A Schema-Building Study With Patricia Polacco
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Looking for meaningful vocabulary instruction that enhances comprehension? Patricia Polacco can help. This lesson uses Chicken Sunday and Rechenka's Eggs to teach second- through fourth-grade students new words while deepening their comprehension, encouraging text-to-self and text-to-text connections, and helping them study characters. Students use the Semantic Impressions and Possible Sentences strategies to write about the books. Then, after a read-aloud and comparison of the texts, they complete a character study using the vocabulary words and an online tool to create character trading cards. Finally, students apply the words they have learned to write about the author as part of a WebQuest.
- Character Trading Cards tool: Students will use this interactive tool to answer questions about the character they chose and to use the vocabulary they've learned in their responses.
- Patricia Polacco WebQuest: Students will use this interactive tool to become an expert on Patricia Polacco and the vocabulary from her books.
From Theory to Practice
- Vocabulary knowledge is among the best predictors of reading achievement and "direct instruction in word meanings is effective, can make a significant difference in a student's overall vocabulary, and is critical for those students who do not read extensively" (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002).
- The Semantic Impressions strategy offers a fun and interactive way to introduce new words; it enhances comprehension and builds vocabulary, reading, and writing skills. This strategy introduces words and asks students to write their own story using them before they read a published story.
- Oral story reading by the teacher provides students a source for vocabulary acquisition.
- Vocabulary knowledge gains can double for students when read-alouds are accompanied by teacher explanations of words.
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.
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
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 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.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 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
- Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco (Putnam Juvenile, 1998)
- Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco (Putnam Juvenile, 1996)
- Computers with Internet access and a printer
- Chart paper and markers
|1.||Obtain and read Chicken Sunday and Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco. Look for text-to-self connections and text-to-text connections and note these for class discussion during Session 3.
|2.||Familiarize yourself with the Semantic Impressions strategy, which has students use new vocabulary words to write a story of their own before they read a text where these words appear. (For more information about this strategy, see Richek, M.A. (2005). Words are wonderful: Interactive, time-efficient strategies to teach meaning vocabulary. The Reading Teacher, 58, 414-423.)
Write the following vocabulary words on chart paper in this order: solemn, decent, sigh, exchanged, announced, suffered, deserves, glistened, and intricate.
|3.||Access the Generative Vocabulary Strategies from the Southwest Educational Department Laboratory and familiarize yourself with the Possible Sentences strategy. Write the following vocabulary words on chart paper in the following order: faint, glided, faltered, nook, trundled, marveled, bustled, savored, processions, muffled.
|4.||Visit and familiarize yourself with the Character Trading Cards tool. You might want to create a sample card using one of the characters from Chicken Sunday or Rechenka's Eggs to share with students during Session 4.
|5.||Visit and familiarize yourself with the Patricia Polacco WebQuest. This WebQuest is designed to incorporate technology into reading activities and will help students deepen their comprehension of the stories and apply their knowledge of the vocabulary to create their own stories about the author. If this is the first WebQuest students in your class have completed, you might want to assign pairs of students to work on it together. Pairing students who have difficulties reading with students who excel in this area would help struggling students with the reading required in the WebQuest.
|6.||If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access and a printer, reserve two 30- to 60-minute sessions in your school's computer lab (see Sessions 4 and 5). Add the Character Trading Cards tool and the Patricia Polacco WebQuest to the Favorites list on these machines.
Note: If you experience difficulty, make sure that computers have the most recent version of the Flash plug-in, which can be downloaded for free from the ReadWriteThink.org Site Tools page.
|7.||Make one copy of the Patricia Polacco Rubric for each student in your class.
- Engage in meaningful vocabulary study by using words from a read-aloud book to write their own story before the text of the book is read to them (Semantic Impressions strategy) and by using words from a read-aloud book to write sentences (Possible Sentences strategy)
- Extend and deepen what they have learned by applying these vocabulary words to a character study using an online tool and by writing about the author using these words
- Make text-to-self and text-to-text connections using two books by the same author
- Demonstrate comprehension of both the texts and the vocabulary words from them by completing a WebQuest on the books and author
Session 1: Semantic Impressions
|1.||Show students the cover of the book Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco. Tell them that you will be reading this book but that first you want them to learn some of the vocabulary they will find in the story.
|2.||Show students the chart with the list of vocabulary words (see Preparation, Step 2). Briefly discuss each word, asking if anyone knows the meaning or can use it in a sentence. For example, you might say, "Sigh means to breathe deeply. Billy let out a sigh when he didn't get an A on his math test."
|3.||Next, tell students they will be working together to compose a story using these words and that the words must be used in this order. Other rules include:
|4.||Call on volunteers to provide ideas for a sensible story with a beginning, middle, and end using the given vocabulary words. Write the story on chart paper as it is created. The vocabulary list should be visible at all times while the story is being written.
