"Ties That Bind, Ties That Break"



Curriculum Guide- Draft

Written and compiled by:


Gretchen Button, Hosford M.S.

Kevin Gardner, Hosford M.S.

Kimberly Mintzer, Hosford I.M.S.

Stacy Murphy, Gregory Heights M.S.

Zsuzsa Nemeth, Hosford M.S.


Funding support by Portland Public Schools







At one year old, she cries and cries

At two years old, she's full of smiles

At three years old, she chops the wood

At four years old, she weaves hemp fiber

At five years old, her feet are bound

At six years old, she embroiders flowers

At seven years old, the matchmaker comes

At eight years old, she gets engaged

At nine years old, her hair is braided

At ten years old, she gets married

At eleven years old, she has a baby


-Traditional Chinese nursery rhyme

(Source: LOTUS, a video produced by Direct Cinema Limited)







      Table of Contents       Overview of Instructional Activities Chapter-by-Chapter Overview Pre-Reading Activities •  Carousel Photo Exhibit •  Story Impression Main Stage Activities •  Journal Writing •  Discussion Questions •  Family Tree Activity •  Compound Map Activity •  Hot Seat •  Literary Postcards Post-Reading Activities •  Project Ideas •  CIM Writing Prompts •  CIM Speech Prompts Bibliography and Additional Resources Appendix •  Placards for Carousel Activity •  Tao Family Tree Handouts             OVERVIEW & INSTRUCTIONAL FOCI: Ties That Bind, Ties That Break  

  The Hosford Staff selected this novel to support the new PPS Chinese Immersion middle school program, which will begin at our school this fall. We're pleased that we can develop curriculum that connects neighborhood and immersion learners.   We expect that readers will gain meaningful knowledge of Chinese culture. (This reinforces sixth-grade social studies curriculum.)   Students will learn that China, in 1911, was very structured and rigid.   In comparison, free Americans always have embraced personal opportunity and celebrated great individualism.   Ailin is the book's main character.   She loves her childhood of running and playing – but anticipates the dreaded foot binding that will end her freedom. Her sisters have had their feet bound, as have her grandmothers, mother, and all the women in upper class Chinese Society.   Ailin resists.   She's fortunate to have a kind and progressive father, a Customs official who has had contact with foreigners.   He allows her to attend missionary school, where she quickly learns English from western teachers.   Ailin succeeds in keeping her feet unbound, but this brings on heavy consequences.   Her arranged marriage is canceled.   When her father dies, the formal education stops.   Ailin defies her severe uncle and she becomes estranged from her family.   Even with these losses, she's proud of maintaining her physical freedom.   The book concludes with Ailin living far from China, leading a life of hard but satisfying work.   She remains happy, active and independent:   values from her earliest days.   Ties That Bind, Ties That Break will appeal to readers who understand difficult – but obvious – challenges.   Non-conformity is a powerful experience in life and a strong theme in literature.                         FOCI   OF INSTRUCTION FOR TIES THAT BIND, TIES THAT BREAK     #1    Reading Narrative Text:   reading strategies #8    Literature Literary Text:   literal comprehension #11 Literature Literary Text:   respond to and make connections #13 Writing Ideas & Content:   communicate knowledge of a topic #28 Speaking Ideas & Content:   planned persuasive speech #179 Social Studies Culture:   relationships, influences


6 th Grade Standards:  

•  Predict future outcomes supported by the text.

•  Draw inferences; make logical conclusions and/or reasonable generalizations about text, supporting them with textual evidence and prior knowledge.

•  Analyze characterization as revealed through a character's thoughts and feelings, speech patterns and actions, the narrator's description and the reactions of other characters.

•  Identify and analyze the development of themes in literary works as conveyed through characters, actions and images.

•  Evaluate how the author's use of literary elements such as conflict, point of view, setting – as used to establish mood, place, time period and cultures- contribute to the overall effectiveness of a selection. •  CIM Writing Standards •  CIM Speaking Standards    

Chapter-By-Chapter Overview

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break


PROLOGUE   Ailin runs into Liu Hanwei at her husband's restaurant.


