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HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Using Children’s Literature to Develop Classroom Community

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Grades 3 – 6
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Elvira DiGesu

LaSalle, Ontario

Publisher

International Reading Association

 

Student Objectives

Session 1 and 2

Session 3

Session 4

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Interact with children's literature that highlights individual differences

  • Reflect on the image they have of themselves as learners within the classroom community

  • Develop the skills required for cooperative learning, with a particular focus on how to engage in dialogue and sharing in a group setting

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Session 1 and 2

1. Read aloud the poem "What's in the Sack" to set the context for the activity. Ask students to think about the following question as you read the poem: "What is the author trying to say to the reader?"

2. Have a class discussion to answer the question. Lead students to an understanding of the key concept that there is a natural curiosity for people to want to know what's in the sack, but the author is also disturbed because everyone is more concerned about what's in the sack than about him as a person.

3. Explain that students are going to have an opportunity to learn about their classmates as individuals by seeing what they have in their sacks.

4. Before beginning the activity, establish the expectations for cooperative group work. Copy the information from Skills for Group Work onto chart paper. Explain that the class is going to be involved in a significant amount of cooperative work this school year. For cooperative work to be effective, each person in the class must follow the rules. Draw students' attentions to the first three items listed (i.e., use quiet voices, listen without interrupting, and take turns). Ask students, "Why do you think it is important to follow these rules?"

5. Gather students into groups of four. Since the goal is to have student get to know one another, an informal grouping structure is appropriate. Simply counting heads is a quick and informal grouping structure. Have each group of four come together. They need to bring their sacks with them.

6. Provide instructions for the activity.

  • Each person in the group is going to introduce him or herself by sharing the objects in the sack. The order of sharing will be determined by birth date. The person who has the closest birthday to January 1 will go first; the person with the next birthday will go next; and so on.

  • When the first person has been identified, the remainder of the group will ask, "‹Name›, what's in your sack, what's in your sack?" The student will pull out an object or picture from his or her sack and begin to explain it. (For example, Matthew pulls out a hockey card from his sack, and shares with the group that he is an avid hockey fan. He has been playing hockey since the age of 10. Steve Yzerman is his favorite player and the Detroit Red Wings is his favorite team.) Each person has a total of five minutes to share all three or four objects or pictures from his or her sack.

  • When the student has finished presenting the objects, each student in the group will ask one question. Just like in the poem, these questions should help them find out more about each of their classmates.

  • Students should be reminded to listen carefully to all of the presentations because at the end of the session they will each be asked to introduce one member of the group to the rest of the class. [Do not let students know in advance who they will be introducing so they will pay attention to all presentations.]

  • Give each student some posted notes to help remember information he or she would want to share about each person.
7. As students are working in small groups, circulate and provide positive reinforcement of the three group skills being assessed (i.e., using quiet voices, listening without interrupting, and taking turns). Take note of students who will need extra support or modeling of the skills or appear to be uncomfortable in the group situation.

8. Have each member of the group present a student to the full class. Student #1 (first birthday) will introduce student #2, student #2 will introduce student #3, student #3 will introduce student #4, and student #4 will introduce student #1.

9. Debrief the activity once all the introductions are complete.

  • What did you learn from this activity?

  • What did you learn from working in a group?
10. Have students complete a personal reflection of the activity in their journals. You may consider providing students with sentence starters for their journal reflections.

Optional: As a way to decorate your classroom, you may wish to use the bulletin board to showcase the community of learners in your class. Students can create name cards on which they draw the items contained in their sacks.

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Session 3

This session uses a cooperative learning strategy called Think-Pair-Share. In this strategy, a problem is posed, students have time to think about it individually, and then they work in pairs to solve the problem and share their ideas with the class.

1. Determine student partners, either randomly or by using the Time for Partners activity sheet that was completed prior to beginning this session. For example, tell students to "Please take out your completed Time for Partners sheet. Find your two o'clock partner and sit close to one another. If your two o'clock partner is not here today, please come to the front of the room." You can then pair students who are standing at the front of the room.

2. Direct students' attentions to the Skills for Group Work that you have copied onto chart paper. The first three skills have already been introduced in the previous sessions. Remind students that they need to continue using these three skills, but that in this session, they will also be practicing the fourth skill (i.e., encouragement).