Note: If this is the first time students are using the Semantic Impressions strategy, it should be completed as a whole-group activity. Once students become more comfortable using this strategy, they can write their stories in small groups, with partners, or individually.
|5.||Read the completed story to the class. Ask students if there are any revisions that need to be made and make them on the chart paper.
|6.||Give students a brief summary of Chicken Sunday. Activate their schema by asking them to think of someone they have known who wanted something he or she could not have. Questions for discussion include:
|7.||Before reading, remind students to listen for the vocabulary words they used in their story as you read aloud Chicken Sunday. Stop periodically while reading to have students predict what will happen next and to discuss how the vocabulary words are used in the story.
|8.||After you have read the story, ask students to try and retell it using some of the vocabulary words. Allow a few students to try. Students can also build upon one another's oral retellings.
Session 2: Possible Sentences
|1.||Show students the cover of the book Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco. Tell them that they will be reading this book but first you want them to learn some of the vocabulary they will find in the story.
|2.||Show students the second chart with the list of vocabulary words (see Preparation, Step 3). Briefly discuss each word, asking if anyone knows the meaning or can use it in a sentence. For example, you might say "Muffled means a sound that is not clear, like someone's voice may be muffled if they are covering their mouth when they talk."
|3.||Next, tell students they will try using at least two words from the list in one sentence that they think may possibly appear in the story (i.e., Possible Sentences strategy). Call on volunteers to give you a sample sentence using two of the vocabulary words.
|4.||Allow students time to work on writing their possible sentences.
|5.||Before reading the story, remind students to listen for the vocabulary words they used in their sentences. Read aloud Rachenka's Eggs. Stop periodically to have students predict what will happen next.
|6.||After reading, students can change their sentences to reflect the text.
|7.||Call on volunteers to share their new sentences and to try retelling the story using some of the vocabulary words. Students can also build upon one another's retellings.
Session 3: Making Connections
|1.||Review Chicken Sunday and Rechenka's Eggs with students. Have both vocabulary charts posted and review the words quickly. Then tell students about a part of the story that reminded you of something that happened in your life. Try to incorporate one or more of the vocabulary words into your connection. For example, how you remember having Sunday dinner ever week at your grandmother's house, how much you looked forward to it, and how you savored her delicious cooking. Tell them how this memory helped you understand how the characters felt when they were together for their Sunday dinners.
|2.||Ask students to think about parts of the story that reminded them of experiences in their own lives. Give several students the opportunity to share these experiences. Ask how talking about these experiences helps them better understand the story.
|3.||Tell students that what they are doing is called making connections and that making connections from stories to our own lives can help us better understand what the author is trying to tell us.
|4.||Pair up students and have them share a text-to-self connection with both books. Encourage them to use the new vocabulary words while making their connections.
|5.||Share a connection you made between Chicken Sunday and Rechenka's Eggs. Try to incorporate one or more of the vocabulary words into your connection. For example, in Rechenka's Eggs, when Babushka's eggs crashed she was very upset - she suffered. But when the goose left her a new egg she was very happy. This brings to mind how happy Mr. Kodinski was when he saw the eggs the children had made in Chicken Sunday. Knowing how Mr. Kodinski felt about the eggs helps us understand how Babushka was feeling when all her eggs were lost and she began getting new ones. Those eggs must be very important to some people.
|6.||Ask students to share any connections they may have made between the two stories or any other stories they have read. Ask students to discuss why making text-to-text connections can help them better understand the story. Encourage them to use the new vocabulary words while making their connections.
Note: Text-to-text of connections may take students a little bit longer to grasp; you may choose to practice them with other texts as well.
