Teaching Guide for Blue Thread

Students at Portland State University have put together a teaching guide for Blue Thread. This thorough and innovative guide will be available through the “Guides” page on this blog, and, with a few tiny changes, through Ooligan Press. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments to make this guide more useful to you. I’d also be happy to answer any other questions you might have on Blue Thread and to work with your students. Thank you, Portland State!

Blue Thread Teaching Guide



Lesson 1: Pre-Reading, Portland, Oregon: A turn of the century history
Lesson Plan by Meredith Ott
Grade Level:
Middle through Early High School
Estimated Time:
1 day (50 min)

Materials Needed:

  • Several pieces of poster paper
  • Markers
  • Posters should be based on the following K-W-L Chart:


Curriculum Framing Questions:

  • Essential Question: What has happened in history to bring life in Portland to where it is now?
  • Unit Question: How do characters from Blue Thread change Portland as we know it?
  • Lesson Question: How can I put myself into a character’s shoes from a different time period and situation?

Background Knowledge Needed: Students will understand that they are about to read the novel Blue Thread, which takes place in Portland, Oregon, in the early 1900s during the women’s suffrage movement.


  • What was Portland like at the turn of the 20th Century?
  • What was the women’s suffrage movement like?
  • Who supported it the movement, who opposed it, and how did women and supporters go about campaigning? (Have students think about how campaigns are different today).
  • What was education like in early-1900s Portland?
  • What are some important elements and traditions of the Jewish religion?

Goal: To gauge and promote student knowledge and interest in the subject matter and history important to understanding the book.

Curriculum Standards:

  • EL.HS.LI.16.  Analyze the way in which a work of literature relates to the themes and issues of its historical period.
  • EL.HS. RL.3.  Analyze how complex characters may develop these themes.

Overview: Students will be asked to share knowledge of different subjects by writing what they know onto posters spread throughout the room. After every student has circulated the room, the class will discuss what is known about these subjects and also what we all would like to learn about them.


1) Introduction (5 minutes). Several large posters will be spread around the room, each with a K-W-L chart indicating sections for what we know, what we want to learn, and what we have learned. Today, students will focus only on the first two columns: what we know and what we want to learn about each subject. Introduce the idea of the Know-Want-Learn chart, explain to students about the poster headings, and emphasize that it is okay if they are not very knowledgeable about any of these areas.

The posters should have this chart with one of the following headings:

  • Woman’s Suffrage in Portland, Oregon
  • Judaism
  • Portland, Oregon Geography and Industry in the Early 1900s
  • Education in the Early 1900s
  • Careers in the Early 1900s

2) Students add what they know to posters (5 minutes). Students will be asked to approach the posters and add something to the what we know column on as many of the posters as possible.

3) Students add what they want to know to posters (5 minutes). Once this activity has been completed, all students should be prompted to move on to the what we want to learn column. All students should aim to have something written on at least three of the four posters.

4) Clarifications (15 minutes). After all students have finished writing, go to each poster and circle those words that you, as a teacher, feel are important to know or that the class will be going over during the course of the book. Also, clarify with the class the ideas that the class all seemed to agree upon and the ideas that seemed to be less clear.

5) Free Write (15 minutes). After discussing what we know so far, put up as many of the four pictures as you can for use as a prompt for students to free write. Each student should pick a person in one of the photographs and write a letter from this person’s perspective. Tell students that they will notice that Miriam, the main character in Blue Thread, writes letters in order to communicate her struggles and emotions.

6) Closure (5 minutes). Close by having a few students share their letters and highlight the struggles that people faced during the early 1900s in Portland, Oregon, with regards to education, working, women’s rights, and religion.

Pictures to Prompt Letter Writing




Lesson 2: Pre-Reading, Prologue and Chapters 1–5
Lesson Plan by Shiela Clow
Grade Level:
Middle through Early High School
Estimated Time:
1 day (90 min.)

Materials needed:

  • Copy of Blue Thread
  • Handout: “That Was Then, This Is Now”
  • KWL Chart (if desired, as above)
  • Highlighters

Curriculum Framing Questions:

  • Essential Question: What does it take to change our world?
  • Unit Question: How do characters from Blue Thread change the world?
  • Lesson Question: How can the use of reading strategies help me to better understand the story?

Background Knowledge Needed: Students will use information learned during the first day’s lesson to help them complete today’s lesson. They will further their understanding of life during the early 1900s, as well as period vocabulary.


