Introducing Reading with a Purpose

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SWBAT to identify key details about the characters, setting, plot and events in a story.

Big Idea

In this lesson your students will read with purpose as they learn strategies for close reading to help them understand important details about story elements.


Common Core Connection:

In this lesson I am continuing to introduce my students to reading strategies that they can use to determine character, place, time, and plot elements that are not explicitly stated by the author.  I wanted students to really hone in on text evidence when identifying these elements, so I focused on the reading standards grouping under the first strand: key ideas and details.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson I used story elements to continue to introduce my students to reading for a purpose, where they read and looked for picture and word clues to determine who the characters are, what is the setting, and how does the plot unfold in the story.


  • Bud’s Day Out, by G. Brian Karas
  • Caribbean Dream, by Rachel Isadora
  • What and How I Know Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

To begin this lesson I instructed my students to think about Bud’s Day Out, which we read in yesterday's lesosn.  After a moment, I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to call on three students to retell what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  As these children summarized their parts, the rest of the class showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).  After validating that they did a good job sequencing the story, I asked them to think about what they concluded was the message the author was trying to convey in this particular story, another review from yesterday.  I gave my students a brief moment to discuss this question with their rug partner, and then I used the magic cup to select a student pair to answer the question for the class.  This pair responded that the author wrote the story because it is important for all dogs to have rules.  The rest of the class agreed with this statement.

From there I told my students today they would read the story again, but this time they would be reading to find out more details about who the characters are, what the setting of story is, and how the events in the plot of the story happen.  They also had to explain how they knew or got their answers.  To add a little fun to the lesson, I told my students they were going to be ‘reading spies,’ who looked for and found clues about the characters, setting, events, and plot.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

Before actually reading, I explained to my students that the author will often tell us the story elements of character, setting, and plot, but that we have to do work to understand all of the details that the author includes to make these elements rich and interesting.  I told them that students can use picture and word clues to fully understand a story.  I then restated that today as they read they were read to find out who the characters are, when and where this story takes place, and what the plot is.

Using the magic cup I selected students to read 2 or 3 pages from the story.  During the reading, I stopped every three or four pages and asked my students the following questions (I told them only to think about the answers and not say them out-loud):

  • Who are the characters?
  • What are they doing?
  • What time does the story take place?
  • Where does the story take place?
  • Why are they doing what they are doing? 

When we finished reading I reminded my students that they needed to be able to show me where they got their answers, or explain how they got them.  I then gave my students a moment to think about how they could find out the answers to the above questions.  After a moment of think time I used the magic cup to call on students to share an answer with the class.  The answers these students provided included: ‘re-read’, ‘look at picture clues’, ‘use what I already know’, and ‘ask a friend.’

Collaborative Activity

20 minutes

I then displayed the What and How I Know activity sheet on the Promethean board and explained that they would work with their table partners to re-read the story and to finish the activity sheet.  Before passing out their copies of the What and How I know Activity Sheet, I used the magic cup to select a student to restate the directions to the class.

When this student finished restating the directions, I passed out the student copies of the activity sheet and modeled (Teacher Modeling) how to begin by asking: 'Who are the main characters in this story and how do you know?'  As my students called out, ‘Bud, Ben, and the Mom,’ I wrote those words in the character space on the displayed activity sheet.  I then asked: ‘How do you know?’  After a brief moment a few students called out, ‘the author told us.’  I agreed and pointed out where the characters are introduced at the beginning of the story.  I then restated that they were to reread the story with their table partner and use the listed strategies on the activity sheet to help them answer the questions.

As my students began their work, I met with each group to make sure they understood the directions and were working together to finish their work.

At the end of 15 minutes, I called the group together and used the magic cup to select three partner pairs to share their answers with the class.  To do this I displayed their work on the doc-u-cam and each selected student pair explained to the class how they determined the answers to the questions.  The featured Student Work sample includes some of the page numbers where they found their text evidence.  These two students told the class they included the page numbers because they had to prove where they got their answers from.

When we finished this activity we transitioned into the independent ELA block.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

During this time my students are in their leveled reading groups and rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through reading ELA activities.  One of these activities is independent journal writing, where my students can apply what they practiced in the collaborative and guided activities of the lesson.

The prompt I put on the board: Explain how you knew this story took place in the afternoon.

I checked journals for completeness when my students rotated to my differentiated reading group.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

To earn a sticker my students named a strategy they used to find details about the characters, setting, or plot in the story.