Welcome, educators! Here you’ll find
(1) An easy walking tour you can do in Richmond, VA, retracing steps that the Brotherhood characters walked;
(2) Brotherhood discussion guides and lesson plan ideas for social studies and language arts classes;
(3) information about my author visits; and
(4) what educators are saying about Brotherhood and my school visits.
To schedule a visit at your school or library, please email me at ABWestrick (at) gmail (dot) com, or email Penguin’s Author Appearance Coordinator at PenguinAuthorVisits (at) gmail (dot) com.
Directions and QR Codes to listen to audio recordings of me reading sections of Brotherhood at eight locations in Richmond, VA.
(2) Lessons for Use in your School:
Feel free to print and use the following PDF documents:
- The Brotherhood discussion guide in full-color.
- The Brotherhood discussion guide, text-only.
- Using Brotherhood in the classroom to meet Common Core Standards in language arts/social studies.
- Using Brotherhood in the classroom to meet Virginia Standards of Learning for U.S. History classes, 1865 to the present.
Use this lesson plan to bring the period of Reconstruction to life. This lesson includes PDFs of primary source documents, sound files, a writing component, and discussion questions, providing a powerful learning experience based on Brotherhood.
Brotherhood will help students appreciate the enormity of the social and political upheaval during Reconstruction, as well as factors leading up to the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and civil rights issues that we continue to face today. Some schools are making Brotherhood a summer read, encouraging parents and students to discuss it together. It also makes a great all-school-read for February’s Black History Month. As fourteen year-old Shad gets to know Rachel and the formerly enslaved children in her school, he comes to question the racial prejudices he’s been taught. Kirkus notes that the book “will spark fruitful discussions about race, identity, social pressure and loyalty.”
If you have time to delve deeply into Brotherhood and the period of Reconstruction, check out the “guided inquiry design” unit that two librarians and a teacher at G. W. Carver Middle School in Chester, VA, developed. They posted materials on this Blendspace page, including parental permission forms, research links, and more. Carver 7th graders read the book, then spent a day in Richmond, VA, walking the streets that the Brotherhood characters walked. Students brainstormed their own essential questions, gathered information, and presented class projects based on issues raised along the way. Feel free to use anything on the Blendspace page to present this unit in your school.
(3) Author Visits:
I’ve geared my talks for students from 5th grade to adult. As you can see from my blog, I love to explore craft-of-writing issues. I’d be happy to design a workshop to meet the particular needs of your students. Email me at abwestrick (at) gmail (dot) com, and we’ll discuss details. Here are some of the presentations I’ve done:
The Story behind the Writing of Brotherhood
Length: 45 minutes
When I wrote Brotherhood, I didn’t set out to write historical fiction; I began with a feeling more than with an idea. In this session, I’ll talk about the story behind the story, including the effects the “Noble Lost Cause” ideology and Jim Crow laws had on my parents. I’ll show students how I took one sentence from an 1868 newspaper clipping and turned it into a full chapter in Brotherhood. Students will glean insights into the period of Reconstruction and the American Civil Rights movement, new ways to engage with primary source documents, and fiction-writing techniques they can use to improve their own writing.
How Setting Affects Character: a writing workshop
Length: 45 minutes
A character’s physical world both limits and challenges him/her. In this session, we’ll explore the world in which a character lives, then change that world and watch our character(s) change with it. This workshop involves guided imagery, writing, and discussion.
The Bullies in Our Lives: a writing workshop
Length: 45 minutes (for first drafts) or 90 minutes (for a session that includes revision/polishing)
We’ve all experienced a time when someone has bullied us, or we saw someone treated badly, or perhaps we were The Bully. In this workshop, we’ll write about those times, and if time permits, we’ll revise and polish our writing. Check out my Students page to listen to middle school students reading essays written during this workshop.
Bringing Reconstruction to Life: a writing workshop
Length: 45 minutes
In this workshop, students will enter into the period of Reconstruction by way of primary sources (newspaper clippings, photographs, and sounds). While drafting scenes full of sensory and descriptive details, students will learn some of the ways that professional writers hone their craft and bring history to life. An engaging collaborative (social studies and language arts) lesson that you can lead in your classroom (or invite me to join you!). Click here for the complete lesson plan.
(4) What educators are saying:
“We are all still reeling from your dynamic presentation! You truly brought to life the research process, writing process and historical fiction. Your entire presentation correlates so well with SOL objectives. Thank you so very much for sharing with Potomac Middle School.”
Barbara Morgan, Library Media Specialist
Potomac Middle School
“We loved meeting you! My students … really loved your presentation, and they have a lot to say about what they learned from you. I am thrilled that you were able to come. Thanks again!”
Rachel Doboga, 5/6 English Teacher
The Congressional Schools of Virginia
Falls Church, VA
“What a wonderful reader/speaker you are! Wow! All of us were so entranced by your reading and the whole thing! How fortunate were we?… Can’t tell you how happy I am to ‘spread the word’ about you and Brotherhood! Thank you so much for speaking at the RARC Banquet!”
“… thank you so very much for spending the day with us. The kids really enjoyed your presentation, and the teachers were thankful to have their history content reinforced. What a great experience for our kids!”
Michele Gilchrist, Teacher-Librarian
Wm. H. Crocker Middle School
“… thank you for your generous visit today to our school. The students very much enjoyed your talk and journey to develop your story. I know they will not forget it.”
Claudia Davis, Teacher-Librarian
J.L. Stanford Middle School
Palo Alto, CA
“I’ve taught some great novels in my classes, and now I’m teaching Brotherhood because it fits with everything the 7th grade is doing. We start the year post-Civil War, and Brotherhood gets us talking about the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist group, and then we go all the way through Nazi Germany to today’s Al Qaida threat. Reconstruction is hard to teach, but Brotherhood helps kids think about the people and the relationships. It gets them to look at the sorts of economic, political and social conditions that encourage hate groups to form. It’s just a great book for kicking off discussions about bullying and conflict. And the story is great. There’s just so much you can do with Brotherhood!”
…while presenting a concurrent session at the
Williamsburg, VA, November 8, 2013