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powerpluswatermarkobject3Instructional Lesson Plan

English Language Arts

Grade: 8

Unit Title: War of Words

Length: 3 Days

Lesson Overview

“The Treasure of Lemon Brown” by Walter Dean Myers, presents the story of a teenage boy in conflict with his father over his poor grades in math and his father’s desire to have his son do well in life. He leaves the house and meets Lemon Brown in an abandoned tenement, where he learns the value of treasures and the memories a father can hand over to his child.

Teacher Planning, Preparation, and Materials

  • Text Complexity: “The Treasure of Lemon Brown” by Walter Dean Myers, is accessible for most readers (Lexile 850). As an introduction to the unit, it is valuable as a review of literary conflict. It deals with intergenerational conflict, a view into the unfamiliar lifestyle and the past of a homeless blues singer, and the basis for a discussion of homelessness and the value of memories as symbolized by Lemon Brown’s treasures.

  • Materials:

Text can be found at:

Audio can be found at:

  • Prior knowledge of the setting (urban setting, Harlem tenement) may need to be filled in for rural students.

  • English Language Learners and visual/auditory learners can listen to the story to support comprehension.

  • Advanced/gifted and talented students: Students can re-write the story using reader’s theatre for additional research into the history of the blues.

IMPORTANT NOTE: No text model or website referenced in this unit has undergone a review. Before using any of these materials, local school systems should conduct a formal approval review of these materials to determine their appropriateness. Teacher should always adhere to any Acceptable Use Policy enforced by their local school system.

Essential Questions: How is conflict expressed through language?

Lesson Focus: How does the author use language to show conflict, develop characters, and theme in “The Treasure of Lemon Brown”?

Unit Standards Applicable to This Lesson

Reading Literature

RL.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

RL.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

RL.8.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

W.8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

b. Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

e. Establish and maintain a formal style.

f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.

W.8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

W.8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grade 8 on page 52.)

W.8.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Speaking and Listening

SL.8.1 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

L.8.3 Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

a. Use verbs in the active and passive voice and in the conditional and subjunctive mood to achieve particular effects (e.g., emphasizing the actor or the action; expressing uncertainty or describing a state contrary to fact).

L.8.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.

b. Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words.

c. Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., bullheaded, willful, firm, persistent, resolute).

L.8.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Lesson Procedure


  • What is a treasure? Discuss historical aspects of a treasure. Students will complete a web organizer that details something they consider a treasure. Students will share their notes in small groups explaining why they consider those items to be valuable to people.

  • Check for prior knowledge of setting (urban, NYC, tenement). Show painting and discuss

  • Quickly confirm understanding of literary conflict (Glencoe 2009, Course 3, p R2).

    • The central struggle between opposing forces in a story or drama.

    • External Conflict: when a character struggles against some outside force, e.g. nature, fate, society, or another person (recently, technology has been added to the list).

    • Internal Conflict: exists within the mind of a character torn between opposing feelings or goals.

First Reading: Students will read the “The Treasure of Lemon Brown” in its entirety. Audio is available at

  • Students will work in pairs or small groups to re-read text for deeper comprehension.

    • Instruct students to underline or use “sticky notes” to find examples of dialogue using non-standard English (dialect).

    • Instruct students to note examples of figurative language and sound devices (simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia).

    • Instruct students to place an exclamation mark next to areas of conflict in the essay.

  • Discuss the conflicts presented in “The Treasure of Lemon Brown”

    • Create a class list of specific examples of conflict. Students will create and complete an organizer as the list is completed.

    • Determine the major conflicts: (Greg vs. dad; Lemon Brown vs. thugs). How does Lemon Brown’s need to protect his treasure help Greg to resolve his conflict with his father?

    • Engage students in a Socratic Seminar about the conflicts that are relevant in the text. The teacher can create open ended questions for the seminar or allow the students to come up with questions after reading the text.

  • Figurative Language: Create a master list; discuss what the meaning of each phrase means and why the language choice enriched the reader’s experience.

