A Person I'll Never Forget - Lesson plan and think-aloud demonstration

LANGUAGE:   English     LEVEL/GRADE(S):   Middle School

SKILL AREA:   Reading   TASK: Read a story and relate it to one's own personal  experience

Language Objective: Understand and remember a story and organize information

Content Objective: Read a biography about an historical figure and relate it to one’s personal experience

Strategy Objective: Use the strategy of Personalization to understand and remember a story and to remember and use new descriptive vocabulary.

FOCUS STRATEGY: Personalization

MATERIALS: Graphic organizer, "The Person I Will Never Forget"


How will I find out what strategies (or general approach) my students already use for this type of task?

1.    Ask students what strategies they use to better understand and remember when they read, both in their native language and in English. Write those strategies on the board.


How will I model and describe the strategy?  What name will I give the strategy?

2.    Introduce and discuss the strategy of Personalization for remembering new information. Explain that personalization  means connecting ideas with your own life experiences.

3.    Model the strategy of personalization: I will show a story which tells about Elizabeth Robins, an actress and writer of books and plays, a strong woman who worked for women's rights. I will personalize it by remembering my own grandmother, who lived in Indiana, and worked for womens' rights. I might say, "This story says that

Elizabeth was a strong feminist and initially had been a member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. However, disillusioned by the organisation's lack of success, she joined the Women's Social and Political Union. Elizabeth was also active in the Actresses' Franchise League and the Women's Writers' League. (See full text)

4.    I have to stop and think about this word, suffrage. Then I remember my grandmother telling me about how in her childhood, she marched in the street to ask for women to get the vote, which is called women's suffrage. I wish I could ask my grandmother to tell me more about her experiences in those days. She worked in a mill that made fabric, with other young women. I think it must have been a hard life, and at that time few workers had protection against the owners of the factories. She wanted to have a vote, so she put on the short pants called "bloomers" and went out to protest in the streets. She must have been very brave to do that. So when I read about Elizabeth Robins, I understand what the word "Women's Suffrage" really means, and I admire her courage. I have used personalization to make the reading more meaningful to me. And my personalization helps me to remember the meaning of the word suffrage"

5.    I'll fill out the chart "The person I'll never forget" with information about my grandmother.


How will students practice the strategy?

6.    First I will introduce the story and tell students that this person might make them think of someone in their own experience.

7.    I will ask Ss to read the story and personalize the content about the old man by relating it to someone they will always remember.

8.    I'll ask Ss to fill out the chart with information about their person. Then I'll walk around checking to see how they are doing, giving feedback on their work.


How will students assess their success with the strategy?

9.    I'll ask students to read through the story about the man again, and then turn the paper over and write their answers to these questions:

•    Who is this story about?

•    Imagine this man walked into the room just now. What do you want to ask this man?

10.    I'll ask for thumbs up or thumbs down in answer to this question: Did personalizing the topic help you to understand the story?

Thumbs up Rabbit



How will I make sure that students transfer the strategy to other tasks and situations?

11.    If time allows I will ask Ss to tell about their person to a partner. (If we have no time today, I'll do this tomorrow) The listening partner will use personalization to relate what s/he hears to his/her own experiences. Then the listener will make notes about their partner's person. This activity allows for transfer of the personalization strategy to listening. Students learned it for reading in the beginning of this lesson, but can also apply it to listening.

Graphic Organizer
Person Graphic

Biography of Elizabeth Robins

Elizabeth Robins, the first child of Charles Robins and Hannah Crow, was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1862. Elizabeth's mother, an opera singer, was committed to an insane asylum when she was a child. Charles Robins was a follower of Robert Owen and held progressive political views. Robins sent Elizabeth to Vassar to study medicine but at eighteen she ran away to become an actress.

 In 1885, Elizabeth Robins married the actor, George Richmond Parks. Whereas Elizabeth was in great demand, George struggled to get parts. On 31st May 1887, he wrote Elizabeth a note saying that "I will not stand in your light any longer" and signed it "Yours in death". That night he committed suicide by jumped into the Charles River wearing a suit of theatrical armour.

In 1888 Elizabeth travelled to London where she introduced British audiences to the work of Henrik Ibsen. Elizabeth produced and acted in several plays written by Ibsen including Hedda in Hedda Gabler, Rebecca West in Rosmersholm, Nora in A Doll's House and Hilda Wangel in The Master Builder. These plays were a great success and for the next few years Elizabeth Robins was one of the most popular actresses on the West End stage.

