Student Activities for The Treasure of Lemon Brown Include:
"The Treasure of Lemon Brown" by Walter Dean Myers is a story about Greg Ridley, who starts off having a bad day. Doing poorly at school, he is positive his dad is going to tell him he can’t play basketball for the team with whom he’s been dreaming of playing. Two nights after Mr. Ridley banishes Greg to his room to study, Greg decides to leave the house and just get away. He goes to an abandoned warehouse, where he meets Lemon Brown. Through his interactions with Lemon, Greg begins to reflect on his life.
The Treasure of Lemon Brown Summary
Greg Ridley is failing math. His principal sends home a letter to his dad saying that he’s in danger of failing. Greg’s dad gives him a lecture and tells him he is crazy if he thinks he’s going to play basketball with grades like that. He sends Greg to his room to “hit the books.” Greg is devastated because playing for the Scorpions Community Center team is very important to him.
Sitting in his room, listening to a storm in the distance, Greg starts thinking about a pickup game he’d seen a while back in an abandoned warehouse. He decides to go there in the hopes of getting into a game. When he gets to the warehouse, he enters and looks around. It is dark with only the light from a few passing cars. Greg is aware of something in the room with him, and is scared. Suddenly Lemon Brown speaks up, saying he doesn’t have anything for him, and that he has a razor that could cut him up. They wind up talking for a while. Greg wants to know about Lemon’s supposed treasure. Lemon doesn’t have time to explain to him.
A group of thugs come in and toss the room, looking for Lemon and his “treasure.” Lemon and Greg quietly run from room to room, hiding. Suddenly, as they are trapped in an upstairs room, Greg howls like a wolf. Lemon throws himself at the attackers at the top of the stairs, and they all tumble down the stairs. Only Lemon returns, though he is bumped and bruised.
Greg and Mr. Brown begin talking. Lemon tells Greg of his past accomplishments as “Sweet Lemon Brown - Blues Singer and Harmonica Player.” He’d been quite famous. He had also had a wife and son, but when his wife died, his sister-in-law took the boy in. Lemon didn’t really see much of him after that. His playing wasn’t as good, once he lost his reason for playing.
Then he found out that his son had gone off to war and died. When they found his body, he was carrying his dad’s old “mouth fiddle and these clippings” of when Lemon had played. That had been his son’s treasure, and when Lemon got them back and realized that his son loved him enough to carry them everywhere he went, the clippings became his treasure. Lemon also says that every man has a treasure. With the thugs chased off, and Lemon’s story told, the rain ends and Lemon tells Greg he ought to be on his way home. Greg agrees and walks home. When he reaches his stoop, he thinks about the lecture his dad is going to give him. Somehow, it makes him smile. He has learned something important from Lemon. He has a new appreciation for his dad, and all his dad does for him.
Essential Questions for "The Treasure of Lemon Brown"
- What is really important to you?
- What is treasure? Does it always have to be valuable?
- Which are more important: items with sentimental value or items with monetary value?
