Last week I had the privilege of working with the awesome teachers at Stehlik Intermediate in Aldine ISD in my hometown, Houston. They were teaching students about character traits. In the next few posts, I’ll show you some of the wonderful work they were doing!
A special education teacher teachers about character traits by mapping these on the board with her class.
She reads aloud an adapted version of Anne of Green Gables from Scholastic.
This book has excellent support for characters in the front matter.
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Three Little Wolves book with characters glove and sticky notes
During a 2nd grade guided reading lesson recently, a teacher and I focused on helping students think more deeply about characters and how they act. The teacher told me that they can tell what happened in the story, but have trouble identifying the problem and solution or moving beyond naming characters and setting. Sound familiar to anyone???
Book choice was very important in this lesson. We picked The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig. Children were familiar with the story of the 3 pigs, so there was a good comprehension scaffold. We began the lesson by talking about the kind of book this was. Children quickly identified it as fiction, and said it had animals that talk in it and that it was a made up story. However, when I asked them about what they’d think about in a fiction story, their faces went blank.
I pulled out my story elements glove for fiction, and just showed them the thumb that said characters. “Oh,” one of the children said. “It’s like our story map,” and pointed to a chart nearby that had been made with the class. How often this happens. We’ve taught something, but it seems like kids have never heard of it!
I told them I wanted them to think about the characters and what they did in the story today. Then they read several pages on their own and jotted down what they learned about the characters on sticky notes. We labeled one post-it note “pig” and the other “3 wolves.” I scaffolded them as they read on their own by asking them about what they had found out about a character. We used their notes to talk after reading. The sticky notes and scaffolding helped them pay attention to characters today. We will have to repeat this same idea in lessons multiple times before children “own” this strategy. But today was a good beginning.
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