Hero or Not? Gathering More Information to Support an Argument

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SWBAT find information within an article to prove that a historical figure is a hero.

Big Idea

Think you can believe everything you read? Make sure you read closely to get valid details before making a choice.


10 minutes
During this lesson, the students will be completing a close read of an article called "Sugihara's List."
As in the previous lesson, there are a ton of standards hit here, but the primary focus is on pulling information from an additional source to support the argument that Sugihara is a hero. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.7.) Again, we'll do some close reading strategies, but not as specific as the first lesson in this series. This article is a lexile of 1050L, but the complexity is perfect for 5th grade. There are places in the text that give full definitions of domain specific vocabulary. 
Begin the lesson by putting the words refugee, diplomat, courage, visa, soldiers, challenge, defy, signature and rescue up on the board.  
Use the Word Splash to discuss what you remember about the biography with your group members. These words must come up in your discussion. You have 2-3 minutes for this and then I will have a representative from each group tell about your discussion.

Using the word splash lets the students think about key vocabulary and keep their discussions focused. This is a quick and easy way to refresh students' memories and help them make sense of the text read previously. 

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Today students will read the article, “Sugihara's List” to look for clues to either confirm or deny the claim that Sugihara is a hero. Students will read independently and use a check mark to annotate places where they find clues to support the claim that he is a hero and a minus sign where they find information that denies that claim. If you’d like to use something like smiley and frown faces, go for it. Whatever works for your kiddos. Also, if your group struggles a bit, this can be done in small groups, with partners, or whole group read aloud. When I taught in an inclusion setting, I did a lot of modeling, so I may have read this aloud and modeled my thoughts about those clues. Do what works for your kids this year.

Before jumping into the reading, I ask the students to take a peek at the title, the resource, date, etc. I like to use this time to work on the students’ inferential skills and hit on the bias and validity factors. Ask students what the name of the resource is. Guide them to Tomorrow’s Morning if they can’t find it on their own. Then ask questions like, “Does this sound like a magazine? What kind of publication would be called Tomorrow’s Morning?” Get them to think on their own and then Google the resource to confirm thinking. This was actually an online children’s newspaper. Then use all of this information to discuss bias and validity. Ask students if they think this is more valid than Passage to Freedom. Why?

Once the brief discussion is over, tell students that they will start reading using the annotations mentioned previously. I write the directions out on my SMART board so they can refer to it throughout the reading. I also set my timer on the board and tell students that the average 5th grader reads about  120 words per minute at this point, so the 400+ words of the article should take them about 4 minutes. I let them know I’ll add in about 3 minutes for interacting with the text, so they have about 7-8 minutes. The text is showing a 1070L on the Lexile converter, but the text is really easy. All of the difficult words are explained as SIRS Discoverer is geared towards students and they make changes to help students easily read the material. By this point, my students know I mean business about the WPM, and they stay pretty focused to complete the task on time. This helps fluency and read grade level material standards. I have about 4 students who really struggle this year, so during this time, I work with them. I let them read a paragraph at a time and then tell me where they are confused, what they are annotating, etc. I try not to do the reading for them since I need them reading on grade level this year.

Once students have finished the reading, I get them ready for a quick game that I call “Switch!” It’s nothing brilliant; they just pair up and share their annotations and when I yell, “Switch!” they find a new partner to share with. Sometimes I say “Skip Switch!” and they skip to the new partner, “Hop Switch!”, etc. The kids love it and it works in some brain break time.  I do this about 4 times so I cut out the chances for kids only going to their friends and give them about a minute in each rotation. I walk around while students are talking just to gauge switch time and keep kids on task.


Guided Discussion

25 minutes

To start off our discussion of Sugihara's heroism, I have the students, "Take a stand." Tell the students if they believe there is enough evidence to prove that Sugihara is a hero they should move to the right side of the room. If they don't believe there is enough evidence, they should move to the left side of the room. Once students have moved, gives student a minute to discuss their beliefs and then call a representative to share thoughts. Most likely all of your students will move to the right side of the room to Take a stand for Sugihara, but be prepared for the students who either want to play Devil's Advocate, or are a little confused.

Ask students to take out their character trait graphic organizer. Students will be filling in the key traits and examples from the article. Students may work in pairs for this. Here's some Group discussion of evidence. I give the students about 5 minutes to complete the task and then call everyone together to review and add the information to our class organizer on the SMART board. I really like having this information saved so I can look back each year and have an idea of what the students will say when I plan the following year.

Once all of the information has been added, start a class discussion about whether there is enough valid information to prove Sugihara is a hero. I like to use this time for open discussion with our talking stick. My students sit on top of their desks, and pass the talking stick to share their views. They must back up their thoughts with evidence from either text. The talking stick in our room is a squishy ball that the kids toss to one another when they want to speak. I serve as a "John, what do you think about this?" or "Riley, did you find some great evidence to back up what Ahmiya said?" This also hits on the speaking and listening standards.

To wrap up the lesson, tell students that in the next lesson, they will take all of this information and write an opinion essay about whether or not Mr. Sugihara should win a "Heroic Citizen" award.