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Preparing for Teaching
Read the Big Ideas and Key Understandings and the Synopsis. Please do not read this to the students. This is a description for teachers about the big ideas and key understanding that students should take away after completing this task. Big Ideas and Key Understandings
A treasure is what is important to someone, not necessarily something that can be bought with money. Synopsis
year-old Greg Ridley gets into an argument with his father over his bad grades and his father forbids him to play basketball. Greg wanders into an abandoned building in Harlem, New York and meets a homeless man, Lemon Brown. After chasing away some thugs who try to steal Lemon Brown’s treasure, Greg begins to understand the legacies fathers can pass on to their sons and the true meaning of treasures. Read the entire selection, keeping in mind the Big Ideas and Key Understandings. Re-read the text while noting the stopping points for the Text Dependent Questions and teaching Tier II/academic vocabulary. During Teaching</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Students read the entire selection independently.<br /> Teacher reads the text aloud while students follow along, reading in their head. Depending on the text length and student need, the teacher may choose to read the full text or a passage aloud. For a particularly complex text, the teacher may choose to reverse the order of steps 1 and 2. Students and teacher re-read the text while stopping to respond to and discuss the questions, continually returning to the text. Use think-pair-share to discuss and develop the meanings of “Words that require more time to learn.” Text Dependent Questions</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Text-dependent Questions Evidence-based Answers<br /> Reread paragraphs 1-5. What is meant by the sentence in paragraph 5, “His father’s words, like the distant thunder that now echoed through the streets of Harlem, still rumbled softly in his ears”? Greg is recalling the argument he had with his father two nights before. He uses a simile to compare his father’s words to “distant thunder” meaning that his father’s voice still resonates in his head; Greg cannot forget his father’s lecture about his poor efforts in math. On the top of page ___, what does it mean that, “Greg had heard the story too many times to be interested now”? The story was about how his father had worked hard to pass the test to be a postal worker and was proud of his accomplishment. Greg wasn’t interested in the story because all he could think of was playing basketball for the Scorpions and was angry he had to study and couldn’t play with them. Since Greg heard the story so many times, it lost meaning or importance for him. On the bottom of page ___, who does Greg meet that tells him, “Don’t try nothin’ ‘cause I got a razor sharp enough to cut a week into nine days!”</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Use details from the selection to describe the person Greg meets. Greg meets Lemon Brown. He was an old man, with a black wrinkled face surrounded by a “halo of crinkly white hair and whiskers.” He wore a layer of dirty coats, baggy pants that went to his knees, and a rope around his middle. He had dirty shoes and his legs were wrapped in rags. On page ___, the first paragraph, Lemon Brown asks Greg “You ain’t one of them bad boys looking for my treasure, is you? “ How does Greg respond to Lemon Brown? Explain what Greg means by his response. Greg responds to Lemon Brown by saying “I’m not looking for your treasure… if you have one.” Greg is skeptical that someone who has so little material wealth could actually have a treasure. What is the significance of Lemon Brown saying to Greg, “Had them big eyes like you got…look into them moon eyes and see anything you want”? This reveals that Lemon Brown is starting to feel affection towards Greg because he is reminded of his son. On the bottom of page ___ to the top of page ___, Lemon Brown reveals to Greg the treasure that was hidden under his rags. What was Lemon Brown’s treasure? Why was it significant to him? Lemon Brown’s treasure was a harmonica and newspaper clippings of the Blues shows that Lemon Brown had played in.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">They were significant because when his son Jesse was in the war, Jesse carried the harmonica and newspaper clippings with him as mementos of his father. They were sent to Lemon Brown when Jesse died in the war and Jesse treated them like a treasure. Lemon Brown treasures them because the mementos symbolized a connection between Lemon Brown and his son, a shared respect and love in spite of the distance (literal or figurative) between them. Lemon Brown states that after Jesse left for the war, he wasn’t playing and singing “as much as I used to be, not without somebody to make it worth the while” – this speaks to his desire to connect with Jesse by giving him “these things that told him who I was, and what he come from.” On page ___, Lemon Brown tells Greg, “If you know your pappy did something, you know you can do something too.” What does Lemon Brown mean by this? Why is this significant to Greg? Lemon Brown means that his son Jesse was proud of the fact that his father was a famous Blues player and that Lemon Brown wanted to share his successes with his son as a way of showing Jesse that he too could do anything he wanted.