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HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

The Tale of Despereaux: Fact or Fiction?

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The Tale of Despereaux: Fact or Fiction?

Grades 3 – 6
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Christy Simon

Christy Simon

Urbana, Illinois

Joyce Bruett

Joyce Bruett

Brookhaven, Mississippi

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • use a variety of web and print sources to research medieval times as it relates to the novel.
  • compare and contrast book selections about medieval times with student-conducted research of the topic.
  • practice their inquiry and research skils to determine fact verses fiction in The Tale of Despereaux.

 

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Session One

  1. After students have read The Tale of Despereaux, have a discussion reviewing fictional books, and more specifically fantasy fiction as well as historical fiction. (See the Teacher Notes on Genre Characteristics for more information.)
  2. Ask students to describe why The Tale of Despereaux could be considered both a fantasy and historical fiction.  List reasons on chart paper or the board. Share with them that it actually follows both fantasy and historical fiction genres.  It has, for example, talking animals (fantasy) but is set in medieval Europe with many factual elements from that time period (historical fiction).
  3. Share with your students the purpose of writing that compares and contrasts to introduce your students to this style of writing.
  4. Share with your students the assignment for this activity so that they are aware in advance of the research and assessment.  Use the Compare and Contrast Map Rubric to further understanding and to point out specifically what needs to be done on the end product. 
  5. Allow some time to present some of the books to the class through short book talks, highlighting some important parts of their research process.
  6. Give students time to browse the medieval times books that are available for research for historical information.  Also, have copies of The Tale of Despereaux available for any student(s) who want to rediscover parts of the novel.

 

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Session Two

  1. Read a selection from The Tale of Despereaux to your students using the Book Selections for Comparison handout for guidance.
  2. Have the students work briefly in pairs or small groups to decide if they think what is described in the book is fact or fiction.  Give a few minutes for brainstorming within groups and then ask the groups to share their discussions with the whole class.
  3. Based on your selection from the book, share the research that you have highlighted for that selection. Point out the sources from which you got this information and the way you went about finding it.  You can use the Medieval Times Booklist or web sites for suggestions.
    • For example: If you chose to read about Princess Pea being lonely, you would find a selection from one of the Medieval Times booklist to highlight how royalty would have been in that time (always surrounded by servants or ladies in waiting) to see if Princess Pea was accurately portrayed in the book.
  4. Students should find their own selection from The Tale of Despereaux to compare with historic medieval times.  They should keep track of the section of the book they are researching, the research books or web resources they are using, and keep notes of the information they are finding to compare. Students can use the Compare and Contrast Information Collection Sheet to help them organize their information.
  5. Have the students turn in their work with their pairs or groups so you can check their work and make copies for each person in the pair/group to give to them during the next session.

 

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Session Three

  1. Pass out the students’ work from the last session.
  2. Using a teacher computer and projector or a student lab, guide your students through the Compare and Contrast Map interactive tool using some examples to guide them while they are using their own research from Session Two. They will be comparing and contrasting selections from The Tale of Despereaux to historical information they found while researching.
  3. Remind students that their work from Compare and Contrast Map cannot be saved and should be printed prior to the end of the session.
  4. Give the students the remainder of the class period to work on their Compare and Contrast Maps.

 

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Session Four

  1. Have students return to their pair/group and share/discuss their Compare and Contrast Maps that they printed from the previous session.  Students shuld discuss the differences they found between the book and the research they did, and how they were able to find the correct information.
  2. After students have had ample time to share and discuss with their partners, have partners take turns presenting their findings to the entire class.
  3. Students may turn in their Compare and Contrast Maps for assessment (use the Compare and Contrast Map Rubric for grading).
  4. Finish with a class discussion of whether they believe The Tale of Despereaux to be historical fiction or another genre, based on the research they did.  Refer back to the chart paper from the brainstorming the class did in Session One.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Show the film version of The Tale of Despereaux to the students.  Have them compare and contrast the movie to the book or to the research that they completed about the medieval times.
  • Students may write a literary analysis of The Tale of Despereaux using the information they gathered in their research as their guide.
  • Students may want to outline the plot from The Tale of Despereaux and then use the structure to rewrite the story set in the present day.  This option also allows students to incorporate the nonfiction research and resources as needed. Students can use the Plot Diagram Tool as a prewriting guide.
  • Compare historical information in The Tale of Despereaux to information discovered while conducting research.  Students can present this information by using a Venn Diagram or they can write a report documenting the similarities and differences.
  • Using the information from their research, students can write a travel brochure for someone visiting one of the areas discussed in the novel.  The information can be published using the Printing Press as brochure on the topic.
  • Create a timeline of the medieval times using the Timeline Tool.

 

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Listen as the students work together to research the comparative time in history to the selections they chose in the book.  Take note of how they are working together as well as the content of their discussions.
  • Check the work the students turn in from their groups to check their written notes from their research and discussions.
  • Assess the students’ Compare and Contrast Map for understanding of how to compare topics and use this type of tool for organizing their information using the Compare and Contrast Map Rubric.

 

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