The Principal and the Paddle: Option 2

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SWBAT read informational text and analyze connotation of words.

Big Idea

You've told me what you think. Now, what does the author think?

Before Reading

10 minutes

The reason I chose to post an option 2 of the same lesson is that half way through teaching the Principal and the Paddle option 1, I realized that I had missed something big.  My students did not know how to find words with different connotations!  I started to realize that this text would be a great opportunity to teach my students how an author shows his or her opinions through the words that are chosen.  I sort of revamped this lesson and geared it more toward author's purpose rather than close reading and citing evidence like I had originally planned in option 1.  

The four corners section, of option 1 is a great activity, and I would still recommend doing it even if you are doing this lesson.  



To begin, get students thinking about how different words paint different pictures in our minds.  

Choose several sets of words to show the students.  Examples could be:

slender and scrawny

intelligent and nerdy

cheap and economical

immature and fun-loving

Ask students to decide which word in each pair has a more positive connotation and which has a more negative connotation.  Discuss why this could be.  What do you picture when see "scrawny" and what about "slender?"  

Ask:  How could using a word with a certain connotation affect your writing?  

Give an example using loud and chatty.  When would you use each of these words in your writing?  

This activity will get students thinking about the importance of a single word before they begin reading the text for today.  

Reading for Meaning

30 minutes

The text for this lesson is an article called "The Principal and the Paddle"  published in 2009.  It is about an elementary school principal from South Carolina who reformed his school and credits the change to the use of a paddle.  

This article really gets the kids fired up.  They cannot believe that this ever happened let alone is still happening today!  Right from the beginning, they have a lot to say, but I make them keep their opinions out of it, for now anyway!

I explain that as we read the article, we are looking for words with a positive or negative connotation.  We will make up a code, like circle positive words and underline negative words.  Many students prefer to highlight with two different colors.  I always like to have my student read for meaning.  It keeps them directly engaged in the text at all times.  It increases accountability and helps students become careful, close readers.  

I also ask them to circle unknown words.  There are quite a few, so as I circulate, I stop and define the words on the spot for students as many are positive or negative words . 

I like to give the kids the option to partner read or read alone.  For this lesson, I modeled and thought aloud through the first paragraph or so then let them partner read.  After awhile I stopped and had them finish independently.  Once they had some practice, I wanted to see what they could do alone.  

When students finished reading and marking words, I gave them a new partner.  Each group made a t-chart with a plus on one side and a minus on the other.  Together they transferred their words to the appropriate column of the chart.  

Once the groups had finished, I asked:

What do you notice?  (By the way, everyone kind of had differing results.  Some had more positive.  Some had more negative.  Many were pretty equal)

Then I'd ask, Why do you think your results turned out this way?  (The author thinks paddling is a good/bad idea is the usual response)

I let them draw their own conclusions to practice analyzing evidence.    


Wrap Up

10 minutes

Based on their positive and negative data, I ask each student to choose a claim.

1.  The author thinks that paddling is an effective tool.

2.  The author thinks that paddling is an ineffective tool.

I tell students that if they can't tell how the author feels based on their chart, to just choose a claim because there is evidence to support both claims.  

Tomorrow they will find evidence to support the claim they chose.  

You will hear students say, " I think.....", and I love to say, "I don't really care what you think.  What does the author think?"  

It is normal for them to think of themselves first, and so tough to be in someone else's shoes.  I promise them that I will let them tell me what they think, and that I actually do care.  Just not today.  ; )