  • Students will learn to use reading strategies and learn difficult vocabulary that will help them better understand the novel.
  • Students will be able to identify literary elements/devices used by the author.

Curriculum Standards:

  • 9-10.RL 3. Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • 9-10.RL.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets formal or informal tone).
  • 08.WR.01. Use a variety of strategies to prepare for writing, such as brainstorming, making lists, mapping, outlining, grouping related ideas, using graphic organizers, and taking notes.


1) Quick Write (15 minutes). Students will be instructed to read the prologue and then make a prediction about what they think the story will be about. They will write for four minutes, and then share their ideas in small groups. Prompt students to think about the biblical references, time period, and characters introduced.

2) Pre-Reading Activity (20 minutes). Students will be given the handout “That Was Then, This Is Now”. They will be instructed to sketch and write a brief summary about what they know about the suffrage movement and what life was like in the early 1900s on the “That Was Then” side of the worksheet. This literacy strategy helps create interest in the topic, activate students’ background knowledge, and establish a purpose for reading. Tell students to create mental images as they read. After they read chapters 1–5, instruct students to complete the other side of the worksheet: the “This Is Now” portion of the activity. They can then compare and contrast their before and after sketches and summaries.

3) Marking the Text (40 minutes). This activity can be done on a separate piece of paper, if students are not permitted to write in the text. Explain to students that to annotate is to create meaningful notes. Annotation ensures that we actively read a text, rather than passively. It allows us to communicate with a piece of text and bring its ideas to life. On the board or an overhead, write down the things you want students to highlight from the text: difficult vocabulary, major claims, important quotes, introduction of a new character, alliteration, metaphors, symbolism, etc. We want to get to know Miriam better. How does identifying the author’s craft help us in doing this?

Instruct students to start following “clues” in the story by annotating the text. Read and annotate the first few pages as a class. The class now reads chapters 1–5 (silently, aloud, or in small groups). After reading, instruct students to finish the second part of the “This Is Now” worksheet.

4) Closure (10 minutes). After reading Chapter 1, have students get into small groups to share and compare the things they highlighted.

Examples of the type of things students should have made note of:

Vocabulary to define

  • Milliners
  • Suffrage
  • Spinsters
  • Yom Kippur / Rosh Hashanah / Day of Atonement
  • Vaudeville show


  • Fantastical Fannie from Frisco
  • Majestic melodies
  • Reading responsively
  • Page in prayer


  • Reference to the typographer’s bible (pg 16)

Color everywhere

  • Simple navy hat
  • Girl’s bronze colored skin: brown and gold pigment
  • Old-woman white
  • Black velvet bag
  • Hazel eyes flecked with gold
  • Plain gray dress
  • Color rose

Lesson 3: Chapters 6–10
Lesson Plan by Alex Chertok
Grade Level:
Middle through Early High School
Estimated Time:
2 days

Materials Needed:

  • Copy of Blue Thread
  • “Bio-Poem” worksheet

Curriculum Framing Questions:

  • Essential Question: What does it take to change our world?
  • Unit Question: How do characters from Blue Thread change the world?
  • Lesson Question: Who is Miriam Josefsohn?

Background Knowledge Needed:

  • General understanding of literary elements (plot, character, setting, etc.).
  • Read through Chapter Ten of Blue Thread.

Goal: Introduce the students to the process of critical character analysis, and help them form a personal connection to the text. Students will develop the ability to infer character traits as they begin to read further into Blue Thread.

Learning Objective(s):

  • Discuss the different ways that authors create characters.
  • Hypothesize about Miriam Josefsohn’s character using information gleaned from our previous readings.

Curriculum Standards:

  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
  • Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


1) Journal / Hook (10 minutes). Students will write in their journals for 5 minutes to the following prompt: “Would you want to be friends with Miriam? What do you like/dislike about her?” After they have finished writing, the teacher will ask several students to share, and for evidence from the text to support their claims. Teacher will lead the class towards the understanding that authors don’t explicitly describe every aspect of their characters, but often provide clues for the reader to work with.

2) Bio-Poem worksheet (75 minutes). Teacher will pass out the Bio-Poem worksheet, and explain to students that today they are going to really get to know Miriam Josefsohn. Students will work in pairs on their Bio-Poem worksheets. Importantly, students must complete the back of the worksheet by providing 1 paragraph of textual justification for each of their poetic decisions. Teacher will circulate and provide assistance as needed.

