The Rope Tug: Initial Reading

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SWBAT identify the distinguishing characteristics of plays and identify the characters, the narrator, and the central message in the play.

Big Idea

Wide reading includes plays, where your students will learn who the characters are and who the narrator is.


Common Core Connection:

Even before Common Core, one of my goals was to introduce students to as many types of genres and print as possible through wide reading.  With Common Core now at the forefront of my teaching, I am excited to continue developing my students' exposure to different text types.  One of the more interactive types of wide reading includes plays and/or drama. This genre excites students and helps support their reading fluency - especially when students are allowed to read and perform the play in front of peers.

Wide reading is a broad term that helps students to gain literary and cultural knowledge as well as familiarity with various text structures and elements through extensive reading of stories, dramas, poems, and myths. 

This introductory lesson on reading plays focuses on characters, which helps students engage with reading standard three. It also supports reading fluency, which falls under the foundational standard RF.1.4.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, I needed to be aware that this was my student’s first exposure to reading and eventually acting in a play.  I explained each part of the play and had my students read it through as though it were a regular literary text.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 2: Let’s Look Around, The Rope Tug, by Veronica Freeman Ellis


5 minutes

With my students settled at their desks, I began this unit by telling them the reading we were going to do this week was a play and that they would have the opportunity to perform in front of one of the kindergarten or second grade classes. (This brought on cheers of excitement and gasps of fear).  I further explained that there are many types of plays but that they all have certain features that help us understand that they are in fact plays.  Before we began I told them to listen to the words and look at the pictures to figure out what about the text tells us that it's part of this genre.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

After giving my students a moment to think, I asked them to tell me about the features of the text that tell them it's a special kind of story because it's a play. Students named a number of distinguishing features; the ones that jumped out were that there were pictures of characters before each line to tell who was saying each line in the play and that there was a special part for the narrator.

I proceeded by explaining the characters in a play are the actors and that the narrator is the person telling the story. I further explained that when we actually perform this play it would be in reader theater form, where the actors stand in a straight line and read their parts in voices that sound like their characters.

Before we actually began reading I pointed to the character pictures at the beginning of each sentence, and explained that these pictures would help us know which character was talking.

We then choral read the play straight through, as if it were a regular story.

After we finished reading the play I reminded my students that the characters in a play are the actors, the narrator tells what is happening, and all plays tell a story or have a message.  I then asked them what they thought the message was in this play.  After a moment of think time, I instructed my students to whisper their answers in their hands (Demonstration: Whisper to Me). I then gave them the opportunity to share with and listen to their table partners thoughts.  When they were finished sharing I used the magic cup to select a partner pair to share their answer with the class (Demonstration: Magic Cup).  Two students shared that the message in this story was just because someone is small does not mean he is not strong or smart.  The rest of my students showed they agreed with this by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).

Satisfied that my students understood the message in this play, I felt it time they form a group of four and choose the character they wanted to perform.

Collaborative Activity

15 minutes

I explained to my students that for the rest of this week they would be practicing reading the play with their group as one of the characters.  (This brought on a lot of cheers) I calmed their excitement by clapping do as I do (Demonstration: Do As I Do).  Once settled I explained they would work in a group of four friends, and each friend would be able to decide which character they wanted to be.  I then instructed my students to get into their groups.  Once they were in a group of four they were to sit down on the rug and decide who was going to be which character.  At this point in the year, my students were able to decide on their own about who would play what character without too much squabbling, but you may want to pre-assign the characters if you're not sure that your students will be able to do it on their own.

My students took this activity very seriously as they were Discussing the TitleMaking a Decision, and Coming to an Agreement on who would play each part.

As each group began to indicate they were finished, I went around with a clip board and recorded each student’s name and character part he/she would be performing.

Once all the groups were formed we moved into our independent practice time.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

During this part of the lesson my students work in their leveled reading groups where they rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different work areas.  Journal writing is one area I use to check for student engagement and understanding.  

The journal prompt I put on the Promethean board: Explain in your own words who the characters are in a play and who the narrator is.

I check each student’s journal as the reading groups rotate to my differentiated reading group.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker each student told me what the message was in this play.