3. If your students are not familiar with offering encouragement, you may want to complete a T-chart to help them better understand what this skill looks like and sounds like. For example:

Encouragement

Looks Like Sounds like
Smiling "That's interesting"
Eye contact "Tell me more"
Facing the speaker "I agree"

4. Introduce the title, author, and illustrator of the book The Name of the Tree. Ask students to examine the cover and predict what the story will be about. Implement the Think-Pair-Share strategy by having students first think about their answer individually, and then spend a couple of minutes discussing their thoughts in pairs. Remind students that there are no right or wrong answers, but that they must have a reason for their logic. Then ask several volunteers to share their predictions along with the logic behind their answers with the class. Praise students who take the risk to answer. Be sure to model encouragement as students provide their responses, such as "Thank you for your willingness to share. I know it is not easy to be the first person to open the discussion."

5. Direct students' attentions to the list of animals involved in the story. Ask them to determine which animal they consider themselves to be most like. Repeat the Think-Pair-Share strategy, reminding students again that there are no right or wrong answers to this question, but that they must be able to provide reasons for their choices. Ask a few students to share their animal choices with the whole class.

6. Begin to read the story aloud, stopping on page 7 after the sentence, "We must send someone to ask him." Repeat the Think-Pair-Share strategy, asking students to predict who will be sent to complete this task and to provide a rationale for their predictions. Then invite several volunteers to share their answers with the whole class, making sure to praise those who provide a well-developed rationale and prompting others who have not.

7. Continue reading the story, stopping again on page 12 after the sentence, "'We will need to send someone else', they said. 'Someone who will not forget.'" Ask students to complete a Think-Pair-Share again, readjusting their original predictions if necessary. What is the logic for changing their predictions?

8. Continue reading through the end of the story. Reinforce the Think-Pair-Share strategy by having students think about and discuss what they learned from the story. After partners have had a chance to discuss the story, open up the discussion to the whole class. You may wish to record students' responses on the blackboard or chart paper.

Key concepts from the story:

  • All of the animals in the story have unique abilities.

  • The most unlikely animal solved the problem.

  • Some of the animals acted arrogantly knowing that they had talents that the others did not have, but in the end, they were not the ones to solve the problem.

  • The animals had to work together to solve the problem.
9. Ask students the following question, "How can we apply what we learned from this story to our classroom?" Lead students to the conclusion that we all have talents to share, and that some people may have skills that they are not even aware of. We have a better chance of solving a problem if we work together. In addition, we should not be afraid to ask for information or help when we need it.

10. Have students take out their personal journals and answer the following questions:

  • What did you learn from the story?

  • How does the story apply to our classroom or life?

  • What did you learn from your partner?

  • What are the benefits of talking and working with other people?

  • What are the benefits of encouraging others?

You may consider providing students with sentence starters for their journal reflections.

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Session 4

This session uses a variation of the cooperative learning strategy from Session 3 called Think-Pair-Square. In this structure, a problem is posed, students have time to think about it individually, and then they work in pairs to solve the problem and share their findings in a square (i.e., with another pair of students).

1. Determine student partners, either randomly or by using the Time for Partners activity that was completed prior to Session 3. Make sure to choose a different time than was used in Session 3 so students will be working with a new partner.

2. Direct students' attentions to the Skills for Group Work that you have copied onto chart paper. The first four skills have already been introduced in the previous sessions. Remind students that they need to continue using these four skills, but that in this session, they will also be practicing the fifth skill (i.e., inviting members to make a contribution).

3. If your students are not familiar with this skill, you may want to complete a T-chart to help them better understand what the skill looks like and sounds like. For example:

Inviting members to make a contribution

Looks like Sounds like
Turning to look at another person

"It's your turn."
Encouraging a person to
participate by smiling

"Do you have anything to add?"
Being patient and
providing time to answer
"We haven't heard from you yet.
What do you think?"

Listening attentively "I'm interested to know your opinion."
"Why do you think that?"
(as a follow-up question)

4. Arrange for students to sit with their partners, with each pair having one sheet of paper and two pencils.

5. Introduce the title and author of the book The Rainbow Fish. Begin reading the story aloud, stopping midway on page 7 after the sentence, "Get away from me!"

