Characters and Setting With "Where The Wild Things Are"

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SWBAT describe the characters and setting in the book "Where The Wild Things Are"

Big Idea

Beginning readers not only need to learn to decode, but also to understand what they read. They will learn how to do this in this simple but effective lesson with this beloved children's book.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

I am so lucky to work with an amazing team.  We "divide and conquer" by creating Common Core lessons and sharing with each other.  If you haven't done this yet, I highly encourage you to do so.  You will be less stressed because you aren't doing all the work, you can all become familiar with the standards as you create lessons, and all of your students benefit because you have many Common Core lessons to work on.  The student packet in this lesson was created by my wonderful teammate, Julie Leathers.  She said it would be fine for me to share this with all of you. 


As first grade teachers we spend a great deal of time teaching our students to decode and read independently.  We also need to strengthen our students listening comprehension during read alouds.  Standard 10 asks us to introduce complex texts to our students, with prompting and support. That means that students should not only be reading texts at their independent reading level, but they should also be exposed to more complex texts above their level with appropriate supports, such as in a read aloud setting. "Where the Wild Things Are" may be a text that is above some students' decoding level, but they should still have opportunities to listen and engage in comprehending it, with my support. For example, the author doesn't specifically state how Max is wild.  He also doesn't explicitly say that Max is using his imagination when his room turns into the forest.  Students need to infer these things.  This is part of what makes the text complex, and this is where I come in to offer that prompting and support.


For this lesson you will need the book "Where The Wild Things Are".  You'll also need to make enough student packets for each of your students.  After you've done this, you are ready to go.

Read Aloud and Discussion of the Story

10 minutes

You are going to start off the lesson by reading the story.  As the Common Core standards quickly approach, my district is moving towards training teachers in accountable talk, so I am really trying to implement this in my classroom.  If you've never heard of accountable talk, don't worry.  The University of Pittsburg has a fabulous resource on it and I've posted it as a resource for you here.


When I taught this lesson, I partnered my students up beforehand and had them sit next to each other on the carpet. They are also wearing their accountable talk necklaces where each student has a job. I have the template for the necklace posted in the resource section here. 

I would stop throughout the story and ask questions.  After the first several pages I stopped and said, "How could we describe Max? Person 1 -you are the speaker. Tell your partner how you can describe Max.  Person 2- you are the listener. Ask them why they think that and what their evidence is." Then we discussed what partners had come up with as a class.

I also stopped at the point where the forest started growing in Max's room.  I stopped and asked, "Did a forest really start growing in Max's room? Person 2 - you are now the speaker.  Tell your partner what you think might be happening.  Person 1 - you are the listener.  Ask your partner why they think that and what their evidence is." Then we discussed what partners had come up with as a class.

We also stopped after we had read about the Wild Things.  I asked "How can we describe the Wild Things.  Person 1 - you are the speaker again.  Tell your partner how you can describe the Wild Things.  Person 2 - you are the listener.  Ask your partner why they think that and what their evidence is." Then we discussed what partners had come up with as a class.


Another thing I have implemented with my class during read alouds is to clarify the meaning of words.  I told them that if I ever read a word that they don't understand, to raise their hand and ask, "Can you please clarify the word ________."  This has been enormously successful in my class.  They are really comprehending the story better because they are learning new vocabulary. 

In this story some asked "Can you clarify the word gnashed?"  If there are context clues in the story, I try to get the students to try and figure out the meaning of the word.  There were no context clues in this instance so I just told the students what the word meant.  I explained it was like grinding your teeth together and I did that for my class. 

Guided Practice For Page One (We Do)

10 minutes

     Since this was the first time we had seen a table like the one on the first page, I decide we would work together as a class to complete the activity.  I had made a quick interactive whiteboard lesson so I could model on the board.  I have listed those here in the resource section. 


     On the first page we had to describe the characters and draw a picture that complemented our description.  I said, "Who is the main character?  That's right, Max.  Let's list him first.  How could we describe Max?"  My students said he was naughty because he was causing trouble and chasing the dog with a fork.  They also said he used his imagination when the forest appeared  in his room.  I said, "Do you know what we can call a person when they use their imagination?  We can say that person is imaginative.  Let's write that." I then told the students that I would let them draw a picture in just a bit.


I then asked, "Who else are important characters in the story?  That's right, the Wild Things.  Let's list that next.  How can we describe them? They're frightening.  Why are they frightening?  What is the evidence from the story?  Let's write that down."

After the students had written their descriptions, I gave them about 5 minutes to make their pictures. 

Guided Practice For Page Two (We Do)

10 minutes

     On page two we discuss the setting of the story.  We had been working on setting for several weeks so I said, "Who can tell me what a setting is?


We discussed that there were several settings in the story - Max's house, his room, and the forest.  I asked, "Where do you think most of the story takes place?" The students said that most of the story took place in the forest, so that's what we decided we would describe.

I have really been working on having my students speak and write in complete sentences.  I said, "Where did you say most of the story takes place? that's right the forest.  Who can tell me how we can say that in a complete sentence?  That's right.  The setting is the forest.  Let's write that down." I modeled the writing and the student wrote on their copies.


I then said, "We need to describe the forest.  Let's look back in the book.  We can find evidence in both the words and pictures.  Who can describe the forest for me? Yes.  It has trees.  What size are the trees?  Yes. It has bushes.  What size are the bushes?  What else does the forest have?  Yes, it has vines.  Let's write this down.  I modeled the writing.  I said, "When we are listing more than one thing we need to use commas.  Watch how I do this." Then the students wrote on their copies.

After we were done with the writing, I gave the students the opportunity to finish their artwork of the setting.  I told them "Remember how we described the forest?  Your picture needs to match what you wrote."


3 minutes

For the closure I asked the students questions about what we had just learned.  I assessed that they have a better understanding of how to describe characters and the setting.  Check out what some of my students said in this video.

Examples of Student Work

Check out my video in the reflection section that shows some of my student's work and what I plan on doing next year to make the activity even better.