Who is August Wilson? Using THIEVES to Pre-Read an Obituary Informational Text

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SWBAT identify central ideas in August Wilson's biography by using THIEVES graphic organizer to preview and pre-read the title, headings, and main ideas of the text.

Big Idea

Do you want to know more about August Wilson? You must be willing to become THIEVES!

Backward Design and Standards Alignment

Why Read Fences?

For this unit on Fences, my students and I will be working towards writing arguments on a 9th Grade level. We will be looking at the components of an argument: position, claim, counterclaim, evidence and explanation.

Therefore, we want to work along the standard strand over the course of thirteen lessons, from W.6.1a to W.9-10.1a. The Performance Assessment for this unit on Fences by August Wilson will be based on the W.9-10.1a and W.9-10.1b standards. My students will be taking a position on an issue, creating claims and a counterclaim and developing one of their claims using evidence from the text they are reading, Fences, by August Wilson. This assignment will require my students to create two paragraph, an introduction and one body paragraph. My students and I will complete this assignment during twelfth and thirteenth lessons.

For my students and I to move from W.6.1a to W.9-10.a, I need to show them how to develop the outline of a balanced argument with a position, claims and counterclaims as well as how to develop a claim using evidence and explanation.

In addition to working on our writing, I want my student and I to begin to develop our listening and speaking skills. Presently, sharing their ideas in a collegial fashion will require purposeful action on our part. We need to practice mastering this skill on a daily basis. Therefore, I want to work on moving them along the standard strand from SL.6.1d to SL.9-10.1d. . For SL.9-10.1d, we will work on connecting the ideas of several speakers. My students and I will be using discussion starters to build our speaking and listening skills.


Warmup/Do Now

10 minutes


I will start the Warmup with a journal entry because I want my students and I to connect with the idea of a writer using personal experiences as a source for his writing. In addition, I want my students to see the importance of incorporating  C.E.E. - Claim, Evidence, Explanation -  in their writing on a daily basis. This writing activity is aligned to W.6.1a which requires my students to introduce claims and to organize the reasons and evidence clearly. I have chosen this particular writing activity because I want to emphasize the importance of using the C.E.E. format when writing opinion-based responses, as this will be an important skill for my students to master in this unit since they will be writing claims and counterclaims for their performance assessment at the end of the unit (W.9-10.1a). This is a sample of a student response formatted using C.E.E.


Journal Entry #17:

Should a writer write about his own personal experiences or should he write about someone else’s experiences? Explain. Use C.E.E = Claim, Evidence and Explanation to set up your response.


These are samples of students' written responses: Student #1, Student #2 and Student #3


10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, my students and I will be developing their speaking and listening skills, moving from SL.6.1d to SL.9-10.1d.  Today, my students will be reviewing the key ideas expressed by their peers and demonstrating their understanding of the perspectives of their peers through paraphrasing.

We will start with the discussion starters from the discussion ticket. I am choosing to use discussion starters because my students frequently switch from academic language to vernacular speech, and I want them to maintain a formal tone during our conversations. In addition, introducing discussion starters helps to demonstrate effective ways to communicate in a nonthreatening manner.

My student will listen to the oral responses of their peers about whether writers should write about their own personal experiences or about someone else’s experiences. Then, they will choose one discussion starter from the discussion ticket that they would like to complete for one of their peers' responses. They will complete the response and share it with the class.

The discussion starters are listed below:

AGREE: I agree with __________ because...

DISAGREE: I disagree with __________because...

ASK A QUESTION: I would like to ask _______ a question about her opinion. ______________?

EXPLAIN: ___________, can you explain what you meant when you said__________?

ADD TO SOMEONE'S IDEAS: I would like to add the following to ________'s idea. __________


I am including samples of student responses for the share:

Student #1 and #2

Student #3 and #4

Student #5 and #6

Student #7 and #8

Student #9

Engagement: Modeling

15 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I will introduce THIEVES. THIEVES is a pre-reading strategy that helps readers to activate their prior knowledge about a topic, concept or idea that will be discussed in the text they will be reading.

