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The Watsons Go To Birmingham

The Watsons Go To Birmingham

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The Watsons Go To Birmingham

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  1. The Watsons Go To Birmingham Chapters 5-9

  2. Chapter 5 Guided Reading Questions • Why is his mother reprimanding Byron? • How long before Byron is doing it again? • Why does Momma tell Joey to go to the kitchen to bring some matches? • Why does Joey deliberately keep putting herself between Momma and Byron? • Joey keeps blowing out the match. How many times in total does Momma try to burn Byron’s fingers? • What lesson is Momma trying to teach? • When Momma finally gives up, who will have to deal with Byron?

  3. JOURNALING • In just a few sentences, pretend you are Kenny and summarize what happened in Chapter 5. Focus on the main parts of this chapter.

  4. Checking for comprehension • Context Clues Consider the following sentence from Chapter 5 (p. 66): “Byron was on take seven when Momma finally wondered why the toilet was being flushed so much and came upstairs to see what was going on. The whole upstairs smelled like a giant match and she knew something was fishy even before she got to the top step.” Given the context of the sentences, what do “take seven” and “fishy” mean?

  5. Check for comprehension • Make Predictions Do you think Byron will ever play with fire again? Why? • Characters’ Perspectives What is Kenny’s perspective on the punishment that Byron is to receive from Momma? On page 69, why is Kenny terrified when Momma tells him to go get the matches? On page 73, Kenny notes that “Momma’s horrible snake woman voice came out again…” Why does this alarm Kenny? And why would Momma have such a voice?

  6. Checking for comprehension • Characters’ Actions What was Momma’s reaction when she caught Byron playing with fire in the bathroom? Why did Joetta keep blowing out the matches when Momma was trying to burn Byron’s finger?

  7. Checking for comprehenison • Using Evidence from the Past Momma knows first hand how dangerous fire can be. What happened when she was a little girl? What kind of reaction did this story get out of the different Watson family members? What evidence do we have that Byron did not take Momma’s fire warnings seriously?

  8. Chapter 6 Active reading questions • Momma sends Byron and Kenny to the grocery store. What items does she want? • When Kenny orders the items from Mr. Mitchell, what does he discover? • How does Byron normally give the impression that he has carried the groceries all the way home? • What milk do the boys call welfare food? • A week later, behind Mitchell’s store, what does Kenny discover? • How does Byron kill the mourning dove? • Why do you suppose Byron becomes sick and vomits? • What does Byron do with the dead bird?

  9. journal • In just a few sentences, pretend you are Kenny and summarize what happened in Chapter 6. Focus on the main parts of this chapter. • Do you think Byron is a good person? Explain your reasoning. • Do you know of someone who has made an unkind decision that you felt was wrong? Did the person apologize or try to make things right again? What is an example of a time that you have needed to forgive someone for something you thought was wrong?

  10. Cause and Effect • What caused the mourning dove to die? • What effect did the bird’s death have on Byron? • What lesson, if any, do you believe Byron learned from the dove’s death?

  11. Characters’ Perspectives • On page 85, Kenny says, “I really wished I was as smart as people thought I was, ‘cause some of the time it was real hard to understand what was going on with Byron.” What made Kenny feel this way? • Kenny tries to comfort Byron after he gets sick, and in response Byron throws green apples at Kenny, calls him a “punk,” and tells him to leave. Why would Byron behave like this?

  12. Making Predictions • How do you think Byron’s parents will react when they find out that he signed for “free food” in the form of cookies at the grocery store?

  13. Using Evidence from the Text • Byron and Kenny are both bothered by the idea of being on welfare. What parts of the book let us know this?

  14. Class Discussion • Byron’s behavior is confusing and frustrating to his family. For example, Kenny felt that Byron was becoming hard to understand, especially after the peculiar way he acted after he killed the mourning dove. What are some of the behaviors that Byron has displayed that make his actions seem confusing? What could be causing Byron to act in these ways? Talk to each other. Explain why you agree or disagree with each other, support your claims with justifications from the book, and ask each other questions about their ideas.

  15. Chapter 7 prereading activities • In Chapter 7, Byron’s hair causes quite the stir within the Watson household. As it turns out, Byron was not the only person in the 1960s to choose such a hairstyle. Interestingly, many popular Black musicians in the 1960s adopted these straightened hairstyles:

  16. Ch. 7 prereading activities • Hair Straightening Products in the 1960s: • Conkoleen Hair Cream was a styling product marketed towards Black men who wanted straighter hair. In fact, the product’s jingle was: If your hair is short and nappy, Conkoleen will make you happy. This was particularly controversial at the time because the Black community emphasized the importance of loving one’s natural self—and for many, like Momma and Dad in this story, that meant not altering your naturally curly hair. During the Civil Rights movement, the conk hairstyle was particularly criticized as detrimental to the entire Black race because it involved engaging in a dangerous chemical process all for the intent of eliminating Black features in order to look more White. Here is more information on the history of Black hair: •

  17. Chapter 7active reading questions • Why is Byron trying to sneak in the back door without being seen? • What color is Byron’s hair now? • Why does Joetta want to take Byron to the bathroom before Daddy gets home? • After taking verbal abuse from Momma, Kenny and Joey, what happens when Daddy gets home? • After Daddy is finished with Byron, what chore does he give him? • When Kenny and Joey venture into the house again, with whom is Daddy talking on the phone?