6. Ask partners to generate as many adjectives as they can to describe how the little blue fish would feel (e.g., shocked, angry, disappointed, hurt, lonely, resentful, furious, upset). Both students should be writing on the same piece of paper. At the end of the designated time, ask partners to read their list of adjectives to one another.

7. Ask each pair of students to turn to another pair sitting near them. Have one pair read their list, while the other pair listens and checks off any adjectives that also appear on their list. When the first team is finished, invite the second pair to share any adjectives that they listed that were not already cited.

8. Randomly choose students to provide one adjective that describes the little blue fish. Record students' responses on chart paper.

9. Use the Think-Pair-Square strategy to have students think about and discuss how people react when they feel the way the little blue fish feels. The key concept is that people react differently when other people hurt them. Some become physical, others become withdrawn, and others are unable to trust the person again.

10. Open this discussion to the whole class and make a list of people's reactions on chart paper.

11. Ask students to predict how the little blue fish will react to these feelings, again using the Think-Pair-Square strategy.

12. Randomly choose students to share their ideas with the entire class, prompting them to also provide the reasons to support their answers. Remember to model how you invite someone to make a contribution. For example, you might say, "Marcus, you seem to be thinking. Would you like to share your thoughts." "Kendra, I am particularly interested in knowing your opinion."

13. Continue reading the story through page 20, stopping after the sentence, "A rather peculiar feeling came over Rainbow Fish."

14. Repeat steps 6 through 13, this time having students brainstorm adjectives to describe how Rainbow Fish would feel (e.g., proud, happy, pleased, satisfied). Discuss as a class how people react when they feel fulfilled. The key concept is that these feelings make people feel safe and accepted. They are more likely to have high self-esteem and want to be friends.

15. Finish reading to the end of the story. Ask the question, "How can we apply what we learned from this story to our classroom?" (Use the Think-Pair-Square strategy.)

Key concepts:

  • Each person contributes to the classroom environment.

  • What we say and do can make a person feel good or feel bad.

  • You feel good about yourself when you give to others.

  • What we have means nothing unless we share it with others.
16. Ask students to brainstorm the talents or skills they have to share in the classroom. At the end of the designated brainstorming period, ask students to share their talents with their partner.

17. Have students turn to another pair of students sitting nearby to share the talents and skills that their partner has. For example, "John shared with me that he is very good in math. He understands word problems..."

18. Have students answer the following questions in their personal journals:

  • What did you learn from this story?

  • How does the story apply to life both inside and outside the classroom?

  • What did you learn from your partner?

  • What are the benefits of talking and working with other people?

  • Why is it necessary to invite others to participate?

You may consider providing students with sentence starters for their journal reflections.

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EXTENSIONS

  • After completing this series of lessons, you may wish to have students explore the Multiple Intelligence Theory, which was designed and put forth by Howard Gardner. Lessons are available at the Multiple Intelligence Lesson Plan Index, and involve having students identify their predominant intelligence, understand how their predominant intelligence impacts perception, and practice using a different intelligence other than their predominant one. Students may also be interested in completing a survey at Multiple Intelligences Inventory to identify their predominant intelligence.

  • Encourage students to continue developing the remaining skills identified on the Skills for Group Work chart. In these lessons, children's literature was used as a springboard for discussing the skills. At this point, you can engage students directly in a class discussion about each of the remaining skills, using the T-chart to help students understand what each skill looks like and sounds like. Then allow students time to practice using the skills and to reflect on their learning through class discussion and journal reflection. The Group Skills Tracking Sheet can be used to assess students' use of each skill.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

 

  • Assess students' use the skills required for group work (see the Group Skills Tracking Sheet). This data will allow you to
    • Determine if students need more practice
    • Identify which students are strong/weak in which skills
    • Determine when the class is ready to begin working in independent group situations (e.g., reading coaches)
    • Group students heterogeneously (i.e., group students who are strong in a particular skill with those who need more practice and support)
  • Evaluate students' journal entries to determine
    • Diagnostic information regarding the students' readiness to work in groups
    • Evidence of the students' understanding of the key concepts explored with each story
    • Evidence of the students' abilities to make connections between the story and their personal experiences

     

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