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Beverly Cleary: The Girl from Yamhill Lesson Ideas

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 9/11/2012

Beverly Cleary’s autobiography covers her early childhood until beginning of college. Her books give the reader an a feeling for what it was like to grow up during the Depression. This lesson offers ideas and activities to go along with the book.

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    A Girl from Yamhill Activities

    This Depression Era book, Beverly Cleary: The Girl from Yamhill shows Beverly's life and how her middle class family made it through the difficult time. The book is recommended for grades six and up even though Cleary generally writes for an elementary audience. Because the book is an autobiography, some students struggle with this long, non-fiction piece. The following are activities to help the students understand the novel.

    Ancestors and Pioneer Activites

    Beverly Cleary talks quite a bit about her ancestors who were pioneers. They were strong people who made it through very difficult times. She was reminded constantly of how tough they had it so that she could endure her little “hardships."

    • Students complete a small research paper about the pioneers who went West and their struggles.
    • Student create a survival guide for pioneers on how to make it across the Great Plains to the West Coast.
    • Students complete family trees and research of where their ancestors lived.

    Great Depression Era Ideas

    Beverly’s parents struggled financially in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the end, they end up selling the family farm to stay in town. However, they were never destitute.

    • Students complete research on what it was truly like during the Great Depression.
    • Students talk to older relatives and neighbors who lived through the Great Depression. In addition, students complete research on the Internet to make a survival guide of the Great Depression. Students could tell how to save money, how to make money and how to stretch items that people already had.

    Write Own Autobiography

    Students can write their own autobiographies. They can tell about their birth, their years before they started school, and school years.

    Discussions about Middle School Subjects

    Beverly shares the good with the bad. Her life as a teenager during the Great Depression was not much different than the teens today. Some topics for discussion are as follows:

    • The relationship between Beverly and her mother was strained. Beverly's mother was rarely affectionate; however, she never abused her physically.
    • The relationship between Beverly and her first boyfriend and other boys in the neighborhood was somewhat typical. The boyfriend in high school was very possessive.
    • The relationship between Beverly and her friends was very typical of a teen. She worried about the clothes she wore and her friendships.

    Middle school students will be able to connect with Beverly Cleary when they read this autobiography. Help them learn more about the time period and themselves when they complete these activities.