Sadness is one of the strongest and first emotions I remember being influenced by. When I think back to some of my favorite childhood stories and their impact on my emotions, I remember that I really did cry when Jack the faithful dog of Laura and Mary died in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s, By the Shores of the Silver Lake. Similarly, I vividly remember how tears came to both of our eyes as I read the passage to my Grand Daughter where Charlotte the amazing spider from E.B. White’s, Charlotte’s Web, passed away. And then there was, of course, Margaret Marshall Saunder’s story of the tragedies that befell, the dog known famously as “Beautiful Joe”. In Joe’s moving stories, what brought on my dramatic outburst of emotion was not so much what was happening to the characters, but much more so because of how the author so skillfully crafted each sentence with just exactly the right trigger words needed to provoke the strongest feelings inside of me from the themes she developed around the giving of unconditional love. It was the intricate weave of words that transmit emotion that allowed me to see the very depth of their feelings!
As a direct result of those personal experiences, I have developed a passion for sharing these literary masterpieces with my students. Each and every one of them, in there own unique way, is a gold mine of specially designed words that can stimulate a readers feelings and emotions in the most profound and often very subtle way. With that foremost in mind, I decided that my introductory text would be Pearl’s First Prize Plant. I specifically chose this text as the ground breaking introduction to words which can transmit emotion, because it was a simple and yet very effective way to demonstrate how specific words can appeal to both our feelings and senses. As the story unfolds, Pearl clearly experiences just the right variety of basic emotions concerning how she feels about her very special plant. For my students, that is how I desired it to begin….
Common Core Connections:
By the time students leave high school they will be required to: interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, as well being able to analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone, CCRA.R.4. The First grade prerequisite for this meaningful anchor standard is RL.1.4: indentify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses. This standard meshes with L.1.5a: sort words into categories to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.
In Lesson 1, I wanted to do a little cause-effect work by helping my students to relate how a characters feelings related specifically to the author’s choice of specific emotion words. More specifically, how those words allowed the author to transmit the feelings of the characters in the story to the reader of the literary text. To give my students a little more direct experience and practice in recognizing words that transmit emotions, I specifically designed the first Collaborative Activity in the unit to challenge them to identify opposite emotion words. I felt that this method, much like starting arts students with black and white prior to working with more complex colors would give them a good solid foundation before we expanded into how word phrases and illustrations are also used to transmit the characters emotions to the reader of the story. In all my lessons for this unit (1 –5) my students were challenged to work with their partners in order to give them room to explore not only their own independent interpretation of these devices (words, word phrases, illustrations), but to also allow them to experience alternative interpretations from other students in a team based setting as well.
As my students settled at their desks I asked them to think about places that make them feel happy. After a brief moment I instructed them to turn to their seat partner and share one place that makes them feel happy when they visit there. When they were finished sharing with their partners, I knew they would want to share with me, so I had them whisper the name of the place to me (Demonstration: Whisper to Me).
From there I told my students that one place that makes me feel happy is the San Diego Fair, and that today I was going to read to them about a little girl who visited the fair. I then asked my students if they had ever visited the San Diego Fair. I had anticipated that few had, or remembered if they had, and felt it important to give my students a little background as to what a county fair is, as well as the importance of the many Fair Contests. To give them a little background I then showed the State Fair PowerPoint presentation. As I showed the slides to the class, I briefly told my students that people could enter all kinds of different contests and would some times win prizes and ribbons. I told them that both prizes and ribbons make people feel very proud and happy! During this presentation, some of the students who had actually been to a fair were given the opportunity to share some their wonderful experiences with the rest of the students. As a direct result, I soon had a very captive audience who wanted to listen and learn more about these fairs!
