Mystery Door to Another Country

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SWBAT use relevant details, temporal words, and a closure to bring their story to life.

Big Idea

Students will learn how to make their stories come to life as they create a story reflecting a culture of their choice.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection 

This lesson is the culminating lesson in a series of writing lessons, and I am trying to step up the complexity by asking the class to write with a cultural influence.  This will allow the students that have mastered the use of temporal words to learn how to make their writing more interesting, but it gives others more practice on creating a story with two or more sequenced events, temporal words, and a closure.

Lesson Overview

The lesson image is a visual that is projected to help the students understand the idea.  The learners will create a story about themselves or another person that enters another country through a mystery door.  They use their prior knowledge from folktales we have read and a chart I made to help them develop a paragraph that uses temporal words to show the sequence of the events.

The hook takes place in the lounge and the students are seated next to their assigned partner.  The partners remain the same throughout the lesson, and are heterogeneous.  Mixed ability groups based on their oral reading fluency on DIBELS helps students engage in higher order thinking and develop skills for working with others.  After the hook, the students move to the desks, which are still in small group.  Then the students move to the center tables for the partner work, and we close back at the lounge.  I find that moving my students every twenty minutes really helps them stay engaged, and manages behavior during the transition. To keep the focus on the lesson goal they chant the goal three times as they move.


I ask the students a question and project the lesson image on the Promethean board.  What do you think is behind that door?  Then I tell them to talk to their partner about what might be behind that door.  Then I listen to see what they say so we can build upon some of their ideas in the guided practice.  Next, I share that today we will write a fictional story that tells about you or another character walking through a mystery door and entering another country.   Now, first graders do not have a great knowledge of cultures, but we have studied a variety of cultures in folktales.  So, I made a Cultures Chart that will help us identify the cultures.  I go over the chart and reference stories that we have read.

Before we begin, the students echo, tell a friend, and then repeat the lesson goal. This helps them remember what we are learning.  I can write a fictional story using temporal words and a closure.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

Now the students transition to the desks to begin work on the guided practice. First, we vote by a show of hands to decide what who the character is going to be.  I take nominations from three students, and then we vote. Now, we have to decide what country the character is going to be from, so we take nominations.  After three nominations, we vote by a show of hands.

Next, the students discuss with their peanut butter jelly partner what the topic sentence should say. I listen to see what ideas they have and assess their prior knowledge.  Then a student volunteers their ideas, others agree or disagree, and we have a discussion to decide what we will write for the topic sentence.  It is important to go over the idea of using indenting to begin the paragraph because this is a new skill to most first graders.

Then, I ask the class to talk to their partner about the next sentence.  It is important to remind the class that we will need to add some cultural things and remember the character has to go through a mystery door. (What I mean is that we will use the influence of a specific culture to write.  The class decides on the Swedish culture, so we use Swedish names that I googled on the spot.) What might you see in Sweden? Then I share what I heard, we have a discussion to determine what we should write, and I write the sentence on the board.  As I write I narrate and explain why I am using capitalization, punctuation, and spacing.

As we continue using the process of pair share and discuss, the students talk about the next sentence.  It has to include a temporal word and reflect some culture. What might you do in Sweden? My role now is to facilitate a discussion about the best sentence.  I add the sentence and narrate to explain the grammar.

Moving right along, the students create a sentence that will begin with the word last or a synonym for last and the students discuss what they want to write. What would you eat in Sweden?Then I add the sentence to the paragraph.  I do not allow the students to do the writing at this point, because it would take too long.

Last the students talk to their partner about the closing sentence, and I remind that that is must sum up our story.  I listen and share one idea I like. Then we vote by thumbs up or down.  We do not do a discussion here because of time and we have already done a great deal of talking.

Partner Work

20 minutes

Next the students move the center tables and begin their own writing.  My students will write their own story about a character entering a mystery door, and going to another country.  The students also have to add some things specific about that culture. 

As the students are working I walk around and watch what they are doing.  But most importantly I get them started.  Some first graders struggle with beginning a writing activity.  My first question to help them is who is going to be the character?  Where are they going?  Can you make that your topic sentence. What will they do first in the country? At this point they are off to a good start, and I back off and let them write.

After about ten minutes to read their work (Student Work) to their partner. Students give each other feedback (Student Evaluation) and then write for about seven or eight more minutes.

Student Reflection

5 minutes

Now the class transitions to the lounge where we remain for the closure.  This is the time I like to work on speaking and listening.  My students also love this time. We form two lines.  Line one will read their work to line two.  Line two has to listen to one reader and give them feedback.  then line two reads to line one.  Line one will give their peers feedback.  My job at this time is to listen, and I give my students feedback.


5 minutes

We close the lesson by discussing one thing the students learned with their peanut butter jelly partner.  Then I encourage a discussion by asking other students to share their ideas.

Finally, I share that we will continue to write and develop their cultural awareness.  My students chant the lesson goal. I can write a fictional story using temporal words and a closure.