This year, I’ve challenged myself to rethink my genre instruction so that students gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the three main types. In order to build stronger connections between reading and writing, I reworked my units so that they are completely intertwined and cohesive. Just as with my non-fiction units, you’ll find lessons focused mainly on reading skills in a unit called, “All About Fiction” while those centered around writing skills in a unit called, “Fictional Writing.” In my classroom, both units were taught simultaneously over a nine-week period.
Rather than diving straight into texts, I tried an alternative route to teaching fictional elements this year. At a recent conference, a colleague learned about a comprehension building technique using different types of media (versions of short “texts”) before asking students to demonstrate mastery of skills in actual texts. These could include pictures, commercials, short videos, etc. Drawing from my positive experience using episodes of Scooby Doo to teach predictable plot in an older grade, I was excited to give this a try!
The thought supported my agreement in giving students several experiences with a text before asking them to demonstrate understanding of it. When given several opportunities to examine a text and utilize a different lens during each reading, students can develop strong connections, which enable them to comprehend it more fully. Using this multi-modal approach seemed like the perfect way to incorporate multiple experiences with one “text” before trying our hands at picture books
In my first two lessons, students used picture prompts to think about what is happening in a “text” and who the “story” is mainly about.
I post the picture prompt that we used in our whole group work yesterday and we review what we decided was happening in the picture. Then I ask students to think about who might be telling this story. We begin by eliminating who is not the narrator. One student states that it can’t be the little girl. When I ask why he says that she’s in the picture and it’s not a selfie. Hilarious response, but true nonetheless! I praise him for his observation and agree, it’s not a selfie! “OK, who else cannot be the narrator and why?” Students talk to each other and share their thoughts. I hear several talk about how her dad can’t be the narrator because he’s also in the picture. I ask how they know its her dad. They believe it’s a man because of the hairy legs (again, hilarious to me) and that most kids go to fairs or parks like that with their parents so it’s probably her dad. There’s no way to know this for sure, but I do love their thinking! I let them continue talking until they’ve exhausted their ideas.
Now to decide who is telling the story. Students tell me it’s her mom, grandma, or a friend. I ask them to think about why this person would want to tell this story. Let’s say, for example, it’s the girls mother. Why would she want to tell this story. Students give great responses such as, “It’s the first time she’s ridden this ride and the mom wanted to remember it.”
For a challenge, I ask them to think of someone not related to the little girl who would be at a fair or park like this and would want to tell this story. Students struggle to come up with any ideas so I give them one. “What about the park owner?” I suggest. “Let’s say the narrator is the person who owns the park or runs the fair where the big slide is located. Is this possible?” They all agree that it is. “OK,” I continue, “why would he want to tell this story? Turn and discuss with your partner.” Again I walk the room listening for responses. Some partner pairs are stuck without anything to say while others are chattering away. Because so many are “stuck,” I ask certain pairs to join others in the room so that we now have small groups working together. Within these groups I hear several ideas including, “I think he would want to tell the story to get people to come ride his ride.” I tag on to this idea and ask if they think it might be possible that he would want to post this on his website as a testimonial for how he had the best rides around. This gets the talking more and I travel to the next group.
After each group has had time to share, I bring their attention back to the front of the room. I explain that the activity we just completed was not only determining the narrator, but also will help us in learning about point of view. When a narrator is telling a story, he or she is only telling it from his/her point of view. It’s important to know who the narrator is so that you can understand her side of the story.
I ask students to pull out their notebooks and turn to their work from yesterday. We record today’s date and the title, “Narrator” at the top. I explain that throughout this unit we will look closely at who is telling the story and understanding his point of view, but also learn how to determine our own point of view of what’s happening in a text.
I tell them that today they will work with their reading partner again to analyze the same picture prompt from yesterday. They will discuss who they believe is the narrator and perhaps also talk about who cannot be the narrator. After making their decision, they will discuss the proof for their answers. Last, they’ll decide why this person would want to tell this particular story.
Students sit next to their partners and retrieve their pictures from the bag. First, they talk through each of the prompts and share their ideas. Once they have answered each of the questions, they begin recording their thoughts on paper.
Once all groups were finished, I had each pair join with another to share their work. They showed their picture first and then read through their notes.