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Lesson Plan

Moving Toward Acceptance Through Picture Books and Two-Voice Texts

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Moving Toward Acceptance Through Picture Books and Two-Voice Texts

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Eight 50-minute lessons
Lesson Author

April Davenport

LeRoy, Illinois

Karen Irvin

Normal, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six

Session Seven

Session Eight


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • read a variety of texts to compare and contrast situations presented in literature to situations in real life.

  • demonstrate understanding of the concepts of acceptance and intolerance.

  • create a class definition of two-voice poetry by reading samples.

  • compose, edit, and present a two-voice text of their own.

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Session One

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to answer the question, "What makes you different from everyone else in the world?" in their writing journals.

  2. Have students share their responses with a partner or with the class.

  3. After students have shared what makes them unique, have the class brainstorm ways that all people are basically the same (general human needs, emotions, physical features, and so forth).

  4. Introduce the book Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. Ask students to think about the author's message as you read.

  5. After you finish the book, ask students to summarize the main idea of the book, focusing on which the author thinks is more important:  the things that makes people unique and different (as they wrote in their journals) or the things that everyone shares in common (from the class discussion).

  6. Shift the focus of the discussion to life at your school.  Ask students to think about the way they see people being treated at their school.  Do most students treat each other based on how they are different or how they are they same?  How close is your school to the kind of universal acceptance Mem Fox talks about in Whoever You Are

    Note: Be sensitive at this point of the discussion because you do not want students to think that uniqueness and difference are not important; rather, you want students to understand that everyone is human and deserves respect and kindness regardless of how they differ from one another.

  7. Ask students to observe the ways people treat one another at school, thinking about what they read and discussed in this session.

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Session Two

  1. In this session, student pairs will use the Venn Diagram interactive tool to compare and contrast the ideal version of acceptance from Whoever You Are with the reality of acceptance and intolerance at their school right now.

  2. Demonstrate the functions of the Venn Diagram interactive tool as you provide instructions for the activity.  Have students label the first circle "Ideal World" and the second "Our School Right Now."  Explain that the space in the middle is for overlap-ways in which your school is close to, or working toward, the ideal world already.

  3. Ask student pairs to begin by describing the "Ideal World" from Whoever You Are. See the Sample Venn Diagram for ideas or concepts that might go in that, and other, sections. Some of the ideas may come directly from the book, but students will have to infer other characteristics of the ideal world.  

  4. After they describe the "Ideal World" in the first circle, they should use the second circle to describe what is different from the ideal in their school right now.  Ask them to think about what they observed between sessions.

  5. They should then use the space in the overlap of the circle to show ways in which your school is close to, or working toward, the ideal world already.  Remind them that the tabs are moveable, so they should feel free to change the position of an idea if their thinking changes.

  6. Give students time to complete and print their Venn Diagrams.

  7. Coming back together as a class, discuss the students' diagrams. Display the large Venn Diagram, filling it in with what students have written on their personal ones. The situations that are in the "Our School Right Now" section will be used in Session Five.

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Session Three

  1. Begin this session by reviewing the Venn Diagrams from the previous session.  If the specific words acceptance and intolerance have not yet come up in discussion, this would be an appropriate time to introduce them to ensure a common vocabulary.  Use concepts from the first circle to clarify the idea of acceptance and items from the second circle to exemplify intolerance.

  2. After this review, tell students that they will be exploring two more books, Weslandia and Insects Are My Life, to better understand acceptance and intolerance.  The main characters are not accepted for who they are; actions of the other characters in the book show intolerance of the main characters.

  3. Divide the class into small groups to read and discuss one of the books per group.  Half the class will read Weslandia while the other half reads Insects Are My Life.

  4. Before grouping the students, show them the T-Chart for Book Groups that they will use to find examples of intolerance that were in the book as well as examples of acceptance.

  5. As groups are reading, discussing, and putting relevant examples on their T-Charts, circulate the room, conferring with groups and answering questions that students may have.

  6. After small group discussion, bring the class back together as a whole to discuss the books as well as the charts they created. As students share information from their charts, add their ideas to a class T-Chart, comparing the information to the Venn Diagram from the previous session.

  7. After students have shared their responses to the books, ask them if any of the situations in the books are like real life at their school right now. Add those to the class Venn Diagram from the previous session.