3) Students will share their poems (15 minutes). Once the students are done, groups will take turns sharing their poems with the class, and will each choose one line to explain (by referencing the text). Teacher should encourage debate when a group’s decisions are materially different from the majority.

4) Quick Write. Students will finish by writing a brief exit slip describing how they think Miriam will change over the course of the novel. Students who struggle with this should be told to think about the predictions they made in their Bio-Poems.

5) Hand in Bio-Poems. Students will hand in their Bio-Poems (to be stored by the teacher so that they can be returned and reflected upon after the students have finished the book), as well as their exit slips.

Attention to Literacy: The Bio-Poem utilized by this lesson demands students read a text closely in order to make inferences and predictions about Miriam Josefsohn’s character traits, which is an essential skill in the reading of advanced texts.

Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning: The Bio-Poems should be graded on completion (provided the student attempts to provide evidence for each decision).


Bio-Poem Worksheet



Look at what you have read so far, and create a Bio-Poem — a poem about Miriam Josefsohn.

1)         ________________ _______________ (first name)

2)         ________________ _______________ (four words that describe Miriam)

________________ _______________

3)         Who lives in ________________ in the country of _______________

4)         Who is motivated by ______________________ and ______________________

5)         Who cares about ______________________________

6)         Who believes __________________________________

7)         Who is loved by ______________________________

8)         Whose biggest weakness is _____________________

9)         Who hopes __________________________________

10)         Who fears _________________________________

11)         Who will someday _____________________________ (predict the end of the story)

12)         _________________________________ (last name)

How do you know these things about Miriam? On your own paper, provide one paragraph of evidence for every Bio-Poem decision (Refer to the book with page numbers!)

Lesson 4: Chapters 11–15
Lesson Plan by Adam Karnes
Grade Level:
Estimated Time:
2 days (50-minute periods)

Materials needed:

  • A projector and screen
  • Popsicle sticks with student names
  • Copy of Blue Thread
  • Computers for composition (optional)

Curriculum Framing Questions:

  • Essential Question: What does it take to change our world?
  • Unit Question: How do characters from Blue Thread change the world?
  • Lesson Question: How have your choices or actions been influenced by the past?

Background Knowledge Needed:

  • Familiarity with previous lessons and related assignments.
  • Read through Chapter 15 of Blue Thread.

Goal: Students should develop a better understanding of the protagonist of the story by thinking about their own lives and making comparisons.

Curriculum Standards:

  • EL.HS. RL.3 Analyze how complex characters develop the theme.
  • EL.HS.WR.22 Write responses to literature: Demonstrate an understanding of the significant ideas of literary works.

Learning Objective(s):

  • List key events from chapters 11–15 relating to the protagonist’s choices or actions and how those choices or actions were influenced by the past.
  • Recall some of your most significant choices/actions. Consider how these might have been influenced by the past.
  • Compare and contrast your choices/actions with the choices/actions of the protagonist.
  • Produce a five-paragraph essay on the theme “The past can influence behavior.”

Day 1

Hook (10 minutes). Arrange the students into random groups of three to four. Draw popsicle sticks with the students’ names to ensure a random distribution. After the groups are settled, display the following quotation on the screen: “The past is always a rebuke to the present.” (Robert Penn Warren)

Ask the groups to discuss the quotation’s meaning. Tell them they need to collectively write an explanation of the quotation in five minutes. Encourage them to provide examples.

After giving the groups five minutes, call on each of the groups to share their interpretation. Discuss these interpretations with the rest of the class. Emphasize the significance of how knowledge of the past can alter people’s choices/actions.


1) Brainstorm A (5 minutes). Distribute copies of the brainstorming chart (below). Ask students to work within their groups to identify as many examples as possible of how Miriam’s choices/actions were altered by the events of the past. Tell them to consider the importance of the time travel episodes and what happens before and after each of those episodes. Students should list ideas in the A column of the chart.

2)   Brainstorm B (5 minutes). Now ask students to work individually. Tell them to fill the B column of the brainstorming chart. This time, they should think of choices/actions they have made. They should list the choices/actions that have been influenced by the past. Encourage students to think broadly about how the past has influenced their behavior. They could consider their parents, grandparents, or ancestors. Or they could think about their cultural, racial, or religious heritage. Perhaps they have been influenced by studying history in general. Encourage students to be creative in thinking about how the past has impacted them.

