Mother Figures: Fern and Charlotte

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SWBAT analyze the development of characters using key details from the text.

Big Idea

Love saves Wilbur. Today we analyze one big theme from Charlotte's Web: how powerful a mother's love can be.


7 minutes

Context and Overview:

Today, we will look at the relationship between Fern and Wilbur and Charlotte and Wilbur. Why? First, these three characters are the main characters in the story. Both Fern and Charlotte play mother figures to Wilbur something the students need to understand, and I want to make clear how Charlotte replaces Fern as the story evolves. This character development again needs to be analyzed because of the influence Charlotte has on Wilbur and his development.

To analyze their roles, I am giving the students a large piece of construction paper folded in half, one side for Fern & Wilbur and the other side for Charlotte & Wilbur. To analyze Fern's relationship, I am asking the students to think back about what has happened between them. Once I am done, I will ask the students to think about what has happened between Wilbur and Charlotte. To gather more evidence we will read the chapter, "Good Progress."

To further discuss their roles, I will engage the students in Socratic Seminar.

Then, students will write about why these characters are important.

Finally, students will share.

Lesson Opening:

I start on the rug and I share the objective for the lesson. Then, I will ask the students to think back about what has happened so far in the story. I give my students a few moments of "think time," before I ask them to share with their partners. Afterwards, some will share out loud about what we have read up to this point in the story.

Analyzing Fern's Relationship with Wilbur

15 minutes

I have the students title one side of their paper: Fern and Wilbur and the other side: Charlotte and Wilbur. I created a large chart to guide the students with this process.

To understand Fern's relationship with Wilbur, I am asking students to think back about what has happened between them. I give them some think time and then call on them to share. I will list the examples on the chart. After we list between 5-7 details, I will have them record them on their paper.

I am looking for details that tell about how Fern saves Wilbur, how she feeds him, and plays with him.

I give my students time to transcribe their responses because they will be using this information to write later on. Once we are done with Fern, we will proceed with Charlotte. I make sure I give my students a few moments to stretch and move before proceeding on with Charlotte.

Here are some examples of their notes:

Note Taking Example

Another Example of Notetaking

Reading Good Progress to Analyze Wilbur and Charlotte's Relationship

25 minutes

Then, we will proceed with analyzing Charlotte's relationship with Wilbur. To do this, I ask the students again to think about about what has happened between them so far. I list their responses on the chart. I give them time to record their responses.

To continue analyzing Charlotte's relationship with Wilbur, we now read the chapter, "Good Progress." This chapter gives more details about how Charlotte mothers Wilbur.

So as we read, we will add to the chart. I will give my students time to transcribe the information. I will ask my students questions after certain parts of the chapter.

For example, the chapter starts with Charlotte working late into the night to write TERRIFIC on her web.

Quesitons to ask:

1. What is Charlotte doing for Wilbur? Why?

Charlotte sends a reluctant Templeton off to the dump.


1. What is Charlotte doing for Wilbur? Why?

On page 101, ask:

1. How does Charlotte look at Wilbur? 

2. What does Charlotte tell Wilbur?

On page 104, ask:

1. What does Charlotte sing to Wilbur?

These questions hone in on the mother type relationship Charlotte has with Wilbur.

Here are some of their notes:





Socratic Seminar

10 minutes

I gather the students on the rug. I ask them to take a moment and to look at their paper and review the information before we begin our discussion.

Just like other Socratic Seminar time, I review the why we are gathered and the rules for participation. Then I hand off after I pose the question to the group.

For this discussion, I ask:

1. What did you discover about Fern and Charlotte and their relationship with Wilbur?

2. Why are these characters important in the story?

3. How are they alike/different?

All three questions need to be answered with evidence from the text. There is no way to avoid it. In creating the questions, I make sure the students refer back to the text, it is part of our Socratic Seminar process and what the CCSS demand.

Here is some of our discussion:

How Are Fern & Charlotte Alike During Socratic Seminar

Why Are These Characters Important

Independent Writing

20 minutes

Now students are integrating their knowledge of the characters in their writing. I ask them to write about how Fern and Charlotte are alike. As they write, I walk around and offer assistance as needed. I remind students to use transitional words. The transition words are written on the white board for them to easily access. I walk to nudge students to start if they are procrastinating. 

I offer help with spelling words or to redirect for evidence in the text.

Here are some of their writing entries:

Both Like Wilbur

They Are Kind to Wilbur

They Both Love Wilbur

Wilbur is Liked By both

Writing Comparing Fern & Charlotte

Yes Wilbur Acts Like A Baby

Whole Group Sharing

7 minutes

Now my students communicate their learning with the class. I am intentional about who I select to share. Their writing meets the task. The audience give the speakers feedback with two stars and a wish. 

•Two Stars: Two different students share what they specifically like about the content of the writing.

•A Wish: Another student shares specifically how they think the writing can be improved.

Here are the speakers and their work:

How Are Fern & Charlotte Alike

Charlotte & Fern Are Alike According to This Student

How Are Fern & Charlotte Alike1

How Are Fern & Charlotte Alike2

Sharing How Charlotte & Fern Are Alike