From Seed to Tree: Determing the Importance of Tiny Details

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SWBAT interpret the meaning of symbolic details in stories.

Big Idea

When students identify the big ideas that come from small details, they are more likely to pay attention to all of the details as they read.


5 minutes

Symbolism is a really important aspect to well written stories. However, it can feel like symbolism might be too abstract of an idea for developing readers to understand. This lesson provides them an opportunity to identify symbolism by using what they have already discovered about important details in the text. 

In the previous lessons, students have been creating theories about the big ideas or themes in the story by slowing down in the slow parts and making connections between sections of the book. In this lesson students are going to notice the really small details, especially the ones that seem to come back over and over again or that made its appearance in the beginning of the story and then again at the end. Then they will ask themselves, "What is the author trying to say by using this detail?" Those small details represent the symbolism in the book.

Main Activity

30 minutes

Next I model how to use the small details to ground the theory in the text. I use the class read aloud, Sing Down the Moon by Scott O-Dell. I think about the small details that seem to keep showing up or that the author has spent some time describing even though they are not a main character or part of the plot. I right those things down, one at a time. For each one, I think out loud, "What is the author telling me about this thing? Why might this be important? How will it help me understand the character or the story better?" I right down my theory in a journal or separate piece of paper. 

The students now get a chance to do the same activity using a detail from the read aloud. I ask students to think about all of the times the author has used this detail and how the author used it. What the was mood and who seemed to be connected to it. I then asked them to share their thinking with a partner before calling on a few students to share with the class.

Finally, students get a chance to practice in their own book club books.


5 minutes

After students have completed their own notes on the book club book, they get a chance to meet with and share their ideas with their book club. The book club should focus on agreeing or disagreeing with their partners, using evidence from the text. Really, they should focus on making the connection between the small details and the importance of them to the message the author is trying to make. Students can add to their notes during and after their meeting.