Miss Nelson is Missing-Key Details

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SWBAT locate and record key details about story elements (characters, setting, problem, solution, and theme) in the story.

Big Idea

Where did Miss Nelson go? We look at the key details in the text to determine what is happening throughout the story.


3 minutes

To grab the students' attention I fly a paper airplane through the air. They are all looking at me now as tell them I am about to read them a story about the worst class in the WHOLE SCHOOL. I ask them to show me what that might look while I count to 10. (By this time of the year my students are well-behaved and know what is expected of them.) When I say 10 and ring my chimes they are  back to normal. The chimes are my signal that we have when I want their attention. We have practiced since the beginning of the year that when the chimes go off they are expected to stop, look, and listen. They are very good at it by now.

Read Aloud

20 minutes

Read Aloud: Understanding Key Details Using Text Dependent Questions

Now that I have students' attention, I read them the classic story, Miss Nelson is Missing. To thoroughly understand any story, students need to understand the key details. Understanding the key details of a story will help the students when they learn to retell, write stories themselves, and build up to deeper meaning and understanding of what the author is trying to tell them.

To support students in understanding the details, throughout the story I stop and ask about the details within each of the story elements (characters, setting, problem, solution, and theme). When I stop after a page or two, I think aloud to model the question a good reader would ask.

  • "Who are the characters I am reading about?" 
  • "What do they do and how do they act?" 
  • "Where is the story taking place?" 
  • "How do I know?" 

By doing this students get a better understanding of when in the story they should stop to ask questions about what they read. Also they hear questions that they should be asking as they read. After I answer the question, I write it on a post-it note and place it under the heading on our story elements chart. As I continue to read and think aloud, I have the students help me answer some of the questions. I pull sticks out of my apron to choose students at random. By doing this students are paying attention because they are unsure if they will be chosen to answer. It also eliminates the same students with their hands up being called on each time.

Moving beyond just the story elements, students should also be able to ask more in depth text dependent questions. Here are some examples of text dependent questions I ask to get students thinking deeply about the story as we read:

  • I ask "Why do you think the students miss Miss Nelson?" and "If you were in classroom 207 would you miss Miss Nelson?" (text to self connection)
  • Detective McSmogg scratches his chin and says, "I think Miss Nelson is missing." Then the next line reads, "Detective McSmogg would not be much help." I ask them why they think he would not be much help. Sometimes my students have a hard time with this because they assume that since he says that, he will start searching. We look for clues in the text that would lead us to believe that he will start searching, and we find none.
  • The story goes into unlikely events that could have happened to Miss Nelson. We discuss why they are unlikely and what are some likely things that could have happened. Some students think Miss Nelson has quit or gotten sick.

Vocabulary Strategies:

Before class, I chose a few words, interesting words, for our vocabulary word wall. These are words they will come in contact with in other literature and conversation (tier 2 words). Appendix A of the CCSS. This appendix has a great discussion of tiered vocabulary starting on p.33.

As I read, I will ask my students what they think these words mean and have them use the story clues to help them figure it out. These words were: misbehaving, squirmed, detective, refused, discouraged, and unpleasant. I like to figure the words out with the students as we read (as opposed to telling them what the words mean before hand). This allows us to practice using context clues and paying attention to the text. As we figure them out we add them to our vocabulary word wall. We also delve into words that students bring up as I read. For example, A student asked what "arithmetic" means. I used the picture of the note Miss Swamp is holding as a clue - it says "math." Then I turn the page and turn their attention to the board that the students are solving math problems. They can deduce that "arithmetic" has something to do with math.

Engagement/Joy Strategies

When I get to the part when Miss Viola Swamp becomes the teacher instead of Miss Nelson, my students are always in shock. I recently have brought a black robe to school and whirl around and put it on while reading the story when she is the teacher. (She wears a black dress.) 

When Miss Nelson comes back I take off my robe, and you can see the relief on my student's faces. The students in the book are very well behaved for Miss Nelson now that she is back. Miss Nelson asks the students, "What brought about this lovely change?" and the kids say that it is their secret. I ask my students if they know what the kids' secret is. The secret is that they don't want Miss Nelson to leave and Miss Swamp to come back. You can check for understanding in a few different ways. I had my students whisper their answer to their elbow buddy. Another way would be to have students write or draw their answer on their white board.

Independent Practice/Center Activities

60 minutes

During centers I allow my students to work on independent activities while I meet with reading groups. I switch my reading groups every fifteen minutes. Students can work on an activity for as long as they need, but know that they must finish all the activities for the day. They know the expectation is that each activity shouldn't take them longer than the time I am meeting with a group, but if it does then they need to work faster.

Connecting to the Whole Group Activity

I choose my literature centers to reflect we are working in class. I choose activities that are similar to ones we have completed during guided practice. Today we worked on the key details chart, so that will be one of the centers.  They complete their own graphic organizer for one of the books they are independently reading (on their independent reading level). They have these books in their book boxes at their seats. We use cereal boxes to keep our books in. The graphic organizer is the same as the one we completed together during my read aloud and helps students focus in on the key details in the story.


We also have worked with Venn Diagrams in previous lessons, so they are familiar enough to work with them on their own. To differentiate, I have 3 different options out for them to choose from. They can compare Miss Nelson to Miss Swamp, Miss Nelson or Miss Swamp to a character in another story of their choosing, or the kids in room 207 to our class. Here students are comparing the students in room 207 to the behaviors of the students in our classroom.

Phonics/Spelling Center

I also always add a phonics/spelling activity to our centers. This week we are working on the sound of short i because that is what the county has dictated we teach. We have previously worked on short a and o. I use a free site called Starfall. I have my students work on the two activities that go with short i and the story that goes with short i. They can have the story read to them, they can click on the words that they are unsure of, and they can click on the photos and watch the story play out before their eyes. I use this site because I can differentiate which activities I need students to work on, and they can read the stories on their own or click on how much help reading the story that they need. Students can self monitor. Self monitoring is a skill that allows students to have ownership of their learning and growth. (RF1.2a)

Teacher Led Group

There are only three activities because I meet with each of my groups everyday. So the next 15 minutes they are meeting with me. During this time I work with groups on certain foundational skills they are weakest in. Each group is composed of students who all need work on that skill. Some groups are working on different phonics skills while others are working on comprehension or decoding strategies. I choose the skills and groups based on tests and read-alouds that the students do. 


5 minutes

My students like to fill out exit slips because I use post-it notes. They love to write on post-it notes and they love to leave me messages. So today I have asked my students to "tweet" me, my exit board is based off of Twitter, what their favorite part of the story was. We are practicing writing sentences. They are to write their message in complete sentences.