Getting to Know the Setting

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SWBAT ask and answer text dependent questions to understand key details about a literary text.

Big Idea

An Emperor who is very old needs a successor. How will he choose? He decides to let the flowers choose. How will this work out? Come and find out!


5 minutes

Summary and Context

Giving students opportunities to read a variety of texts is vital for the students to become proficient readers. At a basic level, students must be able to navigate easily through both fiction and nonfiction. Today, we are reading the Chinese folktale of The Empty Pot, by Demi. The story is too long for my students to read all at once. That is why I am dividing the first read into two parts. As I read with them, I will be posing text dependent questions. These questions ask them to go back into the text to find the answer. My expectation is that they take a moment to reread so that they are able to accomplish the task.

Then, I will gather the students on the rug for Socratic Seminar. During this time, we discuss key details about the characters, setting, and plot.

Students will then have the opportunity to integrate their learning in writing.

Afterwards, some students will share out loud with their peers.

Lesson Opening:

I introduce the student friendly objective: "I can ask and answer questions key details about the plot."

Routines are vital in helping students integrate their learning. That is why I continuously ask them to read the objective with me chorally. It allows me focus them on the expectation of the lesson.

Then, I ask them to think about they know about folktales. I ask them to pair share first before a few share out loud.

Reading with Text Dependent Questions

25 minutes

Next, the students sit at their desks. There is a table of contents in the compilation from which our story comes, so, to give them practice with navigating this text feature, I ask them to open to it and to let me know when they find where the story begins. Embedding the practice helps them learn how to use text features. At this stage, there is no such thing as too much practice.

I have created text dependent questions for this first read. That means I took the time to read and reread the story ahead of time to create questions that will help them understand the plot. Since this is the first read, all questions ask about what the text explicitly states (students must first understand what is happening in the text before they are asked questions that call on them to analyze or evaluate the text). I like to brainstorm more questions ahead of time than I will need to ask when we are in the lesson. That way I can pick and choose the best questions that will be most helpful to students in understanding the text and being able to hone in on the important details. I invite you to read the story and decide which questions would help your students answer key details about the plot.

As I read, I will monitor how to proceed with the reading. There will be times when I speed up the reading and there will be times when I slow down the reading. It depends on how they are responding to the questions.

For the reading, I will include a cloze reading activity as well--as I read, I leave a word out and students read the left out word chorally. This keeps the students engaged in the text.

As I read with the students, sometimes, I will ask them to answer the questions orally, and, other times, I ask them to answer the questions on post its. I like to keep the experience interactive. In both cases, they need to refer back to the text in order to answer them.

Socratic Seminar

15 minutes

Socratic Seminar allows us to integrate the information the students are learning on a deeper and more interactive level. Students need much practice. That is why I use this technique often.

This time is about discussing ideas that are steeped in text evidence. My questions guide the discussion. We review the rules for participation and my students can reference the Handing-Off Chart to help them join the conversation.

Today's focus is on the setting. The reason I chose the setting is because my students need practice with descriptive language, and, in describing the setting, they need to use the text and the illustrations. I am curious about whether they can demonstrate understanding of how to use the illustrations to add meaning to what they are reading. 

Analyzing the Setting:

1. When does the story take place: in the past, present or future?

2. Where does the story take place?

3. What is the place like?

4. Does this setting make sense for the story? Why or why not?

I have attached another document that goes into more details about how I implement Socratic Seminar in my classroom.

Independent Writing

20 minutes

I work to make connections for my students between reading, discussing, and writing so that they walk away with a deeper understanding of the plot. I also work to draw attention to how certain elements of a story bring a deeper meaning to the plot. In this case, the illustrations are very important because they provide the reader with more details. And in my experience my students need this type of direction. That is why I am having them hone in on the setting and for them to use both the text and the illustrations to respond to the following:

  • What is the setting?
  • Why is this a good setting for the story?

I make my presence known during this time by walking around and giving assistance as needed. Some students need support with finding their materials, others need support with simple things like writing the date, while others may have a question about the text. Knowing the type of support to offer depends on us knowing our students. We need to be ready to prevent procrastination and/or distractions.

A couple techniques I use to get their attention and redirect them is:

  1. Tapping gently on their shoulder and asking them, "How can I help you?"
  2. Probing their progress by saying to them, "Tell me where you are at."

Here is a compilation of their work: The Empty Pot.

Whole Group Sharing

5 minutes

Lastly, I gather the students on the rug and give them an opportunity to share with their peers what they have learned about the setting.

When students share, they receive feedback. This is the system I use for peer-to-peer feedback to make the process safe and fun:

  • Two Stars: Two different students share what they specifically like about the content of the writing.
  • A Wish: Another student shares specifically how they think the writing can be improved.