Out of the Dust

By: Karen Hesse


Out of the Dust is one of the more interesting styles we can teach to our students. The novel is written in a series of poems and all revolve around the life of Billie Jo and her family during The Great Depression. Billie Jo is forced to overcome great tragedy and hardship and must face the harsh reality that is her life. Through trial and triumph, dedication, and hard work Billie Jo is finally able to see that life is what you make it.
Out of the Dust Book Trailer

Teachers overview and daily ideas

Here is a quick summary you may find useful as are some of the activities!

Activity Time!

Have your students make a newspaper page, I chose to do it on the computer but printing out a template would work as well. It doesn't have to be long but be sure they incorporate the novels activities. My newspaper incorporates The Dust Bowl in general as well as the talent shows that were popular in that time period. I used this site for mine. It does take a download but it is very effective as a free version.

To tie this back to the book have them write a short 1-2 page reflection on why they chose the poster they did and how it applies to what they read and/or researched. Give them an opportunity to present!


Money was tight for Billie Jo and her family. There is no doubt about that. However, many modern students don't understand the value of the 50 cents that her mother gave her to buy birthday cake ingredients; students may also not realize how valuable those quarters were when we consider the tougher times. To put this in to greater context here is what you could do. This is my example ==>

1.) Use this inflation calculator and find the ratio of a dollar today to its equivalent in 1934 (or any other depression year you wish) be sure to have them only find the conversion so they have to do the math to really drive home the effect. (1 : .06 in 1934)

2.) Give them different values to calculate on what things cost today as opposed to then and vice versa.

3.) Have your students then find a way to calculate the cost of a gallon of gas, their cell phone, or anything else you deem appropriate and have them convert that cost to the context of the novel.

This relationship is mathematically represented by the equation Px=px where P=todays amount you are converting (in my ratio it is $1) p=cost in 1934 and x=the cost of your product

ex.) My cell phone = $200 today. In 1930 it would have cost $12.

4.) have them relate these prices, in a short paragraph, to the overall value that the dimes that were so coveted by Billie Jo's mother.

This will help your students gain perspective when reading stories such as this one as well as get them to actively engage in the process rather than only being told the difference.