By the time students come to third grade, they’ve been exposed to several types of folktales. While I feel this is an important genre to study, I want to be sure that this unit extends what they already know and gives them a better understanding of the genre as a whole. Part of this understanding is gathered through questioning - asking critical questions of the text, of the author, and of the world. Throughout the unit, students practice skills they learned throughout the year including compare and contrast, summarizing, determining theme, and characterization.
This unit includes both reading and writing lessons. While reading and learning about fairy tales, fables, and tall tales, students wrote their own fictional stories that were modeled after one of the genres studied.
I start this introduction to the unit not in the meeting area, but in the front of the room. I say, “Today friends, we begin a new genre study. Which one? I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to discover that for yourselves. Prepare to be busy and prepare to think deeply, friends. By the end of class, you will tell me about three types of stories, characteristics of each, and how they are similar and different from each other.” At this point, I’m sure I have their attention.
I pass out today’s tools: a work packet and reading passages. Then, I explain the first task. “During step one, you will work with your reading partner. I’ve given you and your partner the same passages, which are examples of one type of story. Not everyone in the room has the same kind of stories. It is your job to really dig into the texts you’ve been given because during step three, you will be the expert on that type of text and teach others about it. After reading the texts, you will work with your partner to complete part one of your work packet. While you are working, I’ll be walking the room listening in on your conversations. I’m going to work really hard not to interrupt your work and just be an observer. Today, you are in charge of your learning and I get to step back and watch the magic happen!”
I post the work packet on the SmartBoard and point out each step in part one. Once I feel that students understand their task, I set them to work.
While students work in partnerships, I walk the room listening to conversations and offering support only when necessary. As this is inquiry work, I don’t want to interfere with the progress they make together.
Once students have completed step one, I call their attention back to the front of the room. I praise them for their efforts and point out a few examples of excellent thinking I observed while walking the room.
Now, it is time to put a label on their learning. I tell students that the texts they’ve read today are all examples of folktales. This is a big category that includes several types of stories. I pass out the “Folktales Chart” and have them put their names on them. I explain that this chart contains information about the three types of sub-genres: fairy tales, fables, and folk tales. Their next task is to work with their partner again to read through the characteristics of each genre and decide which one best fits their texts. Once they’ve made their choices, they must explain why they selected that genre.
Again, while students work I walk the room listening to conversations about the text.
I gather students’ attention back to the front and explain task two. “Now that you’ve analyzed one type of text, it’s time to learn about two others. During the work with your partner, you discovered the unique qualities of your own genre. You now will work with two new partners to learn how the three genres are alike.
I ask students to look at the top of their papers for a number. This is their group number. In a moment, they will find their partners, locate a place to work, and begin part two in their packet. I show them this sheet on the SmartBoard while they follow along in their packets.
Each student gives a summary of his story to his new partners. Once all have shared, they work together to record similarities between the texts.
When everyone has finished, students return to their desks to share what they’ve learned. We work together to complete the “Folktales Chart” by listing the titles that fit each genre and details of how all three are alike. While I complete a copy of the chart on the SmartBoard, students complete their own at their desks.
To end today’s lesson, students spend a few moments thinking of their learning and what else they would like to know. They complete the last part of the packet by creating a question that begins with “Why?”, “How?”, or “I Wonder?” When finished, students turn their packets into the tray.