  8. Close the session by asking students to respond in their journals to the following prompt: "What connections are you able to make with any of the characters from Weslandia and/or Insects Are My Life?" Remind students of the different types of connections they can make: text-to-self (students connect the book to something from their personal lives), text-to-text (connections to another book, movie, song, or television show), and text-to-world (connections to situations in the world beyond their own personal experiences).  Students should complete the journal entry for homework if necessary.

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Session Four

  1. Remind students of the books they read in the previous session.

  2. Introduce Fleischman's book, Joyful Noise, pointing out that it is by the same author as Weslandia, but it would be a book that would appeal to the main character of  Insects Are My Life because the poems are all about insects.

  3. With the reading partner you arranged for in Preparation, read two poems from Fleischman's book that exemplify the kind of two-voice poetry students will be writing: "Honeybees" and "Waterstriders."

  4. Open up the discussion of two-voice poetry and ask them to discuss some of its features.

  5. Continue the discussion by displaying an overhead or written section of a poem on chart paper.  Talk about the visual features of the text in addition to the things students noticed when they read the poems.  You may wish to annotate the poem as students make their observations (see the sample annotated poem for ideas).

  6. Elicit from students a class definition of two-voice poetry, focusing on the fact that it is meant to be performed with alternating or simultaneous voices and usually has two columns-one for each voice.  Some words or lines are spoken together, to varying effect.

  7. Put students in two groups and allow them to read the poem that is on the chart, practicing the two-voice technique and understanding the alternating and simultaneous vocal patterns.

  8. After they have practiced in a group, allow for further practice by distributing additional copies of Joyful Noise for students to read through and perform.

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Session Five

  1. Review discussions of previous sessions and ask how two-voice poetry might relate to their study of acts of intolerance and acceptance as seen in Whoever You Are, Weslandia, and Insects Are My Life

  2. In pairs, students will create a two-voice poem that illustrate situations of intolerance at their school and suggest a step toward acceptance.  Have one student per pair choose from the note cards you prepared with the ideas from the "In Our School" part of the Venn Diagram (preparing enough multiples of the concepts to be sure every pair gets one).

  3. Share the Two-Voice Poem Example: "The Lunch Room" in printed format as well as in online audio format. Reinforce for the class how a simple gesture can make someone feel accepted and point out that for this assignment, the two-voice nature of the assignment is more important than the poems looking or sounding exactly like the poems from Joyful Noise or other poems they have seen or read.

  4. Share the Two-Voice Poem Rubric with students so they understand the expectations of the assignment.

  5. As they plan their poem using the Two-Voice Poem Planning Sheet, ask them to think about these questions:

    • What does it feel and sound like to be the one who is different, alone, excluded?

    • What does it feel and sound like to be the one doing the excluding or being hurtful?

    • What does it feel and sound like when people reveal their feelings and motivations for their actions?

    • How can we move closer to the ideal of universal acceptance?
  6. These questions should help students choose the personas for their poem (a lonely student, a student surrounded by friends, a new student in school, a student who is different from the others, and so forth). Remind them that their poem can be an internal conversation by one person thinking through conflicting feelings he or she may have.

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Session Six

  1. After class discussion of some ideas from their Two-Voice Poem Planning Sheet, share the Two-Voice Poem Drafting Sheet with the students. The organizer is set up as a rough draft template that helps them separate the voices.

  2. Put students in pairs to begin their poems. As they write, the teacher should be moving around and conferencing with pairs.

  3. Give students time to work on their drafts.  They should be complete by the next session.

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Session Seven

  1. Begin the session by checking that drafts of the poems are completed.  Tell students they will be responding to each others' poems today using the Two-Voice Poem Peer Review Sheet.  Go over the expectations for this process and answer any questions students might have.

  2. Put two pairs together to read and respond to each others' poems using the Peer Review Sheet.

  3. Pairs will take their peer reviews to revise their poems in preparation for public presentation.

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Session Eight

  1. Give students time at the beginning of the session to rehearse their revised poems.

  2. Have pairs present their poems to the class.

  3. Give students time at the end of the session to discuss and reflect on how they can make a difference in their school.  Use the Reflection Questions to trigger discussion.

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  • Check for student understanding and progress as they complete the journals, Venn Diagram, T-Charts, and planning sheets associated with the activity.

  • Use the Two-Voice Poem Rubric to provide specific feedback on student work.

  • Use the Reflection Questions to give students a chance to solidify their learning and turn it into positive action.

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