I then read Pearl’s First Prize Plant to the class and instructed my students to pay special attention to how the character Pearl’s feelings changed as the story unfolded. I also shared the beautiful illustrations with the children as I read along. When I had finished the reading, I gave my students a moment to think about the story and then asked them to describe just exactly how Pearl feel about her special plant. After a moment to think and whisper in their hands, I used the magic cup to select two students to share with the class. Both students agreed that Pearl clearly liked her plant and because of that she was feeling happy. I then asked my students: ‘Why did Pearl leave the fair’? This time they agreed she left because she was so sad that her flower was much too little. I enthusiastically agreed with them and further explained that both happy and sad are emotion words that the writer of the story uses specifically to tell the person who is reading it, how his characters are feeling.
To break up the routine and add movement, I had my little ones say ‘happy’ and make a happy face when they said it. We did the same thing for the word ‘sad’. I then explained that happy and sad are sometimes called opposite words. I Then asked my students to think about how the story might have been different had Pearl’s plant won first prize at the fair. I gave my students a moment to think about this and whisper their answer in their hands. I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select two students to tell the class how they thought the story would have been different had Pearl won. Both of these students related back that if Pearl would have had a bigger plant, then she could have won the contest and she would have been much happier. They also felt the ending would have been the same. The rest of the class showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down). I told my students that I totally agreed with them and especially that the ending would probably been the same.
From there we moved into our collaborative activity.
At this point I had my students stand up and take a stretch because I have found that first graders need to move otherwise they get restless. I always give them a stretch break before we change activities even if they are staying in their seats, as they did today.
As my little ones settled back into their seats I displayed the Opposite Emotion Match Activity Sheet on the Promethean board and told my students that they would be working with their table partners to finish this activity together. My instructions were that they were first to read the words to each other, then cut the words out, and finally match them to the opposite meaning. Once they finished this, I told them to glue the opposite words next to each other. I pointed out that the words were all mixed together so they would have to really think carefully about each word’s opposite meaning as they were working together as a team. To help them get started I called the Helper of the Day and his table partner to the front of the class, using them as models I showed the class what they should be doing as the worked together with their table partner. I then used the magic cup once again to select a student to retell the class what they were going to be doing at this time. Once I was satisfied that the class was ready to work, I had the helper of the day pass out the Opposite Emotion Match activity sheets while I passed out the scissors and glue.
As my students worked I circled around the room in order to make sure that all the students were working cooperatively together and also to answer any further questions which they might have.
At the end of 15 minutes, I stopped the class and used the magic cup to select seven students to tell the class at least one set of opposite emotion words. Each student I selected had on his/her activity sheet ready and waiting. As the selected students read their opposite emotion word pairs to the class, I then in turn wrote them up on the Promethean board. During this part of the activity, I also had my students act out each of the opposite emotion by saying (for example): ‘Show me how would Pearl would look if she were calm, and then now show me how she would look if she were angry.’
When we finished this activity, I then asked my students to think carefully about all the different types of opposite words there are and how these words can be used by a gifted author tell a reader about virtually every single emotion a character in his story could ever feel. I then asked my students, "If you were writing a story, how would you use these opposite words?" I then called on students who had their hands up; their answers included something along the lines of: I would use them to show the reader about feelings. As soon as the student said feelings, I asked: ‘Whose feelings?” The answer I was looking for was "characters' feelings."
With that we finished this activity we moved into our independent work.
During our independent practice time my students rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different ELA activities. One of these activities is journal writing. I use journal writing for several reasons. For example, it helps me see what my students are capable of doing on their own so I can pace my teaching. It also helps me monitor my ELLs' progress in writing. It gives me ideas for how to differentiate my teaching to meet the needs of all my students as well. For my students, it helps them remember, understand, and apply what we have been working on.
The journal prompt I put on the Promethean board: Explain how Pearl might have felt if her plant had won the first prize. Do you think this would have changed the ending of the story? Why or Why not.
I always do a quick check for understanding and completeness when each group rotates into my differentiated reading group time.
To get a sticker my students had to tell me what type of opposite words we worked with today. The answer I was looking for was ‘feeling words’ or ‘words that tell about people’s feelings.’