Ouch! There's a Pea Under the Mattress! (Lesson 1 of 3)

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SWBAT recount and a fable from a diverse culture, inferring events and determining the theme of the story.

Big Idea

Three stories! Compare, Constrast and Infer the Ideas!



I chose this classic fable because the themes and characters repeat throughout literature. My kids need to know the classics and how those plot lines and ideas are part of literature's rich history.

Many of my kids knew this story, but before we start comparing versions of the fable, they need to review to start us all at the same learning point. This version is nice and clear, although the reading level is high so I read it aloud to the kids. My goal here is inferring - I want the kids to make conclusions (inferences), based on text and schema and support their inferences with text and illustrations. 

This is the first in the series of inference lessons where I compare this fable. The other 2 lessons include Ouch There's a Pea Under My Saddle and Ouch What is That Pea Thinking? These lessons all address how to infer with scaffolding skills of using an inference starter and lead toward more independence with each lesson.  We are looking at these three versions of this fable from different cultural standpoints. Our goal is to use inferencing and also compare and contrast these versions, looking at author's and cultural viewpoint. I want the students to see how different countries and authors in different time periods looked at this classic theme and presented the characters in different ways. (RL.2.9)

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Common starting point

  • "We have been talking about inferencing and how to use schema and evidence from the text to figure out what is happening." Refer to the poster.
  • "We will be reading 3 versions of a fable about a princess who could not sleep."  Show the powerpoint pictures.
  • "Does anyone know this story?"  (Powerpoint slide 1-2)  Review where it's from and the author - it will help to compare to the other versions.  This is a great connection to other disciplines (geography), a shift in cross-curricula teaching emphasized by the Common Core Standards.
  • Here's a video so you can see how I introduced the lesson.


Take a few moments to review or discuss inferencing. My students had one lesson about this topic, but this is the beginning of a unit that will go in depth about the reading strategy. It's important that kids understand the developing inferences requires schema and evidence from the text. (RL.2.1) In this lesson, we'll go beyond the inference in the parts of the story to identify a theme as well. (RL.2.2)

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson-use the powerpoint slides

  • "Fables are very old stories that have a theme or central message that helps us. Many of these stories have versions that come from other countries and are written in different languages."
  • "As we read different versions of this fable over the next 3 days, we can see how the authors viewed the character and theme of each story in different ways."
  • "I'll read this version today and we'll infer what is happening. These inferences will build up to the theme of the story. The theme is what the story is about." (Show the powerpoint slides 3-5.)  Here's our discussion of the theme.


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • "Inferring means I use my schema and evidence from the text. Let me read part of the story and I'll write down this information to make a good inference."
  • Read through the first four pages and stop. The evidence from the text is that "the prince met many princesses!". My schema is 'when I can't pick which toy I want, mom says I'm picky." I'm going to infer that the 'prince is picky'.  I got that idea from the illustrations so I'll write a 'I' on the strip."
  • "Let me try one more." Look at the illustration on the next 2 pages.  "My evidence is the text said 'there were 20 mattresses and 20 blankets'. My schema is that my bed with one mattress is short. I'm going to infer that 'the bed is really tall'. I'll write that on my colored strip and put an 'T' for text."
  • This is the whiteboard when I was done.


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Help me put down another inference." Read through the page that starts with, 'Then they knew...'
  • "What is the evidence that we've read?" Take ideas- 'He had found the princess'."
  • Students may need some help sorting out inferences from predictions. I did try to focus on inferences only. Here's our discussion when we contrasted the strategies.
  • "What is our schema?" Take ideas - when Cinderella found a princess he got married."
  • "What can we infer?' Take ideas - 'They know they are getting married.'. Since I used text, I'll write 'T'.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

  • "Now it's your turn to make some inferences."
  • Read 1-2 pages at a time and let the kids make some inferences as you pause. They can write them on the colored strips. Remember to have them write a 'T' or 'I' to show their evidence. Here's a picture of the students writing inferences.
  • We had some great discussions, including why the queen put the pea  in the mattress, what was happening at the wedding and about the servants using the lanterns.
  • By the time you're done, they should have 6-10 inferences.


Discuss the theme

  • "Now that we have lots of great inferences, let's think about a theme."
  • "What's the 'big idea' for this story? What message is the author trying to share?"
  • Take ideas and pass out the colored paper.
  • The kids had a hard time with this discussion, so I listed some theme ideas on the board for them to choose.

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Describe the task

  • "Now that you have inferences and a theme, let's make a visual - a bed for the princess." This is my drawing of the bed.
  • "You have colored strips and a big piece of paper. Draw the bed on the bottom. Then write your inferences on the strips and glue them on so they look like mattresses on a bed-pile them up. Make sure that we can see all of the inferences. The inferences that we made in the story 'pile up' to help us determine the theme of a story. You can write the them on the poster too."
  • This is my explanation of how to make the project.


Students make the project  


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

Students with language challenges may find this a difficult task because we are going beyond the text. Of all the reading strategies, I find this the hardest for my kids. They are asked to 'read between the lines' and then verbalize their inferences. They offer predictions or stay very literal (She will get married), but need support with a true inference. They worked with partners and I provided spelling help by writing the words on the board.

Those with more academic ability should be able to really demonstrate some good language with inference. They will hopefully make some good statements and provide clear evidence in their statements with some higher level vocabulary. I would 'raise the bar' with them and share your expectations.  "I'll be walking around listening to ideas about your inferences. Make sure there is evidence in your inferences."  One of my students offered, "She is a real princess because the illustration showed he hurt her back."