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Lesson Plan

Digging Deeper: Developing Comprehension Using Thank You, Mr. Falker

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Digging Deeper: Developing Comprehension Using Thank You, Mr. Falker

Grades K – 4
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 20- to 30-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Nancy Drew

Tecumseh, Ontario


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: Making predictions and forming connections

Session 2: Envisioning character change

Session 3: Making thematic connections


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Develop specific strategies for reading comprehension following a teacher model of thinking aloud and asking questions

  • Demonstrate comprehension by discussing their reactions to a story, identifying with characters in a story, and relating events in a story to their own lives

  • Learn about character development and themes using charts created by the class

  • Develop oral language skills as they participate in discussions about a story

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Session 1: Making predictions and forming connections

1. Gather students together. Do not show them the cover of the book yet. The purpose of this before-reading discussion is to activate prior knowledge and experience about the nature of learning a new task and the kinds of roadblocks, including other people, that we all face. Be sensitive to students' emotions, carefully guiding the discussion. Ask the following questions:
  • Have you ever really wanted to learn to do something? How did you do it? Was it easy or difficult?

  • If it was difficult, how did you feel? Were you able to do it? Who or what helped you? Who or what didn't help you?
To start the discussion, it may help to talk about a personal experience, with the aim of modeling the comprehension strategy of making personal connections.

2. Show students the cover of the book. Ask the following questions:
  • What do you suppose my questions and your answers have to do with this story?

  • Can you predict the connection?
You may want to record students' responses on chart paper, but this is not necessary; students need to know that oral responses are valid and valued, and your validation of their oral responses will encourage more student participation.

3. As you read the story aloud, ask students to think about the following questions:
  • Are they similar or different from the main character, Trisha?

  • Does the story remind them of anything that has ever happened to them?
4. Read the story aloud. Stop at the pages you have marked and ask students the suggested questions. You may wish to model thinking aloud. For example, after reading the sentence "...But knowledge is like the bee that made that sweet honey, you have to chase it through the pages of a book!" you might say, "I really like that sentence. I think Trisha's family is telling her that reading is important, because you can find in a book just about anything you want to know."

5. Help students improve their understanding by having a discussion about their reactions to the story. Record their responses on chart paper; you will need this information for Session 3. Some of the questions you may wish to ask include:
  • Did any of your predictions come true?

  • How does this story make you feel?

  • Have you ever felt good or bad about yourself because of what someone else said or did?
6. Tell students that they have been making personal connections with characters in the book. Tell them that good readers do this to help them understand the text better.

7. You may choose to have students illustrate and write their reaction to the story in a response journal. Or, you may have them write about their favorite or least favorite part of the story. This can be completed in class or as homework.

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Session 2: Envisioning character change

1. Gather students. Have the Character Change Continuum chart available. Begin to read Thank You, Mr. Falker aloud again. Stop at your predetermined points to elicit student responses.

2. At each page where you stop, ask students to help you record where and why they think Trisha is on the Character Change Continuum chart.

3. When you are finished, read the completed Character Change Continuum with students. Ask them to think of one or two words that describe Trisha at various stages throughout the story. Examples include:
  • At the beginning of the story: hopeful, eager, excited

  • At the middle of the story: sad, insecure, a failure, no confidence

  • At the end of the story: happy, confident, proud, intelligent
4. Tell students that they have been studying character development. Tell them that good readers do this to help them understand the text better.

5. Display the chart in your classroom and have students use it independently as they read additional books. Examples of appropriate books include A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (Blue Sky Press, 1998), Wings of Change by Franklin Hill (Illumination Arts Publishing Co., 2000), Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (HarperTrophy, 1996), and The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick Press, 2003). You might also give students sticky notes and their own copies of the chart to record their responses as they listen to a story or read it on their own.

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Session 3: Making thematic connections

1. Refer students to the chart on which you recorded their responses to the discussion questions during Session 1 (see Session 1, Step 5).

2. Display a blank Life Lesson Chart on the board or a blank piece of chart paper. You may wish to view the filled in Life Lesson Chart example to help you structure the chart you develop with your students.

3. Tell students that often stories have several themes or main ideas (you might want to give students an example of a theme from another book you have read as a class), and that readers make thematic connections as they read. Help students identify the main themes of Thank You, Mr. Falker, which are "believe in yourself" and "important people in our lives shape how we feel about ourselves" using the following strategy:
  • Do a "picture walk" through the book (i.e., do not reread the book to students but show them the pictures.) At each illustration, ask students to summarize what is happening on the page.

  • Tell students that there are two important themes in this story. Ask students what the themes are. If they cannot do so, identify the themes for students.

  • Tell the students that although there are several themes, that today you are going to focus on only one theme— "important people in our lives shape how we feel about ourselves." Write this theme on the Life Lesson Chart you are developing.
4. Now challenge students to make thematic connections by identifying the supporting evidence from the text for this theme. Record their responses on the Life Lesson Chart. Help students extend the thematic connections to their own lives by responding to the following questions:
  • Who are the important people in your life?

  • How do the important people in your life make you feel? How do they do that?

  • What do they say?
Note: You may need to determine if the students are ready for this final step. Be sensitive to their feelings; you may want to use only yourself as an example or limit the discussion only to how the important people in their lives make them feel good about themselves.

5. Read and review the chart together. This helps students review and consolidate the information, encouraging them to reflect as they read.

6. You may want to have students use their response journals as a place to comment on the "So What?" section of the Life Lesson Chart.

7. Tell students that during this part of the lesson, they were making thematic connections. Tell them that good readers do this to help them understand the text better.

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  • Encourage students to find other books to which the Character Change Continuum or the Life Lesson Chart can be applied. Begin a class list of the books they have chosen. If students choose appropriate books, this helps you assess how well students can apply their knowledge of the comprehension strategies.

  • Have students work with a partner to write "thank you" pages for a class book. Each student writes one page about an important person in his or her life, beginning with the phrase "Thank you, __________ (name of person)." You could combine these with photographs or portraits of the students as well as student drawings of the person they have selected.

  • Have students make a chart entitled "Things You Can Say To Make People Feel Good About Themselves" to post in the classroom. Have students add to it as they think of suggestions.

  • Ask students how the story would change if Trisha's family did not move. Would Trisha learn to read? What would the other characters then have to do to make her feel good about herself? Would anything happen to the bully? Give them time to talk about this in small groups and write a brief story outline.

  • Have students do a Readers Theatre presentation of Thank You, Mr. Falker. Readers Theatre is a strategy in which students take a text and interpret it in dramatic form. It develops deeper comprehension, as students summarize a piece of text, write their own script, and perform their interpretation of the story. To obtain more information on Readers Theatre, you may wish to visit the following websites:
  • Reader's Theatre Basics

  • Internet Resources for Conducting Readers Theatre

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  • Use the Observational Assessment Checklist to take notes during all three sessions. Observe which students seem to be grasping the comprehension strategies and which students need further assistance, perhaps through reading conferences during independent reading.

  • Informally assess student comprehension of the text, ability to identify character changes and traits, and their understanding of thematic elements by observing them during class discussion and looking at the responses that are recorded on the Character Change Continuum and the Life Lesson Chart.

  • If you have students keep response journals, collect these and use them as a way to assess student comprehension.


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