Making Speech Bubbles

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SWBAT understand story structure and write a cartoon.

Big Idea

Use cartoons to understand story elements and create a cartoon.


10 minutes

Common Core Connections

The standard that this lesson focuses on requires the students to retell stories and demonstrate an understanding of the central message.  They need to not only understand the central message but be able to analyze how the central message develops while citing supporting details.  Exposure to a wide range of texts that are highly complex and guided practice are two tools that I find useful in teaching this standard.

Lesson Overview

The lesson begins with the student seated because the lesson image is on the Promethean board.  Then I project the web and title on the board. The students work in collaborative groups of two or three at the center tables to complete their partner work.  Last, they move to the lounge area for reflection and closure.

This is an introductory lesson that will build towards the skill of retelling.  Students will not actually retell a story, but they are developing a prerequisite skill which is to understand the story elements.  I feel that creating a story in a fun way helps students analyze the story elements.

Introductory Activity and Hook

I put an image of a bathtub on the Promethean board.  I ask them to discuss with their partner what a bathtub might have to do with the beginning, middle, and ending of a story. This is nice opportunity to connect something the student is familiar with to new knowledge.  I then ask on student the tell me what they think and explain why. I say that taking a bath has a beginning, middle, and end.  You undress, wash, and dry off.  Each part is important.  If you get in the tub with your clothes on it makes it hard for you to wash.  Just like stories have parts that have to come before others for the story to make sense.

Then I tell the class that we are going to make a cartoon.  This is all it took to get them fired up.  I showed them mine and they said they had already seen it on my desk.  So, just putting it on my desk had them curious about what we were going to do.  I like to show my students models of work before we begin guided practice so they have an idea of what we are going to do.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I seat the students at their desks to create structure and so I can project a real cartoon from the newspaper on the Promethean.  I show them a cartoon scene and point out the beginning, middle, and end.  I selected one for each table to look at from our local paper.

We create our own cartoon as a class. Our cartoon (Guided Practice) is in resources.  Creating a project allows students to engage in a higher order thinking activity.  I ask them to discuss a topic.  I take suggestions from three volunteers.  I write their suggestions on the board.  We vote on the topic with heads down and eyes closed.  I try to create a class community that shows I value their interests.

Learners decide on the topic.  Students discuss the first thing they want to happen and I write it on the first strip of the cartoon strip that is one the board. First graders need a great deal of modeling writing because they are just learning to write well.  I take one group's idea and write it on the board.  The students discuss the middle and one volunteer writes his or her idea.  I write it on the board. We do this for the last event in the cartoon.  Last, one volunteer identifies the beginning, middle, and ending of the cartoon we created.  I label these parts to make sure the visual learners understand and so the students learn the words beginning, middle, and ending.

Group Work

15 minutes

Students go to the center tables and work in heterogeneous groups of two or three to fill in their own cartoon.  I select the group members based on their oral reading fluency. This makes sure that one person in the group can read the text. I also base their grouping on knowing who will work best with whom.  Once, I had a little girl I paired with a boy and she just started crying. I said, "Are you okay?"  She finally told me she did not want to work with a boy.  I have also learned that knowing the students can help me determine who they work better with.  I really analyze their grouping by personality and ability.

I do not set limitations on Work(model), because I do not want to limit some students or make others feel like failures. There is also a video (Group Work) showing the student reading their work. In the past I have used a rubric to set expectations, but I don't have to do this when I know students are excited.  They are so motivated the students do their very best.

Student Reflection

10 minutes

I know that this is an activity that everyone will want to share.  I know that we do not have time for each child to work on their speaking and listening skills individually. So, I create two lines.  Students face each other.  Line one reads their cartoon to line two. Then line two reads to line one.  I really like engaging all students at the same time.


10 minutes

Each student write one thing they learned on a sticky note and places it on the Tweet board.  This is a quick and easy formative assessment tool for me to use to guide my Response to Intervention Instruction. I also use this to determine if I should reteach the lesson.  

I think it is important to restate the goal at the end of each lesson.  I say I can retell the beginning, middle, and ending of a story.  Learners echo, tell a friend, and repeat it with me.  Repetition builds memory and telling a friend makes it personal.