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Curriculum Adaptation: Canyons and Cultures

To illustrate how students may be guided to find better keywords as they search, the following free Web Quest, found on the Internet, has been modified to include this information fluency competency.

Middle School Language Arts

Canyons by Gary Paulsen

The original CyberGuide was written by Kerry Farrer and Terry Heck (endnote).

General objectives for this middle school unit are (California Content Standards):

Respond to literature.

Write a research report.

Research areas of cultural values to compare and contract them with the book.

Use organizational features of electronic text to locate information.

Analyze values of similar fictional characters in other books written by Paulsen.

Support opinions expressed with detailed evidence and with visual displays.

Deliver oral responses to literature.



Original Lesson (Web Quest): The Bioboard

Information Fluency Modifications

(in red)


This literature unit could be taught in conjunction with social studies in examination of different cultures throughout the world. These "Into," "Through," and "Beyond" activities may be done individually or in groups. The suggested time period will vary between 2-3 weeks. Web sites cited below are written at a level suitable for middle school students. Lessons are also adaptable for students reading below grade level.

The teacher should have at least intermediate computer skills, including some knowledge about html mark-up language. When accessing particular web sites, it would be helpful to show students how to create Bookmarks or Favorites.


Description of Materials, Activities and Websites

Canyons by Gary Paulsen

US Atlas

World Atlas

Access to computers and the Internet

White board

Student Activity 2: Creating a Bioboard as a Research Report


Students will write a research report about Gary Paulsen's life and literary works to construct a visual display (bioboard) of his accomplishments and values. Gary Paulsen Web Site URL: http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/paulsen.html

Comments: Students need to be shown how cultural values are reflected in Paulsen's writings.


This activity is designed for those who would like to know more about Gary Paulsen, the author of Canyons and many other good books. You will visit a site that tells about Paulsen's life and the books he wrote.

Disclaimer: With your teacher, please review your school's acceptable use policy for work on the Internet. Also, links to the web often change. Tell your teacher when you find a poor link in this guide.

An option to telling students about cultural values in Paulsen's writing is to engage them in thinking about keywords and searching for examples.

Start by writing the words CULTURAL VALUES at one end of a continuum on the board. Ask the students to suggest more specific keywords for this pair of terms: "Name one of your (or this school's) cultural values. What's important to the family or group you belong to?"

Write specific suggestions at the other end of the continuum, noting how CULTURAL VALUES is a general expression and the examples given are more specific keywords.

Give students 5 minutes to search the Internet for CULTURAL VALUES, looking for keywords associated with this topic, including more specific keywords to add to the list on the board.

(Examples from a quick search may include words such as cultural differences, moral values, Latino, importance of family, respect for authority, desire for stability, etc.) Have the students determine where these terms belong on the continuum from general to most specific. Point out that searching with specific keywords returns more focused information.

As they read about Paulsen and his work, direct them to look for the specific keywords he uses when writing about cultural values.

The Task: Creating a Bioboard

After you have visited the site and made notes about Paulsen's major achievements you will then create a Bioboard that celebrates the author's life, accomplishments, and values.


The Process: Exploring the Web, Creating a Product

1. Visit the Paulsen site and take notes on the major accomplishments of Paulsen by using the Clustering Organizer.

2. Include biography and book writing accomplishments.

3. You will use the information from the sites above to create a bioboard.

Get a poster board, or large piece of butcher paper.

Put the title: "Gary Paulsen" at the top of the board.

Write a focus question underneath the title, eg. "Who is Gary Paulsen?"

Include a photo or drawing of the author.

Include significant quotes from the author.

Show a timeline highlighting important accomplishments in his life.

Include other important information in a brief paragraph.

Write five questions that a student should be able to answer after reading your board.

Write your name at the bottom, lower right-hand corner of the board.

This activity may be extended by allowing students to search additional sites for even more focused information. An example of finding better keywords that leads to more specific information:

first query: "Gary Paulsen" "cultural values" canyons

next query: Paulsen Apache culture (the specific term Apache was discovered in the information returned by the first query)

How You Will Be Graded

You will meet this standard:

Writing Applications 2.3 by writing a research report about Gary Paulsen;including facts, details, and examples of his life and works

Your bioboard will also be graded based on the following criteria:

    Be arranged in a neat, organized and attractive manner.

    Include information in a variety of visual ways (as described above).

    Show what Paulsen accomplished and valued as a person.


Reference: Farrer, Kerry and Terry Heck. "Canyons, by Gary Paulsen." Teacher CyberGuide (1997): San Diego County Office of Education 13 Oct. 2006 < http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/canyons/canyontg.html >.

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