Junie B. Jones Introduces Literacy Mystery Boxes

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 35-minute sessions
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Junie B., as she insists on being called, is an opinionated, lively, character in Barbara Park's series of books, and she is sure to delight primary students. In this unit, the teacher reads aloud selections from Junie B., First Grader (at last!). Students discuss the text with a partner and then individually compose sentences about key events from the story. Each student also creates and adds items to a mystery box, or a box that holds items or pictures referenced in the story. After students have listened to the entire story, they use their mystery boxes to retell the story to a classmate. As a culminating activity, students use the mystery boxes and the sentences they composed to make a related stapleless book about the story.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • A literacy mystery box contains items that are referenced in a book, story, or any piece of text. The boxes can be used before reading to introduce a story, during reading to follow plot episodes as they are introduced in the story, or after reading as a response activity.

  • Literacy mystery boxes motivate and encourage students to engage actively in reading.

  • Using literacy mystery boxes after reading, students can retell a story by including items that were mentioned in the story's plot. While sharing the story with their classmates, the physical objects serve to remind students of the story's content.

  • Laverick (2002) found that when students are given an opportunity to respond to text before, during, and after reading, they are better able to "focus on the text and become more active, comprehending readers."

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Junie B., First Grader (at last!) by Barbara Park (Random House, 2001)

  • Computers with Internet access and a word processing program

  • Old magazines

  • One pencil, star, Band-Aid, and a pair of scissors (for each student)





1. This lesson is based on the text Junie B., First Grader (at last!) by Barbara Park. Make sure to read the book in advance of the lesson, as you will be reading it aloud in class.

2. In this lesson, students will be creating literacy mystery boxes related to the story read aloud. A few days before the lesson, ask each student to bring in an empty cereal box or shoebox for this activity.

3. Make a sample literacy mystery box to show your students. Decorate a shoebox or cereal box with pictures obtained from the Junie B. Jones website. Place one pencil, star, and Band-Aid in the sample literacy mystery box.

4. Primary students and their teachers often become hooked on Junie B. Jones stories. To truly enjoy these humorous tales, it can be helpful to learn more about the author Barbara Park. Access Randome House's Barbara Park Author's Page to find interesting facts about Park that you can share with your class.

5. In Junie B., First Grader (at last!), Junie B. records her first-grade experiences in a journal. During this lesson, your students will compose sentences for each section of the text that you read aloud. Make preparations to enable each student to compose, save, and print his or her work with a word processing program.

6. Reserve time in your school computer lab, and make sure that the interactive Stapleless Book and the Junie B. Jones Coloring Book are bookmarked on all machines. If the school computer lab is not available, you can use your classroom computers, but make sure to schedule and adjust the estimated lesson time as needed to accommodate only a few students working on the computers at a time. In classrooms with very few computers, students can work in pairs or small groups to complete the online activities.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Use strategies to increase their comprehension of a text read aloud (i.e., classroom and partner discussions, creation of literacy mystery boxes, recording of key events, and retelling of the story)

  • Identify significant events from a story and make personal connections by selecting related visual items or props for a literacy mystery box

  • Summarize and describe, in writing, key events from a story with guided assistance

  • Retell a story orally to their classmates and in writing in a book format by using the created literacy mystery box for visual prompts and the written sentences to aid in describing the key events

Session 1

1. Junie B. Jones was scared when she entered the classroom on her first day of first grade. Begin the lesson by asking your students how they felt on their first day of school. Were they scared? Did they know anyone in the class? Tell the class that they will be listening to a story about a little girl who was scared to begin first grade.

2. Show the cover of the book Junie B., First Grader (at last!) for students to see. The cover illustration shows Junie B. sitting in her desk at school and hiding behind a notebook. Ask your students to predict why they think Junie B. might be trying to hide. Tell the class that you will give them some clues about the story.

3. Show students your sample literacy mystery box. As you show the objects inside (i.e., the pencil, star, and Band-Aid), ask students how and why Junie B. might use these objects in first grade.

4. Read chapter 1 aloud to your students. As the story begins, Junie B. is unhappy because she cannot sit with the boys and girls she knew in kindergarten. After reading the chapter, initiate a class discussion by asking the following questions:

  • How did Junie B. feel when she entered her new classroom? Was she happy to be in first grade?

  • How was Junie B. greeted by her classmates? Did they act appropriately? What could they have done to make her feel welcome?

Chapter 1 provides a good opportunity to discuss classroom rules and respect for classmates.

5. Direct students to the computers where they can each compose a sentence about chapter 1. Students have already discussed the reasons why Junie B. was unhappy on her first day in first grade. Now give them the prompt, "Junie B. Jones was sad because...." and ask the students to complete the sentence. (Advanced writers/students may not need the prompt and should be given more independence.) Students should save their work because they will be adding sentences about additional chapters in later sessions.

