentous of things to come. She weighed only 4 pounds and was not a strong child. At the age of four , she contracted polio and was fitted with a leg brace for her useless left leg. She was never supposed to walk, and wasn’t even allowed to go to school with her numerous siblings. However, she did have a strong will and a mother who encouraged her. She religiously exercised her leg and became strong enough to go to school. In true legend fashion, she took off the brace one Sunday morning because she wanted to walk up the aisle at church.

From then on, she ran her way to fame. She became a star basketball player in high school and received a track and field scholarship to college. Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull, is a picture book style biography for younger readers that can be read in one sitting to the students. We can read it and discuss it together and then the class can go on to the longer biographies at their leisure. These longer biographies include Wilma Rudolph by Wayne Coffey, which is in large print, and Wilma Rudolph by Victoria Sherrow. A variety of reading levels will be served by these books. The longer biographies address the fact that she became an unwed mother in 1958, while training for the Olympics. In 1960, she became known as the fastest woman in the world when she won three gold medals at the World Olympics, despite the fact that she suffered a twisted ankle on the first day. She broke a record by winning three medals in the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash and the 300 meter dash.

After college, unlike many of today’s Olympic athletes who sign endorsement and pro contracts, she settled down into a relatively normal family life, teaching second grade and raising her children. She did become very involved in the Civil Rights Movement, by showing up at protests and letting herself be photographed. She later founded the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, which provides free sports coaching to young students. The only string attached is that they must keep up their grades. Wilma Rudolph is certainly a good role model for all children,. Her story can be used in lessons on Black History, Civil Rights, Sports and Women’s History.


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Mrs. McKinnon will be focusing on the Black Migration in the unit she is preparing for her second grade class. To supplement her lesson, I will use the film Harriet Tubman, from the Black Women of Achievement Series as well as a cartoon version called Brittany meets Harriet Tubman.

The first film is on the documentary level and will be more educational than entertaining. The second film features a young black girl who dreams her way into an adventure on the Underground Railroad with the great Harriet Tubman. Though it is perhaps a little less realistic than the first film, it nevertheless will interest the students who were unable to assimilate all the information imparted by the documentary. A good exercise would be to compare and contrast the films. We will also read several biographies to introduce this woman who was one of the first to show the Black people in the South that there was hope for them in the North. This unit can be viewed as a “prequel” to the unit on the Black Migration.

Around 1820, Harriet Tubman was born in Maryland, as Araminta Ross, a third generation slave. She was commonly called Harriet after her mother. She watched her siblings get “sold down the river” and vowed not to experience the same fate. She was rented out to neighbors and once unsuccessfully ran away. Another time, she suffered a head injury when she witnessed a contretemps between a slave and an overseer and was hit by a heavy weight. As a result, she suffered from a form of narcoplexy for the rest of her life. This was not a good thing for someone on the run most of the time. Her father taught her about the woods, perhaps in preparation for the day she would flee.

Harriet married a free man named John Tubman and lived with him in his cabin, despite the fact that she was still owned by someone else. She could not convince him to try to run away, so one night, after hearing that she might be sold, Harriet left on her quest for freedom. Soon she was transported to Philadelphia on the Underground Railroad. She returned South several times, despite the risks, to bring family members North. Her husband had remarried and could not be persuaded to leave his home. In all, she made about 19 trips and saved about 300 people. She would threaten to kill anyone who wanted to turn back on one of her rescue missions, feeling that anyone who returned to their homes in the South could jeopardize the runaways.

The Fugitive Slave Act, passed as a compromise between the South and North, dictated that all runaways slaves should be returned to the South. In return, California was allowed to be a free state. Knowing this, Harriet moved on to Canada. Around 1858, she began speaking at anti-slavery rallies, sometimes falling asleep as she spoke. She also worked as a nurse, scout, cook and an army spy in the Civil War. After the war, with the slavery issue more or less resolved, she became a spokeswoman for the suffragist movement. She spent the last days of her life in upstate New York and used her own home and money to set up an old-age facility for the sick and elderly.

Why was Harriet Tubman called Moses? Because on her trips North, she led the runaways in songs and one of her favorites was about Moses, who led slaves out of Egypt.

Go down, Moses
Way down in Egypt land
Tell old Pharaoh
Let my people go
We will read about and discuss the life of Harriet Tubman. We will talk about the brave things she did and make a map of the states she traveled though on her “Railroad.” We can also read Sweet Clara and the freedom quilt by Deborah Hopkinson. This tells the story of a young slave who dreams of being free. The other slaves on her plantation tell her of landmarks on the Underground Railroad and she stitches these into a quilt. Eventually, with all the markings memorized, she gets the chance to escape and, like Harriet Tubman, makes her way to freedom.