  18. Ch. 7 Journal prompts • In just a few sentences, pretend you are Kenny and summarize what happened in Chapter 7. Focus on the main parts of this chapter. • Do you believe it was fair of Dad to shave Byron’s head? Explain. • What does it mean to be fair and just? When troublesome situations happen, how can we be sure to treat all people fairly?

  19. CONTEXT CLUES Consider the following passage from Chapter 7 (p. 86): “Byron had gotten a conk! A process! A do! A butter! A ton of trouble! His hair was reddish brown, straight, stiff and slick-looking.” Kenny uses several terms to describe the same thing. Given the context of the sentences, what is Kenny talking about?

  20. Characters’ Motivations and perspectives • Why would Byron straighten his hair? What do you think motivated him to do this? • Momma and Joetta are both upset by Byron’s new hairstyle, but for different reasons. What are the different reasons? • Dad ends up shaving Byron’s head. Considering the fact that the story takes place in 1963, how do you think Byron felt about being bald-headed?

  21. Making Predictions • What do you think might have been discussed during the “adult-only” talk between Momma and Dad? • What do you think that Dad might have to get back to Grandma Sands about?

  22. Ch. 8 building background Chapter 8 introduces the Ultra-Glide, a car record player. • Research what the Ultra-Glide was, how it really worked, and what 45s were. Objects from the 1960s: •’s Chapter 8 also introduces songs that were popular during the Watsons’ time. Listen to a few of these songs: • Momma’s Favorite Song – ”Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters: • Kenny’s Favorite Song – ”Yakety-Yak” by The Coasters:

  23. Ch. 8 Active reading questions • Kenny, Joey and Rufus help Daddy to clean and polish the car. What have they named it? • Daddy has another bag in the trunk. What is in it? • According to Kenny, why did Blackie growl at someone in his own family? • When Daddy comes home, he shuts off the TV. Why? • What has Daddy installed in the car? • A new system has been invented to overcome the vibration problem. What is it called? • Why do you suppose Momma and Daddy are making the trip to Alabama? • Riding the bus, how long would it take to get from Flint, Michigan to Alabama?

  24. Ch. 8 journal prompts • Describe Byron's new hairdo with at least five adjectives. • Do you think that Kenny was correct in thinking that he couldn't tattle on Byron once he had eaten the cookies? Why or why not? • What did you think about the way Mr. Watson explained about being a parent to Kenny? How did it make you feel? Do you have a person that can explain things to you that way?

  25. Ch. 8 checking for comprehension • Why was dad driving all over Flint to find things to fix up the Brown Bomber? • Dad was making up that he had some really big, extravagant part to add to the Brown Bomber. It was really not all that great. It came from a brown paper bag. What was it? • When the book says “Momma gave him her last straw look.” What does that mean? • What kind of music system did Dad put in the Brown Bomber?(example: cassette player) • What was the name of this music system? • What was Kenny’s favorite song that he played on all his turns?

  26. Ch. 9 Active Reading Questions • To scare Byron, Kenny suggests that his dad need only drive to Ohio and drop him off. Why? • Why do Momma and Daddy want to leave Byron for a while with Grandma Sands? • Kenny has three questions for his dad. What is the third? • Mrs. Davidson bought a little angel for a gift for Joey. Why doesn’t Joey like it? • Why do Momma and Daddy have Byron sleep with them? • How far will they drive the first day? • On their way to Alabama, how does Byron plan to treat his family? • Why does Kenny feel pretty good all the way to Birmingham?

  27. Ch. 9 journal prompts • If your parents were going to "send you off" for constantly misbehaving, where would they send you and why? • How should unruly, misbehaving children and students be corrected so that they turn into responsible, descent adult citizens? • In just a few sentences, pretend you are Kenny and summarize what happened in Chapter 9. Focus on the main parts of this chapter.

  28. Ch. 9 make inferences • Why did Momma and Dad make Byron sleep in their room the night before the big trip? • What would have given Momma and Dad the impression that Byron may try to run away?

  29. Characters’ perspectives • How does Kenny really feel about sending Byron to Grandma Sands’ house for the summer? • Why doesn’t Joetta like the angel that Mrs. Davidson gives her? • Why would the color of the angel’s face be a problem for Joetta?

  30. Characters’ motivations • Why did Momma have the whole trip to Birmingham planned? • Why would Momma and Dad decide that sending Byron to Birmingham for the summer is a good idea?