Decoding the Second Story

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SWBAT use illustrations in the text and their ability to inference in order to determine a story's second story line.

Big Idea

In the text, Officer Buckle and Gloria, there is a second story line only known to readers through illustrations. Students pay close attention to illustrations and make inferences about how they effect the plot.

Unit Introduction

The lessons housed within this unit all provide practice on specific skills or strategies. Some lessons were written to see what students remember and/or can do at the beginning of the year. Others were used to re-teach groups of students who hadn’t quite mastered the chosen skill when it was first introduced. Still others were designed to give students meaningful practice while I conducted required testing.

All lessons used texts that were familiar or easily decodable so that students’ energies were spent on skill practice rather than trying to just make sense of the text itself. Many lessons include reproducibles that were made with graphics from Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts, Teaching in a Small Town, and Melonheadz Illustrating.

Setting a Purpose


This lesson is the second in a series using Officer Buckle and Gloria (Rathman, P. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York, NY: Putman Publishing Group) and comes after reading the book aloud without showing the illustrations. When I tell students that I am going to read the story again only this time show them the pictures, they can’t wait to get started!

I let students in on a little secret - there is a second story happening that the author doesn’t tell you about with words. She lets us in on the secret through her illustrations and in order to figure out what’s really happening, we have to pay close attention to the pictures. Once we’ve collected our clues, we can make inferences about characters’ actions and events happening in the story.

Usually by this time in the day, I have a student or two who look exhausted or who just recently yawned. I use them as my example (it doesn’t pay to be sleepy in my class!). I say, I can tell that Johnny is tired. Did he tell me that with his words? The class answers, no. So I ask, how then do I know he’s tired? What clues is he giving me to make me think this way? I get all kinds of answers - he just yawned really loudly, his head is down, he’s slouched in his chair, etc. I remind the students that this is how we make inferences while we read. We take clues from the text, add them to what we already know about a situation, and make a good guess about what else could be happening in the story.

I tell the students to pay close attention to the illustrations and be on the look out for times when the pictures tell a story different from the actual text.

After reading the story aloud, we practice a scaffolded activity. The first page is a completed example of an inference I made using the part of the story when Gloria makes her first appearance on stage. We read through this together, return to that portion of the text, and point out the details listed. Then, we work together to create another inference using a different portion of the text. I typically use the part where the students begin taking notice of Gloria and Officer Buckle’s safety tips. 


Independent Practice

20 minutes

For independent practice, I turn to the part of the book where Officer Buckle is watching himself on the news. I have students study the illustrations of Officer Buckle, the mirror, and Gloria. They write what the text says is happening, what the illustrations show, and an inference they can make about what is happening at that point in the story or how a character might be feeling. I walk the room and check in with students while they work. I’ve noticed that some students like to use their inference to make a prediction about what will happen next in the story. I encourage this thinking and have those students share their predictions with others around them. 


10 minutes

To save time, I only share a few inferences with the class. While walking the room, I look for examples of excellent thinking to share as model examples for others. I read students’ inferences and then have them share their thinking or have them extend on what I’ve shared.