Chapter 1      Ailin meets Hanwei and Mrs. Liu in her Grandmother's room.


Chapter 2      Big Uncle comes to dinner.   Ailin sees Second Sister's bound feet.


Chapter 3      Ailin hides when her mother tries to bind her feet.   The Revolution affects the Tao household. Father decides Ailin doesn't have to have her feet bound. You may find it helpful to read “A Note on the Chinese Tradition of Foot Binding” at the end of the novel on page 152.


Chapter 4      Father enrolls Ailin at MacIntosh, a public school.


Chapter 5      Grandmother dies.   Ailin experiences a world outside her family at MacIntosh School.


Chapter 6      Father dies.   Ailin's formal education ends.


Chapter 7      Big Uncle gives Ailin three choices.   The Warners hire Ailin.


Chapter 8      Ailin tells her family she's moving to the Warner's house.   Ailin faces many challenges as the Warners' new amah.


Chapter 9      Billy gets sick.   Ailin agrees to move to San Francisco.   Ailin says good-bye to her family.


Chapter 10   Ailin meets James Chew on the ocean liner to San Francisco.


Chapter 11   Ailin and the Warners adjust to life in San Francisco.   Ailin sees James Chew in Chinatown.   Ailin decides to stay in San Francisco and marry James.


EPILOGUE      Back at the restaurant with Liu Hanwei.


PreReading Activities


A pre-reading strategy, see p.17 in 2004 Middle School Summer Literacy Institute


Objectives :     To generate interest, elicit student questions, activate prior knowledge and tap into students' background knowledge.



1.Teacher will display photos related to various aspects of Chinese society in the first decade of the 20 th century around the walls. These photos of foot binding, the Boxer Rebellion, Opium War and San Francisco provide important information about the context and historical background of the novel.

2. Students will look at photos either in small groups, pairs or individually.

3. Students will choose three photos and respond to the two questions on the handout.

4. Students will share comments and questions.

5. The teacher will read placards about the photos, or pass out a placard to each group.

6. Students study the information on the placard and share it with the class.


Carousel Photo Exhibit: Ties That Bind, Ties That Break



As you look at the photos, choose three and respond to the following questions.  


Observations: Describe without judgment what you see in the photos.


  1. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Questions: What do you want to know more about? What are you wondering about?


  1. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________




Story Impression







Directions: Below is a list of vocabulary words from the book Ties That Bind, Ties That Break. Group the vocabulary list in their proper category.   Once you are done, create a story using at least 10 of the words listed below.                                                                                                                                                                                    



Amah, foot binding, public school, arranged marriage, rickshaw, China, Ailin, customs, silk, Big Noses, fiancé, home schooling, Mandarin, San Francisco, missionary, ocean-liner, restaurant.


Characters: Who?                                                              




Setting: Where/When?






Plot : What happens?






Main Stage Activities            


  Notes for the teacher:

The following questions can be used in conjunction with the book Ties That Bind, Ties That Break .   Each individual teacher can specify length of writing/response and how it will be used in their specific classroom. Below you will find a list of journal prompts and discussion questions.  


Journal Prompts:

Objective:   To activate prior knowledge and utilize this information to relate their lives to the life of the antagonist, Ailin, in the book Ties That Bind, Ties That Break.   Students will also be encouraged to read with purpose.


Directions: Prior to beginning a new chapter, the students will be presented with a journal prompt that they will reflect upon and write about.   We recommend the journal entries be given roughly 10 minutes at the beginning of each class period.   The students will be in charge of keeping all their journal entries organized and in chronological order.   These journal entries can be used as a springboard for a class discussion as well as lead into the discussion questions.




Discussion Questions:

Objective:   To stimulate classroom discussion about the book Ties That Bind, Ties That Break.   To apply different learning techniques in regards to comprehension, character analysis, literary elements (character conflict, setting, plot, point of view), to make connections and reflections and to make inferences.


