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Literature Circles in Opal 4 – Part 2

Literature Circles in Opal 4 – Part 2

Every book club finished reading their books this week.  When this happens, we teachers offer a challenge to the groups that will require them to work together to synthesize what they have read.  This is the assignment our Lewis & Clark Book Clubs got last week:

The Book Club Challenge!

Your book club will take the perspective of a person or animal who was part of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery, or someone the Corps met along the way.  From this perspective, you will write a letter to friends or family back in America (or where ever “back home” is) as if it was 1806 and the expedition has just ended.

Think about what you (as the character you chose) want your loved ones to know.  Your letter should at least include the answers to these questions:

  • In your character’s opinion, was the expedition successful?  Why?
  • Was it successful based on the reasons the group went on the expedition in the first place?  Please address as many of the reasons as your character can.  Feel free to read our classroom chart or other available classroom texts and infer, as your character, when necessary.
  • What experiences did you (as your character) have along the way that changed you?  What happened and why are you different?  (Share at least two life changing experiences in your letter.)
  • What do you (as your character) predict will happen in Oregon Country now that the Corps of Discovery has made this journey? 
  • As much as you can, craft the letter (the text) as you think your character would have.  You may add artwork and do embellished drafts only if your group finishes your letter early.

Decide as a group how you will present your letter to the class.

This is the chart the class created together describing the reasons for the journey:

Why President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis & Clark on the Expedition

  • Trade Alliances with Native Americans (pelts, beads, blankets, animals for transportation, livestock…)
  • To find more / new land
  • Our country was surrounded by enemies who would try to take over the land (Indian Tribes, England, Spain, France)
  • To find more / new plants and animals living in the NW
  • Thomas Jefferson had a dream to have a water route to the Pacific Ocean, “The Northwest Passage”
  • To find a safe route to carry cargo across the continent
  • To find out, “Was the weather good to live in?”  “Was it good for what they needed?”
  • Thomas Jefferson and his men wanted to explore the Pacific Northwest, “a land that no white man had seen.”
  • Explore the land to see if it was worth living in.
  • A safe passage to the Pacific Ocean so they could trade with India, China… Asia.
  • To know more about climate and geography, “The wild and untamed rivers.”


And here are the letters the book groups crafted:


Sacajawea : the Story of Bird Woman and the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Joseph Bruchac

AW, KB, JL and MM decided to write Meriwether Lewis's suicide note.  They decided to address it to William Clark.


Dear William Clark,

I am writing this letter because I want to tell you that I think that our mission was a success.  We found lots of new plants, animals, and people for that matter.  I wanted to going back to the Pacific Ocean before I died.

I wish other people would understand my perspective, let alone my ideas.  You, my true friend, were the only one who truly understood me.

One of the two things that really impressed me about the journey was getting to meet a new race of people.  Their lifestyle was very different than ours, but it helped us to survive along the journey.  The second thing was learning how to survive through all different kinds of encounters all the way through our journey.  I feel like Oregon Country will work between all people.  I think we can work together and make history.  As Europeans come we will bond with the Natives, and do well.  This journey has done great things.

The reason I went on this journey is because I’ve always had a heart and mind for curiosity.

I wish I had a life like yours.  You have a pretty wife, kids and everything I’ve always wished for, but now it will never happen.  Thank you for being such a great friend, for always listening and understanding my perspective.  I thank you for that.

I am sorry to tell you, but from the end of the journey till now, I have had a miserable life filled with sorrow and all sorts of pain.  From all this I hope you understand my choice.  My choice is to end this pain and to end my life.  I wish you the best.


Merriwether Lewis



Streams to the River, River to the Sea : a novel of Sacagawea  by Scott O’Dell

MC, NF, BM and DO decided to write from the perspective of a bear cub.  The cub and his mother saw the expedition pass by twice — once on their way west and then again on their return trip east. 



Dear Mommy,

Today I see two-legs riding their monster fishes down the river.  There are two humans that seem like they are the bosses.  One has fire on his head and the other has a strange bear following him and it makes weird noises.

That sleep I went to try to befriend the bear.  When he saw me he made more strange noises and many small suns suddenly shined.  I ran because the light was in my eyes.  The next morning they yelled in happy tones about some place they went.

Then I remembered them from many moons ago when I saw my friend Yum Yum with her new born cub.  On my way over to say, “Hewo!” something went, “Bang!” and a rock went into her head and she toppled over.  I am very sad and I do not think the two-legs with hair on their faces had the best intentions for the bears with this ekspidishun (is that how you spell it?)

Coming home soon,

Little Bear



The Captain's Dog : My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe by Roland Smith

HH, TW, ME and MG wrote from the perspective of Captain Lewis's dog, Seaman.


Dear fellow friends and family,

The crew successfully made it past the long expedition.  Therefore, I am staying with the Indians to continue a safe life.  It was a long journey and I feel this is best for me. 

We met with the Shoshones and made it through the mountains with the death of only one person, Charles Floyd.  It was a sad loss, but we managed to move on. 

Unfortunately, there was no Northwest Passage which made the Captains very disappointed.  On the better side, we made peace with many tribes, discovered plants and animals, and most exciting of all, we found new land. 

This experience has changed my feel for Indians.  I am now more comfortable with them than I ever would have been before. 

Also, this journey will make a great start for those in need of a better life, like I was.  It will let you get away to a place where you can let go of your past.  I hope to see you in the future of my living.



(Captain Lewis’s dog)



My Travels with Capts. Lewis and Clark by George Shannon by Kate McMullan

EY, RC, ET, SBM wrote from the perspective of William Clark.



Dear Family,

I’m in Saint Louis with York. 

I do believe that the expedition went well even though I was sick and usually there was no game.  It went well because we found the Pacific Ocean, only one person died, and Captain Lewis’s portable soup tasted like mud and looked quite the same.

We found the best places were in the prairie.  We traded lots with the Indians like beads and blankets for beaver pelts, adzes for corn, and goods for horses.  The weather was nice until we got to the mountains.  (I’ll tell you later.)

We found the buffalo, bear, prairie dogs, herons, and piney pear.  I almost died from sickness.  I almost had heart problems.  When we saw the Pacific I felt such a whoop of joy!  I couldn’t believe what I had seen!  I’ve crossed the USA and I feel I am a better man because of it.

I do believe we will see forests come down, water dry up, and fish turn into meals.  I think that greedy colonization will form. 

I love you and miss you.  I hope to see you soon.


William Clark

PS York says hi.


As the teacher in this classroom, I celebrate the hard work the students have done in reading historical fiction, meeting twice weekly with reading completed and jobs prepared for discussions, sustaining discussions and pushing their classmates to think about their reading differently, and then, through this "book club challenge", synthesizing the information they took in from the experience to work collaboratively and write these letters.  The presentations were thoughtful and the students listened intently to each other, offering compliments and asking questions. 

TW:  Who would Seaman be in Group Dynamics?

SBM:  The intervener.

DO:  I see him as the armor, the follower.

TW:  So, Lewis and Clark are the protagonists.

DO:  I think Thomas Jefferson is the protagonist.

TW:  Then Lewis and Clark are the followers.

MG:  They are the kind of follower who spreads the protagonist's idea.