A Year Down Yonder Curriculum Connections

Language Arts

Allow the class to work in teams of two. One student should act as Mary Alice and the other as Joey. Instruct the pairs to write daily letters to one another for one week. Joey's letters should reflect his curiosity about Mary Alice's life with Grandma, and Mary Alice's letters should share the lessons she has learned from Grandma.

Richard Peck uses similes to create certain images (for example, on page 31, “I stood like a sculpture in the yard”). Find other examples of similes in the book. How is this an effective tool for writing?

Mary Alice anonymously writes “Newsy Notes” for the Piatt County Call newspaper. Though she quits writing before people discover her identity, she might be pleased if a write-up of her wedding appeared in the newspaper. Write a feature story about Mary Alice and Royce's wedding at Grandma Dowdel's house.

Social Studies

Arnold Green is a WPA artist from New York who comes to town to paint the post office. Have students find out the purpose of the WPA. What other government-sponsored programs helped people overcome the recession that followed the Great Depression? Social Security is one of the social programs that Roosevelt began that still exists today. Ask students to find out the benefits of Social Security. At what age can a person draw Social Security? Ask students to find recent articles about the current problems with Social Security. Discuss the proposed solutions.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932. Have students find out why he was called “The Greatest Man in the World,” “Benedict Arnold II,” and “Chief Shooter at the Moon.” Life magazine began in 1936. Using the information they have gathered about Roosevelt, have students write a story for Life magazine that reveals Roosevelt's efforts to rebuild hope in an economically fractured nation.


A tornado hits Grandma's town, destroying the homes of several people. Have students find out what causes tornadoes. When is tornado season? Mary Alice leaves school when she hears the tornado siren. Why was running home a dangerous thing for her to do? Ask children what kind of safety drills they perform in school or at home.


During the Depression and World War II, high school was a luxury for many people. Ask students to use statistical sources and find out the high-school dropout rate from 1929 to 1945. Make a bar graph that compares the figures from each year. How did the dropout rate change after the war ended?


The motto for the graduating class of Mary Alice's high school is “We Finish – Only to Begin.” Design a graduation program for the class that interprets the meaning of this motto.


Mary Alice brings a radio with her when she comes to live with Grandma. Kate Smith, noted for her song “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” was one of the great radio personalities of the time. Your Hit Parade was heard weekly on Saturday nights. Have students find song hits from 1937 and stage a radio show in the classroom. Prepare an appropriate introduction for each song.

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