Ouch! There's a Pea Under the Saddle! (Lesson 2 of 3)

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SWBAT recount a fable from a diverse culture, inferring events and determining the theme of the story.

Big Idea

Three stories! Compare, Constrast and Infer the Ideas!


  • The Cowboy and the Black-Eyed Pea by Tony Johnston
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall:inference, theme, schema, evidence, version, fable
  • Set up the whiteboard
  • The Cowboy and the Pea Powerpoint
  • construction paper rectangles (same length but various heights) for the kids and a 9x12 piece of construction paper (envision a saddle with blankets underneath-see completed project)
  • Making Inferences poster  (I used this throughout my inferencing unit)
  • Inference Starters poster


I chose the twist on this classic story because the themes and characters repeat throughout literature. My kids need to know the classics and how those plot lines and ideas are part of literature's rich history. Many of my kids knew the traditional version of this story, but loved this comparison. The vocabulary and 'slang' cowboy language are more difficult so I read it aloud to the kids. My goal here is inferring - I want the kids to make conclusions about what they see and read and support their inferences. 

This is the second in the series of inference lessons where I compare this fable. The other 2 lessons include Ouch There's a Pea Under My Mattress and Ouch What Is That Pea Thinking? These lessons all address how to infer with scaffolding skills of using an inference starter and leading toward more independence in this lesson. We are looking at 3 versions of this fable from different cultural standpoints. Our goal is to use inferencing and also compare and contrast these versions, looking at author's and cultural viewpoint. I want the students to see how different countries and authors in different time periods looked at this classic theme and presented the characters in different ways. (RL.2.9)

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Common starting point

  • "We have been talking about inferencing and how to use schema and evidence from the text to figure out what is happening." Refer to the poster.
  • "This is the second version of a fable about a cowgirl who's looking for a cowboy."  Show the first powerpoint slide.


Take a few moments to review or discuss inferencing. My students have had three lessons about this topic, but this is the beginning of a unit that will go in depth about the reading strategy. It's important that kids understand the developing inferences requires schema and evidence from the text. (RL.2.1) In this lesson, we'll go beyond the inference in the parts of the story to identify a theme as well. (RL.2.2)

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson - continue the powerpoint

  • "This is a modern day version of the old fable, The Princess and the Pea. we'll be comparing the theme of this story with that fable."
  • "Today's story comes from California.  Let's find that on the map." (Powerpoint slide 2)
  • "I'll read this version today and we'll infer what is happening and then find a theme." (Slide 3)
  • When we infer, we can use 'statement starters' to let people know we're making an inference." (Slide 4)  Here's a video of what this introduction to the lesson looked like.
  • "I'm passing out pieces of construction paper of different sizes. We'll write our inferences on those at the bottom of each piece."  These are the scraps for project.


Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • Put up the sentence starters poster on the board. Here's my whiteboard with the starter poster.
  • Look at the front cover of the book. "I have an inference already. The girl has gloves, cowboy boots and a hat. That's my evidence. I've seen cowboy movies before (my schema).  I'm going to infer that she's a cowgirl".  Write 'The words tell me that she's a cowgirl.' on your biggest piece of colored paper at the bottom. "I'll add an 'I' since the evidence was in the illustration." This is what that modeling inferences on the whiteboard looked like.
  • Read through the page that says, 'Her daddy was had...' and stop. The evidence from the text is that 'there was a big house, he had 20 acres and 1000 steer.'  "I know people with big houses are rich-that's my schema. I'll infer that  'I infer that her daddy was rich' or 'he had a lot of money' and I'll write 'Maybe her dad was rich.' and put 'T' for text."
  • Here are the inferences the I had the kids copy on their strips from the whiteboard (biggest to smallest strip)


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Help me use another inference to understand the story better." Read through the page with the first cowboy.
  • "What evidence do you see?" Take ideas - he doesn't look like a real cowboy.  "What is your schema?" Take ideas - real cowboys don't have fancy glasses like that. "Does anyone have an inference - don't forget to add a starter."  One of my student suggested 'perhaps he is a fake.'
  • Write those ideas on a strip of paper and use a word from our inference starter poster. Since I used text, I'll write 'T'."
  • We also took a teachable moment to comparing the texts' illustrations about the princess/cowboy.  The kids wanted to look back and see if there were similarities - both were in the rain, both looked bad...

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

  • "Now it's your turn to make some inferences. Use a 'starter' so we know it's an inference. As we work, I'll ask different students what your evidence is."
  • Read 1-2 pages at a time and let the kids make some inferences as you pause. They can write them on the colored strips. Remember to have them write a 'T' or 'I' to show their evidence.
  • By the time you're done, they should have 6-10 inferences.



  • Bring up the idea of the versions of the stories and how they are similar and different. We had some good discussions about how to compare the versions of the books and comparing this version to a real cowboy.
  • Encourage students to describe their strategies. What is their schema? Their evidence? Why did they infer that?  One of my students commented that she knew he was the real cowboy. After much discussion, she was able to say that she knew that because the  character on the cover.


Taking time to prompt students to tell what they know and how they know it allows them to use metacognitive skills. They are models for others to demonstrate the true Common Core skills. The standards strive to elevate student learning to not only inference, but tell how they came to that inference. Using these fables is a great way to do this. They have a strong theme and message and allow kids to compare the characters, plot and setting. (RL.2.2)


Discuss the theme

  • "Now that we have lots of great inferences, let's think about how they build into a theme. I'll go back to my list of ideas."
  • "What's the 'big idea' for this story? What message is the author trying to share?"
  • We brainstormed quite a bit and then created a list of themes on the board for students to copy on the brown 'saddle'.


This theme discussion is still difficult for my students . They tend to be too literal  - the cowgirl wanted a real cowboy  - and not step back to see what the author is trying to teach us. I still find myself prompting a lot for this lesson, but I know they need practice and support to become more independent at determining theme.

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Put It All Together

  • "Go back and check your spelling before we glue the colored rectangles on."
  • "Now that you have inferences and a theme, let's make a visual - a saddle for the cowboy with colored blanket rectangles underneath.  The inferences 'pile up' to make a theme.  Start with the biggest piece and glue them in size order so we can see all of the inferences."
  • "Glue on your strips and write the theme on the saddle. You can see that all of the inferences build up to help us determine the theme of a story."
  • This is what it looked like as the kids were making the project.  
  • Here are 2 versions of the finished project. finished project and finished project 2. Here is the finished project with all of the inferences for cowboy story.
  • The kids wanted to put up the visuals (of both versions) in the same place so this is how the projects were put up.
  • "Who wants to share your inferences and your theme idea?"


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

Students with language challenges may find this a difficult task because we are going beyond the text. Of all the reading strategies, I find this the hardest for my kids. They are asked to 'read between the lines' and then verbalize their inferences. They offer predictions or stay very literal (I see a cowboy), but need support with a true inference. They worked with partners and I provided help with spelling by writing the words on the board.

Those with more academic ability should be able to really demonstrate some good language with inference. They will hopefully make some good statements and provide clear evidence in their statements with some higher level vocabulary. I would 'raise the bar' with them and share your expectations.  "I'll be walking around listening to ideas about your inferences. Some of you can use the 'cowboy vocabulary' in your inferences. Make sure there is evidence in your inferences - "I imagine that she is sad because her dad died. The text said 'he was passing on'."