Teaching Module

New Zealand Childhoods (18th–20th c.)

Lesson Plan: Constructing an Author’s Attitude from Tone Words

by Ryba L. Epstein

Time Estimated: one 50-minute class

Grade Level: 10th through 12th grades


Students will learn to:

  1. Identify tone words and connotations;
  2. Detect speaker's/author's attitude using tone and connotation.



Project image of Apache children as they arrived at Carlisle Indian Industrial School and image after they had become acculturated.

Ask students to quickly brainstorm descriptive words for the first picture and then the second picture.

Ask students to categorize their impressions, looking for the specific words they have used that describe positive or negative attributes, and attempt to determine what factors might underlie their perceptions.

Discuss the meaning of "tone," "connotation," and "attitude."

Group Activity
Next, divide class into small groups (three to five students) and pass out copies of the two primary sources from New Zealand. Each group should choose a recorder to write down the group's responses.

Students should go through the documents, underlining all words that reflect tone or connotation.

Next, students should make two lists from the words they have underlined: one of positive and one of negative tone words.

Then students should analyze their lists to determine what factors generally determined what the authors of the sources considered as positive or negative. (Usually, students will decide that behavior that indicated increased acceptance of Western culture and life-styles was seen as positive by the authors.)

Finally, each group should write one or two sentences explaining the attitude of each author, supporting their opinion by reference to their lists of tone words. Students should also try to identify underlying assumptions that led each author to his attitude.

  • Example: Wakefield implies that Maoris who were married to or children of Westerners were superior to those who were not—as supported by his use of words such as "very superior," "strikingly comely," and "remarkable . . . cleanliness and order." His word choice indicates an attitude that assumes the superiority of Western standards of beauty and cleanliness over those of indigenous people.

The recorders for each group should write their group's final statements on the board.

Have the class discuss the similarities and differences between the statements, checking for validity and for appropriate support for each statement's opinion from the tone words cited.

Students will write a paragraph trying to identify underlying reasons for the attitudes expressed by the authors by relating those attitudes to broader 19th-century European social and cultural beliefs.


Advanced Students
For more able students, direct them to the website of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School at http://home.epix.net/~landis/histry.html.

List examples of tone words from the primary source documents embedded in the site. How are these similar to the words used in the primary sources from New Zealand?

What similarities can be inferred between the two educational systems' attitudes toward indigenous children and their future roles in "modern" society?

Ask students to write a letter from Mr. Locke (document 91) describing the Carlisle School's successes to the New Zealand Minister for Native Affairs.

How to Cite This Source

"New Zealand Childhoods (18th–20th c.)," in Children and Youth in History, Item #93, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/93 (accessed August 10, 2021).