Drylongsoby Virginia Hamilton
Many people around the world endure long periods of time without rain. The drought scorches their lands and they worry whether they can survive. Virginia Hamilton has written a wonderful story about how one African American family strove to save their crops from a severe drought west of the Mississippi River during the 1970s. It is a story about a family working together to saving the land they love so dearly. The story is about hope and fate that came to this family in the form of a boy named Drylongso.
After three years of living with little rain, Lindy and her family continue to work hard trying to save their crops from being destroyed by the drought. While tending the land with her father, Lindy notices a massive wall of dust coming their way. Running ahead of the dust storm is a boy named Drylongso.
The characters created by Virginia Hamilton are plain, hardworking people who deeply care about each other and the land they are trying to save. Have students discuss the story and how Hamilton's characters helped each other to survive the dust storm and the drought. Using the Drylongso: Character Analysis worksheet, ask students to record how each character showed concern for the others during a time of crisis.
Ask each student to do a character analysis of their own family. Have them explain how each family member helped the others to solve a difficult problem or to make a difficult decision.
Severe drought generally occurs in the United States at regular intervals of twenty years. Drylongso, a term describing the nature of a drought, was originally passed down by generations of African Americans living during the Plantation Era. People living during the hard times of a drought, like most people confronting difficult economic times, look to their culture's heroes. These heroes provide them with the strength to face their hardships with a hope that the future will be brighter.
Hamilton made Drylongso a cultural hero by endowing him with mythical qualities that allowed him to save Lindy and her family from the drought's afflictions. The magical properties of a divining rod permitted Drylongso to determine the destiny of a drought-ridden people.
Define the term cultural hero. Discuss how Drylongso was seen as a hero in the lives of Lindy and her family. What qualities did he possess that made him appear mythical? How do some of Drylongso's qualities compare with the qualities of other culturally defined heroes (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, etc.).
Have students generate a class list of people they would identify as cultural heroes. Ask them to choose two people on the list and compare how they are alike and different. Use a Venn diagram to show the comparison between two cultural heroes Share the completed comparisons as a class.
Create cultural hero puzzles by gathering old photographs or illustrations, attaching them to cardboard, and cutting out zigzag shapes to make each puzzle unique.
List ten vocabulary words that would be used to define or describe a drought. Have students define each word and use it in a sentence.
The Dust Bowl
Teach your students about another period of drought – the 1930s. This lesson on the Dust Bowl has students learning key vocabulary, researching the Great Depression, and writing a script to interview a fictional Dust Bowl survivor on television.
The Importance of Water