Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Out of the Dust 2

Vicky Nichols
Bay District Schools


After reading the novel OUT OF THE DUST students explore language from the past.


The student extends previously learned knowledge and skills of the seventh grade with increasingly complex reading selections and assignments and tasks (for example, using context and word structure, making inferences and generalizations, using graphic organizers and note-making, comparing and contrasting).

The student analyzes words and sentence patterns that have changed in meaning over the years.


-Hesse, Karen. OUT OF THE DUST. New York: Scholastic. 1999.
One per student


Read the novel.
If appropriate, choose selections from literature from the past.


Additional lessons on this novel are also available. The are: Out of the Dust 1, Out of the Dust 3, and Out of the Dust 4.

1. Introduce the lesson by asking students if they can think of any words or phrases that their grandparents use that are not in their own vocabularies. (examples: pedal pushers, cool, skeedaddle, hi-fi, etc.)

2. Ask them to think of new words that have evolved in the last twenty or thirty years that their grandparents or great-grandparents might not have known. (Example: Would Billie Jo have understood words or phrases like compact disk, computer, microwave oven, spa, etc.?) Ask students why a language would need to create new words and phrases as well to discard others.

3. Ask students to describe the language used in the novel. Allow them to look in the novel for specific examples of words or phrases that are evident of that time period. (eamples: p. 7 cook pot, p. 32 union suit) Elicit or suggest that it is poetic and in some cases very archaic, but always, very descriptive. Help students to understand that although they might not use the word or phrase, they can understand it by the context of the sentence. They can use dictionaries, as well.

4. Pass out the vocabulary sheet. Ask students to rewrite the sentences into modern-day language. Students who have difficulty could work in groups of two.

5. After completion, have students compare answers and then discuss why the author chose to write the way she did. (to set the tone, create an image for the reader, make the setting real, etc). Ask students to notice any similes, metaphors, examples of alliteration or personification.

6. Ask students if they have read any other material that contains words or phrases that we no longer use or seldom use today. Other popular literature selections might include TOM SAWYER, RIP VAN WINKLE, TREASURE ISLAND. If these are easily available, read a paragraph or two aloud that contains words or phrases that are indicative of the time period.


Assessment: Ask students to reread page 16 (Feb. 1934 entry) Tell them to rewrite this entry as though it was set in today’s time somewhere on a farm in the mid-west.

Students should be able to rewrite the 12 lines substituting current terminology for the following words or phrases:

-bounty of ‘31 (good crop or harvest)
-whittled down to the bone ( hungry or worn-out)
-cured pork (ham or bacon)
-feed sack nightie (baby’s gown or clothing)

Since many students will not find this an easy task due to the fact that some have not been exposed to anything but modern slang, this should be a formative assessment. Allow students to share their newly written entries. Additional page entries that lend themselves to this assessment are listed below. Students who have difficulty could practice this assessment again with other pages, however, students whose language skills are deficient may need much practice and guidance.

Additional selections for this assessment activity:
Page 11 (Jan. 1934)
Page 115 (Jan. 1935)
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