3) Brainstorm C (7 minutes). For the last part of the brainstorm, ask students to compare and contrast parts A and B of their brainstorm and list results in the C column. What overlap do they see? What details are completely different? Students should list shared details in the middle column of the brainstorm sheet.

4) Write (20 minutes). Tell students to begin writing an essay comparing and contrasting the theme of “The past can shape behavior.” The essay will be a total of five paragraphs when completed. The paragraphs should be:

  • Introduction (thesis based on the above-stated theme)
  • Examples of how the past influenced Miriam’s choices/actions
  • Examples of how the past influenced the student’s choices/actions
  • Comparison and contrast of the Miriam’s examples and the student’s examples
  • Conclusion

Inform students that they will have all of the following lesson to finish the essay, but they should try to make good progress in the remaining time.

5) Closure (3 minutes). Remind student of the lesson’s objectives. Draw a random student’s name using the popsicle sticks. Ask that student to explain the theme of the essay. Thank the students for their work during the lesson.

Day 2

Hook (3 minutes). Re-introduce the objectives for the lesson. Remind students of the required essay components (above). Write or project the thesis theme on the board: “The past can shape behavior” and remind the student that this thesis needs to appear in their introductory paragraph and guide each of the following paragraphs.

Procedure (44 minutes):

 1) Essay Writing. Tell the students that the period is dedicated to their essays. If computers are available in the classroom, give students the option to type their essays and submit electronically. If students finish early, ask them to read ahead in their books. Tell students that if they are unable to finish the essay in time, they will still receive credit for the progress they make.

2) Timekeeping. Keep track of time during the period and give students reminders when 30, 15, and 5 minutes are remaining in the period.

3) Support. Move among the students as they write. Provide support without actually writing for the students. Encourage students to think critically about the theme. Compliment students on their progress.

4) Closure (3 minutes). Thank students for their work. Tell them that they will receive written or verbal feedback on their essays. Encourage them to remember the theme of the essay as they continue to read the book and as discussions continue in future class periods.

Attention to Literacy: The essay assignment demands that the students have read and studied the text to familiarize themselves with plot and characters. Writing the essay requires students to demonstrate thoughtful engagement with the text and an appropriate level of compositional ability.

Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning: The student essays will be included as part of their practice grade for the unit. The instructor should provide written or verbal feedback for each of the students, based on their continued development as writers, as well as based on their demonstrated level of understanding of the text.

Brainstorming chart:


“The past can shape behavior”




Miriam was influenced by ______:

Miriam decided and/or did ______:I have been influenced by ______:

I decided and/or did ______:Things that have influenced both Miriam and me:

Things that both Miriam and I decided and/or did:

Unique influences or results:

Lesson 5: Where I’m From: Chapters 16–20
Lesson Plan by Jennifer Benton
Grade Level:
Middle to High School
Estimated Time:
2 days

Materials Needed:

  • Computer for teacher
  • Projector
  • Access to YouTube
  • Pens, pencils, paper

Background Knowledge Needed:

  • Students will have at least read to Chapter 20 of Blue Thread.
  • They will have previously discussed the historical context of the novel and have an understanding of the characters by this point.


  • What kinds of images are described in chapters 16–20? How do they affect your understanding of the story?
  • How does Miriam’s experience in the time of Moses relate to her experiences in her own time in Portland?
  • What was an important social issue in Miriam’s time period?
  • What are some important social issues in your own time period?

Goal: This poetry exercise is inspired by George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I’m From.” This lesson emphasizes creating powerful images through writing, and it connects strongly to the idea of heritage and family that we have been discussing in this unit.

Curriculum Standards:

  • Reading #4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
  • Writing #4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in Standards 1–3 above.)


Day 1

1) Present information on imagery. Imagery is the use of vivid description, usually rich in sensory words, to create pictures or images in the reader’s mind. Teacher will point out examples from the text:

  • Page 131: “His hair and beard were auburn. His robes were mostly a blue that nearly matched the thread on my prayer shawl, and there were other threads woven into patterns of crimson, purple, and gold.”
  • Page 134: “The man growled at me—ugly words that must have been filled with hate. I felt my face burn.”
  • Page 139: “A pleasant odor rose from his clothes, spicy and sweet, like cinnamon and mulled wine.”

