Out of the Dust, written by Karen Hesse, uses verse to tell the story of Billie Jo Kelby’s life on a farm during the Dust Bowl years.
Billie Jo is a 14-year-old living in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the Dust Bowl of 1934-35. Daddy turns Billie Jo into the son he wanted. He teaches her how to farm. Mother came to the farm because of her love for Daddy. She seems very closed off, rarely showing emotions. Her biggest joy is playing the piano. She teaches Billie Jo to play.
Billie Jo loves to play the piano and plays at the Palace Theater with Arley Wanderdale and the Black Mesa Boys. She has a crush on Mad Dog Craddock who sings. Billie Jo is allowed to travel and play with the group during the summer of 1934.
Daddy brings in a pail of kerosene and places it next to the stove. Ma thinks that it is a pail of water. She catches the stove on fire while she is making coffee with the kerosene that she thinks is water. Ma runs outside to get help from Daddy. Billie Jo, thinking that the house is going to catch on fire, grabs the pail and throws it out the front door. Meanwhile, Ma runs back to the house. The flaming pail of kerosene catches Ma on fire. Billie Jo beats the flames out with her hands. Ma lives in great pain.
Will Ma get better? Will Billie Joe be able to go on with her life? Read Out of the Dust to find out.
Out of the Dust Teaching Activities
Book Unit Samples
You will find the following in this novel study sample:
- Vocabulary Practice for Reading Selection #1
- Comprehension for Reading Selection #1 “January 1934”
- Constructed Response for Reading Selection #1 Character Traits of Billie Jo
Lesson Plan/Art Project
Step #1 ~ Observe Photos
Step #2 ~ Compare and Contrast
Have students reread “Fields of Flashing Light” from March 1934. Next, students draw a T-Chart to compare the words of the poem to the photographs.
After students create the T-Chart, discuss the similarities and differences. Encourage students to add to their chart using rich descriptions of vivid imagery.
The image to the left is an example.
Step #3 ~ Write a Poem
Have students create free verse poems using phrases from their descriptions of the photos.
Step #4 ~ Art Project
- Give each student a 9 by 12-inch piece of white construction or drawing paper.
- Have students pencil in a horizon line across the center of the page.
- Students then paint a blue sky above the horizon line and a sandy ground below the horizon. Allow the paint to dry.
- Next, draw a frame area approximately 5 by 5 inches where the completed poem will be displayed.
- Students then paint a scene such as a field of crops, a small town, a home, a fenced-in pasture, etc. below the horizon line. Students will not need to add details to the horizon because this is where the “dust storm” is going. Remind students that the frame area will be covered with their poems. (Encourage students to keep their paintings simple.)
- Using a mixture of glue, paint, and sand, paint a wall of dust blowing in.
- Have students write or type the final draft of their poems on five by five-inch piece of paper.
- Glue or pin the poem in the frame area.
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Out of the Dust Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice.