November 3, 2013

Must Read Mentor Text: The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill CCSS Freebie

I knew that I had been using this book as a mentor text with my fifth grade Language Arts students for quite some time; however, I didn't realize just how long. When I went in search of a pic and quotes for this novel I found myself at Amazon where I saw my order update: purchased July 2, 2002... and this was a second copy! I'm now on a Kindle copy! If longevity of use in a classroom is any indication of a book's worth, this is definitely a book you should try.

"Ten-year-old Frederika (Fred for short) doesn't have much faith that the new teacher in town will last very long. After all, they never do. Most teachers who come to their one-room schoolhouse in remote, Alaska leave at the first smell of fish, claiming that life there is just too hard. 

But Miss Agnes is different -- she doesn't get frustrated with her students, and she throws away old textbooks and reads Robin Hood instead! For the first time, Fred and her classmates begin to enjoy their lessons and learn to read and write -- but will Miss Agnes be like all the rest and leave as quickly as she came?"... Amazon

I generally use this novel as the second read aloud/read along (now with my Kindle app and projector) with my fifth grade Language Arts students each year. It makes for a wonderful contrast to the first novel for genre, mood, use of language, plot development, setting, and more!

I especially like to teach character traits and character development with this novel. The main character changes profoundly yet subtly from the beginning of the story to the end. The secondary characters are well developed and exhibit a variety of traits. Because of this, readers/listeners can identify readily with at least one character. This allows for incorporating the strategy of making connections.

One of the characters, Bokko, is deaf. As a result Miss Agnes teaches herself and the entire class, along with Bokko, sign language so that everyone can finally communicate with each other. There is an entire chapter devoted to discussing the manual alphabet. We learn this alphabet along with the characters in the book... another connection... and then we use it to practice our spelling words each week.

The setting, the wilderness of Alaska in 1948, is integral to the story. Its harshness is what is so difficult for the teachers to accept. By changing the setting, the conflicts would change. Finally, while not too predictable, the story problem/resolution does lend itself to the strategy of making predictions: Will Miss Agnes stay, or will she, too, like all the other teachers, leave at the end of a year? You'll just have to read this Must Read Mentor Text to find out!

After I published this post, I decided I wanted to find out a little bit more about the book. I found a wonderful "interview" by the author Kirkpatrick Hill. In it she explains her background as a writer and the background for this novel. I'm having my fifth graders read the online informational article as a companion piece to the literary text. I believe I hear CCSS in there somewhere. I also created a brief comprehension paper that requires students to provide textual evidence in support of their responses (CCSS 5.RIT.1). If you decide to use The Year of Miss Agnes with your students you may want a copy. You can download it HERE or by clicking on the pic. You will need to download and print a copy of the interview as well.

Happy Reading,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6


  1. Thanks for the book recommendation. This book sounds great!


  2. Wow! I've never heard of this book but it sounds amazing!! I love that you read it on your Kindle and the projector so all of the students can read a long.

    Thanks so much for linking up!! Have a great week!!
    Collaboration Cuties


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