I told students they were going to write a letter from Mulan. In order to do that, they would have to identify with her character. Identifying with a character’s feelings helps the reader understand the character. They can do that with the following question: Would you feel the same or differently if this was you?
To model identifying with the feelings of a character in the story, I did a quick re-read of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. I used this book because students knew it well and a range of emotions are present in the story.
Think Aloud: I know how Mr. Slinger feels when he told Lilly, “Not now.” I get annoyed, too, when students play with things or talk while I am teaching. I understand why Mr. Slinger accepts Lilly’s apology. My cousin said something mean to me once, but later told me she was sorry. I wanted to be friends again, so I forgave her.
As I voiced my thoughts, I intentionally used new vocabulary for my English language learners. Accepting someone’s apology is synonymous with forgiving (forgave) him or her. This was an opportunity for them to hear the words in context in a casual way.
After I modeled, I asked students to share their understanding of a character’s feelings by stating the feeling and why. Lisa said she connected with Lilly when her purse was taken away because I took her markers when she was coloring during math. I had students share with their shoulder partner to ensure all students had a chance to talk.
I posted a letter we had written to the principal as a class as a reminder to students how to format a letter. They wrote their letters over a three-day period. Drafts were written the first day (20 minutes), revisions the next (20 minutes), and publishing on the third day (30 minutes). Students worked individually on their letters, instead of groups, so that I could have a clear assessment for each student.
I assessed students by conducting a short interview. After reading a student’s letter, I asked them a question about a feeling they had included. I was looking for whether or not they were able to make connections to a character’s feelings and explain the connection. This was done via a checklist.
Me: You wrote that Mulan feels sad. Why does she feel sad?
Student: She feels sad because she misses her family.
Me: You wrote that Mulan feels cheerful. Why is she cheerful?
Student: She’s cheerful because she’s smiling in the picture. (Student pulls out book and flips to the page.) She is going to be happy to be home. That’s why she put on her favorite dress.
Me: You wrote that Mulan feels scared? How do you know she’s scared?
Student: She’s scared because it’s a war and she could be killed.
(This is an incorrect response because there is no text support for this feeling.)
To extend the concept, I presented students with a list of things Mulan might do now that she is home. I displayed the statements on the document camera one at a time. They had to evaluate whether or not a statement was true or false. They wrote a T on their whiteboard if it was true and F if it was false. When I asked them to show me their board, they held them up for me to see. It was a fun activity and students were really engaged. I randomly pulled Popsicle sticks with students’ names on them and asked them to explain their answer. I did this to ensure equity when calling on students, not just those who frequently raise their hands.