As a First grade teacher I know that children love to be read to, and, in many instances, they like to imagine themselves as the main character. Before common core, students were required to identify the main characters, and maybe make a comment about him/her being smart or brave, and that would be pretty much it. It would seem that would be enough for First graders. If it were there would be a lot more complacent teachers, and students missing out on the richness characterization and personality brings to a literary text.
Common Core Connection:
I choose Morse the Moose, by Bernard Wiseman as the introductory story for this week’s unit that will focus on CCRA for Reading 3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text, because Morse is a very animated character with a very likable personality.
In today’s lesson I will read a long time childhood favorite, Morris the Moose to give my students an opportunity to explore the personality of the main characters (RL.1.3: describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text).
Morse the Moose, by Bernard Wiseman
Moose Pictures Power Point (teacher created): Moose Pictures
My students were in their chairs when I started this morning’s lesson by asking them to describe a moose to me. I gave them a moment to think about what a moose was, and then called on hands for students to share their answers with the class. Other than knowing it was an animal, my students didn't really know what a moose was. To give them a basic understanding I showed them a Moose Pictures on the Promethean board. While my students studied the pictures I asked them to describe what they noticed about the moose. As my little ones called out their observations about size, color, and where they observed the moose lived I wrote them on the Promethean board.
When they were finished describing the moose on the Promethean board, I told them they had just described the physical characteristics of the character I was going to read to them about. However before I actually started reading I asked them to carefully look at the pictures of the moose displayed on the Promethean board and to think about if they met a real moose, how would it be? To help them further, I continued by giving them ‘hints’ such as: “would a moose be silent and strong” or “would he be jumpy and loud”? With those hints my students decided a moose was a large quiet animal who likes to be alone. I thought that last part interesting and had to ask why they thought the moose liked to be alone. The response was almost unanimous as my students called out, because the pictures only show one moose. This was a good sign, because it meant my students were describing the pictures using key details!
From there I introduced Morse the Moose, telling my students right off that Morse is the main character in the story. I further told them that after I read the story they were going to have the opportunity to describe him using more than just his physical traits. As I read I instructed my students to:
As I read, I showed my students the pictures and stopped on selected pages to give my students the opportunity to point out things that Morse said or did.
When I finished reading I told my students they were going to have a chance to describe Morse to their table partner; however, they could not tell their table partner that: “he has two eyes and eats food”. I expounded on this by explaining they were to think about: “what made Morse, Morse, or what type of person would Morse be if he were a person”? I also modeled how to back up my thinking with evidence from the text: "Morse is ___ because ___." After a moment to think about Morse, I directed my students to share with their table partner.
When they were finished sharing I used the magic cup (see demonstration video Magic Cup Demonstration) to call on students to share with the class how he/she and his/her partner described Morse. As my students shared how they described Morse, I wrote their responses on the Promethean board. I anticipated nearly all of the responses my students gave except the description that Morse was a ‘bully’. When I asked one little guy what made Morse a bully, he responded that Morse was a bully because he kept telling the other animals they were something else. “That’s what bullies do Ms. Collins”. Several students showed me they agreed with this statement by showing me a thumb up.
At this point I decided to stop and give a little 'background' about Morse the Moose. I began by reminding my students bullies were generally 'mean' and asked my little ones if Morse seemed mean to them. Using the text and pictures I showed my students that Morse does not look mean or mad in any of the pictures. Most of my students agreed Morse was not really being mean. However, one student pointed out that he was not being very smart. With that comment I said: "So could we describe Morse as being 'silly'"? My students agreed and we decided that Morse was a silly moose.
Once finished with this 'mini lesson' I moved to the collaboration part of the lesson.
As I removed their list from the Promethean board I told my students they were going to work in pairs to describe Morse. I gave my students a minute to find a partner and to decide where they would sit, explaining they had to sit at one of the partner’s table (choosing a partner required them to temporally change where they sat). Once they were situated I showed them a blank white paper I had already folded in thirds. I explained whose ever desk they were sitting at would be the student writing. I directed my students to write their names on the top of the paper and then label each section ‘looks like’, ‘where lives’, and ‘character’. I also showed a sample of what their labeled paper should look like on the Promethean board. Once they finished labeling I gave them a moment to talk to their partner about Morse and what they would write in each section. The picture, Partner Work, is a sample of a finished work sample. As they began writing I circled to room to make sure they were sharing and working to finish the activity. When they finished writing I had them draw a picture of a moose, as seen in the sample, Moose.
I use journal writing a lot for independent practice because writing helps students synthesis and evaluate new ideas, and to express themselves creatively. In today’s lesson I instructed my students to describe what type of ‘person’ Morse was. The accompanying video, Journal Check, is a student in my high reading group who had her ideas down, but still struggled with unfamilar words. Her classmates were able to help her out.
As my students finished working with me in our differentiated leveled reading group I gave them a sticker if they could tell me one character trait of Morse the Moose and where in the text they found that trait.