Session 2

1. Read chapter 2 aloud, in which Junie B. Jones becomes frustrated because her friend Grace no longer wants to sit with her on the school bus. Junie B. then befriends a new boy at school and invites him to sit with her.

2. Discuss the events in this chapter with students, and have them also discuss the following questions with a partner:

  • Why doesn't Grace want to sit with Junie B. on the bus?

  • What should Junie B. have done when Grace refused to sit with her?

  • Who was behaving correctly—Junie B. or Grace?

3. Direct students to the computer lab where they can compose and save sentences about the chapter. Ask students to finish the sentence, "When Junie B. Jones got on the school bus she...."

4. Tell the class that they will hear more funny stories about Junie B. Jones over the next few days. To remember the stories, each student will create a literacy mystery box, like the one you showed them in Session 1. As you read each chapter aloud, students can put mementos of the chapter into their boxes. At the conclusion of the story, students will use the objects in their boxes to help them remember and retell the story.

5. Invite students to decorate an empty cereal box or shoebox with pictures of Junie B. Jones by going online to the Junie B. Jones Coloring Book. At this website, students can select and color pictures online before printing.

Session 3

1. Read chapters 3 and 4 aloud. In these chapters, Junie B. Jones and her classmates are asked to select words from the chalkboard and draw pictures to represent those words. Because Junie B. cannot read the words on the board, she is not able to draw the correct pictures and tries to hide her work from the teacher. When the teacher distributes stars to the students who have completed the assignment well, Junie B. tells him that she does not like stars and she does not want one. The teacher sees her drawings and realizes that Junie B. cannot read the words on the chalkboard.

2. Discuss the events in these chapters with the class, and provide time for students to discuss the following questions with a partner:
  • How were Junie B.'s pictures different from everyone else's pictures?

  • Why do you think Junie B. drew different pictures?

  • Do you think Junie B. really did want to earn a star?
3. Direct the class to the computer lab where they can compose and save sentences about chapters 3 and 4. As necessary, give students the writing prompt, "Junie B. Jones drew pictures that were...."

4. Instruct students to take out the literacy mystery boxes they created during Session 2. Give each student a star to place inside his or her box. Ask the class why a star is important in this story. Encourage students to give reasons why a star should be included in a literacy mystery box for this story.

5. Give each student a pencil to put in his or her literacy mystery box. Ask students to describe the ways in which a pencil was used in the story. Assist the class in stating reasons why a pencil should be placed in the literacy mystery box.

Session 4

1. Read chapters 5 and 6 aloud. In chapter 5, the teacher, Mr. Scary, suspects that Junie B. Jones needs glasses because she cannot read the sentences he has written on the chalkboard. In chapter 6, Mr. Scary takes Junie B. to the school nurse so that the nurse can test her vision. The nurse tells Junie B. that she needs glasses, but Junie B. does not want to wear them.

2. Discuss the events in these chapters with your class, and provide time for students to discuss the following questions with a partner:

  • Why did Mr. Scary insist that Junie B. visit the school nurse?

  • Why did Junie B. say, "I don't even need a Band-Aid"?

  • How did the nurse test Junie B.'s vision?

3. Direct the class to the computer lab where they can compose and save sentences about chapters 5 and 6. In previous sessions, students were given writing prompts. This time, encourage students to compose their sentences independently. Brainstorm several ideas with students before asking them to work independently at the computers. (If some students need a writing prompt, they can complete the sentence, "Mr. Scary and the school nurse said that....")

4. Give each student a Band-Aid to put in his or her literacy mystery box to remember the role of the school nurse in the story. As the students are placing the Band-Aids in their boxes, ask them to explain the significance of the Band-Aid in the story.

5. As a follow-up, tell students that they will be using magazines to find pictures that remind them of events in the Junie B. Jones story. Distribute scissors and old magazines. (General family magazines or magazines for children would be appropriate.)

6. Ask the class what types of pictures would help them remember this Junie B. Jones story. For example, pictures of eyeglasses, books, nurses, school buses, lunchboxes, classroom scenes, or recess scenes would help students remember and retell the story.

7. Give students time to find and cut out pictures. Move about the classroom to observe students and ensure that they are selecting appropriate pictures.

8. Provide time for students to share the pictures that they chose and to explain how the selected pictures relate to the story.

Session 5

1. Read the final two chapters of the book aloud to the class. In chapter 7, Junie B. Jones goes to an eye doctor to be fitted for her glasses. The morning appointment makes Junie B. late for school and her classmates stare and ask questions when she enters the classroom. In chapter 8, Junie B. brings her new purple glasses to school for show and tell. Her classmates think the purple glasses are cool. Thanks to their encouragement, Junie B. feels confident and concedes that she might actually like first grade.

