Set in 1948, this book is narrated by 10 year old Frederika. The kids in this one room school house are accustomed to teachers who come – and then go – rather quickly. But Miss Agnes is a bit different, leading the kids to wonder if perhaps this teacher will stay for the whole school year!
Miss Agnes tosses the old textbooks and sets about teaching the students about maps, timelines, speaking properly and reading books (and not the Dick and Jane books that the kids do not enjoy reading!). This book will help students learn about Alaska, the Athabascan natives, and what life was like in a one-room schoolhouse – and a small fishing village – many years ago.
Questions Worth Discussing
- Miss Agnes is a teacher unlike the other teachers. How is she different?
- How does Fred’s mother feel about school? Why do you think she feels this way?
- What are school days like for Fred and her friends? How is this similar to your school days? How is it different?
- Why did so many teachers leave the village in previous years? Why is Miss Agnes a good teacher? How is she a good teacher for Fred and her friends?
- Why does Miss Agnes change the Dick and Jane readers for the students? What does this tell us about Miss Agnes and what kind of teacher (and person) she is? Why do you think the students did not like the Dick and Jane books? Why do you think they like the new books?
- Miss Agnes believes that learning happens even after school is done- for adults as well. She believes that adults should keep learning throughout their lives. Does this happen in the book for the adults? How do you know? Do you think Miss Agnes learns some new things from her students in Fred’s class? What does Miss Agnes learn? What does Momma (Fred’s mother) learn? Grandpa?
- What are the lessons that Fred learns from Miss Agnes?
- What do you think the students and Miss Agnes will do the following school year? Make some predictions about the future of the class!
- Make a map of the places in book, labeling the village, school, the Koyukuk River, etc.
- Trace the route from England (Miss Agnes’ home country) to Alaska on a map. How would Miss Agnes have made this journey in 1948?
- Read about muskrats (or another animal found in Alaska) and then create a poster of your animal, using visuals and interesting facts about the animal to share with the class.
- Study the sign language alphabet and learn to sign names.
- Miss Agnes makes a timeline for the students. Make a timeline of important events in your life or make a timeline as a class of your school/history/etc.
- Write a new chapter about Miss Agnes’ return on the first day of school for the new school year.
Have you read The Year of Miss Agnes with your class? Or a different book set in Alaska? Please share your thoughts (and then read below for more resources and links for teaching Miss Agnes and learning about Alaska!) Thank you!
All About Alaska
Resources for Learning About Athabascan Indians
More Interesting Kids Books About Alaska