The Barn: The Place Where It All Happens

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SWBAT analyze how an author uses language to describe a central setting.

Big Idea

The author uses particular language to create a sense of place.


7 minutes


In reading chapter three of Charlotte's Web, "Escape," I want to draw attention to the barn. I am having the students analyze the language the author uses to describe the barn to get a good understanding of the setting and the author's choices in describing the setting. Therefore, I am guiding students to look at the type of language that is used and, then, will have a conversation about why this author would choose such detailed images to describe the barn. To accomplish this task, I am engaging my students in a close reading of two paragraphs that describe the barn.

To analyze the paragraphs, I am providing a copy of the page for students to read, highlight, and underline. To scaffold the process, I am creating a classroom chart and a chart for the students to gather the evidence (see following sections for more details about the chart).

Then, I will gather the students on the rug for Socratic Seminar where we will discuss the idea of why the author took the time to spend so much time telling us about the barn.

The writing the students will do today will incorporate the structure of the barn paragraph so that they can write using descriptive language.

Finally, I will give students the opportunity to share their writing with one another. 

On the rug:

To start the lesson, I am sharing the student friendly objective: I can analyze how an author uses language to describe a setting.

I will start with a discussion about what type of language we use to describe. So I review adjectives, verbs, and nouns. In addition, I will review the five senses chart to get them ready to analyze their paragraphs.

Reading Closely Two Paragraphs in Chapter III: The Barn

25 minutes

Students are seated at their table with their copy of pages 13 and 14 of Charlotte's Web. The first direction I give them is for them to read the first paragraph which starts, "The Barn was very large." A close reading is about rereading to obtain a deeper understanding. I have my students dive right into the text. This is the expectation of the CCSS. As you can see, I have not spent much time previewing the text with the students. I want the text to be at the forefront of my instruction, not a long preview of it. Even with all the different reading abilities, I am expecting for all them to engage with it. And, because I know my students, I am also giving them a page that most can do read independently. It is vital to know our students and their abilities.

When their first reading is done, I ask them, how does the barn look? I have prepared a classroom chart to categorize the descriptive language. The students have a barn template of their own to use for the second reading.

Now, I engage the students on a second reading of the paragraph to find the evidence. This time, they will highlight all the different smells of the barn. As they finish highlighting, they will write their evidence on a template I have created for them to use. 

Here are two more examples:

Sample of Barn Template

2 Sample of Barn Template

When they are done, I call on students to name the different smells of the barn. I write them on the classroom chart under the different categories

Once we are done with this part, I draw their attention to a powerpoint presentation I have created of the first paragraph. I teach English Language Learners and this paragraph includes quite a bit of objects that are unknown to my students. Therefore, I provide pictures of the objects. As I show the powerpoint presentation, I read the paragraph sentence by sentence once again. 

Brain Break

2 minutes

Because we have spent time closely analyzing the first paragraph, I want to make sure my students take a brief break.

We stretch and take deep breaths before proceeding on to the next paragraph.

Reading Closely the Second Paragraph

15 minutes

After the break, we are focusing on the second paragraph. I ask them to read it and then I pose the following question:

How does the barn feel?

I add their answers to the classroom chart, as they add it to their template. As in the first paragraph, I do not spend time previewing the content of paragraph. The goal of the lesson is to analyze it. For instance, I have them notice the following sentence:

"The barn had stalls on the main floor for the work horses, tie-ups on the main floor for the cows, a sheepfold down below for the sheep, a pigpen down below for Wilbur, and it was full of all sorts of things that you find in barns: ladders, grindstones, pitch forks, monkey wrenches, scythes, lawn mowers, snow shovels, ax handles, milk pails, water buckets, empty grains sacks, and rusty rat traps."

I ask them what they notice about the sentence. I ask them to evaluate the sentences in terms of whether it is a simple, elaborated, or complex sentence.

Then, I present another powerpoint presentation on the barn with pictures that accompany the sentence above. I do it because I want to help my English Language Learners get a deeper understanding of the objects found in the barn--and to lead them later into a discussion of why would the author use so many details?

Socratic Seminar

10 minutes

I gather the students on the rug for Socratic Seminar. Here we will discuss the following questions:

  • How does the author describe the barn?
    • Follow up with: What type of words does he use?
  • Why does he use so many details? A student shares her thoughts.
  • What does this say about him and the relationship with the barn?
  • What types of sentences does he use?

(I want them to pay attention to how the author uses simple sentences and then writes longer sentences.)

I review the rules and participation for Socratic Seminar before we engage in discussion. I have two charts posted in my classroom for my students to reference.

Handing-Off Chart

Socratic Seminar Rules

Additionally, I am attaching a document that fully detail how I implement process for Socratic Seminar in my classroom:

Independent Writing: Creating A Sense A Place

25 minutes

I am having my students integrate the structure of the barn paragraph to write a descriptive piece about a place in their house.

First, students are going to write a few descriptors about how their place looks and feels. Then, they will write quite a few descriptors about how their place smells. Then, I am asking them make a list of objects, nouns, that can be found in their room.

model the first part as well as second part of structure I want them to use to write their paragraphs.

As they write, I walk around and provide assistance as needed. Some will need help with identifying smells and feelings. I will give them different examples to guide them in choosing the ones relevant to their places. Other will need help with spelling the objects in their places too.

Here are examples of their writing:

First Draft of My Room

Implementing The Structure of the Paragraph

I Play Legos In My Room

This Is What Is Found In My Bedroom

This Is What Is Found In My Room

Sharing Writing

7 minutes

Now, some students will get the opportunity to share their writing.

Sharing her paragraph

Sharing his paragraph

We will give them feedback by giving them two stars and a wish.

Two stars: two students let them know what specifically they liked about their writing.

A wish: one student shares one way about how the writing can be improved. 


2 minutes

Since we only read two paragraphs of the chapter, I created text dependent questions for homework. In this way, I am making sure the students read the chapter again.