2) Present information on the “Where I’m From” poem. For more information on this style of poetry and a video of Ms. Lyon reading her own poem, check out the website: http://georgeellalyon.com/where.html

3) Brainstorm Activity. Teacher will have students write down the following:

  • 5 items found in your home
  • 5 items found in your yard (or neighborhood/ town)
  • 4 relatives or close friends
  • 2 sayings (“if i told you once…” or “i’ll turn this car around!”)
  • 1 social issue that matters to you
  • Any food dishes that recall family memories
  • A place where you keep your memories

As you work on this exercise, go back in your memories, and find images that stick in your mind. What are things you touched, smelled, tasted, heard, saw? To build these lists into poems, pick out the images and details that are the most meaningful to you. When you start writing, you can repeat the phrase “I am from” in order to structure your poems. This poem should end up looking like a long and vividly described list.

Day 2

1) Finish final draft of poem

2) Teaching examples. Teacher shares other student examples via YouTube (search for “Where I’m From poem”)

3) Students share poems

4) Closure. Teacher thanks students for sharing. Also, wrap up and take any final questions or comments. Teacher can connect back to the novel by sharing an example of a “Where I’m From” poem from the point of view of Miriam. Example as follows, or create your own. The possibilities are endless!

I am from warm sweet rolls, fresh from the oven, and sticky brown figs, tasting of honey

I am from the blue thread that burns with the lightning of the olam

From the smell of the rain, and the sound of the prayers sung in the temple

I am from the sister of Moses, from Tirtzah, and Serakh

From Raizl’s Savta and Danny’s Baloo, smelling of mother’s flowery perfume

I am from women’s suffrage, and the daughters of Zelopehad, come to claim my inheritance

From the yellow bows, murmuring crowds, slick city streets, and the sweet smell of freedom

I am from Portland, and the promise of equality for everyone

Lesson 6: Blue Thread Chapters 21–25
Lesson Plan by Tiffany Mathes
Grade Level:
Middle through Early High School
Estimated Time:
1 day (90-minute period)

Materials Needed:

  • Student copies of Blue Thread
  • Writing utensil
  • Paper

Curriculum Framing Questions:

  • Essential Question: What does it take to change our world?
  • Unit Question: How do characters from Blue Thread change the world?
  • Lesson Question: How is Miriam coming of age? How is her relationship with her parents evolving?

Background Knowledge Needed: Read through Chapter 24 of Blue Thread

Goal: Today I want students to analyze how the character of Miriam is evolving, and how she is coming of age in the story. We are looking specifically at the relationship between Miriam and her parents.

Curriculum Standards:

  • 9-10.RL.3. Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • 9-10.W.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Hook: Take a Stand (20 minutes). Prior to class, post “Agree” and “Disagree” signs at opposite ends of the room. Instruct students to stand in the middle of the room and move towards to sign they think best describes their stance about each of the following three statements:

  • It is wrong to disagree with your parents.
  • I always stand up for what I believe in.
  • I always stand up for what I believe in, even if my parents disagree.

After each question is asked call on two volunteers from each side to discuss their reasons for choosing their answer.


1) Quick Write (10 minutes). Students are to reflect in five to seven sentences on their stance, and whether or not a student from the opposing side persuaded them to reevaluate their decision.

2) Text Analysis (40 minutes). Split the class into small groups and make each group responsible for sustaining a discussion with the class about one of the following topics:

  • Explain Miriam’s relationship with her Mother before the shawl. Give two examples of different aspects of their relationship. What do these examples show?
  • Describe the power struggle between Miriam and her Mother over the shawl and Baloo. How is this affecting their relationship?
  • Why does Papa seem so resistant to Miriam’s ideas for the printing shop? How does her persistence affect her relationship with Papa? Look at the exchange between the two on pages 173–175. What does this say of Papa’s opinion of his daughter?
  • What is Papa’s view on women in the workplace? Find one example and discuss it with the class.
  • How does the revelation that Papa printed the “Vote No” card affect Miriam? What does she intend to do now, and why? How is Miriam feeling towards her father?

Each group should speak for no less than three minutes.

3) In-Class Essay (20 minutes). Students will write an essay elaborating on one of the topics discussed during the Text Analysis. The essay must answer all of the components of the chosen prompt and include at least one quote from the text to support their argument.

Lesson 7: Blue Thread Chapters 26–30
Lesson Plan by Lindsy Johnson
Grade Level:
8th Grade
Estimated Time:
1 day (90-minute period)

Materials Needed:

  • Student copies of Blue Thread
  • Photocopies of excerpts from the King James Bible.

