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 pull out their work packets and sit with their reading partners in the meeting area. Spend a couple of minutes reviewing the work you completed yesterday on point of view. Tell students that today you will focus on the importance of characters’ actions in a story. Ask students to turn to page six of their packets and read the paragraph at the top. Explain that you will read just the beginning and ending of the story before competing the first part of today’s work.
Please re-read to the following points:
- the beginning of the book to the first sticky note (when the dragon has burned the castle and taken Ronald)
- from the second sticky note to the end of the book (Elizabeth enters the cave to the end of the book
When finished, return students’ attention to page six in the their packets and ask the first question, "At the beginning of the story, what is Elizabeth’s plan for Ronald?". Have them quickly turn to their partners and discuss their thoughts. Ask a couple of students to share and then write the following response on the board: “At the beginning of the story, Elizabeth plans to marry Ronald.” Students should copy this into their packets.
Next, ask the second question, “What happens in the story that changes this plan?” Ask them to discuss with their partners and listen for their responses. After a few moments, ask a couple of students to share. I’d be curious to see how many students think that the dragon and its actions change her plan rather than Ronald’s response to her appearance. Should you have several students who respond this way, lead a conversation about the actual causes and effects here. If the dragon burning her castle and belongings caused Elizabeth to not want to marry Ronald, would she have pursued and challenged the dragon? If Ronald would have been thankful and kind to Elizabeth when she came to save him, would they still plan to be married? After discussing, explain that the real reason Elizabeth chooses not to marry Ronald really has nothing to do with the dragon, but her realization that he is a bum! Have students write a complete sentence that reflects this understanding in their packets.
After returning to their work areas, have students complete the rest of page six with their reading partners. Read the directions aloud (in the middle of the page) and ask that they discuss their answers before writing in their packets.
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.