What? Getting Students to "Feel" a Story

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SWBAT...students will be able to make predictions about "The Story of Ruby Bridges" using details on the front and back cover of the book

Big Idea

By creating feelings and connections with characters in a text, readers become more involved in story events

Setting the Purpose

5 minutes

I open the lesson by sitting down and pretending to have a stomach ache. Students begin to take notice and ask questions or ask to help me in some way. I rub my stomach a few times and say, “Oh good, it’s beginning to go away. I’m starting to feel better.”

Then I ask students probing questions like: “What did you think was wrong?” “Why did you think that’s what it was?” “Have you ever had a stomach ache?”  “What did you think might happen?” “How did it make you feel to see me feeling ill?” As soon as I have them involved, I point out that in, order to understand the world around us, we often make connections and predictions. We connect what we see and experience to what we already know. We make predictions about what will happen based on “clues” in the situation and, again, on our previous experience. I explain that these same skills can be applied to reading.

I then introduce the lesson objective: to make predictions about and connections to the book’s content based on text evidence and to begin to consider the author’s purpose in writing it.


Guiding the Learning

10 minutes

Because I want students to stay tuned in to the lesson, I don’t go directly into an “I teach – you listen” mode of instruction. Instead, I keep them involved by asking, “Have you ever been given a book and pretended to understand it?” I explain that I sometimes did this when I was young. I was able to read the words, but because I didn’t make predictions about or connections to what I was reading, I sometimes just didn’t get it. Later, I learned how to apply these skills.

Then I introduce the book, The Story of Ruby Bridges, and tell students that I am going to help them make predictions and connections to the story, and that, for now, we will only use the pictures and words on the front and back covers. A few students always want to peek between the covers and I remind them not to!

I start by asking students to share what they see in the cover illustration. Responses may include “girl,” “people,” “a crowd held back,” “Ruby Bridges.” Since students often don't think deeply or look closely enough, I ask questions to prompt them to notice more details: “How old do you think the girl is?” “What is she wearing”  “What is she carrying?” "Where do you think she is going?" "What evidence supports your prediction?"

After students have identified the important details, I ask further questions to prompt them to think about the events unfolding in the illustration: "Why do you think the people are yelling?” “What is the problem?” “How do they seem to feel about the girl?"

Finally, I ask students to identify the mood of the illustration: “How are the people feeling?” “How is the girl feeling?” This is a good point to check for background knowledge concerning race and racial prejudice by asking what differences students see between Ruby and the crowd. If students don’t point to the fact that the girl is African-American while the crowd is comprised of white people, I might “think aloud” to get this information on the table. This is a great place to make connections to history topics students have studied or books and stories they have read with related themes.

I log students’ predictions and the details they identify as evidence on the Prediction-Evidence chart as they share them. (Later in the unit, I change the word Prediction to Inference, but I leave the Evidence section blank.)

The problems students have making sound predictions concerning The Story of Ruby Bridges based on the cover illustration usually stem from a lack of prior knowledge—they don’t connect the illustration to the issue of racial segregation because they simply don’t know about it. You may want to provide some background on the topic before approaching the text. It may also occur that students don’t relate the angry-looking crowd to the girl because of her young age.


Independent Practice

15 minutes

I want students to think about why they gave each response in the Prediction-Evidence activity and to build understanding of the “text evidence” component of this lesson. As practice, I have them complete the Before We Read chart. I project the chart on the whiteboard and model filling it out by writing “young girl” under Clue, “Ruby Bridges” under Prediction, and “The Story of Ruby Bridges” under Evidence while thinking aloud: “The clue, or detail is the young girl in the picture. I predict that she is named Ruby Bridges. My evidence is the book’s title, The Story of Ruby Bridges.” Then I have students complete the worksheet independently. For this activity, I pair up struggling learners until they get more familiar with the worksheet and what it calls for. Higher learners should be challenged to find more clues and evidence from the back cover of the book and ask them to share these later with the class.

Closing the Loop

10 minutes

I bring students back together to share their predictions and evidence, asking volunteers to contribute entries to the chart on the whiteboard. At this point, I want them to begin thinking about why the author wrote the book and what lesson it might impart. I ask, “How do you think the author feels about Ruby Bridges?” and prompt students to provide evidence for their responses. This is also a good time to introduce the skill of evaluating evidence for strength and weakness, a skill dealt with in detail later in the unit. At this point, I simply point out instances of strong evidence in the class chart. I might indicate that a piece of evidence seems a bit weak and ask if students can come up with stronger evidence for a particular prediction.

I like to wrap up by posing the question, “How does this book make you feel now?” and asking volunteers to share their responses with the class. I break the class into small groups to consider the question, “Why do you feel the author wrote this book?” A spokesperson from each group shares his or her group’s conclusion with the class, and I tell students that we will continue to formulate an answer to this question as we move through the book. Students are beginning to be involved in the story to come and, at this point, I also want them to begin thinking about the author’s message. I extend the prediction activity by asking students what they think the author wants us to learn by reading this book.

Finally, I restate the lesson objective: to make predictions about and connections to a book’s content and to begin to consider the author’s purpose in writing it. I also mention that in the next lesson, we will conduct a picture walk, read the introduction and dedication, and start to build insight into Ruby’s character.