Snow in Jerusalem

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SWBAT analyze the illustrations and details in a text to add to their understanding of the characters, setting, or events.

Big Idea

Teach students to understand the character, events, and setting by analyzing two very amusing stories.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection

The standard RL1.7 is about analyzing the details and illustrations in a text to add a deeper layer of meaning to the understanding of the characters, setting, and events.  By creating experiences for students to develop a deeper conceptual understanding of a story by analyzing the illustrations, I am engaging my class in higher order thinking which is one skill they will need to be prepared for college or a career. College and career readiness are two areas that Common Core provides opportunities for students to grow intellectually. In this lesson, students move beyond understanding what the text is telling them and move into interpreting the meaning of the text.

Lesson Overview

This lesson creates opportunities for the students to learn about and describe the characters, setting, and events.  I have pre-selected specific pages to analyze for the students to describe the story.  Students can gather deep understandings of the characters, setting, and events from a few pages instead of every single page.  Plus, it concentrates their focus instead of providing them with so much that they can easily get distracted in the details.

The text I use in the guided practice is called Snow in Jerusalem, and we analyze a few pages together. Then the students analyze Chrysanthemum with their partner to gather an understanding of the characters, setting, and events.  In Snow in Jerusalem two boys discover they are caring for the same cat and she has kittens.  But, in Chrysanthemum a little girl learns to embrace the uniqueness of her name. These are both great stories to dive into character development on a deep level, which is why they are great for RL.1.7.

The students work in small collaborative groups (I call them Peanut Butter Jelly Partners) throughout the lesson, and we Transition about every twenty minutes to keep the lesson pacing fresh and exciting.

Beginning Activity

First, I show the students the lesson image and ask them to describe the setting. I am listening to assess their ability to describe a setting. I am hoping they say it looks like a desert, because there is not much grass. But, I listen closely, so I can assess their ability to analyze the setting. Then I share that we will learn more about describing characters, the setting, and events in a story by using the illustrations.  To engage the entire class I ask the class to echo the goal after me. I say, "I can analyze the illustrations to add to my understanding of the character, setting, and events."

Guided Practice

20 minutes

Now the students are seated in their desks and we work in small groups to describe specific illustrations that I have selected to help them gather a description of the characters, setting, and events. I first read the book to the class to build some knowledge about the story before we begin analyzing. 

Then I focus the class on the each specific images I selected.  I project the images on the Smart Board. I have created a video (Snow in Jerusalem) for this.  Then the students talk to their partner (Guided Practice Partner Discussion Description) about their analysis of the illustration. Next, we engage in a classroom discussion.  Last, we confirm the analysis by everyone showing thumbs up or down.  This is basically a class discussion around how each illustration deepens our understanding of the characters, setting, and events.

Partner Work

20 minutes

The class transitions to the center tables and I read the story to them.  Then the students use the pictures (Picture 1Picture 2) in the text to analyze and deepen their understanding of the characters, setting, and events. Each group gets one copy of the text and one chart (Illustration Chart) to use to organize their thoughts.  This is the same chart we have used in previous lessons so the students are comfortable using it to organize their ideas.

As the students are working I walk around and help them get started.  Some questions I use to get the students thinking are: What do you learn about the setting and character by looking at the picture? How does she feel in the beginning? How do you know? (Her expressions.) How does she feel in the end? How can you tell? What caused her to change? 

Another way I provide support is specifically asking the students to look at her expression and tell me what she may be feeling. 

Student Reflection

5 minutes

Next my students transition to the lounge where they engage in speaking, listening through the Presentation of their ideas.  They also get to Evaluate each other's work here.  Now, to get this right, this all took a lot of modeling, and I still model it before each lesson, which is everyday before this section.  We chant, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor hands in our laps talking no more," and this get the class to sit still.  I also ask the speakers to speak very loud, with expression, and to enunciate their work.

Then several volunteers to present their work while the other students are reminded to look at the speaker, listen to the speaker, and evaluate their work. After each person presents and the other students give their feedback, I add my comments to confirm what specifically is good and what needs work.


5 minutes

The class remains seated in the lounge and they discuss one thing they learned about illustrations and one thing that they want to learn.  This is my way of using formative assessment to see what my students know and what they want to know.  By using this information to drive my instruction I can meet my students at their instructional level.  I don't want things to be too easy or frustrating.

Last the students echo the lesson goal to help them remember the skills learned. We chant: I can use the illustrations to describe the characters, setting, and events in a story.