Note: The text and many of the support materials for this lesson come from Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: Copper Level (Prentice Hall, 1999), a literary anthology.
Ray Bradbury is mostly known as a writer of science fiction but he also wrote Dandelion Wine, a collection of short stories drawn from his own experiences growing up. One of those stories, “The Sound of Summer Running” is about a young boy’s belief that summer is embodied in the feel of a new pair of sneakers. This motivation influences his actions. Sixth graders easily relate to Douglas, the main character, and his motivation making this story a good match for our goal of analyzing how characters change and grow as a plot unfolds. Another plus for using this story in the classroom is that another character, Mr. Sanderson, also undergoes a noticeable change.
Before even introducing the story to the class, I take some time to review important comprehension strategies that I expect the students to employ with guidance during our work with this story and to continue to employ independently throughout this unit of study. Here's the worksheet we use. The skills we will focus on are breading down long sentences into meaningful parts, determining the meaning of unknown words using context clues, and the use signal words to identify relationships between words and phrases. In addition, students write down their thinking on why it is important to sometimes reread or read ahead in a text.
One thing you will notice when opening the resources for this lesson is that the second page of the story has the same information as the worksheeet that is used for today’s activator. The difference is that the answers are not included on the worksheet. The reason for this is to give the students a chance to work on the exercises on their own, so I can gauge their proficiency with the skills presented. Plus, it is more engaging for them to mark it up rather than to simply read it over. The sample sentences on the worksheet come directly from the story and can be used to predict what the text will be about. However, it should be noted that this worksheet is easily adaptable to any text.
To get the students off to a strong start, we read aloud the introductory pieces of Sound of Summer Running by Ray Bradbury found in the anthology. The Literary Focus section on the first page of the text clearly establishes a purpose for reading and is something to refer to often as a focal point. I project the text using the document reader and model how to mark up the text by noting important events, interesting points and questions that come up.
Also, as in the activator, we break down long sentences and use context clues to uncover the meaning of tricky words. This text can be difficult for students to understand because Bradbury uses a great deal of figurative language. Puzzling through this as a class gives the students a model to follow when they encounter such language when reading independently. We continue reading together until the point when Douglas reveals his plan to Mr. Sanderson.