    • “You O.K. for a youngster,”…”better than those scalawags…” Metaphor

    • “..a car passed, its tires hissing…” Onomatopoeia

    • “The voice…like dry twigs being broken” Simile

    • “Hard times always after a poor man…felt a tap on my shoulder. Hard times caught up with me.” Personification

    • “You don’t give up the blues; they give you up.” Personification

    • “Howdy Mr. Pain, sees you back again…” Personification

  • Specific language choice
    • Reread the scene on the stairs. Students should determine why the following underlined word choices influence the scene. What other words could be substituted, and how would they alter the scene?

      • “Greg felt Lemon Brown’s hand first lying on his shoulder, then probing down his arm until he finally took Greg’s hand into his own as they crouched in the darkness.”

      • “Lemon Brown squeezed Greg’s hand in his own hard, gnarled fist.”

      • “The beam from the flashlight danced crazily…”

      • “He was an eerie sight, a bundle of rags…”

      • “…Greg saw him hurl his body down the stairs…”

    • Recurring language

      • What does the repeated discussion of Lemon Brown’s treasure tell the reader about its importance to Lemon Brown? To the theme of the story?

Written response

  • Summary of events

    • Reread the passage in which Lemon Brown describes his life and the importance of the harmonica and clippings. (“I used to travel around and make money”…ending at “Ain’t that something?”) Students will summarize the events in Lemon Brown’s story in sequential order (provide graphic organizer if needed).

    • What is the theme of The “Treasure of Lemon Brown?” How does the author develop that theme from the beginning to the end of the story? What helps us to understand the theme? Explain your answer using specific text support from the story.

    • There are a number of different conflicts in “The Treasure of Lemon Brown.” In this paragraph, discuss three of the conflicts found in the story. In your response, present each of the three conflicts, explain what TYPE of conflict it is, and explain how the conflict was resolved with evidence from the text.

  • Exit slip: Why was Lemon Brown’s treasure (the harmonica and clippings) so important to him?


  • Simple verbs vs. past perfect and conditional tense verbs

    • Put the following sentences up on the board (underlining and italics provided for teacher use)

      • “If I’d had half the chances that you have, I’d…”

      • Greg had been hoping for the best. But the principal had ended the suspense early when she sent the letter saying that Greg would probably fail math if he didn’t spend more time studying.

      • “Down the block there was an old tenement that had been abandoned for some months…”

      • “He thought of the lecture he knew his father would give him and smiled.”

      • “He saw nothing…He continued listening, but heard nothing and thought that it might have been rats.”

    • Students will identify the verbs in these sentences and discuss the formation of verbs. Which sentences have immediacy? Why? How are they structured differently, and what effect does it have on meaning and understanding?

    • Provide the following definitions and discuss (source: Glencoe Literature Course 3)

      • Simple verb tenses: present, past, future

      • Perfect verb tenses:

        • Present perfect: expresses an action or condition that occurred at some indefinite time in the past. This tense also shows an action that began in the past and continues into the present (an old tenement that had been abandoned).

        • Past perfect: indicates that one past action or condition began and ended before another past action started (Greg had been hoping for the best).
        • Future perfect: indicates that one future action or condition will begin and end before another future event starts (the lecture he knew his father would give him…).

    • Have students do a “treasure hunt” for present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect verbs in the text. Use the strategy think, pair, share for the results. (This could be turned into a contest if the teacher chooses)

Written Response:

  • Non-standard language

    • Students will rewrite examples of Lemon’s dialectic dialogue in the format of academic language (see attached worksheet)

  • Selected Response

  1. What conflicts can be found in “The Treasure of Lemon Brown”?

  1. Internal (man against self)

  2. External (man against man)

  3. External (man against society)

  4. External (man against nature

Written Response (based on Selected Response 1)

  • Choose one of the conflicts selected in (1). In a well-written paragraph, discuss that conflict. Include:

    1. A definition of the conflict chosen

    2. An example of that conflict from “The Treasure of Lemon Brown”

      1. Who/what was involved in the conflict?

      2. An explanation of the specific conflict

      3. How the conflict was resolved?

      4. What did the author want us to learn from the conflict and its resolution?


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