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"My Brother Abe" Literature Activities for Fifth Grade

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/16/2014

What was it like growing up with Abe Lincoln? Learn about the hardships of the young Sally and Abe Lincoln with these literature activities to accompany the book by Harry Mazer.

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    40521593 My Brother Abe, Sally Lincoln’s Story is an appealing historical fiction novel for middle school students. It is narrated by Sarah Lincoln, better known as Sally, and tells the story of the Lincoln family when Sally and Abe were young. Through the eyes of this young girl we understand the hardships the Lincolns endured as they were forced from their home in Kentucky and tried to build a new life in Indiana.

    Remind your students that this is historical fiction. Little is known about Sarah Lincoln so the author states, “I have imagined the life and personality of Sarah Lincoln." This literature unit will include a vocabulary activity, character analysis, a map and math activity and a friendly letter writing assignment.

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    1. Use context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words.

    2. Determine word meanings and pronunciations by using a dictionary.

    3. Use graphic organizers to interpret textual information.

    4. Make inferences based on implied text regarding characters.

    5. Compare and contrast characters.

    6. Demonstrate active listening skills.

    7. Use a variety of communication techniques to present information.

    8. Practice map-reading skills.

    9. Use available information to solve math word problems.

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    Vocabulary Activity

    Here is a list of twenty-five vocabulary words. We've included the page number showing where the word appears in the book. Put the words on slips of paper and place them in a basket. Each student will choose a word from the basket and research it. To do that, each student will look the word up in the book to see how it is used and then will look it up in a dictionary. Finally each student will decide how to present the word to the class: using a poster, a role-play or other means to teach the word to the class. The goal is to get the students to remember the words!

    1. p.8-sassing
    2. p.13-tumpline
    3. p.15-drovers
    4. p.15-merriment
    5. p.16- hemlock
    6. p.23-hobbled
    7. p.32-insolent
    8. p.32-cress
    9. p.33-grouse
    10. p.34-chastisement
    11. p.42-lollygag
    12. p.43-trencher
    13. p.59-pawpaws
    14. p.61-mauls
    15. p.68-morose
    16. p.92-inscrutable
    17. p.97-foraging
    18. p.140-debts
    19. p.150-lintel
    20. p.150-mortification
    21. p.151-commenced
    22. p.154-curtsy
    23. p.157-penitent
    24. p.164-daft
    25. p.177-carcass

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    Math and Maps

    Using a map, atlas or Internet find Knob Creek, Kentucky (Hodgenville) and Little Pigeon Springs, Indiana (Lincoln City). Calculate the miles between the towns (132 miles). If the Lincoln’s traveled five miles a day how many days would it take? Draw the map. Include the Ohio River.

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    Before your students read or listen to My Brother Abe tell them to pay particular attention to the personalities of Sally and Abe. How are they alike and how are they different? Suggest that they jot down words about the characters as the book goes along. Then have them use this printable characterization worksheet to fill out comparing Sally and Abe. Use this for a class discussion or as an assessment tool.

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    Friendly Letter

    The assignment is to write a friendly letter. Students may choose between Abe or Sally as the letter writer. Then students may select one of these characters to be the recipient of the letter: Mama (the first Mrs. Lincoln), Pa, Aaron Grigsby, Stepmother (Mrs. Johnston), Elizabeth or Matilda. Encourage the proper friendly letter format, legible handwriting and correct capitalization and punctuation.

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    The appealing thing about this book is that it depicts the difficult lives of young settlers in a realistic way. Sally had to do much of the work especially when her mother died but she did not always do it happily. Often she was reprimanded for her sassy behavior. Use this literature unit for My Brother Abe by Harry Mazer to have discussions about how the activities of today’s children compared to Sally Lincoln’s life. Challenge your students to learn more about Abraham Lincoln!

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    Diocese of Toledo, Ohio: Language Arts Course of Study

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