RARI logo

blue bar
Teacher ResourcesSecret Life of Bees
LARK KIT: The Secret Life of Bees ~ Family Literacy PACT Lesson using the book The Secret Life of Bees By Sue Monk Kidd

1st Theme: Bees and Honey: Nature and food
First, the summary of the book can be presented in Spanish or French, to allow for comprehension in a beginner adult English-level class. This summary was largely taken from the author and a variety of literary commentary. However, it was simplified for better understanding with beginner students. Attached are two other book descriptions or review examples, as well as the translated copies of this summary.

Summary for the Secret Life of Bees
Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her cruel and unloving father, Lily Owens, a fourteen-year-old girl has lived everyday, since she was four-years-old, with the memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. Since then, her only real friend has been the stern black woman Rosaleen, who works for Mr. Owens and acts as her "stand-in mother."

One day in 1964,when Rosaleen walks through town, on her way to register to vote, she meets up with three of the meanest racists in town and ends up being beaten up and thrown in jail. Lily needs to get away from her father and free her friend and so she breaks Rosaleen out of the hospital, and they run away from home. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina--a name she found on the back of a picture left by her mother. The picture turns out to be a label from the jars of honey produced by three black sisters, August, June, and May for their business, Black Madonna Honey. These kind but strange ladies take Lily and Rosaleen into their little household - and start asking questions about where she's from and why she's gone on the run. At first, Lily doesn’t tell them the truth about how they are fugitives from the law.

Lily thinks they are wise women, especially August. August teaches Lily how to take care of bees, as well as how to deal with the absence of her mother. Lily is impressed with the way they take care of each other and run a successful honey business. She meets a young man, Zachary Taylor who becomes a love-interest and she learns something more about human relationships. Finally the police catch up to Lily and Rosaleen and their whole world seems to be falling apart. But with the love and support of the three sisters and their friends, Lily's difficulties start to come to an end as she comes to terms with how her Mother died and her own forgiveness.

"The Secret Life of Bees" has a rare wisdom about life--about mothers and daughters, about the nature of Bees and how it relates to life, and about the lessons we have learned from a violent racist past in American History. We can see how one girl's struggle to know something about her past, has helped her and others learn so much about each other. Sue Monk Kidd explores a young girl's search for the truth about her mother; her courage to tear down racial barriers; and her joy as she claims her place within a community of women.

Background Summary: Materials
"The Secret Life of Bees": Selected passages from the book: the beginning of every chapter has a quote about bees or beekeeping.
Chapter 1, pages 1 and 2 (description of the bees flying around in Lily's room) and Chapter 5 pages 83 and 92-94 (Lily and August handling the bees.)
Chapter 7 pages 118 and 119 (honey extraction procedure etc) Most of chapter 8 has a lot of text about the bees and particularly this quote from page 148: “ I loved the idea of bees having a secret life, just like the one I was living.” And Chapter 13, esp. Page 269-“the uses of honey”

*The book is available on tape in both abridged and unabridged versions. It is also available in large print.
Pre-teach the vocabulary and language to adults before PACT Time
The summary can be for adults/parents to read before working with children, (beginner - advanced level ESOL). Native speakers can review the words they are not familiar with. They may be able to skip over the language lesson, but participate in the literacy activities, which focus on reading and writing.
Spelling and Grammar- different spellings of bee vs. be. Long vowel sound even with both spellings
Adjectives and the verb: to be
Idioms and expression: “She has a bee in her bonnet”, “what’s the buzz all about” Familiar use of the word "Honey"
Onomatopoeia in the word "Buzz"- used in Chapter 1, page 1 Other words like "Crack" or "hiss"
Vocabulary drawn from the book:
Queen colony
Drone Pollen
Hive Pollination
Beekeeper Nectar

*The Science of bees and Beekeeping background: use photos or selected text to explain more about the book, "The Secret Life of Bees" and "Learning about Bees" from Mr. Krebs by Alice K. Flanagan.
Writing- basic sentences using “to be” in the present tense or present progressive tense: Adults:
I am in the library. I am going to pour a teaspoon of honey into my tea. Or adults and older children can write a paragraph discussing how they use honey in their own culture.
Extension- Examples of vocabulary/Grammar work sheets- Side by side Grammar Lessons 1 and 2 on the verb: to be

Family Literacy-Children’s Book to Experience together
Young children and Elementary level:
Fiction: "The Bee Tree"
And/or "Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees"
Non-fiction: "The Honeymakers"
There are various versions of Winnie-the Pooh available on video, audio, full-length version, abridged, Spanish and CD-Rom

Other Literature to explore with a similar theme: see Book List

Art Projects: by age - see attached handouts in the kit
Cooking/food: make something simple with honey- see attached activities pages
Music: "The Flight of the Bumble Bees" and selected songs from CDs in the kit. Also sing songs from "The Secret life of Bees," page 83. Make up your own melody or use the be song from Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees.
Method and Process: Pre teach vocabulary from any book in the kit separately and then together. After adults review the selected passages and vocabulary, they can read or share in reading the Bee Tree story and discuss with children what happened in the book.
A Felt/Flannel Board: with any of the picture books-could be used as the story was told or a way to show the differences and vocabulary discussed- good with preschool and beginner level adults in a group activity
Discussion: how you use honey in food or perhaps an encounter with bees: Students can use the computers to look up articles on bees or recipes. Relationships- Explore the idea of how the hive works together and how families need to work together
Extension Lesson to take back to the adult classroom: The verbs used above or in the discussion. LEA- language exercise
Science and medicine: how to avoid getting stung and what to do if you have been stung
Science and Movement- after reading a non-fiction book about bees and their role in nature, have students act out the flight of bees
Music/theatre Activity from the youngest children to the oldest children-Listening to "The Flight of The Bumblebees" from the CD in the LARK KIT, children and/or adults can "fly" around the room as if they are bees. Families could construct a play where they write out the parts to be played and the parents could help the children build the props, like a hive. One child could be the Queen Bee, another a flower. Parents can be the Directors or pretend they are a tree.

Afterwards- adults and children can discuss the experience and write down their thoughts, either separately or together. The level of detail and the length of the activity could be from a very simple few minutes of physical fun in the class to an in depth project-based learning activity with multiple layers. It would all depend on the age of children, literacy level of adults and the willingness for both parties to participate.

Other LARK kits suggestions:
Insect kit, spring kit- bugs and flowers
Weather Kit- Southern weather vs. Northern weather
Chapter 9 in the book refers to the hottest day of the year.
African-American Culture kit
Multicultural kit
Families or Mothers kits