I love to get them thinking so I write a situation on the board and ask them what advice they give for it. This can be a current problem on the playground, littering, sister being mean to brother, someone lying or cheating on a test, etc
I then ask them what a good consequence would be? I follow up with asking what good advice they would give?
This is just where I want them to be thinking so, I can introduce that authors often write messages in their books and stories that teach the readers lessons through what happens to the main characters. These lessons are called the author's messages or the themes.
Then I introduce their objective - to determine the lesson or author's message in The Tale of Oki Islands.
In this lesson we will create and use a Theme Anchor Chart similar to this - you can make it ahead of time to speed up the lesson
My students have a difficult time thinking of a variety of author's messages so I have a chart of the common messages found in stories. I then tell them that stories from other countries, like this tale, have messages in them that the author's want us to learn lessons from the main characters.
I relate this to grandparents and the lessons they pass along to their grandchildren in the stories they tell them throughout their lives. I then share a story about my twin sister and I and how we often fought over friends and had to be reminded that "family comes first" to help them create a connection to the topic and an understanding of what an author's message can be.
I now have them pull out the problem/solution charts we made in the previous lesson. Using these I have them discuss with a partner what they feel the lesson is that was learned in the story. This shared discussion helps the ELL and struggling readers to organize their thoughts and to see others perspectives.
I write all responses of possible author's messages on the board. Students still showed difficulty in determining the central theme - in this video I share how to address this problem
I want them to make a connection so, I ask them to share with their partner a time when a similar problem happened to them.
I tell them that when we write "college-ready" responses we not only tell our thoughts but we back them up with text proof and with connections from our own lives to get others to think the way we think.
I have students pass out the response pages and review the expectations for completion of the graphic organizer planning page. (my students have used these frequently so they understand the format - its really simple - but if this is newer for your students it would help to make a sample one for them to use as a reference)
I then read the expectations on their Response to Lit Tale of Oki Islands page and answer any questions they have. Students are instructed to use the Response to Lit- Author's Message frames to add text notes and practice their response frames before they write their final piece. This part took some time for them to complete and I debated adding it but I feel its value is that it makes them reflect more deeply and sort out their thoughts before they write them down. This created better end products, but you may need to adjust your time if you have slower writers/ readers or partner them up with a helpful peer to complete the organizer.
I circulate to ensure they are completing it correctly and to release them to write their final author's message responses.
I have them work independently at this point because I want to gauge their levels of understanding and their ability to write their thoughts clearly on paper and to justify them with support from the text.
I get them back together and we discuss what messages students identified in the story. We discuss primary and secondary messages and I push them to determine which is the stronger message and why to help them learn how to evaluate text.
I then like to end with a closing set of questions that relate to the text:
What character traits made it possible for the theme to take place? I ask this so that we circle back to our guiding question and to check for their understanding of it. This is a two part question in that it asks them to identify the trait and then identify its influence in the story - I feel that I had most of the class understanding it primarily because of the sequential learning in the lesson and unit.
Here's a video of some my students shared responses:
and then we closed with a discussion on What was better doing a good deed for another to help them feel better or doing a bad deed out of anger to make yourself feel better? Why? and by comparing and contrasting the actions and motivations of the daughter and her dad and evaluating who was the better person. I do this to connect the theme to the character choices and to help them see that consequences (both good and bad) follow ever decision made.