This English language arts unit is designed to introduce students to the impact setting often has on a plot. It begins with a lesson is that acquaints a diverse class of sixth grade students with a historical fiction novel set during the Ice Age, titled Maroo of the Winter Caves by Ann Trumbull.
Highlighting the author’s use of descriptive language and sensory details will help students understand life during a time period far different than their own. Also, during this lesson students will begin to identify and record the main plot events. Reading this novel has the added bonus of connecting with the study of archaeology and early societies that is part of the social studies curriculum. Students are expected to generalize learning from each content area, which addresses the Common Core State Standards shift towards building knowledge across disciplines. This lesson is scheduled for one (60 minute) class period.
Review the day’s objectives and agenda. Then inform students that they will be using a pre-reading strategy known as Book Bits to make predictions about what will be read in class today. Do not tell them the title of the book or chapter. There are no right or wrong answers.
Divide the class into 2 groups and assign each a color matched to that of the sentence strips.
Give each student a strip of paper with a phrase lifted from chapter 1 of Maroo of the Winter Caves.
Students read their own strip to themselves and silently circulate to read their peers strips; staying within their color group.
Students return to seats and write a short (4-5 sentence) paragraph predicting what the reading will about. You may provide some or all students with a sentence starter, such as “I believe the novel we will read is about…” This is Journal Entry #1. See sample.
Text based predictions help students make connections between what the text actually says and what they already know about a topic. Providing proof in the form of specific quotes demonstrates comprehension and keeps students engaged with the reading.
If you have the space it is nice to invite students to seat together in area designated for discussions so that they can easily turn-and-talk with a partner about their predictions and take part in a short whole-group discussion of predictions based on the Book Bits activity.
At this point, it is time to pass out and preview the novels by reading the front, back, Preface, Author’s Note, and by examining the map provided. The students enjoy affirming and/or adjusting predictions and clarifying terms, such as niche and scree. Be sure to take some time to discuss how making predictions helps readers get involved with the text. Armed with this information, they are now ready to write Journal Entry #2. When they return to their seats offer the following prompt: “After previewing the novel, I now know…” Here’s a sample.