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It is significant to Greg because his father told stories to him about his accomplishment as a postal worker in order to show Greg that he could accomplish anything with hard work. At the end of the story, Greg asks Lemon Brown if he thought his treasure was worth fighting for “against a pipe.” How did Lemon Brown respond to this? Explain what he means by this. Lemon Brown felt that a man has nothing except what he can pass on to his son or daughter. What a man passes on to his son or daughter may not be money but memories and things that are important to him. These memories and mementos are more valuable than money, and worth fighting to keep. At the end of the story, why does Greg smile when he “thought of the lecture he knew his father would give him”?</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Why is it significant that Greg smiles when he thinks of his father’s lecture? Cite evidence from the selection in your answer. At the beginning of the story, Greg is upset with his father because he won’t let him play basketball because of his grades. By the end of the story, Greg attitude has changed and he isn’t upset any more. The story says that Greg thought of the lecture he knew his father would give him, and smiled. Greg now understands that the lecture is about his father showing him that Greg can do something, too (p. 213), and is an expression of love, part of the “treasure” his father is leaving to him. Tier II/Academic Vocabulary</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"> <p style="text-align: justify;">Prompt<br /> An important theme in The Treasure of Lemon Brown involves the meaning of the word “treasure”. Greg learns from Lemon Brown that the value of something is highly personal; only its owner can ever appreciate its real worth and pass it on to others. Do you agree or disagree with this claim? Support your claim by tracing Greg’s discovery of what “treasure” really means. Compose an argument that is one page or more in length. Support your claims with valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence from the text, including direct quotes and page numbers. Teacher Instructions</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Students identify their writing task from the prompt provided. Students complete an evidence chart as a pre-writing activity. Teachers should remind students to use any relevant notes they compiled while reading and answering the text-dependent questions. Evidence</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Quote or paraphrase Page number Elaboration / explanation of how this evidence supports ideas or argument “Every man got a treasure. You don’t know that, you must be a fool.” When Greg first meets Lemon Brown, Greg tells him he’s not looking for Lemon Brown’s treasure even if he has one. Greg doubted that Lemon Brown could have a treasure since he was homeless. Lemon Brown is insinuating that treasures are not always related to monetary wealth. “All I know is that I heard him talking about some kind of treasure. You know they found that shopping bag lady with that load of money in her bags.” The thugs were looking for money, and mistakenly thought that the treasure Lemon Brown kept referring to was money. They only defined a treasure as money. “Throw down your money, old man, so I won’t have to bash your head in!” The thugs were willing to commit a violent act for the treasure (money). The old man was willing to fight to save his treasure because of sentimental reasons.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">“They were talking about treasures,” Greg said. “You really have a treasure?” Greg is thinking that Lemon Brown has a treasure worth monetary value and finds it hard to believe given his appearance. “Didn’t I tell you every man got a treasure?” Lemon Brown explains that everyone has something they treasure, no matter what their circumstances are. “I didn’t have nothing to give him except these things that told him who I was and what he come from.” Lemon Brown is explaining mementos that have sentimental value that can treasured. “They sent back what he had with him over there, and what it was is this old mouth fiddle and these clippings. Him carrying it around with him like that told me it meant something to him. That was my treasure, and when I give it to him, he treated it just like that, a treasure.” Lemon Brown showed Greg newspaper clippings and a harmonica that he treasured because Jess , his son had always carried them around with him when he fought in the war. The harmonica and clippings were all that was left of Jesse when he died. This shows how one might hold value to something that reminds them of someone or something.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">This meant a lot to Lemon Brown, the fact that his son kept the harmonica and the clippings as a reminder of his father. “What else a man got ‘cepting what he can pass on to his son, or daughter.” Greg learns to value the relationship with his father and he learns that the relationship with his father is a treasure. “His father had been a postal worker for all Greg’s life and was proud of it, often telling Greg how hard he worked to pass the test.” Greg realizes that his father’s lecture is his way of encouraging Greg to better himself in school, the way that his father did. “He thought of the lecture his father would give him, and smiled.” Greg realizes at the end of the story that listening to his father’s lecture will be okay; his attitude has changed towards his father. “And you take care of that treasure of yours.” This statement acknowledges Greg understands that a “treasure” is something of sentimental – not just monetary – value.