I decided to read Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting to build students' listening skills, practice citing evidence for literal details, and to introduce symbolism in a text. I will return to literary devices including symbolism throughout the year, with student novels such as Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo, the poetry unit, and the historical fiction unit on slavery and the civil war. In these units there will be additional opportunities for students to work with symbolism and metaphor.
I chose to read Fly Away Home because of negative interactions my students had during P.E. when they were riding their bikes with several homeless people on two different occasions. I also thought this would be a good text to reinforce the idea of respecting differences as a follow-up to Naked Mole Rat gets Dressed. This is something our class community has been working on.
To prepare for the lesson, I first read the book to decide what I wanted the students to be able to recall. I decided to have them listen for the ways a person could get noticed by security guards when living in the airport. The second thing I had them listen for were the ways that people behave so they do not get noticed by security guards when living in the airport. The third thing I had student listen for and think about was the author's purpose for including the bird in the story.
I ask the students to come to the rug. I tell them that they showed great active engagement yesterday on the rug and they had earned a letter toward their goal of earning a party. I reminded them now was the time where they could earn another letter. That definitely got their attention. They sat straight crossed their legs, and had hands in their laps. I asked them to show me their turn and talk partners with the teepee signal. They immediately responded and I knew we were off to a good start. Setting the stage is so important to getting and keeping students engaged.
Physically the students appear to be ready to learn... I started with, "Today you will hear a story based on true events about a boy and his father who are homeless. The dad has decided for now the best place for them to live is the airport. The story is told from the point of view of the boy. In the story you will hear the boy describe the things not to do when you are living in an airport and the things to do when living in an airport so you wont get noticed by the security guards. The third thing I want you to listen for is the part about a little brown bird. I want you to be thinking why did the author include the scene with the bird."
After I finished reading the story. I read the three questions I wanted the students to answer from the handout. I asked who was ready to get started. They all raised their hands. I told them they had 20 mins to complete the task. Then I said, "Off you Go!" Student #2 showed they had good recall and comprehension of the story. Specifically, Student #1 demonstrated they understood ways that could get you noticed in an airport and ways to blend in if you are living in an airport.
Students went quietly to their seats and I efficiently handed out the handout to complete. Most students got right to work. Only two didn't finish by the end of the 20 minutes.
Springboard: Reread the book again- add these revisions. Plus add this debate question: Is it ok for the dad and the boy to be living in the airport? Does the guard have a right to remove them? Now I am thinking of the Occupy Movement!
Another thing to think about, especially with 5th graders is that they have a strong sense of justice so it will be interesting to hear what they have to say about this!
On the last student comprehension question I asked: "The author, Eve Bunting, added the little brown bird to the story for a reason. What are your thoughts on why the bird is in the story?"
Some students said that the bird was added because it was trapped in the airport just like Andrew and the bird gets out so maybe Andrew will get out too. Then that prompted students to say yeah, we have learned that a bird can be a symbol for freedom...