Charlotte's Web: How does it all begin?

42 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT ask and answer questions about key details in a literary text.

Big Idea

Questions are a great way to begin a story. As students embark on their introduction to Charlotte's Web, they will get practice asking comprehension-deepening questions about the key details.


10 minutes


For the next couple of weeks, I will be engaging my students with the chapter book, Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, for various reasons. One reason is that my students need to know how to navigate a chapter book and its components. A second reason is that I want to give my students the experience of reading more complex text. A third reason is that I want my students to understand how characters transform over time as they experience different types of challenges and conflict. This is a great narrative to explore those ideas.

I will be taking on a larger role with the reading of the first chapters, though my students will each have a copy of the text even at the beginning. As we progress through the story, I will expect students to take on a more independent reading role.

Today, after introducing the chapter, we will spend time reading chapter one: "Before Breakfast." I will engage the students with some text dependent questions.

After the reading, I will gather the students on the rug to discuss the story elements and what students have learned about the plot in this chapter.

Finally, I will have students recount the first chapter.

On the Rug:

Today, I am starting with my students on the rug. I am introducing the book by playing a game. First, I ask them what they know about chapter books. I ask them to ask their partner: What is a chapter book? After they share with their partner, I have a few share out loud. Next, I am having them guess the title of the book by having them ask yes or no questions. They will need to pay attention to the clues I give them to try to figure out the name of the chapter book.  I have placed all 21 copies of the book in a large bag ready to be opened as soon as they guess.

Browsing the Chapter Book

5 minutes

This is the first time I am reading a chapter book with the students. Thus, I feel it is important to have them browse it. I give them direction to take time and notice what the different features of this chapter book. My expectation is that they notice the table of contents and the manner in which the chapters are listed. Also, the black and white illustrations and the back cover which gives readers a summary of the storyline.

Once they are done browsing on their own, I ask them to turn to their table partner and ask each other, "What do you notice about the chapter book?" Someone notices a pig and a girl.

Discussion of the features of the chapter book

7 minutes

I am taking the time to discuss the features of the chapter book because in looking closely at the structure of this chapter book I am deepening my students' knowledge of chapter books.

The table of contents lists the different chapters with Roman numerals and I want my students to notice them. I want my students to notice when this year was written because I want them to understand how long ago it was written and that the book is considered a classic. I am hoping that they notice the back jacket, if they do not, then I will point it out to them.

It will be interesting to see what they notice and what questions they have about the book.

Making Predictions and Asking Questions

7 minutes

To help my students think about the chapter we will be reading, I am asking them to make a prediction. Then, I am asking them write two questions they have about it. For homework, I will be having them confirm their prediction and answer the two questions. To do so, they will need to reread the chapter. Here are examples of their work:

Homework Confirming Prediction Anwersing Questions

HW Good Job of Explaining

HW Good Job of Explaining What Actually Happened

Good Homework Response

Good Answering Questions

To write their predictions, I am asking them to use one of the following sentence starters:

1. I think...

2. I predict... 

Reading chapter one: Before Breakfast, with text dependent questions

25 minutes

Now, I will lead the students in reading the first chapter. I will do most of the reading. There will be a couple of times when I engage the students in a cloze reading technique. This technique involves me leaving words out for my students to read chorally. I resort to this technique to make sure students are engaged.

I ask a few text dependent questions. To keep the reading flowing, most of the questions come after reading half the page or the entire page.

For example, after reading page 1, I ask the students:

1. Who are characters we met?

2. Where is the father going with ax?

3. What is the father want to do with ax? Why?

These questions answer what the the text explicitly states. They also serve as a good summary for the page. In asking these questions, I am making sure the students are paying attention to the key details of the beginning of the story.

As we read, I will encourage my students to ask questions of their own. In addition, if they have questions about vocabulary words, I will ask them to use context clues. If the context clues are not enough, I will give them the definition. I will do this to maintain the flow of the reading.

Socratic Seminar

10 minutes

During Socratic Seminar, I gather the students on the rug. They sit in a circle around the edges of the carpet. In this way, everyone can see one another. This is a time to discuss ideas about what we are reading. It is a time to also practice their listening and speaking skills. All students are expected to participate whether they share or not. What that means is that everyone needs to pay attention to what is being shared. The Socratic Seminar rules are posted. 

To move from one student sharing to another, I have taught my students a handing off technique and have charted discussion starters for them to use. Once a student is done sharing, the student states, "I hand off to____." Then the other student gets to share.

Today's discussion is about the key details of chapter one. I ask, who are the characters? Where does the story take place? What is the setting? What is happening in this chapter?

Earlier in the lesson, I shared with the students when this book was written and the way I want to bring that back into the conversation is by asking them:

"How do we know this story was written in the past?"

I am expecting students to refer back to the character Avery. I am hoping students refer to the air rifle and the wooden dagger and how he brings the air rifle to school. It will be interesting to see what else catches their attention.

Lastly, I am attaching a document that fully details how I implement the process of Socratic Seminar in my classroom.

Recounting the first chapter

15 minutes

To keep in line with what was discussed during Socratic Seminar, now I am asking the students to recount chapter one. This will be the first time recounting a chapter. I am asking them to recount using five sentences. I am walking around monitoring and providing assistance when needed.

These are some examples of their work:

Basic Recounting, But Gets Gist of Chapter

Good Recounting

Needs More Details About the Middle part

Some Good Details in Recounting