Curriculum Framing Questions:

  • Essential Question: What does it take to change our world?
  • Unit Question: How do characters from Blue Thread change the world?
  • Lesson Question: What role does the Bible play in Blue Thread?

Background Knowledge Needed: Read through Chapter 30 of Blue Thread.

Goal: Today I want students to analyze how stories from the Bible are rendered new in Blue Thread.

Curriculum Standards:

  • Reading Standards for Literature Grade 8, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas #9.  Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new.

Hook (5 minutes). Present images and information including statistics about the King James Bible. Highlight that this text is an enormously well-known religious, cultural, and literary landmark that continues to play a major role in popular culture.


1) Lesson Question (10 minutes). Ask the Lesson Question: “What role does the Bible play in Blue Thread?” Elicit student responses and create a K-W-L chart to record students’ ideas. Leave the chart up for reference.

2) Unit Question (10 minutes). Pose the Unit Question to the class, “How do characters from Blue Thread change the world?” and record the brainstormed lists of changes. The list will include two parts: one that includes Biblical references and one that includes suffrage references. Ask questions to ensure students are thinking about all the suffrage and biblical references in the previous chapters.

3) Journal Writing (10 minutes). Ask students to write about Miriam’s experiences across the olam in their journals, giving reasons as to why they think these particular events have an impact. Review journal entries to gauge student understanding, thinking, and reasoning. Then lead a class discussion highlighting each Biblical reference and where the event is included in the story.

4) Project Instructions (5 minutes). Introduce the scenario for the project telling students that they will analyze a portion of the King James Bible that is referenced in Blue Thread. They will present to the class after conducting research to analyze what role the Bible plays in Blue Thread.

5) Research text (10 mnutes). Ask students to choose two Biblical references from the list. Students will create an individual K-W-L chart in their journal regarding what section of Blue Thread and the Bible they would like to research in more detail. Review entries to ensure there are a variety of Biblical references represented and then assign one of the passages to each strategic pairing of students.

6) Research and Silent Reading (15 minutes). Guide students through a research process in which students read a passage from the King James Bible and a corresponding passage in Blue Thread. Students spend 15 minutes SSR reading the Biblical passage and the Blue Thread passage.

7) Group Work (15 minutes). Students work in groups to answer the following questions:

  • What role does the Bible play in your excerpt from Blue Thread?
  • How is this story from the Bible rendered new in Blue Thread?
  • Why does the author of Blue Thread include this Biblical reference?
  • How does this Biblical reference tie in to Miriam’s experience in the women’s suffrage movement?

8.) Groups share insights (20 minutes). Written responses are turned in for grading and checks for understanding.

9) Discussion (5 minutes). Class discussion and synthesis on how and why the author of Blue Thread includes references to the Bible.

Lesson 8: Chapters 31–33
Lesson Plan by Natalie Stager
Grade Level:
Middle through High School
Estimated Time:
1 day (60 minutes)

Materials Needed:

  • Copy of Blue Thread
  • Quick-write prompt
  • “Risk Takers” handout
  • Exit-write prompt

Curriculum Framing Questions:

  • Essential Question: What does it take to change our world?
  • Unit Question: How do characters from Blue Thread change the world?
  • Lesson Question: Which characters take risks in order to achieve change? Do their risks pay off?

Background Knowledge Needed: Students need to have knowledge of the content in Blue Thread through Chapter 33.


  • Students will be able to analyze the behaviors of the characters and decide whether or not those behaviors led to the character’s desired outcomes.
  • Students will use the examples from the text to consider their own behaviors and goals.

Curriculum Standards:

  • 9-10.RL 3. Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.


1) Quick Write (5–8 minutes). Ask students to respond to this prompt in writing:

  • How much would you be willing to do to fight for a cause you believe in? Would you stand up to your friends and family members? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Considering what you have learned about the lack of women’s rights less than one hundred years ago, what injustices do you see today? What could you do to help correct these?

2) Pair Share (5 minutes). After students have completed their quick write, have them discuss their answers with a partner.

3) Class Discussion (10 minutes). Ask for volunteers to share what they wrote about. Do they have causes that they believe in deeply? How far would they go to support/fight for that cause? Do they know of injustices today? Encourage them to brainstorm ways that they could help to solve these issues.