Session 4: Interactive Character Study
Note: If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, this session should take place in your school's computer lab (see Preparation, Step 6). Post the vocabulary words from Sessions 1 and 2 in the computer lab area.
|1.||Tell students to pick their favorite character from one of the stories. (Keep in mind that the narrator of Chicken Sunday is not given a name so students will have to make up a name for this person.) Have students who choose the same characters get in pairs. If there are uneven numbers, you can create a group of three.
|2.||Conduct a brief discussion with students about appropriate behavior when working cooperatively on the computer. Remind them that they need to take turns using the computer and both partners need to work together in coming up with ideas.
|3.||Have students access the Character Trading Cards tool. They should work together and answer the questions about the character they chose for this activity. Before they begin, review the vocabulary words from Sessions 1 and 2. Encourage them to use these words in their responses. As an example, model a response to the question, "What is the character's problem at the beginning of the story?" by writing, "Mr. Kodinsky suffered in his life and deserves better than having kids throw eggs at his shop." Once students have finished, they should print their trading cards and read them together.
Note: You may find it useful to print off copies of the Character Trading Cards Planning Sheet and have students fill these in using the vocabulary words before they access the actual online tool.
|4.||Once students have returned to class, have a discussion about the characters and ask volunteers to share how they used the vocabulary words to tell about their character. Students can then take turns sharing their trading cards with other groups to learn more about all of the characters they have read about.
Session 5: Internet Scavenger Hunt
Note: If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, this session should take place in your school's computer lab (see Preparation, Step 6).
|1.||Explain to students that they will be completing a WebQuest where they will answer questions about the two stories, and write a short story about Patricia Polacco. Talk a little bit about what this story will be before distributing the Patricia Polacco Rubric and reviewing it with students. Tell students that after reading Polacco's biography, they will be writing a make-believe story about an experience she could have had with her grandparents. They will need to use at least 10 of the new vocabulary words they have been studying in their story.
|2.||Have students access and complete the Patricia Polacco WebQuest. While students are working, circulate and offer help and support as needed. When students are finished, they should print their responses and hand them in along with the fictional stories they have written about Polacco.
Note: You may want to give students the opportunity to peer review their stories and revise them after this session. You also may ask students to share their stories with the entire class.
- Have students read other books by Patricia Polacco, such as Babushka's Doll. Ask them to make connections among these texts and the ones they read for this lesson.
- Have students visit Pysanky Showcase and LearnPysanky.com and choose their favorite design. Give students a paper egg and have them color it like the one they chose. Have students write some facts they learned about Ukrainian eggs on the back.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Observe students’ participation in the Semantic Impressions vocabulary activity. Make sure students are using the words correctly in the sentences and in the order given. Also make sure students are creating a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
- Collect and review students’ sentences from the Possible Sentences strategy after reading the story to determine if they used the vocabulary correctly and if their sentences reflect the content of the story.
- Observe students’ participation in the making connections activity. Look for students connecting the stories to experiences in their own lives and telling how this helped them better understand the story. Also look for students making connections between the two stories.
- Review the character trading cards to determine if students gained a deep understanding of the characters in the two stories and were able to use the vocabulary to describe them. Questions to ask include: Did the students use the vocabulary to accurately describe the characters? Did the students show an understanding of the characters they selected?
- Collect students’ WebQuest printouts and the stories they wrote about Patricia Polacco. Check the printouts for questions answered correctly and connections made between the two stories. Use the Patricia Polacco Rubric to assess the biographies. Sample answers to the comprehension questions are as follows:
- Chicken Sunday
1. Miss Eula sighed when she walked by the hat shop because she wanted the special hat in the window for Easter. 2. Students should write about something they often eat for dinner. 3. Students’ answers should show that others had treated Mr. Kodinski poorly in his life. 4. Pysanky eggs are beautifully colored with designs on the shell made with hot wax and dyed. 5. The boys worked so hard making the eggs for Mr. Kodinski to sell and he made money from them so he didn’t feel they owed him any money for the hat. 6. Answers should describe a sound that is deep but still pleasant to listen to.
- Rechenka’s Eggs
1. Babushka took the goose into her home, fed it, and gave it a basket to sleep in. 2. Someone would marvel at the eggs because they were beautiful and colorful. 3. Student answers should reflect someone showing them kindness and them doing something kind in return. 4. Rechenka went through everything when she was feeling better because she is a bird that needs to fly and move around and did not belong in a house. 5. Babushka thought the egg was a miracle because Rechenka had never laid an egg like that and now that all her eggs had been broken, Rechenka was trying to give her a gift. 6. Rechenka left her another miracle, a baby chick.