http://www.storyboardthat.com/teacher-guide/catherine-called-birdy-by-karen-cushman

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Catherine Called Birdy Include:

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman, is the diary of the fictional teenaged Lady Catherine in the year 1290. Catherine, who is nicknamed “Birdy” or “Little Bird”, records her daily trials and triumphs along with her fears and hopes for the future. On the small Medieval manor on which she lives, her options are limited. As Catherine seeks to avoid an arranged marriage and find meaning in her life, Cushman challenges the reader to consider questions of identity, equality, freedom, and familial responsibility. The book opens a window into the life of Medieval women and will enrich students’ study of both literature and history.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




Start My Free Trial

Students reading Catherine, Called Birdy will likely require a little background on life in Medieval England. As Catherine explains in her journal entries, her life in the manor house is strictly controlled. For Catherine, acting “like a lady” holds a different meaning than it does today. Being a lady did not simply mean acting like a polite female; a lady was a specific upper-class position in the ranks of English nobility and held different responsibilities and expectations than life as a lower-class female. Catherine is both empowered and restricted by this position.

Her privileged position as Lady Catherine is due to her father’s position as a knight. While he is only a minor knight, he is still lord of the manor on which he lives. His position is a result of the feudal system which dominated English life during the Middle Ages. In this hierarchical system, all power flowed down from the king, and with it, land, money, and food. The king parceled out his property among his favorite nobles who owed him loyalty and yearly taxes in exchange. This system was repeated on a smaller scale between greater and lesser nobles, eventually working its way down to the peasants, who collected no tax themselves, but owed allegiance and rent to their ruling nobleman. With this strict social structure, each member of society knew his or her place in the community and the expectations and responsibilities that came with it. Although this structure could provide comfort to some, it restricts Catherine and creates both external and internal conflicts for her, adding to the novel’s central tension. For more information about the feudal system and life in the middle ages, check out the links below.



Before beginning Catherine, Called Birdy, students may also benefit from research on the following aspects of Medieval society:


Essential Questions for Catherine, Called Birdy

  1. In what ways does Birdy grow and mature during the year she describes in her journal?
  2. How did marriage in the 13th century differ from marriage today?
  3. How does Birdy balance her own desires with her duties to her family and society?
  4. How do family and society help shape our identities? How did the mindset of Medieval Europeans differ from the mindset of people today? How is it similar?

Catherine Called Birdy Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Catherine Called Birdy Plot Diagram


Copy Assignment



A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example Catherine, Called Birdy Plot Diagram

Exposition

Catherine, the daughter of a knight, lives on a small manor in Medieval England. At thirteen, she is nearing adulthood and spends much of her time trying to avoid boring responsibilities and ladylike behavior.


Conflict

Catherine's father has decided it is time for Catherine to marry. He treats her marriage like a financial transaction and is planning to marry her off to the wealthiest suitor he can find, despite Catherine's objections.


Rising Action

Catherine does everything in her power to scare away suitors. When the ugly Shaggy Beard insists on marrying her anyway, however, she refuses to accept it. Catherine witnesses the ups and downs of manor life, including marriages, births, and deaths, while trying to figure out how to avoid the miserable life ahead of her.


Climax

Catherine finally agrees to marry Shaggy Beard in order to use his money to save an abused bear. Just before his arrival, however, she runs away, unable to face the reality of marriage to someone she detests.


Falling Action

While visiting Ethelfritha, Catherine realizes she cannot run away from her life, but must make the most of it. She decides she can marry Shaggy Beard and still be Catherine. When she returns, home, however, she learns that Shaggy Beard has died.


Resolution

Shaggy Beard's son Stephen offers to marry Catherine instead. Catherine believes Stephen will be much better than his father and accepts his marriage offer with relief and hope for the future.


Catherine, Called Birdy Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Catherine, the daughter of a knight, lives on a small manor in Medieval England. At thirteen, she is nearing adulthood and spends much of her time trying to avoid boring responsibilities and ladylike behavior. Catherine's father has decided it is time for Catherine to marry. He treats her marriage like a financial transaction and is planning to marry her off to the wealthiest suitor he can find, despite Catherine's objections. Catherine does everything in her power to scare away suitors. When the ugly Shaggy Beard insists on marrying her anyway, however, she refuses to accept it. Catherine witnesses the ups and downs of manor life, including marriages, births, and deaths, while trying to figure out how to avoid the miserable life ahead of her. Catherine finally agrees to marry Shaggy Beard in order to use his money to save an abused bear. Just before his arrival, however, she runs away, unable to face the reality of marriage to someone she detests. While visiting Ethelfritha, Catherine realizes she cannot run away from her life, but must make the most of it. She decides she can marry Shaggy Beard and still be Catherine. When she returns, home, however, she learns that Shaggy Beard has died. Shaggy Beard's son Stephen offers to marry Catherine instead. Catherine believes Stephen will be much better than his father and accepts his marriage offer with relief and hope for the future. Remember, Little Bird, in the world to come, you will not be asked, "Why were you not Perkin", but "Why were you not Catherine?"

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Catherine, Called Birdy.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Plot Diagram Template
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION

Example

(Use this rubric or create your own on Quick Rubric.)





Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Catherine, Called Birdy Characters

As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!


Catherine, Called Birdy Characters

  • Catherine (Birdy)
  • Mother
  • Morwenna
  • Father
  • Perkin
  • Aelis
  • Uncle George
  • Meg
  • Shaggy Beard

Catherine, Called Birdy Character Map
Create your own at Storyboard That Catherine (Birdy) Mother Morwenna Father Perkin Aelis Uncle George Meg Shaggy Beard