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Once students have completed the evidence chart, they should look back at the writing prompt in order to remind themselves what kind of response they are writing (i.e. expository, analytical, argumentative) and think about the evidence they found. (Depending on the grade level, teachers may want to review students’ evidence charts in some way to ensure accuracy.) From here, students should develop a specific thesis statement. This could be done independently, with a partner, small group, or the entire class. Consider directing students to the following sites to learn more about thesis statements: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/545/01/ OR http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/ thesis_statement.shtml. Students compose a rough draft. With regard to grade level and student ability, teachers should decide how much scaffolding they will provide during this process (i.e. modeling, showing example pieces, and sharing work as students go). Students complete final draft.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Sample Answer<br /> A treasure can be highly personal. Only its owner can appreciate its real worth and pass it on to others. The selection The Treasure of Lemon Brown exemplifies this claim through the lessons learned by the main character, Greg. Through his relationship with Lemon Brown, Greg learns to value his relationship with his father and he learns that the relationship with his father is a treasure. When Greg first meets Lemon Brown, Lemon Brown tells Greg, “Every man got a treasure. You don’t know that, you must be a fool” (page ___). Greg tells Lemon Brown he is not looking for his treasure. When Greg smiles and says “if you have one,” it can be inferred that Greg does not believe that a poor man could have a treasure. Lemon Brown is trying to convey the idea to Greg that treasures are not always related to monetary wealth. When thugs break into Lemon Brown’s home, they are looking for money. Greg hears them say, “All I know is that I heard him talking about some kind of treasure. You know they found that shopping bag lady with that load of money in her bags” (page ___).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The thieves mistakenly thought that Lemon Brown’s treasure was money; they only defined a treasure as money, in a similar way that Greg defined it, when he says “What do you have, gold coins?”(page ___). One of the criminals tells Lemon Brown, “Throw down your money, old man, so I won’t have to bash your head in!” (page ___). They were willing to commit a violent act for the treasure they thought was money. The old man was willing to fight to save his treasure or withstand physical harm as shown on page ___, when “Lemon Brown stood at the top of the stairs, both arms raised high above his head…Lemon Brown didn’t move.” Later, Greg confronts Lemon Brown about the encounter and learns the real meaning of the word “treasure.” Greg asks, “You really have a treasure?” (page ___). Lemon Brown explains that everyone has something they treasure, no matter what their circumstances are. He tells Greg about giving his son his harmonica and news clippings about his career as a jazz musician. Lemon Brown states, “I didn’t have nothing to give him except these things that told him who I was and what he come from” (page ___).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Lemon Brown shows Greg the newspaper clippings and harmonica that he treasured because Jesse, his son, carried them with him when he fought in the war. It meant a lot to Lemon Brown that his son kept the harmonica and the clippings as a reminder of his father. When Jesse died, the harmonica and clippings were all that was left of Jesse and Lemon Brown’s relationship with him. Lemon Brown treasures these items, which shows how one might place value on something that reminds him/her of someone or something he/she loves. Lemon Brown tells Greg, “What else a man got ‘cepting what he can pass on to his son, or daughter” (page ___). When Greg hears Lemon Brown’s story, he is reminded of his own father, and recalls that his father was a postal worker and was proud of it (page ___). On page ___, when Greg smiles, he realizes that his father’s lecture is his way of encouraging Greg to better himself in school, the way that his father did. Greg learns that his “treasure” is the relationship with his father. Additional Tasks</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Research homelessness and the conditions surrounding homeless individuals in your community. In addition, research how other communities approach this problem. Write a letter to the mayor or city council in your community voicing your concerns and present one or more real world solutions to this dilemma, citing your research. Write a personal essay defining what “treasure” means to you, and describe a treasure that has been passed on to you. What made it valuable to the giver? What makes it valuable to you? What have you learned from it? Note to Teacher</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">During the second read, use this opportunity to teach vocabulary “Words that require less time to learn” and fall under “Meanings needs to be provided”. Urban Vocabulary: The selection takes place in the Harlem section of New York City. You may wish to clarify with students terms related to urban living that appear in the story, depending on your student population. Harlem</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A section in the northern part of Manhattan in New York City. Harlem is a primarily African American community that was the center of an important cultural scene in the 1920s but had become run-down in many parts by the time of the story. tenement</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">A building divided into small apartments. In New York City, many tenement neighborhoods became slums due to overcrowding and poor economic conditions. graffitiSignatures, slogans, or sketches drawn with spray paint on public spaces, such as the sides of buildings or of buses with subway cars neonA gas placed inside electric signs to make them light up in bright colors. bodegaA small grocery story in a Latino neighborhood</p>