2. Discuss the events in chapters 7 and 8 with the class, and provide time for students to discuss the following questions with a partner:

  • Why was Junie B. nervous when she brought her new glasses for show and tell?

  • How did her classmates make her feel about her glasses?

  • In the beginning of the story, Junie B. said that she did not like first grade. Did Junie B. like first grade better when her classmates were nice to her?

3. Direct students to the computer lab, where they can compose and save sentences about chapters 7 and 8. Brainstorm several ideas with the class, and then encourage students to compose their sentences independently. If some students need a prompt, they can complete the sentence, "When the first-grade class had show and tell...."

4. Because the entire story has been read, students should also print their sentences and place a hard copy in their literacy mystery boxes.

5. In chapter 8, Junie B. and her classmates have a show and tell session in their first-grade classroom. The students show and discuss a variety of items including a kindergarten report card, a new hair style and styling gel, and a school lunch. Encourage your students to make a personal connection to the story by asking them what they would bring to school for show and tell.

Session 6

In this session, students will use the items in their literacy mystery boxes and the sentences they have composed to retell the story of Junie B., First Grader (at last!).

1. Begin by asking students to remove all of the items from their literacy mystery boxes and place them on their desks. Hold up a copy of the book and take a "picture walk" with the class to review the story. When you come to the picture of Junie B. Jones writing in her journal, ask students to slide the pencil to the top left corner of their desks. When you come to the discussion of the stars, ask students to place the star to the right of the pencil at the top of their desks. As the school nurse enters the story, tell students to place the Band-Aid to the right of the star.

2. Ask a volunteer to use the first three items (the pencil, star, and Band-Aid) to retell the beginning of the story. Guide the volunteer as he or she models a retelling for the class.

3. Guide a second volunteer to retell the story using the three items, as well as the additional pictures that he or she cut from magazines.

4. Guide a third volunteer to retell the story by using all of the items in the box and the sentences that he or she wrote for each section of the story.


Tell students that they will be retelling the story of Junie B. Jones to a partner. Distribute the Retelling Rubric and explain how it will be used. For the retelling, students should be reminded to include:

  • The main events from the story

    • Junie B. Jones was hesitant to enter the first-grade classroom and had trouble getting along with her classmates

    • Junie B. Jones could not read the words written on the chalkboard

    • The school nurse suggested that Junie B. Jones needed glasses

    • Junie B. Jones brought her new glasses to school for show and tell

  • Their personal responses to the story, such as their reactions to the humor in the story, the behavior of Junie B. Jones' classmates, or the benefits of wearing glasses.

6. Place students in pairs. Direct students to listen as their partners use the items in their literacy mystery boxes and the sentences they composed to retell the story. The student who is listening should note inclusion of the four main events from the story and a personal response. The pair should then work together using the rubric to score the retelling.

7. Move about the room as students are working with their partners to make sure that everyone can retell the story and use the rubric appropriately.

Session 7

Bring students to the computer lab with their literacy mystery boxes. Direct them to use the items and written sentences in their boxes to create a Stapleless Book that retells the story of Junie B., First Grader (at last!). The stapleless book allows students to create six pages of text. For this project, students can use one page for the title and then type the sentences they composed onto the remaining pages. The printout can then be folded into a book. Students can also leave room in their books for illustrations of their stories.



  • Continue the excitement by reading additional Junie B. Jones stories to the class. This time, let students identify and locate their own items for their literacy mystery boxes.

  • Students can make Junie B. Jones masks to wear when they retell and discuss the story.

  • Encourage students to write a letter to the author Barbara Park. Letters should be addressed to:
    Barbara Park
    c/o Random House, Inc.
    1540 Broadway, 19th Floor
    New York, NY 10036
    (When sending letters from an entire class, teachers are asked to place all of the letters in one envelope.)

  • Access the Junie B. Jones activities page for printable activity sheets and an online Junie B. Trivia Quiz. Encourage your students to visit this website to build reading motivation.

  • Use a completed literacy mystery box to introduce a new story, either in a literature circle or whole-class setting.

  • Have students make literacy mystery boxes and present the boxes to the class as an alternative to traditional book reports.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Throughout the lesson, use the Observation Guide to monitor each student's work.

  • Use the Retelling Rubric to assess each student's ability to retell and make personal connections to the story. The goal is not for students to repeat every detail of the story. Rather, the retellings should be used to determine whether students can identify the main events in a story and relate them in a logical fashion. [Applegate, M.D., Quinn, K.B., & Applegate, A. (2004). The critical reading inventory. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.]


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