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Common Ground

A vacant lot, rat-infested and filled with garbage, looked like no place for a garden. Especially to a neighborhood of strangers where no one seems to care. Until one day, a young girl clears a small space and digs into the hard-packed soil to plant her precious bean seeds. Suddenly, the soil holds promise: To Curtis, who believes he can win back Lateesha's heart with a harvest of tomatoes; to Virgil's dad, who seems a fortune to be made from growing lettuce; and even to Mariclea, sixteen and pregnant, wishing she were dead.

Thirteen very different voices--old, young, Haitian, Hispanic, tough, haunted, and hopeful tell one amazing story about a garden that transforms a neighborhood.

An old man seeking renewal, a young girl connecting to a father she never knew, a pregnant teenager dreading motherhood.Thirteen voices tell one story of the flowering of a vacant city lot into a neighborhood garden. Old, young, Jamaican, Korean, Hispanic, tough, haunted, hopeful'Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman weaves characters as diverse as the plants they grow into a rich, multi-layered exploration of how a community is born and nurtured in an urban environment.

Curriculet Details
15 Questions
18 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for fifth grade students contains interactive videos exploring metaphor and simile, as well as annotations describing hyperbole, conflict, and tone. Students will explore the themes of tolerance and respect. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

The curriculet is being added to your library


Many Vietnamese families keep ancestral altars in their homes. These altars celebrate deceased family members and are a reminder of the belief that a person's spirit exists after death. These altars often hold candles, incense, and pictures of the deceased. (This annotation contains an image)


Why does Ana most likely compare the neighborhood to a hotel? 
A simile uses "like" or "as" to compare two things. Watch the video to review the difference between similes and metaphors. (This annotation contains a video)


Which of the following best describes the narrator of the story? 
Notice that Wendell thinks that Kim is Chinese, not Vietnamese. Do the neighbors in the area seem to know much about each other? 


How did the move to the United States affect Gonzalo differently from his father? 
Quiz One 
Whether or not your grandparents are immigrants to the United States, you may have seen them struggle more with changes than a younger person. For example, a young person is more likely to be interested in the latest technology than an elderly person. Tio Juan seems to feel more comfortable in the garden, where planting is universal to people of all ages and cultures. 


Watch the video and think about the themes which are beginning to appear in the story. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following themes is not emerging in the story? 


"Like a cat who smells herring," is an example of which of the following? 
The highlighted text is a racial slur which usually refers to Asian plantation workers. It is surprising to hear this language from Sam, who describes himself as someone who brings people together. Even though he may have generally good intentions, could Sam have some racist ideas? 
How is the garden different in this chapter than it was before? 


Virgil is referring to dealers of illegal drugs. Think about what this detail tells readers about the kind of neighborhood the characters live in. 
Which of the following does Virgil have in common with Kim? 
What are some ways in which the plot that Virgil's father plants is different from the plots that the other neighbors plant? 
Watch the video below to learn about the difference between internal and external conflict. Virgil's father is having an external conflict when his lettuce begins to die. Virgil is having an internal conflict when he feels embarrassment about his father's actions, which he feels are greedy. (This annotation contains a video)
The Greek goddess which Virgil is referring to is named Demeter. An artist's depiction of Demeter can be seen below. (This annotation contains an image)

Sae Young

Remember the difference between internal and external conflict, which you just reviewed. Would Sae Young's interaction with her attacker be an example of an internal conflict or an external one? How do you know? 
Quiz Two 
Notice how the author uses different speech patterns for different characters. For example Sae Young, not a native speaker of English, speaks in shorter sentences. Does the changing diction help the characters feel more real to you? 


How do the images at the beginning of each chapter relate to the story? 
Below, you will see an image of some beefsteak tomatoes, which really are the largest variety of tomatoes. Reflect on what Curtis's decision to grow the tomatoes tells you about his feelings for Lateesha. (This annotation contains an image)
What deal do Curtis and Royce make? 


"Pram" is the term used in England to refer to a baby stroller. Note again how the author changes the language with each chapter to make the narrator of each more realistic. 
What is the meaning of the highlighted metaphor? 


Watch the video to review hyperbole. The highlighted text is an example of hyperbole. Everyone in the world does not hate, or even know Maricela. The exaggeration shows how miserable she feels about being judged.  (This annotation contains a video)
Earning a G.E.D. is roughly equal to earning a high school diploma. 
How does Miss Fleck's feel about Maricella, as seen through her actions? 
Being in the garden and meeting Leona is a turning point for Maricela. Do you feel that the garden has helped each character in some way? 


In which of the following ways is Amir different from the other characters? 
Below, you will see an image of a concentration camp. Concentration camps were terrible places where Jews and other enemies of Germany were sent during World War II. At least several hundred thousand people died in these camps. (This annotation contains an image)
How do the other characters' opinions of Royce change during in this chapter? 
Are you kinder to people you know than you are to strangers? Think about how Amir's interaction with the Italian woman relates to the themes of the story. 


Watch the video below to learn more about tone and mood. The highlighted paragraph, in which the plants die, is an example of text with a sad tone. (This annotation contains a video)
Quiz Three