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Lesson Plan

A Portrait of Our World: Making Connections and Developing Comprehension

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A Portrait of Our World: Making Connections and Developing Comprehension

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Nine 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Diane Brantley, Ph.D.

San Bernardino, California


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Sessions 1 & 2: Activating Background Knowledge

Session 3: Developing Content Area Vocabulary and Making Predictions

Sessions 4 & 5: Sequencing and Summarizing the Story

Session 6: Delving More Deeply Into the Main Characters

Sessions 7: Planning Our Own Autobiographies

Session 8 & 9: Sharing Our Stories

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Develop background knowledge on the Afghan culture, geography, history, clothing, and written language after participating in a carousel walk in small groups and documenting their findings in their learning logs

  • Learn content area vocabulary and how to sequence story events using the Directed Reading–Thinking Activity

  • Construct a retelling of a story by sequencing events

  • Develop a picture of the main character in a story and a deeper understanding of that character’s qualities using the interactive Bio-Cube

  • Create literal and inferential questions in small groups based on the four questioning levels of Question–Answer Relationships

  • Write a personal autobiography in a narrative format following the textual genre from the book

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Sessions 1 & 2: Activating Background Knowledge

  1. Prior to reading the text, have students engage in a carousel walk in which they go to five or six stations around the classroom containing artifacts from the Afghan culture. Students should be given 5–10 minutes at each station to touch, observe, draw, and write in their learning logs about the items found at that station.

  2. After the carousel walk has been completed, hold a whole-class discussion regarding the information that students recorded in their learning logs. Ask probing questions to help them discern what the items are, where they came from, and how this information can be useful to them as they begin the new unit of study.

  3. Using the LCD projector, show the Afghanistan Culture Project presentation. Share the presentation with your students, stopping to discuss essential elements within the presentation.

  4. Allow your students 10 minutes after the presentation to add some new and interesting facts about Afghanistan to their learning logs.

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Session 3: Developing Content Area Vocabulary and Making Predictions

  1. Use your copy of the book Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan and conduct a book talk. During the book talk, mention important vocabulary as you elicit responses from the students regarding the title of the book, the pictures in the book, and the selected snippets from the book that you read to them.

  2. Before reading the first three pages of the book to students, pass out the Directed Reading–Thinking Activity and ask them to take out their learning logs from their carousel walk. Based on the book talk and the information recorded in their learning logs, each student should record at least eight vocabulary words they expect to see in the text in the Expected Vocabulary section of the Directed Reading–Thinking Activity handout. Additionally, ask them to write down a short story prediction in the box labeled Prediction #1.

  3. After all students have made their initial story predictions and have recorded their expected vocabulary, ask them to share their vocabulary words with the class. Record all of their responses on a piece of chart paper at the front of the class. (You should save this information for use in subsequent sections of the lesson.) Ask students to read through the list of vocabulary words and see if they would like to add any additional words to the list. Remind them that you are going to come back to this list as you progress through the unit of study.

  4. On a separate piece of chart paper, begin to record some of the initial story predictions. You don’t need to record all of them, but select a few predictions from volunteers for the prediction chart.

  5. Read aloud the first three pages of the book and then ask the students to write their revised predictions on their Directed Reading–Thinking Activity handouts. Again, elicit a few revised predictions from the group and record them on chart paper. Ask students if any of the expected vocabulary has appeared in the text and circle those words that have appeared.

  6. Now read the book aloud one time without stopping for questions or comments so that students are able to take in the entire content of the story in an uninterrupted fashion. Next, read the story aloud for a second time, stopping to ask the prepared questions to further the students’ understanding of the story.

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Sessions 4 & 5: Sequencing and Summarizing the Story

  1. Ask students to silently reread the expected vocabulary written on the chart paper at the front of the classroom. Next, have them read the vocabulary aloud with you as you point to each word. Remind them that they are going to listen for these words as they hear the story read aloud to them.

