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. In these five lessons, students move up to using a short video to continue analyzing elements.
Of all the lessons this week, I’m most excited to see students’ work from today’s lesson. Again, we are using the short film we’ve used all week. I explain to students that we’ll use the video today to learn about point of view. When we began our fiction unit, we used photo prompts to decide the narrator of our “story.” We talked about potential voices that could be telling the story that was happening in the picture. Today, I explain, we’ll examine characters’ reactions to four events to begin our practice with point of view.
I ask students to think of a time when they got in trouble for something they didn’t do. Hands shoot up around the room. Because so many students want to share, I have them turn and share with their neighbors while I scout out a good example. While listening, I hear one student talk about a time he was blamed for something that another student in the room did. As he shared, the other students at the table became really animated agreeing with the "innocent" student and helping to fight his cause! Bingo! This is the perfect example to share. I call students’ attention back to the front of the room and ask the student to share his story. As he begins, the other student involved begins laughing. This second student is quite the prankster and remembers this incident well. After a few seconds, however the second student jumps in and begins to tell his side of the story. Before long, every student in the room who was present during the episode has something to say about that day. I sit back and watch! When they finish, I explain that this was a perfect example of point of view. Everyone witnessed one event in a classroom, yet there are several different versions of what happened that day. Point of view can be thought of as one person’s, or character’s, side of a story.
While we watch the video today, I want you to think about how each character is feeling or thinking at that moment. I will stop the video four times and each time I want you to put yourself in each person’s shoes and tell me what they are thinking or feeling at that moment.
I start the video from the beginning and stop it at each of the points below (the times included are using the Vimeo link and not the actual video). At each stopping point, I ask students to write down what each character involved was thinking at the time. For instance, at the first stop, only the little girl and the first One Man Band was involved so students would only complete those boxes.
1. The little girl is about to drop her coin in the One Man Band’s cup when she hears a noise. (1:12)
2. The One Man Band cracks his knuckles as the little girl begins to drop her coin in the second man’s hat. (1:37)
3. The little girl’s coin has fallen through the grate and lost from them all. (3:02)
4. A stranger has dropped a bag of money at the little girl’s feet after hearing her play the violin. (3:50).
Once the video has played, I have students share their notes with their tables. As they work, I walk the room listening to their conversations.
To close the lesson, I share a couple of great answers I overheard while walking the room. I remind students that we learned how different characters could have opposite views of the same event. By examining these views, we can learn more about the plot and the characters themselves in a text.
I praise all students for their excellent thinking and ask that they put their work packets in their binders for use tomorrow.