Common Core Connection and Introduction
The Common Core Standard for this lesson is RL.1.9 and it says that students should be able to compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in a story. This lesson is basically just finding similarities and difference in the stories, which I feel like is a prerequisite to comparing and contrasting the adventures and experiences of the characters. So, am breaking the standard down into small lessons that the students can do. By the end of the unit I expect the class to be able to master the skill, but gradually releasing the standard seems to make learning come more natural for my students. Where as, trying to do a lesson directly covering all that the standard addresses can overwhelm me and my students.
The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard states that the students need to analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches of the authors. So, I know I need to remember to approach this lesson from the craft perspective of the author. For example, "Why did the author choose to change the events? (Maybe they want to keep the theme the same." In order to develop this standard I like to use a variety of complex text and allow my students to read from a broad range of high quality literature. I often select text that is a little over their lexile for the read aloud. This helps me expose students to rich vocabulary and extend their thinking skills.
I begin this lesson in the lounge area. Students are seated in collaborative heterogeneous groups. The groups are assigned by me, promote peer collaboration, and each person is given a title. I assign one person to be peanut and one to be jelly. This is fun, but it allows me to give specific directions to certain students.
The texts we use in the lesson are Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci and David Catrow, and the original Cinderella by RH Disney. Beware some of the Cinderella stories available are too long, so just pick one that tells the story in a time frame the class can pay attention. Another option is to just read certain parts if the text is really long. I learned this lesson the hard way.
The only thing I have to do is show the the cover of the book. They just start laughing and making comments about the text. This is a great time to allow them to predict what the story is going to be about with their partner. Many students in first grade cannot read the title, but the cover of this story has a powerful illustration that sets the theme. So, I have not excited the class, which is one of my goals for the introductory activity.
Now, I need to assess their knowledge of the skill. I ask the students to turn and tell their partner two things they know are similar about the original Little Red Ridinghood and the poem. This opportunity allows the students to recall the previous lesson and reflect upon the skill. So, I listen and hope they remember that Red Ridinghood has the same series of events in both text. Anything similar is okay, but I do tell them what I hoped they say. I am leading them to discover and hinting about the similarities in the adventures of the main character.
Then, I share that today we are going to find the similarities and differences in the characters in a story. Now, we are actually going to begin to learn about the similarities and differences in the characters adventures, but it is in a gradual release way through questioning. I am still also getting the students to discuss the similarities and differences in the stories. Each lesson in this unit gets deeper into the analysis of comparing and contrasting the adventures of the characters from the author's perspective. Later lessons ask more about: Why the author chose to do things? How does it shape the theme or mood?
So, to make sure the students understand and own the goal I ask them to chant three times: I can compare two characters.
I do most of the read alouds in the lounge area, which is what most people call the carpet. They sit beside their peanut butter jelly partner. This is a fun read aloud for October. I do not read every page, but I do read most. Check out some of the text Cinderella Skeleton. I select the most significant pages and have my questions posted on the page. I try to get the students to talk, justify their opinion, and add to what their peers say. It is important to teach them to build on what their peers say. I also record their responses on a venn diagram.
Before we read the text I go through it and write my questions on post it notes so that when I get to that page I will remember what I wanted to ask the learner. This keeps my questions specifically related to my goal. It is easy to forget your questions and get off track if you don't have notes.
There are some sample question below that I use.
What is the setting and how do you know? How is it alike or different from the original? (It makes it spooky.)
How is the character alike or different? (They are female, but one is beautiful and the other is scrarey.)
How do you now that she had to do all the work? (Find the text evidence, or show the illustrations.)
What is similar between the original and this text? ( The theme: Good hardworking girls are better off than mean ones.)
What is similar about the step mother? (She is mean.)
What events are the same? How are those events different? (One thing that is similar is that Cinderella works hard, and the slipper fit her. One difference is that she is a ghoul and the slipper did not fit the step sisters.)
What is similar about the events and what is different? (The characters have similar traits and relationships.)
How can you tell how the characters felt? Is this the same or different? (Prove it with evidence.)
The venn diagram is here. I blow it up on my projector and write on the Promethean board.
I move them to their seats, but have them chant, "I can compare characters," as they walk to their seat. This keeps them focused on the skill they are going to work on next. I explain that we are going to compare two people or characters with a partner.
Students work at the center tables where I already have materials set up. They also have more room to work. In addition, first graders need to move every twenty minutes and this gives us a transition.
I allow my students to select two fairy tale characters of their choice. The other option is to compare themselves to their partner. I pre-select about ten books for the students to choose character from. I allow the students to have choices because it make them more engaged. Allowing students to select what they do also shows them that I respect them. I value their feelings.
Some of the choices are:
I like for my students to work on their speaking and listening skills during their reflection time. This also provides students motivation to do an excellent job and model exemplar work for their peers. I select one or two students to read their work to the class. Then I say, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor hands in our laps talking no more. Our eyes are on the speaker and we are thinking about what they are saying." This promotes positive behavior.
I encourage students to add to or build on what their peers say. I try to promote discourse and get my students to evaluate their peers work in a positive way. I often model by saying I like the way you did____.
Students tell their partner one thing they learned about comparing characters. Hopefully, somebody says that when the adventures of the characters are the same the theme says the same. Well, that is one thing I share in addition to restating some of their conversations. l remind the class we will continue to compare fairy tales, but in later lessons we are going to analyze why the author made the choices they did in the story. This is like planting a seed. I just want to drop some hints about later lessons.
Then we restate the lesson objective: I can compare characters. I say it, students echo, students tell a friend, and repeat it with me.