Directions:   After reading a chapter, the teacher will select discussion questions that will stimulate interesting and educational conversation about the book. Some teachers may opt to use the discussion questions as a response journal or as journal prompts.

Chapter 1

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:


Lesson Plan: Tao Family Tree (Recommended activity)

Objective:   Students will have a visual image of the Tao family and how they are interrelated.

Focus of Instruction:

  1. Demonstrate general understanding of informational text: literal comprehension.  
  2. Identify characters


•  Tao Family Tree worksheet and overhead transparency or chart paper
•  Pencils
•  Books

Directions:   Upon reading the first chapter of Ties That Bind, Ties That Break , the students and teacher will generate a list of the characters in the book.   They will briefly discuss   a family tree is and its significance.   The class will fill in the chart and it will be utilized to discuss the Tao family structure and dynamics.   (Who is in charge?   Who is related to whom and how?)


Extension:   Students will create their own family trees.



Chapter 2

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:



  Lesson Plan: Compound Map (Recommended activity)


Objective:   Students will visualize the setting of Chapters One and Two by creating a diagram of a compound.


Vocabulary: Compound




Directions:   Using Chapters 1 and 2 from the book, small groups of students will create a map of what they believe the compound looks like.



Chapter 3

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:


Chapter 4

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions


Chapter 5

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:



Chapter 6

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:


Chapter 7

Note: Activity is midchapter

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:





Chapter Seven – Hot Seat

Hot Seat, page 42 of Reading and Writing Strategies for Academic Literacy and CIM Implementation .

Have students read pages 79-82.   Brainstorm questions students might ask the characters below in response to Big Uncle's ultimatum.



Big Uncle


Second Sister









Chapter 8

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:



Chapter 9

Journal Prompt:

•  Have you ever taken care of somebody when they were sick?   What did you do? How did you make them feel better?

Discussion Questions:

•  On page 106, discuss what tactics Ailin will use to help Billy.



Lesson Plan: Literary Postcards (Recommended activity)


See page 45 of Reading and Writing Strategies for Academic Literacy and CIM Implementation for more detailed instructions.



•  5”x8” cards

•  Markers or colored pencils


Directions:     Students will write a postcard to Ailin from one of the following characters:   Second Sister, Mother, Big Uncle, Miss Gilbertson, Zhang Xueyan or Mrs. Warner.  


On the written side of the postcard students might share:

•  Their reaction to Ailin's decision to move to San Francisco.

•  How they feel about their current and past relationship with Ailin.

•  Recounting the events that led up to Ailin's decision to move to San Francisco.

•  Words of advice for her future.


On the picture side of the postcard students will draw:

•  One of the settings from Ailin's life in Nanjing.


Chapter 10

Journal Prompts:

Discussion Questions:




Chapter 11

Journal Prompts:


Discussion Questions:  




Post Reading Activities: Project Ideas



  1. Write an additional chapter for the book that portrays Ailin and James 15 years later.   What will they be doing?   How will their lives have changed?   Be thoughtful and original.


  1. Create a diorama of your favorite scene from the book.   Attach a summary of the scene you've depicted.   Why it is an important to you?   Explain the importance of this scene to the story.  


  1. Draw a comic strip of your favorite scene or the whole book.   Make sure that you include dialogue bubbles for the characters and provide a 1-2 page synopsis of the importance of the scenes as well as how it relates to your life.


  1. Create a literary scrapbook.   See lesson plan in Reading and Writing Strategies for Academic Literacy and CIM Implementation 2004. (p. 72-75)


  1. Story Star : Choose your favorite character from the book.   In each of the 5 points of the star include the following:


  1. Research a topic about China that has sparked your interest while reading the book.    Your write up should be 1-2 pages.   Include the resources you used and a visual aid.


