The Power of Children: Making a Difference

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SWBAT...ask questions before, during and after reading to build an understanding of character actions and motivations in The Story of Ruby Bridges

Big Idea

Active readers recognize what they don’t understand and ask questions about a text as they read.

Setting a Purpose

5 minutes

I open the lesson by posing this question to the class: “Could a young person—someone your age—be a good leader of an entire country?” I call on volunteers to respond and prompt them to support their answers with reasons. Then I ask, “What does it take to be a good leader? What skills and qualities does a leader need to have?” Once students have shared their ideas, I open The Story of Ruby Bridges and reintroduce the quote from Ruby’s mother at the front of the book following the title page. I emphasize the statement that Ruby was a leader "like generals and presidents" and ask, “What do you think Ruby’s mom meant by this? What did Ruby do to make her mom so proud?" Remember that students have only previewed the illustrations at this point, so, while some students may be familiar with Ruby’s story, I’m asking for conjectures and predictions here and acknowledge all responses.

After a brief discussion, I share the lesson objective: Questioning the text as we read helps us to understand characters’ actions and motivations and the events that take place.

Guiding the Learning

20 minutes

Now I draw a three-column chart on the board with the headings Stop (with an image of a stop sign), Question (with a question mark), and Search (with an image of an open book). I begin reading the story and stop after the sentence “There were times when we didn’t have much to eat.” Thinking aloud, I model the steps for questioning a text. On the chart under Stop, I write “pg. 3 - They didn’t have enough food.” Under Question I write, “They lived on a farm. Why couldn’t they eat what they grew?” I look back through the opening pages and note the title page illustration, which shows cotton growing in a field. Under Search I write, “Title page shows cotton plants, which you can’t eat.”

I continue reading up through paragraph 11 (beginning “On Ruby’s first day”) and stop. I have students Think-Pair-Share to consider the question “Why did the judge order the girls to go to white schools?” I also have pairs discuss the possible reasons why Ruby’s parents and Ruby herself went along with the judge’s order. Then I call on volunteers to share their conclusions with the class. I try to steer students to the understanding that Ruby’s parents probably thought it was important for Ruby to get a good education and that Ruby was probably just obeying her parents. I add students’ responses to the questioning chart on the board.

I arrange students in groups of 3-4 and give a K-W chart—What I Know - What I Wonder—to each group. Students read the remainder of the book in their groups, and each group uses the K-W chart to log four or five things they learned while reading and four or five questions they have about the text. I monitor groups’ progress as they read and discuss. Students tend to get highly emotionally involved in this story—shocked and angered by the way Ruby is treated—and they often wonder why Ruby didn’t just stop going to the “white” school.

After approximately 10 minutes, I have each group join up with a neighboring group and discuss and compare what they learned and what questions they still have about the story. When the signal sounds after about five minutes, I ask each larger group to identify their favorite fact from the story and add a question to the Stop-Question-Search chart on the board. (Note that I leave this chart on the board as we work through the rest of the unit, and students continue to refer to it.)

Independent Learning

15 minutes

Now, as a writing prompt, I pose the following question (which some students or groups may have already brought up): “Things were very rough for Ruby at her new school. Why didn’t she just leave and go to school where she wouldn’t be treated badly?”

I tell students that they will write a response to the question that includes text evidence from the story to support their opinion, and I distribute the focus question worksheets. At this point, some students may benefit from group brainstorming about Ruby’s (and Ruby’s parents’) reasons for sticking it out (religious beliefs, family values, respect for parents, love for school and learning, etc.). I might chat one-on-one with struggling readers to help them generate a topic idea.

I let students know that, besides answering the focus question, they will also identify the theme or message the author wants to convey to readers though the story. I prompt them to think about why Robert Coles wrote the book, why he chose Ruby as a subject, what made Ruby special, and what we can learn from her actions. I project the Common Themes in Books chart as a reference. Then I set a timer for 10 minutes and circulate around the classroom to assist students where needed.

Closing the Loop

10 minutes

Once students have finished their writing, I bring the class back together and return the focus to their questions about the text. I ask volunteers for questions for which they did find answers as well as still unanswered questions that we can address as a class.

I point out that not every question that comes up for readers about a text has an answer in the text. Sometimes the author just doesn’t give readers all the information they would need to come to a good conclusion about some aspect of a story. Some questions might be answered by further research in sources other than the text.

I then come back to the question with which we opened the lesson - "Was Ruby a leader 'like generals and presidents'?  Why or why not?” I have volunteers share responses but leave the question open. I want students to continue to think about and evaluate Ruby’s character and actions as they go into the next lesson.