Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Kallhoff, Ashley. The Blackbird Girls: Designing a Four Week Novel Unit for Upper Elementary and Middle Grades, While Navigating Teaching in an Ever-changing Digital World. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2023


Copyright Ashley Kallhoff 2023


As a future teacher in an increasing digital world, I wanted to create an online curriculum I could use in my future classroom, students all over the world could use, and other teachers could implement in their own classroom. Taking all of this into consideration, I have designed a digital four-week, 20-day, novel unit for upper elementary and middle grades with social studies and language arts dual focus. The novel I chose was a historical fiction young adult text titled The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman. This novel follows the story of two young girls, one that is Jewish and one that is not, that find their way living together after the Chernobyl accident of 1986. Their story intertwines with the story of another young girl escaping the Jewish persecution in Ukraine in the 1940s. The book itself is 334 pages, which I split up into 20 sections, so each day has set number of pages the students are to read that day.

In association with the social studies focus, the unit is designed to give students the background knowledge needed to understand the daily readings. In addition to the supplemental resources I curated for each day, I have also included videos of myself teaching and preparing the students for history they will encounter while reading. Each day also includes vocabulary slides that include four words from the reading section for that day and a literary device or element from that day’s reading. Apart from the daily sections, the first and third days of each week include a mini lesson with an activity that focuses on finding the theme, the second and fourth day of each week include discussion questions taken from the day’s reading, and the last day of the week includes a project that summarizes everything from that week.