  1. Dramatization:   Either by yourself, or with a couple of other classmates, act out a scene from the book.   Dramatization must include visual aids and a written reflection of the scene you chose.


  1. Poetry:   Create a poem about the book, a character or China. Possible genre of poetry: Acrostic, Who am I?   Where I am from? Metaphor poem, Poetry of place, Pop lyrics Poem, Random Autobiography Poem, Family Photo/Snapshot Poem, Letter Poem, Dialogue Poem Haiku, Sonnet. See lesson plans in Reading and Writing Strategies for Academic Literacy and CIM Implementation 2004:   Poetry Prompts (p. 82-98)


  1. Character Heads:   Choose a character from the book. Write about their physical traits as well as personality traits.   On a piece of paper draw a frame. In the frame you will write quotes and personality traits as well as the character's name.   Inside the frame draw a picture of the character.   Make sure to fill up all the space.   (See PPS website under Dart Character Head Lesson Plan.   Author: Kate Mann, adapted by K. Boyea from a lesson by A. Painter.)



  1. Storyboards:

•  Take at least 6 events from Ailin's life and create a storyboard depicting these events.  

•  Flip Book: Fold a large piece of white paper in ½. Divide the paper in 4 equal parts.   On each section write one of the words: “First”, “then”, “next” and “lastly”.   Write about the events of the book under each category, above the text draw a picture of the scene you depicted.






CIM   Embedded Writing Samples: Ties That Bind, Ties That Break



Compare Ailin's father with Big Uncle.   How are these men and their cultural attitudes different? Are these two men similar at all?


Write about an aspect of Chinese culture. Select one that we've discussed in class.


How is the old Chinese practice of foot binding different – or similar – to today's practices of beautification and conformity, such as plastic surgery, hair transplants, or weight issues?



Tell about a time when you've wanted to be different from others in your family or from others around you.


Describe any consequences you've faced when you've acted differently from family or friends. How did people treat you?



Should people should always follow cultural or family traditions?


Does it take more courage for Ailin to remain in the U.S, or would she show courage    by returning to China? Explain – using ideas from the text.


When might it be right for a child (or a minor) to defy an adult? Explain.



Suppose that Ailin and James have children. In your opinion, and based on ideas from the story, will they teach their children Chinese customs and traditions?


Imagine that you go back in time to when foot binding was the norm for Chinese girls. How would you react to this aspect of Chinese culture?




Each student will select a controversy or a conflict from the novel.  There are several examples.   For advanced learners, the teacher might assign pro or con positions.

 The student will select (or be assigned) a topic to be developed for a speaking presentation.  The state standards and scoring guide will be used to create, and to evaluate, student work.  Effective elements and components of persuasive speaking (or writing) should be expected.


   Speech traits:         


Elements of persuasion :  







Additional Resources


About the author:

Lensey Namioka's Web Site and e-mail contact

•  www.lensey.com

Websites for Carousel photographs:

Chinatown, California

•  http://gocalifornia.about.com/library/graphics/ctgate.jpg

Opium War:  Ships

•  http://www.interbulletin.com/cspecial/his/his1.jph

People under the influence

•  http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/china.50/50.beyond/political.overview/link .

•  Opium.war.cnn.jpg


Foot binding images:

Girl with Bound Feet

Three Girls

Woman binding a girl's feet


Boxer Rebellion:

Single boxer



Lotus (V04536) PPS Multimedia Library

Relates the story of Lotus, a traditional Chinese woman, set in rural China in 1914.  Shows how, following tradition, Lotus has had her feet bound but when it is time to bind her daughter's feet she feels caught between the power of tradition and the promise of the future.

