Getting to Know the Main Character

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

Big Idea

Why has Ping being unable to grow his flower? Every child's flower has bloomed. Will he face the Emperor with his empty pot? Let's find out.


5 minutes

Summary and Context

A major shift with the Common Core State Standards is teaching students to value text evidence. It includes teaching students how to go back into the text to find the details that answer their question(s). In order for students to gain mastery of this skill, practice and explicit instruction are needed. Given that I teach English Language Learners, I have found that lots of opportunities to practice honing in on text evidence is helpful. They need both multiple opportunities to practice the skill and a variety of texts to practice with for mastery.

Today, we are reading the second part of the Chinese folktale: The Empty Pot. The story is lengthy and to make this a manageable task for my students, I broke up the reading into two parts. Yesterday, we read the first half of the story. Today we will read the second half.

I will start with students on the rug to review what they read yesterday. Then, we will engage in reading with text dependent questions. Sometimes, I will read aloud as they follow, and, other times, I will ask them to read silently. I have found that text dependent questions serve various purposes. First, they are designed to give the students a purpose when rereading. Second, they are designed to get the students to use evidence from the text/story to support their answers. Thus, in asking these types of questions, I am helping to deepen their comprehension.

After we read and think about our questions, we will move back to the rug for Socratic Seminar. We will sit in a circle, around the edges of the carpet. I will review the rules with them and will proceed with discussing one or two ideas about the story.

After that, the students will reflect in writing with a guided question that further deepens their understanding.

Last, I will gather the students back on the rug to share their learning with their peers.

Lesson Opening:

I share the objective with student friendly language: I can ask and answer text dependent questions to understand what the storyline is about.

Then, I say: "Boys and girls yesterday we read the first part of The Empty Pot. Before reading the rest of the story, let's review what we read yesterday."

I ask them to turn to their partners engage them in a Think-Pair-Share. They ask each other, "What happened in the first part of the story?"

After that, a few will share out loud to the whole group.

Reading with Text Dependent Questions

25 minutes

Text dependent questions encourage students to reread because, in order for them to find the answers, they need to find the evidence in the text. To help them accomplish this task, I write the following question on the white board: Where in the text do you find support for your answer?

I remind them that the illustrations can and should be used to answer their questions.

The text dependent questions for this reading are about understanding what the text explicitly states. For example, some questions ask them to think about what is happening with Ping, the main character, and how he musters courage to bring an empty pot to the Emperor. These questions set the foundation for later readings with more challenging questions that ask for implicit meaning of the text and analysis.

The meaning of unknown words will also be analyzed using context clues and/or using the illustrations. If a word cannot be defined clearly with context clues, for the sake of time, I will define it for them. The story is both quite old and translated, so there is some antiquated language that I feel isn't as relevant to spend time on. Also, I remind them that we will be rereading the story in the next couple of days and will have a chance to revisit some of the words to obtain a deeper meaning and understanding.

I use three different methods to read the text: I read aloud and they follow, I read with a cloze reading (I read parts of the text and leave a word out, which they read chorally), and I have them read silently. After engaging in one of these methods for a particular section, I will follow up with the questions.

At the start of our discussion of the questions, I have them work with their table partner. Students choose who is Partner A and who is Partner B. Then, I ask Partner A to ask Partner B the question I give them. I will repeat this so that both students get to ask each other a question.

Additionally, my students will use post-its to answer questions. They have these post-its in their pencil boxes and I will modify as needed.

I have attached the list of the Text Dependent Questions for this part of the story.

Socratic Seminar

12 minutes

Once on the rug, I will review the rules for participation. The rules are listed as well as discussion starters on a Handing-Off Chart to help them enter the conversation.

The reason that Socratic Seminar is helpful is that it teaches the students how to discuss ideas coherently and build their speaking and listening skills. I prompt the discussion with two questions:

  1. What did we learn about Ping from the text?
  2. Why are the words that Ping's father says to him important to Ping and to the storyline?

I have these questions written on a chart paper. I place the chart on the easel. I have students discuss one question at a time.

Both questions ask them to refer back to the text with evidence that supports their answers. After prompting them with each question, I ask them: Where in the text do you find support for your answer

The first question asks for explicit meaning of the text, while the second question asks for more implicit meaning of the text. It is with these type of questions that I am helping them deepen their comprehension of the text.

I have attached a document that gives more details about how I implement Socratic Seminar in my classroom.

Independent Writing Response

12 minutes

Now students spend time reflecting in writing whether they believe Ping is worthy of being emperor and to provide reasons as to why or why not.

Before they start writing, I review the linguistic opinion sentence starters, which we have learned in previous writing lessons.

The chart includes:

  • In my opinion...because...
  • I believe...because...
  • I feel...because...
  • I think...because...

I also remind them to use transitional phrases such as:

  • One reason...
  • Another reason...
  • Also,...
  • Finally,...

Writing is an integral part of the learning process. It allows students to synthesize what they have learned. I will remind students to use the text and the illustrations to support their reasons.

Here are some of their writing responses.

Whole Group Sharing

7 minutes

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

When students share, they receive feedback. This is the system I use to make the feedback 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.