The lessons housed within this unit all provide practice on specific skills or strategies. Some lessons were written to see what students remember and/or can do at the beginning of the year. Others were used to re-teach groups of students who hadn’t quite mastered the chosen skill when it was first introduced. Still others were designed to give students meaningful practice while I conducted required testing.
All lessons used texts that were familiar or easily decodable so that students’ energies were spent on skill practice rather than trying to just make sense of the text itself. Many lessons include reproducibles that were made with graphics from Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts, Teaching in a Small Town, and Melonheadz Illustrating.
In these next seven lessons, we tackle identifying fictional elements, describing main characters, summarizing, and making connections between texts by comparing and contrasting characters. The texts we are using are The Pain and the Great One (Blume, J. (1985). The pain and the great one. Bantam Publishing: New York, New York.) and My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (Polacco, P. (1998). My rotten redheaded older brother. Simon and Schuster: New York, New York.).
Today’s lesson focuses on describing “The Great One.” In yesterday’s lesson, we read the entire book, determined the narrator, and talked about setting. Today, we re-read the first part of the book, which is narrated by the sister affectionately called, “The Great One,” by her brother.
Before reading I ask students to be on the look out for ways to describe the sister. I remind them that we aren’t looking for physical characteristics or feelings, but character traits: words that describe a person on the inside. I also tell them that when a great trait comes to mind, think of a piece of evidence from the text that would support that idea.
After reading, I have students partner share their ideas of character traits. I always get a mix of responses: old (this one makes me laugh!), mean, bossy, not nice, etc. I try to weed through the answers that aren’t the best. For example, “old” isn’t the best choice because she isn’t really old, she’s just older than her brother. Besides, that describes her age not her character or personality. “Not nice” isn’t the best answer because it tells us what she is not - not what she is. I take three or four of their better responses and we record each in their packets. As we write each one, I have students also give me a specific piece of evidence from the story that would support their trait. I was honestly impressed with some of their traits and support. It was obvious that their teachers in second grade had spent a bit of time on this skill.
When we had a good amount of responses and evidence describing the sister, we moved on to the last part of the page where it asks if the character changes. All students agreed she did not as she remained bossy, jealous, etc. throughout the entire story.
Students pull the fiction texts they are reading out of their book boxes and begin their independent work. Today they are to:
1. Write a response to today’s story - show how they connect to the story in a personal way through their own life experiences.
2. Begin reading their independent fiction text. Look for ways to describe a main character by thinking of appropriate character traits and locating evidence for their ideas. If students are towards the end of their books, they can reflect on whether a character has changed during the story and look for ways to support their answers. All answers should be recorded in their readers’ notebooks.
While students work, I conduct independent or small group conferences.
At the end of the work time, students share their work with their reading partners. As they share, I walk the room looking for great examples of both types of responses. I make notes of those who had strong connections to the text and their own life experiences or had excellent examples of character traits with textual evidence and then share these with the class.