Crisis In Africa: Analyzing Structures and Author's Craft

7 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT compare and contrast the problem/solution and cause/effect text structures.

Big Idea

So do we want to end poverty in Africa or just talk about why it's happening? Structure matters when writing.


5 minutes

Students will be revisiting two texts previously read in the cause/effect and problem/solution lessons. I chose two different structures on the same topic to prep students for this lesson. In this lesson, we'll be helping students see the similarities and differences within the texts and why the two different authors chose the structures they did. We'll also be discussing and analyzing the efficiency of the structures in different situations. My DOE released question stems for this standard which can be confusing for students, so I like to give them lots of practice having these types of conversations. Here are a few that we use: 

5RI5 – Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.

• Which text was more effective in presenting the events leading up to the war, _________ (text title) which used chronological order or ____ (text title) which used a cause/effect structure? Use examples from the texts to support your opinion.

• Which text was more effective in explaining plant and animal cells, _________ (text title) which used compare/contrast or ____ (text title) which used description? Use examples from the texts to support your opinion.

• How is the overall structure used in the explanation of photosynthesis in ______ (text title) and _____ (text title) alike and different? Use examples from the texts to support your comparison.

To start students off, I show them a map of Africa with percentages of people in each country who live on less than $2 a day. 

What does this map of Africa tell you? I will give you some time to think and then share out with your table partners.

Students will probably have some trouble here, so I'll want to guide their thinking about how poor the country is and give background if needed. I can ask students how much money they think their parents live on per day and ask them what they think they could buy with two dollars a day. 

 If you were an author, what kinds of texts could you write about the poverty in Africa? What structures would you choose?  I'll give you some time to think and share with your table groups.

I'll move around the room to listen to students and to pose questions to push their thinking- Would you want to describe the poverty? Would that do much for the readers? Would you want to compare the poverty to another place? 

Some students will bring up the two texts we read, but others may be able to think of different ideas. Jot down a few of their ideas and model your own. 

I usually say something like, I think an author could write about the poverty level in Africa compared to the poverty level in South America. The author would want to use a compare/contrast text structure. Today we're going to take a look at two structures that I found on the topic of poverty in Africa. 


Guided Discussion

40 minutes

Tell students: Today we are going to look back at the cause/effect and problem/solution texts that we read a few days ago. We read them before to find their individual characteristics, but today we're going to dig into them to analyze their effectiveness and what the author may have been thinking when he or she chose the text structure. We'll also be looking at their similarities and differences. 

At this point, I'll give the students about 5 minutes to skim over both texts. They have their annotations and highlighting from the previous lessons, so this should jog their memory about the texts. 

In previous lessons, I built in the discussion of similarities and differences between cause/effect and problem/solution, so I won't spend much time here. Instead, I plan to guide the students through reading like a writer. We'll be thinking through the author's thoughts and decisions and discussing if we think the author achieved the purpose he or she was going for. To do this, students are going to participate in a "fishbowl" discussion. I like this activity because not only does it allow my students to be active participants in a discussion, it also helps them hit their speaking and listening standards. I never pre-plan the students that will make up the inner circle. These are completely heterogeneously grouped. For my class size, I choose 15 students randomly to be in the discussion circle first. The other 15 sit on the outside. Usually I have the students in the outer circle sitting on desks and students in the inner circle sitting in chairs in the center of the room. This works for my room set up. Here is a basic fishbowl visual.

Then I assign one outer student to one inner student. For this discussion, my outer students have clipboards and will listen to their partner to record or tally times that the student used text details to back up a statement. I serve as a facilitator and basically watch the time and monitor my outer students. Before we start, I show and discuss some expectations for behavior. 

The first question I pose is, Which of the two structures does a better job at telling you some of the ways people are trying to solve the poverty issues in Africa?

I'll give students about 5 minutes to discuss. I don't give much more than this, because the outer circle needs about the same amount of time to discuss what they saw and heard. My students have done this before, so they don't need me to model expectations anymore, but if this is your first time trying this, I would sit in the inner circle to have move the conversation along. Here is a short fishbowl conversation from my class. These two students did pretty well at letting the discussion flow. 

Once discussion has stopped, I'll call the outer students to begin discussing what they heard their partner say. The idea here is for students to listen to each other and to understand the importance of backing up what they say. Again, the outer students will get about 5 minutes to discuss. Once they have finished, I want to interject any ideas that need to be reviewed. I use this time to clarify any misconceptions students may have had or to review that because "Africa in Crisis" was set up as a problem/solution structure, it was more effective in showing some of the ways people are trying to help. 

Then the students switch roles. They should keep their same partner, but switch positions in the circle. I'll then pose the next question: Which of the two structures does a better job at explaining what is happening because of the poverty in Africa?  

I'm thinking I'll have the groups switch for a few more questions just to get them up and moving. They really do like this, so I'm sure they'll be excited to get another shot in the discussion circle.  Why would the author of “Africa in Crisis” choose a problem and solution text structure?Why would the author of “The Effects of Poverty in Africa” use a cause and effect text structure? 

The whole activity should take about 30 minutes. While the students are discussing, I'm just listening. I don't always take notes because there are so many students to monitor and I really want to be ready with my interjection questions. The only thing I generally write down are ideas to guide their thinking if necessary. This can't really be pre-planned, either.  The whole activity ebbs and flows with the kids ideas, so it becomes completely their own. I collect their tally/notes sheet to keep my data about how the students are interacting. Once students have finished, I usually have them share out their feelings about the activity itself;how they think it went; what they would do differently;etc. 

Independent Practice

15 minutes

To complete the lesson, students will use the activity today to answer text dependent questions on Comparing Text Structures of two articles on African poverty. They are the exact questions used in the fishbowl activity today. Students will have to use the discussion and the text to formally answer the questions. I use this opportunity to collect evidence of their writing ability, as well as for reading. While students are working, I move around the room to assist students when necessary. Depending on time, this could be completed for homework, morning work, or in small groups. 

Here are a few shots from my students notebooks. As you can see, some students get it, and some still have a way to go. After reading all of the responses, I can see that some students are confusing the two and students need more work with explaining themselves in writing.