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Mary's Choice: To Go or Stay?
What to Know
Teaching Time
Two 45-minute class periods
Grade Level
Elementary School
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • Geography
  • History
Historical Period
  • Colonization and Settlement - 1601-1760
  • New Nation - 1761-1800
Who hasn't felt like an outsider at one time or another? This lesson asks students to think about what it might be like to suddenly wake up in a completely different culture. What aspects would they miss of their own culture? What would be different? How would they feel? Drawing on these empathetic skills, students will then apply them to history. Mary Jemison was sixteen years old when a party of Shawnee and French Soldiers captured her family on April 5, 1758 in Adams County, Pennsylvania. While the rest of her family was murdered, Mary was taken to two Seneca sisters who adopted her to replace the brother they had lost in war. A little over a year later, Mary was almost reclaimed when her Seneca sisters took her to Fort Pitt to do some trading and peace-keeping. Mary's disappointment over this near rescue is palpable (in Seaver's account). Years later, however, Mary has the opportunity to return to her old life when the King of England offers a bounty for captives. This time, Mary has no desire to return to her former life. She cleverly escapes the greed of both a Dutchman and the old King of the tribe in order to retain her right to live with the tribe. Your students will read about these incidents in Mary's amazing life. In so doing, they will learn to read critically. They will read for information about Seneca customs and their use of the land. They will follow the plot and make predictions for the outcome. Finally, they will notice the voice of the author (Seaver, not Mary) in the story. Your students will then be faced with Mary's choice themselves: If they had been kidnapped from their culture and adopted into a new one (into which they had assimilated) would they stay in their new culture or return to their old one? Mary's Choice: To Go or Stay?


Students will be able to: 1. Demonstrate their ability to listen to reading for understanding of plot. 2. To read and analyze text in content areas through reading of a captive story. 3. To acquire new vocabulary through reading. 4. Demonstrate understanding of basic geographic literacy by mapping routes of captives. 5. Interpret a work of art. 6. To defend in writing a position as to whether the captive should stay with Indians or return to white settlement.

Standards Alignment

  • Geography

    7.1.3 B. Identify and locate places and regions.
    7.3.3. B. Identify the human characteristics of places and regions by their cultural characteristics.

  • History

    8.1.3. A. Understand chronological thinking and distinguish between past, present, and future time.
    8.1.3. A. Understand chronological thinking and distinguish between past, present, and future time.
    8.1.3. C. Understand fundamentals of historical interpretation.
    8.2.3. D. Identify and describe conflict and cooperation among social groups and organizations in Pennsylvania history.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.1.3. E. Acquire a reading vocabulary by identifying and correctly using words
    1.2.3. A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.3.3. A. Read and understand works of literature.
    1.3.3. F. Read and respond to non-fiction and fiction including poetry and drama.
    1.4.3 C. Write an opinion and support it with facts.
    1.5.3. B. Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic.
    1.6.5. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.5. B. Listen to a selection of literature (fiction and/or nonfiction).
    1.6.5. D. Contribute to discussions.

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