Catherine, Called Birdy Lesson Plan
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Awards: Newbery Honor Book, 1995 Notable Children's Book, 1995 Best Book for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Young Adults 1995.
Subject Area: Language Arts
Reading Level: 7.5
The year is 1290 and Catherine's father wants to see his rebellious daughter married to a proper, wealthy gentleman, ignoring what Catherine desires. But Catherine is determined to outsmart her father and goes to great lengths, drooling in her food over dinner and coloring her teeth black, to disgust her suitors. Everything seems to be going well until the oldest, ugliest, and richest suitor comes to town. Her greedy father can hardly contain his excitement. Catherine wants nothing to do with this revolting man who wants to marry her. Is she destined to become trapped like a bird in a cage and marry this old man? Armed with only her sharp tongue and clever tricks, Catherine will do everything possible to save herself from such a horrible fate.
Students will compare society's expectation of women during the medieval ages with society's expectations of women in the new millennium.
Standard: Student uses own words to develop ideas; uses common expository structures and features, such as compare-contrast. Student writes in response to literature (e.g., responds to significant issues in a log; describes an initial impression of a text; connects knowledge from a text with personal knowledge; states an interpretive, evaluative, or reflective position )
- Ask students, the following questions:
- What is the meaning of the word expectations ?
- What is expected of you? (to clean your room? take care of a sibling? get a job?)
- Who places these expectations upon you? (parents? teachers? society? the world?)
- Do you expect things of yourself?
- Explain to students that they will be reading a book about a young girl named Catherine who grew up during the year 1290 — in medieval England. As they read the story they should notice what was expected of Catherine (and women in general), and how times have changed.
- With a partner, have students go through the book and make a list of medieval society's expectations of women and girls that surprised them. Tell students to write down their initial reactions to these expectations.
- Have students present their lists to the class and compare and contrast it with the expectations that we now have for females.
- What does society expect women to accomplish?
- What jobs and responsibilities do women today have? How is this different from their roles during medieval times?
- Tell students that they will each be creating their own medieval etiquette (rule) book. The rule book will be filled with the ways a proper medieval woman should act. This will be based on information gathered from the book. Students may want to create an illustration for each rule they list. You can show them examples of medieval illustrations or calligraphy to give them an example. You may want to show them Miss Manners' or Emily Post's Etiquette . Beforehand, brainstorm a list of general themes (attire, table manners, marriage, etc.) so all the rule books follow a similar premise.
Have each student write a response to the medieval rulebook from Catherine's point of view. What would Catherine think about these rules? Which ones would make her angry? Why? Then have them respond from their own point of view. Are any of the expectations still part of society's expectations today? What new expectations have replaced those of medieval times? Is the role of women better in every way today, or not?
Other Books About the Roles of Women in Different Times and Cultures
By Kyoko Mori
When Yuki's mother commits suicide, her whole life is turned upside down. Yuki discovers her own inner strength in this beautiful novel about coming of age in Japan.
By Suzanne Fisher Staples
Shabanu learns about life and the role of women in the Cholistan desert.
By Gloria Whelan
Thirteen-year-old Koly is married and widowed in the same year. She must serve her in-laws like a slave.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
By Elizabeth George Speare
A young girl journeys to colonial New England where she struggles to fit into puritanical society.
Other books by Karen Cushman
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
The Midwife's Apprentice
Teaching plan written by Gabrielle Nidus