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I will also develop a separate curriculum unit on the life of Annie Oakley, using films to introduce this folk heroine to the students. Through film and literature we will sort out the facts and learn a bit about the history of the times, as well as talk about tall tales. This unit can be flexibly used for grades 1 - 3.

Like the male folk heroes in Mrs. Martin’s unit, Annie Oakley was also a real person about whom many fantastic tales were told, not all of them true. We will examine several children’s books as well as two films about her and then compare facts to fiction. We will also get acquainted with some other heroines of the Wild West. I chose Annie Oakley because she is a woman who broke ground in her day by being famous for doing the things men do. She could hunt and shoot better then most men and was a very independent woman.

She was born as Phoebe Ann Moses in Darke County, Ohio in 1860 into a poor family. It was in fact this poverty that spurred her on to achieve her fame. Her early life reads like an old dime store novel. Her father died from the effects of a blizzard. Her widowed mother had several children to support, and the family was on the brink of starving. Her mother married twice more but , in Dickensian fashion, Phoebe was sent out as a live-in helper at various neighbors or to the poorhouse to work in exchange for food, and was badly treated. Eventually she returned home, took up her father’s old rifle, taught herself to shoot, and began successfully hunting game. Soon she was selling meat and skins in town in order to support the family.

She won a shooting match against the expert marksman, Frank Butler,. Instead of being insulted by being bested by this young pint of a girl, Butler fell in love. They were married and he became her agent. Despite a 10 year age difference, they were, by all accounts, very happy. For showmanship reasons, she took the name Annie Oakley. She hated the name Phoebe and always used her middle name,. Oakley came from the name of a suburb of Cincinnati that she liked.

____ The couple toured with a circus until they joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1885. Buffalo Bill had created a rooting’ tooting’ good show that was popular all over the country as well as abroad.

Annie soon became his star performer. Chief Sitting Bull, the unpopular Sioux who had caused Custer to fall, was also a star in the show and was so impressed by Annie that he adopted her as his daughter and gave her the sobriquet “Little Miss Sureshot.” In Europe, she created a sensation when she shot the ashes from the cigar of Kaiser Wilhelm II with a Colt .45. Imagine how the course of history would have changed if she had missed and shot him in the head!

In 1901, a train accident caused Annie’s hair to go white and paralyzed her left side. Eventually, P. T. Barnum took over the management of the show and Annie eventually retired.

Annie Oakley and her husband died a few weeks apart from each other in 1926.

The story of Annie Oakley will appeal to all children. Girls will hear about an extraordinary women of the Old West and boys will be drawn in as soon as they hear about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which at the time was as popular as the movie Titanic is today. My unit will incorporate tall tales and history. One film we will use has an animated Will Rogers narrating the tale of how he first saw Annie at a Wild West Show and then proceeding to tell her life story. At the end of this clip, we see actual moving picture images of Annie that were taken as a result of meeting with Thomas Edison. Annie, Buffalo Bill and the Indians pantomimed shots, dance and sign language for the camera. In some ways, this was the first Western on film.

Annie Oakley lived through the hey-day of the West and also saw its demise. In her time, she also saw many new inventions, including the motion picture camera.
____ As a Library Media Specialist, I am also in a position where my unit can affect other students in the school, by displays or activities. The lessons in this unit would be helpful across the curriculum and can be modified for all grades. I will be working with classes and small groups and the use of film and literature will be advantageous to all.

By examining films as they relate to fact and/or fiction, I hope to expand and enhance the cause of literacy in our school.

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We will introduce students to tall tales.


1. Students will be able to identify main characters in the stories and distinguish between real and fantasy events in the stories and films.
2. Students will be introduced to tall tales.
3. Students will be able to compare and contrast film and books.

1. After reading Sally Ann Thunder Whirlwind Crockett and Swamp Angel, students will write their own tall tales.
2. Students will write film reviews and book reviews.
3. Students will write about the following:
____Whom do you consider strong?
____Write a list of the people in your life who are strong and tell why.
4. Students will draw a movie poster or book cover.
5. Students will sit in a circle and create a tall tale, with a simple opening statement to be embellished on in a progressive manner by each member of the circle, the end product being a Tall Tale.

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We will plan several activities to familiarize the students with Annie Oakley - the activities will incorporate research skills, while being both interactive and fun.


1. Students will be able to complete a research project using the Big Six skills.
2. Students will learn note-taking skills.
3. Students will prepare a graphic organizer.

