Write ISLAND on the board and draw three lines originating from the I, A, and D to make categories. Lead the discussion around these categories.
Familiarity: "Who has visited an island/knows of an island?"
Characteristics: "What are some things unique to an island?"
Pros/Cons: "What would be great about living on an island? What might be difficult about it?"
The kids will contribute much to the lists and a lot of discussion (maybe more than you'd like about family trips to Hawaii) will follow. The main idea is to get the kids centered on the topic at hand.
NOTE: ISLAND Warm Up will be used later in the lesson. If it can't be saved on the board then jot a quick copy of the kids responses on notebook paper, so you can revisit it.
Provide a map of Southern California containing San Nicolas island for each student, but don't pass out initially. The island of San Nicolas, the most remote of the Channel Islands, is located about fifty-three miles off the coast west of Los Angeles.
Scott O'Dell writes a description of the the island so beautifully that the students may be able to draw an effective likeness from that description alone. Visualizing is an important gift to a reader. Images in a story create better reading comprehension. If a character or a place can be visualized, the story develops more meaning and the reader is involved. This is not an easy skill for all children. Often, characters are the easiest to imagine. A place, such as the island described below, may be more abstract. If I asked the students only to visualize, some find it difficult, but when they're asked to draw what they hear, even those who are struggling make better sense of it.
Our island is two leagues long and one league wide, and if you were standing on one of the hills that rise in the middle of it, you would think that it looked like a fish. Like a dolphin lying on its side, with its tail pointing toward the sunrise, its nose pointing to the sunset, and its fins making reefs and the rocky ledges along the shore.
The ratio of the island is noted in leagues. A league is about 3 miles long. The students will also note the clues as to its shape by angling it in accordance with sunrise and sunset. They should use the description to draw maps as a kind of rough draft. These will not always be accurate, but the kids have a good time trying to match the descripion, and it's fun to see how closely they resemble one anothers'. I'll give them actual maps of Southern California and point out San Nicolas at the end or for those who really want one.
Next step, each group gets a 9X11 sheet of construction paper in which to draw their island from their rough draft. Those illustrations that are really off base I will monitor and help with, but because they're in groups, the results are usually not to far away from the actual. The Island Maps may be displayed on a bulletin board, but easily accessible so additions can be made as information is given in the book.
Here is a slideshow of the groups' maps Clicking on the slideshow takes you to kizoa.com
Allow the groups to take their turn in sharing their creation with the class. After all have had a turn, refer back to the ISLAND visual from the Warm Up.
The first two categories were about being familiar with an island and its characteristics. Certainly touch on those..."Did your group draw what you know to be an island?" and "Does your map show any of the characteristics of what we said is unique to an island?"
Settle on the third category for the majority of the discussion: Pros/Cons of living on an island. "We talked about what would be great, or not, about living on an island."
The objective now is to remind them that the island in the book is home to the people of Ghalas-at. Have them draw a T-Chart and title it HOME on the next page of their Literature Spirals. On the left side they write Pros"Living at Home" and on the right "Living on My Own."
"Think about your own home. On the T-chart, write what makes you happy living at home and what it would be like to live alone." No need to share unless there is extra time.
Explain the island inhabitants are content in their island home, but conflict has come and disrupted that happiness. In their Literature Spirals they speculate about how living on an island might make things difficult in a time of crisis, and what might happen as a result.