In 1898 Robins joined with William Archer to form the New Century Theatre to sponsor non-profit productions of Ibsen. The company produced several plays including John Gabriel Borkman and Peer Gynt. 1898 also saw the publication of Robins' popular novel The Open Question.

In 1900 Elizabeth travelled to Alaska in an attempt to find her brother, Raymond Robins, who had gone missing while on an expedition. Later she wrote about her experiences in Alaska in the novels, Magnetic North (1904) and Come and Find Me (1908).

 Raymond returned to the United States and became an important figure in the social reform movement. He was a member of the Hull House settlement in Chicago and served on the national committee of the Progressive Party. In 1905 he married Margaret Dreier, who was later to become president of the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL).

Elizabeth was a strong feminist and initially had been a member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. However, disillusioned by the organisation's lack of success, she joined the Women's Social and Political Union. Elizabeth was also active in the Actresses' Franchise League and the Women's Writers' League.

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence commissioned Elizabeth to write a series of articles for her journal Votes for Women. She also asked her to write a play on the subject. The play, Votes for Women (1907) was performed by suffragists all over Britain. Robins also used the same story and characters for her novel The Convert (1907).

Both Votes for Women and The Convert deal with how men sexually exploit women. The heroine in the story, Vida Levering, a militant suffragette, rejects men because in the past, a lover, Geoffrey Stoner, a Conservative MP, forced her into having an abortion because he feared he would lose his inheritance. The heroine was initially named Christian Levering and was based on Elizabeth's close friend, Christabel Pankhurst. When Emmeline Pankhurst raised fears about what the play might do to Christabel's reputation, Elizabeth agreed to change the name to Vida. Elizabeth Robins, like her heroine in Votes for Women, turned down offers of marriage from many men, including the playwright, George Bernard Shaw and the publisher William Heinemann.

In 1907 Elizabeth Robins became a committee member of the WSPU. When the British government introduced the Cat and Mouse Act in 1913, Robins used her 15th century farmhouse at Backsettown, near Henfield in Sussex, as a retreat for suffragettes recovering from hunger strike. It was also rumoured that the house was used as a hiding place for suffragettes on the run from the police.

Elizabeth wrote a large number of speeches defending militant suffragettes between 1906 and 1912 (a selection of these can by found her book Way Stations). However, Elizabeth herself never took part in these activities and so never experienced arrest or imprisonment.  Emmeline Pankhurst told her it was more important that she remained free so that she could use her skills as a writer to support the suffragettes. It was also pointed out that as Elizabeth was not a British citizen she faced the possibility of being deported if she was arrested. Elizabeth once told a friend that she would "rather die than face prison."

Like many members of the WSPU, Elizabeth Robins objected to Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's dictatorial style of running the organisation. Elizabeth also disapproved of the decision in the summer of 1912 to start an arson campaign. When the Pankhursts refused to reconsider this decision, Robins resigned from the WSPU.

Although Elizabeth Robins rejected her father's plans to have her trained as a doctor, she retained a strong interest in medicine. In 1908 Elizabeth became great friends with Octavia Wilberforce, a young woman who had a strong desire to become a doctor. When Octavia's father refused to pay for her studies, Elizabeth arranged to take over the financial responsibility for the course.

After women gained the vote, Robins took a growing interest in women's health care. Robins had been involved in raising funds for the Lady Chichester Hospital for Women & Children in Brighton since 1912. After the First World War Robins joined Louisa Martindale in her campaign for a much more ambitious project, a fifty-bed hospital run by women for women. Elizabeth persuaded many of her wealthy friends to give money and eventually the New Sussex Hospital for Women was opened in Brighton.

Elizabeth Robins also became involved in the campaign to allow women to enter the House of Lords.  Elizabeth's friend,  Margaret Haig, was the daughter of Lord Rhondda. He was a supporter of women's rights and in his will made arrangements for her to inherit his title. However, when he died in 1918, the  Lords refused to allow Viscountess Rhondda to take her seat. Robins wrote numerous articles on the subject, but it was not until 1958, long after Viscountess Haig's death, that women were first admitted to the House of Lords.

Robins remained an active feminist throughout her life. In the 1920s she was a regular contributor to the feminist magazine, Time and Tide. Elizabeth also continued to write books such as Ancilla's Share: An Indictment of Sex Antagonism that explored the issues of sexual inequality. Elizabeth Robins died in  Brighton in 1952.

See original web document: (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Wrobins.htm)