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Lesson Plan

Using Word Storms to Explore Vocabulary and Encourage Critical Thinking

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Seven 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Deborah Kozdras, Ph.D.

Deborah Kozdras, Ph.D.

Tampa, Florida


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • Computers with Internet access

  • LCD projector

  • Chart paper or transparencies

  • Overhead projector

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Comic Creator

Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Writing & Publishing Prose

Comic Creator

The Comic Creator invites students to compose their own comic strips for a variety of contexts (prewriting, pre- and postreading activities, response to literature, and so on).


Printing Press

Grades   K – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Writing & Publishing Prose

Printing Press

The interactive Printing Press is designed to assist students in creating newspapers, brochures, and flyers.


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1. Visit the How Can We Advocate for Working Dogs? Inquiry Unit webpage created for this lesson. Review the goals, purpose, and list of websites. This information is also included in the Working Dogs Assignment Handout. Review this handout and makes copies for each student in the class.

2. The vocabulary words for this lesson are:
  • Session 1: advocate, work, companion, service, therapy

  • Session 2: rights, responsibility, heroic, power

  • Session 3: perspective
At the beginning of each session introduce the vocabulary words, pronouncing them as you write them on a K-W-L chart. For the K-W-L strategy, you create three columns on chart paper or the board: Know, Want-to-Know, Learned. Record students' reflections about the specific vocabulary words, beginning with what they Know about the words. Then record what they Want-to-Know. After they complete the activity for the session, revisit the chart and fill in the Learned section.

These words are important in terms of critical literacy because they give students the ability to make more powerful statements about the social justice aspects of the topic. The ReadWriteThink lesson, Critical Literacy: Point of View, may be helpful in exploring this idea further.

3. Familiarize yourself with the POWER inquiry format. This strategy is based on an inquiry model of question, investigate, create, evaluate, and discuss as follows:
P Present words and questions using the Know and Want-to-Know sections of the K-W-L chart

O Obtain information through investigating (reading and research)

W Write and draw about what you learned (creating on the Word Storm Page)

E Evaluate what you learned (in small-group discussions)

R Review what you learned through whole-class discussions and fill in the Learned section of the K-W-L chart

4. Make sure your students have permission to use the Internet following your school's policy. If you do not have computers with Internet access available for students to use in your classroom, reserve six hour-long sessions in your school's computer lab. Arrange to use a computer with Internet access and an LCD screen in your classroom or computer lab for all six sessions as well. If you do not have access to an LCD, you may choose to have students follow as you work on a computer with a large screen or to guide them as they use individual computers in the lab.

5. Familiarize yourself with the topic (for this lesson it is working dogs, but you may choose another issue that is applicable for your class. See the Extensions section). To gain information, visit How Can We Advocate for Working Dogs? Inquiry Unit webpage, which includes links to the websites you can use for this lesson. Among the sites you will want to look at are:
  • NOVA: Dogs and More Dogs: Working Dogs - Practice reading the slide show that is available on this page aloud - you will be sharing it with students (see Session 1, Step 2). If you are unable to use the Flash version, there is a link to a static page.

  • PBS: Nature: Extraordinary Dogs - Read the Stories section of this website (you should read all six dogs' stories). You will be sharing this with students (see Session 2, Step 2).

  • FBI Working Dogs - Visit the About Our Dogs section of this website for stories about different kinds of working dogs. Your students will explore this section of the site in pairs, but you want to be able to help them choose different stories from different perspectives. Choose one story to read aloud to students (see Session 3, Step 2).
6. This lesson also makes use of several of ReadWriteThink's online tools. Visit and familiarize yourself with the Comic Creator and the ReadWriteThink Printing Press; bookmark both on your classroom or lab computers. You will also want to complete the following activities:
  • Use the Comic Creator to create a story told from a dog's perspective using one of the stories you read from FBI Working Dogs. The dog can "speak" to another animal or a human. Print your comic out, enlarge it, and either make a transparency or photocopy it for each student in your class (see Session 3, Step 3).

  • Use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to create a newspaper about working dogs. Print it out, enlarge it, and either make a transparency or photocopy it for each student in your class (see Sessions 4 & 5, Step 1).
7. Students should have a Word Storm journal to record their ideas and perspectives about the words in text and images. You can do this by making one copy of the Word Storm Page per word for each student in your class (if you follow this lesson, that will be 10 pages per student). Fasten these pages together into a journal. You can also include a blank sheet between each printed sheet in order to leave room for students to jot rough notes, make illustrations, or glue in pictures or articles they find interesting.

8. Make a transparency of the Word Storm Page, or copy it onto chart paper. Prepare blank K-W-L charts for Sessions 1, 2, and 3.

9. Create a Working Dogs Bulletin Board. As vocabulary is introduced you will put the "power words" up on the board. (Note: If you will be working in a computer lab, you will want this board to be portable so that you can bring it with you for these sessions.)

10. Introduce the concept of working dogs before Session 1. Ask students if they have ever seen dogs working before and list their responses, adding to them so that students see that these dogs can work as companions, service dogs, or therapy dogs. Ask students to bring in photos of working dogs to put up on the bulletin board. Assemble a few photos of your own to post during the initial discussion.

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