The Yankee at the Seder

The Yankee at the Seder

Book Category: Read Aloud for 5-6 graders
Author: Elka Weber
Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
Copyright: (2009) Berkeley, CA
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Suggested Grade Level: 6
Lexile Level: 900L
Accelerated Reader: 6.5
Suggested Delivery: Read Aloud
Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
Summary: This is a historical fiction book about a Jewish Yankee soldier who joins a Jewish family’s Passover celebration. When the young boy, Jacob, sees a real Yankee soldier for the first time, he reminds himself that not all Confederates should surrender to the North, and that it’s okay to be rebellious. However, towards the end of the story, Jacob becomes more optimistic about the situation and realizes that the most important thing at that moment was not the war and who the winners and losers were, but family and freedom were what mattered most.
5 Key Words to Describe the Book: Inspiring, Factual, Kind, Family, Rebellious
Electronic Resources:
  1. This website provides a lot of information about the book, such as a summary, where one may find the book, and reviews from previous readers of the book:
  2. This website provides more in-depth historical information about the American Civil War and what life was like for a Jewish soldier to fight during it:
  3. This website provides additional information about the book as well as facts about Jewish traditions and culture today:
Key Vocabulary:
  • Yankee: an inhabitant of New England or one of the northern states in the U.S.
  • Confederate: an accomplice who works with something secret or illegal; a supporter of the Confederate States of America
  • Haggadah: the text recited at the Seder on the first two nights of the Jewish Passover, including a narrative from the Exodus
  • Seder: a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt
  • Matzah: an unleavened flatbread that is a part of Jewish cuisine and is an integral element of Passover
  • Afikoman: a piece broken off from a matzah during a Seder and put aside to be eaten at the end of the meal
Teaching Suggestions:
  1. Before, During, After-
  • Before: Students will activate their schema about the American Civil War, Yankees, Jewish soldiers, Confederates, etc. Students should read a couple of articles and passages about the war first so that they can get some background knowledge on it before they begin reading this book. This will help develop their overall comprehension of the book.
  • During: Students will form questions as they listen to the read aloud. They will write at least three questions down that they may have been wondering while listening to the story. These questions could be about a particular vocabulary word that they do not know or a piece of historical information that they wish to know more about.
  • After: Students will get the opportunity to share their questions with the teacher and the rest of the class. They will ask one question at a time. The rest of the class will be encouraged to answer their classmates’ questions if they think that they know the answer. Students should try to use context clues, make inferences, make connections, and read between the lines in order to answer their classmates’ questions. If none of the students in the class know the answer to a particular question, then the teacher will answer it and make sure that the student knows why that is the answer.
Writing Activity- Students will write a journal entry from Jacob’s perspective. Keeping it appropriate yet opinionated, students will share how they think that they would feel if they were in Jacob’s position and a Jewish Yankee soldier showed up at their house unexpectedly. Students are encouraged to refer back to the text and include specific examples from the story in their responses.

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