Ever get that sickening feeling when you have to be out of the classroom for more than a day at a time? Your lessons have been going well, things are clicking with students, and then in the middle of a unit you have to be out for one reason or another? You’ve arranged for a substitute, but don’t know if they have any background in your content area?
About two weeks into my fiction unit, I was scheduled to be out for several days to attend a conference. At that point, students had learned enough to be familiar with fiction elements, but definitely hadn’t mastered them yet. While I was thrilled to attend my conference, I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of leaving my kids with little instruction for the better part of a week.
So I decided to create a packet that accompanied a well-loved picture book that was easy to follow and reviewed the concepts we had covered so far. I made sure to include a little extra dialogue on each day’s assignment page so that students received clear directions no matter what. The lessons that follow were written as my directions for a substitute. The text we’re using is The Paper Bag Princess (Munsch, R. (1986). The paper bag princess. Toronto, Ontario: Annick Press, Ltd.
Ask students to sit with their reading partners in the meeting area. Explain that over the next few days, you will review the concepts we’ve learned about fictional elements. Each day you will read the text, The Paper Bag Princess (Munsch, R. (1986). The paper bag princess. Toronto, Ontario: Annick Press, Ltd.), with a different focus in mind, just as we did with our video short, "One Man Band" (Andrews & Jimenez, 2005). Today’s focus is on character traits. Remind students that a character trait is a word that describes someone on the inside or describes their personality.
Before reading the text, tell students that they are going to meet a strong character named Elizabeth. There are several traits that we could assign her including brave, determined, and clever. As students listen to you read, ask them to focus on the trait, “brave.” First ask students what it means to be brave. Write one response on the board. Ask them to keep this word in mind as they listen to the story. When you finish, you will ask students to tell you a specific action from Elizabeth that shows she is brave.
After reading the entire text, ask students to turn to their partners and talk about how Elizabeth was brave in the story. When they have shared, ask them to turn back to the front and review what you “heard.” Write these responses on the board:
Elizabeth is brave. I know she is brave because she confronted the dragon and asked him to free Ronald. This proves she is brave because she isn’t afraid to go after a fierce dragon all by herself.
Explain that you organized your answer in this way:
- identified a character trait for Elizabeth
- supported your answer with actual evidence from the text (something Elizabeth did)
- explained how your support fits the character trait
Tell students that they will work with their partners to continue this work with the traits, “determined” and “clever.” Briefly ask students what those two words mean. If they are unsure, help them with definitions or examples. Last, they will work independently to come up with their own character trait for Elizabeth, supporting actions, and explanation of their answers.
Pass out a packet to each student. Reading partners will work together to complete the rest of page one. Please give each partnership a copy of the text to use for their support. While they work, please circulate the room offering help when needed.
To close the lesson, ask students to share their work at their tables. If you found examples of excellent thinking while walking the room earlier, please share these with the entire class. When finished, ask students to place their work packets in the “R” section of their binders for use tomorrow.