The 2 Faces of Pocahantos - Comparing Informational Text and Literature

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SWBAT use text features and the structure of text to summarize key details, comparing the ideas between informational text and literature.

Big Idea

Compare the real story of Pocahantos with a favorite Disney version!



I chose these books because they are topical for my units of study and this topic is of interest to the students. They know the characters and can use their background knowledge to add to their summary of the literature version (RL.2.2). The shift in Common Core Standards focus asks them to do ‘close reading’ to compare and contrast their story ideas with historical fact. (RI.2.9) as they read and summarize the ‘true’ stories (RI.2.2)

** I tweaked this lesson the second time I taught it because my students were not all familiar with this movie. It was more powerful to show the clips and have students familiar with the story share what happened.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)

This lesson is an assessment for my students. I taught these informational summarizing strategies in 3 other lessons - Frame the Story with Informational Text, A Feast of Summaries, and these literature summarizing lessons in Summarize and Make a Movie, Summarize and Make a Scene.


Get the kids engaged


Bring students to a common learning point

  • “We’ve been talking about American exploration. There is truth to how these 2 characters were part of history.  Here are 2 books about these characters-one is informational text and the other is literature.
  • “John Smith was an explorer to America who helped to found Jamestown and make friends with the Native Americans.”
  • “Pocahontas was an Indian Princess who befriended the explorers and brought peace to the Indians.”
  • “Why are there 2 versions of this story?”  Take ideas – discuss the author’s purpose of the two different books- this is what my students had to say in our discussion.

Teachers' Turn

15 minutes

Set a purpose for the lesson


Demonstrate the strategies

  • “I’m going to compare the story of John Smith in these books to demonstrate how to summarize his story.”
  • Show the Disney version and read the parts about John Smith quickly - go through the text features and summarize using the text features. My kids knew this story and we did not need to read the whole story.  Here's the whiteboard for this literary text.
  • Read the pages of The Story of Pocahontas about John Smith.  Pp. 7-16 and p 30 – fill out the organizer looking for repeated words, first/last sentences and checking to see if the illustrations verify your summary. This is how I explained using repeated words and first/last sentences to summarize. I filled out the informational text organizer on the whiteboard for informational text.
  • Let's check the illustrations. Can we verify the text with illustrations?
  • Here's the completed whiteboard with all the information.


Follow up discussion

  • “The stories are very different. Why do you think the Disney author wrote the story like that?  Why did the informational text author write her story like she did?”


Students who can recount and summarize literature by identifying the main idea (RL.2.2) and identify the main topic and central ideas of informational text (RI.2.2) are utilizing a strategy called 'close reading' which is a focus in the Common Core Skills. This requires students to examine how the text features and details in the text support and lead to a theme or main idea. By comparing and contrasting versions of this story, students are analyzing the summaries and main ideas to see the author's purpose. (RI.2.9)  Ultimately, their comprehension will improve as they analyze what they're reading as well as how the author wrote the text and the text structure.


Demonstrate the project

  • “Now that I have 2 summaries, we can create the ‘Two faces of John Smith’. 
  • I brought some construction paper and I’ll fold it in half. I want to create 2 faces that show how he looks in both versions of the story. Here's a discussion about characters in the teacher project.
  • Demonstrate this project – glue the summaries on the back. This is a picture of the teacher project.

Students Take A Turn

20 minutes

Summarize literature text

  • “Now it’s your turn to summarize 2 stories about Pocahontas.”
  • Read the Disney version to the group, focusing on the pages about Pocahontas.  I read it because I only had one copy and reading level is too high. Most of the kids knew the story, but needed a review.
  • Pass out the summarizing literature worksheet – kids fill out.  


Summarize informational text

Check their work as you walk around

Apply What You've Learned!

15 minutes

Students complete project

  • Pass out the construction paper
  • Students draw faces and glue on summary pages
  • Review the ideas - why are the pictures different - what was the author of the books 'point of view'?  
  • Take a look at student project 1 and student project 2.

Follow up discussion

  • “Now that we have 2 summaries, its easy to compare them.  Who wants to share their summaries.”
  • “Which version did you like better?  Why?”
  • “When would you use the informational text? When would you use the literature version?”


Scaffolding & Special Education - This lesson could be scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

I chose to read the texts to my students because of limited books and because I have special education students. Although the goal is reading, I'm also focused on reading strategies. It would help your students who are struggling to read with you (if the class has separate books) or to work with a reading buddy. The worksheets also require a lot of writing, so again, I would suggest that they work with a buddy or the teacher uses a desk slate to write prompts for the worksheet. Here are the student prompts on a slate that I used.

For students with greater academic ability, it would be more challenging to ask them for greater description ('wanted to find riches' vs 'wanted gold' or 'she died at an early age' vs 'she died'.) They could use some of the vocabulary from the book as well, such as explorer, captured, or colony.