At a House Subdivided 1950 - 1990

Teachers Level One

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 3 - 5

Voices and Choices--Esther Hunn
Note: It is a good idea to print Level One for easy reference.

Voices and Choices

Esther Hunn is an 83-year-old woman who has spent most of her life in Springfield. She has lived at home and taken care of various members of her family. Only her sister Pauline is left and Esther is considering moving them out of "the big house" to a smaller, more-manageable living space.


These themes can be explored with either a social studies or language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other cultures, students' own lives.


What do you think?

These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as homework.

Where has Esther lived her whole life? Why is she considering moving and where might she go?

Esther has spent her whole life in Springfield, except for a few years she spent in Cleveland, OH, for library training. At the age of 83, she is still taking care of her sister Pauline. Friends are worried that Esther's home is too much for her and have advised her to move into a community for elderly people. She is choosing between apartments for seniors in Springfield, a trailer in Florida, or staying put.

Do you know anyone as old as Esther? Who is the oldest person you know? What is this person's relationship to you? Where does he or she live?

Find out if students know any elderly people. Some students may have grandparents or elderly family members living at home or in the neighborhood. Other students may never have met their grandparents or had any interaction with people older than their parents. If there is a home for the elderly near your school, you might organize a field trip to visit the home, allowing students to have contact with seniors.

How do you feel about growing old? Would you like to be as old as Esther? What do you think it feels like to be 83 years old?

Students may have negative stereotypes about growing old, especially if they don't have grandparents. Help students move beyond these stereotypes and think about growing old as a natural process that is part of being human.

What has been Esther's role in her family? What kind of responsibilities has Esther had?

Esther grew up in a family of six children. She has always had the responsibilities of a care giver. She and her brother Wally helped to provide for both their parents and siblings throughout the years. Because of her responsibilities, Esther learned skills that helped her family survive; for example, she can drive a car.

What kinds of family responsibilities do you have? What is your role in your family?

Students might want to make a list of all the different family responsibilities or jobs they can think of--as they call them out, list them on the board. Then ask students to choose the jobs that they are responsible for or share with other family members. These jobs may range from caring for a pet to making their bed. Students may view their family role in terms of where they come in the family hierarchy, i.e., the eldest or youngest child.

Why do you think Esther decides to stay in her house instead of moving? What would you have done?

For her age, Esther still feels confident that she can take care of herself and of her sister. She tells us that she has never liked to make decisions. A move would mean a lot of decisions about what to do with her family's things. Moreover, Esther has lived most of her life in this home and probably feels very attached to it.



These are suggested classroom activities and student projects that you may want to use with your students or as models to create your own.

1. Oral Interviews

The theme of this interview is to learn about life from the point of view of someone older than your parents. Have you ever wondered what it's like to grow old?

Interview a grandparent, an elderly aunt or uncle, or maybe someone in your neighborhood and find out about his or her life experiences and what it's like to grow old. You might ask questions like:
  1. When were you born?
  2. Where did you grow up?
  3. What are your happiest childhood memories?
  4. Where have you lived throughout your life?
  5. What is the hardest thing about growing old? What is the easiest or best thing?
  6. If you could live your life over again, would you do anything differently?
  7. What advice can you give to me about living my life and growing old?

Make sure you take notes during your interview. You may even want to record the interview using a tape recorder. Notes or a tape recording will give you a "record" of your subject's memories and thoughts. Your subject is the person you have interviewed.

2. Writing a Story

This story will be based on the memories of the person you interviewed for activity #1.

You will need:

Using the notes or tape recording from your interview choose part of the interview that could become a story; for example, if your subject told you about their childhood. Write down this story word for word. On several blank pieces of paper, draw pictures to illustrate this story. You may want to transfer the story onto the pages with your illustrations.

3. Narrative Map


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