ACTIVITY # 1 - Game show

1. The first activity is actually the last and needs to be preceded by activities 2 and 3. It will involve setting up a “To tell the truth” type of panel. Three students will sit at the front of the room. Each will pretend to be Annie Oakley and will make an opening statement that would be true, i.e., “I am Annie Oakley, I grew up in Darke County.” or “I am Annie Oakley, I was adopted by Sitting Bull.” Only one student will be the ‘Real” Annie. The others will be “impostors.”
2. The class will then take turns asking facts of each of the three panelists. The interviewers should also prepare some trick questions. The three panelists will respond to each, giving what they think is the correct answer. In some cases they will be expected to bluff the response. (Prior to this point, the students should be shown the difference between the terms “poker face” and “bluff.”) The interviewers are also instructed to show no reaction to the answers.
3. At the end of the “show,” 20 minutes or so, the interviewers will hold up cards with the numbers, 1, 2 or 3, signifying who they suspect is the “real” Annie. The same procedure could be followed for another “episode” featuring Buffalo Bill.”
Although this seems like a fun activity, it places the burden of research on the students. Using books and articles that are consistent with the information given, students will be exposed to research and fact checking skills. They will all have the same information so that everyone will have the chance to know the correct answers.

No one will be writing a report but students will need to isolate their facts. Guidance will be given, i.e., whom did she marry, why was Sitting Bull famous, what was Annie’s nickname, who gave it to her, etc.Because they are searching for facts, this activity will be preceded by a lesson in note-taking.


1. This lesson will incorporate the Big Six skills. First we will discuss what the assignment is and what the students responsibilities are. We will talk about the type of information they will need to accomplish their task and where they will find it. We will about the sources they will use and where they will find them. So that everyone will have the same information, we will confine the sources to a few - often biographies differ on details like date of birth, etc.
2. The class will be given some paragraphs about Buffalo Bill. They will then be given a set of questions that they need to answer about him, i.e., where was he born, what was his real name. They will be instructed to draw a circle around the words that provide the necessary information and to draw a line through the rest.. They will then use the circled words to organize and synthesize a short biography about Buffalo Bill.


1. Once the students have found the sources, they will need to extract the necessary data, using the indexes. They will then synthesize the information by forming questions. In this case , they will also need to falsify some of the data in order to try to trip up the contestants.
2. Evaluation will be the success of the “show.”
3. A similar activity could also be acted out with the stimulation of a talk show featuring such past luminaries as Annie Oakley and other members of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, i.e.., Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, some cowboys and some Indians. Once again, the research and note-taking skills outlined above could be utilized with everyone taking on the title of “researcher.”




1. Students will learn about the Underground Railroad through a series of activities.
2. By using the research and note-taking skills outlined in Sample Lesson Plan #2, the students will be able to create a quilt of their own.

1. First, they will be shown the films Brittany meets Harriet Tubman and Harriet Tubman, and then will share the book Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.
2. Next, they will research the “stops” on the Underground Railroad and draw representations of them, as was done in the book. They will be encouraged to draw pictures of the states that carried Harriet to freedom as well as major rivers and obstacles.
3. The pictures can be then transferred to blocks of material and stitched into a quilt that can be saved and put on display.

1. McDonald, Archie, ed. Shooting Stars; heroes and heroines of Western film. Bloomington Indiana: Bloomington Press, 1987.

Sandra Kay Schackel: “Women in western films: the civilizer, the saloon singer, and their modern sister. p. 196-215.

2. Eisenberg, Michael B. and Bob Berkowitz. Information Problem-solving: the big six skills approach to library and information skills instruction. Norwood, NJ: Alex Publishing Corp., 1990.

3. Rosenstone, Robert A. Visions of the past: the challenge of film to our idea of history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995., p. 72.


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Preliminary reading List

Adler, David A. A picture book of Harriet Tubman. New York: Holiday House, 1992.

Alderman, Clifford Lindsey. Annie Oakley and the world of her time. New York: Macmillan, c1979.

____This book examines the life and times of the sharpshooter with emphasis on her part in the Wild West Show.

Cobb, Mary. The Quilt-block history of pioneer days: with projects kids can make. Brookfield, Connecticut: The Millbrook Press, c1995.

While showing different quilting patterns and projects , the history of wagon trains and its settlement by pioneers is related.

Coffey, Wayne R. Wilma Rudolph. Woodbridge, Connecticut: Blackbirch Press, 1993.

Large print highlights this biography which deals mainly with the road to Wilma Rudolph’s fame.

Cohen, Caron Lee. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett. New York: Greenwillow Books, c1985.

Tall tale about Davy Crockett’s wife and her extraordinary achievements of strength.

____ Dadey, Debbie. Shooting star: Annie Oakley the legend. New York: Walker & Company, 1997.

Tall tale picture version biography, colorful but stretches the truth as a semi-folktale. Good for discussion about crossing the line between fact and fiction.

