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 how characters’ actions affect the events in a story. Tell students that today you will decide what lessons we can learn from the actions of each of these characters.
Read the paragraph at the top of page seven in the packet. Tell students that they will work together to determine a lesson that can be learned from how Elizabeth handles a situation in the book. Ask students to choose one of the following to talk about with their partners:
- how Elizabeth reacts to the dragon burning down her home and taking Ronald away
- how Elizabeth plans to get Ronald back
- how Elizabeth responds to Ronald’s rude behavior after she beats the dragon
Allow students to talk for a few moments about Elizabeth’s actions and then ask a few students to share their thoughts with the class. Use those responses to lead students in a discussion about what we could learn from her actions. For instance, if students talk about how Elizabeth continued to trick the dragon until he finally collapsed, then you could talk about how a possible lesson might be, “Don’t give up on working for what you want even when it becomes difficult.” Encourage students to come up with a lesson that is in a complete sentence. When you’ve come up with a good sentence, write it on the board and ask students to write the same in their packets. Then support the lesson using examples from the text.
After returning to their work areas, have students complete the rest of page seven with their reading partners. As they work, walk the room offering help where 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.