What's happening in the story? Day 1 of 2

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SWBAT to ask and answer questions about a literary text to understand key details.

Big Idea

Who is Tomas? Where are they going is a rusty old car? Do we meet the Library Lady? The answers lie in this heartwarming text.


10 minutes

Summary and Context

Today I will engage my students in a close reading of a narrative that we will focus on throughout this unit. The narrative has a complex storyline. I will be asking text-dependent questions to help the students go back to the text for the answers. Text-dependent are questions that can only be answered with evidence from the text. So I will review with them the word “evidence,” again. This is the first reading of the story so the questions will be based on what the text explicitly says. Later lessons will dive in deeper into the author's craft and structure and then evaluation and analysis of the text. Also, the story is 24 pages long so reading the whole story in one day would be too much for them. That is why I am dividing the first reading in two days/lessons. Today we will read the first half of it.

The Common Core State Standards want students to read increasingly complex text. But students cannot be reading text on their own that is too difficult or that frustrates them. They need guidance to access the text on a deeper level, and that is the reason why I see the role of the teacher in the beginning as a bigger role. As the year goes on, students needs to take a bigger role accessing the different layers of meaning on their own.

As I read with my students, I am practicing the comprehension strategy of clarifying and asking questions. Also, we are practicing the vocabulary strategies of context clues, word structure (word parts: prefix, suffix, related words), and apposition (where the definition is given after the word) to guide them in figuring our the meaning of unfamiliar word. 

After we read the text, I will engage my students in Socratic Seminar to explore more deeply questions what happened in the text based on evidence. After, my students will have a chance to respond in their journals and then share with each other their learning.

Lesson Opening:

I start with my students on the rug and share the student friendly objective: I can ask and answer questions to understand a text. I engage my students in a conversation about what words they understand in the standard and what they don't. I feel it is important to teach students the language of the standards. In this way we teaching to be aware of what they are doing.

I will review the Comprehension Strategies and the Vocabulary Strategies. I have taught my students both of these strategies before, so I invite you to teach these strategies separately, before using them both at the same time. I feel it could overwhelm the students to do all of it in one day if you have not covered these topics before.

Close Reading of the First Half of the Story

25 minutes

At their desks, I ask my students to locate the narrative in their Table of Contents first. This practice helps them to internalize how to use a Table of Contents.

To help us keep track of our time, I rely on my timer. The students can clearly see how much time we have for this section and how fast time goes if they start to behave silly.

For the reading, I use the following reading techniques: cloze reading, (I read and leave a word out for them to read chorally), whisper reading, and silent reading. The whisper reading strategy helps them to transition to silent reading. With this narrative, they will do most of the reading because, by this time in the year, I know they can do it. I do the cloze reading to get us started and I will use it if I need to speed up the flow of the lesson.

For the text dependent questions, I will be asking the follow-up questions: "How do you know? Where in the text does it say that or show that?" The intention here is to train my students to go back into the text for the evidence.

Todays' focus in asking the text dependent questions is for my students to understand the action/events in the story. My expectation as I read with them that they are ready to answer with evidence from the story.

As we read, I will be making a list of the vocabulary words that they have a question about. We will use the different strategies we have learned to figure out complex vocabulary, including using context clues.

To have them understand the strategy of clarifying/clarification, I ask them, what did you find that was confusing in that part? Here with the word, cot, one of my students shares his confusion. This conversation helps the rest of the students comprehend the living conditions Tomas' family experienced as farm workers.

Socratic Seminar

12 minutes

I gather my students back on the rug. I tell them to bring their anthologies and to sit on the edges of the rug. To help them move quickly to the carpet, I start to sing the song:


Meet me at the Golden Gate

If you're late don't wait


This song gets them to where they need to be quickly.

I start by letting them know why we are gathering on the rug. Though we have learned about Socratic Seminar expectations previously, I review the rules before we begin. I also share the Handing-Off discussion starters. I let them know this will help them to participate in the discussion independently.

Additionally, I reiterate that that in case someone disagrees with them, it has nothing to do with not being liked but it means the person has a different way of thinking about what we are discussing. I am looking for them to sit with their books open, to volunteer using the discussion starters, and to be polite with one another.

Today's discussion is about what we have learned about Tomas and his family.

I am also looking for them to answer with complete sentences and to provide text support for what they are saying.

I am attaching a document that explains more in depth how I implement Socratic Seminar in my classroom in case you are curious!

Journal Response

15 minutes

The students will end the lesson by working in their response journals to synthesize what they have learned today. They will be responding to the questions:

  • What has the author told us about Tomas?
  • What type of person is Tomas? 

In answering these questions on their own, the students will need to provide evidence from the text to support their claims.

Here are some of their work samples:

As they work, I walk around and provide support with where they can find the evidence. I will guide them to the pages, though I will not read it for them.