The Watson's Go To Birmingham.. A connecting moment with Hammurabi's Code!

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Last week I had a great moment with my Smarties.  It wasn't planned, but it worked out so awesome!
I <puffy heart> love when these types of moments happen!  I am reading The Watson's Go to Birmingham with my class as a read-aloud.  I wanted to share this fabulous novel by Christopher Paul Curtis  with my class because it is the 50th year since the church bombing in Alabama.  Late last week we were reading Chapter 5:  Nazi Parachutes Attack America and Get Shot Down over the Flint River by Captain Byron Watson and his Flamethrower of Death.  Don't you love even the titles of the chapters!  In this chapter Byron is caught lighting toilet paper on fire and sending it parachute style into the commode.  His mother has threatened him that if he is caught with matches again, she will burn him.  Low and behold, what of course happens?  By gets caught.. BIG TIME!  and his mother is furious.  Curtis spends the chapter describing how Byron's mom prepares to burn Byron.  An "eye for an eye," and all that.  Before I read the chapter, I told my students that there was a connection to something we had been learning in social studies, and I wanted them to listen to see if they could figure out what it was.  Many of them got it with the first sentence.. "Byron got caught lighting matches again and it looked like this time Momma was going to do what she always said she would."

What I LOVE... LOVE... LOVED was that in Social Studies, we spent the day before learning about Hammurabi's Code.  Hammurabi, an ancient king in Mesopotamia created a series of over 200 laws to govern his people.  The idea of the saying "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" came about as a result of Hammurabi's Code.  My Smarties were able to make a fantastic TEXT TO WORLD connection!  Woot WOOT!  It was so powerful for many of them.  I love when you see their eyes just shine!   We went on in social studies to create our own code for our school.

Using our school's Code of Conduct, I had students choose five rules, and write consequences as if they lived in Mesopotamia.  They had a blast, and we put our "tablets" up for the rest of the school to see.  Please excuse that they really look like tombstones, to us, they were tablets!  My Smarties made great connections.  For example, gum is not allowed at our school.  If you were caught chewing gum, and had a punishment Hammurabi style, you would get your tongue cut off!  I think my class appreciates the much more civilized discipline code that we practice now!

By the way, you don't have to read the entire Watson's book for students to get the same effect.  Chapter 5 can stand on its own fairly simply, and it is about 10 pages long.

Have you had any "aha" moments with your students lately?  Share one with me below!  I can't wait to see what they connect with this week!


  1. Love your Blog and ideas! I just bought The Watsons Go To Birmingham from Scholastics for only a buck each and we are starting when we get back from our Lent break. Do you have a study guide or activities for sale at TPT for the book or will you have one soooooon? Thanks!

    Joanne M
    Traveling Thru Sixth Grade

  2. There are some great resources out there for The Watsons go to Birmingham:
    Scholastic has a reader's theater script :
    and other printables: and
    The Birmingham Public Library offers some great resources (including primary sources) here:

  3. WOW....what an awesome connection! The 6th grade social studies teachers in my building will really appreciate this!!


    Mind Sparks


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