  2. Tell students that they are going to listen to the story for a different purpose during this reading. They are going to divide the story into six main sequential story events in order to help them write a story summary. The first time you read the book to them, they need to listen for story vocabulary as well as to develop an understanding of the gist of what happens in the story.

  3. Read aloud Nasreen’s Secret School, emphasizing fluency and prosody. After reading the story, hold a discussion with students in which they provide you with the main idea or gist of the story. Next, ask them to identify any expected vocabulary that they heard in the story.

  4. Tell students that when they listen to the story for the second time, they are going to be asked to break it into six sequential pieces using the Directed Reading–Thinking Activity. Then read the story aloud, stopping at the predetermined points that you marked with sticky notes. When you stop, have each student write one or two sentences or draw an image that represents the main idea of that section of the book. These should be written in the sequencing boxes on the Directed Reading–Thinking Activity handout.

  5. Have students use the information they’ve written in the sequencing boxes to prepare a more detailed retelling of the story. These retellings should later be scored using the Narrative Story Retelling Rubric.

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Session 6: Delving More Deeply Into the Main Characters

  1. Open up the interactive Bio-Cube tool on the classroom computers so that each group has access to the program. Hand out copies of the Bio-Cube Planning Sheet to each group member.

  2. Review the Cooperative Group Scoring Rubric and hand out a copy to each group leader. Remind them that they are being assessed on their ability to cooperate, their ability to complete the task, and their ability to stay on task. Walk around the classroom as they are working to monitor their progress and complete your version of the scoring sheet.

  3. After dividing students into six cooperative groups, have them engage in a reading of the text. Students can elect one group member to read the book aloud to the group, or they can take turns reading two pages each. This allows them to have time to read through the book, view the pictures, and spend time discussing the two main characters.

  4. After reading through the book, have students in each group use the Bio-Cube Planning Sheet to map out the information needed to complete the online Bio-Cube interactive for either Nasreen or Grandmother. All group members must agree on the character to be discussed and work together to develop a character study of that character. At the end of this session, each student should have an individual copy of the completed planning sheet for use when filling in the information on the computer. Once the planning sheets have been completed, each student prints out his or her own Bio-Cube. Collect and assess the Bio-Cubes.

  5. After each group has finished this assignment, ask the whole group to get together to complete their copy of the Cooperative Group Scoring Rubric. Lead a debriefing session in which you and each group share your assessments of the group process.

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Sessions 7: Planning Our Own Autobiographies

  1. Work with students as they write their own autobiographical stories using the Multigenre Autobiography: Contextual Essay Planning Sheet.

  2. As a model for students’ essays, complete the sheet using some event from your own life. This assists students in understanding how to use the planning sheet and then move into developing a full autobiographical essay. You can recreate the planning sheet on chart paper or on an interactive whiteboard at the front of the class.

  3. For the remainder of the session, have students work individually to complete their planning sheets, which they need later to produce a rough and a final draft of their own autobiographical essays.

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Session 8 & 9: Sharing Our Stories

Have students use their planning sheets and prepare a rough and then a final draft of their own autobiographical essays. Collect and score these using the Autobiographical Incident Rubric.

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  • Collect students’ learning logs and informally assess their observations of the artifacts from Afghan culture.

  • Collect students’ completed Directed Reading–Thinking Activity and assess vocabulary entries and comprehension of main ideas.

  • Collect students’ completed Bio-Cubes to assess comprehension of character traits.

  • Score students’ group work assignments using the Cooperative Group Scoring Rubric. Review each group’s self-assessment using the team copy of the sheet. The scores should be combined to determine an overall grade for the activity.

  • Score students’ autobiographies using the Autobiographical Incident Rubric.

  • Use the Narrative Story Retelling Rubric to provide each student with a percentage score on his or her written story retelling. This also provides you with information that can be used to reteach the important aspects of a good story summary.

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