30 minutes


  ADDITIONAL WEBSITES ON FOOTBINDING:   One Thousand Years of Chinese Foot binding:   Its Origins, Popularity and Demise. •  http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/studpages/vento.html   Chinese Girl with Bound Feet •  http://sfmuseum.org/cin/foot.html     THE BOXER REBELLION: •  http://www.smplanet.comimperialism/fists.html     THE CHINA EXPERIENCE: CHINA CULTURE INDEX:   •  http://www.chinavista.com/experience/index.html     CHINESE CULTURE:   •  http://www.chinatown-online.co.uk/pages/culture   MAP OF CHINA: •  http://education.yahoo.com/reference/factbook/ch/map.html   BOOKS OF INTEREST:   Aero, Rita. Things Chinese.   Garden City,   New York.   Dolphin Books. c1980.   Unstead, R.J. Editor. See inside an Ancient Chinese Town.   New York, New York.   Warwick Press. c1979.   Ko, Dorothy.   Every Step a Lotus:   Shoes for Bound Feet.   California. University of California Press. c2001.

If you liked Ties That Bind, Ties That Break , try: An Ocean Apart, a World Away   by Lensey Namioka The Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah Chu Jus House by Gloria Whelan




China Town – San Francisco, California


Young Chinese men first came to San Francisco in the 1850s – during the gold rush.

In the 1860s, thousands more Chinese sailed to California to help build the Central Pacific Railroad.    Hundreds of these Chinese men sent for their families to join them in the United States.


Many of these new American families settled in downtown San Francisco. They made Chinatown, a neighborhood that closely resembled their homeland.   They started Chinese language schools, businesses, and newspapers. The international trade and tourism of Chinatown still connects America to China.


Today, over 30,000 Chinese-Americans live in San Francisco's Chinatown. Outside of Asia, it's the world's largest Chinese-speaking neighborhood.



Upper Class Chinese Family's Compound


There may be as many as fifty rooms in this huge building surrounded by a wall.


Grandparents lived in one set of rooms. Their grown sons and their wives and children lived in their own clusters of rooms. Each family had its own private courtyard, and space for servants.


Families would visit each other's rooms and gardens. The compound had a family school, with a male teacher hired by one of the adult men.


Girls would be married off, to become daughters-in-law in other compounds.

Sons would marry and raise their own children in the same family home.





The Boxer Rebellion


The Boxer rebellion occurred in northern China in 1900. At that time, many foreign countries had taken control of a lot of China.   Some Chinese resented that outsiders had so much power over them and their country. They decided they

had to defend their homeland.


These Chinese formed military groups. The training exercises included gymnastics,

so they were nicknamed “the Boxers.” For eight weeks during the summer of 1900, the Chinese Boxers attacked all things foreign. Hundreds of Chinese and foreigners were killed in 54 days of horrific fighting.   


Eventually, foreign naval power arrived to smash the Boxer Rebellion.   The Chinese lost their fight. They had to pay millions in damages to other countries.   Some of the foreign countries later returned the money to China.


Opium War


In the 119 th century, China was ruled by the emperors of the Ch'ing dynasty. China, with its population of more than 300 million people, exceeded the total population of all the countries in Europe. While many European countries were on their way to industrialization, China was still an agricultural society.


China did not favor any economic relations or trade with European countries because it resented any foreign influence on Chinese culture. The Europeans, however, wanted to open trade relations with China. Great Britain started to smuggle and sell opium, an illegal drug for a lot of money at a tiny port called “Canton”, which was open to limited European trade.


Although China    asked Great Britain to stop the practice of smuggling opium, the illegal trade continued between Britain and China. This led to the Opium Wars of 1839-1842 and 1856-1860. The war ended with Britain's victory. The subsequent Treaty of Nanjing forced China to open its borders to free trade.



Foot Binding


The practice of foot binding began in China in the tenth century, and lasted for about a thousand years. It entailed pressing a young girl's toes against the bottom of her foot. Then a cotton bandage was tightly wound around the foot from the toes to the ankle. This incredibly painful procedure eventually resulted in feet that were about three inches long.


Court dancers practiced foot binding and then the custom spread to wealthy and high-class women. Bound feet were a sign of beauty in a woman, in addition, they also rendered women helpless. Although foot binding was officially banned in 1911, the custom still continued into the 1930s.