YAL - Young Adult Literature Presenter Unit 2012/2013



Highlighted Strategy

Opposites: A Reading and Writing Activity
One of the strategies highlighted in this YAL Conference workshop is Opposites: A Reading and Writing Activity. When developing writers explore the potential for opposite characters in their own writing, they have to begin with an inventory of who they are, and from there imagine in the world around them characters who are unlike themselves in some significant way.

Go to this strategy.

Learn more about these and other strategies that align with the Common Core Standards that were demonstrated in YAL Conference units.

YAL Home Page

YAL Conference Books

YAL Strategies

UfB - Units for Books - Info

UfB - Units for Books - Units



The Rock and the River
by Kekla Magoon


YAL Presenter Unit 2012/2013

Subjects: Reading, Writing, History
Grade Level: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Posted: 2012
Unit Created by: Polly Mills

What makes this a good YAL choice...

In The Rock and the River, fourteen-year-old Sam Childs finds himself in an especially fraught moment of adolescence and a pivotal moment and place in American history: 1968 Chicago. Not only must he forge a path toward adulthood, his position in his family, in his community, in Chicago, in the U.S. civil rights movement, and in the world Zeitgeist, seems to leave him no option but to choose and then act.


The sixties changed everything. They forged a generation who I believe laid the groundwork (by providing leadership and vision) for social, cultural, political, and economic calls to action taking place today. While I've had the pleasure to stand beside young activists who understand the roots of today's actions, who understand that there is a tradition of protest and a legacy of individuals who make quiet choices to do extraordinary things for a cause, I've met far more young people who don't understand their own power to choose and to act. And I've met far too many young people who don't know what happened in Chicago in 1968. This is especially ironic when I ask my students at Columbia College Chicago what happened just outside the doors of our classroom on Michigan Avenue when "the whole world was watching," and get nothing but blank stares. I want them to know that they are standing on a block of concrete this is pregnant with history, with celebrated heroes, and everyday heroes whose names were never in print.


I think Sam stands as a role model for teens today, who find themselves again in a moment of tremendous upheaval, in which the future seems uncertain, and lethargy (and ignorance of its risks) seems to be a viable option. — Polly Mills


YAL Conference Workshop Description
The Power of Opposites in The Rock and the River
Polly Mills, Presenter

1968, Chicago. Thirteen-year-old Sam Childs finds himself caught between his father (a well-known civil rights leader) and his older brother, Stick, who joins the Black Panther Party. When escalating racial tensions throw Sam's community into turmoil, he faces a difficult decision. Will Sam choose to follow his father, or his brother? His mind, or his heart? The rock, or the river? This workshop will include a powerful writing activity called "Opposites" in which participants explore the life and point of view of a character who is significantly like and yet unlike themselves. We will look into inventive ways of making personal research and inquiry part of a history unit while giving students valuable preparation for college writing tasks. — Workshop Description for YAL 2012



Unit Template


Lesson Plan


Lesson Plan - Story Workshop


Presentation - Power Point (very large file)


Resources pages (PDF format)


How to Choose Strong Reading Models


Story Workshop Approach


Story Workshop Big Handout




Unit Template Blank Form