Source #1: What Happened to Emmett Till?

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Student will be able to analyze a nonfiction article by discussing and citing main ideas and supporting ideas.

Big Idea

In which we learn about history to understand an author's motivation for writing literature.

Daily Grammar

15 minutes

This week's daily grammar practice focuses on how one capitalizes and punctuates titles.  We're also focusing on verbs and making sure the verb tenses are correct and agree with the subject.


Text Features and Organizational Patterns Authors Use

5 minutes

One of the nice things that nonfiction writers (sometimes) use is text features to make the reading more accessible.  Textbooks use these text features all the time, but unfortunately, students don't realize the greater purpose behind them.  Maybe they're there to just take up space?  To add color?  To make learning more fun?  Because the teacher told the textbook writer to put them in? Who knows?

They're also in other nonfiction texts, websites, newspapers, and other types of nonfiction.  Not all writers use every single feature, but an awareness of what the features are and how they can be helpful is good for students and teachers to have.

One of my colleagues gave me this Informational Text Features handout.  I like this neat handout and don't feel the need to recreate it.  It groups the text features into categories: print features, organizational aids, graphic aids, and illustrations.  It provides a list of things commonly used.  In larger works of nonfiction, such as books, authors may include a table of contents, an index, a glossary, or an appendix.  Any type of nonfiction may use bolded words, subheadings, captions, or sidebars (or textboxes or pull-out text). 

Check out this handout that has a chart showing common patterns of organization that writers used.  It covers a bunch of patterns, such as chronological, compare and contrast, order of importance, spatial, cause and effect, and more.  I used this website to help me create it.   It does not include logical order, however.  I did see that as a multiple choice test option once, and it still doesn't make sense.  Aren't all patterns of organization logical? Am I missing something?

I gave these handouts to students so they would have a handy dandy resource to help them analyze how authors of nonfiction organize their writing.  It's their new purple poetry packet--but it's blue and it's for nonfiction.  We are all sad that there isn't any alliteration for it. 

Anticipatory Set: Who Was Emmett Till?

10 minutes

We're starting a new unit, and it's one of my favorites of the entire school year.  It's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," written by Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone. Before reading the play, I have my students read a number of nonfiction articles in order to build a framework for the play.  It includes reading an article about Rod Serling, as well as reading articles about an event that deeply influenced Serling, the murder of Emmett Till.

I played the following video for my students as an anticipatory set.  It's slightly over two minutes.   

After the video was over, I asked students to write a quickwrite to record their initial thoughts, feelings, questions, etc. Here are the questions that I posed.  I asked them to share with their groups, and then share out with the whole class. 

Emmett Till: Main Ideas

20 minutes

I gave students their first article about Emmett Till.  I asked them to read it for the first time, independently and make annotations. I gave them about five minutes to complete this task.

Then I asked them to talk about it in their groups and gave them about five minutes to do that.  They had a lot to say.  They talked about how awful it was that this happened.  They wondered why someone do that just because of the color of their skin.  Here are some of the comments students wrote on their papers.

  • Isaac said, "It must stink to have that happened while buying bubblegum you get kidnapped."
  • Edith said, "I feel bad for his mother for her son just going to buy some bubblegum and that happening.  I was shocked that people would do that because of skin color."
  • Samantha noted that the author of the article "specified that the cashier was a white woman."
  • Maddie said that "it was bad and no one did anything."
  • Nathan said that he felt "really sad about hearing how Emmett Till died."  Nathan also wondered if if Till wouldn't have died if he didn't go get gum.

 I read the article outloud, to model prosody and asked students to make additional annotations.  These annotations could be something they missed the first time, something they thought they understood, but realy didn't, or information that they didn't understand the first time, but now did understand.


Next, I asked each group to think of the most important main idea they found in the article and write it on a dry erase board. We compared statements, and chose the one in the picture on the left to use for our main idea. 




I asked students to write their second quickwrite with that main idea in mind.  What are the author's main ideas and what supporting details does the author use to develop that main idea? 


 This video shows some of the students' quickwrites. Some students were still grappling with understanding how something like this could have happened, some students are starting to explore main ideas, and some students are moving on to evaluating the author's writing.



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