4) Group Work (15 minutes). Split the class into groups of three or four. Pass out the “Risk Takers” handout to each student. Instruct the groups to find examples of where characters took risks in the chapter. It is okay for them to find numerous examples for one character. If they need more room, they may continue on the back of the handout. Tell students that their answers to whether or not the risks paid off need to be thoughtful; their answers must be more than a yes or no and must be written in full sentences. Also, make sure to point out the direction about using quotations from the text in the “Risk they took” section. They need to use the text to show the example and include the page number.

5) Class Discussion (10 minutes). Have each group share one character and example that they found. They should then share the quote from the book and whether or not they believe the risk paid off.

6) Exit Write (5–10 minutes). Instruct students to individually answer this prompt in a paragraph: (they may use the same piece of paper from the quick write)

  • Considering the risks of the characters, and the risks that you may be willing to take for causes that are important to you, explain why one person can or cannot make a difference. What evidence (examples) makes you feel that way?



Risk Takers in Blue Thread


Risk they took

(Include quotation from the text)Did their risk pay off? Why or why not?


Lesson 9: Chapters 34–36 (End)
Lesson Plan by Ashley Mountain
Grade Level:
9th grade
Estimated Time
: 1 day (75 minutes)

Materials Needed:

  • Blue Thread text
  • Print outs of newspaper articles or available computer lab
  • Notebook paper

Background Knowledge Needed: Students will have read the finals chapters of the book, 34–36.


  • What does independence mean?
  • Who has independence today?
  • In the final chapters, how is the theme of independence represented?
  • How does this mirror the victory of the suffrage movement?
  • What are some reactions to independence from characters and the media?

Goal: Students will explore the theme of independence through analysis of the text and primary source documents from the Oregon Historical Newspapers.

Curriculum Standards:

  • EL.HS.LI.16. Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period.
  • EL.HS. RL.3. Analyze how complex characters develop the theme.
  • EL.HS.WR.22. Write responses to literature: Demonstrate an understanding of the significant ideas of literary works.

Overview: Chapters 34–36 conclude Blue Thread. Miriam reacts to the encounter with her father on the street by going home and packing her bags for California. After discovering President Wilson has been elected, Miriam informs her mother of her departure and exchanges Baloo for her prayer shawl. This allows Miriam one last visit with Serakh to visit Tirtzah one last time. Miriam meets her ancestor Miriam and discovers the origin of the blue thread. Upon return to 1912, Miriam briefly says goodbye to her father and boards the train to stay with Florrie. The novel ends with Miriam reading about the suffrage victory in Oregon and finding a printer’s apprenticeship in the employment section of the newspaper.


1) Quick Write (5 minutes). Students will respond to a quick write response as they enter the classroom.

“How do you define independence? Does everyone have independence today? Why or why not?”

2) Share responses (5 minutes). Students will share their responses with a partner and decide on one definition for independence.

3) Group Discussion (10 minutes). Pull the class together for a discussion. Ask for different definitions of independence and write a few on the board. After a few have been shared, have a class vote to decide on the definition that will be used for this lesson. Also, ask for volunteers to share their response to the second quick write question.

4) Group Work (10 minutes). Break students into groups of three or four. Write on the board that students are to find textual evidence of 3 character reactions/responses to independence and why they think it was positive or negative. Students will have one piece of paper per group to write down their textual evidence and reasons.

5) Group Share (5–10 minutes). Ask each group to share one example. Probe for students’ explanations as to why they think this example was positive or negative. Probe for textual examples from characters such as mother, father, Prudence, media, Serakh, etc.

6) Primary Source Analysis (10 minutes). Pass out a primary source newspaper to each group or use a computer lab to pull up each newspaper on the Historical Oregon Website. Ask groups to read the short article and write a brief summary of the media’s reaction to the suffrage movement below their textual evidence.

7) Group Discussion (10 minutes). Jigsaw the newspaper stories by having a speaker from each group share their summary with the class. Discuss the variance in reactions and compare them to the individual characters’ reactions.

8.) Written Response (15 minutes). Instruct students to individually write a short editorial response to the newspaper from the perspective of any main character in the novel. Does the character agree or disagree with the article? Why? What does the character have to say about independence? Take on the persona of the character and how he/she would respond.

Assessment: Editorial paragraph assessing student understanding of the characters and theme of independence.

Primary Sources:

Link to Historical Oregon Newspapers. Use the search engine to look by date and to discover neutral, positive, and negative reactions to woman suffrage.