Elish, Dan. Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Brookfield, Connecticut: Millbrook Press, 1993.

Short, intelligent, inclusive biography suitable for grades 2 - 4.

________________________ Gleiter, Jan & Kathleen Thompson. Annie Oakley. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Raintree Children’s Books, 1987.

____Biography suitable for grades 2 - 3.

Graves, Charles P. Annie Oakley, the shooting star. Champaign, Illinois: Garrard Publishing Co., 1961.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Sweet Clara and the freedom quilt. New York: Knopf, 1993.

A young slave, with dreams of freedom, stitches a quilt with a map pattern which guides her to the North.

Isaacs, Anne. Swamp angel. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1994.

Along with other amazing feats, this tall tale heroine created the Smoky Mountains.

Katz, William Loren. Black women of the Old West. New York: Simon and Schuster, Atheneum Books, 1995.

History book for older readers, with photographs, about ordinary women who forged their way in the Old West.

Kellogg, Steven. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett: a tall tale. New York: Morrow Junior Books, c1995.

____ Krull, Kathleen Wilma Unlimited. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996.

Good picture book to share as read aloud. Colorful illustrations highlight this biography of the Olympic champion for younger readers.

MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, plain and tall. New York : Harper & Row, c1985.

McMullan, Kate. The story of Harriet Tubman: Conductor of the Underground Railroad. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 1997.

Large print biography of the woman who led slaves to freedom.

Porter, Connie. Addy learns a lesson : a school story. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1994.

From the American Girls series.

Quackenbush, Robert. Who’s that girl with the gun: a story of Annie Oakley. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Picture book version biography.

Ringgold, Faith. Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the sky. New York: Crown, c1992.

Schroeder, Alan. Minty, a story of young Harriet Tubman. New York: Dial Books, 1996.

Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. Beautiful picture book that works well with older readers. Deals with childhood of Harriet Tubman and her dreams of escape.

Sherrow, Victoria. Wilma Rudolph, Olympic champion. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995.

Biography for children.

Wilson, Ellen. Annie Oakley, young markswoman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

From the Childhood of Famous Americans Series. For younger readers, this deals mainly with the childhood adventures, with dialogue that is assumed by the author. The last few chapters quickly wrap up Annie’s adult life.



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Video - Annie Oakley - Little Miss Sureshot. Rowaton, CT: Rabbit Ears Productions, 1992. (30 min.)

Keith Carradine adopts the persona of Will Rogers to tell the true story of Annie Oakley, whose extraordinary sharpshooting exploits brought her international fame as the star of Buffalo Bill’s famous Wild West Show.

Video - Annie Oakley. Platypus Productions, Inc., 1986.

Jaimie Lee Curtis plays the title role. At the end there are clips showing the real Annie at the Wild West Show.

Video - Annie Oakley. Turner Home Entertainment, 1989.

Video - Brittany meets Harriet Tubman, Wildflower Productions, 1996.

Brittany falls asleep while her father reads her a biography of Tubman and dreams that she is on a mission with the famous slave.

Video - Wilma Rudolph. Bala Cynwyd, PA : Schlessinger Video Productions, 1995.

(30 min.) (Women of achievement video collection.)

The story of Wilma Rudolph, the first woman to win three gold medals in the Olympics.

Video - Wilma. Burbank, CA: Cappy Productions, Inc., 1977. (100 min.)

Video - Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. CRM McGraw-Hill Films, 1972.

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Bernard, Jacqueline. Journey toward freedom; the story of Sojourner Truth. 1967. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.

____ Haskell, Molly. From reverence to rape; the treatment of women in movies. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1974.

Discusses the roles women have played in film, their relationships to male roles, their strengths and weaknesses.

Herb, Angela M. Beyond the Mississippi: early Westward expansion of the United States.

Historical treatment of the exploration of, and migration to, the West, by trappers, missionaries and explorers after the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expeditions.

Laugaard, Rachel. Patty Reeds’ doll - the true story of the Donner party. Sacramento, CA: Tomato Enterprises, 1989.

Leland, Dorothy. Sallie Fox - the story of a pioneer girl. Sacramento, CA: Tomato Enterprises, 1986.

Leonard, Susan and Gail Munde. At the movies with Bad Dog; using nontraditional film and video with children. La Grange Park, Ill.: American Film and Video Association, 1989.

McDonald, Archie, ed. Shooting Stars; heroes and heroines of Western film. Bloomington, Indiana: Bloomington Press, 1987.

Rosenstone, Robert A. Visions of the past : the challenge of film to our idea of history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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