It is important for all students to participate in pre-reading strategies because these activities help them to understand various text structures. It is especially important for my students because they might have forgotten prior lessons on text structures in the lower grades because of gaps in their education due to attendance; therefore I need to ensure that this strategy is enforced during our lesson since we may not have the opportunity to see this skill again in our ten-week cycles.

Today, my students and I will be "skimming" The New York Times Article, August Wilson, Theater's Poet of Black America, is Dead at 60, by Charles Isherwood. THIEVES allows us to survey the text and to get a gist of what the text is talking about.

THIEVES helps readers to answer the following questions:

(a) What is my reason for reading this text?

(b) What important concepts or ideas will I encounter in this text?

During the modeling, my students and I will be using the description of THIEVES and the THIEVES Template.

I will be introducing the use of the appositive in the title of the article as seen in this video: Appositive in the Title - THIEVES

At the end of reading this article, my students will be able to identify their reason for reading the text (which is to learn more about August Wilson's life, his career and his legacy) as well as to identify the key concepts/central ideas in the article (August Wilson's fruitful partnership, his atypical education and his legacy of stars). At the end, students will be writing either informational text about August Wilson or objective summaries focusing on the main ideas in the text. W.9-10.2 and RI.9-10.2

I am choosing to introduce THIEVES to my students even though we will not be using every letter of the acronym for the New York Times article on August Wilson's death because it is an important strategy that they will be able to employ for other texts throughout the term, and one they will find useful for their Social Studies and Science classes as well.

This is the result of the modeling using THIEVES. This is a sample of a student annotation of The New York Times article: Page 4, Page 5, Page 6Aand Page 6B

The acronym THIEVES stands for:

T          Title- Read the title of the article and predict what the article is about.

H         Headings- Look at all headings and sub-headings in the article. 

          Turn them into questions that the text will probably answer.

I           Introduction – Read the introduction of the article and the conclusion.

            Predict the main idea.

E          Everything I Know About It – Think of everything that you have

           seen on television or in the movies, read online or in a book, done in your life

           or know that someone else has done that may relate to this article. Write them below.

V         Visuals – Look at pictures, graphs, diagrams, or maps.

           Read all the notes in the margins and notice bold and italicized words. 

E          End-of-Chapter-Material – (Does not apply)!

S         So What? – Why did the author write this?  Why am I reading this? 

          Why is this important for me to know?



30 minutes

For this part of the lesson, my students and I will be using the results of THIEVES to identify main ideas (RI.9-10.2) and they will be using context clues to predict the meaning of words and verify the actual meaning of these words using a dictionary when necessary (L.9-10.4d)

My students will be reading the New York Times article about August Wilson's life, career and legacy, and they will be using the Main Idea and Supporting Details Graphic Organizer to record main ideas and supporting details and they will be using the Context Clues Graphic Organizer to record predicted meanings of words in the text based on the inferences they gained from the clues given by the writer in the text.

This is the result of the search for main ideas and supporting details using the subheadings. We completed two main ideas on the Main Idea and SD for Class Chart (#1 and #2) and two context clues Context Clues for today's lesson.




10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, students will develop objective summaries  RI.9-10.2 about August Wilson based on the main ideas and supporting details given in the text.

In making this instructional decision, one of the key consideration is whether it is possible to write an objective summary from only reading the title and headings. In other words, shouldn’t writing the objective summary be something that is saved for the reading of the article in its entirety tomorrow?

I want to assess how much leverage my students and I will gain from using THIEVES especially as a pre-reading strategy that supports skimming, and I want to assess whether they will be able to see the main ideas embedded in the subheadings. Then, in subsequent lessons, we can build off of this skill and determine the main idea of the entire article. 

As they develop their objective summaries, my students will analyze the information gathered using the THIEVES Template and the Main Idea and Supporting Details Graphic Organizer.